Chapter 11 (Friday)

Morning came earlier than usual for Samantha, and even before getting out of bed, she felt the exercise from the day before in her legs and feet.

“I never knew I had so many muscles,” she complained as she rolled to the edge of the bed and sat up. “You would think with all the practicing I do with Tae Kwon Doe and the wall, everything would be limber.” Sitting with her legs dangling, she stared at Alex in disbelief. “Why aren't you complaining about a sore body?”

“Guess I'm in better shape than you are.” Sapphire eyes sparkled with mischief, as the dark-haired beauty walked back over to the bed and handed Samantha a tube of cream for sore muscles.

“We're going to buy you a pair of hiking boots before we leave for the trip; that's one of your problems. You can't be climbing rocks and stepping on stones all day in those sneakers of yours and not expect your feet and legs to feel the abuse the next day.”

“Now you tell me,” Samantha whimpered. “At least my arms seem to have taken the exertion without screaming too much. You could have let me in on your little secret before I had the sore feet and muscles.”

“Sorry.” Alex bent down and kissed Samantha's head. “I'm sure the Jacuzzi last night kept the aching to a minimum. Would you like me to kiss the sore spots and make them all better?”

“You do and I can guarantee we will not be leaving for a camping trip this morning.” She drew her lover closer, her arms wrapped firmly around Alex's waist. “Just you, me, and nature, huh?”

“You got it, kiddo, just the three of us. So . . . time to get up, dressed, and going. We have supplies to pick up from downstairs, a few more things to purchase in town, and of course . . . breakfast.”

“Of course, breakfast . . . that's the most important part,” Samantha exclaimed as she let loose of the taller woman and got out of bed.

“I wouldn't go that far, Samantha, but it is high on the list.”

After a long discussion over not taking a change of clothing, Alex finally got through to Samantha that they would be 'roughing it', no bells and whistles, just the necessities, and, of course, Samantha entreated, her journal and pens.

“Bards!” An exasperated Alex gave up, shaking her head. “When you're going to find time to write, I have no idea, but by all means take the tools of the trade. Other than that, are we ready?”

“Yes.” Samantha packed her small journal and pens in her backpack and lifted it onto her shoulders.

“Will you be able to travel easily with that on your back?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Because we're going to be adding more to it. You know, food, matches, water, survival stuff.”

“How much more, Alex?”

“A few pounds, but it'll diminish as we use the supplies up. I'll take the brunt of the weight, but I will need you to carry a little more than you have in there right now. Do you think you'll be able to manage?”

“Sure, it will be on my back so that takes a lot of the weight off. No problem, I can do anything once!” She smiled over at her lover and gave the signal that she had everything she needed.

Since the dining room was already open, it seemed like the best place to eat and when they were finished with breakfast, Alex lead them to the storage room where Gary kept the camping equipment. Everything needed for a weekend with nature was stockpiled in the small room. Alex filled Samantha's backpack first with the smaller items, such as cooking utensils, a pot, matches, rope, and knife. She then added some packages of freeze-dried foods. Each of them picked up a sports bottle with a filter that enabled them to purify their drinking and cooking water. Lastly, Alex loaded a sleeping bag onto Samantha's back and asked if the smaller woman thought the load would be too heavy or cumbersome to deal with.

“Alex I know we're supposed to be roughing it, but I see a roll of camping toilet paper; could we please take that and some hand wipes with us?”

The taller woman laughed as she reached up and retrieved a roll of the camping paper and a few packages of the waterless hand wipes. “Nothing like taking a tenderfoot with me into the depths of nature. How would you ever survive in the forests of the Amazon, far from civilization?”

“Why in Tartarus would I want to survive in the forests of the Amazon? Do I look like a native to you? Besides, Miss Camper-of-the-Year, have you ever gone traipsing through the Amazonian jungle?” Emerald eyes sparkled with the challenge as she waited patiently for a reply.

“Actually . . . no . . . but I think I would survive just fine. I have done some extensive hiking and camping in my day.” Sapphire eyes met the question with a hint of rascality. “Besides, you would never be in the Amazon forest alone; I would always be there to protect you.”

“My dark hero, always around to save me.” There was a smile on the fair face, but the sentiment went heart deep.

“You betcha! Now let's go get a few more goodies to eat and buy you a pair of decent hiking shoes.”

On the way out of the room Alex grabbed a flashlight and some batteries. She waved them at Samantha. “Just to be on the safe side–don't want you to be afraid of the dark.” She smiled at her lover and closed the door behind her.

It didn't take long to pack up the Jeep and soon the weekend adventure was about to begin. Alex informed Gary that they would be somewhere in Secret Canyon and told him if they hadn't shown up back at the Resort by Sunday evening to come looking for them. Secrecy was always a part of her little hiking expedition in the past, but this time she had Samantha to think about as well. She didn't want them to be caught out somewhere with no one knowing where to even begin a search if something went amiss.

A few hours later all the extra supplies were purchased and packed, and Samantha was sporting a new pair of shoes.

“I'm sorry I didn't think about your feet and legs before we got here, Samantha.” Alex apologized.

“That's okay, I've got the right equipment now,” the smaller woman smiled over at the driver.

“Yes, but you should have been able to wear them for a few days and break them in before needing them so desperately. At least the salesperson seemed knowledgeable enough to fit you properly and promised that they wouldn't cause blisters. He will be one sorry so-and-so if they do.” The dark-haired beauty put her hand on the smaller woman's thigh. “We're almost there; I know you're going to love this place. There are all sorts of caves riddled throughout the area and it's so off the beaten path that there are hardly any other hikers around.

They had traveled down Highway West 89A until turning onto Dry Creek Road and now Alex was turning onto a dirt road with a sign stating FR 152.

“Just a few more miles and we'll reach the parking lot where I told Gary we would leave the Jeep. In case of an emergency, he'll know where to begin looking.”

Panic filled sea-green eyes as they flashed up to meet those of her lover. “Emergency?”

“Samantha, I don't anticipate any problems, but we are going to be out in nature and it would be stupid to not have at least one person know where we started out.”

The small blonde relaxed back into her seat. “You're right, of course; it's just the word emergency has such a panicked ring to it.”

Alex smiled and patted her lover's leg. “Okay, sorry for the use of such a strong word. I forgot how easily words affect you, my bard.”

From where Alex was parking the Jeep they could barely see a marked sign reading “Secret Canyon #121.”

“Okay . . . we're here . . . let's get packed up and on the go.”

They helped each other on with the backpacks and sleeping bags, making sure to attach their filled water bottles to their pant loops. Alex's camping shorts pockets were filled with small incidentals: matches, Swiss Army knife, a snakebite kit, and a compass. Samantha's camping shorts pockets were filled with hard candies, antiseptic wipes, lip balm, and insect bite ointment. The blonde made sure the toilet tissue, her journal, and a pen were all easily accessible. It was quite obvious what each of the women's priorities were.

