Book: Prisms- Isle de Baraja.
Series: Light, Water, Muses.
Rating: PG-13 to R, possibly tilting a bit to NC17 late in the tale.
Category: A sequel of sorts to Broadway and a corner of LWM that I've been wanting to explore for a long time.
Pairings: Dace and her various playmates as well as a generous sampling of groupings we should all know well by now!
General Disclaimer: This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females. All characters are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. All TV show disclaimers are in earlier parts of this saga.
Spoilers: Outside of Broadway, there is nothing specific, except for the several characters from earlier sections of Light, Water and Muses, and aspects of their characters and backgrounds that were established there.
Summary: A working vacation does wonders for the extended family of friends.
++ Boxer ++
This place is ridiculously gorgeous. Tranquil and quiet, the Isle de Baraja is slumbering with the rest of the Bahamas in the deep darkness of the ridiculously early morning. This is a much better way to pass the winter than what I've been accustomed to until recently!
Much as it galls the control freak in me, I'll have to thank the boss cards for this working vacation. I wasn't going to do it; I was unmovable and unshakable that I would take no part in this freebie. Then Anastasia had to go and ask me to come ahead and check out the staff and facilities. Since I adore the woman and respect her completely, how could I say no?
Well, that and the looks of excitement from my bookends. From the minute I arrived in Las Vegas, heartsick and disoriented, Jill has rarely left my side. She is more cheerful and full of joy than I've ever known her to be capable of, keeping me buoyed up and moving forward.
Then there's Cindy.
I liked the girl when we were tentatively getting to know each other back in San Francisco, but then she left for Las Vegas. When I finally followed the others east to the desert, we picked up where we left off; my deep friendship with Jill and Claire, and the fledging relationship with Cindy.
Now, I've never been the type to wander away from the straight and narrow, the pun makes me smirk, at least not in my personal life. But Cindy has started eroding some boundaries with such charismatic deftness that I'm bemused. Her firecracker spirit and sharp intelligence and motor-mouth make an endearing package. The sweet good looks and guileless eyes the color of wet, dark sand don't hurt either.
Groaning half-mockingly to myself, I hunch up my shoulders and lean all the heavier on the railing, peering at the endless ocean and scattered islands through loosely laced fingers. The nebulous 'something' between us, that I've ignored with sharply honed self preservation skills, is no longer ignorable.
Not an hour ago, I left the little dance club deep in the bowels of the building where Cindy had brazenly slinked over and pressed her tiny, lusciously curvy body to mine and seduced the hell out of my lizard brain with some help from pounding house music and Jack Daniels.
Jill had hooted and wolf-whistled like a true tipsy pervert while I could only comprehend the thunder of bass and heartbeat and completely unexpected hormones. Cindy's incongruously dark eyes flashed every shade of neon in the lights, but there was no mistaking the very adult look there.
If I hadn't left, there's no damn doubt in my mind that I would have kissed Cindy Thomas. I would have kissed a girl in a brazen 'fuck you' to the conventions I've lived by, the unspoken rules learned by the dictates of family and society. The sexy ache throbbing from temples to knees, making the muscles of my torso tense, quite clearly spells out that I probably would have done more than kiss her…
"You're an ass, Linds."
Part of me wants to bristle at the deeply familiar voice. Part of me wants to laugh, or maybe cry and whine and ask stupid, girlish questions.
"Yeah," I all I can quietly manage as Jill floats out of the shadows and bumps lightly off my taller body. Thankfully, she's sober enough to not end up in a tangled heap, but then again, Jill always has been able to handle her liquor.
"What?" she scoffs. "No argument?"
"You got me dead to rights, counselor," I sigh, a hint of amusement in my tone as I continue to stare over the dimly sparkling ocean and soak up the body heat on my right upper arm. The beer held out is a skanky Corona, but I'll take what I can get. "At least you remembered the lime."
