Spell of the Sorceress

by Brandy Dewinter

Copyright 2011 - All rights reserved


Chapter 1 - "Small Rewards"

Becca Jameson waited for the right moment, then picked up the file she had been saving. Walking over to the file cabinet, she bent from the waist and leaned far, far over to put the file in the lowest drawer. Her reward was a soft, quiet sigh - almost imagined as much as heard - but real nonetheless. Becca tugged her tiny skirt down as she stood up straight and returned to her desk. The target of her attack looked back down at his own work but the memory of the slender young girl with the legs that went on forever was stuck in his mind, making it - ahem - "harder" than ever to concentrate on the papers.

The target of Becca's tease - Bob Adler - was chief pilot for Spenser Aviation. That sounded pretty important unless you knew that he was the only active pilot in Spenser Aviation who was over 23 years old. From his lofty age of 36, the other pilots all seemed like kids playing at flying until they decided what they wanted to do when they grew up. In fact, the 'kids' were all on a better career track than Bob seemed to be on himself. They were sure that, as soon as they gained some experience as slave-wage flight instructors, they would move on to high-pay, high-variety airline jobs. Bob, on the other hand, was probably stuck as a paper-pusher and sometimes charter pilot in a small operation that was more likely to wither over time than grow into anything truly impressive. The boss, Jack Spenser - had been the other senior pilot, but he had failed his last aviation medical and was frankly trying to decide what to do with his company.

No one would say it out loud, but part of the reason he was keeping the company going was to provide a job for his "niece" Becca, the ridiculously pretty young woman whose primary duties seemed to be whatever it took to keep Jack Spenser happy. And, at times, whatever it took to keep Bob Adler unhappy. Case in point: waiting until Spenser was out of the office to strut to the filing cabinet and aim her sleek legs and taut tush at Adler.

She could tease him all she wanted. They both knew he was harmless. He was married to his high school sweetheart just like in all the cute romance stories. Becca knew she was in an entirely different class from Adler's decidedly-past-her-prime wife. In fact, Adler's wife Nicole had never been in Becca's class for beauty, not even in high school. And lately Nicole had seemed to give up. Not letting herself go totally - she still rode her bike and walked their treadmill so she was reasonably fit - but her hair was short, her clothes and shoes were that dreaded word "sensible" and her makeup was limited to occasional lipstick and perhaps a bit of mascara. After all, Nicole knew that her husband was 'harmless', too. Too honest to cheat; too weary to try.

Becca, on the other hand, had impossibly luxurious dark hair hanging nearly to her waist. She always wore tall heels and short skirts and very, very snug tops. Jack Spenser liked her that way, and Becca was very happy to comply . . . especially when she knew that Bob Adler would be working in the office. Adler never knew - he didn't really want to know - whether Spenser asked Becca to tease him as some sort of alpha-male, caught-the-best-female mind game, or whether Becca did the teasing all on her own. It didn't really matter. Adler couldn't help noticing, and couldn't help comparing Becca to his own wife.

The monthly fuel bills were particularly obscene and Adler knew he was going to have to shop around for another fuel supplier. It was one more sticky thread that held him to his desk instead of letting him fly. Even being a primary instructor for newbie pilots was better than paperwork, but Spenser wasn't going to get it done and Adler figured it was up to him to keep the business from closing for yet another month. If he could.

He didn't even look up when the door chime rang as someone entered. There were students coming and going all the time. So it was with some surprise that he twitched when he heard his name.

"Mr. Adler," Becca called, her tone indicating it wasn't the first summons. He looked up to see someone he'd never seen before standing by Becca's receptionist station. Adler was sure he'd never seen the man before because he was much too noticeable ever to forget.

It looked like his skin had shrunk. It was pasty white which was noticeable in itself, but also so tightly stretched over his cheek bones and chin that it looked like the underlying skeleton might poke through at any moment. Only the eyes showed life - but not color. They were the dark, beady eyes of a snake, darting rapidly from spot to spot; as extremely dark as his skin was extremely pale.

When Becca saw that she had Adler's attention, she announced, "Mr. Merlin would like you to fly him on a charter."

"Oh?" Adler said, struggling to regain his focus after the distraction of the man's unique visage. "Where would you like to go, Mister, um, Merlin?"

"I have a meeting in College Station," the man announced, his voice as thin and colorless as his skin.

They negotiated rates for the flight and for the wait time spent on the ground while Merlin attended his meeting, presumably at Texas A&M University since that was clearly the biggest business in or around College Station. It was the classic good-news/bad-news situation. The charter would cover the fixed expenses for Spenser's Cessna 340 for a week, which might just mean one more week before Spenser shut down and Adler lost his job. The bad news was that Adler would end up spending several hours just waiting at the College Station airport.

The trip down was uneventful. Despite his dour appearance, Merlin was very talkative. He inquired into every move Adler made, each control he touched. It was becoming an irritation, but it was a common irritation. It seemed that passengers fell into either the categories of white-knuckled, "scared to fly"; or "frustrated pilot" who dreamed of swapping seats. Adler walked the line between politely informative and focused on flying, and most people seemed to understand when he couldn't respond immediately.

Easterwood Airport (CLL) was equipped to support traffic during Texas A&M home games and the approach was a relatively easy ILS, backed up by GPS. Adler made a good landing - he really liked the 340, despite a tendency to wallow a bit due to the tip tanks - and settled in for a few hours of watching old TV and reading old magazines. He was quite professional about his duties though, so he periodically checked the weather and had a flight plan ready to file. That turned out to be a good habit on two counts. First, he was aware that the weather was deteriorating with building thunderstorms in the area so he had made sure the plane had about four times as much fuel as a direct flight would require - and he was prepared when Merlin showed up an hour earlier than planned.

Adler selected a suitable alternate airport and filed for home, glad he had topped off the tanks. They were in the clouds within 15 minutes of takeoff and Adler’s workload increased greatly, as it always did on instruments. Unfortunately, Merlin was as curious about flying on instruments as he had been about basic flight operations, and his never ending stream of questions added another load on Adler’s concentration burden. They worked their way back to base, flying the published instrument approach to near minimum conditions. With yet another sigh of relief - though Adler himself was not sure whether it was due to the successful approach or just because he would soon be rid of his curious passenger - Adler completed the landing and they were soon back at the Spenser hangar. Merlin did not seem disappointed that his pestering questions had sometimes not been answered. After the flight, he nodded quickly to his pilot and went to the office to settle the account while Adler finished putting the airplane to bed for the night.

He glanced at Becca through the window into the office, thinking once again on the contrast between the too-blatant sex appeal of the secretary and the lost, once-vivacious energy of the woman he had married. Nicole had been the best combination of demure poise, easy beauty, and unabashed joy he had ever seen, but now Becca's unrepentant sensuality offered something that he couldn't seem to see in his slowly dissipating wife.

Becca waved Adler into the office when she noticed he was through with the 340. "Jack called, he wants you to call him back,”

Adler dialed the home number of his boss and found out that all the aircraft should be put in the hangar for the night since Spenser was concerned about the weather. This required a specific packing sequence, not normally done since the smaller, more frequently used training aircraft would need to go clear to the back of the hangar. Yet another sigh from Adler and he went back to start over on putting the airplanes in their places. Yet another day with a dollars-per-hour rate that was insulting, he thought as the afternoon stretched well into evening while he was shuffling aircraft, all with no additional pay.

When he finally got home his wife Nicole was not-really-watching some television show. She still wore surgical scrubs, standard uniform for her hospital laboratory job. They were comfortable and efficient, but hardly flattering. The couple went through a standard, meaningless routine of small talk as they prepared their standard, meaningless meal, then moved to the family room to listen to the noise from the TV.

“So, how was your day?” Nicole asked her husband.

“Not too bad, I had a charter to College Station. Logged 1.1 of instrument and an actual ILS. How about you?”

Adler was shocked when the response from his wife was to break into tears.

“What’s the matter, beautiful?” he asked gently, helplessly.

This made her cry even harder, great sobs shaking her shoulders. He went to her to comfort her and she buried her face in his shoulder, still sobbing, gasping for breath. In between her desperately unhappy gulps, she cried, “I’m not beautiful! I’m old! And getting older.”

“Oh, sweetness, don’t be so down on yourself. You still have many gorgeous years ahead of you, if you want to. I’ll be we could take ten years off you appearance in a month, if you want to try.”

“That’s just it. I don’t want to try. I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘What’s the use?’ It’s just too much bother. I never used to feel that way. I used to be happy to take the time to look good for you.”

“Nicole, listen to me. Calm down. You’re a big girl. Notice I didn’t say an old woman. You need to be an adult though, and face facts. You’re either going to have to commit to spending the effort it takes to be the best you can be, or quit tearing yourself up about something that - in the end - isn't worth the stress."

He pulled his wife into his lap, cuddling her and stroking her hair. "I love you. Only you," he said, surprised to find that it was actually true. "I'll love you until we're both pushing up daisies, regardless of how you cut your hair or what styles you wear. If you want to . . . look better, in some way, then fine. But do it for yourself, and as much as you want for yourself. Okay?"

"Oh, Bob, you are so solid. I don't know what I ever did to deserve you."

"You smiled," her husband said softly. She looked up to find a smile in his eyes, but truth also. "You have the most awesome smile in all of history. The only thing I regret is that I don't see it a little more often."

The smile she gave him was not really one of her best. Her eyes were red and puffy, and drawn in the corners with continuing worry, but it was a smile and it was a start. After a moment, resolve was added to the smile and she nodded. "Okay, my love. In the morning, I'll start . . . something. I'll work on it."

"A smile?" Adler asked, pretending to misunderstand. "Gee, gorgeous, it shouldn't be that hard for you to smile. I must be doing something wrong."

"Oh, you," she said, smiling more genuinely even as she slapped him on the shoulder.

Nicole actually made her first step on her "new" image that very evening. Instead of wearing her typical t-shirt and soft cotton shorts to bed, she selected blue silk pajamas. Bob noticed and sent a message of appreciation with a smile, but he retained the more normal attire. He wasn't even sure he had a pair of pajamas. Together, they snuggled down for a too-short night. Bob, as always, had to get up early in the morning.

Despite the threat of thunderstorms, they had left a window open for air. If it stormed, they could always close the window and a towel on the sill protected it from light showers. In the end, it seemed that light showers were all they had because the air was fresh and clean when the sun poked its morning face into their bedroom.

The open window could have made the room chilly, but Adler felt a strangely comforting encirclement - warm and protecting. It was more than a quilt somehow, yet the cover was localized, mostly on one side and . . . around the shoulders?

The serenity of half sleep gave way to more complete wakefulness, and with it came a scream of shock.

The screamer was an over-the-top stereotype of buxom blondeness. Swirls of long, bright hair twisted everywhere, and that was the least shocking discordance. The body that supported all that hair was long, but not thin. Well, the waist was tiny, but that smallness was accented by a smooth swell of generous hips and twin mounds of more-than-generous exaggeration. She screamed again and struggled out from under a heavy arm that had been the source of that previously comforting warmth. The arm was attached to a broad, deep chest from which a grunt of shock rumbled.

The blonde tried to pull the covers off the bed to conceal herself and squeaked, "Who are you?"

"Who are *you*?" the resonant bass countered. From the perspective of a few feet of distance the woman could see that the man was very tall, very broad-shouldered, and disturbingly blond himself - complete with a neatly trimmed, slightly jutting beard.

"I asked you first," the woman said.

"Yeah, but I live here," the man responded.

"I live here, not you!" she countered, her voice growing shrill and frantic.

The man looked around and said, "This is definitely my bedroom."

The shapely blonde tried to pull the cover around her skimpy outfit of t-shirt and panties and shouted, "Like hell it is! This is *my* bedroom! I'm Bob Adler and I own this house."

"Bob?" the man asked, letting her have the covers without concern for his own concealment. His pajamas were quite adequate for his own needs. "But . . . you're a girl!"

"No shit, Sherlock. I noticed," she said dryly, the agreement on at least one observation working to calm her down somehow.

"But," the man continued, "I'm Nicole!"


He repeated, "I'm Nicole. I'm . . . your wife!"

"Not any more," a thin voice said from the doorway to their bedroom.

The man who stepped through was a stranger to one of them, but instantly recognized by the other.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" the blond man who claimed to be Nicole Adler asked, standing and moving to an instinctive protective position between the intruder and the frightened woman.

The blond woman who claimed to be Bob Adler answered for the intruder. "This is the client I flew on the charter yesterday . . . Merlin."

"Indeed I am," the pale-faced man confirmed. "Bleys Merlin, and I'm much more pleased to meet you than I expect you are to meet me."

"What's going on?" demanded Nicole.

"As, ah, perhaps 'Roberta' has just pointed out, I had her fly a charter for me yesterday. You can consider that it was a test, of sorts."

"What kind of a test?" Roberta demanded.

"All in good time," Merlin said, a thin, unpleasant grin showing on his tight face. "I think the most important point at this time is to establish that, in addition to being a client of your flight service, I'm also a sorcerer."

"A sorcerer?" Roberta repeated. "Merlin, the sorcerer? That's just crazy!"

"Perhaps," the self-proclaimed sorcerer said, apparently unbothered by the diagnosis. "But nonetheless true."

Roberta shook her head, sending blonde locks flying through what seemed like half the room. "I don't believe in sorcerers, or magic, or . . . whatever."

Merlin's colorless face showed a smug, nasty little grin and he waved his hand at her over-curved body. "Frankly, I care very little whether you believe in magic . . . though in a very short time you're going to care a great deal."

Nicole - or perhaps Nicolas now - moved to intercede again with his massive bulk, but his tone was calming. "Why did you do this to us?"

Merlin turned his dark eyes on the man and said, "I'll tell you in my own time. For now, I wanted to get through the silly phase of your response to what has happened, and to see that you start to cope with it. Let it be that I have transformed you for my own purposes and that you need to demonstrate the ability to cope with the change."

"Why?" Nicolas asked again.

"Because I said so, and that's all you need to know for now," Merlin said impatiently.

"No, I meant, why should we do anything for you?" Nicolas persisted. "Change us back, and then we'll see if we can do . . . whatever it is you want. Surely we can be more effective without this . . . handicap."

Merlin laughed - a small, tight, unpleasant laugh - and said, "So, you consider that big, strong body to be a handicap? You have no idea."

He gestured negligently, and there was a loud crack. The blond man fell to the ground with a groan of agony, clutching at his right leg. Then there was another crack and one arm dangled with an obvious extra bend between the shoulder and elbow. Another crack and the side of his face dished in, then a series of snapping sounds zipped from his pelvis to his shoulders.

"There are, so it is said, 206 bones in the human body. How many breaks will it take for you to believe me?"

"Help him!" Roberta demanded.

"Or what? Will you continue to resist my wishes?"

"How can we?" Roberta replied, still looking at the writhing man between them.

"Exactly," Merlin said smugly. With another gesture, Nicolas's limbs and joints reformed, and he was whole again - panting with the stress of lingering pain and over-tensioned muscles, but well-shaped and apparently uninjured. When the re-formed man had a moment to regain his feet, the sorcerer continued, "There are many worse things than being young, healthy, and attractive. I can arrange very unpleasant circumstances as easily as I have arranged your current forms.

Nicolas was not fully repentant, despite his recent experience. "Unpleasant? This already sucks!"

"Don't make me show you again," Merlin warned.

Nicolas was apparently not convinced. He launched himself at the grinning sorcerer only to find himself frozen in mid leap. Merlin moved easily aside and laughed his nasty little laugh again as he walked from the bedroom. As soon as the door closed behind him, Nicolas fell to the floor with a sharp thump, still rigidly frozen but apparently again subject to gravity.

Roberta tiptoed over to the man who seemed to have replaced her wife, realizing as she moved that she had been standing on tiptoe ever since she left the bed. A moment's experiment revealed that she couldn’t put her feet flat on the floor - at least, not without sharp, intolerable pains in her ankles. Cursing silently she put that down as an issue to be addressed later.

It wasn't clear that anything she did helped to revive the rigid man, but in a few minutes Nicolas unfroze and moaned. "Are you hurt?" she asked.

"Not really," Nicolas replied. "I ache all over, but there don't seem to be any specific problems. "How about you?"

When his attention turned to her, he saw a beautiful woman in a loose t-shirt bending over him, and despite everything he was instantly aroused - so fiercely that he groaned again.

"What's wrong?" Roberta asked.

"Nothing," Nicolas replied. "I mean, other than being a guy, and you being a girl, and . . . I mean, what else can go wrong?"

His comment might have succeeded better if he has been looking at Roberta's eyes when he spoke. However, his attention was fixed on the shapes hanging before him, and in particular on the very hard buttons shaping the t-shirt. His eyes crossed as he looked at first one, then the other.

"You jerk," she snapped. Dropping his head, she fled to the bathroom. As soon as she crossed the doorway she felt a compelling need to pee, but even that urge was momentarily forgotten when she caught sight of herself in the bathroom mirror.

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "I'm beautiful. I'm a damn joke, but . . . damn . . ."

Turning to the side, she pulled her t-shirt tightly around her curves and murmured, "I wanna be Barbie. That bitch has everything."

The image showed bad news to go with the good - if looking like an exaggerated plastic toy can be considered good - and she frowned. A moment's search found Nicole's brush and she began to pull her hair into order. In just a few minutes it looked quite tidy, very thick waves rolling to just below her waist. Roberta smiled in appreciation before frowning again. She looked at the brush in her hand liked she wondered how it got there. Putting it back she took care of the still-necessary physical relief, then took a robe from a hook on the wall and wrapped it around herself. Though it was 'her' old robe - as Bob - it fit surprisingly well aside from being large enough in the waist that the belt fit around her twice. With one last glance in the mirror, she went back into the bedroom.

Nicolas had recovered enough to get up off the floor and was sitting on the side of the bed. Roberta went to sit beside him.

"What do we do?" she asked.

Nicolas replied, "I don't know."

Roberta sighed - a motion that didn't help Nicolas retain his focus on her face - and said, "This body is just . . . ridiculous."

The man sitting beside her smirked for a moment, though it was clear he was trying to put a serious expression on his face. "Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't agree. You look awesome."

Roberta snorted in a not-very-ladylike way and said, "Yeah, right. This is a damn Barbie doll body - all boobs and hair. Nobody really looks like this."

"Well, apparently you do, at least for now."

She frowned at him. "You seem to be taking this pretty well."

Nicolas grinned and flexed his impressive muscles. "What's not to like?"

"Are you saying you *want* to be a man?"

He shrugged. "Not like, as a driving lifelong ambition. But . . . haven't you ever been curious? I mean, about what it would be like from the other side?"

"No!" she replied sharply, but she blushed. And though she looked away he could see doubt in her eyes.

Nicolas stood up and said, "Look, the guy said we need to get out and show we can function in society. I think that means we need to get dressed and . . . well, go out."

She shook her head. "I'm not going out looking like this!"

"Why not? You're gorgeous. If I looked like you - I mean, back when I was Nicole - I'd have wanted to go out all the time."

Roberta frowned, "But you didn't want to go out? At least, not lately. And you could have, I mean, you were beautiful, too. A lot more attractive than . . . this."

She held up a hand when Nicolas started to say something. "No, really. I look like a plastic toy. People will assume I have a room temperature IQ - in Nome! And despite the stereotypes, men don't really want high-maintenance, helpless bimbos. It'll take me an hour just to wash all this hair and then what do I do with it?"

This time she let Nicolas make a comment. "Well, thanks for being so . . . nice about the, um, the old me. But I was a bit toward the . . . too-low maintenance side. Don't argue with me, either. You know it's true. Anyway, I'll be happy to show you some things about coping as a woman, but I'm afraid you're right about the time it will take for your hair. I can help with that too, though. Let me wash it for you."

As they walk toward the bathroom, Nicolas noticed that she was walking on her toes. "What's wrong with your feet?"

"It hurts to put them flat."

"Man, that's bad news. We'll have to find you some shoes."

There were his-and-her closets in the bathroom and there were female clothes in one, with male clothes in the other. That was the extent of the similarity to their previous contents. The men's clothes were fairly typical, though in a much larger size that would fit Nicolas. The women's clothes were not similar to those Nicole had worn. The first word that came to Roberta's mind was 'flashier' when she saw them. There were a lot of softer, less-durable fabrics in a lot brighter colors. And all that she could see right away were skirts or dresses - very short skirts - and fitted or stretchy tops.

And shoes. Lots of shoes. All of which had towering heels.

"Well, I can see why my feet are so screwed up," she sighed. "It clearly wasn't an accident."

"It'll actually be easier for you to walk in them than standing on your toes," Nicolas promised. "But not until after we get your hair done."

Roberta took a quick shower, not realizing at the time that her skin was unnaturally smooth and hairless so she was spared anything more than a quick wash. Her hair got wet but Nicolas said not to worry about that. When she was out of the shower, her . . . spouse took her to the sink and spent an inordinately long time washing, conditioning, and eventually drying all that hair.

"I should just cut all this off," Roberta complained.

