Breath of Fresh Air Ch. 02byPanthem©
The rain cloud popped up over the ridge out of nowhere, a dark cloud suddenly appearing above the treetops blocking the sun. They didn't even have time to dig their rain jackets out before it broke loose and drenched them both to the skin.
"The site isn't far, let's just keep going!" Katie shouted over the deafening rain.
Mike nodded and followed her the last quarter mile up the ridge to the clearing. Katie was cursing her lack of preparation, but at least she had the waterproof cover on her backpack so her gear was dry even if she wasn't. She set her bag on the stump of a fallen tree and looked around. It was still pouring so she didn't want to try to unpack and she was already soaked so there was no point in putting on her rain jacket now.
Mike caught her eye and grinned widely.
"If I'd known there was gonna be a wet t-shirt contest I'd have brought my camera," he said with an approving glance at her chest.
Katie looked down to see her black cotton tank top plastered to her body, clinging to her small breasts like it was painted on. She wondered for a second if maybe she should have worn a bra, but she almost never wore one unless she was at work, didn't really need one with her A cups, and hadn't even packed one for this trip. Oh well, at least it wasn't see through. She put a hand in front each breast and flipped him off before turning and fishing one wet hand into her pack to find her rain jacket so she could cover up.
Just as she pulled it out and was shaking it loose Mike snatched it out of her hand. Her mouth dropped in astonishment as he backed away, dangling the jacket from one hand.
"Come and get it," he said with a grin and then turned and ran.
Katie chased him into the woods, hurling threats and invectives as she went. Mike dodged and weaved through the trees, letting her catch up and then taking off again at the last second. Running in the rain with the wet smells of the ridge top permeating the air was exhilarating and even though she knew there was no way she could possibly catch up with Mike, her competitive nature took a back seat and she had to admit she was having fun.
Mike skidded to a stop on a wide, flat area of exposed rock overlooking the valley below. The view was breathtaking even with the grey wash of rain obscuring the far distances. He turned just as Katie emerged from the trees, scattering rocks as she slipped on the wet surface.
"I've got you cornered now, buddy. Nowhere to run," Katie said, breathing deep from the exertion.
"You think?" he teased. "Come and get it then."
He dangled the jacket in front of him, pulling it behind his back when she stepped forward to grab it. She reached around him and he deftly twisted away, laughing. She stepped closer and reached the other way snagging one sleeve before he had a chance to twist back. They both pulled on the jacket in opposite directions, neither willing to let go.
"It appears we are at an impasse," Mike quoted, grinning down at her.
God she was gorgeous. Her dark hair was wet and slicked back into her ponytail and her cheeks were pink with exertion, eyes bright with laughter. He could feel every inch of her body pressed against him and was desperately trying to ignore the feel of her hard little nipples against his chest as she tugged on to her jacket with one arm wrapped behind him.
His body was not following the command to ignore however, hadn't been ever since he got a look at those perfect, pointy nipples plastered with the wet fabric of her shirt earlier. He could feel himself growing hard in his pants and he knew he should move, quick, before she noticed too, but there was a line of drips along one eyebrow threatening to run into her eyes and he couldn't help reaching out with his free hand to wipe them off with his thumb.
"Give it back," she said weakly.
"What do I get in return?"
Katie's eyes narrowed. "How about I don't knee you in the balls."
Mike burst out laughing. "That's a fair trade," he agreed, letting go of the jacket. But before she could move away he brought his hands up to her face and pressed his lips to hers.
He'd meant it to be a brief kiss, just to feel her out, but once he'd had a taste he found he couldn't stop. He lightly brushed her bottom lip with his tongue and felt her jump, but she didn't pull away. Encouraged, he took the kiss deeper, sweeping his tongue into her mouth and tangling it with hers. Just as he was telling himself he should stop Katie leaned in, her hands resting tentatively on his neck, her body heat counteracting the chill of his wet shirt. Mike dropped one hand to the small of her back and held her close as he kissed her, oblivious to the chilly rain, until a sudden clap of thunder startled them both back to awareness.