"You of all people know what a load of misleading crap appearances are," Jill says with surprisingly sobriety. "Is it that she's a girl? Or that she's young? Or that you want to jump on her so damn bad that you think there might be something wrong with you?"
This is what happens when one is best friends with a defense attorney, and a damn good one at that. "Yes," I sigh, "because you know me better than anyone, dammit. I'm too old to be having some kind of sexual identity crisis."
"Why a crisis? You like this girl. This one girl. You're in an environment for the first time in your life where no one is going to question this. Shut the hell up and just go for it for once." The rant is passionate and matter-of-fact, drawing my gaze over so that I can grin at my best friend.
"I love you, you know that, right?"
Making an extremely unladylike scoffing sound, Jill gesticulates wildly, making my smile widen. "You get this from me because Claire's too enamored of her studly Ed to make the time right now." Hooking a hand around my neck, Jill yanks me down to press a wet, closed-mouth kiss on my lips. "There. You kissed a girl. Now stop being tall, dark and brooding and go get the one you want. I'm off to jump my own stud. Who is coincidentally a tattooed, pierced former conman in his fifties; keep that in mind before you worry yourself stupid over Cindy freakin' Thomas. Tootles, Linds!"
My laughter is not at all feigned as she sashays away.
++ Cindy ++
The view is wasted on me tonight.
Once again, I have been left horny and confused by Lindsey Boxer. This has become a vicious cycle of late. I really, really thought I had her tonight! God, the press of that lean, muscular body, the burn of those inky eyes and she smelled so good…
Groaning, I lean over to press my forehead to my arms, crossed on the railing of my balcony. The frustrated burn she brings out in me is becoming almost a natural state of being now. Be a firestorm or smoldering embers, it never goes away. I have no idea what it is about this one woman that makes me so crazy. I've had access to lots of attractive women over the years, been fucked by some of the best. But none of them have lingered in my mind the way this one uncatchable woman does.
Straightening up to once more stare over the moon-dappled ocean, I try to shake off melancholia and hormones. After all, I'm technically here on Hearts' business. I love my new House; it's warmer and friendlier than the Diamonds. While being a Diamond was wonderful, and no one could ask for a more adept mentor in all things than the Red Queen, this new life suits me better.
Ah well, at least I can report a resounding success in regards to the resort. Everything has been wonderful, slick, professional and friendly. The Royal Cards will be pleased. Heck, the action down in the club tonight was getting downright x-rated. Between those of us visiting and the employees, there are plenty of prospective partners. Even Ed and Claire, married all these years, are probably having a second honeymoon tonight!
Jill and the Washburn clan agreed to forgo the sailing in on the Major Arcana to fly in early and check the place out for the Four Suits. I'm guessing it was to spend time with Lindsey as much as the exotic free vacation.
There are reps from all four houses here. From the Diamonds, a fixture I remember well, Richard David is Salix's father and one of the old guard. A feisty codger with a wit like a razor and a mind like a steel trap, he's a constant riot to be around. Not that Jill's let him out of her clutches much this trip. She couldn't give a damn less that he's in his fifties. Frankly, neither can the rest of us. Then there's Pony, the Amazon bodybuilder that looks like bad news but is a real sweetie. Her husband and kids are a kind, enthusiastic and delightfully normal bunch. Gus and his wife, Faith, are from the Spades and they and their mixed family of kids from former marriages are a good bunch. We're a diverse lot and a good cross-section to check over the resort from top to bottom. About the only place we haven't stuck our noses into is the personal quarters of the staff and the security detail has that covered.
But thinking about work does no good cooling the hot need in my body.
"I'm an ass you know."
Completely caught off guard, my full-bodied jerk of surprise is not at all feigned. Whirling, falling against the rail, I soak in the shadowy presence of the woman I really want to make my own.
After a moment, her lanky body separates from the shadows, clothed only in a short, silky robe. She's walking over here with a slink to her body language that makes every spare molecule of moisture in my body migrate south to leave my mouth dry and other places very, very wet.
"I've been unfair to you," the throaty, sexy voice purrs as she moves closer. "I've been unfair to both of us."
