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Beauty of the Wood (Part Two of Two)

One love saved, and another born.
Dara sat near the edge of the lake, looking out between two white birch trees at the flotilla of canoes moving away from the island. The visit with her mother had helped, numbing the pain with touches of anger that had gripped her the day before, but certainly not erasing it.

Watching Chase lead his friends across the lake brought some of the sting right back.

Thirty years old and I’m acting like a schoolgirl being ignored by her crush.

“You okay?”

Without turning around, she said, “I’m fine, Dad.”

“He’s dealing with a lot right now.”

“And that excuses..? Never mind.”

“No, it doesn’t excuse it. He knows that.”

A leaf fluttered down from above, drifting in a quick see-saw pattern in front of her before catching a breeze and blowing out over the water.

“He’ll come to his senses,” her father finished.

Dara sighed and thought, Maybe it would be better if he didn’t.

“Best head up and get some chow before it goes cold. I’m going to go check on Ronald and see if being mad about Chase being here and me not telling him might be enough to get him to tell me what really started it all in the first place.”

She turned around. “You said it was because he dropped out of college.”

“That’s as far as he got before he clammed up on me. There’s more to it than that. Even Ron isn’t that pigheaded.”

“Okay. Sorry I’m moping around.”

“Everyone’s allowed. You spend so much time taking care of everyone else that you forget about yourself.” He patted her on the shoulder and walked over to the canoe.

Dara headed into camp to eat, and shortly thereafter heard the sound of a canoe nearby. The sound of wood bumping aluminum let her know it wasn’t her father returning. Thinking it could be Chase, she struggled with whether to go look down the trail, or sneak off to her mother’s pool to pretend she wasn’t there.

“Hello?”

The voice was female, and instantly relieved the turmoil in Dara’s head. She walked down the trail, pleasantly answering, “Hello,” along the way.

The woman looked to be in her late forties, wearing a wide brimmed straw hat and a loose, flowing blouse. A bright smile spread across her face as she tried to steady her drifting canoe and she said, “You must be Dara.”

“Uhm... Yes. Are you a friend of my father’s?” she asked, not recognizing the woman.

“Oh, no. I’m here with Chase, darling. Miranda Weston.”

“Pleased to meet you. I thought you’d all gone over to Blueberry Hill.”

The woman laid a hand on her chest. “I’m still jet-lagged, and climbing just didn’t appeal to me. Besides, if a gaggle of artists and writers can’t capture it for me, they aren’t doing a very good job, are they?”

Dara chuckled, taking an instant liking to the woman. “Guess not.”

“Do you mind if I come over?”

“No. Please.”

“I’m afraid I’m not very good at this,” Miranda said as she tried to maneuver the canoe up to shore.

“Throw me the rope. I’ll steady you, and give you a hand.”

The canoe bumped against the rocky shore, and once Miranda was safely on dry land, she said, “Thank you, darling.” She reached back into the canoe for a satchel near the seat.

“So, it’s your first time here?”

“Yes, and it’s just as beautiful as Chase’s stories. I’m so glad I came, even though I’m absolutely exhausted.”

“Well, come up and sit down.”

“You are a dear,” Miranda said as she accepted Dara’s helping hand in the climb up the trail.

Miranda sighed in relief as she sat down on a camp chair, while Dara used one of the many log seats her father had crafted over the years. The older woman plucked at her pale yellow top, shaking her shoulders. “I knew I should have washed this more than once. It’s new, and it’s driving me batty.”

“Chase let me know that you’re nudists. If you want to...” she made a little lifting gesture with her hand.

“Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable, dear.”

“No, really. It’s okay. I’m tempted to join you. I’d forgotten how hot and humid it is up here. I’m not used to it any more.”

“If you insist,” Miranda said, her voice betraying relief. She stood, unbuttoning her top along the way.

Having told the truth about the stifling humidity, and already taking a liking to the charming woman, Dara decided that they’d probably both be more comfortable on an equal footing, so she stripped off her clothing as well.

“No tan lines,” Miranda remarked as she sat back down. “I take it you’re not exactly a stranger to this.”

Putting her shirt and shorts on top of the log as cushioning, Dara chuckled before she sat back down. “I wouldn’t say I’m a nudist, but I can empathize.”

“And you’re simply stunning. You don’t look a day over twenty. I’m terribly jealous.”

Truth to tell, the years had been kind to Miranda. She was trim and attractive. “Don’t sell yourself short.”

“Oh, I don’t.” She let out a sultry laugh. “But, I won’t beat about the bush, darling. The real reason I stayed behind and came to see you is I wanted to talk to you about Chase.”

“Hmm?”

“I knew something was wrong and I managed to pluck it out of him. He’s quite good at putting up a front. If it weren’t for what happened with his father before we arrived, he might have fooled even me. He’s beside himself, darling. He has no idea how to apologize to you.”

Dara shrugged. “I understand... Well, I guess I don’t, but...”

“You know what happened between him and his father, then?”

“Well, partially. Dad said that it was when he quit college.”

“That’s the when but not the why. I doubt anyone else knows. I was one of the first people he met when he moved, and I rented him a room. It took a little work, but I convinced him to confide in me.”

“So, what happened?”

