Assured she understood that he could tame her, he gentled her with his hands, his body easing in and out of hers, his thrusts slow and measured, filling her heart as well as her core. Murmuring softly, she responded to that gentle loving with all she had to give - her arms around his back, hands touching... caressing him. Her thighs squeezed his waist and hips as her inner walls surrounded him, her heat engulfing his need for her.
"Love me hard," she whispered, kissing him. "Love me easy. I don't care. Just love me... please... just one more time... before we die."
"We're not dying, woman," he growled as he emptied into her. "We've just begun to live."
" It was our beginning, Syl. It should have been so good."
The rain came down heavier, the wind catching him in his sheltered cove, the chill spreading through his body down to his soul. He shivered, soaked to the skin and uncaring. Finding her note in his jacket today had unnerved him - all his unsettled feelings rising to the surface - rising and choking him - stealing his breath. He couldn't remember a time when he felt this bad.
They had returned to the hotel sated, exhausted, and eager to explore more.
"Shower with me," he told her when they arrived at her room. "I want to bathe with you."
"Will we just wash?" she asked with a shy smile. "Or will you get fresh again?"
"Whatever you want," he chuckled, reaching for her. "Whatever my sweet woman wants."
"Am I your sweet woman, Zack?" she asked, her tone serious again.
"You are," he whispered, holding her, his hand cupping her face, his thumb moving gently over her skin.
They stood under the hot spray, bodies touching... leaning into each other, hands exploring soft round spots... hard curves and planes... silk places... velvet-coated steel... Their lips met, their tongues dueled, and their spirits soared as they communed.
She didn't remember when he lifted her to his lap, wrapped her in a warm towel to dry her and then took her to bed. She didn't remember snuggling in his arms when he eased her head onto his shoulder. She didn't remember drifting into dreamland in the safety of his arms. In the morning, she looked at the man sleeping by her side and wondered what life had in store for them, if anything.
They lived in separate worlds, his feet squarely planted on terra firma, hers wherever life took her, her worldwide wanderlust and syndicated travel columns paying the bills. His home in the northeast corner of the U.S. was his castle and his refuge - safe haven at week's end after a workweek traveling for business. She had an efficiency apartment in San Francisco that she visited every other month or so - the rest of her time generally on other continents. She didn't think they'd manage to see each other more than two or three times a year; he was more optimistic than she was.
He spanked her often the next day, his hand warming her bottom and her woman's place, his mouth following his hands, his body filling hers with gentle thrusts. She loved him in return, neither able to get enough of the other, both wanting so much more when they finally parted.
"Call me as soon as you get to Athens," he told her when they kissed goodbye.
"I will," she promised, and she did.
"Don't you ever have to travel abroad?" she had asked one night, their voices in each other's ears, their hunger for each other evident with each Trans-Atlantic call.
"Don't you ever travel in the states?" he had countered, wondering when he'd see her again.
"Joining the Swedish ship, Hope, she told him one night at the end of their call. "Going to tour with them around the globe. It'll be exciting to dock at so many places."
"How long's the tour?" he asked with skepticism.
"A year, maybe two."
"Will I ever see you again?" he asked, regret in his voice.
"Of course, you will," she laughed softly. "I'll fly to Maine as soon as I can."
But she didn't.
She caught a virus... hospitalized somewhere on the other side of the world... incommunicado... no one had heard from her in almost two years, not even her editor.
Soaked to the skin, chilled, and numb, he tempted pneumonia, revved up the Hog and rode into the wind. "Come back to me," he whispered to her. "I need to be with you just once more... see if we were really good together. Just once more, Syl. Just one more time."
He stood under a hot shower until the water cooled, his mind lost in yesterdays, his face etched with grief, his heart a constant ache, and his lost soul wavering in some kind of empty hell. Where are you? he asked again and again.
There was no answer to his call.
Sleep came hard, filled with devil dreams and the worst his imagination could conjure. She's hurting. She needs me. She's dead.
Waking with a start, he gave up on sleep and dressed for the day. "If I just knew where you were," he muttered to himself. "If I knew you were all right... if..." Emotionally and physically exhausted, he retrieved the note she had handed him when they parted and read it again.
Just once... Zack. I want to see your face next to mine on a pillow.
A week passed... and then another... and one more. He placed his heart on hold and went on with life. Day by day, week by week, he tried to withdraw from his memories of her. It was futile and he knew it, but still he tried.
It was a cold and rainy November weekend... the holiday season in full swing, hoards of people shopping and unnerving him with their noisy, happy chatter. He filled his grocery cart swiftly, eager to escape their joy, desperate to be alone so he could wallow in his solitude. Got to get out of here. Too noisy... too much good cheer.