My heart stops for a moment, then races with wild abandon as the slender hands unknot the robe's tie and the flimsy silk drapes open. I've seen collarbones and twice, a teasing strip of small of the back and even the belly button once oh so briefly. In the light from my room, Lindsey is that same delicious milk chocolate color from top to bottom, hardened nipples dark as cocoa, the shadowy triangle even darker. Fever-flushed, I grip the rail as she steps in close enough that I must raise my gaze or go cross-eyed, vision blurring at the hot press of her curves into mine.
"Forgive me?" Lindsey breathes into my ear, nosing close and some dizzy part of me is fairly certain that whimper was mine. She's nuzzling at my temple and cheek, breath hot and fast. Is she nervous?
Blinking my eyes open, I stare into the inky gaze so close, her breath shallow and fast. "Are you sure?" I manage to whisper, fingers starting to ache from the effort of gripping the wooden rail.
"Yes," she breathes back just as softly. "Teach me, please."
And as my lips finally touch hers, I am never so happy to be a teacher.
++ Lindsey ++
Jerking awake, I am completely disoriented for a moment, scrabbling for a gun I quickly realize isn't there. Hazy, sensual memories conflict with the smirking figure at the open French doors to the deck and I draw on a lifetime of experience to shake off the sleep-induced stupidity.
Cindy. Cindy is sound asleep in the bed beside me, her body warm and soft with sleep. The bedding is thrashed and I am quite pleasantly sore in all the best ways. It's still a black night in the Bahamas…
And I can just make out Autumn's silhouette against the dark sky behind her.
After all the time I've been working with the security agent, I should be used to her sneaking up on me.
"Hey. What's up?" I groan and scrub both hands over my face to finish up the waking process.
Soundless as an errant feather, Autumn glides across the room as I sit up and click on the bedside lamp. In the glow, I'm completely taken aback by the look of almost childlike amusement on her face. Autumn James is not prone to amusement or many other emotions, her experiences having left her very apart from normal human things. I only have part of her story, taking the rest of it on trust, just as Dace asked. That right eye is glowing again, so I know that she's seen something I can't comprehend.
"There's someone here you should meet."
The thrum of amusement in her voice is completely baffling. This is definitely the most animated I've seen my sidekick in the two and half odd months since I joined the Hearts.
"Autumn and I go back a ways."
The androgynous voice makes me jump and jerk my gaze to where a very tall and lanky figure separates from the shadows near the bureau. How the hell had I not seen the figure there? The lamplight glints off of pale hair and throws shadows onto a handsome face. I'm fairly certain that this is a woman, despite the gender-neutral nature of her appearance. Big, slender hands are loose at her sides and my instincts are completely confused by her. I feel a pull to trust, to be calm and unalarmed. That alone makes my instincts fight and she smirks faintly, as though reading my mind.
++ Cindy ++
Jostled by my bedmate, I groan expressively, startled into full wakefulness by a strange voice in my room!
"My apologies for the drama," the stranger purrs softly, not entirely unlike how Dace does it, her voice deep and soothing. Rolling over, I collide with Lindsey, unable to resist the shudder of delight, despite my alarm. The strange blonde woman standing with Autumn acknowledges me with a nod. "I'm an old friend of many of the Suits. I smuggled in with the last batch of supplies and thought that I'd managed to sneak in. But I can't get anything past you, eh Autumn?" Shaking an affectionate finger at the girl actually gets a giggle and Lindsey and I share a surprised glance.
"Brindle, Paws," Autumn enthuses, still completely out of character, "this is Ingle. Some of the weird shit about me she understands for reasons that are her secrets to keep. She helped Max and me when we first started learning how to be people."
Super soldiers with some kind of magic things plugged into their bodies, Max and Autumn have indeed had to learn to be people. Personalities were not important to the bastards that made them what they are.
"My apologies for waking you," Ingle says softly, bowing her head to us in an archaic gesture that suits her perfectly somehow. "But your loyal vassal here thought that my presence shouldn't wait until morning."