“It was a promise he’d made to his mother before she died. He’d always had notions of traveling the world to find himself, and she asked him to promise that he would at least go to college so she wouldn’t worry about him supporting himself.”

Dara gasped, “And so when he quit...”

“His father considered it a betrayal, and hasn’t spoken a single word to him since. He won’t answer the phone, or email, and even returns letters and cards unopened.”

“That’s terrible.”

“And it’s pain that he carries with him through every waking moment. That’s also why he’s afraid to apologize to you.”

Dara’s eyebrows lifted. “I don’t understand.”

“He’s afraid you won’t accept. He’s afraid that he couldn’t handle another burden.”

“But, it isn’t that big of a thing. It hurt me that he wouldn’t let me help him, but...”

“For him – with you – it is. Darling, he’s been in love with you since he was seven years old. He’s been pushing away women ever since I’ve known him. They all have one fatal flaw. They’re not you.”

Dara blushed, even as chills shot through her. “But, we were just kids.”

“He told me about the flowers he left you the last time you were here together. And he told me that the only reason he could summon up the courage is that he knew he wasn’t likely to see you for a long time. He’s afraid of having his dream shattered – and you’re that dream.”

“But after all these years?” she said in disbelief, thinking Miranda had to be making more of it than there was. “We haven’t seen each other or even talked in all that time.”

Miranda held up a finger, and then bent down to retrieve something from her bag. She pulled out a tablet and tapped a couple of icons. “This is his work. I’m almost always the first to see the new pieces, and I always take a picture. Just look.”

Melinda looked at the first image, a painting of the redwoods. It was beautifully done, and she could certainly see why he was able to make a living as an artist. The next was a remarkably detailed picture of an eagle. The third was of a nude dryad, artfully concealed by leaves, but the woodland spirit’s face was fully visible.

And it was hers.

Again and again, she saw her face in his paintings and sketches, done with such love and care. Nearly half of the images included her. Finally, she reached one that was just of her face, so perfect that she felt as if she were looking at a photo of her at her absolute best. She could see every ounce of his heart and soul poured into the work, and could almost feel his love reaching through the screen to envelop her heart.

A click sounded, and she looked up to see Miranda with a camera. “Oh, I hope you don’t mind, dear, but you have to see this.”

Dara accepted the camera, and her face warmed so much that she suspected she was as bright red as a stop sign. In the picture, she was gazing down, her lips slightly parted, her eyes shining, and her hand caressing the tablet as if it were a lover’s cheek.

“That piece is on a canvas three feet square, and hangs right in the center of his studio. He’s been offered thousands for it, but he wouldn’t part with it for all the money in the world.”

“I never realized...” Dara said in a soft voice, looking back at the tablet and marveling at the image again. Tears welled up in her eyes, trailing down her cheeks. The prospect of him going back to California now was like a knife in her heart.

Miranda got up and reached out to stroke Dara’s hair. “From the way you looked at that painting, I think there are some other things you didn’t realize.”

“And he’s going to be gone in a few days,” Dara said before she could think about the words.

“He didn’t tell you? He’s moving back here. He has the contacts he needs to work from anywhere, and the money to travel when he needs to. He’s always been homesick, and now he’s coming home.”

Heart soaring and tears still flowing, Dara looked up and sobbed out, “Really?”

“Yes, darling. And I think he might just have an even better reason to come home now. Now I’m doubly jealous of you.”

Laughing through her tears, Dara accepted the tissue Miranda had pulled out of her bag and wondered where she was going to go from here.

****

Chase’s voice choked off into a gasp, and he froze as if turned to stone when he walked into the campsite and saw Dara sitting next to Miranda. Though Miranda was once again nude for her comfort, Dara had left her clothing on after dressing for the paddle over to Chase’s camp to wait for him to return.

She could see the instant recognition in his friends’ eyes. Though they might not know her in person, they most certainly knew her face from his work. A few whispered to each other, wearing knowing smiles, as they walked past the still frozen Chase to undress at Miranda’s urging.

Dara walked toward him, and he snapped out of his stupor to blush. “Can we talk?” she asked as she stepped in front of him.

He nodded, and she gestured back toward the water, taking the lead. Upon reaching the end of the trail at the cove, she heard him take a deep breath.

“Dara, I’m sorry I was such a jerk. I...”

She turned and smiled. “Apology accepted. I understand.”

“But...”

“No buts.” She reached down into one of the two-seat canoes and picked up a paddle. “Come on.”

“Where?”

“Back to my camp. Dad’s out, and I want to be able to talk without anyone around.”

“I... Okay.”

Dara climbed in and picked up a paddle. She nodded to Chase when she was situated, and he carefully boarded behind her. Coordinated paddle strokes soon had them pulling away from the landing.

A pair of geese splashed down in the channel ahead of them, only to take off moments later when the approaching canoe disturbed them. Dara looked back over her shoulder and could see Chase’s anxiety written plainly in his face.

“Relax,” she said, hoping to calm him down a little. After a few more paddle strokes, she looked again to see that it hadn’t helped.

A quick twist of her wrists executed a maneuver that anyone who’s ever paddled a canoe very long knows, sending a targeted splash of water directly at Chase. Once he wiped his eyes, she gave him a brief flirtatious smile and repeated, “Relax.”

