Posted 9 Feb. 03
Kamryn Raines stood in front of the wall of glass looking out over the darkening rainforest. Her soon to be ex-lover firmly ensconced in a deep leather arm chair looking daggers into her back. She knew the look; it hadn't changed since she turned her back on the woman fifteen minutes ago. Kamryn was known worldwide for the pure stillness, sharp eye and complete mental focus that produced the photographs everyone seemed to crave. However right at this moment she was being sorely tested.
"Look Chris. This just isn’t working anymore. It hasn't been…"
"For you maybe. You're more interested in screwing everything else around than being with me."
Kamryn had been listening to this for an hour, utilizing patience she wasn’t aware she had previously possessed. This last charge, completely unfair and unprovoked, was the last straw.
"How dare you!" she growled, rounding on the woman her voice ice cold with fury. "How dare you come into my house and lecture me? You want me to believe you love me? All I have been to you for the last year is a meal ticket and someone to keep you warm at night. Well, I have had enough! You will now go and remove all the belongings you have left here and get out of my house. You have ten minutes."
After pointedly looking at her watch, Kamryn turned and stalked off to her study.
Five minutes later she heard the sound of a duffle bag hitting the polished hardwood floor in the living room. She left the study to see her former lover out of the house.
"Kam, I'm sorry I said all that. Please don’t do this," Chris whined.
"No," Kamryn said with finality. "I cannot and will not be a party to this charade any longer. Your house keys, please." The look on Kamryn's face was intractable as she held out her hand. When she finally realised Kamryn was serious the look on Chris' face became feral and she took a backhanded swing at the tall blonde.
With lightening fast reflexes, Kamryn caught the hand a mere two inches from her face. She twisted the keys from Chris’ fingers.
"Elijah," Kamryn called as she gave the other woman a firm shove out of reach. A moment later, six and a half feet of corded muscle and dark skin in the shape of her assistant appeared in the doorway.
"Yup, Kam, what's up?"
"Will you be a love and show Chris to the door? She is leaving now and this time she will not be coming back."
"You'll pay for this." Chris spat as Elijah helped her to the door.
"Well, I've paid for everything else for the last twelve months; why would now be any different?"
* * * * *
"You did the right thing you know, Kam," Elijah said a few hours later. They were sitting on the deck finishing a bottle of red and listening to the night birds.
"I know," Kamryn replied in a small voice. "I’m so tired of it. Never knowing if someone is interested in me or just what I can provide for them. You are the only one that stuck with me when my parents tried to take it all away. When it looked like I was going to lose everything, you still supported me. I can never repay you for that. I love you, Ejay, I really do."
She reached over and took hold of his hand, giving it a firm squeeze.
"Aww, shucks ma'am. It weren’t nothin'," Elijah replied putting on a hillbilly accent.
"You know, it's kind of ironic really," he continued after a moment.
"Well, here we are sitting in what could be construed as a very romantic setting, drinking good wine and declaring our love for each other. The irony is if we were even the slightest bit straight we would never need another living soul."
Kamryn laughed out loud.
"You are so right, my friend!"
They sat quietly for a while longer simply enjoying the peace of each other's company after a year without it. There was no need for words or useless chatter. There had never been any awkward silence between them. However, as good as it felt being with Elijah, Kamryn was restless. It wasn’t anything she could clearly define. It was like a presence in an unused corner of her mind; something she knew was there but couldn’t quite get a handle on. She had thought that finally putting the brakes on the farce that had been her relationship of the last year would put an end to it.
"Ejay, is everything set for the Carnarvan Gorge shoot?" Kamryn asked, deciding work might be the answer.
"All is in readiness; I simply await your command." Elijah said with a flourish.
"So that means we could actually leave tomorrow?" Kamryn asked.
"I'll have to make a few phone calls in the morning to finalise the accommodation, but we should be able to leave by tomorrow afternoon. That suit you?"
"Let's do it. I need to get away from here for a bit and this will do fine."
* * * * *
Kamryn and Elijah had been friends since university coming from very different backgrounds but finding in each other a confidant to share their deepest secret.
