“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” – Steve Jobs
Time Enough for Love
The air was crisp as the mountains and valleys gave up their heat to the night. The creatures of darkness called out in a symphony of nature’s music interrupted only by the splash of water on rock.
Raul sat on a boulder in the stream against a bank with a brush covered bend. No one could see them unless they walked right up on them. Gloria sat between Raul’s thighs and leaned forward to wash her legs and feet.
He took the remains of a bar of soap wrapped in the cut-off toe of an old pair of nylon hose and washed her back as she rubbed her legs. The scent of fresh water and damp earth mingled with the citrus and mint of Alpine fir trees and hung in the cool air like incense. Raul resisted the urge to take Gloria right there on the rocks and instead he continued to caress the stain of dust and sweat from her body.
They took turns washing each other and taking pleasure from their need for each other. The moon and stars overhead reflected off their wet skin. The sound of hands sliding across slick bodies mingled with the mesmerizing sound of the river making its way across the stones and brush in the water at the far bank. Whispers and sensual sounds drifted in the shadows and joined the flowing melody of the water.
The night chill forced them back to their camp where they slipped between the horse blankets. Gloria climbed on top of Raul as he shivered. She made love to him and this time, he relinquished his dominance and gave way to Gloria’s desire to take him into her body and soul and never let him go. She never remembered the emptiness retreating from her before, but this night her Dragon granted her dream to feel wanted and loved.
The morning fog lifted from the hills in twisted fingers of vapor reaching up before disintegrating in a desperate attempt to grasp the light. The morning sun reflected from the grass on the slopes brightening the air and warming the stucco walls in the village below.
Villagers moved in slow motion interrupted by the sputter of a scooter or a small ox-cart laden with the fruits of their labor. A blanket of mist moved through the village along the ground away from the chirping birds, the sun, and the awakening community.
Gloria rolled over on her back next to Raul as he watched the movement below. She stared up into the branches of the trees and watched as a breeze caused the limbs to move in rhythm. She imagined fairies sprinting through the branches as trembling leaves fed her illusion from lack of sleep and limited nourishment. Their trek through the mountains had taken its toll.
Sepia images of her strolling along the beach with Raul’s hand in hers flooded her mind. So many times she’d come to him only to leave him again. How many women filled her spot at his side while she was gone? She looked over at him and admired his chiseled features set in his gray-black beard and unruly hair. He could have a real woman if he wanted, she thought to herself.
Why he wasted his life on a half woman – half machine, she had no idea. A wave of insecurity washed over her tightening her chest and throat. He never mentioned the others when she was with him. All he did was devote his attention to her.
Gloria turned on her side and threw her leg over his and lay across his back. She ran her fingers through his hair and scratched his back with her nails. She liked it when the hair on the back of his neck stood up, and his skin pebbled on his arms. He looked over his shoulder at her and smiled.
“You keep doing that, and we’re going to skip our surveillance.” Raul’s growl had a tinge of teasing in it.
“I’ve seen all I need to see,” Gloria whispered before she nibbled his ear.
“Oh, and what have you decided?” Raul rolled over on his back as Gloria settled in the crook of his arm.
“I’m worried you won’t take advantage of this beautiful morning to make love to me like you used to.”
Raul laughed under his breath. “I have an idea, my love.”
“Does it involve me, rope, and tight knots?”
Raul chuckled again. The sound of his amusement was like the deep rumble of distant thunder. The sun disappeared in his black eyes as Gloria stroked his face and beard.
“No, not this time, dear. I was thinking we should stroll into town like tourists on a casual hike across the Caucasus Mountains looking for a place to resupply and overnight off the trail. Later, we’ll see if we can get someone to drive us to Tbilisi.”
“Where’s the part where you make passionate love to me.”
“Oh, that.” Raul pretended he’d forgotten her question. “Once we get to Tbilisi and find a proper place to stay, I’ll think about rewarding you for being a good girl on this trip.” A mischievous grin wrinkled his eyes.
“What’s wrong with now?” Gloria teased.
“We have work to do, my dear. We can play later.” Raul stroked Gloria’s back like he was placating an impetuous child.
Gloria closed her eyes and let the sensations of his hands on her fill the void her angst created in her heart. Raul was her Satyr, and she was his Nymph. He made her feel whole again. She needed his control and passion and in return, she tortured his memories with extended absences. She wanted to change that and swore to herself she would never leave him again.
She rested on his chest and returned to the vision of them on the beach. The sun filtering through the trees warmed her back as she listened to Raul’s heavy breath and beating heart. Dreams of better times took Gloria away from the early morning activities until Raul shook her awake.
“Check this out, love.”
“Huh. . .?”
“At the end of the village by that barn near the road. The woman was hanging up laundry.”
Gloria followed Raul’s gaze to the woman at the corner of the barn.
“That’s a Dragon Sister,” Gloria whispered.
“How can you tell she is a Dragon Sister?”
“We sense each other. I just feel it,” Gloria replied.
“Well, dear I hope you are right.” Raul sounded skeptical.
The two Dragons watched the woman taking laundry out of a bucket and hang it on a line that ran from the corner of the barn to a pole. The hanging sheets and clothes gave them cover from being seen by villagers if they approached her from behind along a stone wall that separated a small gravel road from the field where sheep grazed.
“I’ll approach her while you guard the rear. When I signal you, join us, and we’ll see what she is willing to do for us,” Gloria’s voice sharpened as her focus narrowed.
She was back to her cold and calculating warrior mode. She was on point, and her senses peaked. She had no idea what waited for them, but to continue their mission, they needed all the help they could get, and that meant taking risks.
“Let’s break camp. We’re burning daylight here.” Raul was already packing as Gloria hurried to saddle the horses.