"Not yet," Nicolas said. "I don't think any of this is unimportant to Merlin. We need to see why he did this to us before we make any changes."

"Oh, I know that," Roberta agreed grumpily. "But I can see why you cut your hair short."

"Yeah, well, I can see why you were disappointed when I did," countered Nicolas. "It's . . . very sensual, the way it flows over you. It's beautiful."

"And high maintenance," Roberta reminded him.

He laughed and said, "Okay, that's true."

He helped her to her feet and gave her a gentle nudge toward their closets. "Why don't you pick something out to wear and I'll take my own shower?"

She nodded and they moved to their separate tasks. Roberta's mind was leaping from one impossible impression to another incredible realization, and none of it was making sense. She heard the words that Merlin had said, and couldn't deny the changes in her body, but magic? Really? It just wasn't . . . real, was it?

When Nicolas stepped into the bedroom after his own shower, he saw the blonde woman who was apparently his spouse, and stopped. Then he whistled. "Lookin' good, babe!"

"Babe? Who are you calling a babe?"

"Well, gorgeous, if the shoe fits . . . or in this case, those cute sandals."

Roberta looked down at her outfit and realized that she had chosen a nicely coordinated outfit in blues and grays, never realizing what she was doing. In a shocked flashback, she remembered that the lingerie under the short, tight skirt and revealing top were smoky gray wisps of cobweb that shouldn't have been adequate to support her oversized bosom and wide hips. Nor should she have been able to walk in the ankle-straining sandals, though in fact her feet were comfortable for the first time since she got out of bed.

"Ohmigod," she finally said. "I just . . . I wasn't thinking and I just . . . did it!"

Nicolas nodded and said, "It would seem that Merlin's magic has a psychological dimension as well as the physical one."

Roberta snorted, "Ya' think? I can't believe you're so blasé about all this . . . that you just don't care what has happened to me!"

"Hey, babe, I care. I really do. It's just . . . I don't know . . . it doesn't seem that bad. I mean, you're so pretty it hurts, and . . . well, if I have to be a guy, this is an awesome bod."

He paused, and frowned before continuing, "Except . . . "

Roberta said bitterly, "What's the matter? Is something not perfect in your new little world?"

Nicolas grimaced and pulled at his belt. "It's just . . . I mean, how do you control this thing?"

Roberta smirked at his discomfort. Licking her lips, she purred, "What's the matter, baby? Something a little uncomfortable?"

Then her face clouded over and she started to cry. "I can't believe I just did that! Oh, god, if he's made me into a slut, I'm gonna kill myself!"

She ran to the bathroom and slammed the door. Nicolas could hear deep, wracking sobs on the other side.

He called from the doorway, not sure what to do. "Bob . . bie? Bobbie, honey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean . . . I'm sorry. Let me in?"

He didn't hear any response - other than continued sobs. After a moment he pushed gently on the door to find it unlocked. Bobbie was sitting on the toilet, crying with gasping breaths that were too tight to provide much sound. He went to her and put his arm around her, then pulled her to her feet and wrapped her in his huge embrace. "Take it easy, babe. We'll get through this. Somehow. Trust me."

"Oh, Nicky," she whispered into his massive chest, "do you really think so? How can we live like this?"

He squeezed a little tighter, welding them together with his strength. "One day at a time, I guess. Just like everyone else."

She started to make some response, but he squeezed her again. "I'm not saying it will be easy. I'm sure I don't know - that we don't know - all the things that we'll have to overcome. And that's not even including whatever else that asshole has in mind for us. But I promise you, we'll work it out. Whatever it takes."

For a while they just stood there in silence, but it was silence - no longer filled with heartbroken sobs. With the same sensitivity that had made Nicole so magical, Nick knew when it was time to move on. He held the shapely blonde away from himself . . .something that he was surprisingly reluctant to do. "But in the near term, you need to let me have this room so that I can shave. Hopefully I won't cut my throat. Why don't you go make us something for breakfast?"

Bobbie stiffened. "What, so I'm the 'little woman' now? It's my job to cook and clean and whatever while you watch TV and swill beer?"

"No, honey, that's not it at all. I just think you'd be better off doing something productive while I get ready. Something better than just dwelling on things we can't fix right away. But do what you want. Hell, go cut the grass and change the oil in the truck if you want. Just don't let yourself spiral into somewhere that . . . well, that you don't need to go. Okay?"

Bobbie nodded and moved out into the bedroom. She had decided to go to the kitchen despite her complaint, but as soon a she saw herself in the bedroom mirror - the one over the dresser strewn with Nicole's cosmetics - she just had to stop. First, she needed to clean up her tears. But after she had cleansed her face it just didn't seem right not to add a little color to lips and cheeks, and add a little definition to her eyes.

Part way through her toil she realized that she knew what she was doing, but had no clue how she knew. It was just easier to go along than to fight her body's urges . . . and that was something else to worry about even though it was satisfying at some level. It was more important right then, in her stressed-out near-panic, to cling to some sense of normalcy than to worry about just how much of her behavior was compulsion, and how much was . . . herself? Did that even make sense?

"I've been thinking of myself as a woman since . . . about the time that Merlin left," she realized. "My issues are with how to cope with being a woman, not denial of . . .well, the obvious. And I see, or feel, or whatever, Merlin's hand in that, too."

She was looking at her finished appearance when Nick walked into the room. He stopped like he had run into a glass wall. Then he gave a long, slow whistle that was both wonder and lust. Despite herself, Bobbie's cheeks dimpled in a smile.

Nick sighed with relief when his instinctive response was accepted by the beautiful blonde in his bedroom. "Well, at least you kept busy. And if you don't mind my saying so, I think you made excellent use of your time."

That second compliment would have been easier to accept if he hadn't accompanied it with a leer and an eyebrow workout of suggestion.

But Bobbie was still caught up in the pleasure of her own beauty, a wonder that wasn't as much pride as amazement that any real woman could be that pretty. And perhaps, lurking inside, was enough of the old Bob that he could understand Nick's response. "Oh, Nicky, you are such a . . "

Her voice became very quiet, then she continued, "Such a guy, I guess."

Nick's response was equally quiet, and pensive, "Yeah, I guess so. I know that when I look at you, well, I can't help myself. I think you are so incredibly hot that I can't help . . . thinking about it."


Nick blushed, which was charming on such a rugged visage . . . something that Bobbie noticed - and felt guilty for noticing. "Well," he said, "I meant thinking about how beautiful you are, but . . . I'd be lying if I didn't admit there are . . . other thoughts as well."

Bobbie flinched at his words, hunching her shoulders and trying without much success to conceal her bosom between her arms. "I'm sorry, Nick, but I'm not . . ."

Nick shrugged even as he helped her finish a though that had seemed to founder on the rocks of her confusion. "It's okay, beautiful. I'm not ready . . . well, my body may be, but mentally I'm not ready, either. Not really."

Bobbie laughed a dry, tight laugh with little humor. "Pardon me, Nick, but bullshit. You're so ready you can't even stand up straight."

Now it was Nick's turn to laugh wryly. "Tell me about it. But I'm uncomfortable with the idea, too. I mean, I've never, not even in college, never . . . experimented or anything. And in my mind, the idea of being with a woman is y'know, just . . . wrong. Regardless of how Merlin has wired this body, some of Nicole's mind is still in here, complete with some very . . . strong feelings."

He moved to Bobbie and pulled her into his arms again. "Strong feelings that include many, many memories of how special Bob is to me, and I can . . . feel Bob in there, inside that incredible body. Can't you?"

Bobbie nodded into his chest, enjoying the sense of protection, but if Nick could have seen her eyes he would have recognized a lurking conflict to match his own. Bobbie knew that despite her own years of sexual identity, her body was very, very aware of the masculine strength, the now-very-noticeable scent of the man who held her . . . and that the idea of surrendering to that power was not at all unthinkable.

At least, not any more.

Once again Nick's sense of timing was exact and he squeezed Bobbie one last, delicious time before leaning back. "So, where do you want to go?"

"I don't know."

Nick poked her in the arm with a thick finger. "Didn't you hear? They closed that place down. It got too crowded."

"What? Oh, you . . ."

Once again, Bobbie's thought ran down, but this time she didn't need any help to finish her sentence. It was just that the wonder of it took a moment to absorb. "You really are still Nicole on the inside too, aren't you?"

Nick nodded. "I guess so. I mean, I feel different in lots of ways - including the way I feel when I look at how beautiful you are - but in some ways . . . I guess I'm still me."

"Good, 'me,'" she said. "If I really, truly lost Nicole . . . I don't think I could take it."

He hugged her again, but didn't hold the embrace. Instead he lightly caught her chin in his fingers and lifted it so that she had to look directly at him. "Well, Gorgeous, if there's any left of Bob in there at all - and I'm definitely betting there is - you'd find a way. You're the most capable person I've ever known. This is just one more problem to solve."

Bobbie stiffened again, frowning. "You're kidding. This is bigger than anything we've ever had to face!"

"Yes it is," he agreed calmly. "But I'm still betting on us. I guess I just feel like . . . I don't know . . .that we can handle this. I'm not sure how or why, but I just feel . . . capable."

She stepped back and put her hands on her hips. "Don't let that macho crap get the better of you. You're still human."

He frowned, but not in argument. "You think this is part of the sex change thing? That I'm all 'Joe Problem-Solver' now that I'm a guy?"

"Maybe," she confirmed.

His eyes lost focus for a moment, then he shrugged and smiled at her again. "Well, maybe you're right. Doesn't change anything, though. I still think we'll work our way through it."

"Oh, Nicky, I hope so," she said, relaxing with another sigh.

Chapter 2 - "I Want To Go Shopping!"

Suddenly, Bobbie frowned again. But the frown turned into a small, wry smile, and then a larger grin, and then an outright laugh.

"What's wrong?" asked Nick.

She tried to frown again, but the laughter kept leaking into her eyes and her lips. "If I get a chance I'm going to skin Merlin and tan his hide for a purse, but . . . I just realized that I want to go shopping."

"Shopping?" Nick repeated.

"Yes," Bobbie confirmed. "Look, you saw what's in your, um, my closet. All the clothes are either short little skirts or long flowing gowns - in other words, Barbie doll clothes. I need some pants, and some reasonable shoes, and well . . . clothes."

"Dear lord," Nick sighed. "Well, they say payback's a bitch . . ."

"Yeah, right," Bobbie said, and then found herself trapped in a giggle that just wouldn't stay inside.

Bobbie needed a little help setting up a purse, but Nick had some expertise in that area. When Bobbie pulled out the license from her, that is, from Bob's wallet, she saw something she didn't expect.

"Look at this," she told Nick.

She showed him a driver's license for Roberta Elaine Adler, age 22, height 5'10", weight 145. "I'll bet 10 pounds of that is all this hair, and at least 20 are from these oversized boobs," she observed.

"You look awesome," Nick supplied again. "I don't know exactly what the standard weights are for your height, and I don't care. I think you're perfect."

"Why thank you, kind sir," she said, dipping in something that might have been a quick curtsey, then blushing at the reflexive motion.

"But I'm really 36," she noted.

"Are you?" Nick asked, then continued before she had a chance to respond. "I know that's how old Bob was and that you have the experience and mature judgment of Bob, but how old is your body? How old would a doctor say that body was, based on the physical characteristics?"

"I guess I didn't think about that," Bobbie admitted. Then Nick could see a sense of pleasure flow through her flawless features as the impact of being younger became more real to her. After a moment, she asked, "What does yours say?"

Nick was younger, too - but apparently Merlin was a traditionalist because Nick's new age was 24, just older than Bobbie, though Bob had been a year older than Nicole. His own dimensions were more impressive: 6'5", 240 pounds, and - if Bobbie's perceptions were accurate - with a body fat percentage in the low single digits. He looked like a mobile mountain of corded muscle. Somehow, thinking about his measurements made her really look at him . . . and her newly prominent tattletales revealed that her appraisal was appreciative.

Their opinion might not have been too noticeable, except Nick's eyes seemed to return to her out-thrust bosom every third breath or so - her breaths, not his - and he didn't really try to hide a smirk at the too-obvious signs of her interest. She busied herself in moving the rest of her documentation into the handbag provided from Nicole's legacy and tried to hide her blush behind a tumble of golden halo. It didn't really work but Nick had the sensitivity to allow her a moment to recover her composure. In a few more minutes, both were ready.

Bob's car was behind in the drive and Bobbie moved to the driver's side without thinking about it - to find Nick heading for the same spot.

"Oops, sorry," Nick said. He smiled and turned it into a gallant gesture by helping her with her door. "Are you going to be able to drive in those heels?"

"I guess we'll find out," Bobbie replied. Driving wasn't the first problem to solve, though.

"Geez, my legs are way longer in this body than in my old one," she said, sliding the seat backwards. "Even aside from these silly shoes. I thought I was about the same height, but . . ."

"I don't think they're silly," Nick said reflexively. "I think they're hot, and you move in them a lot better than I ever did."

"Thanks, I think," Bobbie said, smiling at him.

The seat belt was another challenge, resolved with some more help from Nick. Then she found that her arms would barely reach the steering wheel when the seat was far enough back for her legs. "I'm going to need a pad for my back," she complained.

"Looks like it," Nick said. "I'll, um, drive if you want me to."

"Thanks, but I still need to get used to this sometime."

At least she knew the way to the mall. It was as intimidating as always and she just couldn’t face the idea of looking through a hundred small shops that seemed focused on 15-year-old girls. So she picked a fairly upscale department store that had a whole range of clothes. Nick was helpful for a short while but when it came time for Bobbie to start trying on clothes he wandered off to a display of large-screen TVs, some of which were showing sports of one sort or another.

Bobbie found a very stylish pair of jeans that fit her long legs, even with the heels. In fact, they fit every one of her curves below a very-low-rise waist. She added a pair of boots with just as much height of heel, but a broader, non-stiletto base. They were wonderfully comfortable and she considered wearing the new outfit, but a few bright tops caught her eye and she decided she might want to change all at once, later.

She had another surprise when she was finally ready to pay for her spree. When she was looking through her purse for her credit cards she found a thick wad of cash that she knew hadn't been there when she transferred her identity documents. "That bastard is a nasty son-of-a-bitch," she thought, "but he's not a tightwad."

The counter where she was paying was at a convenient height and without actually thinking about it she leaned forward to rest her oversized bosom on the ledge.

"Oh, god, that feels good," she murmured, not really thinking anyone would hear.

The clerk - Jordan from her nameplate - said, "How do you stand those things? I thought I had it bad, but lordy girl, you look like some adolescent boy's fantasy."

"Tell me about it," sighed Bobbie. "They are ssoo heavy. My back is killing me."

"Have you considered, y'know, a reduction?" Jordan asked.

"I may," Bobbie said, wondering how much trouble she'd be in with Merlin if she did do something like that.

After she paid, she found Nick and they decided to have an early lunch since they never had gotten around to fixing any breakfast. When they were seated, Nick asked Bobbie how she was doing.

"Okay, I guess," she answered with yet another in what seemed like a long string of sighs.

Nick winced in sympathy. "My feet would be screeching in agony by now."

Bobbie shrugged. "Actually, my feet aren't too bad. The only problem is that the straps on these sandals are pretty thin and they're biting into my feet a little. But I tried on some boots and they're fine so the heels themselves are not any real problem. Except, my stride is limited to about six inches, it seems. I have to take a lot of steps to get anywhere."

"It's not that bad," Nick said, laughing. "But they do make you take shorter steps. You seem to have that down, though. You move like a breeze flowing across wildflowers."

"Wow, listen to you!" Bobbie said, laughing. "You're a poet."

"You're my inspiration," Nick answered with another comic leer of his bushy brows. Then he continued, "Y'know, if you could learn the spell to let women walk in heels without pain, you'd made a zillion dollars."

"Hey, that reminds me," Bobbie said. "Look at this."

She opened her purse to show the wad of cash that had appeared. "It looks like Merlin is watching out for us."

"I guess so!" Nick said. And then it turned out they were both right.

Merlin walked into the restaurant and sat down like he had been expected. "So, you managed to get out of the house," he said smugly.

Nick nodded, then moved to the real issue. "Why are you doing this to us?"

Merlin smiled his nasty, tight smile, and said, "In short, it's because I can."

"What?" asked Bobbie.

"Because I can," Merlin repeated. "I have the power and I enjoy using it for whatever I want to do."

"Why you . . ," Bobbie started, but Nick laid a hand on her arm.

"Why *us*?" he said. "Why not some other couple? Why not a couple who were already the right sexes for whatever you have in mind?"

Merlin leaned back in his chair and smirked at their distress. "I am a sorcerer. I told you that. Disney movies aside, do you know the difference between a sorcerer and a wizard?"

Bobbie thought a moment, then said, "Isn't a sorcerer into, like, evil things?"

Merlin nodded. "Close enough. My power comes from what in other ages was considered 'black' magic. I gain power from pain and suffering . . ."

He could see Nick start to swell up, but held a hand to caution the big man. "Oh, your own suffering is so small on the scale I operate that it doesn't even matter. No, you are just pawns in a much, much larger game. Many people - nearly everyone I meet, in fact - think I'm a mean, selfish bastard. And you know what? I don't care."

Surprisingly, his tight face relaxed for a moment and the closest thing to a gentle expression he had ever shown appeared. "There is one person in the whole world, in many generations of the world, who cares for me. I would do anything for her. Anything. She's my many-times-removed granddaughter. You're going to help her be happy."

"Who?" asked Bobbie.

"Her name is Lola Allwind, and I have the power to see that whatever she wants, she gets. And in this case, I will exercise that power through you."

Bobbie looked at him for a moment, then gasped and almost giggled, "Did you really just say, 'Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets?'"

Merlin smirked again, then nodded. "It's not the first time I've, ah, indulged one of my granddaughters. A song about it is a relatively minor memorial. She's not even the Lola to whom the song refers, though her grandmother is."

Nick tried to get back to the main issue. "So, where do we come in?"

Merlin nodded at the question, then said, "My granddaughter has some . . . idiosyncrasies. Some . . unusual desires."

Nick pulled back and winced. "Uh, oh. I don't like the sound of that and we still don't even know where we come in."

Merlin resurrected his nasty little smile and said, "It's time for the carrot and the stick. The stick is that I will literally turn you into bitches in heat, throw you into a pen of mad dogs, and laugh when you get put down. I'm not joking. Piss me off for real, and you'll both be gang raped by a bunch of mangy street curs."

Bobbie didn't seem to be as frightened as the pale-faced man wanted. In fact, she looked like she was gathering air for a fairly impressive scream - certainly it appeared she had the lungs for it - when Merlin continued.

"The carrot is: If you do what I want - willingly, and so that Lola is pleased - then in about a year I'll give you a $3 million-dollar-yacht, and that much more in cash. In the meantime, you'll be living on the yacht, all expenses paid, and cruising from the Chesapeake Bay to Alaska."

His nasty little smile turned even more sly and he added, "And here's the really fun part - at least for me. At the end of that time, I may turn you back into who you were before. Or I may not. Or . . ," his smile reached a new level of smug arrogance, ". . . maybe just one of you."

Nick snarled, "You really are a son of a bitch, aren't you?"

Merlin just laughed a cruel little laugh, and held up his hand to forestall whatever Bobbie wanted to add. "On the cruise you will be the captain and mate and my granddaughter will be your passenger. She may invite a few friends along for part of the trip, but none for longer than a week or so at a time. The yacht only has sleeping accommodations for six, plus a couch or two. Lola wants to take a year off from college and she decided she'd like to cruise on a yacht. I'm going to see that she gets that wish."

"Why us?" asked Nick. "We don't own a yacht. We've never run a boat big enough to live aboard, let alone one that can cruise the open sea."

Merlin shrugged of his concern. "Running a yacht like that is relatively easy." He turned to Bobbie and continued, "That's why I took a flight with you. I wanted to see if you were appropriately disciplined, able to handle distractions - politely when the passenger was the distraction - and skilled. If you can run an airplane, you can run a medium-sized yacht. I'll see you get the training you need."

Bobbie finally took a chance to ask a question, though it was still the same question. "But . . . why us? Surely there are actual captains who have already proven their abilities at sea."

Merlin's tight face returned to his nasty smile. "Ah, but that was only the final selection criterion. Not many meet the others."

"Other criteria?" Nick repeated. "You've changed our whole lives, our very bodies! What else matters?"

The sorcerer looked at the big man and asked, "Now that you're, ah, on the other team, so to speak, do you know why girl-girl sex is so commonly arousing for men?"

"No," Nick replied disgustedly. "And I don't care."

"How about you?" Merlin now challenged Bobbie.

"Just get on with it," she replied sharply.

For just a moment a frown showed on Merlin's dry skin, but he changed that to gloating condescension instead. He turned back to Nick and explained. "Men like to think that if a lesbian only met the right man - a truly great lover - that she'd decide that men were better after all. It is their common fantasy to be that great lover. So, if they see two girls having sex, they want to become part of that and show the women how great real sex can be."

Bobbie asked, "What's your point?"