The path was fairly easy to follow in the beginning, leading them through tall grass scattered throughout with yellow Blanket Flower. A little further on, after crossing a dry wash, laced with Jimsonweed, they passed a small stream bubbling merrily along at a quick pace. Looking up, they were constantly surrounded by the beautiful red rock cliffs that rose high above everything else and enclosed them in a world of wonder and beauty.

A short distance down the path it forked, and the two women decided to take the trail that looked less traveled. It had them weaving and twisting along the rocky cliffs, interspersed with Scarlet Creeper, as they continued on an uphill climb. Since they had nowhere special in mind to go, they continued at a slow pace, enjoying the fragrance of the seasonal flowers, which included the blue Machaeranthera with its brilliant azure petals and yellow center. If they listened closely they could hear the cries of the Bluejay and the song of the Painted Redstarts, while occasionally catching a glimpse of a native Black Hawk flying high overhead. After a while the path wound back around and then started to descend, plunging them into a section of deep woods.

“I don't think I've ever seen so much beauty in one place at the same time,” Samantha murmured as they walked side-by-side on a trail leading them through the pines. “I mean, there's the lake and woods in Washington and the ocean and beaches in California, but this is so different.”

“It's like being in a world that civilization has yet to have found.”

“That's it exactly, Alex. It's like we're explorers and the first ones here to see all these wonders of nature.”

The tall trees were filtering the amount of sunlight they allowed to drift through and in Samantha's bardic imagination, she spotted many a fairy ring as they walked through the fragrant woods. The sounds of the woodland birds created a symphony of nature as the lover's walked unhurriedly through the lush undergrowth on the forest floor.

About the time Samantha's stomach started rumbling, they found themselves at the end of the path as it filtered into an almost dry creek bed. Had it not been for the daily showers, it would more than likely have dried up long ago. Alex looked at her watch.

“I see you managed to bring that little item of civilization along with you?” Samantha teased.

Acknowledging the sarcasm by merely a raised eyebrow and a smile, Alex asked, “Do you want to stop for some lunch now or continue on down the wash here and see where it leads?”

“I don't know. What time is it?”

“You want me to cheat and look at this timepiece on my arm or give you the time by the sun?”

“No fair, Alex, I already saw you look at your watch . . . we'll play that little game later in the afternoon when I'm sure you haven't already cheated.”

“Clever girl, aren't you? Believe it or not, we've been walking around for about two-and-a-half-hours; it's a little after one. We could have some lunch and rest for a bit and then travel back up toward the cliffs if you want.”

“Hey, I'm just along for the hike; you're the tour guide. Time really does fly when you're having fun; I wouldn't have thought so much time had elapsed. I'll go along with whatever you say.”

“Oh, that can be risky . . . whatever I say?”

“Within reason.” The blonde smiled over at her lover.

“There you go, putting restrictions.” Alex stopped and took her backpack off then helped Samantha off with hers. “I'm really not a tour guide here, Samantha. This is virgin territory for me as well; I've never been back through these woods.”

“That's fantastic! Now we're someplace where neither one of us has ever been before. I like that idea; it makes this even more special.”

“It doesn't take much to make you happy does it?” She gave her lover a kiss on the cheek. “Seriously, Samantha, I do know that sometimes, though it seems we've been traveling forever and the time speeds by, the trails occasionally backtrack on themselves. So, even if it takes us two to three hours to get somewhere, there's always the possibility that another path would take us back quicker. I've been trying to keep an eye on where we've gone so we don't get totally lost.”

“Getting lost would definitely not be a fun way to spend the weekend.” Samantha agreed.

“Let me tell you now so I don't forget later.” She pointed to one of the large red rock towers. “See that turret up there, Samantha?”

Sam's eyes followed the pointing finger. “Yes.”

“Okay the Jeep is parked directly south of that spire, so if anything . . .”

“It's enough to know that it's there, Alex. I'm sure I won't ever have to use that information.”

The following couple of hours were spent having a leisurely lunch, talking, and enjoying the scenery. After eating, they piled up a bunch of pine needles and threw one of the sleeping bags over them, making a soft area to lie down and talk some more. During one particularly quiet moment, Alex made a quick move to sit and put her fingers to her mouth to keep Samantha from speaking. Then she motioned for the blonde to sit up and pointed down the creek, while leaning over and whispering into her lover's ear. “Look down there to the right, Samantha, an entire family of deer.”

It didn't take long to see what her lover was pointing to. Not more than fifty feet down the creek bed stood a full antlered buck, a doe, and two small fawns.

“They're absolutely beautiful,” Sam whispered back to Alex. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

The answer to the thank you was a sweet kiss to her lover's cheek, as she pulled Samantha back down onto the bedding beside her. Baby kisses caressed the fair cheeks that were pink from the afternoon sun. “Mom once told me in one of our mother-and-daughter talks about the way she felt when she and Kelley first got together. I always thought she was exaggerating the feeling of never wanting to let go of the other person, thinking to myself that surely she couldn't mean that. Now I know exactly how she felt. Whenever you're in sight, I feel the urge to be beside you, touching you, caressing you. There's a radiance to your skin that sends out a beckoning vibration meant to draw me near, and it always succeeds in its responsibility . . . I love you Samantha.”

Alex, with her arms around her world, drew the smaller woman close and kissed her passionately, before continuing, “You know, I've had good sex before . . .”

“Oh, you have, have you?” the petite woman teased.

“Samantha, I'm being serious.”

“Yeah,” blonde locks nodded in affirmation, “I know.”

“With you it's almost like . . . an obsession . . . it's not just sex, its nourishment.” She sighed deeply, “Now listen to who's sounding deep and bardic.”

“I know what you're saying, Alex . . . I feel it, too. It's like when you're touching me, we're complete.”

“Exactly,” Alex agreed.

For minutes they laid quietly, side-by-side, facing each other and simply looking into each other's eyes. Letting their hearts do the talking through their windows to the soul.

Finally two small hands could no longer keep still and began to roam the taller woman's body. When Samantha slipped her fingers under Alex's shorts and squeezed the firm round buttocks, the raven-haired beauty felt the material between her legs become suddenly damp as a shudder ran through her body.

“Samantha as much as I want to . . .”

The smaller woman ignored the protestation and pushing Alex onto her back, lay on top of her. “My turn,” she muttered into her lover's ear. Then sitting up and straddling her mate, she unbuttoned and began unzipping Alex's shorts.

Two strong hands quickly clasped the smaller ones. “Samantha we need to keep moving if we're going to find a place to make camp before sunset. You want to see the sunset, don't you?”

“Nice try, Alex.” Samantha jerked her hands away from those that were not wholehearted in their objections. “We have plenty of time; this won't take long. Consider it my dessert.” With the shorts unzipped, she slipped a hand between the material and her lover's body, bypassing the curly locks and encroaching on the moistened area below.

She smiled back up at the dark beauty, while gently pushing on the center of her lover's passion. “Now, I'm sure it won't take long,” she teased, slipping one finger gingerly between the nether lips and up inside the cave of desire, her thumb began gently massaging the already growing nub situated above the entrance. “Don't you think we ought to get these shorts off? They're awfully wet Alex. You don't want to become chafed, and you don't seem to have any underwear on to absorb.” Again she grinned down into the face she loved, and seeing no signs of resistance, continued removing the hindering clothing.

