The pen left thick, inky black swoops on the page as Abbie breathed in the warm desert night air at the outdoor cafe. It was the first real day of her summer vacation, she had departed the stifling heat of the Tucson summer for a more moderate mountain locale. It was to be the first stop on her, as she called it, "summer of freedom".

As a high school art teacher, she didn't make so much that it was something she could do every summer. But she'd worked hard for the last five years, lived frugally, and now had a tidy sum and a rickety old van to take her where she wished. For the time being, she was content to doodle in her journal and enjoy all that Flagstaff had to offer.

She slipped slowly on her chai, and hardly broke concentration from her latest sketch. Some sort of women emerged on the page, an angel perhaps, but whether she fell or rose was impossible to discern. Her pen strokes were practiced and elegant, yet flowed from her hand with a spontaneous thrust. This was the connection that she longed for with pen and ink, one that too often eluded her.

Although there were people and conversations all around her, they did not penetrate her concentration. That is, until she sensed that she was being starred at. She tried to brush it off but the pen wouldn't let her; with a small inward sigh she lifted her head and glanced surreptitiously around.

Not ten feet from her was a familiar face. She broke into a quiet grin. The face grinned back.

She rose from her chair and met him in the middle. Before a word was spoken his arms were wrapped around her, a great bear hug from a dear old friend. They embraced for a long minute, before a tightness constricted her throat and she broke the hug.

Ben had been one of her best friends while she was in college. They lived in the same duplex, a relationship that started from the mundane borrowing of coffee filters and such, that elevated to a warm connection. He was working on his masters in architecture, while she studied undergrad art education; if it weren't for the house their paths likely would never have crossed. For her, he was a refreshing contrast to her keg drinking and blunt smoking peers, to him, she was a fresh breeze of innocent idealism. They often shared coffee and long hours of conversation on the wide front porch, swinging in time with the crickets late into the night.

Ben sat with her and they caught up. While Abbie had been offered a teaching job in Tucson and stayed in her own college town upon graduation, Ben's career had taken him first to Boston, then to Madison, and now to Flagstaff. His own house had just been built up in the mountains and he wanted her to see it, but they did not rush to leave the cafe.

They did not speak of any loves or attachments. When Abbie had known him, Ben had always been the epitome of ladies man. He was tall and attractive, yes, but more than that, he had this golden charm to him. He was well read and easy to talk to, as eager to share his enlightened views as he was to chew on the opposing opinions. Abbie herself was not immune to these charms, but had fallen into the role of little sister and contented herself with that. It wasn't something she wanted to risk just to get caught up in his whirlwind of ladies, changing nearly every week. Besides, it was college, and she had ample men around to flirt in and out of her life.

Still, Abbie could not forget when time came for his departure. Ben had asked her to drive him to the airport, and she gladly obliged. It was a late night flight, and the usually slow Tucson airport was nearly deserted. She waited with him for his flight to depart, and they sat on the thin grey carpet, their backs up against the wall, and talked. There was a sadness deep within both of them that they tried to mask with jokes and stories. At last the time came for him to board; they stood. And hugged. It was a long, sweet, sad hug, broken with a kiss from Ben. It was a half inch longer than his usual sisterly kiss, and Abbie walked back to her car, not sure if she wanted to cry or touch herself. She got back to her apartment and did both.

They had promised to stay in touch, and while the first half year saw a regular exchange of emails and phone calls, it gradually dwindled. They were in separate worlds. It was just better to let some things go.

"How long will you be in Flag?" Ben asked.

Abbie shrugged. In truth, she had a whole summer ahead of her and was bound by no schedule. "A few days, maybe," she said. She found it hard to sit next to him. He smelled good, like smoke and sweat and sweetness.

Ben frowned. "Well, where are you staying?"

Abbie smiled, "I have a nice little set up in my van."

"Nonsense. You can stay with me."

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Abbie drove her rickety old van up a narrow dirt road, following Ben and his pick-up. They weren't too far from town yet it was pitch black under the pines and seclusion. They reached a clearing, his house dimly lit in the distance.

Even in the darkness Abbie could tell it was no normal house. It looked like a hobbit den, all warm and round and peaking up from the ground. It was finished in red clay plaster, and grasses grew on the roof.

"It's beautiful," Abbie exclaimed as she toured his haven. It was an inviting space, a contrast with warm, small enclosures leading to wide openness, all designed to have minimal environmental impact. It was not huge nor tiny, just enough for a single person and a guest or two to be comfortable.

"Now for the best part," Ben said and pushed open the French doors that lead to the back. It opened into a large screened-in porch, that led to an open patio, complete with porch swing, table, chairs and hot tub. It was all wrapped up in ivy and tiny lanterns. "Look up," he said.

She did. The stars were too many to count, nearly too bright to look at. The moon hung low and orange in the sky.

Like in the old days, they sat together on the porch swing and talked until the moon was on the other side of the sky. Later, Abbie snuggled into the guest bed, content but dreading the impending departure. As she drifted off, she decided it would be best to leave sooner than later.

Ben knocked on the guest room door when just as morning's light filled the home. Abbie stretched, groggy in sleep, and pushed a small smile passed her lips. Ben had always been able to thrive on minimal sleep, while she could have slumbered till noon.

But his enthusiasm was catching. He prepared breakfast and told her of his plans to take her up hiking before she could tell him she was leaving. He had taken the day off work for her. She couldn't say no. She didn't really want to.

He drove them out a ways, to a forest trail that dove into a canyon. They spied deer and squirrel and birds, and even a grey wolf. The day was just overcast enough to make it cool and pleasant, with an occasional ray of sunshine peering through the canopy, spraying the trail in rays of light. Abbie told many stories of her students, and talked of the ever-changing meaning of art while Ben relayed the rewards and frustrations of designing for clients who often didn't know a thing about design.