"Lola has the mirror image of that fantasy," Merlin said simply.

"What?" asked Bobbie.

Merlin smiled his nasty smile and said, "Lola believes that even a fully heterosexual woman, happily married to a handsome man, can still be seduced by another woman . . . if it's the right woman."

Bobbie snorted. "And she's the right woman? What a crock!"

This time Merlin's face set in a sharp scowl, and held it. "You need to make her think it's true - or you won't like the last few days of your barking, whining life."

Bobbie was shocked enough by the hatred in that declaration to gasp before responding, and that give Nick time to intercede. "Again, why us? I'm sure there are lots of married female pilots, or ship captains, or whatever out there."

Merlin's scowl eased back into smugness, and he said, "Ah, but that's where my own artistry comes in. That's where my power is so elegant. That's where I take a simple fantasy and make it . . .magnificent!"

If he expected a response, he probably didn't get the one he expected. The couple turned to look at each other and they knew that identical thoughts were in each mind. Merlin was powerful - bad enough - and insane, which was a very, very scary combination.

Merlin laughed at the worry on their faces, then continued. "Actually, Nicole, you are the one who gets the most credit - or blame - for your selection."

"What?" Nick asked, responding without thought to his former name.

"In some cases, Lola may be right," Merlin said. "When the 'husband' is selfish in sexual relations, there are . . . pleasures that remain untasted. Pleasures in which Lola is quite skilled. She just may be able to seduce into Sapphic love a woman married to such a selfish man."

"Selfish?" Nick repeated, not realizing that Bobbie's perfect brow was furrowed with confusion - and something of a guilty flavor. Yet somehow, something of a sense of gratification as well.

Merlin asked, "When you were Nicole, were there any sexual techniques that you refused to do with Bob?"

"That's none of your business," Nick snapped.

Merlin's dry face showed that nasty grin they had come to hate so intensely. "Perhaps you are right . . . by your standards. But I make my own rules, and one of those is that my business is whatever I say it is. Answer the question."

In an insane moment of amusement, Bobbie saw some of the old Nicole show through when Nick tried to find some way to tell Merlin what to do with his demand . . . but Nicole had never been into casual vulgarity, and the words - or perhaps just the f-bomb - didn't come easily to her. Nor, apparently, to Nick. His face reddened and his mouth worked for a moment as he tried to frame an appropriately angry reply. It was enough time for Bobbie to intercede.

"Nicole was a wonderful lover," Bobbie claimed. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Loyalty, my dear, is admirable only when it does not become an excuse for mendacity," pronounced Merlin. He looked back and Nick and continued. "I have been observing you - and many other couples - for some time now. In that time, I have seen Nicole and Bob have sex several times. In each of them, Bob took great care to make sure that Nicole was satisfied, including oral and manual techniques for which Nicole never returned the equivalent stimulation. In short, Bob was generous with Nicole. He truly made love to her. But Nicole was selfish with Bob. For her, it was more about sex than love. As long as she got her pleasure, and Bob reached his climax, she was smugly satisfied."

"That's harsh," Bobbie said. "And not really true. Nicole gave great pleasure as well, and demonstrated over and over that she didn't need those 'techniques' you mentioned. Perhaps it was just that Bob was not as good a lover and so tried to, um, compensate."

"Nice try, dear," Merlin said condescendingly. "But neither of us really believes that."

"Were you really that dissatisfied?" Nick asked Bobbie, hurt in his eyes.

"No," she replied directly. "As this jerk said, I received my pleasure as well."

"But," Nick persisted, "would you have . . . did you . . . want more?"

Bobbie's mouth opened to deny any unrequited desires, but somehow the words wouldn't come. In the end, she dropped her eyes, which was answer enough.

"Oh, Bobbie," Nick sighed. "I'm so sorry. You should have . . ."

Bobbie's head came back up and she shook it sharply. "No. I should not have. We discussed it - a bit obliquely, I'll admit, but enough that I knew how much it, um, bothered you even to think about. And I wanted things to be . . . perfect for you. As perfect as I could make them. If that means there were limits on what you could be happy doing, so be it. Everyone has limits. *I* have limits. They're just different than yours."

She turned back to Merlin and said, "It doesn't make her, I mean . . . Nicole selfish just because she had limits on what she found pleasurable. Everyone does."

The sorcerer nodded at her point, but made another of his own. "Nonetheless, by contemporary standards, her limits precluded acts which many people find worth sharing. Yours - or Bob's - limits were not so restricted."

"To that point, and specifically why you were chosen: Bob, and therefore Bobbie, has well-practiced skill at oral and manual stimulation of a woman. Yet Nick is unlikely to share that pleasure with Bobbie, and so she will be inexperienced - a virgin to those pleasures, if you will - when she makes love with Lola. Her pleasure at Lola's skill will be new, real, and intense, without compromising her ability to please Lola in turn. The best of both worlds."

"Look, this is stupid," Bobbie said. "You're asking me to be a whore. Regardless of the body I wear, I won't be a prostitute."

"I'm not asking," Merlin said ominously. He waved his hand and they could both hear the mournful howl of a frightened dog from somewhere.

The pair grew very quiet at the sound. For a long moment they looked at each other, both feeling guilty, yet both feeling helpless. After that long moment the frown on Bobbie's face transformed, subtly, but noticeable to Nick. It was actually reassuring to him because he saw an expression he had often seen on Bob; an expression of calculation as a solution began to form behind what were now flawless blue jewels accented by long, sensual lashes.

Bobbie turned her attention back to Merlin and said, "If we're going to do this, you have to help me with the way I look."

Merlin showed actual surprise for the first time since he had invited himself to their table. "Why? It's clear you are attractive. Nick has been aroused all through this conversation despite his periods of anger. And every time he looks at you, there is another pulse of desire."

Bobbie looked at her husband to find a blush of confirmation, but looked furtive for a moment as she glanced around the room. She must have decided that they had enough privacy, because she continued with a whisper. "It's these damn boobs. They're just too big. My back is killing me. You have to do something about them."

"I don't *have* to do anything," Merlin said.

Nick leaned forward to add his own whisper, and in so doing back up his spouse's line of attack. "Um, look, Merlin, maybe you should reconsider. If Bobbie is that uncomfortable, it's going to show. If she's not happy with her body then it will be hard to make Lola think she's willing to, um, surrender to its desires enough to allow herself to be seduced. I mean, Bobbie might go to bed with her, but if she's grumpy it will seem forced and it will ruin the, um, seduction."

"So if I reduce your bosom you'll go along with my plan? Willingly?"

Bobbie shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not arguing, but I just don't know. You're asking - okay, telling - me to prostitute myself. Or actually, with the threats you've made, since you're forcing me to have sex with someone, this is rape. And you want me to make it seem like I'm willing to go along with it. I'm not an actress who is skilled at faking emotions. That's not something I can promise to do right now. I need to think about it."

She paused, but then nodded to Merlin. "But if you reduce these to a more normal size, I will think about it. I will try to find a way to . . . do what you want."

Merlin looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. Turning to Bobbie, he concentrated for a moment and they heard him mutter something under his breath. Then they saw her bosom shrink noticeably - thought it was still very . . . noticeable.

"Thanks a lot," Bobbie said dryly.

"They're smaller," Merlin smirked, then scowled. "Don't push me again."

He raised his eyes to meet those of the young woman and asked, "How long before you make up your mind? I know that willing workers are more effective and I will allow you to have some time to provide me with your honest promise of cooperation. But not a lot of time. If you refuse me, I'll . . . finish with you and find someone else."

Nick frowned and held up a hand. "What if we get seasick? Of if there is some other problem with running a yacht that we've never done before? How can we be sure that we'll be able to do what you want, no matter how willing we are?"

Merlin frowned again, but with less anger and more thoughtfulness. "Hmm, reasonable questions. Very well. Tomorrow you close up your house, or arrange maintenance. Set up a drawing account for bills and I'll see that it is filled. By the day after tomorrow you need to be on your way to the marina where the yacht is being fitted out. The yacht will be ready in three days and I expect you to be aboard, taking instruction from the marina captain. The training I have arranged takes one week. I'll give you until then. At the end of that time you need to convince me that you can meet my conditions willingly, or . . . you won't like the alternative."

He leaned back and glanced at them each in turn. "Don't think that you can run from me and hide. It won't work, and there are worse things than a relatively quick death as a dog in a pen of crazed animals. I have a very active imagination, and I can extract enough suffering even from you to return in power the effort I expend to find you."

Bobbie had been listening to their discussion with half her attention. With the rest, she was absorbing the impact of her new figure, twisting a little, and arching her back with a pleasure that she would have denied if anyone called it to her attention. Despite Merlin's threat, she suddenly recognized another problem.

"Merlin, where are we going to cruise with your, um, granddaughter?"

"I told you. From the Chesapeake to Alaska."

"Directly? Best time, no stops except for fuel?"

He shook his head. "No, of course not. The reason it's a cruise is to . . .cruise. To travel at a leisurely place, seeing the sights along the way. Don't be obtuse."

"Sorry," she said, but she pressed on. "Here's the thing. I can't walk except in very high heels."

The sorcerer nodded smugly, a hint of his old, cruel pleasure replacing his anger.

"Then how am I going to walk on a beach with Lola, assuming that's part of the seduction? Or, like, work the boat in a storm when foul weather gear is required. Or, um, could these things punch a hole in the deck?" she asked, waving a stiletto-shod foot at him.

"Lola likes feminine women. And frankly, so do I. You're going to wear heels."

"Maybe there's a compromise," Bobbie pleaded. "Like . . . most women complain that their feet ache after a day in heels a lot shorter than these. Can you make it so that my feet are only really comfortable in heels? I mean, they are comfortable, actually. But that I can at least walk in flats or on the sand? Make it so that, after a day in flats my feet ache as much as normal feet ache after wearing heels? Please, I'm really trying to make this work."

Merlin looked thoughtful again and perhaps there was just a bit of respect in his eyes because he could see that she was truly trying to find a solution. He nodded, and his eyes unfocused for a moment. When he looked at her again, she frowned.

"I don't, um, is it done? I don't feel any different."

"Believe me, my so-attractive creation, you will still find wearing heels to be much more comfortable. But it will not be actively painful to go without, at least not until a few hours have passed."

"One more thing . . ," Nick said.

"You're not in a position to make demands," snapped Merlin. "I've already been more accommodating than I intended, and much more than I needed to be."

Nick persisted, "Look, you're asking for us to find a way to accept this positively. We'll need to talk about it, and it won't work if we think you're eavesdropping on us all the time. Some of what I'm thinking right now will piss you off and knowing that, I can't discuss it freely. I need a chance to blow off some steam without . . . well, without . . . penalty. What matters to you is where we end up. In the meantime, we need our privacy."

Merlin was well back into scowl mode, but he accepted the logic of Nick's argument and nodded once again. "Very well. I won't 'eavesdrop', as you say, without warning. But that does not mean that I won't observe from a distance. You still won't be able to run away."

"Starting when?" Nick persisted. "With the privacy, I mean."

"Right now," Merlin said, standing abruptly and walking off.

Chapter 3 - "Loquacious Equines"

The improbably attractive couple watched in silence as the nasty, tight-faced man walked away. Bobbie couldn't suppress a shudder - maybe she didn't even try, now that the sorcerer wasn't there to see.

She looked at Nick. "Why were you so interested in privacy? I mean, I think he's a creep and lurking is just plain . . ," she shuddered again, ". . . creepy. But there are a lot of issues with this. That didn't seem to be the one to risk an argument over."

He sighed, and sagged into his seat. "Bobbie, I'm playing for time. We need time to work something out." He held up his hand to stop her comment, smiling to make it seem less peremptory. "I don't know what we will work out. In fact, I don't have any ideas at all - right now. The only hope I can see is if we can gain time to discover an answer. I wanted to talk with you in private to discuss how to play for time."

Bobbie mused, "So, we do the 'horse may talk' thing?"

Nick nodded. "I guess. Except, we don't yet have a full year for the horse to talk. Maybe that's one of the things we need to work on."

On that note they gathered up their packages - well, actually they were all Bobbie's - and headed back toward their car. Except . . . Bobbie just had to get a few more things. She felt a compelling need for clothes that were a bit more toward cheerful than . . . blatant, and no one could get by with just one set of jeans, and then she saw a pair of earrings, and Nicole's makeup wasn't really right for Bobbie's coloring, and . . .

In any event, Nick was carrying a pretty full load when they reached the house. It was a good thing that Merlin was generous, for all that he seemed so cruel about their situation. Maybe he just had so much money that it didn't mean anything to him. Slipping a few thousand in cash into Bobbie's purse, or a few pennies, might have taken the same small (by his standards) effort.

Bobbie shooed Nick out of the bedroom as soon as all the packages were moved in. He went with little reluctance. A part of him realized that the next few hours were going to be a repeat try-on of everything that his transformed spouse had just purchased. Only, unlike when he was Nicole, the idea of looking through all the items again held no interest for him at all.

He was, however, a pretty good cook and that hadn't changed. So while Bobbie was playing with her new clothes, Nick was cooking something just a bit special for dinner. It was as much validation that he had not lost his cooking skills as any need for celebration. Really. It was terrible what Merlin had done to them, and was threatening to do to them. The light-hearted whistle that accompanied his work in the kitchen was just . . . a coincidence.

The long, low whistle when Bobbie walked into the room was no coincidence, though. It was very specifically aimed at the gorgeous woman who presented herself to him in a classic little black dress that fit *extremely* well. Sleek dark stockings and towering heels, dangly earrings and bangly bracelets, artful makeup and a carefully disarrayed hairstyle all added to an effect that made it clear at least some parts of Nick had made it to the masculine side of the great divide.

"I don't remember that dress," he observed carefully.

"It was in the closet. It might be the only thing that was in there that is actually reasonable to wear."

"It looks fabulous on you," he said.

"Thank you, kind sir," she replied, turning in a little pirouette.

"I could never wear a skirt that short," Nick observed, then blushed at the incongruity of his statement. Bobbie laughed, but nodded her head.

"I know what you mean," she said. "Nicole never had any skirts this short - or heels this high - but they seem to work for me. I'm . . . relaxed in these clothes, and I wasn't this morning in that other skirt. I suppose that's some continuing-to-develop part of Merlin's spell, but in this case, I'm not complaining."

"Neither am I," Nick said, with just a bit too much enthusiasm, but for some reason Bobbie didn't mind.

They shared a pleasant dinner, finding ways in which they could relate as they had before . . . and some in which the dynamics were different. Even the differences were fun and they both realized that Merlin's spell had re-energized their relationship. As long as they didn't think about what was before them and only lived in the moment, it began to seem like a blessing more than a curse.

Then it came time for bed.

Bobbie just couldn't bear the thought of sleeping in t-shirt and panties even though she had worn the equivalent for all her life before. She found herself drawn to the drawers that Merlin had pre-populated with Barbie doll outfits and found a nightgown that was clearly inspired by some sort of slumber-party package for the toy woman.

"At least it wasn't some sort of orgy package," she mused. The nightgown was very pink, not too short, not quite sheer and it provided as much coverage as a long t-shirt. Well, almost as much . . . except for the shoulders . . . and the décolletage . . . and the low back.

Thinking about her selected outfit had allowed her to disengage her active mind from her bed preparations and she realized that she had removed her makeup, cleansed her skin, and brushed her hair without conscious thought.

Nick was already out like a light when she re-entered the bedroom, sleeping on what had been Nicole's side of the bed.

But already in bed.

At the thought of deliberately getting into bed with a man, Bobbie froze. All of the sudden the skimpy nightgown seemed very inadequate. And not the least of the inadequacy was that the coverage over her bosom was very thin - not nearly substantial enough to hide the hard, tight indications of arousal that she suddenly displayed.

Something caused Nick to stir - perhaps her unchecked panting, perhaps the scent that still drifted from her incredible mass of hair, perhaps . . . something more ethereal that was beyond explanation. But Nick's eyes opened and he saw a fantasy woman standing in his bedroom, wearing a softly feminine nightgown . . .

. . . and a frown.

"What's wrong, honey?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said, but neither of them believed that.

Nick sighed, not aware that he had licked his lips, and shifted with apparent discomfort in the bed. "If you want, I can go sleep in the spare room."

"No!" Bobbie said quickly, though even as she said it she knew her cheeks were heating in a blush.

"No," she repeated, and at least her tone was more casual. "Look, we both know we sleep better when we're together. Every time I - I mean, Bob - went on a business trip overnight we both had trouble. I think we can sleep together. I mean, it will just be sleep."

"Right, just sleep," Nick agreed, quite firmly.

"And maybe," Bobbie said quietly, suddenly seeming like a little girl despite her very grown up figure, "we could, um, cuddle a little. I don't know about you but I could use a little cuddling right now."

"Oh, yeah," Nick agreed. "I mean, the, um, naughty bits are different, and I'm not - well, mentally at least - I'm not ready to explore those differences. But inside I'm still me and you're still you, and I know I feel better when we're close. It doesn't matter what the outsides look like as long as we're still both in here somewhere."

"Right," Bobbie agreed, and neither seemed to notice that she ended up wrapped in Nick's arms rather than the other way around. Or maybe they did notice, but thought it was pretty nice anyway. The differences on the outside actually did matter - the softness of Bobbie's curves, the solid strength of Nick's arms - but they were pretty nice, too.

Bobbie woke first the next morning to find herself spooned into the curve of Nick's body. While she was still half asleep, she enjoyed the sense of protection, and of being cherished.

But as she came fully awake, she realized that being cherished was not all she was feeling.

Behind her Nick was, even in his sleep, demonstrating that his physical transformation was . . . complete. Bobbie felt a very thick, very firm, very . . .warm shape pressing into her from behind. And just as she realized what it was, she realized that she had been unconsciously rubbing against it, feeling the hardness of it against the softness of her newly enlarged derriere.

And liking it.

"Oh, god," she cried and ran to the bathroom. Nick woke to the sounds of her distress, and to the movement of the bed. All he saw of the woman he had just slept with was a flare of bright golden hair and a flash of pink.

"Bobbie?" he called out. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he heard her muffled voice through the door.

"Yeah, right," Nick muttered to himself. But he didn't hear sobs, just . . . pacing? As though bare feet were slapping lightly on the tile of the bathroom floor.

"Honey, are you all right?"

"Just peachy," Bobbie's voice snarled.

"Well, at least she's not crying," Nick observed . . . silently.

A mental image of the beautiful blonde, wearing only a short, thin nightgown, or maybe . . . with it already discarded . . . of her long blonde hair against creamy, smooth skin . . . of . . .

"Oh, god, this thing is impossible," he muttered. "Damn, now I really wish I'd been more - what was Merlin's word? - generous with Bob's needs. I don't even know how to, um, put this thing back to sleep."

He pulled down his shorts and looked at the monstrous, demanding, mindlessly seeking appendage. Reaching for it, he began to rub it, and then to squeeze it, and then. . .

"Ow," he said. Out loud. Louder, in his new voice, than he had expected.

"What's the matter?" he heard from beyond the door.

"Nothing," he replied, conscious of the repetition of their earlier conversation. Which made him wonder if Bobbie had been experiencing the same sort of . . . problem. Which did absolutely nothing to make his own problem go away. Quite the contrary, in fact.

"Bobbie?" he called out.

"Yes?" she answered, still through the door.

"Bobbie, I, um, I think I need your help."

"What's wrong?" she asked, opening the door. To find him standing there with his briefs around his ankles and an angry snake searching for prey.

"Oh, god, that's disgusting," Bobbie snapped.

"Bobbie, please, I'm sorry," Nick said. "It just won't . . . go away."

"Well, don't expect any help from me."

"Please, Bobbie, you don't have to, um, *do* anything. Just tell me what to do."

At the helpless, desperate look on the huge man's face, Bobbie's anger evaporated into laughter. "Oh, my, is widdle Nicky all swollen up? Does widdle Nicky want mommy to kiss it to make it better?"

"That's not fair," Nick snapped. "I'm hurting here, and you know that's not making it any better."

"Do tell," Bobbie said, but she was still smiling, and in a moment a wry smile formed on Nick's lips as well.

"Oh, Nicky, I'm sorry, truly I am, but I'm not ready to . . . y'know."

"I know you're not, honey, and right now I don't think . . . hell, that damn thing is in charge, so I'm not thinking very clearly at all. But I don't really expect anything . . . active. But . . . what do I do?"

Bobbie couldn't keep a grin off her face and a snicker out of her voice, but in a few minutes Nick was ensconced on the other side of the bathroom door, armed with a container of petroleum jelly and some very brief, but nonetheless adequate instruction.

After a few minutes, Bobbie heard the shower start and her smile became a bit more relaxed, and a lot more tender. She moved to the kitchen and started a breakfast. She wasn't nearly as good a cook as Nicole, but she could handle simple things well enough. When Nick arrived they shared a quick bite and then Bobbie started on her own morning tasks.