Alex had already taken her outer shirt off and was wearing only a sleeveless tee, but seconds later that, too, was lying on the ground beside them.

“You know, I've never made love in the woods,” Samantha began then looked over to where the family of deer was still grazing, “especially with a live audience.” She giggled before leaning over and taking one of her lover's now hard nipples in her mouth. “Ah. Dessert.”

Under the watchful and warm eyes of the afternoon sun and with the help of a gentle breeze to cool their passions, the two continued to make love beneath the tall pines, oblivious to the stares from the animals, unfamiliar with the mating habits of humans.

After they had taken the time to appreciate each other, they lay on their backs, drinking in the fresh air and playing imagination games with the clouds.

Alex was the first to suggest they dress and get started, as they had spent more time than anticipated having lunch.

The duo followed the creek bank for a little while and filled their half-emptied water bottles with the crystal clear liquid. Almost an hour had past as they continued walking through the woods, trying to identify the ferns, flowers, and wild mushrooms they encountered. Soon the wooded area gave way to a small grove of red-barked manzanita trees. Searching the area, Alex spotted what looked like a natural trail that led further up into the rocks.

“I've always appreciated the pine trees and ferns more than these little buggers,” the dark-haired beauty mumbled stepping around one of the small trees.

“Be careful not to get too close; they enjoy eating clothing and love the taste of skin,” Alex warned as she pointed to the tiny trees lining either side of the newly found path.

“Will do, especially since you didn't let me bring any change of clothes.”

“Don't go there, Samantha! I might just have to introduce you to a manzanita tree.” She gave the 'I'm only kidding' sign and they continued on toward the cliff facing.

“Look up there Samantha,” Alex pointed a little way in front and above them. “That looks like it might be a nice size ledge and a cave.”

“What about bears, Alex? We saw deer here, so I know there's wildlife. Are there bears?”

“None to really speak about. In a few of the areas there have been brown bear sightings, but I don't think this region is one of them.”

“You don' think?”

“Samantha if you're uncomfortable with doing this, we still have time to head back toward the Jeep and we can sleep in a nice soft bed instead of on the hard ground, out in the open air, under the stars, with not another soul around . . .”

“Okay, okay, I definitely get the picture. No bears to be afraid of. Gotcha!”

Within minutes they were beginning to climb the face of the rocks that would lead them up to a ledge approximately six feet above their heads. Luckily for them the facing was not slick but had many handgrips and crevices. Samantha went first and Alex watched carefully each advance the small woman made.

“You're really rather good at that you know, Samantha?” The raven-haired beauty shouted up to her mate before joining her in the climb. “You're almost there. I'm going to go ahead and start.”

Hand and foot coordination was definitely a plus when trying to climb the irregular cliff wall. When Alex pulled herself onto the ledge, Samantha was sitting there taking a picture.

“Did you get my best angle,” Alex asked as she finished scrambling onto the ledge.

“Every angle is your best,” Samantha complimented. “Just look at the view from here. You were right; a little longer down on the floor of the forest and we would have missed the sunset.

“I think we still have a little time before that, Samantha. So, there's plenty of time to set up a camp. This is a nice size ledge and, it looks like there is even an indentation we can use for a fire pit.”

The women took off their backpacks and deposited everything they would need for the evening into a pile close to the fire pit. With part of the water from their bottles, they reconstituted the evening meal. All that was left to do was to heat it. Together they scavenged around and found enough felled wood to support a fire, and while Alex was busy priming for the cooking stage, Samantha sat down with her journal.

“I can either see Bell Rock from here, or there is another formation that is very close to it in structure.” Samantha pointed to the east and Alex followed the blonde's direction with her eyes.

“I'm not really sure Samantha.”

“Well, I've had this poem running through my head since the day we visited there and I think I'll write it out while your finishing up there. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure, there's nothing you can do to help. The kindling has caught and we just need enough of a flame to start cooking.

Samantha sat down with her journal in her lap. The rhyme had been flowing through her head all day and it was a relief to get it down on paper.

Bell Rock Rock

I sat within the silence in the blazing Autumn sun

A concert was beginning for an audience of one

My soul began to listen to a different drummer's beat

I found myself a rocking in the sweltering Autumn heat

'Twas a song just written for me and my soul began to sway

Though my ears could hear no music, I could feel it anyway

The energy ran through me as each note was deftly played

Now the melody escapes me, but the feeling will not fade

>

The bard finished writing, sighed deeply, and put down her pen. She picked up the journal and reread the poem.

“Want to hear what I wrote, Alex?”

“Sure . . . you sound like I wouldn't want to hear it, why?”

“I don't know, because it's poetry?”

“I want to hear anything you pen Samantha. Go ahead . . . read it to me, while I put these pots over the fire. It shouldn't take long to heat everything up.”

The blonde began reciting her poem. She read the title out loud and then stopped and tilted her head, as if listening to something almost inaudible. “Did you hear that?”

“What?” Alex wanted to know.

“That drumming sound.”

“No. All I heard was the title of your poem.”

“Okay, must have been the way the wind was whistling past my face.” The small blonde began again. “Bell Rock Rock . . . there . . . there it is again, Alex . . . listen.”

Alex tilted her head, closed her eyes, and concentrated. “I don't hear anything, Honey. Why don't you just go ahead and finish the poem. Maybe nature is accompanying you.” She smiled in the direction of her mate.

“You're smiling, but it's kinda giving me the creeps.” The blonde shivered and then looked again at the bit of creativity in her hand. “Okay, here goes . . .”

For the final time Samantha began the poem elicited by the peace and serenity of the area. Again she hear the slight beating of rhythmic drums, muted instead of echoed by the surrounding canyon. She did not look up until she had uttered the last word of the poem and then looked into the stunned face of her lover.

“Was it that bad?” The poet questioned.

“Um . . . no . . . um . . . the poem was really good Samantha; it captured the magic that surrounds this area.” She looked down at what she was now cooking and stirred the pot of vegetable stew.

“So . . . what's with the inability to answer then, Alex. Why the weird look, huh?” The blonde already knew the answer to her question; she just wanted Alex to admit to it.

“I guess it's just that when you were reading you poem . . . I . . . nah . . . it was the power of suggestion.”

“What was the power of suggestion? Just tell me.” Sam walked over to the fire and placed her hand on Alex's arm. “You heard it too, didn't you?”

The taller woman nodded yes, crooking her head to listen to the wind.

“I don't hear anything now.” She looked down into eyes confused as her own.

“I heard it the entire time I was reading. It was as though the beat was following my words.” She shivered and held her arms out for her lover to see the goose flesh that was covering them. “It gave me the willies! What do you supposed caused it?”

“Probably the way the wind was rushing though the trees, hitting the caves, or bouncing off the rocks.”

“Yeah, right. Alex the wind does not make drum sounds.”

