by Christine Morgan
Whirlwind Christine Morgan (email@example.com)
Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles belong to Disney and are used without their knowledge or consent. Nikki, mentioned only in passing, belongs to Leva. For mature readers only!
It was a hazy day in Arizona when Beth Maza's life took a turn for the weird. She suffered through her morning classes in the stifling heat, and was too glad to escape to the air conditioned cafeteria. She poked listlessly at a turkey sandwich, really only having an appetite for the icy Coke. She kept half an ear tuned in to the flirtatious conversation of Ramona Ruiz and Snake Mendoza while looking glumly outside. She wasn't anticipating the long walk home, and once again silently berated herself for trying to save a few bucks by going to a cheaper but slower mechanic. The sky was a burnished copper plate hanging low and flat over the wind-sculpted terrain. The heavy, motionless air smelled wet- dog of moisture. Normally, weather like this would have included brooding thunderheads on the horizon, offering relief when the storm broke. But there were no clouds to be seen. Inez Paloma leaned across the table. "Are you done for the day?" "Except for working on my paper." Beth sighed. "I don't know how I'm ever going to get twenty pages. I'll be lucky if I can manage ten!" She pushed her plate away, got up and slung her tote bag over her shoulder. Inez also rose and fell in step with Beth as they headed out the door and onto the shaded concrete patio. Ramona promised Snake she would call him later, and caught up with them outside. "I must be crazy," she said. "Donna says he's nothing but trouble." "Then what is it?" Inez asked teasingly. "The leather? The chains? The hideous tattoo? What is it about guys like that?" "I don't know," Ramona sighed. "But I sure do like it!" Beth laughed. "Snake tries too hard. Gotta be macho, gotta be cool. Ick." "Maybe for you. I think he's neat." Ramona glanced back over her shoulder and waved. "So, ladies, where are we off to?" "Come over to my place for a while, why don't you?" Inez said to Beth. "My roommate gets off work at six, and then I can borrow her car and run you home. That way you won't fall down and die of heatstroke halfway." Beth started to answer, and paused as a sleek black motorcycle roared up the street. Its loud engine would have made conversation difficult even if they hadn't all stopped to stare at both bike and rider. It was a fine machine, a showpiece, customized in a way that demanded attention and envy. A stylized design, looking like a wolf raising a howling muzzle against a full moon, was painted on the side of the gas tank. The rider wore black leather and a shiny black helmet with a tinted visor. As he brought the bike to a stop in front of them, he extended one leg for balance and faded denim drew taut against his lean thigh. "Now, he's got bad boy written all over him," Inez observed. "Wish I could read it in Braille!" Ramona winked. The rider pulled off his helmet and ran a hand through his shock of jet-black hair. He produced a pair of sunglasses, snapped them open with a flick of his wrist, and slipped them on. "Hello, Beth!" "My, my, Maza, look what you've got," Inez murmured, giving Beth a nudge. "Gotta be macho, gotta be cool!" Beth was too stunned to reply. "Who is he?" Ramona demanded, her voice more than touched with jealousy. It wasn't a wolf, painted there on the side of the bike. Not a wolf. "Coyote." She heard herself say it as if from very far away. He grinned, teeth white and even in his handsome bronze face. "Need a ride?" "You go, girl!" Ramona dug an elbow into her side. "But I want to hear all about it later!" "Beth, who is this guy? He looks like trouble." Inez frowned. She looked at her friends, ran through a couple of possible explanations, realized she couldn't pull any of them off convincingly, and glanced back to the bike propped nonchalantly in the street. Coyote was leaning on it in a casual pose, and his bright eyes met hers from over the tops of his shades. He winked. Decision came suddenly and irrevocably. "See you later," she said to Inez, and ran lightly to the curb. "Good to see you again." Coyote picked up his helmet, then with an air of solemnity that made her think of a groom turning back his bride's veil, he placed it on her head. His hands rested briefly on her shoulders and she shivered for no good reason. "Is something wrong? Why are you here? Is it Xanatos