"You smuggled in?" Lindsey suddenly asks and Ingle smiles a slow grin that speaks of things beyond our comprehension. What a fascinating character!
"I'm very good at that sort of thing and periodically test the Suits defenses for weak spots. This was a tough one. My congratulations to the staff are in order. If you'd rather, my debriefing can wait until morning, so that you can return to sleep."
Groaning heavily, Lindsey drops back into the bed and stares at the ceiling for a long moment, as though thinking. "No, I better do my damn job, much as I'd like to remain here. Can you two give us a minute?"
Without a word, the two figures glide out the door and I'm once more alone with my new lover.
Who pleasantly distracts me by a body tackle to the bedding and a guerilla kiss that leaves me breathless and horny all over again. With hot, dark eyes, Lindsey gazes down at me and I feel so very special in her eyes.
"I'm going to take care of this and then come back to you, okay?"
"Oh, I suppose," I giggle and get an affectionate tickle to the ribs before she jumps out of the bed to retrieve the flimsy robe she showed up in. The wry look she fires me dissolves me into laughter even before her parting shot.
"After I go back to my room to get dressed, however briefly."
++ Salix ++
I don't get the Queen's fascination with this tub, despite her elegance, and I won't be able to get off the damn thing soon enough. Every ounce of self-control has been burned to keep me appropriately calm while around my peers, but I'm ready to scream to be honest. Between the motion of the ship and the claustrophobic quarters, I'm beyond done.
All of these damn points of rock poking out of the ocean look the same to me and I'm getting damn sick of the mystery. But we're sticking closer to this one and some of the geography of it seems faintly familiar. That, and the energy levels of the assembly is picking up. This must be it then.
When the peaceful afternoon is shattered by a smoky barrage of explosions, I nearly jump overboard, anchored only by a heavy hand on my shoulder. To my astonishment, it's Dace, her expression serious and touched with sympathy. "Canons," is all she says as the others cheer in the ringing quiet after the roar.
Calmed and oddly touched by her presence, I get a grip and manage a grateful nod to this woman once seen as the means to an end. Turns out she's rather likable and not the loser I'd once thought because of her fucked up history with the Red Queen. In a surprisingly companionable quiet, we watch the Isle de Baraja take on more details as the ship moves through the hazy marine layer.
"Smaller than I thought," I muse, leaning on the railing to admire the jagged line of the rock and the vegetation clinging to any available surface. Dace hums in agreement, flinching again as the canons erupt. After my heart rate calms and my ears stop ringing, I share a commiserating scowl with my companion. "You know the layout better than I. This is Sylvia's thing, not mine." Again, Dace scoffs with a smirk at my comments. "What am I looking at?"
"Hang on, I'll tell everybody." With a piercing whistle, Dace has the attention of everyone on deck. "Gather up gang and I'll do my best to tell you what you're looking at." Obediently, our group does so, crowding up against the railing. "Now, the good captain has kindly given us the most dramatic approach to the island. Though I think this is less for our benefit as to get to the best harbor." There are scattered chuckles and the crowd presses in closer and I ignore the sensation of so many bodies in one place.
"There are four high peaks on the island, each named after a cardinal direction. You can see South off the port side of the ship and East is coming up with North beyond it. We'll see West once we get to the harbor. No, the names aren't original, but years ago, when I was helping the Red Queen name things on the map, we were after ease of use rather than originality." Kindly, no one comments the faint tension in Dace's voice. "If you look carefully, you can see two of the buildings tucked in between South and East Peaks. Now, watch the crew bring in the sails and I'll tell you more after that."
It's an intriguing dance, the crew scrambling amidst the rigging to lash the sails tight to their crossbeams. I notice that a lot of line is moving seemingly on its own and realize that there is much more mechanization on the Arcana then I'd thought. In the middle of the chaos, rock-steady at the wheel, is Captain Jack, master of her domain.