As she looked forward again, she saw his eyes brighten, and knew that her smile had sent the message she intended. He also unconsciously picked up the speed of his paddle strokes, which she matched to keep them on course, turning out of the channel and back across the lake.

He still looked anxious as they pulled up to her camp, but with an important difference. Before, he had looked as if he were being led before a firing squad. Now, she saw curiosity and a touch of controlled anticipation mixed in with his nerves.

Once at the top of the trail, she turned to face him and said, “Miranda came over to talk to me a little while after you left this morning – and don’t you dare be mad at her.”

She gave that a moment to sink in, and then continued. “She showed me the pictures of your work.”

His face immediately flushed and he opened his mouth, starting to say something. She reached out, pressing a finger to his lips and flashing him the same smile she’d offered earlier.

“Shh. They’re beautiful.” A brief chuckle shook her. “That’s a little vain, isn’t it?”

He cracked a smile, which caused her to respond in turn.

“There are just so many of them.” Their eyes entwined, as they had twice before, and another moment passed between them.

“I’m always thinking about you,” he said in a soft voice.

She’d fully intended this conversation to turn to helping him confront his father to find some sort of peace – to take things slowly – but her heart had obviously decided its own course. His words and the look in his eyes broke down the final barrier. She leaned forward – lips parting and eyes closing – and kissed him.

The kiss was soft and brief, but sent chills shooting all through her, and made her feel light-headed. She cupped his cheek in her hand, her lips scant centimeters from his, and let out a deeply contented sigh.

They were both blushing when they leaned apart far enough to look at each other again. For a few seconds, they just smiled, gazing at each other, and Dara’s thoughts turned to something that she couldn’t resist.

Letting her fingers brush his lips as she lowered her hand, she lifted one finger and stepped aside to duck into her tent. She emerged with a notepad and pencil, which she handed to him.

“I want you to draw me.”

Without waiting for him to react, she summoned up her nerve and walked toward the trail at the back of the camp. Along the way, she pulled off her t-shirt, tossing it into a camp chair. A moment later, she pulled at the tie of her bikini top, and shrugged it aside as well.

Looking back over her shoulder, she saw him staring in wide-eyed wonder at her bare back. “Aren’t you supposed to be a nudist?” she teased.

His blush, which hadn’t went away by any means, deepened.

Hooking her thumbs beneath both shorts and bikini bottom, she bent and pushed them both down at the same time. Stepping out of them, she tossed them atop the rest of her clothing.

“You too,” she said, and then continued up the trail without looking back – and before she had much time to think about what she was doing.

One image in particular had stuck in her memory, a simple sketch of her as a dryad, mostly hidden behind a tree, but it was one of the few that actually showed a full breast. Naturally, he had a few details wrong, as he’d never seen the real thing. There was a perfect tree along the trail that matched the scene, and she headed toward it.

Slipping in behind the tree, she struck the pose of her hands wrapped around it in a sort of hug with her cheek almost resting against the bark. Just like in the drawing, only her right breast was visible from the front, with the tree concealing the other. Her left leg curled around the tree, hiding other things as well. She was beginning to think he wasn’t able to go through with it for a few seconds, and then he appeared through the undergrowth walking toward her.

She pursed her lips momentarily to hold back a giggle when she saw him holding the notepad in a strategic location.

As soon as he saw her, his demeanor completely changed. He took a couple more steps and sat down, his eyes drinking her in, and touched the pencil to paper.

The reward she’d sought with her leap of faith was evident from the moment he started to sketch. There was nothing sexual in his gaze, only admiration – and love. Her heart pattered as she admired him, his muscular arms and talented hands guiding the pencil through practiced strokes. She had never felt more beautiful or desired in her life, and the minutes slipped by unnoticed.

Chase made one last stroke with the pencil, and then let it rest against his leg. He looked over the notepad for a second or two, and then looked up.

“Is it finished? Can I see?” Dara asked.

He nodded. “It’s just a quick sketch, though.”

She could tell he meant to say more, but words failed him as she stepped out from behind the tree and walked toward him. She knelt, and then sat down next to him, a small oh of excitement escaping her as she saw the image. It was perfect, capturing her in every detail, and almost beaming off the page.

“Chase, it’s beautiful,” she said as she looked up at him.

“You’re beautiful,” he responded, a slight smile decorating his face.

Sitting down the notepad carefully at her side, she heard the pencil slip from his hand and fall in the leaves below as she leaned in to kiss him. The first touch of their lips was soft, but passion overcame them both and the kiss that followed was ardent, prompting them to scoot closer to each other and their hands to roam.

Her nipples stiffened and the chilly tingles between her legs caused her to tremble in his arms. They both moaned simultaneously, and then gasped as their lips parted. At that moment, a bird flew overhead, almost close enough to feel the wind from its wings, and let out a sharp tweet.

Her senses returning in a rush, she said, “Wait,” when Chase leaned in to kiss her again.

“Sorry,” he said, sitting back quickly and looking rebuked.

She shook her head. “No. It’s just that we’re here, our clothes are back there, and my Dad could be back at any minute.”

The first, “Oh,” simply sounded disappointed. The second confirmed that the gravity of her words had cut through.