again?" she whispered. "I'll explain later. Let's ride!" He gunned the throttle as she swung onto the seat behind him. She put her arms around his narrow waist, feeling the sun-warmed leather of his jacket through her blouse. She was wearing cutoffs and low-topped hiking shoes, and his jeans felt cloud-soft against her bare legs. The bike shot down the street, leaving a spiraling cloud of dust in its wake. She tightened her grip, but his expert handling of the machine made her fears seem silly and unfounded. Already, the cafeteria and the wistfully watching Ramona and Inez were left behind. The campus was passing in a blur. Ahead of them, a dun-colored car with a red flasher bubble on the dashboard was crusing idly through the parking lot. Campus police. Coyote headed straight for them. Beth tensed in anticipation of the flasher's light to spin into life. The bike screamed past so close that she could have reached through the open window and tweaked the driver's moustache. He didn't so much as look their way. "He didn't see us?" she blurted, incredulous. "Can't see what doesn't want to be seen," Coyote called back. He veered onto the main road and was through town in the blink of an eye, heading out into the open desert. "Where are we going?" she yelled above the wind of their passage. "Eagle Rock." Although she had no idea what he was talking about, the answer satisfied her. She was content to lean against his back, the powerful machine humming under her, watching the scenery go by in reds and golds in the hazy sun. After a time, it seemed to her that the bike had vanished, and a swirling column of dust was bearing them over the sunbaked land, the noise of the engine now the muttering howl of an animal. They did not seem to be on the road anymore, the works of men left far behind. They were out in the wild country, where the mesas and arroyos promised beauty but unforgiving harshness. When they stopped, she realized that the sun was now far in the west. Several hours had passed as if in a daze or a dream. Maybe she _had_ dozed off! That would explain the weird visions. Coyote dropped the kickstand and heeled the bike over. It was a bike, of course, not anything else. She must have fallen asleep a little and dreamed. That was the only logical explanation. But there was no road to be seen, and the terrain was uneven. It would have challenged her Jeep, let alone a motorcycle. Bizarre. She dismounted and removed the helmet, shaking her head so that her short dark hair flew, then patting it back into a semblance of order. Coyote was looking thoughtfully at her. As she became conscious of that, he put his fingers gently under her chin. "Your eyes are like sunlight on the water," he said. He leaned closer, almost to kissing distance before she pulled uncertainly away. "Wait." He stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets and grinned. "What's the matter?" "Well ... you look ... you know. Like my father, when he was young." The grin widened. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Isn't that part of the attraction?" She blushed. "I don't know what you're talking about." "Oh, yes you do." He moved too fast to be seen. The next thing Beth knew, she was sitting on the ground and he was holding her right foot in his lap. "Hey!" she protested. He unlaced her hiking shoe and pulled it off, then pushed down her sock. "See? You wear my mark!" Her blush darkened. There on her ankle was the tattoo, a simple outline of a coyote's head, the same design of the sacred carving Xanatos had tried to destroy. She'd had it done a few weeks later, once Dad had gone back to New York. She couldn't say why, hadn't told anyone, even her sister. In fact, she'd almost forgotten. But there it was. "My mark. Can't deny it, Mai." He traced with his fingertip a mystic symbol on the tender sole of her foot, making her squirm. "Now, wait, wait a minute!" She retrieved her foot and hastily fumbled her shoe back on. "What did you call me?" "It's my name for you. Don't you like it?" She looked at him, seeing the playful twinkle in his eye. He really was cute, but he really did look like her father, but maybe that _was_ part of it ... she shook her head briskly, as if trying to shake some sense back into it. "Mai. It means coyote, doesn't it?" she asked to gain time to think. "Look. Sunset. The world hangs balanced. It is a time of power. Be right back." "Where --" was as far as she got. He'd been sitting right there, across from her, and