Which took forever. And a week. By the time *she* finally returned to the kitchen, Nick was on the phone. She looked over his shoulder at his notes to find that he was making progress toward getting someone to watch over their house. That progress was interrupted when he dropped the phone as soon as she walked into his line of sight, but he grimaced, transformed that into a wry grin at his own expense, then resumed the conversation.

She patted him on the shoulder and went to the computer to find the marina where the boat, or yacht, or whatever was being prepared. They obviously had to plan on staying in a local hotel rather than commute so she returned to their rooms to pack some clothes.

And change her own, from the short skirt and spindly heels she had donned without thought into her new jeans and block-heeled boots. And a white top that flowed over her dangerous curves with aggressive intimacy - and showed more than a bit of crevice between her still-abundant breasts.

After arriving in Annapolis, they drove to Burr Yacht Sales in search of a yacht they knew only by name - "Sorceress." Armed with an appointment to meet a salesman/captain with the absurdly nautical name of J.P. Jones, they pulled into the marina parking lot. Arrayed before them were a dozen gleaming white . . . boats. Or yachts. Neither Bobbie nor Nick knew what made the difference, but these were pretty impressive; too impressive to be just 'boats.'

"Wow," Nick said as he shut down the car.

"Yeah, wow," Bobbie echoed.

Neither one really planned it but somehow Nick ended up out of his seat and around to Bobbie's side of the car before she managed her own exit. It took her a moment to get her boots close enough to the side of the car for her to stand on her still-very-high heels, and in that time Nick was there was a helping hand. She took it gratefully and she was just establishing her balance when a fit, older man approached. At least, he was older from their current perspective, though he was still less than forty.

"Hello," he said, walking up first to Nick with a hand ready to shake. "Jim Jones, but people call me JP."

Bobbie frowned for a moment. Then she sighed and accepted that men - and most women for that matter - would from now on assume that Nick was the head of their little household. For that matter, maybe he was. He had certainly become more assertive, more confident, and more . . . competent since the shocking revelation of Merlin's spell. Certainly more confident than Nicole had been, and . . . more than Bobbie as well? Maybe. Bobbie was surprised to find that, deep in her heart, she was glad to have Nick's strength and confidence since she felt hers had been lacking.

Introductions completed, they moved down the docks toward a boat - yacht - that seemed to get larger with each step.

"Sorceress is a Fleming 65," Jones was explaining. "She's basically ready to go except for final cleanup. In fact, we were planning on a shakedown cruise this afternoon."

"Excellent," Nick said. "I believe you know that we're going to need some training."

"Yes," the saleman/captain confirmed. "And we can start right now."

He led them to an access gate in the side deck bulwark, stepping back to let them proceed. Nick actually stepped down onto the side deck first, then turned and offered a hand to Bobbie who accepted it gratefully. As they were led around the main deck and flybridge/boatdeck by their guide, she let her hand remain intertwined with Nick's and enjoyed the sense of protection that his massive strength always provided. They ended up their initial tour with a crawl through the engine room - actually more of a crouch, since it was large enough to walk if one bent over a bit - and after dutifully checking the oil on several different reservoirs, they were ready to get things going.

The Fleming design - JP told them - has very usable side decks for safety so line-handling is fairly straight forward. The weather was good so they were soon on their way, cruising around the sheltered waters of Selby Bay though it was clear that the broad Chesapeake was in a good mood and they could have ventured into the wider waters of the bigger bay.

Just turning on and off all the features of the yacht - two separate auxiliary generators, two inverters that could be powered by either the generators or a large bank of house batteries, three different radars with a total of 5 multi-function displays, two stabilized satellite antennas, and on, and on, took several hours that nonetheless seemed to fly by. Bobbie realized that she was really having fun developing the same amalgam of technical knowledge and applied skill that she had demonstrated as a pilot - different skills, but a satisfying combination.

It also turned out that she had a better feel for handling the yacht than Nick. It wasn't really a surprise. Her pilot's skills included an ability to judge distances, closure rates, and drift. But she also quickly developed a feel for how soon and how much to work the throttles and bow thruster to pivot, back into their slip, and come to rest relative to the dock.

"You've done this before," JP accused.

"Not on a vessel this size," Bobbie claimed, then she laughed while sharing a secret smile with Nick. "But in another life I was a pilot. Some of the skills seem to apply."

"It would seem so," he said admiringly. He had actually been doing pretty well - better than Nick - at being a gentleman rather than ogling her 'charms', but at the mention of additional skills his eyes fell to her amply displayed cleavage, and her taut stomach, and the long, long curves of her legs.

When he looked up again, blushing at his indiscretion, he saw a grin on Bobbie's face . . . and a frown on Nick's face. The big man didn't say anything but he was clearly irritated, which broadened the smile that Bobbie displayed. Without conscious thought - later, in fact, she would feel very guilty - Bobbie let a hip slide out as she took a deeper-than-necessary breath. That had the effect of igniting an even deeper flush on Jones's face as he struggled to keep his eyes focused on the bright blue gems that held teasing laughter at his distress.

After a moment, Bobbie's intellect overcame her instincts and she realized what she was doing. "I’m sorry," she said softly, "that was inappropriate. Please forgive me?"

"Only if you will forgive me," JP said.

"Deal," Bobbie agreed, then turned to Nick. "I think I'm about full up on things to learn today. Could you take me home, please? Or at least, to our room?"

The big man swelled up even bigger than usual with pride at her obvious statement of an intimate relationship with him. It certainly took any remaining irritation out of the carved planes of his face. Nick offered her his arm, holding her as they worked out the details for the next day's training/checkout. When the arrangements were clear he led his tall, blonde beauty up the dock to his car.

"Oh, god," Bobbie sighed when they were away from the marina. "I don't know why I did that."

"Yeah," Nick responded tersely.

"Sometimes, I mean, this is a very pretty. . . package, and sometimes I just like to feel attractive. To feel appreciated. To feel . . . sexy."

"Well, you are all of that," Nick said, still using clipped, apparently emotionless tones.

"Oh, Nicky," Bobbie said, "please don't be mad at me. It's just that . . . well, it's like you said. If I have to be a girl, this is a pretty nice body to be in . . . and I think part of being a girl is liking the attention that I get. Didn't you ever feel that way?"

Nick thought about it for a moment, then sighed. "Not for a long while. But . . . once upon a time."

He grinned wryly and said, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There are way too many songs about the risks of loving a beautiful woman."

When he spoke of loving her, Bobbie's eyes took on an instant sparkle of dewy brightness. They became even brighter when he concluded, "But it's worth it."

"Oh, Nicky, thank you."

"For what?"

"For being . . . you, I guess. I think I really, truly would not have been able to handle this without you. I'd be screaming in some mental ward by now for sure. Buy you are so solid, and strong. And . . . I just feel . . . sheltered by you. So, thanks."

"You're welcome," he replied, grinning. "All I'm doing is being the Hulk to your Wonder Woman, but I'll take whatever credit is due to us dumb-but-strong types."

"Oh, you," Bobbie said, laughing as she relaxed. "Besides, Wonder Woman is a brunette. I'm naturally blonde."

"So, do I need to explain all my jokes from now on?"

"Only the ones that are supposed to be funny," she replied.

They shared a quick supper in a family style restaurant then checked into a hotel. It wasn't a palace - in fact, it was quite small - but it was adequate for the few nights they would spend there. Both of them decided that they needed another shower after spending the day on the brackish waters of the bay. Bobbie claimed the privilege of going first.

When Nick stepped from the bathroom into the main room a little while later, he immediately stepped back. "Sorry," he said from behind the reclosed door.

"What's wrong?" Bobbie asked.

"I should have let you get dressed," he said through the door.

"Oh, yeah," Bobbie said, looking at the bra still in her hands and reminded again of the strangeness of the narrow thong on her panty. "I guess I forgot, too. We've been getting dressed in front of each other for a long time. Just a minute."

She quickly finished dressing, dropping the bra but putting on both a nightgown and a thick robe, and called for him to come out.

When he did, he had a towel wrapped around his midsection. Gathering up his own underwear and another robe, he stepped back into the smaller room. In a moment he was back to find Bobbie frowning.

"Sorry," he apologized again. "I'll try to remember . . . "

"Remember what?" she interrupted him. "Remember that we're married?"


Bobbie stood up and started to pace around the room, unconsciously standing more on her toes than flat-footed. "Are we married? I mean, really?"

Nick shrugged, "Sure. Why not?"

"Do you feel married?"

This time he paused. Finally, he shrugged again. "I'm not sure. I guess so. I mean, I can't imagine life without . . . well, you. And it just seems right to have you in bed when we sleep - even if it's just to sleep. I guess it's one of those things that make being married different than just, y'know, hooking up for sex."

Bobbie frowned again. "But . . ? I can hear something in your voice."

Nick also frowned, and he looked down to study his large, thick-fingered hands. "Well, I just can't my mind around the idea of . . . kissing a girl."

"Do you want to kiss a guy, instead?"

"Ugh! No!"

Bobbie persisted. "Or be totally celibate?"

Nick winced at that thought. "I'm not sure I could - not unless I want my damn balls to explode."

That caused Bobbie to twitch with remembered experience. Then she sat down again. "Frankly, I'm not ready to kiss a guy, either. But we do need to get through some of our . . . comfort issues. After all, we need to seem to be happily married."

Nick nodded. "I'm okay with that. And if it doesn't bother you, then I don't think I'll have any more trouble with, y'know, sharing our space. I mean, it's not like you've never seen . . . one of these, and, y'know, I've seen . . . "

"Right," Bobbie said. "So, are we good?"

"Yeah, sure," Nick said, but they both did a silly little 'after you' thing on whose robe would drop first. In the end, it became a kind of game that Bobbie lost because Nick could drop his robe a lot further than she could before 'interesting' things started to show.

They spent several more days learning how to run their yacht and the yard spent an equal amount of time finishing up the final details which included going through for one last thorough cleaning of each bit of carpet, each bit of brightwork, and each of several bilge spaces. It was a week after they showed up before they were metaphorically (as well as actually) 'handed the keys' to their new floating home and sent on their way.

They almost made it.

Captain Jones and the rest of the Burr marina team had waved and cheered and helped Nick with the lines. Bobbie waved back from the flybridge and showed her newly won expertise in gliding easily from the dock and into Selby Bay. Once Nick was done stowing the lines, he joined Bobbie on the flybridge and they settled down to enjoy their cruise to Baltimore where a rendezvous had been set up with Lola Allwind.

That's when trouble showed up. White-faced, tight-skinned, smirking a nasty smile, trouble in the form of Bleys Merlin, who slid open the hatch to the pilothouse and stepped up to join them.

"Well, you seem to have passed one test," he observed tightly. His expression indicated he might have preferred for them to fail so that he could visit some worse curse upon them.

Nick had stood as though he expected a physical battle when the sorcerer appeared. Bobbie caught his arm and urged him to sit beside her again. She scanned the bay and confirmed that they were on course, more for an excuse to get her thoughts together than because she needed yet another careful check. In the end she merely nodded, looking at Merlin while tucking her hand into Nick's.

"I have some gifts for you, as a . . . reward for your success," Merlin announced. He waved his hand negligently and they found themselves clothed in new outfits. Apparently Merlin liked the pirate look for his janissary crew.

"Dear, sweet, Lord," Nick breathed reverently, not recognizing the blasphemy of that prayer when the actual source of the change was much closer to demonic than heavenly.
Cap'n Bobbie

The most eye-catching part of Bobbie's outfit - not including the girl within it - was a pair of gold-accented pirate boots with the high heels Merlin demanded. The shiny decoration on the boots was strangely discomforting, as though the shapes were some sort of sorcerous symbols that the eye couldn't quite absorb. There was nothing uncomfortable about the boots themselves, though. Despite their towering heels, they caressed Bobbie's feet from toes to thighs with firm, yet yielding pressure free of any pressure points or pinches. And despite the heels they seemed to stick to the deck with reliable traction. Tight, low rise leather pants revealed her taut abdomen below a blousy crop top whose very full sleeves accented every arm movement with graceful flow. A long, vest-like surcoat frogged with gold added another 17th century touch, and the pirate look was enhanced by large golden loops in her ears and a scarf tied around her head.

"You're not to bad yourself, big boy," Bobbie replied, knowing as she said it that her tell-tale buds had popped up hard at the sight of her husband/mate.

Nick had the 'common sailor' version of the same outfit, with broad-cuffed boots covering the calves of his own tight leather pants and an obviously stretchy - and stretched - t-shirt struggling to contain the thick slabs of muscle that were in no way concealed. He didn't have the "officer's" surcoat though, so he was clearly crew not captain.

It actually was a pretty good looking uniform for a yacht crew about to pick up a rich passenger. Despite her discomfort whenever Merlin was around, Bobbie couldn't suppress a little smile of pleasure, extending one long leg to examine the gaudy-but-flattering boots.

Then she remembered Merlin and sniffed dismissively. "Where did you find these outfits? Pirates-R-Us?"

Merlin scowled at her lack of respect - and apparent lack of fear - and shook his head. "No. They were suggested to me by Lola. If you treat her with as little respect, you'll regret it very, very much . . . for what little time remains to you."

Bobbie flinched a bit, but she tried to hide it behind yet another scan of the sea and the navigation display.

Merlin pressed with his real purpose for intruding. "So, pretty one, have you decide that you can get your principles under control enough to meet my plans for you and Lola?"

Bobbie sighed, but nodded. "I'm willing to go along, but with some conditions."

"You're hardly in a position to impose conditions," Merlin snapped, and Bobbie's long hair started to crackle with an energy field that was building around him.

But Bobbie defused it by shaking her head. "No, I don't think that. It would be more appropriate to say that they are conditions that *you* have imposed, and I just want to make sure that you recognize them in the same way that I do."

Merlin nodded for her to continue.

"If Lola and I are to . . . get together, then it needs to be a real seduction. I'm not going to trip her as soon as she boards and beat her to the deck. We'll have a year to . . . make this happen, and as I understand it she finds the challenge to be part of the, um, pleasure. I'll be open-minded about it, but she needs to make me want her, not just snap her fingers. If we get to Alaska and still haven't . . . connected, then, well, we'll see.

At this, Merlin nodded more positively. "I understand."

But Bobbie again shook her head. "I'm not sure that you do. I've really been thinking about this and in my heart I know that I still find women attractive. I'm trying to work things out with Nick which confuses things even more, but I realize that being with a woman is not . . . unacceptable to me. So there is a chance - a real chance - that Lola and I can connect in an honest way. But that means she will need to try to connect with me, too. It means she can't be a spoiled little rich brat who expects everyone to kiss her ass whenever she bends over. So, do you want a real, satisfying seduction on her part, or do you want me to be a whore and just get it done?"

Merlin's face curled into a dismissive sneer, but he offered agreement. "Obviously, you understand the goal I desire. I'm not writing you a blank check, though. You don't get to stall for a year. I'll expect you to meet her partway, or more than partway."

Bobbie nodded. "That was what I expected. Okay, here's the next thing . . ."

She held her hand up to stop Merlin and quickly pushed forward. "You've set this up so we are the crew and she is the passenger. That means, when we're on the water, that we have to have the authority to tell her what to do at least on safety-related things. If she's a pampered little prima donna who won't take no for an answer and runs home to Grampy complaining about how mean we are, then we might as well pack it in now - and so will anyone else you shanghai into this curse. I can't imagine that in a year together on what is still a relatively small yacht that we won't have arguments every now and then."

Once again she held up her hand to stop Merlin's comment. "Look, I understand about the need to keep passengers happy. You saw that when we flew that charter. But just as I had to concentrate on flying through that weather, there will be times when she has to realize that the ship comes before her feelings. If she's all spoiled brat and no reasonable adult, it just won't work. Find another circumstance. Not a yacht as sea. Not an airplane in flight. Something less dependent on at least a minimum standard of discipline for safety."

She finally ran down and sagged against Nick. Clearly she was frightened of his power again. That had shown when the crackling energy field started to build. But she was also adamant about the needs of safety and of the authority of the captain. It was a hard-won lesson learned from her years as a pilot - or at least the years that Bob had experienced.

Merlin nodded in grudging appreciation. "Very well. I understand that as well, but once again, no blank check. You need to treat this as a real, chartered cruise and make the customer happy - even aside from the . . . ultimate pleasure - except when required for safety . . ," he held up his own hand to stop Bobbie from saying anything, " . . .or by the authorities in whatever place you happen to be visiting, or in whatever circumstances a normal charter captain would feel the need to limit fulfilling a passenger's wishes. But only when necessary. To that end, I will 'eavesdrop' as you say on my granddaughter whenever I wish. I'll have both sides of the story and you won't like it if I feel you've abused this . . .condition."

Bobbie nodded again then shook out her hair and smiled a little, still-frightened smile. "Okay, one last thing, and we're honestly trying to make this work, not complain. We're going to be sailing through the Caribbean. That's been notorious for pirates - real pirates, not just those in showy costumes - since anyone even knew where it was. And most of these countries don't trust their own people so weapons restrictions are . . well, they're a demonstration of tyrants preferring unarmed peasants. We're not comfortable being responsible for your granddaughter's safety in the face of armed threats. We can manage the navigation and ship-handling, and we're card-carrying cowards where weather is concerned. We can protect her from natural hazards, but . . ."

At this Merlin let a cruel little laugh blurt forth from his thin lips. "Don't worry about pirates. If any approach you, they'll regret it."

He stood up from where he had made himself comfortable on a flybridge settee. "Is that it?"

Bobbie nodded. "That's all we've come up with so far."

Merline nodded, and actually showed a real smile - small, but honest, showing in his eyes and not just on his thin lips. "I can see that you are trying to make this work. I'm not going to pretend to be nice - I don't even want you thinking that I'm nice - but I do recognize that people work best when they are more than robots. Keep working on this and at least for now - you're my selected crew."

With that, he walked down the ladder (actually steps) into the pilot house and turned back to the salon. But in a moment the sounds of his movement ceased and they realized that he had somehow left the yacht entirely.

"Well, that was fun," Bobbie said dryly, collapsing against the wall of muscle provided by Nick. He put a comforting arm around her and they both sat silently, reviewing the tense encounter, while the main Chesapeake Bay slid by.

After a moment, Bobbie stood up and took off the vest. "This thing is heavy," she declared. "And it's too small. It won't even fasten over these ridiculous boobs."

"I think that’s part of the point, Gorgeous," Nick said. "I think Merlin must have given me a man's appreciation for visual stimuli - sort of like he gave you an ability to do makeup. In any event, I'm feeling a definite psychological compulsion right now. That outfit is way past hot and into . . . mesmerizing. I may be staring at you whenever you wear it - with or without the vest."

"You mean, more than usual?" Bobbie said, but she couldn't hide a smile of enjoyment at the compliment. In fact, she admitted to herself as she felt her back arch to show her curves even more dramatically, she couldn't quite bring herself to pretend to try.

Baltimore was a morning's cruise up the Bay. They had been lucky - though it didn't seem that way at the time - to have had a day of moderately active weather during their training session. Captain Jones had decided they were ready so they had sailed out into the main Chesapeake Bay when the winds were borderline for small craft and against the tide to boot. It was a rough ride but it did show that the Sorceress was seaworthy, reasonably dry (few waves actually broke over the bow, and the Portuguese bridge took care of those that did), and very controllable with the winds and waves from just about any direction - at least as long as the stabilizers were working. Of course, the open ocean could be much worse than the Chesapeake Bay but they knew they could handle just about anything within the range of uncertainty on weather. They wouldn't venture out unless the weather was forecast to be good, and could handle it if the forecast was off by as much as was likely. With passengers, they'd avoid as much weather as they could anyway. No "Most Dangerous Catch" heroics for them.

The actual conditions on their first solo cruise of the Bay were much better than their training experience so they arrived in Baltimore on schedule, prepared to meet the young woman whom Bobbie had to seduce - or be seduced by.

Chapter 4 - "Goth Stories"

Lola was Goth. Straight, jet-black hair. Black lips, nails, and eye shadow accenting very pale skin. Black clothes - even though a tight little skirt showed plenty of pallid thigh above black platform boots. Decorations of skull and crossbones showed on a wide belt, a black t-shirt, and dangling from ears and fingers.

Bobbie and Nick had been watching from the flybridge as Lola got out of a taxi across from dock in Baltimore's inner harbor where Sorceress waited.

"Well, we can see where she got the pirate motif for our outfits," Bobbie observed.

"With skin that pale, why does she want to go on a cruise to the Islands?" Nick wondered.

"Ours not to reason why," Bobbie said wryly. "I suppose we should help her with her luggage."

Then there was another reason to help as another cab pulled up next to the Goth girl. Two more girls got out of that one, both also Goth. Luggage was quickly piling up on the dock so the statuesque blondes of the Sorceress crew descended to the side deck and moved to the location of bustling activity. When they got there it was clear that the first girl was fairly petite, at least by their standards, but not in any way shy or retiring.

"Oh, hell," the first Goth girl said - they were no longer as sure she was Lola, though it still seemed likely. "I don't have any money for the cabs. Get that will you?" she said, looking at Nickm who was surprised to see emerald-bright eyes in the midst of all the stark colors.