He pulled back and looked into her eyes where he was glad to see a reflection of the same desire he was feeling. At least he wasn't the only one getting carried away. "That was an even better trade," he said, his voice husky.
"So you're saying kissing me is better than a sharp blow to the nuts. I'm flattered," she said, attempting to suppress a smile.
"Well, I can't say for sure," he said seriously. "You haven't kneed me in the balls yet."
She laughed and dropped her arms from him, feeling suddenly chilled as he stepped away. She pulled the jacket on over her wet clothes and gave him a shy smile before pulling the hood up. "Should we go make sure our packs haven't been washed away?"
"Probably," he said, unable to come up with a clever response. Somehow his brain was suddenly working at half capacity.
Back at the campsite Katie pulled a tarp out of a side pocket of her pack and draped it over the fallen tree, creating a small covered space underneath just big enough for the two of them to sit with their packs. The rain had slacked off some, but it was still falling and it had brought a chilly breeze to the ridge top so they'd decided they should probably make an attempt to get out of the drizzle. Katie crawled in first to change into a dry long sleeved t-shirt and took the opportunity to try and assimilate her thoughts.
He'd kissed her, no big deal. So why had she been fighting a ridiculous grin the whole way back from the overlook? Well, he was a good kisser...a really good kisser. That was enough to make a girl smile, right? But she knew that wasn't it.
She liked him. And it had been a very long time since she'd actually liked a guy. She dated them; slept with a few of them. But she had never fallen head over heels; never even had much of a crush, unless you counted the occasional celebrity she lusted after. Sarah had accused her of holding herself back because it gave her the upper hand, which may or may not have been true. Katie felt like she just hadn't found anyone worth putting up with.
In any case, she made no secret of it and had never lied to any of the men she dated about how she felt. They pursued her, sometimes she allowed them to catch her, but in the end either she drove them crazy or they drove her crazy so they never stuck around for long and she was fine with that. There was something different about Mike, though. He might be worth putting up with. He didn't let her act awkward and uncomfortable and ignored her attempts to boss him around, or laughed at them. Normally that sort of thing would frustrate the hell out of her, but he seemed to be competent enough that she was surprisingly okay with it.
After a few minutes Mike ducked under the shelter and quickly changed his shirt, treating Katie to another all-too-brief look at his body before pulling a dry t-shirt over his head, much to her disappointment. He grinned at her, giving her the distinct impression that he knew exactly what she was thinking. Rather than being embarrassed Katie found herself grinning back.
"Hopefully it stops raining at least long enough for us to get a fire going later," he said, glancing out at the sky.
"I'm sure it will; it's just an afternoon shower. They pop up all the time in the summer. Sucks to get wet, but it's nice afterward when it cools everything off."
"Yeah? It doesn't work like that back home. It showers in the afternoon and then it just gets all humid and muggy afterward."
"Little River, North Carolina. I'm not used to mountains, around there it's either beach or marsh."
"Really? You seem awful pale for a guy who grew up on the beach."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I think I should take offence at that."
"I didn't mean it as an insult," she said, giggling. "I'm not complaining."
"Fine, laugh at my Irish ancestry. I'll have you know my people have a long, proud history of pasty whiteness."
"Oh, you have Irish in you?"
"Yeah. You want some Irish in you?" he asked with an evil grin.
Katie laughed out loud. "Nice," she said. "Does that line ever work?"
"Oh, come on," he said, clapping his hand over his heart. "You're killing me. That's some of my best material, right there."
"Oh you poor thing, you must never get laid," she said, feigning sympathy.
"I don't," he pouted, which looked ridiculous on such a large man. "Of course, I'm not above a little sympathy sex if you're really feeling sorry for me."
"Sorry bub, no sympathy here. Somehow I don't think you have any trouble finding willing participants."
"Yeah well, I could probably say the same thing about you."
Katie blushed at that, unsure how to reply, and the smile faltered on her face.
"Hey," he said, nudging the toe of her hiking boot. "I meant that as a compliment. Did it come out wrong?"
"No, it's okay," she said, shaking off the awkwardness. "But for girls the problem isn't finding willing participants, since most guys are horndogs. Usually the problem is finding a relatively sane horndog with tolerable self-hygiene."