then the air whispered and she heard a distant ghostly howl, and he was gone. She looked around, then felt her gaze drawn helplessly up, up to the peak of a pillar of rock shaped like the proud head of an eagle. There atop the reddish-brown stone stood a figure, a manshape in the fringed tunic and mask of a spirit dancer. In the west, the sun was a scarlet ball sinking into the curve of the earth. In the east, the pale rim of a full moon crept over the horizon. A time of power. Even Beth felt it. She was suspended between sun and moon, trembling on the threshold of a world she'd only known in dreams. Her skin tingled, her lungs seemed to draw endless breath, her senses were sharper than ever before. The sky was gold and rose and violet, painting the land with darker shadows as the sun slipped from view and the moon's lowest edge kissed the earth and then climbed from it. Wind stirred the fringes of the dancer's tunic. He vanished from his high perch, only to reappear before her a heartbeat later in a swirl of air. Unbidden, Beth suddenly wondered what it would be like to make love to such a creature, here in the desert night, bathed by the moonlight and the savage brilliance of a million stars. She wanted him then, wanted to be naked and wild in his arms, no matter who he looked like or what he really was. Any resemblance to actual persons, she thought, is purely coincidental. He removed his mask, and she could tell that he knew exactly what she was thinking. She smelled deerskin and spices, and another undefinable scent that might have been magic itself. Coyote touched her chin again, and this time she let him lift her face to his. He pressed a gentle, questioning kiss to her lips, a single spark that burned through her like a grassfire. "You know who I am, what I am, where I come from," he said. "Do I frighten you?" "A little," she admitted. He nodded. "I called you to me, Mai, just as I called your father. Now I have a boon to ask of you, but you may accept or reject of your own free will." "What do you want?" she asked, pretty sure she already knew the answer to that one. He laughed, reading her thoughts again. His garb fuzzed and changed back to jeans and leather jacket. "Not that. Well, not _just_ that. Believe it or not, I didn't come all the way from Avalon just to check your tan lines." Beth looked him boldly in the eye and said, "What tan lines?" She guessed it wasn't often his kind was taken aback. It was funny to behold. He finally recovered, although a grin kept trying to resurface and she knew he was trying very hard not to ogle her bod, well-revealed in her shorts and sleeveless blouse. "What was I saying?" "A boon," she reminded him. "Right. Listen. There's a kicking party coming up on Avalon. Wanna go?" "What? Me? To Avalon?" "To Avalon. We're each to bring a mortal. It's sort of a contest." "Like the dog parties the frat boys hold?" she asked sourly. "I don't think so." "No, nothing like that!" He paused. "Well, maybe a little. But you'd be different. Some of my kin will trick or abduct their mortal guests. I've come to ask instead. To ask you." "Why me?" "In all the world, Mai, you are the one I would choose. I know your father and grandfather of old. I've felt your presence since you decided to come here instead of remaining in New York. You helped me against Xanatos when no one else would. You saw, and you believed." "That's not all, is it?" she asked, following her intuition. "Flattering as it is, of course." "It would boost my status to bring a mortal willingly and knowingly." "What else?" He scuffed his boot in the dust. "Okay, well, you're Elisa Maza's sister. She did a number on a bunch of my kin, and they'd hate being reminded of how a mortal got the better of them. That fat old talespinner Anansi, the Banshee ..." He winked. "Even Oberon himself!" "And since you're the Trickster, you take a perverse pleasure in needling them," she said. "That's right. Except I'm not _the_ trickster. Only _a_ trickster. My brother Raven handles things up northwest, and then there's Puck, and a host of others. There's always been a big market in playing mind games with you mortals." "Tell me again how I fit into this? How do I know this isn't one of your games?" "All I can give you is my word. Will that do?" "I hope so." She chewed thoughtfully on her lip. "But ... Elisa said that Avalon kept sending her places. She was gone for a long time. Mom and Dad were freaking out." "A single night on Avalon can be