Laughter in her voice, she said, “Help me up,” and picked up the sketch.

She bit her lower lip as he stood, and she finally noticed his manhood bobbing at full erection. It was just as gorgeous as the rest of him. She cast her eyes down at the ground a moment with her cheeks warming before taking his hand and letting him help her to stand.

They walked hand in hand back down the trail, frequently turning to look at each other in perfect coordination. From the look of his grin, she assumed it was much like hers – so wide that her cheeks were aching.

Once back in camp, she sat the notebook down in a safe spot and dressed – quite reluctantly – while Chase did the same. Once they were clothed once more, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly.

“Ahem.”

They broke from the kiss and turned to see her father standing with his hands on his hips. Chase stiffened in her arms, and she had the distinct impression he was moments from running for his life away from the image of her powerful father staring them down.

She rolled her eyes and chided, “Dad...”

His stern visage cracked and he loosed a booming laugh. “Oh, come on now. What’s the point of looking like this if I can’t have a little fun with it now and then?”

Chase’s sigh of relief was audible as she felt him relax. She gave him a peck on the cheek as her father approached.

“Wondered when the two of you were going to stop walking on eggshells around each other,” Paul remarked as he sat down. “Guess you apologized, huh, son?”

Chase made a small sound in his throat, and Dara looked at him to see him look down at the ground. Her father calling him son had hit in ways that were certainly unintended, and reminded her of what she’d originally planned upon bringing him back to camp.

“You should go talk to your father.”

He shook his head. “I... It’s no use.”

“You need to do this, Chase. You have to at least know you tried. I’ll go with you,” she squeezed his hand.

“Probably the best chance you’re going to get,” her father added. “Catch him in camp, and he’ll stand his ground.”

“I don’t know,” Chase said, and sighed again.

“I do. Come on,” Dara said, tugging him along as she took a step. “You were brave enough to chase your dream. You’re brave enough to do this, and I’m here for you.”

Hesitantly, he took a step – and then another. Sending every ounce of strength she could through their clasped hands, Dara led him down to the canoe.

****

The walk from the landing at the campsite west of the waterfall was slow. Dara was sure that if she weren’t standing at his side, he never would have made it this far. Even she felt a chill grip her heart as they stepped into the camp and Chase’s father turned to see them, his features instantly hardening.

Without a word, Ronald walked toward them, but at an angle surely meant to walk straight past them. Dara saw red, and before she could think about it, she jumped in front of him and said, “No!” She planted her hand firmly on his chest, staring him down. “If you want to run away this time, you’re going to have to go through me.”

“Dad, we need to talk.”

Stunned at first by Dara’s sudden intervention, Ron snapped his gaze to his son. He took several hard, huffing breaths through his nose, and then growled, “Talk about what? Talk about how you ignored your mother’s dying wish?”

“Yes. Damn it, Dad,” Chase snapped back, stepping forward to confront the mountain of a man. “Do you really think that’s what I did? Do you really think I would do that to Mom?”

“You did.”

“No, I didn’t.” He took a deep breath, and his next words were calmer. “Yes, I told her I would go to college. Yes, I dropped out. But college isn’t what she was worried about. She was worried about me running off without a plan – without a future. I have a future, Dad. I’m doing what I like, and I’m making a good living. I’m happy. Secure. That’s what Mom wanted.”

“For now. What if..?”

“No, there are no what ifs. I’m not an idiot, Dad. I’ve been saving and investing. If you’d bothered to talk to me, you’d know that I took EMT training, too. I have a fall-back plan.”

“That’s...” He trailed off, his expression softening – just a touch.

“I’m not doing this again, Dad. I said what I needed to say. If you can’t accept me for who I am, then there’s nothing I can do to change that. If you ever want to, though, just call. I love you, no matter what you think of me.”

Dara looked over at him to see Chase nod back toward the water and turn that way. Before she followed, she stared down his father one last time.

“What do you think would have really hurt her? Him not going to college, or you pretending he doesn’t exist?”

Ron’s shoulders slumped and he looked down at the ground. Without waiting for an answer, she turned and caught up with Chase, clasping his hand.

“Thank you,” Chase said as she fell in step beside him. “I thought I was going to throw up at first. Then when you jumped in front of him...”

“You’re welcome.”

“Do you think he heard a word I said?”

A quick glance over her shoulder to see his father sitting down hard on the ground and putting his head in his hands prompted her to say, “Yes. It’s up to him to make it right now.” She leaned in close, resting his head on her shoulder. “Let’s go back to camp. You’re supposed to be the host, and all your guests are sitting there unattended.”

****

Despite her upbringing, Dara was a little stunned with how comfortable she was around Chase’s friends only a short while after he formally introduced her. She was sitting, chatting with nude people she’d only met less than an hour before – naked as the day she was born.

Chase had seemed as nervous as her at first, but now he sat at her side, chatting and laughing, close enough for their bare skin to touch and holding her hand. She’d already accepted an invitation to come spend Nude Day with them all tomorrow, and said that she was going to try to convince her father as well.

She blushed a little as Miranda and one of Chase’s male writer friends had a casual conversation about how perfect her breasts were, analyzing them down to the smallest bump on her areolae.