“Well, maybe there's another hiking party somewhere in the canyon today and they're drummers. Yeah–that sounds reasonable.” She smiled thinking perhaps she had finally hit on a logical explanation. The she laughed nervously. “Listen to us, thinking we're the only visitors to this entire area. I'll bet that's what it was, drummers practicing their Indian drumming.”

“Is that so?” The blonde was none too sure of Alex's certainty. “Then, oh wise camper, tell me why we don't hear them any more?”

The air was hushed and silent as the two strained their ears to catch the distant sound of drumming . . . of any sound . . . but now, not even the birds were singing.

“Whatever Samantha.” Alex waved it off. “Let's just wait and see if it returns again before the evening's over.” Quickly changing the topic she pointed to their bowls. “I think this stew is warm enough to eat, wanna bring those over?”

They sat together with legs dangling over the ledge pointing out what was most important to each of them. Samantha gave Alex an incredulous look when the dark-haired woman took the bowls and wiped them out with leaves.

“I know we're roughing it Alex but . . .”

“Samantha, we're going to need the water in our bottles for drinking, not for washing dishes, unless you want to climb back down to the creek bed to clean up tonight?”

“No.” The blonde admitted. “It's just I've never had my bowl cleaned with a leaf before. You going to do the same with the pot?”

“Yes, that's what I intended. They really get fairly clean this way, look.” She held out one of the bowls for her lover to inspect.

“Not surprisingly, Alex, you're right.” She placed the bowl inside the finished pot along with the other one Alex had already cleaned. “It's so quiet out here; at home, there's always the rush of the waves beating on the shore. Here there's a silence so still you can hear your heartbeat.”

“This is beautiful country. Why don't we figure where we want to sleep and put the sleeping bags down and then look around a little before sunset?”

“Great idea.”

The main choice was between setting the bedding inside the cave or outside on the ledge. Samantha wanted the full impact of sleeping under the stars, so they agreed to place them close to the entrance in case it rained but just outside the mouth of the alcove. Alex had a small battery operated camping lantern that she turned on as they slowly entered the cavern. Although when proceeding through the entrance, the statuesque brunette found the need to duck, once inside the area opened up showing ceilings that reached slightly beyond her six feet. Beyond the irregularly shaped cave the women entered, they spotted two tunnels leading further into the heart of the red rock. One of the passages went forward with a sharp turn to the left and the other forward and just slightly to the right.

“You know, it's weird that these caves are so close to the cliff dwellings we saw, and yet there is no acknowledgement of ancient habitats in this Canyon.”

“I would imagine this might have been more of a spiritual place,” Alex commented.

“Why would you think that?”

“I don't know,” the dark-haired beauty shrugged her shoulders as the two continued to walk toward the left turn. “It just seemed like a logical reason to me, I guess.”

“Look at this Alex.” Samantha bent down and picked up a stick that had some kind of moss stuck to it. “Kind of resembles a torch, dontcha think?”

“Yes.” Alex admitted. “It would be a great torch if it's dry enough and the stuff on it doesn't burn too quickly. Want to try it and see? It would save us on batteries.” She took the torch from Samantha and used the matches she had in her camp shorts to see if it would catch. They were in luck; the moss was dry enough to catch with the first try.

“That's great, it really throws a lot of light into the cave.” Samantha acknowledged. “Where do you think something like this would lead?” she asked, pointing further down the tunnel.

“It seems to be following the outer rim of the mountain.” Alex guessed.

The passage was fairly level with perhaps a slight decline. As they continued to walk Alex began to notice that the passage was shrinking in size. “Looks like we might be running out of tunnel up here a little way. Isn't it remarkable how these rocks are spotted with caves and tunnels like this? Unfortunately this one looks fairly barren.” She turned and spun the torch around to see if there was any writing on the walls. There was none so she asked Samantha if she had had enough adventuring for the evening and was ready to see the sunset.

“I've already cheated and looked at my watch,” Alex confessed. “We should have just enough time to get back out there before old Sol goes down.”

Alex was definitely right on the time frame; just as they were emerging from the cave, they caught the last glimpses of the sun as it began its descent below the rocks of the Secret Canyon. The brunette carefully extinguished the torch so they would be able to use it again tomorrow when they explored the other side of the cave. After placing it back inside the cave, she walked over, stood behind her lover, and draped her arms over the smaller woman's shoulders.

“So … will this do for one of your memorable sunsets?”

“Most definitely, Alex.” Samantha leaned back onto Alex's chest. “But, it goes so quickly once it hits a certain point.”

“That it does Samantha, almost like it was dropping from the sky.” She could still smell the fragrance of cologne in the smaller woman's hair as she inhaled fully. “I love the way you smell.”

Samantha giggled. “Oh, yeah. Especially after I've been walking around in the woods the entire day. I must smell fragrant.”

“As a matter of fact, you do.” Alex countered as she drew the small woman close and sniffed. “You smell like fresh air and pine.”

Unfortunately, there were no pine needles to soften the hard ground the sleeping bags were now unrolled on for the evening. They sat down and Alex brought out the wineskin she carried in her backpack.

“Open your mouth, Samantha.”

Being quite experienced at aiming the stream of liquid that was quickly escaping from the skin, she maneuvered the elixir so that not a drop was lost as it found its way into Samantha's mouth.

“Ah … that tastes marvelous.” The blonde smiled up at her lover. “What a way to end an evening. Watching a sunset made for the movies, sitting at the top of the world, drinking the nectar of the Gods, with the person I most want to be with in the entire universe. Who could ask for anything more?”

Alex smiled, took a drink of wine, and edged closer to Samantha. “My sentiments exactly,” she agreed. “I take it you think today was successful?”

“Absolutely!” The blonde beamed from ear-to-ear. “This is beautiful country out here in the middle of no where, Alex.”

“That it is my love, that it is.” Alex agreed. She gave Samantha another mouthful of wine and took another for herself. “Just how tired are you?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Maybe just lying back and doing a little star gazing.”

“Sounds good to me,” Samantha replied. “Astronomy was one of my favorite subjects in high school.”

Once the sun fell below the rocks of the canyon, the sky darkened quickly. Before long the stars were peeking through the velvet sky like so many tiny spotlights.

Samantha turned to Alex with a serious expression. “I don't want to spoil the evening, but I have a question.”

“Okay?”

“Do you think we'll be bothered by any animals, sleeping out here in the open like this?”

Alex smiled broadly and hugged the smaller woman. “I think we pretty safe up this high, Samantha. If we were sleeping on the ground, we might expect to have night visitors, but not up here. Besides, I'm here to protect you.”

Samantha giggled and put her arm around Alex's waist. “Silly me, I forgot. At least I feel better after asking.”

“Good,” Alex exclaimed. She then changed the subject, as she volunteered to begin the heavenly discussion by pointing into the night sky, “There's the Big Dipper.”

“That may be the common name for it, but what did ancient civilizations call the constellation?” Samantha did the arched eyebrow look with a slightly sarcastic grin, as she gazed into Alex's face.