It was a long hike to the destination: a glittering pool at the bottom of the canyon, fed by a spraying waterfall. Abbie stretched out on the rocks, and let the elusive sunshine hit her where it may. They ate a small picnic. By the time they returned to Ben's home, they were both exhausted. Ben suggested the hot tub to relax their weary feet and legs.

Abbie had a conservative one piece tucked in her luggage, but the bright redness of it made for a nice comparison to her jet black hair and her creamy white skin. She removed the towel from her waist and entered the tub without ceremony. Ben handed her a glass of wine.

"I have to leave tomorrow," Abbie announced abruptly.

"Oh." The crickets made their love songs. "I don't want you to go."

"But I have to."

"Why?" Ben searched her elusive face and caught her eyes.

She broke the gaze at once. "I...It's hard for me to be here."

Concern shadowed his eyes. "What's wrong? I thought you were enjoying yourself?"

Abbie took a big sip of wine. "I am. It's just..." she trailed off. She couldn't describe how she was feeling, not even to herself. There was a heaviness in being around him, and she couldn't bear it.

"Abbie, tell me what's going on," Ben softly requested. He tried to find her eyes again.

She shook her head and brushed off the inquiry, assuring him that nothing was wrong, she was just eager to see Zion National Park. There were a lot of places she wanted to see, and only had a few months to do so.

"Ah, so Flagstaff isn't good enough for madame?" Ben teased.

"No, sir, this lady requires diamonds and pearls, heaped at her feet. All you have here is dirt and wood chips." So they laughed it off, and the night became tipsy.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

She repacked her few things back into the van early next morning, and refused the offer of breakfast. Ben stood in his open doorway, watching his good friend ready to leave. "Do you want me to make you a sandwich for the road?" Ben asked. He had been making such offerings to her all morning long, in hopes of delaying her departure.

"No thanks, mom," Abbie teased.

"What about a nice pan of lasagna?" Ben said in his best falsetto. "You're too skinny. And why haven't you found a nice gentleman to settle down with?"

Abbie laughed but it didn't erase the wound in her eyes. It would be best to just get this over with, quick, like pulling off a band-aid. "I'm leaving now, Ben," she said, the laughter echoing out.

He nodded, and walked up to her to give her a hug. "If you ever need anything, you know how to find me," Ben said quietly, not letting go. She nodded into his shoulder, a lump forming at her throat. Pulling away, but he would not release her entirely. He gave her another kiss, and like in the airport five years ago, it was a brotherly kiss that lingered, incestuously. The energy it sent through her body bristled her to the core, and she jumped back.

He looked at her quizzically. She looked furious.

"Why? Why must you..." she trailed off, her face red in frustration.

"Why must I what, Abbie?" He asked softly, taking a step towards her.

"Why can't you just let me go?" Her body was turned away from him, tears welling.

He lifted her face up and bade her look at him. "Because I don't want you to," he hoarsely whispered.

Their eyes searched each other. He took her hand in his, and rubbed her palm with his thumb. That small point of contact became the center of her electricity. She blinked, and two fat teardrops rolled down her face, but no more formed. She brought her eyes back to his, and tried to let them say what her voice could not.

He drew her in close, and put his arms around her waist. They leaned in together. Closed eyes, warm lips, a sweet dance became a frenzy. They held on to each other as if to brace for a hurricane, while their mouths meshed and tongues met, palms pressed and stroking, the flame of desire strong and desperate.

Ben's mouth moved to her neck. His lips found the tender spots along her collarbone, suckled there, and moved along to nibble at her ear. His tongue deftly teased her skin, and drew forth her heat and wetness. She pressed into him. His mouth halted the attack on her earlobe for a moment to whisper, "you've been in my dreams. All these years."

"You...even then?" she asked in between heavy breaths.

He lifted her chins and brushed the hairs out of her eyes. "Yes. From the first."

She melted in him. They melted together. Silently he lead her into the house, up to the loft. He unbuttoned her blouse, her pants. She wriggled out of her clothes while he removed his. He pinned her under him, on the bed. He hovered above her, starring at her swollen lips, her distended nipples, and the sweet smile in her eyes. His fingertips drew along the curves of her waist, causing her to giggle.

He got a wicked glint in his eyes, and attacked. She squealed and flopped and begged for mercy, finally halting the assault with her mouth on his. They rolled together, their intimate skin pressed and rubbing. For them it was a blend of tenderness and fury, humor and love. They touched gingerly at first, and then they sought a reaction. He rubbed his engorged manhood up and down her mound. She was burning hot from the first, and once the frustration got too great, she moaned, "please, Ben. Please, now."

He lifted himself above her, and gave her a tender kiss on the lips as he lowered himself down, in a single thrust he was deep within her hot, slick tunnel. So hot. So tight. He grunted. She sighed.

It was not tender after that. The fury came out, and each wanted the most from each other. He drove into with fire, and she racked her nails on his back at each stroke that seem to drive further and further within her. Their hips found a rhythm together, one that demanded a dirty kind of heat, one that was past all pretensions. One that was secure with love.

She began to quiver and this sparked his orgasm, too. She wrapped her legs around him, and begged for his seed within her. Even long after the last thick ropes were expelled, and her breath returned to normal, they lay wrapped up together like this, kissing and petting sweetly.

"I'm not going to let you go, Abbie."

She smiled that warm, shy smile of his that he loved. "Good," she said. "I don't want to leave."

"Good. Because I want you again," he crushed her mouth with his.

"And again," she rolled over to be on top.

"And aga—Oh, sweet god," he moaned.

They each got their wishes, and again.

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