Kamryn's parents came from old money; uptight WASP's with no time for anyone they deemed beneath them, which came down to almost everyone. Her decision to study an arts degree was tolerated only due to the fact that they assumed she was just marking time until she married the right man. The only person to ever encourage the young woman in her chosen direction was her grandmother, whom she called Cara, who loved her without reservation.
Caroline Raines had been the matriarch of the Raines family and seventy years young when Kamryn finished high school. She had possessed a cultivated eccentricity that only comes from both age and vast wealth.
"The child will call me Cara" she had said when Kamryn was born, "Do I look like anyone's grandmother?"
Two years after Kamryn finished University, Caroline died in a riding accident, leaving the young woman devastated.
At the beginning of her career, Caroline had provided a handy foil against her parents, allowing her to begin to build her professional reputation and providing her with some initial contacts. Kamryn's work soon began to sell itself, critics recognising her unchallenged natural ability and eye for detail. Her parents had begun to realise their lone offspring was not planning to marry any time soon and she was actually serious about becoming a… a… photographer!
A mere month before her death Kamryn had visited Cara to finally break the news as to why she had refused all the attempts made to find her a suitable husband.
"Cara, I… I have to tell you something," she had begun with distinct uncertainty.
"Yes, child? What's happened? You've gone positively white. Are you ill?"
"Well, I don't think so, but there's a good chance everyone else will," she had said quietly. Her grandmother had laughed softly and Kamryn had given her a questioning look.
"I dare say your parents will, when they find out you're gay, dear one."
"What? You know?" Kamryn had choked out in shock.
"Well. of course I do! I have two eyes and a brain that still works you know," the old woman had said, still chuckling. "Besides that, you don’t honestly believe that someone who has been around as long as I have wouldn’t know what a labrys is. You haven't taken yours from around your neck since your…er…'best friend' gave it to you in your senior year."
"And my parents thought all the squealing and giggling coming from my rooms was just plain old ordinary teenage sleepover behavior!" Kamryn had declared, finally joining her grandmother's laughter. Kamryn's mind had rolled back to those days, her first love, when her reminiscing snagged on a sudden memory and she blanched.
"It was you, wasn’t it? That last summer before college when Jordan and I stayed here for a few weeks… It was you in the stables that night?"
Cara's laughter redoubled at the horrified expression on her granddaughter's face.
"Well, of course it was, Kamryn. Who else would have kept your secret all these years? I'm surprised you even knew anyone was there; you seemed rather… preoccupied at the time."
"Oh, my God," was all Kamryn could manage as she had buried her now scarlet face in her hands.
"Why didn’t you ever say anything, Cara?" Kamryn had asked finally, struggling to contain her embarrassment.
"Oh, Kamryn," Cara had said, her face softening. "You know, I would never judge you, and then when that horrible thing happened, you just closed yourself off. I couldn’t find a way to approach you…"
"Cara, we're just going down to check on Red before dinner, she had a slight limp after our ride today." Kamryn called from the entry way of her grandmother's house.
"Take your time, girls. You have another two hours until dinner."
Kamryn grinned at Jordan before walking out the door.
The two girls had known each other for many years, their parents belonging to the same country club. They had been best friends until last summer when the friendship blossomed into love. Thankfully they had been inseparable before this so outwardly nothing ever really changed. Now, during their last summer together before each went to different schools, they had decided to stay a while at Kamryn's grandmother's estate; the one place they could be together in relative privacy.
The stable block was a ten minute stroll from the main house and when they arrived the stableman was just locking up for the evening.
"Sorry, Miss Raines. I didn't know you'd be coming by."
"That's alright, John. We were going to check on Red, she looked a little footsore when we came in this afternoon."
"She seemed fine when I did my final check this evening, Miss. I can come in and have a good look if you like."
"No, don't trouble yourself," Kamryn said quickly. "If she's any worse in the morning we will call the vet in. Go on home; I can lock up for you."
"Well, if you're sure, Miss Raines." John said, not sounding sure at all.
"I am, now go on home before Janey gets mad over your missing dinner again."