++ Alex M ++
It has been a lovely voyage, calm and peaceful, with lots of time to spend with my beloved and little interruption. Oh sure, the bed was a bit small for cuddling and other, more physical activities, but we managed. Rachel jumps at my caress over her fine rear and flashes me that sharp look that's so damn sexy on her. There's a dangerous edge to this seemingly unassuming woman that is as enticing as catnip and she's still almost completely unaware of it. Ah well, that's even better for me.
Curling the wandering hand around her neck, I tug Rachel into a loose hug so that she can drape her arms around me. The other hand is occupied with keeping Katie pinned in place, her silky fine hair tickling my palm. If she stays put, the other two keep close. Thankfully, she's tired from the unfamiliar sleeping in the hammocks and is content to lean heavily into my leg and be peaceful for once. The canon fire too has all three girls wanting to stay close.
"There's North Peak," Dace calls out as the sound of the sails disappears. "Together with East Peak, they are the Guardians. It would have been funny if we had named them the sentinels." We all laugh at the crack, as much to soothe Dace's obvious faint unease at talking about this as the actual joke itself. The island lies some distance away, the Major Arcana keeping a safe distance from the up thrust rock. There is a large expanse of water between the two peaks and the massive spar jutting from the nose of the ship is slowly turning that way. "The island is a crescent shape, carved out by endless storms over its lifetime. Our buildings were constructed using natural features of the island and construction techniques to keep them as safe as possible during storms."
Without the sails making their constant sounds, it's almost eerily quiet as we drift closer and closer to the island.
"The northeast of the island is separated by violent, shallow water and jagged stones and was the hardest to build on. So that you kids know, you are not allowed over there. It's grownups only. There are plenty of other places for you to explore, though you have to be careful of the cliffs. The people that work here know where you can be, so you listen to them, okay?"
The children nod, silently caught up in the drama of the island that looms larger and larger.
"We're now headed straight for West Peak, on the far side of the harbor. There are four main buildings here and a dozen yurts for guests who want some separation. As we pass the Guardians, you'll see them."
Little by little, the ship drifts between the towering mountains to reveal a stunning gem of a semi-sheltered harbor.
"Wow," Rose breathes at the sight and I can only agree.
This is going to be fun!
++ Lindsey ++
For the second time in far too few hours, something unexpected jerks me from a deep, black sleep. Beside me, Cindy too is roused by, not a person, but a sound.
"What was that?" She murmurs, blinking in the sunlight.
Another barrage of the explosive noise echoes through the sunny morning, making both of us jump as though tazered. It almost sounds like…
It's well into morning and there are canons.
"Crap!" I yell, bolting into action. "The Arcana is here! Get dressed!"
In a frenzy of activity, we're dressed and I can only hope that no one will notice or comment that I'm braless and in a lightweight tank-top.
Thank god I work for a bunch of healthy perverts.
"Cindy, wait," I yelp before we fly out the door, yanking into my taller body to kiss her deeply. For a long moment, the rest of the world fades away as memories of last night crash over me. "Are we okay?"
The grin is blinding and I relax with relief. "We're good Linds. But I expect a real morning after once we get everybody settled in."
"My pleasure," I leer with a laugh and swat her out the doorway, chasing after her smaller frame as we race for the elevator to the waterfront. With some giggling and much attempting to straighten up our terminal cases of bedhead, we get to the cool temperatures of the long cave tunnel that leads to sunlight a couple of bus-lengths away.
Dazed by the sudden glare as we exit at the tunnel, we narrowly miss several of the small utility vehicles that dot the island, flying down the massive deck that juts over the beach and water. The grand figure of the Major Arcana bobs placidly at the anchor buoy in the middle of the harbor, but it looks like we made it here before the smaller boats land.
"Nice of you to join us," an annoyingly unruffled and well-dressed Jill smirks at us, the expression echoed in the welcoming party.
Knowing I can't get out of this gracefully, I smile lovingly at this new lover of mine and say simply, "long night."