"Gotta be contacts," he thought. "No way that color is natural . . . but it's a good choice." He shook his head at the green-eyed girl. "Sorry, I don't have any money with me, either. I'll go get some."

"Don't bother," the girl said. Turning to one of the others, she directed, "Twi, get the cabs. I'll pay you back."

"With interest," the second girl said, grinning in a way that implied the interest was in something very personal.

The first girl turned back to the pirate-attired pair and lifted an imperious eyebrow in inquiry.

Bobbie stepped forward to shake hands. "I'm Bobbie, um, Roberta Adler, your captain for this cruise," she declared. "Our mate is my husband, Nicolas."

"Beauty and the Beast," the girl laughed. "I like it. Lola Allwind." She pointed at herself with her name, and then at the girl who was, until then, just standing quietly.

"Alabaster," Lola declared. The newly named girl was a bit taller than Lola, and almost painfully thin. She was quiet, but not sullen - more as though her mind were in another world than rejecting this world. She was - in contrast to the other two - a very light ash blonde with topaz eyes that somehow didn't look like contact lenses. However, she was still clearly into the Goth look with dark eye makeup and lips contrasting with pale skin. On her it tended to reinforce her image of ethereal beauty and she was unexpectedly attractive. Her dress was a ground-length knit that seemed to bind her as much as cover her, restricting her steps and - very obviously - her waist. When her name was announced her nearly colorless eyes focused for a moment on the taller pair and she nodded briefly.

By then the third girl had finished with the taxi drivers. She turned back and introduced herself. "I'm Twilight." This girl showed the pale face and dark lips of the Goth look, but otherwise she seemed more like a biker chick - stockier than either of the other two but not at all fat. Her look was all tats and piercings (including a chain from one ear to her nose). Clothes were studded leather including a tall neck collar that looked quite restrictive; hair was short, dark, and semi-spiked; eyes were unambiguously contacts with cat slits in dead-white orbs.

Nick had been casually gathering up bags, holding two or three handles in each big hand with others under his arms. When the girls looked around there were only a few small items yet to carry. He grinned at their surprised appreciation, and said, "Bobbie is the brains of this outfit, leaving brawn for me."

Twilight looked up at the shapely blonde woman and said, "From where I stand, Cap'n Bountiful has enough brawn to be . . . interesting."

Bobbie blushed and moved unconsciously closer to Nick, but after just a moment's pause she smiled and picked up a few more of the smaller items. "Let's board and I'll show you around."

The Sorceress had three staterooms. The master, in the bow and containing a king size bed, was reserved for Lola. It had its own head and had the sort of storage that would be appropriate for a couple living aboard full time. The second stateroom, on the port side, had a double bed with one side tight against the bulkhead. Bobbie and Nick had taken up residence there. The stateroom on the starboard side had two bunks and a mini-office. Those two staterooms shared a head, though there was a day-head in the pilothouse that would keep the passengers and crew from stepping on each other's toes too often.

As soon as they saw the arrangements all three girls claimed the master cabin, which was not in any way an argument. They cheerfully dumped most of the luggage in the third cabin and just as cheerfully made it clear they would be sleeping together. After giving them a few minutes to enjoy the elegantly nautical luxury, Bobbie waved to get their attention.

"Unless you have something else you want to do in Baltimore, we'll get underway."

"Where are we going?" asked Lola.

"We're going to run a couple of hours to the marina where the boat is serviced. There we'll top off our tanks and pick up anything special you want to eat. After that, well, it's pretty much up to you. We can talk about that along the way."

"Cool," Lola agreed. The girls followed Bobbie to the flybridge and settled on various seats while she and Nick worked out of their berth. It wasn't long before they were out of the harbor and Nick was attentively discussing menus with each of the passengers. It turned out that they were fairly cosmopolitan, at least in their food choices, and it began to look - despite the Goth thing and their obviously untraditional relationship - like they would be interesting travel companions.

They were certainly cheerful. Even the ethereal Alabaster had a giggling good time with the mandatory emergency drill, donning a ludicrously discordant bright orange vest that looked three times as big as she was, then driving them all more than a little crazy by blowing the survival whistle every time the boat moved a little on a wave. Still, it was a sign that she could was opening up and they all granted her a little license.

The run back to Burr's to get fuel and provisions took the expected couple of hours then they moved out to their first overnight anchorage. Things deteriorated a bit after that. In the first place, they had to head across the main Chesapeake Bay and while Bobbie didn't even notice the motion, apparently it was enough to cause Alabaster some distress.

That wasn't made easier when Twilight decided to put some 'music' into the ship's sound system. At least, Bobbie assumed it was supposed to be music. About all she could get out of it was that the . . . artist was mad about something. Maybe about everything. And that he had a limited vocabulary as evidenced by the few words that she could make out of his screaming rant.

They made their way to Granary Creek, a nicely secluded anchorage on the east side of the Bay which meant that the sun set beautifully over the water as they gently tugged at their anchor. In that idyllic setting even Lola found Twilight's music unbearable and she talked the shorter girl into something a bit more mellow. Bobbie made her way around the yacht checking that everything was shipshape and found Alabaster had moved to the foredeck to watch the sunset. The thin girl had stretched herself out on a pad using the Portuguese bridge as a backrest and was just absorbing the sunset as water to a dry sponge.

Twilight, on the other hand, was bored. She sat up on the flying bridge, trying each of the seats in turn and finally made her way to the cockpit where the already dark shadows suited her mood. Lola was torn between her two friends, but after a few fruitless attempts at conversation she took her iPod up to the flying bridge to be by herself as well.

That left the pilothouse unoccupied. Bobbie claimed it at first for some legitimate ship's business, working out the course for the next day's cruise. That didn't take long and when she looked up Nick was sitting in the corner of the pilothouse settee, watching her.

"You're beautiful," he said softly. "You shine like the sun in daylight, but in the soft light of the setting sun. . . . you're so beautiful you make my heart ache just for the wonder of it."

She blushed, then grinned at him. "It wasn't your heart that was aching earlier."

"No," he admitted dryly, "and I expect I'll have that problem again. But right now, it was more than a sexual thing. It was the glory of a goddess come to earth, and I felt honored just to be in your presence."

"Wow, that's over the top," she said, but she purred when she said it and moved over to sit beside him. It wasn't long before the both decided that the most comfortable arrangement was for Bobbie to nestle into the shelter of his arms, and they sat together watching the sunset through the pilothouse windows.

When the last sliver of sun disappeared beyond the western horizon, Nick gave her a squeeze. It was mostly just a way to put a completion on that particular moment but Bobbie thought he was trying to get her attention. So she turned to look up at him.

To find that he was looking down at her . . . from a very short distance away. Her lips seemed to swell until they threatened to burst with the pressure and only a counter pressure could save her. She flowed up into his kiss, surrendering and demanding, needing and giving, merging in a way that was a union of long-joined souls in newly young bodies. It was more than sexual, and less. It was the most complete sharing of herself she had ever experienced - more even than when Bob and Nicole had made love - yet it wasn't primarily sexual. It was too tender to be contained by the physical world.

Then Lola clattered down the ladder from the flybridge. Sorceress had a sort of split-level arrangement where the pilothouse was four steps down from the flybridge, with four further steps down to the salon. They could have heard her and seen her descending legs before Lola saw them, but they were too far gone into each other to notice right away and it was actually Lola's giggle that broke into their world.

"Wow, you two are hot!" the Goth girl laughed. "I'd say that I'm sorry to have interrupted you but I think I want to sell tickets and watch, instead."

Bobbie's face was flushed from more than embarrassment but she managed a grin of her own and asked simply, "Is there something you need?"

"Ooh, pretty lady, don't get me started," Lola said, a comic leer on her thinly arched brows. But then she smiled a more friendly smile and said, "Actually, I was wondering if you have anything to drink."

"Quite a bit, actually," Bobbie promised. "What would you like?"

"I was thinking of some wine, perhaps something red, full-bodied, and appropriate for the aftermath of that awesome sunset."

"Nick is our wine steward," Bobbie said. "But I'm sure we have something suitable."

"Can I get something for the others, too?"

At this, Nick frowned. "I'll have to see some ID."

"You didn't need mine," Lola accused.

"That's because your grandfather provided your paperwork. I don't have anything on the other two."

Lola waved dismissively, "Oh, they're okay."

"I believe you," Nick said, nodding. "But we'll still need to have something for the ship's records. We have a copier in the office."

"Look, can't you just take my word for it?"

"If it were up to me, sure," Nick said. "But that won't help when the Coast Guard come aboard."

"Can they do that?"

"Any time they want," Nick confirmed flatly. "As long as we're in US waters. They can even board us on the high sea if they think we're smuggling drugs - which we will definitely not be doing."

Lola frowned. "Look, I don't have their IDs. I guess I can't even swear that I know for sure that they're over 21. Can't we work something out?"

Bobbie had been listening to their conversation. With a start she realized this was an opportunity that she'd have to take. She needed to build a relationship with Lola, and finding a way around a legal issue was something that would go beyond the limits of formal captain/passenger relations. "I guess this is a chance to start getting on her good side," she thought.

"I'll tell you what," Bobbie offered. "Nick and I can't serve alcohol to minors - which includes anyone we don't have positive evidence is old enough. The burden of proof is on us, and we could lose our license - or even the Sorceress herself. However, we can serve you. And if you don't get in our face about it . . . say, if you actually give them their drinks while they're topside . . . then we can turn a blind eye to it even if the girls later come back below decks. It might mean you personally get a ticket or something, but we won't lose the yacht. Would that be okay?"

"Cool. Thanks," Lola said, and she followed Nick to the wine refrigerator. Lola made a point of walking out to the cockpit and the foredeck with extra glasses of wine, then the girls gathered in the salon against the chill of the settling night.

"I suppose we need to talk about tomorrow's plans," Bobbie said, pointedly ignoring the glasses of ruby liquid that each girl held. "From here, we can make a run down to Pax River, ah, that is, Patuxent River, or to the Potomac River. The Potomac leads all the way to DC. Do you want to visit Washington?"

Twilight looked surprised. "You mean, we can just choose?"

"Yep," Bobbie confirmed cheerfully. "One of the best things about cruising is that we set our own path. We can get up fairly early and make the run in time to see the sights in whatever place is next, or just chill after we get there. Or we can sleep late . . . or even sleep very late and take an extra day. As long as the weather holds - and it's supposed to be good for the next several days - we're not in any hurry."

"I don't think I want to go to DC," Lola said. "Maybe somewhere else like this, for at least another day, and then someplace with shopping."

"Good enough. I'll take care of it," Bobbie promised.

They adjourned to their stateroom, leaving the girls to take care of themselves as though the yacht were their own. In fact, Bobbie wasn't that trusting. The Sorceress had a closed-circuit TV system with several cameras and she could monitor most of the areas of the yacht from their stateroom. But it also wasn't long before the girls adjourned to their own large bed. Through the bulkhead Bobbie and Nick could hear lots of giggling, some slap and tickle excitement, and then . . . something that started out quieter but didn't stay that way.

Nick laughed and said, "It sounds to me like the quiet Alabaster is a bit more vocal in bed. That's gotta be her soprano hitting the high notes."

"A bit," Bobbie agreed, blushing but finding herself becoming aroused as well. She turned away to change into her nightgown and hoped that her not-so-little tattletales would quiet down before she had to turn back.

It didn't work, but she noticed - she could hardly miss it - that Nick's own tattletale was showing that he was not immune to fantasies either . . . and his revealing indicator was not even close to 'little.'

Neither said anything though. Nick just crawled into bed - he slept against the bulkhead - and held the covers up in invitation to Bobbie. She took it and slid in next to him to be held within the massive armor of his arms. Her thick hair always seemed to go everywhere, and about the third time a frond was ticking Nick's nose, she started to giggle.

"I'm sorry," she said, though her laughing eyes denied it.

"No you're not," he accused. He leaned down and gave her a quick peck of a kiss.

Bobbie whispered, "So, you don't find kissing a woman to be such a bad thing anymore?"

"Uh, no," Nick replied dryly. "I presume you find kissing a man to be acceptable as well?"

"Uh, yes," she murmured in turn.

The big man let his thick fingers play in her hair for a moment, then sighed.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Well, I was just wondering. What if it was like, a fluke or something. That special magic we had in the pilothouse. What if it was just due to the sunset, and . . . I don't know. . . something that isn't really . . . real, somehow?"

Bobbie smiled up at him, not buying for an instant that he was really worried about that. But she decided to play along. "Well, I guess we'd need to make sure. One way or the other, I mean."

"That would seem to be prudent," Nick said. He brushed her hair back from her face with his massive, though gentle, paw. In a moment they were kissing again. It was still very tender, but it was building on their arousal from the action in the next stateroom and it added a chorus of passion to their tenderness. After a long, delicious moment, he leaned back to look into her eyes.

Bobbie was frowning, instead of the satisfied smile he had hoped for.

"What's wrong?" he asked now.

"We need to be careful," she said.


"We need to be careful - I mean, we need to take this easy. Not get carried away."

He leaned back and showed a frown of his own. "If you say so, but . . ."

"But what?"

"Well, I'm not about to force you to do anything you don't want to do, but . . . I mean, we're married, right? And from that kiss . . . well, I'm having a hard time believing you aren't interested in me."

Bobbie sighed, but said, "I'm just not . . . ready."

Nick let out his own sigh, very theatrical, and accompanied with a snarky grin. "Okay, but you won't mind if I help you get ready, will you? I mean, in the interests of our mission and all. . ."

Bobbie giggled at his noble tone. "Oh, you are such a guy."

Nick looked smug as he agreed. "Yep. And you are one incredibly hot woman. So I'm not going to apologize at all."

And he didn't. Apologize that is. But he did try to convince her that she wasn't going to be 'not ready' forever. He did it as a gentleman, of course. He never, ever 'forced' her to do anything she didn't want to do. Want very much to do, in fact. Even if they just held each other a little. And kissed . . . more than a little.

But he was an awesome kisser. Or so Bobbie decided.

Over the next couple of days they made their way to Norfolk, finally pulling into the marina in the Nauticus area. The girls wanted to go shopping in the big mall there and that gave Bobbie time to arrange for fuel and Nick time to clean the yacht. It had turned out that they were both happy to split up the duties so that Bobbie did most of the navigating and drove the boat, while Nick functioned as deck hand, cook, and general housekeeper. Ironically, that meant that Bobbie was the one who got the dirtiest that day because she used the time to check the oil and clean out all the bilges. Sorceress was a tight ship and the engines were new so there wasn't really much in the bilges, but the very fact she was new meant that any leakage at all needed to be followed back to the source.

So it was a somewhat greasy, shorts-and-t-shirt Captain who greeted the returning Goth girls. Nick helped them with their packages and Bobbie ducked into the head to clean up. When she came out she found the three girls and Nick in the salon, looking just a bit down.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"Twilight and Alabaster are leaving," Lola said. "When I invited them to come along, I didn't really know what it would be like and while I think this is just awesome, they think they need to get back to . . . well, to other things."

It appeared to Bobbie that Twilight agreed with that entirely, though Alabaster seemed a bit reluctant. Nonetheless, that was their decision and Bobbie started calling around to make the necessary arrangements. They spent a night in Norfolk so that the two departing guests could catch convenient flights the next day. Then the Sorceress headed further south.

It is possible for boats up to mid-size yachts like the Sorceress to travel all the way from New York to Florida without ever getting out into the actual Atlantic Ocean. The Inland Waterway provides protected passage at the price of occasionally slow progress due to the need to wait for a bridge to be raised or the need to proceed at only idle speed past homes and marinas.

Alternatively, the open Ocean can be traversed at whatever speed your vessel can handle. Their path south combined stretches of each option depending on wind, tide, weather, and their whim.

The second day out of Norfolk, after they passed Cape Hatteras, Bobbie and Nick found themselves with a new passenger - or the next best thing. A stranger came out of the master stateroom to eat a late breakfast from the available bounty. Their newly met stranger looked like an attractive, vivacious co-ed. She wore a saucy little playsuit with wicked cutouts. Her face showed natural-looking, though flattering makeup that made her improbably pretty green eyes look unexpectedly real. Her dark hair - a natural looking brown instead of its previous inky black - even had some body and bounce.

"Wow," Bobbie said. "I'm impressed."

"Don't run it into the ground," Lola grumped, but her eyes twinkled and she giggled. "You caught me. I like playing at Goth every now and then. It's a different type of people with wonderful . . . intensity. They help me to see everything in a vibrant, renewed way. Afterwards, I'm . . . I don't know . . . re-energized so that I can enjoy being who I really am, I guess."

"I approve," Bobbie said. Nick, who was moving supplies from the lazarette to the galley, declared his agreement as well, but he kept at his duty. The two women let him do it. It had gotten quite a bit warmer since they started, about equal parts of being further south and a general warming trend. Altogether it was a bit too warm for real exertion on their part though Nick didn't seem to mind.

For the first time, Bobbie found herself physically attracted to Lola. Bob had never really understood the Goth thing and though Alabaster had been attractive in her own way, that style had always seemed too morbid for him - and so for Bobbie. But this Lola . . .

A few weeks earlier, Bob would have felt very guilty for the attraction he felt toward someone like Lola. He knew that for a fact because he had felt that sort of pull toward Becca Jameson - and felt guilty about it. Now Bobbie stood next to a woman as vivacious and energetic as Becca, and who seemed to demonstrate better taste in styles. Lola looked like the fresh-faced, emerging womanhood of the college sweetheart ideal and she was standing close enough to Bobbie for the blonde to sense the brunette's light, flowery scent, to feel the occasional strand of soft dark hair caress her face, and to know that her own blonde billows were caressing Lola.

Lola broke the mood by adding yet another confusing factor to the equation.

"Your husband is a hunk," the brunette declared.

And she was right. His Merlin-provided clothes (they had each found several of the pseudo-pirate outfits in their stateroom) fit very well . . . very well indeed. It showed the bar-taut firmness of his buns under the stretched-just-right tightness of his leather pants. The even tighter - well, just as tight - t-shirt showed he had worked up enough sweat to bring glossy highlights to the rippling muscles that bunched and released in his arms as he hauled packages.

Bobbie realized that she had been staring. After a moment she shook a little and then said, "Oh, yeah, um, yes, he's quite . . . good looking. At least, I think so."

Lola giggled. "Not being blind, I agree." She grabbed a book and headed up to the boat deck to read until they reached the evening's destination - wherever that happened to be.

Bobbie watched Lola move away then turned to see that Nick had been watching her watching the brunette. She noticed that his eyes were not meeting hers. Tracking the line of sight showed that he was fascinated with her boobs . . . again. Looking down revealed that her little tattletale nips were diamond hard and aching - as though she hadn't noticed that already from the inside, and that her unconsciously arched back provided an unobstructed line of sight to Nick. She frowned, then snickered at her own confusion - a confusion that was not made any easier when she saw that Nick's own semaphore was sending a signal of need as well.

That night found them in another quiet anchorage. When the Sorceress was buttoned up for the night and they were getting ready for bed, Bobbie felt the urge to try out a different nightgown - one that was a bit shorter and deliciously more feminine than she usually wore.

Nick noticed. He tried not to stare - that was obvious from the number of times that she caught him staring, though each time he looked away and blushed. But he couldn't keep his eyes off of her. Neither said anything but when Bobbie snuggled into his arms for their normal nightly cuddle it was undeniably obvious that something had come up between them. Stifling a giggle - without much success -, she squirmed against him with the sleek, smooth material of her nighty.

"My, my, is that a winch handle, or are you happy to see me?" she purred in a poor parody of a Mae West growl.

"You're not helping," he grumped. Nick turned to find a position where he wasn't intruding on Bobbie's . . . space quite so much. And then he moved again, and then . . .

"Excuse me, babe, but I need to go to the head," he declared.

She let him get past her, but when he stopped by their dresser to pick up some lotion, she called him back.

"Nicky, don't go. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I know, babe. I'm sorry, too. But I'm sure not going to get any sleep this way."

He turned back to the door, but Bobbie called again. "Nicky . . . don't go. I'll . . . help."

He turned back with surprised eyes, to see her with a strange combination of fear, guilt, and anticipation in her wide blue eyes.

"You don't have to . . ," he began.

"I know," she interrupted him. "But I want to."

"To . . ?"

"To help you, dummy," she said, laughing to try to relieve the tension. "But bring your lotion. This is something I've already . . . learned how to do, though my perspective was a bit different before. I'll help you, um, handle your problem, but that's all."

"That's all?" he repeated, not sure whether to argue or be simply appreciative.

"For now," she said. Nick wasn't really looking for an argument so he brought the lotion and a towel . . . and appreciated her offer.

Chapter 5 - "Wicked Ways"

"Morning wood" doesn't actually involve any wood but it is legitimately associated with mornings. And it is certainly harder than ordinary flesh. "It" was the first to rise the next morning, a fact that intruded into both Bobbie and Nick's awareness before they were truly awake.