more than a week here," he said. "And one night is too short to enjoy all that Avalon has to offer. So you could be gone for a month or more. I swear, I'd bring you straight home afterward!" "I don't know ..." Beth said, half longing and half dreading. Coyote twined his fingers in her hair. "The party isn't for a couple of days yet. My time. You've got a while to think it over." "I'll think about it," she promised. His face lit up. "Great! I can't stay, but I'll come back. Look for me when the moon is new." "Wait -- you mean, you're leaving?" "I can't stay," he repeated, lower and softer. "We have to dance regular attendance on Daddy Oberon. He gave us leave to make a few journeys to the mortal world, but doesn't want us to dawdle." "What a jerk." "You're not the first to think so. Just don't say it to his face." He grasped her shoulders and bent to kiss her on the shelf of her jaw, then on the mouth. He drew back enough to test the weather in her eyes, and then, seeing what was there, he pulled her close. Beth sighed wordlessly as his arms went around her. Their lips met. She closed her eyes, feeling the wind spin around them, gaining speed until it felt like her feet were lifted off the ground, that they were flying through the air with dizzying speed. Still she didn't look, but yielded to his kiss. When at last he released her, she reluctantly opened her eyes and found herself standing alone on her own apartment balcony, where once gargoyles had stood watch. She blinked, confused, and heard the roar of an engine below, then hurried to the edge and looked down. There was nothing to be seen but a skirl of dust, nothing to be heard but a distant soulful howl. * * Beth spent the next two weeks trying to convince herself that it hadn't really happened. Not an easy task, since Inez and Ramona pestered her constantly about it, and even Snake Mendoza got in on it because he'd admired the bike so much. She dodged their questions as best she could and concentrated on her classes, but every night when the moon rose later and slimmer, she felt a nervous tingle in her belly. The twenty page paper got finished and turned in on time. Not her best effort, but it would do and her grades were good enough to allow her a little slacking. Several times, she caught herself halfway through dialling Elisa in New York. Every time, she hung up in confused shame. Sure, Elisa knew what it was to be involved with someone other than human, but her guy didn't wear their father's face. She couldn't imagine her parents' reaction. No, she _could_ imagine it, which was why she kept hanging up the phone. But she kept going back to the phone, because nothing irreversible had happened and she needed to talk to someone about it before she went nuts. Once she got as far as hearing Elisa's answering machine pick up, and then click! down went the phone. She woke one night just before dawn and stumbled to her window to peer eastward. There, hanging in the pale pink sky, was the thinnest possible sliver of moon. It was soon swallowed by the growing daylight, but she knew what it meant. Tonight. Still sleep-fogged, she accepted the truth. It had been real, and he would come back. Tonight. She passed the day in a state of distracted edginess. Whole classes went by in fifty-minute chunks of nothingness. Her notes were covered with scribbles and doodles, many of them in the shape of a coyote's-head mark. Even when the instructors posted the schedule for final exams, Beth hardly reacted. What were finals compared to a meeting with a god? Or spirit, or whatever he was. She drove home in the golden afternoon glow (her Jeep repaired finally, four hundred bucks that she could not afford), looking all the while for a sleek black bike along the road. She fidgeted and fussed around the apartment, unable to focus on anything for more than a few minutes, always checking the clock and checking the sky. She hadn't been so full of nervous energy since childhood Christmases. Suppose he didn't show? His words replayed themselves in her head -- is it live or is it Memorex? -- "There's always been a big market in playing mind games with you mortals." Back and forth, back and forth, she paced through the apartment. A thousand times worse than waiting for a first date. What if he stood her up? He hadn't said _this_ new moon. She could spend the rest of her life waiting, watching the lunar phases, worrying herself into a fit. Years from now he could turn up, when she'd grown old and