“Did I Ever mention that astrology was Not one of my most studied of subjects?” Alex admitted.

The smaller woman laughed and Alex held her close, as they looked back up into the evening sky. “Why don't you fill me in on the folklore and all that stuff? I'm a captive audience.”

“I can do that.” Samantha boasted. “Well, at least you had no trouble finding it. Let's see, the ancient Greeks referred to it as the Bear, and the Romans called it Ursa Major or the Great Bear; I guess they agreed on something, huh? Let me think … I'm sure you already know that it's one of the most visible and best known of the constellations and that it shows up in the Northern Hemisphere all year long. The story goes that Calisto was changed by Zeus into a bear because of jealousy and put into the night sky. I don't know much more about that one.”

“Well, that happens to be the only one I know anything about. The last time I was here in Sedona, I was speaking to an old Lakota Indian at one of those vista points I told you about, where the Indians sell handmade jewelry. It was getting close to dusk and we could already see some of the stars peeking through the early evening sky. She told me that the Lakota call the constellation Wichakiyuhapi.” She made a slight laughing sound as she apologized for the possible mispronunciation.

“As if I would know the difference,” Samantha giggled back.

“Anyhow that name for the constellation means Dipper. They consider it the dipper used to carry water for the sweat lodge and Pipe ceremonies that take place up in the sky. When an Indian dies, the same dipper is used to carry the spiritual essence across the Milky Way, which they call the Road of Spirits and deposit it at its final destination in the spirit world. The very same configuration of stars is called by different names as they perform different functions for the Lakota men and women.”

“Wow.” Samantha looked up at the constellation and tried to imagine having her spirit body carried across the stars as it journeyed to its final destination. “That is so interesting.”

Alex smiled and squeezed Sam gently. “That's all I know, so I guess it's your turn again.”

“Okay,” the blonde chimed in. “My favorite is Cassiopeia. I'm sure you've heard of her.”

“Yes,” Alex admitted. “But I don't know the story behind the lady in the rocking chair.” She pointed up into the now dark night sky. “Actually, I can even point her out.”

Samantha followed Alex's fingers and smiled. “You got it; the great big 'W' in the sky. Some call it a rocking chair, but in mythology it's labeled a throne.”

She sighed deeply and then began her story. “Okay, here we go back to the Greeks. Queen Cassiopeia was married to King Cepheus of Æthiopia, and they had a beautiful daughter by the name of Andromeda. Now all the stories differ a little from here, except for the fact that they all maintain that Queen Cassiopeia was an extremely vain woman. Some say that she bragged about her own beauty; some say it was about Andromeda's beauty and others state that she boasted about the two of them. One day while they were walking along the shoreline she went a little overboard and gloated that their beauty far surpassed even that of the sea nymphs. One of the water creatures overheard the boast and went running to Poseidon. The angry god threatened to send a raging flood upon the land and a sea monster, Cetus, to retaliate. King Cepheus was beside himself and asked an oracle what he could do to stop the slaughter of his people because of his wife's vanity. He was told he must sacrifice his daughter by stripping her naked …”

“That sounds interesting,” Alex interjected.

“Alex!”

“I'm sorry, go on.”

“Where was I? Okay, he had to strip her naked and chain her to the rocks by the shoreline where the monster would come and devour her. But the sacrifice was thwarted when Perseus, with his winged sandals, came flying over her on his way home from slaying Medusa. Instantly he fell in love with the beautiful Andromeda. He spotted the monster Cetus coming toward her and vowed to save her if he could have her hand in marriage. King Cepheus agreed, and Perseus, using the Gorgon's head, turned the monster to stone. When Cassiopeia and Cepheus died Poseidon gave them a place of honor in the sky near one another. Athena placed Perseus and Andromeda among the stars when they died. The lovers were placed near Andromeda's parents, the King and Queen. Of course Cetus, the sea monster, was already up there waiting for the beautiful woman he never got to devour in life, and to this day, he chases Andromeda around the sky, with Perseus, carrying the Medusa's head, continuing to guard his lover.”

“So then Cassiopeia never was really punished for being a vain bitch?” Alex asked at the end of the story. “She got put up into the heavens anyway?”

“Kind of, some say Poseidon's punishment was to humiliate her and condemn her to spend half of eternity upside down, which is why sometimes the constellation looks like a 'W' and at other times it looks like an 'M'. When she is upside down that's a very undignified position for a Queen to be in.”

“Oh, I see.” Alex shook her head and kissed Samantha tenderly. “Could it be the direction you're looking from when you stare up into the night sky?” The brunette sarcastically asked.

“Alex! Must you always look at everything from the practical side? It's a myth.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Point out the lover's to me, will you?”

Samantha studied the now pitch black sky, tracing the stars with her fingers. “There they are.” She pointed in the direction she wanted Alex to look. See there's Cassiopeia and if you just move a smidgen over, you can see the two lovers.”

“Enough about the stars, how about the two lovers down here on this ledge?” Alex turned to face Samantha and pulled the smaller woman into an embrace. “I would rather concentrate on the relationship at hand than to go back in time to the days of gods and warriors.”

Two small arms went around the taller woman's neck as Samantha snuggled closer. “You have my undivided attention,” she hummed.

The night was cool but not cold, and the anticipation of making love beneath the stars produced warming thoughts.

“Want to get naked under the constellations?” Alex whispered into Samantha's ear.

Her answer was a nonverbal one as the smaller woman changed her position and began unbuttoning Alex's shorts.

“I guess that's a yes.” The dark-haired woman pulled away and quickly finished taking her shoes, socks, shorts, and top off. She turned to help Samantha with her undressing only to find that the blonde was lying back on the sleeping bags devoid of clothing.

“Now that's a sight to be placed into the heavens for eternity,” Alex declared, as she positioned herself on top of the naked beauty.

“I thought I would be cold, but I think you could take the chill out of the arctic night air.” Sam giggled to herself then asked, “Did we come out here to be with nature or to discover how many new and unusual places we could find to make love?”

“I think the answer to that is, yes!” Alex ran her hands down the smooth curves of her lover's body, feeling the skin ripple when she touched a particularly erogenous spot. There was no giving of the ground beneath them so precautions would have to be taken not to end up with bruises by the time they were finished.

“I don't know if this is just an excuse, but having you out here in the wilderness all to myself is definitely a turn on,” Alex murmured into her lover's ear.

Sam smiled up into eyes that showered love down upon her. “I don't know either, but I feel the same way. I think the scenery brings out the animal in us.” Placing her arms around Alex's neck she drew her into an embrace.

Lips, marginally chapped from exposure to the elements all day, ignored the slight tactile discomfort, as they quickly proceeded into the realm of desire. Long, muscular fingers played harmoniously down the blonde's torso, causing small peaks to appear wherever they roamed.

A symphony of moans and breathless whispers filled the night air as the seduction continued.

Currents of electricity traveled through both bodies as a game of tag and tell ignited primordial cravings.