The stableman smiled broadly and nodded his goodbye. The two girls watched him leave before opening the door to the stable block.
The block was built in the same stone as the main house and the rest of the outbuildings. It consisted of a central corridor flanked by ten stalls; five on each side. The end closest to the door contained a small space that served as an office of sorts, while the other end housed the tack room and equipment storage. Above the tack and storage rooms was a large hay loft and that was where the girls headed as soon as the door closed. They made it as far as the cramped stairway before Jordan tugged on Kamryn's hand, pulling her into a tight embrace. Their mouths met in heated exchange before Kamryn pulled away breathless, her eyes blazing with desire, "Come on" she breathed.
The thin twilight trickled through the dusty windows high in the wall and the sweet scent of clean straw filled the air as the young lovers faced each other at the top of the stairs.
"You are so beautiful," Jordan whispered as she raised her hand to outline Kamryn's face. Kamryn's eyes closed as the fingertips trailed down her throat and deftly began to unbutton her soft cotton shirt. She reached forward slowly, blindly cupping Jordan's face in her hands and delivered the gentlest of kisses before working through her shirt buttons. In anticipation of a future encounter such as this Kamryn had hidden an old blanket in the loft. Now, golden light shining on two naked forms, Kamryn lay back and beckoned her lover, Jordan taking control as their bodies merged. She lay between Kamryn's spread thighs, a hand either side of her ribs, her long raven hair a curtain around their faces as she looked into ice blue eyes gone dark with desire.
"Promise me," Jordan whispered. Kamryn raised a questioning brow. "Promise me you won't forget me when I go away." She accompanied the question with a slow grind of her hips against her lover. Kam arched up against the delicious sensation, wrapping her long legs around Jordan's hips.
"God. How could I ever forget you?!" she groaned.
"Please. Promise me." Jordan insisted.
"Of course… I promise… I love you Jordan," Kamryn said against the waves of sensation created by their bodies.
As every nineteen year old does with their first great love, Kamryn truly believed nothing would ever separate them, just as Jordan did.
The tension built in Kamryn as Jordan made a slow exquisite journey down her body; starting with a kiss that seared her nerve endings and finally arriving at the juncture of the young blonde's legs. Jordan's eyes locked with Kamryn's as her tongue darted between soft folds, teasing and tormenting her until she pleaded for release. Jordan grinned up at Kam, noting the flushed features and almost glazed expression before giving in and settling down to feast in earnest. Kam was momentarily distracted by an odd sound from the stable below, like someone had quietly shut the main door, until firm lips settled around her aching clit and her world thundered over the edge.
"Oh…God… Jordan!" she cried as she buried her fingers in long dark hair as if to keep her lover's mouth in contact with her flesh forever.
Exactly two hours later the flushed pair presented themselves freshly showered and attired at the dinner table, Cara seated as usual at its head.
"How is Red, Kamryn?" Cara asked.
"She'll be fine, she isn’t even limping anymore."
"Well, if you're sure, dear one. You were gone for so long I considered sending out a search party," Cara replied, in an altogether too innocent tone.
Kamryn shifted uncomfortably in her seat and shot a look at Jordan, who at that moment seemed intent on divining the meaning of life by studying the china pattern.
"God! Does she know?" Kamryn thought furiously. "No way, she would have reacted a lot differently."
Kamryn mentally breathed a sigh of relief, never once thinking of the noise she had heard a moment before she had surrendered to Jordan's exquisite ministrations.
"Hey Kam, phone for you."
For a split second Kamryn considered not taking the call, she was running seriously late for a class, However, Jordan had not called in four days and Kamryn needed to hear her voice. Jordan had gained a plum place at her father's Alma Marta Oxford University while Kamryn had stayed on the East coast for school. Having an ocean between them did nothing to dim the flame but they missed each other terribly.
"Its some English guy," Amy said. Kamryn frowned as she handed over the receiver.
"This is Kamryn."
"Kamryn, I'm glad I caught you, its Phillip Albright," Jordan's father said, his voice caught and he stopped. Kamryn became alarmed, Jordan's parents were wonderful but they didn’t call her unless she and Jordan were together. Before Kamryn could ask what was going on he continued.