grey and thought it all to be a dream. Legends were full of the perils of mortals who took elfin lovers. No sooner did her mind touch on that thought than it shied away like a skittish horse. It was only a date, if it could even be called that. Two kisses did not a lover make. Yeah, right. She was _in_ love. She, Beth Maza, who under her carefree mask was as self-contained and undisclosing as her sister Elisa. She had fallen and fallen hard, for an immortal biker with her dad's wry smile and the powers of a god. "Well, can't fault my taste," she said aloud, though there was no one to hear except the cactus on the windowsill. Just when she was starting to wonder what he could possibly see in her, getting ready to whip herself into a froth of self-doubt, she heard the roar of the engine. She squealed like a silly virgin on Prom Night and flew to the window, bumping the cactus with her elbow. Out and down it went, the heavy clay pot not just breaking but detonating on the sidewalk below. Coyote looked up in surprise. "Trying to get rid of me already?" "Oh, I'm so sorry! I'll be right down!" She grabbed a black denim jacket and hurried to the door, catching a glimpse of herself and realizing that she had unconsciously dressed in imitation of him. White T-shirt, tight jeans, cowboy boots, sunglasses clipped into the V of her collar. He gave her an approving once-over as she emerged. She was peripherally aware of a few of her neighbors watching from their patios and balconies, no doubt drawn by the motorcycle and the noisy crash of the cactus pot. Beth guiltily kicked the larger chunks of clay into the bushes, promising herself that she'd pick them up later, and telepathied an apology at the plant. Coyote tossed her a helmet, this time a twin to his own, both with his coyote's-head mark painted on the side in gold. She donned it and climbed on behind him. "I didn't think you'd come," she said breathlessly. He glanced back over his shoulder. "I said I would." He sounded hurt, so she impulsively squeezed him. "I worry too much." "Guess it means you're glad to see me again." "Yes." She thunked her helmeted head companionably against his. "And I want to go to Avalon, if the offer still stands." "You know it does." He grinned hugely. "This is going to be great!" "Are we going there now?" "Nope. Party isn't for a few days. When do you get out of school?" "Finals are in a month." "Perfect!" "Then where are we going?" "White River Canyon." Once again, the answer satisfied her although she knew of no such place. And once again, as they rode, Beth was lulled by the passing scenery and the hum of the engine, while it was an engine. It soon seemed that there was no bike at all, just the wild wind speeding them along. For a time, it also seemed like their clothes were different, that his jacket was buckskin under her hands, that her helmet was replaced by a beaded headband and her hair streamed back as if it had grown into long dark braids. The land looked different too. Well, no, the land didn't, the land looked timeless and eternal. It was the works of man that looked different. The power pylons that marched in silent ranks across the desert were gone. The outlying towns along the highway, usually nothing more than a few gas stations and cafes, were now collections of false-fronted wooden buildings, or adobe houses, or tipis painted with symbols of the Buffalo Spirits. Once she even saw a vast herd of hunched, brown shaggy beasts moving in the distance. Sunset came early, and the only lights Beth could see had the orange flickery quality of living flame instead of the steady white of electricty. Those, and the shining stars that came visible overhead, were the only things that illuminated the dusk, yet Coyote didn't slow. Ahead of them, stark against the sky, rock formations towered like abstract sculptures. Howls greeted them and were answered, and low-slung brown forms paced them. Beth even found herself joining in the communion. On they went, until Coyote stopped at the edge of a bluff, where a river plunged into a narrow channel worn smooth by the centuries. He heeled over the bike, which was a bike again, and they dismounted. "It's so beautiful up here!" Beth exclaimed. She could see the river winding its way like a serpent through the canyon, under a natural bridge, and off across the plain. "Hungry?" She turned around and gasped, because there was a small fire blazing brightly, a striped woven blanket spread on the ground, and