Chase thought that stopping Rowan and giving her a kiss was an excellent way to take a break and catch her breath at the same time. She was wrong, and it was a bit embarrassing when her need to breathe prevented her from kissing her new lover the way she wanted—often and with the promise of more behind it. The last few days had been pleasantly exhausting. Most of her day was spent with Smoothy and the little one, but the nights belonged to Rowan.
Rowan chuckled at her, then soothed Chase’s bruised ego by drawing her closer and kissing her cheek before letting her go. “I told you, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to the altitude,” Rowan said, handing Chase her water bottle. “Don’t forget to drink.”
“I’m not thirsty. It’s so dry here, I’m not even sweating.” Chase tried to wave the bottle away, only to have Rowan insistently press the sweating bottle into her hand.
“You are sweating, you just don’t realize it. It’s really easy to get dehydrated here if you aren’t careful.”
Chase nodded and took the bottle. Once she started drinking, she realized she was thirsty, as if the touch of water on her tongue reminded her body that she need to rehydrate. Chase took advantage of the break by leaning against the nearest tree that lined the winding trail.
The difference between the air in North Carolina and Arizona made her feel like some water creature that had decided to crawl out onto dry land. Her lungs burned. The air felt rarefied, especially to someone who had spent a good part of their life at sea level. The humidity back east was a palpable force, something that hit you the minute you stepped outside in the morning. You could actually see the ground steaming with unspent moisture, and by the time you made it to the barn, your pant legs would be damp up to your boots and your clothes would be sticking to you like a soggy mess. Chase found she wasn’t missing that experience all that much, nor the ever present buzz of mosquitos and gnats that lay claim to both dusk and dawn. She always joked that mosquitos were the state bird of North Carolina, capable of carrying away small children and pets.
“I didn’t realize that this place was so big,” Chase admitted, handing the water bottle back to Rowan. She rocked back on her heels, curling her back against the rough bark of the Ponderosa pine behind her. The rough bark felt good against her skin. Despite it being early morning, it was warm enough to soften the yellow pitch oozing out from a patch of damaged bark, giving it the texture of soft putty beneath her fingertips. It had a sweet smell that added to the richness of the land around her and reminded her of butterscotch—or, perhaps vanilla. Grimacing at her mistake, she pushed away from the tree and stretched a bit, checking for the telltale catching feel of pine tar stuck to her shirt.
“It is big,” Rowan agreed. “But we are almost there. Can you make it?”
Chase now had a new reason to grimace. Of course she was going to make it. She wasn’t about to lose any butch points over a couple hundred more feet. Chase mentally yelled at her feet to stop griping, then took her own advice and jauntily smiled at Rowan. “Of course I can.”
Rowan smiled back at her, and in her uncanny way of knowing when Chase was bluffing, she took her hand and led her back up the trail with the same words on her lips that had been in Chase’s mind for half of the hike. “Next time, maybe you should wear your hiking boots, hmm?”
Chase laughed out loud, her voice getting lost amid the tall trees around her. “I guess I wasn’t fooling you, huh?” she asked, accepting the gentle teasing graciously.
“Nope, not one bit.”
“Do we get to rest at the top?” Chase asked.
“That depends on what you consider resting.” Rowan grinned, evidently picking up Chase’s other line of thought as easily as catching a tossed coin out of the air.
“I see,” Chase responded innocently. Considering what had been on her mind, feigning innocence was a feat of extraordinary restraint. At this point, Chase would have taken the 50/50 chance on calling that coin toss if it meant getting Rowan to stop long enough for her to really enjoy their next kiss.
When Rowan had suggested a walk this morning to show her Stacie and Maria’s property, she hadn’t expected that walk to be an all-out hike. If she had, she certainly wouldn’t have pulled on her cowboy boots. Now her feet were barking at her, adding to the growing burn in her thighs and calves from the uphill climb. It was annoying because she knew she wasn’t in that bad of shape. The temptation to blame her sore muscles on last night bubbled up to the surface, along with the urge to grin from the ridiculous amount of happiness she felt when she woke up this morning, still naked and thoroughly tangled in a mess of bedding. She had woken up feeling overly warm, but not due to the flimsy covering the twisted sheets offered. Rowan had curled up against her, one leg swung haphazardly across her. That warm feeling quickly escalated into something hotter when Rowan shifted, still half asleep, and brushed her fingers across her breast. Those half-innocent caresses had given her ideas about how to spend the next hour, but unfortunately, Rowan had other plans. She jumped out of bed and headed for the bathroom, with all of Chase’s attention following her movement through the small cabin.
Chase took a deep breath and tried not to sigh. Rowan had led the way for most of the hike, and that meant the image of her naked ass had been replaced by an equally enticing vision of Rowan’s ass in tight blue jeans. The miles between the bedroom and here had been sheer torture for Chase. Simultaneously trying to focus on the trail, Rowan, and the surrounding countryside had resulted in more than one toe-jarring stumble. She was darn lucky she had seen one particularly nasty root popping up like a handle in the middle of the dirt trail, or she would have suffered an incredibly embarrassing fall. She vowed to keep her eyes on the trail after that, letting the rhythmic sound of the dirt crunching under their boots distract her—at least until they reached the top.
“Oh!” Chase exclaimed when Rowan moved to one side and looked at her expectantly. For a moment, she was breathless for an entirely different reason. They were standing on the edge of a large open area that evidently was also the top ridge of a huge mesa. The ground in front of her just vanished, shorn in a straight vertical path that eventually gained a slight slope as it met the valley floor beneath them. Under a cloudless sky where the sun hadn’t made its way to the top of the heavens, the valley was cast in shadow wherever huge spans of mountains gathered in clusters. Small dots that were probably trees faded into the tiniest specks until it all washed together in the various shades of history, like books stacked upon each other in uneven piles. It was absolutely gorgeous.
“So? Was the climb worth it?” Rowan asked, her hushed tones more suitable for a church than a mountain. Somehow, it was appropriate. Chase had a hard time pulling her eyes away from the view, finding something new to rest her gaze on with each sweep as she tried to take it all in. A soft touch on her sleeve dragged her eyes away from the scene and back down to the woman standing at her shoulder. Soft grey eyes looked up at her, squinting just the slightest bit against the sunlight, but Chase could recognize a shared awe of the beauty around them. It was a moment in time that they shared, just the two of them—and Chase knew she would never forget it. The urge to tell Rowan that she was falling in love with her was almost overwhelming. Her tongue pressed against her teeth, seeking permission to say the words, but she held back. It was too soon, and her heart was too easily broken if she threw those words out into the wind and Rowan didn’t feel the same storm blowing through her.
“Yes, it was,” Chase murmured, caught up in a different sort of beauty when the sun hit Rowan’s auburn hair just so, making it gleam like spun copper. Closing the space between them, Chase brushed her lips across Rowan’s. It was a sweet kiss, a kiss that didn’t demand any more from the other than the experience of tasting each other’s lips. Yet, it felt more intimate to Chase than all the things they had done so passionately the night before.
“Wow,” Rowan whispered, a second before Chase said the same thing.
To be continued…….