“You simply must pose for us tomorrow, darling,” Miranda said. “It’s no wonder you’ve been such an inspiration to our suddenly blushing host.”

Dara looked over to see that he was indeed flushed, and laughed. “Okay.”

A brief burst of static preceded the two-way radio lying atop Dara’s clothing projecting her father’s voice. “Dara?”

Miranda picked up the radio and handed it to her. “Yes, Dad?”

“Ron’s here. He wants to talk to Chase. I told him to wait just a minute or two while I called you before he came over.”

“He heard.” Seeing Chase take a deep breath and nod his head, she continued, “It’s okay for him to come over.”

“I’ll meet him down by the lake,” Chase said.

“He’ll meet him down by the lake,” she relayed.

“He’ll be headed that way in a minute or two,” her father finished.

“Should we get dressed?” one of Chase’s friends asked.

He shook his head. “It’s okay. We’ll stay down by the lake or head to his camp or something.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” Dara asked.

“I think I’ll be okay.”

“Well, you know I’m here if you need me.” She enfolded him in her arms and hugged him close.

Chase stood up and Miranda stood with him. “That goes for us too, darling,” she said, and then they all approached to hug him or shake his hand in turn.

He dressed and headed down to the lake shortly thereafter. The mood in camp was tense when the sound of a canoe approaching followed by hushed voices reached them. Dara had to fight her desire to run down to his side with all her will.

After what felt like an eternity, she heard him walking back up the trail. She stood to wait for him, and when he emerged, he was smiling.

“So, are you going to be okay?”

His smile widened. “We both need a little time to heal, but yeah. I think we’ll be okay.”

Dara walked up and enfolded him in her arms, kissing him, and then turned around to once more retrieve the radio from atop her clothes.

“Dad, could you bring over a couple of jugs of wine? I think it’s time for a celebration.”

****

Chase and Dara said goodnight to the last of the holdouts as his friends headed for their tents. He stretched and let out a yawn, then said, “I’m beat.” He looked up at the sky for a second or two, waving his hand at a mosquito that had snuck into the screen tent to buzz in his ear and remarked, “Not much of a moon, and it’s pretty dark. Maybe you should stay over here instead of going back tonight.”

Dara put one hand on her hip and cocked her head to the side. “Oh? And I suppose I could share your tent? Hmm?”

He let out a nervous chuckle. “That’s not what I meant.”

“I know.”

The truth was, even though she was teasing, her thoughts had very much turned that way. Between the wine loosening her inhibitions and being next to him in the altogether the whole day, she was having more than a little difficulty controlling her steadily building arousal. The light was relatively dim, and flickering since the primary source was the campfire, or he might have very well known that.

Her nipples felt stiff enough to cut glass.

The rational part of her said that she should wait, since this was barely the beginning of a relationship. Her heart and her hormones were having none of that, however.

“Come down to the lake with me,” she said, and then took his hand.

He walked down with her, where the moon reflected off calm waters. The water lapped, lifting the canoes ever so slightly, creating unique music from the aluminum tapping on rock, and paddles shifting within. Crickets chirped, but otherwise all was silent as they stood nude before the water, holding hands.

“Let’s go out,” she suggested.

“Really?”

“Mmm hmm,” she answered and let go of his hand to climb into the back of one of the canoes. “I’ll drive.”

“Shouldn’t we get dressed?”

“Why? Who’s going to see us?”

“Your dad. My dad,” he reminded her.

“Dad brought out his latest concoction this time. He’s started distilling whisky. He figured your dad might like a drink, so he took the jug over for them to test it. They’ll probably test it until they both pass out whether it’s any good or not. Now, come on, or I’ll leave you behind.”

“Okay,” he agreed, and pushed the canoe off the bank before pulling it sideways so he could board.

The channel was easy to navigate, even in the dim light. A much brighter ribbon ran down its center, easily marking the path. Once around the island and in open water, the scenery blended together a great deal more. Dara had been coming here all her life, and knew the area like the back of her hand, though. She knew exactly where she was every moment as they paddled out into the lake, in the general direction of her camp.

“You can really see the stars out here,” Chase remarked.

“Mmm hmm.” Sitting behind him, looking at his muscles play as he paddled, Dara shivered. He looked absolutely stunning bathed in the moonlight. She licked her lips, and surrendered her last little bit of resistance.

“You sure you know where you’re going?” he asked as he could feel the increase in the strength of her paddle strokes.

“Of course. Just keep paddling.”

Dara pointed the nose of the canoe at where she wanted to go, keeping a steady pace that Chase matched. Once near the far shore, he looked around and said, “Isn’t your camp over that way a bit?”

“Yes, but that’s not where we’re going.”

“Where, then?”

“You’ll see.”

She could see Chase’s confusion as they drew up to the finger of the lake that led inland. He had naturally never seen it before, since her mother’s magic masked it from anyone but family. He looked this way and that, either drinking in the scenery or trying to get his bearings as she guided the canoe back to the circular pool at the terminus of the canal.

“I know I’ve never seen this before. We can’t be that far from your camp.”

“It’s our little secret,” she offered by way of explanation, and then turned the canoe so it would drift up sidelong to the shore.

Chase steadied himself and then gave a little hop to make it up the steep, foot-high bank that surrounded the pool. He pulled the canoe closer, found a rock to tie the rope on, and then helped Dara jump up on shore as well.