"Kamryn… I thought I should call before… well before this hit the news service…." Kamryn felt a cold dread begin to crawl up from the pit of her stomach.
"…you being her best friend, I just thought you should hear it from me."
"What has happened?" Kamryn asked in a small voice.
"It's Jordan," Phillip's voice suddenly cracked and he coughed to clear the lump in his throat. "She's dead. A boy she knew…"
The receiver slipped from nerveless fingers as Kamryn slid bonelessly down the wall.
"No," Kamryn thought. "No, I only saw here six weeks ago." Her mind spun around again before focusing on another thought. "She is coming home in a few weeks and we are planning to go away together. She was supposed to call me to make the final arrangements."
Kamryn didn’t even notice Amy pick up the receiver and speak to Jordan's father before pulling Kamryn into a tight hug. She didn’t know how long she sat there, all she knew was she felt so cold. At one point she heard Amy make a few phone calls but couldn’t raise the motivation to ask why. Then suddenly, strong but gentle hands took hold of her and pulled her to her feet, she looked up into soft brown eyes and thought, "Now everything will be alright… Now that Ejay is here," and she started to cry.
* * * * *
Elijah was just returning to bed from a late night kitchen raid when he heard the strangled cry. Making his way quietly to Kamryn's bedroom he eased the door open.
"Kam," he whispered, "You okay?"
He could see the details of the room clearly due to the moonlight admitted by the wall of glass. Kamryn was sitting up hugging her knees; her face buried out of sight in her mass of tangled golden hair. The sound he heard was enough to bring him to the bed and gather the trembling woman in a tight embrace; it was something he hadn't heard in eight years.
Kamryn was crying.
Elijah and Kamryn had met a few weeks after starting college at a welcome get together for gay and lesbian students. It had taken all his determination to make himself go; he had kept this part of himself hidden for so long it was second nature. Bad things happened to 'faggots' where he came from.
So there he was standing in a shadowy corner trying to look inconspicuous, well as inconspicuous as someone of his size was able to, when his roving eyes lighted on a tall Nordic beauty. The fact that she was female never entered the equation for obvious reasons; what had caught his eye was the look on her face. He had seen the same guarded expression a few hours earlier when he looked in the mirror.
Suddenly their eyes met and she held the gaze for a moment as if sizing him up, maybe recognizing the look on his face. Seeming to have come to some decision she ran the gauntlet of lecherous looks from the female portion of the crowd to arrive in the relative safety of his corner refuge.
"Kamryn Raines," she said in warm cultured tones, shifting her drink from right hand to left to shake his with a firm grip.
"Elijah Janson," he replied. He couldn't help but to gaze into the depths of her ice blue eyes and jolt ran through his system. It wasn’t sexual attraction, far from it; it was the recognition of another soul he could finally trust.
They began to talk and by the end of the evening they had given each other almost complete personal histories. During the course of this discussion Elijah was the first to notice the odd questioning looks they were receiving from various members of the group. When he mentioned it to Kamryn she let out a peal of rich laughter.
"What would you expect?" she said, arching an expressive brow. "I've been told on more than one occasion I don’t look like a real Lesbian, whatever that means. I just assumed that meant I'm supposed to conform to some ridiculous straight stereotype. Then look at you, all jock muscle but not a gym queen." She shrugged theatrically then grinned at him.
"You know you could have your pick of just about any female in this room?"
"Yes, but the only person I want isn't in this room," she said as she fished a slim leather wallet out of her inside jacket pocket. Flipping it open she bought out three photographs, the first a dark haired beauty bent over the oars of a double skull her face flushed with exertion. The second was the same girl in hiking clothes walking through a rainforest and the third was the girl again but this time she was wrapped around Kamryn as they grinned lazily into the camera. Elijah raised a questioning brow at his companion.
"Jordan." She didn’t need to explain any further, Elijah could hear the shear depth of feeling all summed up within that name.