a round basket with a leather hide lid. Coyote was sitting crosslegged on the blanket, smiling up at her. "Sure!" She folded her legs and sat across from him, and accepted the waterskin he offered. The liquid within was water but not quite, with a cool electric-blue tang. He opened the basket and began setting out the food. Flat fried bread, strips of cured meat that was unlike anything Beth had ever tasted before, and sweet berries. As they ate, he entertained her with talk of Avalon, and of the old days when he had first come to this part of the world. She laughed often and easily. He clearly enjoyed re-telling his antics almost as much as he'd enjoyed pulling them in the first place. Even when some mortal or other spirit had gotten the better of him, he looked back on it fondly. The food was gone, and the fire was low, when he asked, "How about a swim?" "Are you crazy?" He got up and strode to the bluff's edge, looking down at the churning water. "The river here is just like a waterslide, nature's waterslide. The stone is smooth as doeskin." She joined him and her brows knit worriedly. "I don't think so. Elisa's fallen over enough waterfalls to last both of us a lifetime!" "Yeah, but did she ever do it on purpose?" "No ..." "That makes all the difference. Come on!" He shed his jacket even as he stepped out of his boots, then pulled his shirt over his head. Beth stepped back, more than a little bit startled but unable to keep from admiring him. He was bronze and lean, obviously unburdened by modesty, and a pleasure to see. He skinned off his jeans effortlessly, and raised his arms to the diamond-sharp stars. Something clicked in Beth's throat as she swallowed. Her knees felt weak and watery. A tingle spread from her sternum outward. And downward. All of a sudden her clothes felt too tight, too confining. She wanted to feel the night air on her skin. To feel more than the air! Coyote looked at her and his face was that of an ancient warrior, wise and stern and proud. Then he grinned, spoiling the effect, and was the trickster once more. His bright eyes challenged her. Beth met his gaze. A flurry of doubts tumbled through her mind and then were gone. She dropped her jacket next to his on the blanket and sat down to pull off her boots. Maybe he could disrobe with the practiced ease of a stripper complete with strategically-placed velcro tabs, but she wasn't going to chance getting her feet tangled in her pantlegs and falling headlong off the bluff. Soon she was down to bra and panties, rich yellow satin from Victoria's Secret. She considered keeping them on, looked at the rushing water, and decided that it was rougher than the delicate cycle on her washer. Off they went. Coyote uttered a low appreciative growl. Beth's mind did a cross-patch and she wondered if Elisa heard sounds like that from _her_ boyfriend. She remembered the way Elisa had looked in Vegas, trying to explain what her first time with Goliath had been like. Completion, she'd said. For them, it was true, the consummation of years' worth of secret longing, yearning looks, accidental touches. The final expression of a deep and abiding love that had grown from friendship and trust. She stood nude in the cool night breeze and looked at Coyote. What was between them was nothing like the passion Elisa and Goliath shared. This was something raw and elemental. Friendship and trust? She barely knew him, doubted she could trust him further than she could spit a rat, but oh! she wanted him something fierce! He shook his head as she opened her mouth to speak. "Last one to the bottom is a mortal!" he called merrily, and leaped feet first into the frothing water. "I'm already a mortal!" Beth yelled indignantly after him as he shot down the chute neatly as a bullet from the barrel of a gun. His only answer was a high, yipping coyote's cry. "Oh, what the hell," she muttered, and jumped. At least the water wasn't as cold as she'd feared! It was _fast_, though! The current seized her with no turning back. Over the worn-smooth stone, under a natural arch carved by wind and water, zipping around a hairpin bend in a bubble of whitecaps, better than any manmade waterslide! She raised her head enough to peek ahead, just in time to scream piercingly as the river plunged over a sheer drop. Beth popped over the edge like a cork, legs and arms flailing madly. She suffered a brief vision of herself falling hundreds of feet into a gorge, and then she splashed into a deep pool to the