“People try to kid themselves as to why they're attracted to each other,” Alex interjected between kisses. “The animal instincts we still harbor are more a part of our DNA than we usually care to acknowledge. I'm intoxicated by the mere thought of you.” She kissed the smaller woman's shoulder. “The smell of you is stimulating,” she whispered into Samantha's ear. “And your scent grows stronger the more impassioned you become, driving me absolutely crazy with a hunger that needs to be fed.”

Her body remained stationary while her hands traveled skillfully down the pliable body beneath her, coming to rest on the golden mound of fleece. As one hand encompassed the entire area and slowly applied pressure, the raven-haired beauty confessed, “We aren't all that different from the creatures of the wild, Samantha. We have merely been tamed into thinking we're civilized.”

Her fingers traced an outline around the mouth of Samantha's nether lips, as they tenderly begged leave to enter into the moist den of pleasure that resided therein. Seconds later admittance had been granted and Samantha's body rocked, gently at first and then fiercely as climax became inevitable.

Straddling her lover's thigh the taller woman pushed her passion against the warm skin, sliding up-and-down as her fingers continued with their in-and-out motions, seeking to quench Samantha's thirst and her own simultaneously.

“Tell me Samantha, let me hear you add your voice to the forest rhapsody. You're mine–tell me–tell the world,” Alex pleaded.

Inner muscles tightened around the givers of pleasure as Samantha's body let loose a flood of love's nectar. Nails dug deeply into the skin on Alex's back and a bodily shudder began. Total release and the outcry of one singular word “Alex!” as the small body beneath the larger shivered inside and out.

“Alex,” Samantha repeated, breathing heavily. “Oh, Alex. I am–I am yours.” She opened her eyes and searched for the emotion behind the look that greeted her, it was so heart wrenching.

“Are those tears glistening in the moonlight?” Samantha questioned as she gently wiped one away. “They are . . . “

“Tears of disbelief and joy,” Alex admitted, grabbing and kissing the small damp hand. “I love you Samantha.”

“Disbelief? Why would you say disbelief?”

“Because I could never have imagined that I would be at the top of the world, making love to the most beautiful woman in it, with her shouting that she loved me and was mine. If I died tonight, I'd die a happy woman.”

Samantha pushed Alex over and sat up staring down into the face she loved. “Well if you died tonight I would be anything but a happy woman. I would be a miserable wreck. I don't want to ever hear that little statement again, okay?”

“I was just trying to tell you how happy I am. Come here.” She pulled Sam back down on top of her and encased her in loving arms. “Never leave me, Samantha, promise.”

“Alex promises are . . .”

“Just say the words, please. Promise.”

“Okay, I promise, Alex.” An impish grin came across the blonde's face. “In fact, maybe I should add, you'd have to pay to get rid of me.”

“Then I guess my fortune is safe, because I will never pay you to leave.” Alex chuckled.

The lover's embraced and when Samantha started to shiver from the cool breeze, Alex suggested they get into, instead of lying on top of, the sleeping bags.

Safely nestled in each other's arms they stared silently up at the night sky. Traces of love remained on their bodies and in their thoughts. A long day of physical activity, both adventurous and emotional, relegated the lovers to the state of exhaustion, as they closed their eyes and slept.


The first rays of the morning sun sparkled through the canyon and tickled the eyes of the two sleepers. Almost simultaneously they opened their eyes to greet the morning.

“I would say I slept like a rock,” Samantha said, “but I do believe the correct statement would be I slept on a rock!”

Alex smiled and kissed her lover good morning. “I, for one, slept very good for sleeping on a rock. How 'bout you?

“Can't say that I tossed and turned much,” Samantha admitted, giggling. “Must have been that snack I had just before going to sleep.” Sam stood and stretched, while Alex lay on the sleeping bag watching, a contented smile gracing her face.

“You can make the simplest maneuvers a work of art; do you realize that?”

Samantha looked down and grinned. “Don't be ridiculous.”

Alex sat up, grabbed Samantha's hands, and pulled the small blonde down onto her lap. “Good morning, my destiny. Last night was beautiful and today's starting out with the best eye candy a girl could ask for. We could start out the morning the same way we ended the night.”

“I don't think so Alex. Seriously, aren't you just a little sore in places you didn't know you had until now?”

“Maybe, but I'll get over it.” She pulled Samantha close and kissed her passionately.

Arms encircled her neck as the blonde reciprocated and kissed her lover back. Then she pulled away slightly and looked Alex in the face.

“We have a full day of hiking and exploring to do, my love. I thoroughly enjoyed last night and wouldn't have changed a second of it, but I do want to sleep in a nice soft bed this evening, so what do you say to getting some breakfast and then seeing what's in the other tunnel inside the cave?”

“If you expect me to keep my hands off you, I suggest we dress and then make breakfast. It's either that or you are breakfast.”

Samantha giggled, as she stood up and paraded, naked, under the morning sky. Just as Alex was about to get up and come after her, she grabbed her clothes and pulled on her underwear. “Seriously . . .”

“You don't know how to be serious,” the taller woman responded. “You're a tease, Samantha Riley.”

“I know,” Sam smiled. “Can't help myself. Blame it on the beautiful dawn, the clean air, the color of the sky that matches your eyes . . .” she took a deep breath and stared over at Alex. “Better yet, blame it on the person who needs to be blamed. Blame it on you.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You made me fall in love with you. You changed my world and added a zest for life that I never felt before.”

“And for that I get teased?”

“You betcha!” Samantha grinned at the beautiful brunette as she continued dressing and avoiding contact.

Mentally concurring that Samantha was right and that they needed to get started if they were to spend the day exploring before heading back toward the Jeep, she picked up her clothes and began dressing.

There was no warmth left in the fire from the evening before and they agreed it would be a waste of time to rekindle it. A cold breakfast would do just fine and they were soon packed up and ready to start exploring.

“I'm not sure if the tunnel will lead us down and away from here or up higher, Samantha. Do you want to leave the backpacks here at the entrance to the cave and come back for them or take them with us?”

“You're more of the expert in this field, Alex.”

“Not really, this is uncharted territory. Do you want to go ahead and just leave the gear here and come back for it?”

“Sure, the day's young. If we feel it's going down we can always come back and get it, okay?”

“Great.”

They set the backpacks down and took just what they thought they might need in the cave. Samantha insisted on taking a mini-pack with enough food for lunch, just in case they got hungry before making it back out to the ledge. Alex smiled at her partner. “We wouldn't want to get overly hungry now would we?”

“You know how it is when you're someplace where you can't get anything to eat, you always get hungrier than if you were surrounded by food. I'll even carry it.”

“No need for that,” Alex countered as she took the small backpack from the blonde. “Come on let's get started.”

Leading the way, Alex picked up and re-ignited the torch they had used the day before and the exploration began.

A short way into the cave they were glad they left the heavy gear behind, as they found themselves on a slight incline that seemed to be leading them more toward the inner reaches of the cliff.

“Looks like we made the right decision,” Alex commented. “I'm sure we're not going down.”