Grass, moss, and small foliage formed a comfortable bed underfoot as they walked a few steps from the water. Then, Dara pulled him close, kissed him, and sank down to that bed. He knelt down next to her, and she gazed upon him with half-lidded eyes, her near arm lifted in invitation. He lay down next to her, and their lips met.

They kissed softly beneath the stars, her aching nipples brushing against his chest to be tickled by the triangle of hair there. She waited a minute or two to see what he would do, and when he didn’t push further, she took the initiative.

Her next kiss was strong – full of desire. She rolled on her hip, curling a leg around his and pulling him even closer. He groaned into the kiss, matching her passion and reaching up to stroke her hair. She gasped when his lips suddenly darted from hers to kiss her neck, the arm and leg she had draped over him tightening their grip.

Tongues wrangling, their hands stroked over each other’s skin as the kisses grew more hungry by the second, punctuated every so often by his kisses to her sensitive neck that caused her to gasp each and every time. A whimper escaped her when she felt his now erect manhood tap against her skin.

“I want you,” she said in a breathless whisper between kisses. “Please,” she added as she tugged to encourage him to move over her.

He rolled, their bodies moving in perfect sync until he was suspended over her on his knees between her legs – parted just wide enough to accommodate him. He rocked forward on his hands and she parted her lips, only to let out a high-pitched moan when his lips found her left nipple instead.

“Oh yes.” The words tumbled from her lips unbidden as he suckled the stiff bud, lowering his hips until his cock rested against her wet heat. She rocked her hips in a slow, sinuous motion, caressing him with her folds and setting off electric pulses of pleasure as she felt a slippery layer of her wetness form between them.

He switched nipples, his touch gentle and mingled with caresses of his tongue. Feeling as if she were on fire, she let her knees drift further apart and planted her feet. Lifting her hips up and back, she felt the bulbous head of his cock press against her folds.

“Please, Chase. Please,” she begged.

He barely moved, but it was enough. His cock pressed against her nether lips, angling downward and slipping deep into her canal with agonizing slowness.

“Oh god,” she whimpered as he filled her for the first time in so long – and more. A long groan escaped him as his manhood pushed ever deeper, until she felt the hairs at its base tickling her.

She could feel every inch of him tightly squeezed within her satiny embrace. The thick vein running along its length pulsed with his heartbeat inside her. Their lips met, and she closed both arms and legs around him, holding him tight against her with his wonderful cock nestled in her depths.

For long, beautiful minutes, they simply kissed – joined as one. Then he pumped his hips, and though it was surely less than an inch of motion, it was enough to set off a warbling cry of bliss that tumbled from her lips.

Slowly, he pushed against her, stirring his manhood in her depths. His girth tugged at her folds, and the now slippery organ brushed the bottom of her hood, teasing the bud beneath. She began to moan with each subdued thrust, the first sparks of a warm glow building beneath her mound.

Their breathing quickened, sweat beginning to bead on their skin in the humid night air. His pumping hips increased in speed, but with the same short strokes, as if he didn’t want to lose contact with her skin. The minutes ticked by as they coupled on their natural bed beneath a dim crescent of a moon. Their quiet sounds of pleasure mingled with the lapping of the water, and the wind blowing through the leaves above.

The warm pressure within Dara tightened, and sharp moans began to burst from her lips with every thrust. She drew nearer and nearer to a climax, until she at last teetered on the brink.

“Oh. Oh, Chase.”

“Dara,” he groaned, his throat tight.

“I... I... Oh!” She twitched and released a moan broken by pants as her orgasm took hold, spreading all through her in sweet ripples.

Chase suddenly froze in place as her intimate muscles squeezed tighter around him. He groaned, and she felt him swelling – throbbing.

“Oh, yes,” she cried as he pumped his seed into her depths. She swore she could feel it pooling inside her, joining the warm glow of her continuing orgasm. His hot breath washed over her breasts, the sweat glistening there cooling, and adding to her pleasure. They remained joined – trembling – until at last they were both spent.

“Oh, thank you,” she whispered once she could find her breath again.

“Ah, Dara. So...”

“So wonderful,” they both said at the same time, and then chuckled.

She let her legs slide down from where they had rested on his taut butt, and then sink to the ground. He pulled free, and she whimpered in protest, but made no effort to stop him. Instead, she used her hands that were still caressing his back to pull him down into a kiss. Only then did she allow him the reprieve to roll over and lay down wearily at her side. She immediately rolled over to rest her head on his chest.

“Did you?” he asked after a few seconds.

She couldn’t help but giggle. “Yes, silly.”

He breathed a sigh of relief.

“You couldn’t tell?”

“I thought so, but then I...” He stiffened.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to get pregnant.” She knew it was the answer to his unspoken thoughts when he relaxed. He didn’t know – yet – that she couldn’t get pregnant except on Earth Day. It was another quirk of her mother’s heritage.

Turning to look up at him, she asked, “Are you going to get scared and run away if I tell you that I think I’m falling in love with you?”

“I already know I’m in love with you,” he responded, and stroked her cheek with his hand.

“Good answer,” she said as she snuggled in a little closer.