sound of Coyote's laugh. Beth came up, sputtering, her heart hammering crazily. "You little son of a --" He silenced her by using cupped hands to send a gout of water full in her face. No way she was going to put up with that, so in seconds a full-fledged waterfight was raging. She dove under and grabbed for his ankles but he writhed out of her grasp and dunked her a good one. Instead of fighting him, she let him push her down to the sandy bottom and pulled herself behind a ridge of stone. Her chest burned from holding her breath, but she could see him, a dark shadow against the starlit surface, turning this way and that in what she sincerely hoped was concern. She came up slowly so as not to alert him, and swam silently behind him. Then, as he was peering into the depths, she brought both hands down on his shoulders and shoved him under, hollering, "Gotcha!" at the top of her lungs. His startled exclamation was cut off in a bubble as he went under. He came up, shaking out his hair, laughing. "Okay, okay!" "You didn't _tell_ me there was another dropoff!" She flicked water at him testily. "Couldn't resist. You should have seen the look on your face." He winked. "Not that I was looking much at your face, with everything else there was to see!" Treading water, Beth finally took a look around. They were in a wide, nearly circular pool, with a few flattish rocks breaching the surface like turtlebacks. Weathered trees leaned from the cliffsides. A length of old knotted rope hung from one of the branches, perfect for swinging out and jumping. There were two waterfalls, one the gusher that had brought them here, the other a thin trickling curtain in front of an undercut in the stone. The river continued on in a much more sedate fashion, out of the canyon and across the plain. Arms slipped around her waist. The water and air were cool but the heat of the sun was in his touch as he pulled her close and dipped his head to kiss the side of her neck. Beth's eyes drifted closed, her legs shifting languidly to keep herself afloat. She leaned her head against his shoulder, relishing the sensations, the slippery caress of the water over their skin. No matter what he really was, he _felt_ human enough as his body pressed against hers. "I want you, Mai," he whispered in her ear. "Really shouldn't," she murmured. "You're all wrong for me." "Don't say that. Why do you say that?" "There's the age difference, for one thing. I'll get old and die." He kissed her forehead. "But do you want to grow old and die rergretting what might have been? I can't promise you forever, Mai, but I can make now worth living!" "Good point," she admitted after thinking that one over. "World's full of love 'em and leave 'em guys, but not many like you!" "True." His lips moved to her neck again, while one hand slid down her back to her buttocks. She moaned in pleasure. Any other reasons she might have had dwindled into meaninglessness. She relaxed beneath his gentle warm touch. He stroked her breasts, her hips, her thighs. He maneuvered her into a part of the pool where the current rushed strongly, and urged her legs apart so that the water flowed deliciously between them. She muffled her soft cries against his shoulder, then lifted her lips to his. Coyote added his fingers to the current flowing over her most intimate places and Beth nearly melted. She explored him with her own hands, delighting in the lean but firm muscles of his chest and back, and the finest ass she'd ever encountered. When she was so aroused that she could barely swim, he led her to one of the rocks that poked its back from the water. The rock was still warm with absorbed sunlight. Coyote climbed gracefully out of the pool and helped her up beside him. His wet skin glimmered in the starlight. He wasted no time but covered her body with his own. "Wait --" Beth managed. "What about ..." she waved her hand in a vague gesture downward at their loins. "What?" He drew back, puzzled. "You know ..." she said. He laughed. "Muzzle the coyote? Don't worry about it!" "But --" "You're safe, aren't you?" "I'm on the Pill, if that's what you mean, but --" "Then don't worry about it!" He moved down, kissing her belly and thighs, then parting them to give her a very persuasive argument with his clever tongue. Beth clutched his hair, gasping, unable to speak. Her hips rolled helplessly. He teased, he tormented, bringing her to the brink and then backing off, doing that again and again until she was just about