“Hey, Alex, here's some more of that moss stuff for the torch; it must be some kind of air fern.” Samantha peeled a wad of sticky substance off the wall of the cave and handed it to Alex. Where it came from the wall it was green and slightly spongy, but where it stuck out into the tunnel the plant was drier. Alex wrapped it around the diminishing torch and it immediately caught and illuminated.

“You found that just in time, Samantha. We would have been forced to use the flashlight in a few minutes.”

Looking at the walls of the passage, Alex noticed a notched area that looked almost like an arrow pointing in the direction they were traveling.

“I didn't notice any of these before.” She walked over to the wall and rubbed her hand over it. “Did you?”

“No, but the shadows could have kept us from seeing them.”

“This looks like a directional sign,” Alex stated almost to herself. She was busy looking for another arrow when Samantha's voice interrupted her search.

“Listen, Alex, I think I hear water dripping.”

The torchbearer stopped and the two campers listened.

“Can you hear it, Alex?”

“Yes, but it's very faint; it must be quite a distance away.”

“Either that or it's just a trickle.”

As they moved further down the corridor Alex found herself having to duck slightly in places as the ceiling began to dip and curve. Now they were hearing the dripping sound constantly and the arrows on the walls were closer together as the tunnel ventured off in different directions.

“I hope there aren't arrows anywhere else or we may find ourselves walking in circles and never getting out of here,” Samantha stated a little less cheerfully than she intended to.

Alex looked around, picked up a loose stone, and struck it on the side of the wall making a mark. “I'm fairly sure of our directions up to here; why don't we make a small mark occasionally just to be sure?”

“Sounds like an excellent idea to this camper.” Samantha agreed and breathed a smile of relief as she was beginning to believe the last statement she had made.

About six feet ahead of them the tunnel forked. The path to the left seemed to be somehow illuminated. The closer they got the more they could see that it was beginning to expand into what looked like a rotunda.

“Wow!” Samantha whispered as her mouth dropped open and they entered an enormous room with pinpricks of light seeping through various holes in the ceiling.

“Would you . . .” Samantha stopped short as her words were repeated back to her in the still air.

The blonde smiled up at her mate and tried again. “This is absolutely . . .”

Again the walls echoed her voice as she spoke.

“Maybe if you whisper,” Alex encouraged in a soft voice that did not seem to make the walls respond.

“Yeah, it seems that whispering works,” Samantha smiled at her lover as she whispered back. “This is beautiful. Look over here Alex,” the smaller woman coaxed, as she moved across the room toward what looked like a small altar. “I can't believe no one has ever been in here. I would have guessed that all these caves would have been explored.”

“Maybe the cave we entered was concealed before, or maybe the ledge was inaccessible. Why do you think they call it Secret Canyon?”

“I guess that's as good a reason as any,” the blonde whispered as she examined what looked like a naturally formed stage and altar. “Look at this Alex; there are designs all over the base of this platform.

Joining her lover, the two women examined the drawings and geometric patterns.

“Just look at the intricacy of these designs Alex,” Samantha exclaimed, trying to keep her excitement quiet. “I think we should tell someone in authority about this cave when we get back, don't you?”

“Yes,” Alex agreed. “This definitely needs to be protected as another treasure from the past. It gives me an eerie feeling to be the first one of our time to see these relics; how about you?”

“Oh, yeah! See the goose bumps?” Sam giggled quietly as she showed her arms to Alex.

“From the way the sunlight is streaming through the small holes in the ceiling, I would venture to say we were near the top of this structure.” Tilting her head to the side and listening, Alex commented that the water sounds seemed to be getting closer.

When she accidentally leaned against the altar, a loud creaking sound was heard behind her and the room was suddenly flooded with light.

“Alex,” Samantha pointed to the area of the brightness. “It looks like you opened up a hidden passageway or room.”

“Well, we're here to explore, no time like the present.”

The dark-haired beauty took her lover's hand and they walked into a brilliantly lit area. It became quite apparent to them where the water sounds had been coming from, as before them stood a small waterfall, cascading down to where the water lingered in a tiny pond with rivulets branching out and downward. The entire area was speckled with pines. Glancing up the two women could feel the warmth of the sun shining through several irregular openings, each about the size of basketball and with foliage spreading across a few of them so as to have made them unnoticeable from an outward angle.

“By the Gods, Alex. Isn't this the most beautiful sight you've ever seen?”

“It's definitely up there in the top ten.” Alex pulled her lover close and kissed her on the head. “Of course, my favorite is right here in my arms.”

“Your impossible,” Samantha chided.

“It looks like there's a cave on the other side of the waterfall,” Alex observed. “Shall we?”

After drinking from the virgin falls and filling their water bottles, they walked around the pond and started toward the darkened area. Alex again lit the torch in anticipation of darkness and they entered the cavern. There was a feeling of mysticism in the air as they entered the small, slightly damp area.

“I guess these rocks contain limestone,” Samantha stated as she pointed to a formation of stalactites above their heads. “You had best be careful, some of these are hanging pretty far down.”

Alex glanced up, smiled, and rubbed the top of her head. “Wouldn't want to be poked with one of those.”

Illumination of the wall with the torch revealed the presence of water trickling slowly, but steadily down the sides of the cave. Exactly in the middle of the small room was an ancient fire pit. There was only the one entrance and when they turned around to face it, Alex noticed there was a protruding ledge above the door that had a deep layer of what looked like animal fur on it. At the entrance to the cave there was also a large amount of the substance that the two women had dispersed upon entering the room.

“I'll bet they closed this room off with an animal skin of some kind and used it as a sweat hut.”

“Damn, this is almost creepy.” Samantha closed the gap between her and Alex as she grabbed onto her lover's free hand.

The innocent act of reaching and touching her lover set into motion another vision of the Indian brave she had seen on Thursday. Gasping, she let go of Alex's hand, pulling away.

“Samantha what's the matter?” Alex turned quickly to face a befuddled Samantha.

“You know I'm all for a spiritual quest, Alex, but this is really freaking me out. I don't know what to make of the visions I'm getting. I don't remember my mom ever telling me I have Indian blood anywhere in my lineage.

“Maybe someone didn't keep an accurate record, or perhaps it was selective remembrance. What did you just see?”

“The same brave I saw the other day, sitting cross-legged across from me in this very room with a fire burning brightly in the pit.”

“Samantha that's great! You wanted to experience reincarnation; you seem to be getting a first hand trip. If you're afraid now, how do you think you're going to react when we have the sessions?”

“I don't know. I guess it was always, you know, one of those things you think about but never really believe you will ever go through with. Now it's right, like, in my face and I don't know how to handle it.”

“Take a deep breath and let's see if we can make it happen again. Hell, Samantha, you might not even need the specialist. People can do their own past life readings you know.”

“No, I didn't know. Or if I did, I'd forgotten all about it. Do you really think we should try again?”

“Sure, that's all part of this experience. Wait a minute.” The brunette looked around for a place to prop the torch and then she motioned for Samantha to join her as she sat down on a large rock near the fire pit. “It would probably work better if we sat on the floor, but it feels damp and I don't want to walk around the rest of the day with wet pants.”