"Damnation!" he grumbled as he spotted the small creature knocking on his door when he pulled into his driveway. "Always someone selling something!" House to house solicitors were one of his pet peeves. "Should be a law against them!"
"Whatever you're selling, I'm not interested," he announced as firmly as courtesy allowed as he marched to his door, his annoyance evident with each word and step. "I'm not interested in buying any... Syl!"
He stood stock still, the grocery bags slipping from his hands as he stared at the sodden bundle of femininity standing there.
"Syl?" he whispered in disbelief, his heart doing flip flops, the adrenaline surge careening from his gut to his throat and back again. God... I'm hallucinating...
She was soaked clear through her coat, damp curls clinging to her cheeks, her wind-stung face peeking out from a hood. Her lips were almost blue from the cold, and she trembled as she stood in the puddles that had pooled at her feet.
"Is it you?" he asked, his voice hushed and low, afraid to speak too loud lest he anger the gods of fate and destiny.
"RockyMountainHigh," she whispered, her voice huskier than he remembered.
"Syl..." he stared at her, then grabbed her to his chest and kissed her hard. "Syl..." he said in wonderment.
"Zack..." she replied, tears overflowing. "Just once..."
He didn't stop to ask questions... Where she had been... why she hadn't called... what had happened to her over the last two years. He helped her out of her wet clothes and noticed how thin she was... Gently, he rubbed her back, murmuring loving and soothing sounds while she soaked in a hot tub. Unable to stop touching her, he kept her in his embrace, his arms holding her on his lap while she drank hot soup and coffee laced with brandy.
At last, she looked at him and asked the question that had been uppermost in her mind since they last spoke - almost two years before. "Do you still want me, Zack? Just one more time?"
"Just once?" he asked in return, his hungry eyes looking directly into hers, his soul craving more.
"Yes, just once," she said stiffly, afraid of his reply.
"No..." he paused, watching her face.
"N.. no?" her voice barely audible as she took a shaky breath.
"No..." he paused again. "Not just once... I want much more."
"How... how much more?" she asked, still afraid of what he'd say.
"I want forever, Syl."
The tears flowed as she collapsed against his chest, whatever fear she had harbored disappearing with his words. "Zack..." she murmured when she raised her head. "I need to tell you where I've been... why I couldn't call... what's happened since I saw you."
"Tell me later," he whispered, carrying her to bed. "We have other things to do right now."
"Will you spank me?" she asked, hopefully.
"Spank you?" he laughed softly, hugging her tight. "Woman, you are going to be over my knee for the rest of your life! I owe you plenty for worrying me to death for two solid years. I'm never going to let you go. I'm going to make sure you..."
"Zack," she pleaded, looking at him. "Show me!"
~ Months later ~
Coming home from work, his steps were silent as he approached her from behind, his warm breath on her neck as he whispered that she'd been such a good girl. "I think you deserve a good girl spanking, Syl. A long one, my love," he told her, smiling when he felt her shiver at his words.
His hands rested on her waist, his mouth nibbling that sweet spot behind her ears as his hands slipped under her skirt. Thumbs hooked under the waistband of her panties... slowly... he slid them down. She felt the cool air touch her bottom as inch by inch, bare skin was exposed. He nodded toward the overstuffed chair. "As soon as your little bottom is bare, sweet woman... completely bare..." he murmured in her ear. "We're headed over there."
"Spank me, again," she begged when they had slaked their initial desire. "I want more of you."
"Shameless," he chuckled softly as she begged, her hand holding his between her thighs. "Is there no end to your appetite?" he growled, his eyes twinkling at her blush.
"I always hunger for more of you, my RockyMountainHigh... my love... my Zack. Please... spank me... and love me again."
"I will, sweet woman, but not here. Get a light jacket," he told her.
They rode the Hog to the beach, the sandy shore deserted at the end of the hot day, the setting sun still offering its warm rays. The lovers cuddled on a blanket so lost in their reverie... and destiny... neither noticed that the evening had begun to cool. Zack spanked her... her bottom raised high on his thighs, pinked and warmed by his hand as he gave her what she wanted. Every now and then he paused, making sure she was okay, laughing softly when she demanded more.
"Shameless," he reminded her when she spread her thighs for him. "You're going to be the death of me, sweet woman."
"Just once more?" she asked again, her body reaching for him, her soul in synch and harmony with his.
"Just once more," he murmured softly. "Every day, Syl... until we die."