Bobbie giggled and reached again for the lotion. "If this gets to be a habit, I'll make you do it yourself."

"Why?" Nick asked with a grin of his own. "It's your fault, after all."

"Oh, I think you have something to do with it," she said, sliding her hands around the demanding monster that she had awakened. Nick didn't really argue. But Bobbie had arranged herself a bit differently than the night before and their positions presented a new opportunity.

With surprising gentleness for such a large implement, Nick's hand began to caress the full globes hinted at by Bobbie's nightgown. In a heartbeat, there were more . . . pointed targets for his attention, but with knowledge of what works best that few men had ever shared, he didn't neglect the soft curves entirely in favor of the sharper accents.

"Oh, god, what are you doing to me?" Bobbie gasped.

"Not as much as you're doing to me," Nick claimed. To reinforce his claim he snaked one hand around to another of Bobbie's centers of interest; this one much warmer, and soon much moister.

"Nicky," she moaned, "I don't think you should be . . ."

"Don't think," Nicky commanded in a soft, but compelling whisper. "Just feel."

Somehow, despite her body's panting demand for breath that just wouldn't seem to come, despite shivers of electricity that pulsed through her body, despite a growing sense of wonder at sensations she had never even imagined, Bobbie managed to keep a part of her attention on her own "duty." There were a few missed strokes and some uneven pressure, but then Nick's own manipulations weren't holding to any definable rhythm either.

Perhaps it as that divided attention that kept enough of Bobbie in the real world to hear the sound of footsteps in the passageway outside their stateroom. And then a rattle in the galley just behind their bed.

"Oh, Nicky, I need, to . . . I mean, you need to . . . Lola is up," Bobbie gasped.

"Oh, god, not now!" Nick moaned.

Maybe it was the idea of the two girls - and of what they might eventually do - but as his conscious mind remembered that Lola was on the yacht too - and why . . . at least Bobbie's task was completed successfully.

"I guess I'll be the one to tell her good morning," Bobbie said, leaning back with a strange little mixture of success and frustration in her expression.

"I'll, um, make it up to you," Nick promised.

"We'll see," Bobbie said as she moved to put on her robe. But her tone said it was definitely a possibility.

The normal morning pattern of shower and breakfast was a bit confused by Lola's early rise. After their simpler-than-usual breakfast, Lola went into the salon to take advantage of the stabilized satellite links installed on the Sorceress to update her Facebook and e-mail so she was occupied for a while.

Bobbie was more than a little frustrated by the interruption in Nick's attention so she decided to take a break from her normal ship's routine. She just couldn't stand the idea of yet another morning spent plotting possible courses, checking weather, calculating fuel usage and on and on. She'd still do that at some point in the day, but after they weighed anchor and got underway she decided that she was due a morning of sun-worshiping.

"Besides," she told herself. "I'm so blonde now that if I don't work on my tan gradually, I'll burn brighter than a lobster."

She left Nick in charge of the helm and headed below. Bobbie spent about half the time she had allocated for tanning just picking out a swimsuit. Her Merlin-provided options included bikinis in two sizes - dangerously revealing and simply obscene. Unfortunately, she hadn't even thought to get a more reasonable one on her shopping day. "I'm going to have to go ashore and get some more clothes . . . maybe somewhere around Miami," she decided.

But that was not really what delayed her. She could have just picked the most concealing of the available options - little though that was - but . . . the color just didn't work for her. Another had a pattern that was too energetic for the relaxation she wanted, and another was just . . . boring. She finally found one that was more revealing than she had intended, but in an interesting blue and gold that - she realized after a moment - actually went pretty well with the Sorceress interior decoration colors. In any event, she finally made her way to the foredeck and pulled out a tanning pad.

"It's a good thing Merlin made it so I can go without heels at least some of the time," she thought. "Walking around in a bikini and stilettos is just too cliché."

She could pad quietly around in her bare feet or wear deck shoes whenever she wanted, but true to Merlin's description, after an hour or so her ankles would start to ache. Most of the time she just found it more comfortable to wear something with a heel. That could include any one of several pair of pirate-type boots from thigh to calf high, or wedge-heeled cork sandals, or pumps in styles that she had decided didn't look silly when worn with jeans or even shorts. Still, teetering on heels while wearing only a tiny bikini was a bit much.

It took her about 2 minutes to decide that lying in the sun was something she enjoyed enormously. The sun was just warm enough on her essentially undressed body to keep her comfortable. The breeze was light and softly caressing. The gentle rollers that the Sorceress easily mounted provided just the right sense of rocking a baby to sleep, and she was that fortunate baby.

"Um, babe?" she heard a call.

Forcing her eyes open Bobbie saw a wide-eyed hulk of a man trying 'manfully' not to stare at her awesome body.

When he had her attention, Nick said. "Babe, you might want to turn over. I'd hate for all that gorgeous skin to get burned."

"Put your eyeballs back in their sockets, you pig," Bobbie said, but she laughed a lighthearted tinkle that they both realized was the most genuine sign of happiness she'd showed since their transformation. "What time is it?" she asked.

"Getting on toward noon," reported Nick, and that changed Bobbie's smile into a mild frown.

"I need to get on with things anyway," she said.

"Damn," he muttered, just loud enough for her to hear. "Next time I'm not saying a thing!"

She laughed again before following him through the pilothouse door so that she could go below for her long-delayed shower. As she descended through the salon level, she realized that Lola was looking at her, too.

"That looked nice," Lola observed when a redressed Bobbie reappeared.

"It was. You should try it," Bobbie suggested.

"I might," Lola said.

Because the weather was so agreeable they were out in the actual Atlantic and they decided just to cruise through the night. The engines on the Sorceress were quiet enough that passengers could sleep but they all felt a sort of slumber party atmosphere as the darkness swallowed the sun. It was clear enough for 9 zillion and 12 stars to show and that provided both a backdrop and a source of conversation as they relaxed on the darkened flybridge lit only by the minimum of instrumentation. The running lights were shielded by the bimini top so they were in the sort of shadowy gloom where the presence of the others was sensed as much as seen, and where their mostly disembodied voices naturally tended toward philosophical musings rather than raucous merriment.

At some point Lola fell asleep on the flybridge settee, leaving Bobbie and Nick to share the pilot's seats behind the wheel. But they shared it in companionable silence; once again comfortable in each other's presence as Bob and Nicole had been. Bobbie leaned up against the massive bulk of her husband and sighed.

"What do you say we go to Alaska by way of Cape Horn?" she murmured softly.

"Works for me, babe," Nick concurred. "Might take a while longer than we planned."

"Right now, I don't want this ever to end."

"I know what you mean," he agreed. "At times like this, I find it kinda hard to hate Merlin."

"Yeah," she said, nodding into his chest. But the observation broke the mood, and while they both regretted that loss, they also both knew they could never really forget.

None of them went below deck that evening, but all slept at least part of the night and they were reasonably fresh when the time came to enter Palmetto Bay marina in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Bobbie had negotiated with a harbor master for a berth and she expertly conned Sorceress into her assigned position. By now, Nick was a practiced hand at lines and shore connections for power and water so by the time Bobbie had the engines ready to shut down they had external power and she didn't need to fire up their own generator.

Lola had some other friends in the Hilton Head area. She waved good-bye while the couple were still taking care of ship's business and for the first time in several days, they were alone together.

"So, what do you want to do today?" Nick asked.

"I know this is a cliché," she said, laughing, "but I need to go shopping."

"Oh, no!" he said with exaggerated despair. "What do you need now?"

"I need a swimsuit," she said.

"What? Why?" he asked, now not faking any surprise.

"That little thing I wore yesterday is too skimpy to be legal in half the Caribbean."

"Bullshit," Nick said, surprising them both with the expletive. "Sorry. I just meant . . . well, I guess bullshit does just about cover it. You looked just . . . incredible. And I'd much rather not be in any place that wouldn't agree."

"Thanks," she said, smiling with the flattery. "But I need something less . . ."

Nick laughed and interrupted her, "If it were any less, there wouldn't be any of it at all."

"That's exactly the point, you big goof!" she said, slapping ineffectually at his invulnerable arm.

He winced like she had actually hurt him but they both laughed at the silliness of it all.

"Well, I'm not going ashore looking like a pirate," Bobbie said. "Let's find some other clothes and just go . . . see whatever there is to see."

And so they did. They even ended up buying a swimsuit . . . though not for Bobbie. All of the ones that she was interested in were so disappointing to Nick that she just couldn't fight his puppy-dog eyes of sadness. So she compromised by making him buy a racing suit that was as daring as any of hers - particularly considering the challenge it faced in covering his . . .

In any event, they were laughing like school kids when they returned to the Sorceress that evening. Bobbie went to the pilothouse to plan the next leg of their cruise while Nick fixed a simple sandwich supper. Actually, she had to make two plans, and very extensive ones. From their next stop in Fort Lauderdale they faced the key decision on whether to go around Cuba to the east or to the west. The western route was shorter but the legendary islands of the Caribbean were found on the eastern route that ended up in Granada and Aruba. Left to herself, Bobbie might have chosen the western route in part because she wouldn't have to deal with as many customs bureaucracies. But this was a choice that Lola should probably be allowed to make and to support that Bobbie had to plan both routes.

Lola arrived a bit after midnight and more than a bit sloshed. Her friend - a tall, decidedly non-Goth, suntanned blonde named Jennifer - laughed as she helped Bobbie put Lola to bed, relating tales of how Lola had flirted with just about everything on two legs all evening.

"That girl needs to get laid, bad," Jennifer said. "I'm . . . open to the idea myself - she's quite a morsel - but she was so busy putting the moves on everyone and anyone that by the time we might have worked something out, she was too drunk for me."

"I guess that makes you a pretty good friend," Bobbie said.

"Or pretty stupid," Jennifer said, laughing at herself. "Take care of her, okay? She's . . . I don't know if you know about her family life. I met her before she dropped out of college so I got a little of it. She never talks about her parents. I don't know if she's an orphan or just estranged from them. The only family I know for sure she has is a - frankly - pretty unpleasant grandfather. He throws money at her but I'm not sure he's even capable of anything like love."

"I've met him," Bobbie said quietly, nodding her head in agreement with Jennifer's observation.

Jennifer took a moment to use her observational skills on her new acquaintance. "Y'know," she said, "Ever since the puberty fairy showered me with blessings, I've always been the prettiest girl in the room."

Bobbie looked at her in confusion, so Jennifer continued. "Except for now. You make me look like a little girl. You're taller, way prettier, and that figure . . . I'd think it was fake except you carry it so sensually that I can't believe it's not natural."

Bobbie's eyes went wide with shock at Jennifer's praise; shock comprised of amazement at the flattery, and irony at the other blonde's declaration that Bobbie looked in any way natural.

Jennifer laughed at Bobbie's expression. "Don't go all bimbo on me, girl. You know how hot you look. But here's the thing . . . now that I see you, I can see why Lola was throwing herself at everyone tonight. Especially at me. She's got the hots for you, girl, and she's got it bad. So the question is . . . are you gonna help her with that little problem?"

Bobbie couldn't meet her eyes. She looked away, and then murmured, "I'm married."

"So?" Jennifer challenged. "That can be fun."

Bobbie's eyes widened at the suggestion. She looked so totally conflicted that Jennifer laughed again. "Ohmigod," the visitor said. "You're a virgin! At least, with girls. Aren't you? But you're interested. I can see that, too."

Jennifer sighed. "Lordy, I'd love to stay and show you the opportunities of the other side myself. It would be . . . memorable. But I won't poach on Lola's territory. Just don't hurt her, okay?"

Bobbie was still way too tongue-tied to say anything, but she nodded. They closed the door to Lola's stateroom and moved back to the salon.

"Can we get you a drink, or a snack?" Nick offered.

"No drinks," Jennifer said, laughing again. "Or you may have to pour me into one of your beds. But I would kill for some fruit or . . . some chocolate. I have a killer sweet tooth."

"Gotcha covered," Nick promised, and Bobbie led Jennifer to the cockpit behind the salon, leaving the doors open to the nighttime breeze.

Nick made good on his promise with both fruit and chocolate in the form of deliciously decadent strawberry sundaes topped with hot chocolate. The women had a nearly orgasmic experience with each bite, and even Nick savored his rather than inhaling it.

By the time they were done, Jennifer was yawning so hard they tried to get her to stay the night but she demurred and vanished as lightly as she had arrived.

The next morning didn't happen. It actually did, of course, but they didn't make their planned departure in the morning so as far as the cruise was concerned it was like that half day was gone before it arrived. It was well into the afternoon when a decidedly disheveled Lola staggered out of her stateroom.

"What time is it?" she asked, scratching in a decidedly unladylike way. She caught herself after a second and blushed, looking to see if Nick had noticed. His attention had very ostentatiously been elsewhere - perhaps because she was only wearing a fairly thin t-shirt that really wasn't quite long enough to function as a nightgown.

"Oh, about Tuesday," Bobbie said, laughing.

"What?" Lola said, then grimaced. "Okay, okay. I get it." She forced her eyes to focus on the ship's clock on the bulkhead, and sighed. "Weren't we going to leave for Lauderdale this morning?"

"We were," Bobbie said, still grinning. But then she relented and poured Lola a cup of coffee. "But that's the good thing about having your own yacht. We can stay another day if you want."

"Actually," Lola said. "I'd just as soon get out to sea again. I need to clear my head. How's the weather?"

"Pretty good," Bobbie reported. "If that's what you want, we can get started. How's your stomach?"

"Is that a problem?" Lola asked, waking up more now that she was getting some coffee.

"Not for us," Bobbie said. "I guess it depends on you. We may get to moving around a bit."

"Go for it," Lola said. "My stomach is fine. It's my head that's on backwards."

Bobbie laughed again, but nodded. They were soon underway. Despite her claim of a strong stomach Lola only wanted a light breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. However,she was fairly cheerful by the time they were out of the Hilton Head waters and back in the Atlantic. She disappeared back into her cabin to get dressed and Bobbie took advantage of that for another sunning session, leaving Nick once again at the helm.

Lola must have heard her arranging her pad - the foredeck was directly over the master cabin - so instead of dressing in her usual boat clothes the slim brunette showed up on the foredeck in a bikini of her own. This one made Bobbie's look like a Mother Hubbard. It was the first time that Bobbie had ever seen a suit from Wicked Weasel and she was glad that Merlin didn't know about them or her own bikinis would truly have been impossible. Lola's suit gave an entirely new meaning to the word, 'micro.'

"Wow," Bobbie said. "It's a good thing we're out of sight of land."

"Hell, Blondie, no matter what I wear nobody is going to know I'm around if you're on the same boat."

"Tell that to my lunk of a lecherous husband," Bobbie said, sticking her tongue out at him though the pilothouse window.

Lola shared her laugh, and together they arranged a pad for the brunette as well but she was hardly settled when she said, "Oh, damn."

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, I just forgot my suntan lotion and I've been doing the Goth thing for long enough that I'm even fairer-skinned than you. I'll burn up in no time."

"Use some of my lotion," Bobbie offered.

"Thanks," Lola said, then she frowned again. "Look, would it be too much trouble for you to get my back? I'm afraid I won't get it all. If you do, I'll return the favor."

"No problem," Bobbie said, and her tone was light but she sent a look at Nick. He frowned, then he shrugged.

Bobbie shrugged too, but she reached for the lotion. She had barely poured the first dollop of lotion into her palm to warm it up when Lola casually reached back and undid the top to her bikini. She treated it as though it were the most normal thing in the world so Bobbie more or less had to do the same. That left Lola the very-close next thing to naked, with only a tiny string diving between her cheeks and two similar strings curving around her hips.

Bobbie spent another second warming up the lotion but this time her decision was in her eyes. This was another chance for a 'natural' relationship to develop with Lola, and she was going to have to take advantage of it.

Not that it was all that much of a hardship. Bobbie had some definite pangs of guilt, but a part of that guilt was because she truly enjoyed stroking the pretty young woman's back . . . and then her legs . . . and then . . . the rest of her. To the extent the lotion was protection, nothing on Lola's back was going to get sunburned.

If Bobbie thought that was the end of it, at least for now, she was shown the error of her assumption when Lola casually rolled over on her back . . . without fastening up her top.

"Don't stop now," Lola commanded sleepily. "You're doing great."

So Bobbie continued.

When Lola rolled over the little chore had passed the casual convenience of friends helping with hard-to-reach places. Once upon a time Bob and Nicole had shared this sort of semi-public intimacy, even if only in their own back yard. As the transformed blonde worked her way around Lola's languid body, Bobbie called on her memories of how Bob had caressed, and teased, and - in the end - deliberately stimulated Nicole.

Teasing was a big part of that so she wandered around with apparent aimlessness, yet the lotion always covered more and more skin, and the uncovered area shrank to encompass only the tiny part hidden by the micro bikini and the dark accents of Lola's puckered areolae.

When Bobbie finally let her lotion-covered palms caress Lola's diamond-hard nipples, the dark-haired girl arched into the touch and purred, "Oh, god, that feels so good."

"Glad to be of service," Bobbie murmured, aware of her own response to the intimate touch. Lola was aware of Bobbie's response too, because she let her eyes slit open to see the hard evidence of interest. She opened her eyes the rest of the way and smiled up at her blonde benefactrix.

"My turn," Lola said, and she pushed Bobbie back onto her own mat. The curvy blonde twisted around so that she was on her front and didn't complain when the first thing that Lola did was undo the back of her own top.

Lola wasn't bad.

Actually, she was showing all the signs of being a very naughty girl but she wasn't unskilled. Bobbie found herself enjoying the lotion-slicked backrub even when Lola started kneading the generous curves of her very female bottom. Or maybe especially then.

"Roll over, gorgeous," Lola whispered in her ear, the brunette's soft breath sending visible shivers through Bobbie's back.

Bobbie laid there for a long moment, then reached around herself to do up her bikini top.

Panting just a bit - which was not an act - she rolled over but sat up. "I think I need to . . .go . . . plan the next . . ."

Lola leaned forward, her mouth nearly touching the blonde woman's swollen lips. "Really?" she purred.

"Yes," Bobbie whispered, closing her eyes, but not leaning forward to make the final contact.

Then she leaned back, and shook her head. "I think I need to go in and get us back on course. By now Nicky has probably passed out from lack of blood to his head. I'm sure he was watching. If not, then he wasn't doing a very good job conning the Sorceress."

"So if he wasn't watching . . ?" Lola asked, smiling without rancor at having her offer declined.

"I think it's my turn for the watch," Bobbie said, blushing and looking away . . . then looking back. Lola smiled because she knows the blonde's non-answer was an answer.

Bobbie gathered up her things but as she turned away she heard Lola say, "Same time tomorrow?"

It caused the tall blonde woman to freeze in mid stride. After a moment it caused her to turn around and look at the still seated brunette . . . and nod.

Lola laughed, and then laughed again as she watched through the window as Bobbie and Nick started to talk.

"God, that was hot!" Nick panted, nearly as aroused as the two women. Or maybe even more aroused. Certainly his tight pirate pants were stretched to the danger point.

"Down boy," Bobbie commanded. "Go get started on dinner."

"Aye, aye, Cap'n," Nick said cheekily, and he threw her a not-very-submissive salute as he headed down the few steps into the galley.

Bobbie put a pair of tight little shorts on over her bikini, plus one of the blousy crop tops she liked. Then she got down to serious navigating for the next several legs of their journey. Again. As a way to give her mind something else to think about.

It wasn't long after Nick got busy in the galley that Lola came into the salon, dressed in a bright little playsuit and apparently not much else.

"I saw you watching us," she said to Nick.

Nick's cheeks flushed, but he just nodded.

Lola giggled, and then leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially. "Maybe tomorrow . . . you can do me."

She laughed again when Nick twitched and grunted at the all-too-obvious response his body had to that image.

Lola spent some time on the satellite links as they cruised to Fort Lauderdale, then announced that she wanted to spend an extra day there, somewhere not too far from the airport. Bobbie dutifully arranged a berth at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort, grateful that the cruel-but-generous Merlin was picking up the $400/day dockage fee. Due to their late start it was evening before they were settled in and Lola seemed content to take it easy. She did spend a larger-than-usual amount of time on the computer doing Facebook things, and then on her cell phone.

The next morning she was the only one who was not surprised when Jennifer showed up on the dock, waving cheerfully and pulling a rolling bag.

"Hi guys," Jennifer called.

"Hello, Jennifer," Bobbie said dryly. "I'm surprised to see you again, though I supposed I shouldn't be. Welcome aboard."

Jennifer took the third stateroom, disappearing inside to reappear wearing a bikini that made Bobbie blush just to see it. Not the least of which is that she felt a pang of guilt as she realized she was thinking about how it would look on her - particularly after she saw Nick staring. His eyes were starting to glaze over when Lola came out of her cabin in another Wicked Weasel pretense for swimming attire - which did not make his sense of sensory overload any easier, no matter how guilt-ridden - and the two girls quickly took possession of the foredeck.