Relaxed in the afterglow of their lovemaking, they held each other and reveled in the closeness they’d both needed more than they admitted. Dara lost a minute or two here and there, and suspected that Chase had dozed a little as well. She found herself tracing the lines of his abdominal muscles, and saw something in her peripheral vision.

When she looked again, she saw his manhood twitch, the soft organ rolling a little against his thigh. She let her fingers drift a little lower, beneath his belly button, and it twitched again – stronger this time. His hand, which had been resting on her back, slipped down to her bottom.

As his cock lengthened and stretched, she tilted her head back and saw him smiling down at her. She pressed her fingers over the helmet of his cock, and felt it throb.

He sucked in a deep breath when she licked her lips, then groaned and let his head fall heavily into the grass when she wrapped her hand around his cock and squeezed. Wetness gathering once more between her legs, she lapped his hardening cock with a broad stroke of her tongue.

By the second lap, it was rising up from his body, and she took him between her lips. The tangy, bittersweet taste of her own juices on him only excited her all the more. His fingers slipped between her legs, and she moaned around him as the digits found her folds. That touch and his fully erect cock stretching her lips caused the banked coals of her passion to roar into flame again.

Needing far more than the tease of his fingers, she pulled back to the tip and let it pop from her lips. She gave the swollen head a peck of her lips, causing it to twitch, and then lifted her knee, rolling over to straddle his body.

His fingers curled around her knees as she closed her eyes and ground her sex against his hardness. His eyes were fixed on her face when her eyes popped open, though they did blink down to her jiggling breasts when she gave a more pronounced rock of her hips.

The ache deep within her cried out for relief, and she leaned forward to balance on her right hand. Her left passed between their bodies, fingers curling behind his stiff cock to stand it upright. A few wiggles poised it at the entrance of her canal, and she sank down on it.

“Yeah, you feel so good,” Chase said as she groaned from the feeling of him stretching her again.

“Oh, so do you.”

Sitting up over him, she swiveled her hips, stirring him in her depths and drawing forth a moan from them both. She planted a hand firmly on her knee, and then let the other glide down her body in a sensual caress to her clit. Two fingers slid onto either side of her hood, and she pinched them together, wiggling the digits as she switched to a forward and back motion with her hips.

“You’re so sexy,” he said as she rode him. “So beautiful.”

“Oh, you’re so hard. It feels so good.”

“Come for me, Dara.”

His words sent chills up and down her spine. Even as she shivered, her hips and fingers both moved faster, giving in to the bonfire of need that had enveloped her.

Wet, squishy sounds emerged as her hips moved faster and in a wider range. Forward and back. Back and forth. All the while, Chase encouraged her with his grunts and the intensity of his gaze on her undulating body.

She saw him wince after one especially hard rock of her hips that pulled against the root of his cock. She slowed and asked, “Am I... Am I hurting you?”

“No. Keep going. I want to see you.”

He hadn’t even finished before she took his words to heart. The two fingers over her clit flashed, sliding the nub against its protective hood with hot friction. The warm knot of pressure in her loins swelled and swelled, until she felt as if she were going to burst. A series of whimpers, moans, squeals, and gasps tumbled from her lips unbidden as the ecstasy and her pace built to a fever pitch.

It hit her with the force of a thunderclap. Colored sparks danced behind her tightly closed eyelids as she lurched and her chin tapped against her chest. She squealed as powerful waves of orgasm wracked her body, causing every muscle to stiffen, and her womb to flutter. She froze – trembling – atop his powerfully throbbing cock, then sucked in a deep breath that caught in her chest when a squeeze of his muscles caused the organ to twitch inside her. She went numb, deaf, and blind for a heartbeat, then a fresh cascade of orgasmic energy caused her to cry out and shudder uncontrollably.

It went on and on until she went limp, supported by Chase’s hands that suddenly appeared on her shoulders, lowering her down until she was resting against his sweat-dampened skin. Still trembling and twitching from aftershocks, she fought hard for breath even as she tingled from the feeling of him caressing her back.

“You okay?”

“I think so. I f-felt like I was going to fly apart.” She cried out when he twitched inside her.

“Sorry.”

“Mmm. No, it’s okay. Oh, my god.”

“I loved it.”

“You didn’t come.”

“Don’t care,” he said, and then chuckled.

She let out a sad moan. “But I do. I can’t move, though.”

“Then don’t.”

But eventually, she had to. Her knees and back began to ache, leaving her little choice. She nearly swooned when she scooted forward to let his cock pop free and slap against his skin. It was all she could do to roll onto her side next to him.

He laid looking at her and smiling, even though he was still hard. It had ceased to bounce, though, indicating that the flow of blood might be leaving it. Feeling guilty, no matter what he said, she reached out and laid her hand atop it.

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” she said as she curled her fingers around it.

He groaned as her hand slid up and down the shaft – still slippery with her juices. A little of her strength returned as his cock throbbed in her grasp, the head swelling and his hips beginning to buck upwards. Her hand pumped faster, and she could see his features tightening. She knew he was getting close.

He grunted when she released him, but she was already rolling onto her back by the time his eyes opened.

“Chase, I want it,” she said as she parted her legs wide.