Elijah pulled his focus back to his friend as she shifted in his arms, wrapping her arms around him and giving him a quick squeeze before pulling away. Kamryn ran shaking fingers through her hair pulling it back away from her face and Elijah was afforded a quick view of her tear swollen eyes before she looked away. He tried to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder but she shot up and moved over to the expanse of glass.
He was suddenly stuck by an odd memory and almost smiled. He remembered the first time he had seen her in all her naked glory; golden muscled flesh with no visible tan line. His first thought had been that she was obviously a natural blond and his second was that he was obviously gay; how else could he have failed to be aroused by the sight of this woman's magnificence.
Kamryn shifted bringing him back to the present, placing both hands on the wall of glass and hanging her head.
"Do you want to talk…?"
"No," she said in a low voice, cutting him off.
"But Kam, you haven't had a nightmare about…"
"I said no. It was just a dream. It does not mean anything," Kamryn's voice now held a hint of steel. "You have to be up early so I suggest you go get some sleep… Now!"
Elijah knew his friend well enough not to be offended by her imperious tone. He knew that underneath the ice lay a well of hurt; he also knew there was absolutely no point in trying to argue with her once he heard that particular tone. Elijah walked over to her and without giving her opportunity to object he drew her into a tight embrace, dropping a kiss her on her shoulder. He felt her stiffen at the sudden movement before relaxing into his arms and letting her head fall back to his shoulder. Without another word he gave her a final squeeze and walked back to his room.
Jordan. The one name Elijah always worried about hearing.
On the very rare occasion her name came up Kamryn would simply retreat; burying the whole experience under yet another layer. His dear friend had never allowed herself to properly grieve and it had shaped her life and her approach to intimate relationships in a way he hoped wasn’t irreversible.
He had always expected one day someone would come along and help shoulder the burden of grief she carried but in the eight years since Jordan's death this had not happened. Elijah sighed as he stripped off his clothing and climbed into bed; he knew there was nothing he could do except quietly be there for her.
* * * * *
It was a long time before Kamryn even bothered to attempt going back to sleep.
She really did appreciate what Ejay had tried to do; she just couldn't face everything that was buried inside. Kamryn was afraid if she let go of the tight control she had on her emotions she would simply fly apart. With a deep sigh she padded naked into the kitchen not bothering with a light as she made herself some dandelion tea.
Holding the mug in both hands she bought it to full lips, a tiny smile forming as she thought of Ejay's much voiced wonder at how she could possibly drink the stuff. The smile was short lived however as the dark cloud of her thoughts returned. She wandered back down the hallway to her room, noting no light issued under Ejay's door again regretting her earlier tone. Yes, he worked for her but first and foremost he was her friend and had proven that time after time.
Kamryn settled into the huge leather wing chair in her room, curling her long legs underneath her as she looked out over the moon drenched rainforest.
Three years ago Kamryn had cut all family ties and moved to this paradise. Her family's fortune was made from a variety of interests including hotels and construction and while her father was seen to be the head of the company her grandmother had been the one with a firm grip on the reins.
During her life, Caroline had amassed a substantial fortune of her own and upon her death that fortune went to Kamryn. The ensuing court battle for control of Kamryn's inheritance was bitter, anything and everything her father's people could dig up was brought to light in the hope that it would give them the edge. At one point, it had actually looked like Kamryn might lose. The ironic part had been that she would give it all up in a heartbeat if it meant having more time with her beloved grandmother.
Throughout the yearlong battle Elijah had been her rock, sheltering her from a very public storm. When it was all over she had come to this place to rebuild herself. The severing of familial ties had not been as hard as some thought; her parents had always been more interested in themselves than their lone offspring.
Kamryn had never had any illusions about how she was viewed by them; it was Cara who gave her the grounding and love that allowed her to develop into the self-assured woman she was.
Kamryn had built her rainforest home near the township of Kuranda. It was designed with minimum environmental impact in mind and blended into the surrounding landscape. The deck jutted out over a steep gully appearing as if floating in the rainforest canopy.