Bobbie was not naïve enough to miss the message in Lola's next actions. She cheerfully demanded that Jennifer "do her back" as she initiated a scene much like she had started with Bobbie while they were at sea. The marina was far less private than the open ocean but it didn't seem to matter to the two girls - nor, for that matter, to the few people who were out and about. They were soon slathering lotion in any place the sun might even consider sneaking a peek at on either of their trim young bodies.

And then they weren't paying much attention to the lotion any more. Lola pulled Jen's head in for a toe-curling kiss that the blonde was only too happy to return in kind. After that, they really . . . demonstrated some affection.

Bobbie and Nick tried not to watch, but it was hard to miss. Jennifer in particular was quite vocal and every few minutes their attention would be dragged back to the amorous pair by a cry, or a moan, or a very audible pant, or words transitioning from plea to demand and back again. Lola mostly laughed but it was clear that she was having a good time until Jen arranged things to give the smaller brunette a *very* good time. Then she had a few vocalizations of her own and if they were a bit quieter, they were certainly no less urgent.

It wasn't long before both of the girls collapsed on the mats, panting and satiated. Lola might have fallen asleep but Jennifer pulled her to her feet - both leaving their unwanted bikinis behind, and took her below decks. It might have seemed rudely dismissive of the other couple on the Sorceress - more than an echo of the cruel disdain so often showed by her grandfather - except it was clear that Lola was highly aware of the resident pair and that at least some of her intention was to arouse the married couple with what they were missing.

Bobbie went out to pick up the leavings from their passion then tried one more time to concentrate on something the ship needed. She lost track of Nick for a while. Later, she found him coming out of their stateroom with a guilty expression on his face that made it clear what he had been doing.

"I should have joined him," Bobbie thought, then was shocked that the idea truly had an appeal to her.

After their morning delight, the girls took a nap and only appeared for a late lunch in mid-afternoon.

"When can we get underway?" Lola asked.

"Any time you want," Bobbie said, her tone and face expressionless.

It brought a gleam of teasing pleasure to Lola's eyes, but the brunette only said, "Can we make it to the Bahamas today?

"If not today, then by early tomorrow," Bobbie reported. "We can cruise through the night again if you'd like."

"I think that would be wonderful," Jennifer said, and Lola nodded.

So they worked their way out of the Lauderdale marinas - it took over an hour just to get to open water - and set their course for Freeport. Bobbie had confirmed that the state of the tide would favor an early morning arrival so she set their speed accordingly and they sailed away from the setting sun.

Since Bobbie needed to stay by the wheel, they had their evening meal in the pilothouse on the settee. Bobbie often used it as a spare chart table but it was really a dinette set with a table that could seat the four of them quite easily. They were on autopilot so Bobbie didn't have to stand at the wheel as long as she could see the radar and course displays.

It was a strangely normal meal, considering that Lola had made an out-and-out pass at one of the married couple and the next thing to a pass at the other. . . and that neither had told her no. Then the newcomer, another improbably pretty blonde, had made good on the offer that Bobbie had declined. Yet no one mentioned any of that.

Part way through the meal they met the larger rollers of the Gulf Stream. Nick worked quickly to secure the dishes and anything else left out in the galley while Bobbie moved to the main pilot's chair by the helm. Lola and Jennifer reclined on the settee, watching the disciplined concentration shown by Bobbie and asking an occasional question on what the radar was showing, or how Bobbie determined their location. After a little while Lola told the captain that they was going to the flybridge to take in the night sky. Bobbie nodded a somewhat distracted acknowledgment.

Not long after that, Nick returned from his cleanup chores. At first he stood beside Bobbie but then he moved around behind her. His hands slid around her sides and started to softly rub on the hefty mounds of her breasts. Leaning forward, he whispered in her ear, "You are sssooo hot. When you were . . . touching Lola . . " His hands recreated the image he had seen, moving to the thrusting tips of Bobbie's nipples.

"Stop," Bobbie gasped, but instead of pulling away she leaned into his touch, relishing the pleasure that replaced the earlier frustration when she saw Lola with a stand-in.

"Do you really want me to stop?" he asked, his husky breath caressing her ear.

Bobbie panted, trying to catch a breath that her frozen diaphragm couldn't provide. "You have to. I'm . . .I have to . . . I'm . . . at the wheel."

One of Nick's hands reached forward to put the Sorceress back on autopilot. "We're 20 miles from the nearest shoal water," he reported, "and the AIS doesn't show any close ship traffic for at least another hour." His hand returned to its previous occupation, and Bobbie progressed to an even more desperate panting.

Then they heard Lola's feet on the stairway. Nick dropped his hands and stepped casually beside Bobbie again. She made a show of studiously examining the navigation display, taking her hair down from its customary ponytail as though it were a casual movement, hoping that the increased concealment of her unfettered volume of hair would hide her shuddering arousal.

Lola paused for just a moment, gaining a glance and nod from Nick but no immediate response from Bobbie. The brunette snickered softly, making it clear she was not fooled by their captain's ploy. "I'm just going to get something to drink," she declared.

"Do you need any help?" Nick offered.

"No thanks, I got it," Lola said. "Don't let me interrupt what you were doing."

"Yeah, right," he muttered when she was out of earshot.

"We shouldn’t have been doing that anyway," Bobbie whispered, still panting and flushed.

"It would be a lot easier to believe that . . . if you believed it yourself," Nick said dryly. Bobbie didn't really have a response.

By this time they had passed the main flow of the Gulf Stream and the waves were back to gentle swells easily handled by the stabilizers. Bobbie handed the wheel over to Nick and went to get a nap before the next morning's entry into Bahamian waters.

Grand Bahama Yacht Club is a port of entry to the Bahamas so it was convenient for their first stop. Of course, that convenience came at a price, but no one aboard was paying it which made it a pretty good deal. The girls were amenable so Bobbie arranged to go by the fuel pier first, and even Nick had it easy as the staff helped him get the fuel tanks full and the storage tanks pumped out.

As soon as they were tied up for the duration of their stay in Freeport, Lola and Jen waved a cheery good-bye and took off for the pleasures of a renowned resort town. They were scarcely out of sight when Nick came to the pilothouse where Bobbie was doing yet more paperwork on their navigation and ship's records.

"Come with me," he said, pulling her to her feet.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm hoping you're going to say, 'Nothing at all,'" he said.

Nick led her to their stateroom, and as soon as she was inside, he started to ease her out of her clothes.

"Nick, I'm not ready for . . ."

"Neither am I, for what I expect you were thinking about," he said, though he didn't relieve her concern when he started to take his own clothes off as well. It wasn't long before he revealed a very impressive statement of what seemed to be his intent.

"No, really, Nicky, I'm not . . ."

" . . . going to do a thing," he finished for her.

Backing toward the bed, he pulled her after him.

She started to pull against his arms, but he persisted. "Shh, be still. You'll like this."

"Nicky . . ," she said warningly.

But she didn't fight enough to stop him, not that she could have done much against his massive power. In a moment he had his back against the side bulkhead, and then - to her surprise - he arranged her so that her back was leaning up against his deep chest.

"Just relax," he whispered in her ear. "You need this. You've been hiding in your charts and your tide tables too long. You've been hiding from me . . . and you've been hiding from yourself. It's time you let yourself appreciate just how wonderful you are, and how amazing your new body is. And this particular skill is something that I actually *am* familiar with."

He pulled her head against his shoulder then reached under her arms to restart the caresses he had demonstrated while she was at the wheel.

"Ohh, Nicky," she said, something of protest still in her voice, but lots of other things in there as well.

His thick, strong fingers moved on to other targets; controls that seemed to be hooked directly to her breathing. A touch, a squeeze, a bit of gliding pressure, and her breath would stop . . . to start again when he found some other controls, or some other sequence to activate them.

"Relax, my love," Nick purred in her ear. "You've done this for me, and Nicole did this for herself. Let me show you some of the things that make being a woman so magical, in ways that Merlin will never be able to understand and that we won't let him take away from us, ever again."

Chapter 6 - "Gorgeous Is As Gorgeous Does"

She gave him a black eye.

It wasn't deliberate. But they both found out that the earlier arousal Bobbie had experienced was a drop in a very big ocean next to the sensations that captured her when she was nearing 'the big O.' She began to twitch with uncontrollable spasms of arms, legs, and then of her whole body as it arched from hair to toenails, and then jackknifed the other way. There were several near misses - or actually, 'gentle' hits where the soft billows of her hair protected Nick's cheeks and nose and chin from the force of her contortions. But as she continued to climb her scale of intensity one of them clipped him well enough that he could tell he'd just won a mouse as a prize for his loving care.

At about that same point in her journey of ecstasy, Bobbie started to get vocal. She warmed up her throat on her vowels ("EEEeeeEEE!" "Ohhhhh." "Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.") including some of the short forms ("Uh, uh, uh, uh. Ahhhhh.") but when she passed into melodies of incoherence, Nick decided they didn't need their marina neighbors sending for the cops so he put his free hand over her mouth to keep the volume below tornado siren levels. That probably also kept him from taking any more damage because he held her head tightly to his shoulder with his immovable power.

And then she exploded. Nicky never knew it was possible for a human body to move in that many directions with that speed and not literally fly apart. She vibrated and thrashed and screamed . . .

. . . and then she begged.

"Oh, god, Nicky, don't stop. Do it again. Don't stop. Please . . ."

"Whoa, babe, slow down. We can do this again later."

"No," she cried. "Now. More, I need more. I need . . ."

She collapsed into his chest, sobbing with the loss of a sensation she never knew existed, that she would have laughed at the possibility it could exist until it had taken her captive.

Nick held her while she cried until she finally subsided into soft shudders of spent remnants of the dynamo she had been. When her energy started to rebuild, the emotion that flowed in behind that new power was anger.

"God damn that evil son of a bitch!" she snarled.

"What?" Nick asked.

"Merlin," she spat. "I know he did that to me. He's made this Barbie body so damn responsive that - right as you were finishing - I'd have killed to feel it again. I'd have done anything to feel it again. That includes taking on Lola and all her friends, one at a time or all together. I *needed* that sensation. I still feel an almost overwhelming need for that slice of paradise even now. And I know that need - that instant addiction - would overcome whatever social issues I might have about lesbian sex. Can't you see the hand of Merlin in this? In what he's done to me?"

"Wow," Nick said softly. "You're probably right. Hell, you have to be right. Is there anything I can do?"

"Don't tempt me," she said softly, but she managed a small smile, followed by a sigh. "Well, I'm sure not going to go hide in my navigation again. At least not until I really need to."

Bobbie turned around to kiss her too-helpful husband, and then moved toward her dresser. Pulling out a bikini that once would have made her feel worse than naked, she quickly put it on and headed for the foredeck.

She was still sulking at Merlin's manipulation when the other girls returned from their shopping trip, though she had put on some tight little shorts and a thin cover-up when she moved from the sunny foredeck to the shaded cockpit after her tanning time. Lola and Jennifer were giggling conspiratorially as they approached the Sorceress, then made a show of asking permission to come aboard.

"Did you enjoy your day?" Bobbie asked politely.

"Not as much as we're going to enjoy our evening," Jennifer said cryptically.

Lola explained. "We're going out to dinner tonight. All of us. After a nice dinner that Nick doesn't have to cook - no offence, Nicky dear, I really like your cooking - we're going to go dancing."

Then she looked a little closer at their mountainous mate. "What happened to you?"

"Bumped my eye when I was inspecting the bilges," he claimed.

Lola shrugged and giggled. "Well, we can always just tell people that you got fresh with me. And it won't affect your dancing."

"I'm not much of a dancer," Bobbie demurred when the smaller woman returned to the night's itinerary.

"Great!" Jennifer said with typical enthusiasm. "We can teach you."

"Okay," Lola said. "I expect to see high heels, stockings, and elegance from you, Bobbie. And Nicky, if you don't have a jacket and tie, then we'll have to make another shopping run to get you some."

"I have something," Nick said quietly, more concerned with Bobbie's response than his own.

Bobbie looked at him, then sighed one more time. It wasn't like she could really turn Lola down. Again.

A few frantic hours later and Nick was carefully locking up the Sorceress behind them. She had a pretty good alarm system which included an automated link to Bobbie's smart phone so there wasn't any real risk in leaving her alone for a few hours while they were tied up in a marina.

Lola was accenting her emerging tan with a peach colored wisp of sundress that made it clear she was island-natural under the thin fabric. Jennifer had chosen a pretty, cool-looking pastel blue that accented the lighter colors in her bright eyes. They looked like a pair of young socialites on the hunt - more money than sense - who were going to make someone's night memorable.

And then there was Bobbie. She was taller, curvier, prettier, and had four times the hair volume of Jennifer. Her own tan was coming along well enough that she had chosen a white halter dress that was way too short for stockings, coupled with heels that were way too high for real women to wear. Yet she wore them like they were the most comfortable shoes she owned. Bobbie made Lola and Jennifer look like little girls who still had a lot of growing to do, especially when Nick stood with his blonde wife and reinforced the scale set by the tall woman.

"Ohmigod," Lola had sighed reverently when Bobbie entered the salon.

"Lordy, lordy," Jennifer had seconded, her gaze going from the delicious Bobbie to the hunkalicious Nick and back again. "Lola, I changed my mind. I think I'll just blow my job off and stay with you until . . . oh, how about until I die from pure pleasure?"

"Down girl," Lola said, moving possessively between her and the Adlers. "I saw them first."

"From where I'm standing there's plenty enough to go around," Jennifer said.

"Shall we, um, go?" Nick asked, trying to keep from being discussed like a hunk of meat in a butcher shop.

They were late to their dinner reservations. It wasn't really all that far, well within the distance the younger girls had walked on their shopping excursion. But their heels were higher too, and Bobbie's were just insane. The girls needed to slow down and take restricted little steps that made the distance seem much farther.

And then there was the accident. While the girls - and Nick, too, but that probably wasn't much of a contributor - while the girls were standing at a street corner waiting for a light to change, a taxi ran into a delivery truck and they had to jump back as boxes of fruit flew as though to attack them. The taxi driver leaped out and started to yell at a pedestrian, who - the driver claimed - had stepped out directly in front of him without looking. By the time it was all sorted out their feet had rested but they still had a block or so to the restaurant. After the traffic accident, a street vendor falling over his wares and a little street band's music trailing off into silence were hardly worth mentioning.

Bobbie's subconsciously provided artistry with makeup had led her to a full-glamour look. It showed its value in the comfortably dark restaurant, accenting her huge, sky-blue eyes, her full, inviting lips, and her classic cheeks. Lola and Jen also looked very glamorous, though it was clear that they had less to work with than Bobbie no matter how much they tried.

The dinner itself did justice to the girls' promises. It was elegant in taste, presentation, and price. After Lola solemnly promised that they would not be leaving Freeport for at least 24 more hours, Bobbie and Nick indulged themselves with some of the wine that Jennifer recommended. When their meal was complete the restaurant's staff shepherded them smoothly to the dance club and they moved to the next part of the evening's activities.

Lola and Jen wasted no time in trying out the dance floor, leaving Bobbie and Nick alone at their small cocktail-laden table.

"I can't believe how beautiful you are," Nick said. "You make every other woman look like a child or an over-the-hill matron. You're perfect."

"Hardly," Bobbie snorted. "I look like a plastic toy, grown up to Amazon proportions. I'm surprised people aren't asking to see my Underwriters Lab stamp of approval."

"Well, you have *my* stamp of approval," Nick insisted. "But if you think you look, um, plastic, how about we show them how you move?"


"Let's dance," Nick said. "Nicole always loved to dance, and I find that I'm more than willing."

"But . . . we never went dancing," Bobbie said.

"That's because Bob didn't want to, not because I didn't," Nick said. "So . . ?"

"I can’t dance," Bobbie said.

"I don't believe you," Nick said bluntly. "C'mon, prove me wrong."

He pulled her to her towering heels and led her to the hardwood dance floor. In a moment, he started moving to the beat and she tried to follow what he was showing her. And in another moment . . .

Bob had always felt so self-conscious that he could never allow himself to just 'let go' and move with the music. Bobbie didn't have that trouble. She found it surprisingly easy and amazingly fun. Mostly because she followed Nicky's earlier advice: "Don't think. Just feel." She took her too-self-conscious mind out of the loop and let the music speak directly to her body. It was probably another of Merlin's embedded responses like skill with makeup or walking in heels, but she found she could not only dance freely and with energy, but also with grace and skill.

Nicole had never been as frantic as Bobbie's style revealed herself to be, but Nicole had always enjoyed the grace and flow of dancing. Even when the beat was fast and the energy level high, Nicole had found a way to react with a smooth transition from one motion to another. Nick showed the same technique, this time accented with a sense of raw power that was like breaking waves - building and roaring in over a beach, before receding for another sweeping motion.

They made a good pair, somehow always a pair despite their very different styles. And then there was no doubt they were a pair when the DJ changed to a slow song and Bobbie found herself captured within Nick's embrace. His strong powerful lead allowed her to continue to feel and react to the music, now within the guidance revealed by a gentle pressure on hip, or back, or fingers.

Lola frowned as she watched them, seeing the union of two souls that was closer than she had ever experienced. It accented her own loneliness and her shoulders lifted and fell in a sigh too silent to overcome the noise level, but nonetheless noticed by her friend.

"So, you got it bad, huh?" Jen asked, leaning down to speak into Lola's ear. Her tone was too loud to be a whisper but it was private within the sound of the club.

"What?" Lola asked, then she blushed. She didn't say anything but she couldn't deny it.

"How about we take care of that little problem?" Jen offered.

"Thanks, Jen, and I'll take you up on that offer. Later," Lola said. But she had misunderstood.

"Oh, I'll make good on that offer, too," Jen promised, "but what I had in mind was a bit more direct."

The blonde continued to speak into the shorter brunette's ear, glancing from time to time at the dancing pair.

Bobbie looked up to see a serenity and simple joy in her husband's face that made him look both younger than springtime and enduring as oak trees. She felt herself pulled into his eyes in a way that Bob had never imagined, and in its own way it was as amazing a discovery as the response of her body to sex. She let herself go even more completely than when dancing to her own interpretation of the music, swept along as a dove on a lifting wind, moving without effort or plan, just reacting.

When the music finally ended, there was a moment of silence. Then they heard applause building around them. Bobbie looked to see that they had ended up as the only dancers. All the others had withdrawn to the sides of the hardwood floor in appreciation of the artistry they had shown. The applause was for them.

With no apparent hesitation - as though he had expected nothing less - Nick pulled her to stand beside him then bent in a courtly bow. Bobbie found herself reflexively dipping into a surprisingly elegant curtsy complete with light-hearted flourish of her free hand. That sparked another round of applause as they made their way back toward their table.

"Wow," Jen said cheerfully. "How did I miss you on Dancing With The Stars?"

"We couldn’t make it on the show," Nick declared blandly. "Schedule conflict."

Bobbie laughed and added, "Yeah. Last year, we were doing something very different."

As she made her declaration, her eyes locked again with Nick's and his thunder-rumble of laughter rewarded her world-class understatement.

"Well, I want some of it," Jennifer declared. Pulling Bobbie's hand, she took no excuses as she shanghaied the taller blonde back to the dance floor.

If one incredible blonde with a tall, handsome man was enough to clear the hardwood, two impossibly pretty blondes dancing with each other was enough to bring the conversations in the club to a halt. That didn't get any better when Jen showed that she had been studying some moves - apparently those from Basic Instinct, focusing on the super-hot dance scene with Sharon Stone and Leilani Sarelle.

And despite the overt sexuality of Jen's moves, Bobbie found that she was still having fun. She let her own hands wander of Jen's shoulders and waist and hips, let her own curves rub against Jen's delightful contours, let the other blonde pull their hips together in an undisguised simulation of a much more intimate motion.

"They look good together," Lola observed to Nick, who was watching with wide-eyed wonder.

"What? Oh, um, yeah. Jen is quite . . . expressive."

Lola laughed and said, "I'll be sure to tell her you said so." She paused, then added, "So, Big Guy, you up for a little exercise?"

"What?" Nick asked, blushing and blinking in confusion.

"Dancing, doofus," Lola said, laughing again. Not waiting for an answer she pulled the twice-her-weight man to his feet and led him after their already-occupied companions. The big blond man and petite brunette made a decidedly odd couple after the shining perfection of Nick with Bobbie, but Lola was a very graceful creature herself and if her motions were less grand than the taller women, they were no less sensual.

After a few minutes, a deeper plan was revealed when Bobbie and Jen were cut in on. However, it was Lola who replaced Jennifer, not Nick. That left Bobbie moving with Lola just as the DJ changed once again to a slower song.

"Well, this is clearly no coincidence but I do need to keep the, um, door open with her," Bobbie realized. She moved to take the man's position and started to lead Lola in an echo of the display she had created with Nick.

And that was fun, too. Lola was perhaps more 'cute' than 'elegant' but her petite size let Bobbie remember something of her previous life. That reality made it easier to think of holding an attractive young woman. For Bob, it would have been nothing but natural. For Bobbie? Well, even if nothing were really natural any more, holding Lola wasn't the worst upheaval to her self image in the last few months.