ready to shriek and jump him. He raised his head, smiling in a supremely confident way. Bordered on smugness, as a matter of fact. Beth, despite her nearly frantic need, shook her head. "Oh, no you don't," she said. "Two can play at that game." With that, she slithered lower on the rock and found his stiffness. Maybe he was an immortal, with centuries' worth of notches on his bedpost, but Beth was a veteran of her cousin Nikki's slumber parties, where talk always turned to boys and a game of Truth or Dare tended to involve practicing certain skills on Popsicles. While Beth would never be pouty-lipped Nikki's equal, she applied herself with diligence and soon Coyote was all but howling at the sky. She finally lay back, the stone beneath her feeling soft as a featherbed. Coyote moved over her. His head was a shadow crowned by stars, meteors scratching cold white fire behind him. "Mai," he said, and entered her with one smooth thrust. She held tight to his shoulders, rocking to meet him. He buried his face against her neck and alternately kissed and nipped. Wind washed over them, spiraled around them, lifted them from their bed of stone. They rose high above the desert, borne by the wild whirlwind, with ghostly forms loping around them and filling the night with their music. Beth came like the Fourth of July, and Coyote followed moments later. When the last of the tremors faded away, Beth lay motionless except for the twitch and quiver of the muscles in her legs. She could feel the rock beneath her back again, and wondered if they really had been flying or if she had imagined it. She decided it didn't matter. Coyote raised his head from the cradle of her shoulder. His bright eyes twinkled at her. He opened his mouth to speak but she silenced him with her fingers against his lips. The warmth of his skin and the weight of his body were sweeter than any words could be. * * "Hi, Elisa, it's me." "Beth! Hey, how's it going? Guess what?" Elisa sounded excited and happy, and with the telepathy close sisters sometimes shared, Beth had a good idea why. "You're finally getting married?" "On Halloween. You'll be there, right? You've got to be a bridesmaid." Beth laughed. "I'm not wearing pink!" "Okay, no pink." "I need some advice," Beth confessed. "I'm kind of seeing somebody." "That's great!" Elisa responded enthusiastically. "Well, I'm worried that Dad won't approve." It was Elisa's turn to laugh. "Sis, I'm marrying a gargoyle and Derrek's kids have fur! Who could you possibly be going out with that Dad wouldn't like?" "Coyote. _That_ Coyote." There was a long startled pause, and then Elisa said, "Oh. Oh, I see what you mean." "Listen, Elisa, there's something else. He's invited me to a party on Avalon. Can you smooth it over with Mom and Dad?" "No way! Beth, are you kidding? Going to Avalon? Wait. This is nuts." "Hey, sis, you've had your fun. Now it's my turn!" Beth teased lightly. "Why should you get the grand tour while I have to stay home and be a good girl? I'll bring you a souvenir." "Yeah, great," Elisa said resignedly. "My Sister Went To Avalon And All I Got Was This Crummy T-Shirt. A bumper sticker reading: My Other Car is a Magic Skiff. I'm breathless with anticipation." "I'll try to find something better than that," Beth giggled. "At the very least, a pencil sharpener in the shape of the Sword in the Stone, or a plastic unicorn with a thermometer where its horn should be." Elisa made gagging noises. "Seriously, though," Beth cut in, "what _should_ I tell Dad? How did you break the news to them?" "I didn't. Mom figured it out, though I don't think she knew for sure until our niece and nephew were born." "Derrek said you turned to stone in Goliath's arms." Beth sighed dreamily. "What was it like?" "At the time, I was half-dead and out cold, so I really couldn't say," Elisa replied dryly. "I remember when you brought us in to see Derrek, after he changed," Beth said. "It was a shock, sure, but we took it okay once we got used to it." "This is kind of different, though. Coyote ... he looks like --" "I know," Beth fidgeted, abashed. "But after a while, it didn't seem to matter." "After a while?" Elisa prompted. "Is this serious dating we're talking here?" Beth shrugged. "What would you say if I told you I had a coyote-shaped hickie the size of a half-dollar?" "Eew." "I thought that's what you'd say," Beth laughed. "Which is why I won't tell you where it is!" * * The End
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