"Wow, I feel like I've learned more about women from that one statement than I have in a decade of dating."
"Yes well, I'm nothing if not informative," Katie said, flashing him her fake newscaster-smile.
"Informative. That's not the first word I'd pick to describe you," he said, his eyes coming up to fix on her face.
She raised an eyebrow, deflecting what she feared was about to be a cheesy compliment. "How about anal? Controlling? Bitchy? All words I know for a fact have been used to describe me."
"I was going to say intriguing, but hey, you know you better than I do," he said with a smirk. Before she could come up with a reply he turned and stuck his head out of the tarp, looking up. "I think it's just dripping from the trees, maybe we should go ahead and set up now in case it rains again."
They got to work, quickly and efficiently setting up what they needed for the night. It was nice camping with someone who knew what he was doing and what needed to be done. Katie didn't feel like she needed to delegate or check to make sure things had been done right. They gathered firewood first, stacking it under the tarp in case it rained again. Then Mike put up his tent while Katie started a small fire and put some water on to boil for dinner. She looked at her tent and considered putting it up, but she knew there was a small hole along one of the bottom seams and decided to wait in case it rained again.
Their fare tonight was much less fancy than Caleb's feast. Katie had her typical backpacking meal, ramen cup o'noodles and an apple. Mike had an MRE with a surprisingly yummy-smelling glop of chicken and rice and some other random items. She gave him half the apple and he shared a gummy brownie with her as the sun sank low in the sky.
Katie was enjoying herself, but felt jumpy, unsure of how she should act around Mike ever since he kissed her. She found herself half dreading, half anticipating him doing it again at any moment. It wasn't a feeling she was accustomed to, given that usually she was the one in control of situations like this.
She would have had a much harder time acting nonchalant if he hadn't kept up his steady stream of teasing and silly innuendo. As it was, he kept her smiling so she never had a chance to really worry herself into the state of anxiety that she was leaning toward.
After they ate Mike built the fire up, filling the small clearing with warmth and light. He dug around in his pack for a minute and pulled out a silver flask.
"Care for some Crown?"
"Oh lordy, that's hard core."
"That's how I roll. Hard core all the way," he said, sitting down cross legged next to her.
Katie snorted and held out her hand. "Sure, why not?" She took a small sip from the flask, then another slightly longer one before closing it and handing it back. Mike's fingers brushed against hers as he took it and her hand jerked, letting the flask fall between them. "Sorry," she muttered, embarrassed, as he picked it up and dusted it off on his shorts.
"So what kind of nursing do you do?"
"I work in rehab. We get the patients who need time to recover from surgery or trauma before they go home. Strokes, hip replacements, heart attacks."
"Is it mostly elderly people then?"
"Mostly, but also the occasional head trauma or missing limb or paralysis."
"Wow, that sounds rough."
"It can be, but not usually. The people we see are on their way back to normal, you know? At least they aren't going downhill or they'd be in a nursing home, so most of the time it's positive, they're improving, and we get to send them home at the end."
"Sounds like you enjoy it."
"I do for the most part. It's been pissing me off lately because they changed the way they bill the insurance for the physical therapy and we aren't able to give some of our patients the kind of care they really need- You know what, that's really boring and I don't really want to start talking about it. The short answer is that I do like it, but I've been thinking about going back to school to get my masters so I can have a little bit more say in how things are run. I just have a year and a half left on my contract and if I want them to pay off my loans I have to finish it out."
"That's a cool program."
"Yeah, it is. It's saving me a lot of money. So what about you? Do you like being a cop?"
"Love it. It's what I always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I wish I could advance faster and move on up to more important things than giving speeding tickets and catching truants, but I gotta put in the time just like everyone else."
"That's great that you're doing something you love. I like my job, but I wouldn't say I love it."
By now it was full dark and stars were beginning to twinkle above the treetops. Katie stretched her legs out in front of her and leaned back against her hands to look up at them. The whiskey was warming her from the inside out, relaxing her, so when he spoke again it didn't rattle her the way it might have otherwise.