Kamryn allowed herself a small smile; she had always wanted a tree house as a child. The small rocky stream gurgled below the house with her property bordering almost a kilometer of it. A path wound down to a swimming hole and small footbridge before climbing back up the other side into her neighbor's property. Kamryn was friends with the couple whose house was barely visible through the trees and she used the path every morning when she went running.
As she finished her tea Kamryn finally began to feel sleep calling once again, it was almost two AM and she had a long day ahead of her. As she climbed into bed she made a mental note to ask her neighbors to keep an eye on the house, after all Chris might just be petty enough to try something while she was gone.
* * * * *
"Hey… Sleeping beauty… Are you getting up today or what?" Elijah called out from the kitchen. Kamryn groaned in reply to the all too chipper voice of her friend. Footsteps advanced across the floor and stopped at her door.
"What time is it?"
"After six, my dear. Get your lazy butt out of bed if you want any breakfast." Elijah grinned as a tousled head appeared from under the covers. It was a morning ritual with them; Kamryn was not a morning person and had to force herself out of bed for her run every morning.
"Damn, I slept in. I'm going for a run before breakfast, Ejay."
"Well, don’t be too long if you want to leave at a decent time today."
"Yes, sir," Kamryn said. Elijah broke into laughter at the sight of her standing at attention saluting him with her hair all tangled from sleep… naked as the day she was born.
Kamryn quickly pulled on her running gear; a cropped tank top and tight gym shorts with white socks and Nikes rounding out the ensemble. Elijah walked out onto the deck as she completed her pre run stretches.
"Kam, do you think you should ask Kirs to watch the place while we're gone?"
"One step ahead of you, Ejay," she grinned. "I plan on calling in to ask that very question on the way back. I haven't seen Kirsten for nearly a week anyway."
"Okay, see you when you get back." With that he ambled back into the house.
Kamryn completed her stretches and started down the steep steps at the edge of the deck, at the bottom she checked her watch and headed down the forest path to the bridge.
Her run, cut from two hours to one, was uneventful and she didn’t see any of her fellow regular morning runners. On her way back she stopped at her neighbor's house before starting down the stream path. Climbing up the steps to the covered deck she pulled out the water bottle she carried at her hip and flopped down into the nearest chair. Kamryn pulled her shirt up to wipe the sweat from her brow when a sudden voice from behind startled her.
"Can I help you?" The question was issued with a whip crack of command and as Kamryn whirled around to face her questioner, her mouth dropping open.
The woman standing in front of her was beautiful with a tight compact body topped with rich auburn hair. The feature that drew Kamryn in though were the woman's deep blue-grey eyes, the exact shade Jordan's had been, even if right now they were hard as agate.
Kamryn couldn't speak, nothing intelligent would come to mind, seeing those eyes hard on the heels of a night spent warding off memories of Jordan was almost her undoing. She was saved from total humiliation however by Kirsten as she walked out onto the deck carrying a mug.
"Stand down, Captain. She's a friend," the tall woman said with a chuckle, as she walked over giving Kamryn a lazy hug. "So did you finally do it?" Kirsten asked as she pulled away.
"Huh?" Kamryn's mind still wasn’t connecting. All sorts of conflicting emotions emerged when she had looked into those all too familiar eyes.
"Chris," Kirsten said patiently, as if to a child. "Did you tell her to shove off?"
"Oh, right, yes I did. Last night actually. That’s the reason I called in. Can you keep an eye on the place for a week or so? Elijah and I are going early on that shoot."
"Yeah, sure, no problem. I still have the keys. Did you change the alarm code?" A cell phone rang nearby and the redhead excused herself to answer it.
"Damn. I forgot to do that," Kamryn said, finally able to focus completely on Kirsten. "I'll get Ejay to do that before we leave and I'll call you. I better go before the slave driver starts getting antsy." Kamryn and Kirsten shared an identical knowing grin before the tall blond loped off down the steps. As she jogged along the path to her house, the meeting with the 'captain' was crowded out of her mind by the multitude of small last minute details needing her attention before they left. The one detail that came back to haunt Kamryn again and again however were those eyes.
Those eyes triggered further long buried memories she simply did not wish to uncover.
Continued in Chapter 2
back to Sno's stories