Samantha giggled, mostly from nerves and then sat down beside her lover.

“Okay, what next?” the blonde questioned.

“We put ourselves in a meditative mood and ask our higher selves to help us through this journey. We tell our guides that we would like to know anything about a former life lived here in this area. It seems to work better for both of us if we hold hands.” She looked over at Sam who had an almost haunting look upon her face.

“You're the one who wanted to do a past live regression, Samantha. Are you changing your mind? Listen, we can stop now and continue exploring the tunnel if you want to, but honestly, Honey, this is the chance of a lifetime. Not many people get to experience this kind of 'in your face' encounter. It's your call.”

Alex sat for a few seconds, waiting for Samantha to make up her mind.

Slowly two small hands reached across to grasp two larger ones. With a deep sigh, Samantha made physical contact.

Upon closing their eyes, each of the participants received an immediate depiction of an ancient scene–a scene that had obviously taken place in a different lifetime, in the precise spot they were now sitting. To Samantha the Indian brave spoke words that, although the Samantha in the here-and-now did not understand, emotionally she knew they were words of love. At the exact same time, the present-time Alex was experiencing a similar vision as the beautiful Indian maiden with eyes as green as emeralds spoke softly to her in words that sounded like poetry to her ears.

The images disappeared and they broke contact. After opening their eyes, they sat for a few minutes, staring at each other in the dimly lit room. It seemed as though the images were getting clearer and the visions longer in length each time the women experienced them.

Finally Samantha broke the silence. “That was so intense! What did you see Alex?”

After filling each other in on the experience, the women came to the conclusion that they were definitely looking forward to finding out more about their Indian selves during the forthcoming professional reading. They sat for a few more minutes, discussing the visions and examining the room they were in, then decided it might be fun to have lunch back by the waterfall.

It had been an extremely interesting and insightful morning and they actually stumbled onto more in the way of primitive Indian symbols and pictures than either of them had anticipated. Alex had figured they would simply have an enjoyable walk inside the rock and then begin their hike back to the Jeep; it turned out to be much more for both of the women.

They had been wandering around the inside of the huge red rock mountain for hours and the sun was directly overhead as they made their way back to the waterfall and found a comfortable spot on which to sit and eat.

“I think when we're finished here, we should go ahead back to the entrance and start back down toward the Jeep, that is if you want to sleep in that soft bed tonight, Samantha. The time really flew inside the tunnels this morning. I want to get back to the car before the sun goes down.”

“I'm right there with you. As much fun as it was, it was tiring. I'd like to try and remember where this place is though so we can come back to it again, or tell someone in Park Services about it.”

“Do you want to tell them before you get a chance to thoroughly check it out, or keep it to yourself for a while?”

“Could we do that? Not tell anyone and just come back again?”

“Honey, this place has been here–forever–what's a few more months? You don't sound like you're really ready to leave; do you want to stay a couple more days and explore?”

“I don't know.” The blonde shrugged her shoulders and thought for a moment before speaking again. “Maybe we could look around a little more after lunch and spend one more night on the ledge; after all, you told Gary not to worry until Sunday, right?”

“Exactly. I told him Sunday evening.” Alex smiled at the tenderfoot hiker sitting next to her. “Lucky for us we brought enough food to see us through tonight and tomorrow morning.”

“See, I told you a few extra packages wouldn't hurt.” She gave the taller woman a hug and a kiss before reaching down and running her hand through the cool, clean water. “It's beautiful here, so untouched by civilization.”

“This place really is, Samantha. I would venture to say we're the first humans to see this waterfall since the ancient Indians.”

“It would surely be a story if the rocks could talk.”

“I have a feeling they have been talking to us today.” Alex refilled her water bottle while sitting on the edge of the pond.

“I don't think it's the rock as much as the spirits that lived here that are talking to us.” Samantha looked into her lover's cerulean eyes and smiled. “Those eyes of yours, Alex, they transcended the centuries. Just proof that beauty never really dies but is born again somewhere else.”

Alex gently splashed Samantha. The coolness of the water and impulsiveness of the action caused the small blonde to lose her balance and almost topple into the water. Because Alex's reflexes were as quick as her initiation of the splashing, no one took a swim.

“Alex!”

“I gotcha. Don't worry; I gotcha.”

“Yeah, but you were the cause of my almost falling in.”

Of course Sam couldn't remain mad at Alex, especially when she looked into those apologetic baby blues; they both started laughing.

“Okay, let's get going,” Alex suggested.

“Should we take the opposite direction at the fork this time?” Samantha wanted to know.

“That would seem the logical route, seeing how the last one led to a dead end. You ready?”

“Sure am.”

Samantha filled the backpack while Alex re-lit the torch. Minutes later they were back in the middle of the mountain, standing at the fork in the tunnel.

“Why do I feel like the passage we took the first time was the better way to go?” Samantha asked as they started to enter the right side of the tunnel.

“Probably because you already know what's there,” Alex chuckled, grabbing the smaller woman's hand.

They figured that they were fairly deep into the mountain by now and perhaps this had been used as some sort of ancient spiritual retreat. Again, petroglyphs began appearing on the walls of the tunnel. They were even more detailed, as they included both people and animals, along with the geometric designs. The women stopped and examined each one they came across.

“You know I read that the Sinagua didn't leave any petroglyphs in the area, so either these are from a different tribe or we really have come upon a find, Samantha.”

“Don't you feel like an archeologist?”

Alex laughed and pulled her lover close. “Well, not really as I'm not on my hands and knees in the dirt scraping stuff off old skeletons . . .”

“Gods, Alex! What if we find human bones in here?”

The taller woman laughed again. “I guess we will just have to cross that bridge, if we come to it.”

“Any small rooms and you go first,” Samantha declared.

“Don't I always?”

“Yeah, I guess you do.” Walking closer to her mate than she had been doing, Samantha decided that touching would take some of her nervousness away.

Again the path curved, and any semblance of light that had been seeping through from locations unknown was totally gone now, as the two saw utter darkness before and behind them, the only light being cast from their torch. Samantha made sure they had an abundance of the moss for fuel as she had no intention of being caught in the cave without light.

“It looks like it's widening again, Samantha and turning. Which direction do you want to take?”

“We're still marking at each new direction, right?”

“Right!”

“I hope we won't get in trouble for marking up a sacred relic.

“Samantha, who are we going to get in trouble with? No one knows this place exists. Now, which way do you want to go?”

“I don't know this way looks interesting.” She pointed to the right and started walking in that direction and wasn't more than a step or two in front of Alex when there was a thunderous crackling sound, and the ground beneath her feet began to collapse.

A-l-e-x!” Samantha screamed. The look on her face was one of total terror.

Without a moment's delay, Alex reached out to Samantha as she began falling, grabbing the smaller woman around the waist and pulling her close. A deafening rumble followed next as the ground beneath their feet gave way, and the two women were sent plunging through the floor of the tunnel.


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