With a grunt, he sat up and rolled over. A dribble of pre-cum dangled from him as he moved between her legs and took his cock in hand. She whimpered as he penetrated her and it set off a stinging moment of pain, but it was followed by a deeply aroused moan as he started stroking, and she saw the pleasure in his face.

“Ah god,” he growled after only two pumps of his hips.

“Oh yes. Do it.”

A few strokes later, he clenched his teeth and growled again. Once, twice, and then a third time, his body collided with hers, the claps echoing back from the trees. Then, he erupted with an explosive cry.

“Oh yes, Chase. Oh yes,” she cried out as jets of semen pulsed from him and his hips twitched erratically, beyond his control.

His grunts and pants ended with an almost girlish whimper as he dribbled the last few drops into her tight embrace. She giggled as he fell forward on his hands above her, mouth hanging open as he tried to draw air into his lungs.

This time, after a weary dip in the waters of the pool to wash, they were both well and truly spent. Only meaning to relax for a minute or two before walking up to camp, they fell asleep in each other’s arms beneath the open sky.

****

Dara was more than a little embarrassed when she found clothes for her and Chase waiting a short distance up the trail the next morning. She’d thought to sneak into camp for something, but her father had already taken care of it.

Somehow, she pushed back her own desire when Chase awakened ready to pick up where they’d left off the night before. It was only with a promise that they would be picking up where they left off, though – and soon.

They paddled the canoe out of the pool and around to camp, where her father was doing his best not to grin as he served up breakfast. The plan was already in place to spend Nude Day at Chase’s camp, so they were just about to head back when Ronald called from down on the lake.

“Come on up, Ron. The kids are here,” her father answered his old friend.

“Hey, Dad,” Chase said, though he sounded a little nervous.

“Glad you’re here. I wanted to let you know that I’m going to go ahead and head back in. I’ve got some thinking to do. Will you come see me when you come in off the lake?”

“Sure. I might stay in town a couple of days before I head back to pack up, anyway. Still have to find a place here.”

Ronald cleared his throat. “Well, you know your room is there if you want it.”

“Thanks.”

Though he faltered a little at first, Ron stepped forward and opened his arms. Chase didn’t hesitate at all to embrace his father.

Stifling a sniffle, Ron said, “Well, I’ll see you soon, then.”

“Sure thing, Dad.”

“You all keep your eyes open and a camera handy. You’re out here more than anybody else, so you’re more likely than anyone to see whatever that is I got a picture of. I think I may head back out here... Maybe next month.”

“Maybe next week,” Paul said, wearing a wide, knowing grin.

“I wish, but no. Well, I’m going to get going. This hangover is only going to get worse the higher the sun gets.”

“You’re getting soft,” Dara’s father teased.

“That’s what I was telling you when you passed out last night,” Ron countered, and then smiled before nodding and heading back down the trail.

“He looks really good,” Chase remarked after a minute or two. “The life just kind of went out of him after Mom died. It’s good to see him excited again. Too bad you can’t thank a fish.”

When her father chuckled, Dara cast him a warning glance, but he only laughed louder.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Chase said.

“Why don’t we take a walk, you two? There’s a couple things we should probably get out in the open air.”

Gripped by nervous fear, Dara said, “Dad, are you sure...”

“She says now’s the time, and I know better than to argue.”

Chase turned to look at her and asked, “She?”

“Just come along, you two,” Paul interjected.

Dara’s stomach was doing flip-flops, and Chase took her hand. “Are you okay?”

The look of concern in his eyes gave her the strength she needed. “Yes. Let’s go.”

“Where are we going, anyway?” he asked as they started walking behind her father.

“To the pool.”

Chase blushed, and that caused her to crack a smile.

The three emerged from the trail and walked up to the water. Paul turned around and said, “Chase, there’s someone we’d like you to meet.”

He looked around, obviously confused, then she burst up from the water in a cascade of droplets, flipping her tail, and let out a silvery laugh.

“That’s my mom,” Dara said when she saw not fear, but wonder in his open-mouthed stare.

“Your mom?” He let out a little laugh. “Whoa. Hey, is she... She is what Dad saw, isn’t she?”

“He needed to remember good things,” La’isa answered.

“Mmm hmm,” Dara agreed, then she turned to her mother. “This was all you, wasn’t it? Everything?”

Her father said, “She told me the first moment you two laid eyes on each other all those years ago that you were meant for each other, but that you weren’t ready.”

“Now you are,” the naiad confirmed. She swam over to the bank, legs replacing her tail, and climbed up.

Chase fought to keep from staring at the blue-skinned, very nude woman in front of him as she leaned in and kissed his cheek. She then kissed her daughter’s cheek as well before walking over to her mate and snuggling up against him. “Your friends are waiting. Go play. You can come back later.”

The nymph started nibbling on her father’s ear almost immediately, and Dara wisely tugged Chase along. He made the mistake of glancing back at the foot of the trail, and Dara laughed at his gasp when he saw her mother reaching into her father’s pants without the slightest hint of shame. She had only sent them away because he felt uncomfortable with other people around.

Though they had much to keep secret, there was also much to share when they returned to Chase’s camp. With one love reawakened and a new one burning bright, all was right with the world as they celebrated au natural, simply another piece of the whole that was the Beauty of the Wood.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.


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