"So I have to ask, are you gonna let me kiss you again or are you gonna keep avoiding it all night long?" He leaned back on his hands so he could see her better before continuing, "Because I figure I could either get it over with and just kiss you now, or you can go ahead and tell me that you don't want me to and we can both stop waiting for it."
"Wow," she said, impressed and a little unnerved by his honesty. "Way to take all the spontaneity out of the moment."
"Hey, you're the one that jumps every time I touch you," he said with a crooked grin.
"I do not," she said, blushing at the lie.
Mike just looked at her with one eyebrow lifted. Katie, never one to refuse a challenge, reached across her body and laid her hand flat against his belly, just below his belly button. It was warm and surprisingly hard under her fingers, but she distinctly felt his muscles twitch at the contact.
"Who's jumping now?"
"Oh, you play dirty," he said, his grin widening to a smile.
He ran his hand up her arm, twisting toward her and pulling her close until their faces were nearly touching. The smile was still on his face as he looked in her eyes, not moving. He raised that eyebrow again and Katie realized he was waiting on her, challenging her. She lifted her face toward him and he moved back, barely. She narrowed her eyes and tried again, once more finding him just out of reach. Mike chuckled softly as she dropped her hand from his belly and turned her face away before he caught her cheek with one hand and brought her lips back to his in a soft, but insistent kiss.
Maybe it was the whisky or the gentle crackling of campfire in the night air, but for once Katie felt calm and unworried. She let herself feel and not think about what was going to happen next or what it might mean. This felt good, he felt good and for now she didn't want it to stop. Mike's tongue explored her mouth, tasting of whiskey, and she sighed, pressing her body closer to him in encouragement. By the time he pulled away several minutes later they were both breathless.
"Damn," he said, surveying the ground around them. "I should have brought a blanket or something."
"I could grab my sleeping bag," she offered.
"I'd hate for it to get all dirty. And the ground is still kind of damp. Would it be totally jumping the gun for me to suggest my tent?"
Katie craned her head around to look at his little tent. Much like hers, it was narrow and tapered at the far end, just long and wide enough for one person to lie down comfortably and tall enough to sit up only at the front near the door. But his sleeping bag was already rolled out like a big puffy cushion and with the door open to the fire it looked welcoming and cozy.
"I don't know," she said, turning back to him. "I'm pretty comfortable here in the cold, hard dirt."
Mike jumped up and held a hand out to her. She took it and he pulled her up with ease, surprising her with his strength. She over-corrected and stumbled into him, catching herself against his chest at the same time he grabbed her elbows to steady her.
"Jesus," she muttered, splaying her hands across the hard planes of his chest. "You're like an immovable force, aren't you?"
"On what?" she asked, looking up at him with a grin.
"On who's trying to move me." He walked backwards, pulling her with him toward the tent, holding her hands loosely to give her the opportunity to change her mind. They paused just outside the tent to brush the dirt off their asses, then Mike motioned her in ahead of him. She knelt awkwardly by the doorway as he crawled in and lay propped on one elbow on his side facing her, his head nearly in her lap
Katie was struck again by his size once they were in the enclosed space. But it wasn't really his size that was overwhelming her, it was his presence, the way he was looking at her, the way her hand was already working its way up the smooth skin of his side under his t-shirt without her realizing she was doing it.
One side of his mouth came up in a crooked grin and he slid his hand up her thigh, wrapping it around to cup her ass and pulling her off her knees to sit next to him on the sleeping bag. He ran his hand up her back and into her hair, gently tugging at the rubber band until he released her ponytail, her hair, still a little damp from the rain, falling in gentle waves around her face and shoulders. He snaked his fingers up under her hair, rubbing his fingertips firmly against her scalp in little circles. Her hand fell still under his shirt, her eyes dropped closed, her head limp on her neck while he massaged her.
"Oh my God," she moaned under her breath, "that feels amazing." She leaned forward slowly until her forehead was resting on his shoulder as his hand moved down to rub her neck.
"Lay down," he said, his voice uncharacteristically quiet.
She blinked her eyes open and gave a little disappointed sigh before laying back and stretching out next to him.
"On your stomach."