When the song ended they made their way back to their table and if Lola never got around to releasing Bobbie's hand, neither of them made a big deal of it when they took their seats.

"You are just incredible," Jennifer enthused, looking at Bobbie with undisguised, unapologetic lust. Then she remembered who had 'brung her' to the dance, and looked at Lola as well. "Both of you. You're like perfect opposites. You each make the other look better."

"Thanks," Bobbie said, blushing again. She covered - well, she tried to cover - her embarrassment at the praise by taking a swallow of her drink, then almost had smoke come out of her ears as the strong alcohol burned down her throat.

Regardless of her surprise at the taste, it did have the intended effect of covering her blush. Or at least of giving her another excuse for having one. Jen and Lola laughed at her discomfort but they were all interrupted with a slim man in a formal tuxedo showed up at their table.

"Madame," he said, speaking to Bobbie. "I am Jonas Alexander, the manager of the club, and I would truly treasure the honor of a dance with you."

Bobbie looked at Nick, who grinned and nodded, so she let herself be led once again to the dance floor.

"It's a good thing that Merlin made my feet for heels, or I wouldn't be able to walk after all this," she thought.

It was obvious in two steps that Jonas was an accomplished dancer. He had the erect posture and strong rhythm of professional training, yet he had an artistic style that knew when to accent the rhythm with a flowing variation that removed any sense of robotic formalism. And he was not shy about introducing showy moves into their performance. Bobbie found herself twirled, dipped, and even rotated to dance with her back to her partner with his arms wrapped in hers.

Yet, in the end, it was a performance, not a pre-mating ritual, and the applause they received was more polite than the spontaneous outburst when she had danced with Nick. She curtsied again, a bit deeper this time, and let herself be escorted back to their place.

"Girl, if I danced like that, in those shoes, the only way I'd make it back to the boat is if Nicky carried me," Jennifer said, then she sighed and made doe eyes at him. "Which, come to think of it, sounds dreamy."

Lola laughed and if it was a bit strained, it was also a bit late in the evening and perhaps she was tired. Nick waved at their waiter to get the check but it was intercepted by the manager.

"My treat," he insisted. "The legend of your artistry will double my business for a month."

"Thank you," Nick said, standing to help his wife to her feet and in so doing reclaim her as his.

When they got back to the Sorceress, the guest pair were too wired to go to sleep immediately. Which is not to say that they weren't ready to go to bed. They disappeared into the master cabin, leaving a trail of shoes and bags and eventually dresses on their way.

Nick and Bobbie, on the other hand, were more pensive. With unspoken agreement they went up the flybridge to get some of the fresh tropical breezes. No words seemed necessary, and no more so when Nick slipped off his tie and jacket then invited Bobbie into his arms on the settee. They settled into a comfortable position and listened to the night birds, to the slight, rhythmic tap of waves on the hull, and above all, did *not* listen to the moans and cries coming from two decks below.

Bobbie woke up to find herself being carried in Nick's arms down the few steps from the pilothouse to the salon, and then the few more to the stateroom passageway. She snuggled into his arms to let him know that she was awake and looked up for a kiss that was overflowing with passion, though gentle and tender. When they get to their stateroom, Nick started to take off his shirt. Bobbie reached to her neck to undo her halter top.

"Nicky?" she said softly to get his attention. Then she let her white dress whisper to the floor, revealing a delicate little panty, her towering high heels . . . and a lot of beautiful woman. "I think I'm ready."

He didn't say anything. But then, he didn't really need to.

The next morning found Bobbie up early. She was cheerfully humming a happy little nonsense tune when Jennifer showed up in the galley for a cup of coffee.

"My, my. Did Little Miss Sunshine get lucky last night?" Jen asked.

"What?" Bobbie said, then blushed . . . which was answer enough but she nodded, too.

"So, those sounds we heard were not sea birds and a whale sonar party line?" pressed Jennifer.

"I guess that depends on what sounds you heard," Bobbie said, not retreating from her happiness. "We heard something from your part of the Sorceress that sounded pretty . . . partylike."

"Yes, I suppose you did," Jen admitted.

Bobbie waved an invitation for Jen to follow her to the pilothouse and she was showing the other blonde her plans for their trip to their next stop - Nassau - when Lola finally appeared. By that time Nick was making a real breakfast in the galley so it was clear that everyone was awake and they could make real plans. Since Bobbie hadn't really had much to drink the night before - she had been dancing almost the whole time - she was ready to leave whenever they wanted. That meant they could make Nassau that very day.

"There's an airport in Nassau, right?" Jennifer asked.

Bobbie nodded.

"Can I catch a flight from there back to the States?"

"I'm sure you can," Bobbie said. "Is that what you want to do?"

"I think so," Jennifer said, looking an apology at Lola. "Sorry, baby, but you knew I couldn't stay long. I was actually thinking I'd have to leave from here, but I can do one more day."

Lola shrugged, but she nodded at the fairness of Jen's statement. They adjourned to the cockpit for an open-air breakfast followed in due course by leaving Freeport and heading south.

When they got to Nassau they needed to tie up at a mooring buoy instead of a dock. That was the downside of the freedom of cruising. Sometimes you don't have reservations wherever your wandering ends up. But the mooring buoy was convenient to the town and it didn't take long for Nick to get the tender - a 15-ft rigid-hull inflatable boat they just called a skiff or dinghy - down from the boat deck. The RHIB had been selected more for its stability than for speed so it was a minimum of excitement to transition from the low swim step on the transom of the Sorceress into the smaller boat.

At the airport Jen was not one just to go quietly into history. She kissed Lola good-bye with a breath-stealing, heart-stopping display of passion that had people from three gates cheering when she finished. And then she did the same with Bobbie, who decided after about one heartbeat - a very fast heartbeat - that this was a memory she would cherish. So she tried her best to make it one that Jennifer would cherish as well, which raised the temperature enough that thirty or forty people ended up wiping sweat off their foreheads when they finished. Then, just to show that she was an equal opportunity ravisher, Jennifer pulled Nick into a third world-class kiss, leaving him cross-eyed and dizzy. Not that Jennifer was in much better shape.

"Damn," she said, looking at all three of her friends. "So many hotties, so little time."

"Get on your plane, you tramp," Lola ordered, but she laughed and Jen giggled as she put a hooker strut into her hips as she walked down the jetway.

"You have the most . . . interesting friends," Nick finally observed.

"Indeed," Bobbie quietly agreed, smiling ironically at the strange path her 'seduction of or by' Lola was taking.

It seemed like an anti-climax merely to sail off again through the crystal clear seas of the beautiful Bahamas in a luxurious private yacht. In partial reaction to the intensity of life with Jennifer in the equation, they decided to spend a few days anchored at Conception Island. It's a beautiful spot with great beaches, and it's well protected as long as the winds are from the north or west, as they often are. The trip was another overnight cruise and once they were safely anchored the next morning, Bobbie went below to take a nap. Nick got the skiff down along with a couple of one-person kayaks. The one limitation in their collective opportunities was that none was scuba-certified. But snorkels and masks work well enough when the water is so clear you can see the bottom from the surface.

When Bobbie came on deck that afternoon, Lola was splashing her way with more enthusiasm than skill in the beautiful waters with Nick on watch in case she got into trouble. That left the still-tired Bobbie with an opportunity to get some more sun, which she gratefully accepted.

"Do my back?" she heard a soft voice ask.

Cracking one eye open, Bobbie saw a freshly showered Lola with a plastic bottle in her hand.

And a pair of sunglasses. That's all. No bikini at all, not that the Wicked Weasel design covered much.

"Sure," the blonde said. Lola clearly intended a repeat of their earlier interlude and it proceeded much the same way. When Bobbie was done on Lola, carefully 'missing' an opportunity that Lola had provided by spreading her legs a little when Bobbie was doing her thighs, Lola started in on Bobbie. Once again, Bobbie did up her top before rolling over.

"C'mon, spoilsport," Lola said, laughing and trying to show a pouty face. "There's no one around but Nicky and he's seen everything already."

"On both of us," Bobbie murmured under her breath, but she still kept her top. Leaning forward, she whispered to Lola. "The pale triangles of skin over my nipples are a sign that they are special. It makes me special. And it makes it seem like I'm sharing forbidden fruit when I do finally let Nicky seem them - in private. The idea that a man is getting something forbidden has been an aphrodisiac since Eve found the apple. Believe me, it's . . . magical."

"Oh," Lola said, thoughtfully. "I never thought of that."

Bobbie leaned back and smiled. "I did," she said smugly.

Lola laughed and said, "Okay, but at least let me do your arms and legs."

Bobbie didn't protest so Lola started in on the front of her companion. The cool breeze, the gentle, rocking tug of Sorceress at her anchor, and above all the skilled, sensual massage by Lola were doing a good job of putting the still-tired Bobbie to sleep when she heard the brunette mutter, "Fuck it."

The next thing Bobbie knew, Lola was kissing her with a passion that was clearly intended to make the blonde forget Jennifer - and if she could do it, Nick as well.

The first thing Bobbie did was react without thought. Her arms wrapped around the person kissing her and she returned the passion with a hungry pressure of her own. Then Bobbie realized who was kissing her. She stiffened and though she didn't push Lola away it was clear that the moment had passed.

Lola leaned back, pleased with her petty larceny. She laughed and reached forward to tweak Bobbie's all-too-obvious nipples through her thin bikini.

"Don't try to pretend that you didn't enjoy that," the brunette demanded.

Bobbie's sharply defined cheeks filled once again with a rush of hot blood, but she didn't say anything.

There wasn't really all that much she could say.

Chapter 7 - "Lust, And Something Better"

Predictably - after all, he was a man - Nick was aroused by the sight of the two women kissing on the foredeck. Unavoidably - it was certainly too large to miss - his reaction showed. It didn't get any easier when Lola made it clear by example that they had entered the 'clothing optional' part of the cruise as far as she was concerned. And Bobbie decided - just to make her passenger feel more comfortable, of course - that as long as the brunette was going to be nude, the blonde would wear no more than a bikini. And not much of a bikini. After her sunning session Bobbie took a refreshing shower and then returned to the salon in a little black thong bikini with cups on the top that were barely large enough to cover her dark areolae. The skyscraper strappy sandals she also wore made look like she was posing for a 'gentleman's magazine.'

The tiny triangles of her bikini top were framed by slightly larger triangles of untanned skin that might as well have been flashing neon lights. Neither Nick nor Lola herself could concentrate on anything else when Bobbie's headlights were in their eyes. A similar white triangle accented her tush on either side of the thin thong bottom so it didn’t really help when Bobbie was looking the other way, either.

Sorceress had air conditioning of course, but the gentle tropical breezes were cool enough that the essentially naked women didn't really need to stay closed up inside, nor did they want to. With giggling implacability they teased Nick until he also put on some cool swim trunks instead of too-hot pants and t-shirt, showing bouldered shoulders and washboard abs that at least gave Bobbie something to look at. Or stare at and drool over. Or all of the above.

To his credit, Nick didn't grab his beautiful wife and carry her off to their stateroom to have his wicked way with her in the middle of the day. But when they did finally 'retire' for the evening, it wasn't long before his swim trunks were down and his sword was up, demanding what had been visually offered all afternoon.

Bobbie was happy to oblige. After the first time though, they were both worried that the noise she made would have Lola banging on the bulkhead wall demanding quiet. Bobbie was insatiable - or at least her body was.

"We can't stop now," she whisper-cried to her massive mate. "I have to have . . . more. At least once more. Please?" She reached for the lotion to bring Nick's weapon back to life, but he held her hand.

"You'll have to be quiet," Nick said.

"Oh, god, how can I? It's not my fault. Merlin just . . . made me this way."

"I know it's not your fault, babe," Nick said. Then he grinned. "In fact, I kinda like it. But we can't piss Lola off too much, can we?"

"No," Bobbie said, grumping as she let her fingers slowly caress her rebuilding prize. "But . . . wait a minute!"

She jumped up and ducked across the passageway, hoping that Lola wouldn't choose that moment to leave her cabin. Returning to her own cabin, Bobbie showed her solution.

"I'll just keep myself quiet," she promised. She worked a balled-up washcloth in to her mouth and mmpphhed into the obstruction. A smile twinkled in her eyes at her success because very little sound had escaped.

Nick couldn't tell whether his response was something programmed into him by Merlin or something long-buried in Nicole, but the sight of his beautiful gagged wife completed any remaining restoration or recovery from their first romp and he was ready to put her improvisation to the test.

It worked. Several times. Since they had already shared 'the easy one', Nick settled in for a decidedly longer session. Bobbie's internal fires built to conflagration level and she screamed into the silencing material, then frantically used her pulsating hips to urge Nick to do it again. And again. When she reached Krakatoa volcano levels, she pulled him along with her into a final explosion that left her spent and barely conscious. Nick gently extracted the washcloth from her mouth and lifted her dishrag-limp body so that he could put her under the covers.

Bobbie's sun session started earlier the next day since she was - more or less- back on a normal sleep cycle. Nick was busy doing chores - including washing a set of sheets from their stateroom - when Lola came out. The brunette was a bit dark-eyed as though she hadn't slept very well but she only wanted a cup of coffee and one of Nick's fresh-baked muffins.

She normally took her breakfast either on the flybridge or in the cockpit, depending on the state of the sun and the breeze. In this case, she was on her way to the flybridge via the pilothouse when she saw Bobbie already on the foredeck. The blonde was on her stomach, showing that she was still - or again - wearing the thong-bottomed bikini that left a triangle of untanned skin on her tautly curved derriere.

"I've got to do something about that," Lola murmured to herself. She added a bottle of suntan lotion to her supplies and stepped out to the side deck instead of continuing upward.

This time instead of asking for Bobbie to perform the first service, Lola just started putting lotion on the blonde's fair skin.

"You'll burn if you don't get something on that tush," she said softly as she worked on the soft globes of Bobbie's rear. The blonde twitched at the touch of Lola's hands but she sighed and smiled without saying anything.

Behind her languidly closed eyes, Bobbie's mind was anything but languid. "I guess I need to keep letting her push a little further so that Merlin - and for that matter, Lola - doesn't think I'm rejecting her." But deep down inside, her conscience was whispering, "Sure, you just keep telling yourself you're only doing this because of Merlin's threats."

Lola interrupted her silent musing with an observation. "I heard you last night."

Bobbie sighed. "Oh, um, sorry."

Lola laughed and said, "I'm not. It sounds like you had a good time. So, is he real?"

"What?" Bobbie asked, sensitive to the unreality of the entire situation because of the impossible nature of Merlin's magic, and wondering if somehow Lola knew more than she was letting on.

"Is he as good in bed as you made him sound?" Lola asked. "Or were you just flattering his male ego?"

Bobbie blushed, and under her body she could feel her nipples pop up. Hard. "It was . . . very . . . real."

"As real as this?" Lola asked, running a slender finger between Bobbie's thong-split cheeks to touch a not-quite-revealed treasure.

Despite whatever she might have done if she had time to think, Bobbie's reflex was to spread her legs to enjoy that touch. Though she pulled them back together after only a second, the impulse was revealed.

Lola laughed gaily then proceeded with her willing duty, releasing the catch on Bobbie's top when she came to that portion of her back. When she was done she touched Bobbie's shoulder to get her to turn over and was surprised when - for the first time - Bobbie didn't refasten her strings before reversing her position.

"If you're going to get all the untanned skin," Bobbie whispered, pulling her top the rest of the way off, "you should probably be allowed to do a good job. And . . . Nicky is below decks doing laundry."

"I know," Lola said. She made sure that Bobbie faced no danger of excessive sun - at least, none that the lotion could prevent. That was achieved by taking great care to massage the warm lotion into any part of the blonde's long form that might not have the full protection of a deep island tan. Which, considering Bobbie's fair complexion, was just about all of it.

Lola's fingers were teasing at the edge of Bobbie's tiny bikini bottom when the blonde captured Lola's face in her hands and kissed the brunette with suddenly revealed passion. It was the first time that Bobbie had initiated any intimacy and it brought Lola's motions to an abrupt, shocked-but-pleased, halt. It was clearly not a rejection - very, very clear - but it was an interruption.

"My turn," Bobbie murmured, moving out from under Lola and pushing her to the deck pad. Since Lola was already nude there wasn't any need to undo anything, leaving Bobbie an entire canvas to paint with protective ointment. And to massage. And to caress. And to tickle and tease and then smoothly knead into languid relaxation again.

"Roll over," she murmured.

Lola was only too happy to comply.

"You don't have any untanned areas," Bobbie observed. "Except . . ."

She teased at the narrow strip of hair that accented more than hid Lola's feminine center.

"I'll shave it off if you want," Lola answered softly.

Bobbie leaned down to kiss Lola, a gentle kiss of sharing more than an invitation to passion, though when they kissed there was always an undercurrent of energy that was getting harder and harder to deny. "Do what *you* want," Bobbie said. "I was just . . . observing."

"Observe away," Lola offered, spreading her legs wider.

Bobbie continued to massage in her lotion, dancing closer and then farther away from the invitation that Lola had made clear.

Her palms were both reveling in the scratchy sharpness of Lola's glowing nipples when the brunette moaned and said, "Damnit, Bobbie, that's not fair. Jen's been gone for two days, and you two have been making the walls move on this floating palace every night, and I'm just . . ."

"Just what?" Bobbie teased, kissing her again.

"Damnit, Bobbie, do me or I'll . . ," Lola snapped angrily, then her energy collapsed and she started to weep.

"Please?" Lola asked softly. "Just . . . touch me? Please?"

"Touch you where?" Bobbie asked huskily.

"You know where," Lola moaned, but she stopped weeping as she realized that Bobbie was teasing, not denying.

"Touch you with what?" Bobbie asked. She showed that the answer was not obvious when she leaned down so that her own rock-hard pebbles danced and kissed around Lola's heaving counterparts.

Bobbie kissed Lola again, but relented on the questions. She let her fingers begin to draw circles around Lola's inner treasure. The brunette's honey was overflowing and Bobbie made a teasing little game of trying to 'push' it all back into its source. That didn't help . . . at all.

"Oh god," Lola panted. "I hate you."

"You do?" Bobbie said lightly. "So does that mean you want me to quit?"

"Don't you dare!" Lola said desperately, arching into Bobbie's touch. In a heartbeat she realized that Bobbie was only teasing and relaxed again, only to rise up with another pulse when Bobbie lightly flicked the hard little nub her fingers had found.

"Oh, god, you're evil," Lola whimpered, twitching with overloaded sensations.

"Nice of you to notice," Bobbie purred. She slid her lotion-slick torso across Lola's quivering abdomen, hard buttons leading full curves followed by taut muscles of the blonde's own supremely fit form. All the while her fingers danced in Lola's nectar, spreading it around only to concentrate it again.

Then she was bucked off in an instant transition from quiver to arch in the brunette's lithe form. It was only the fact Bobbie outweighed Lola by twenty pounds or so that gave the blonde enough leverage to keep her fingers playing their tune through that first detonation, and then a second, and then. . .

"Oh, god, you gotta stop," Lola begged. "I can't . . . take . . . any more . . ."

Bobbie smiled, kissed her again, and continued anyway, achieving one more rapid-fire burst of shuddering blasts before she relented and trailed her fingers down Lola's twitching thigh.

"Be careful what you ask for," she whispered in Lola's ear.

She looked at the somnolent girl and thought, "Well, I guess I'm doing an okay job of letting myself be seduced. She is one hot girl and I'm not sure I could tell her no if she asked me to go to bed with her. I'm not sure I even *want* to be able to tell her no."

Bobbie put a large beach towel over Lola's exposed figure and a light straw hat over her face, then picked up her things and went to the pilothouse.

Nick was watching, of course. She had seen him through the windows even as she made the decision to take things further than before . . . a lot further.

"God, Bobbie, you are . . . really good at that."

"Don't you remember?" she asked.

"Yes, now that I see it again," Nick admitted. "I guess at the time I was always too . . . incoherent to take notes. But you are really awesome."

"Miss it?" Bobbie asked, grinning at him.

"No," he said directly, without the slightest hesitation. "You're awesome in, um, other modes, too. I wouldn't give up what we have now for anything."

"Do you really mean that?" she asked. "I mean, really? When this is all over, if Merlin offered to change us back, would you?"

"Would you?" Nick asked without answering.

Bobbie blushed and tried to cover her response by reaching for a top to cover her exposed bust. Nick intercepted her reach, grabbing her wrist and the letting a huge thumb rub over one of the hard buttons that were still on alert. "Would you?" he repeated.

"No," she admitted in a whisper, finding herself merging with his massive form, enjoying the feel of her painfully tight nipples on his scratchy, unyielding chest. "No," she repeated, still whispering, but feeling herself start to cry. "Oh, Nicky, what are we gonna do when this is all over? I know - now - that I'll be able to do . . . whatever I need to do with Lola. But after that? How can we go back to being . . . what we were?"

"I don't know, babe," he whispered into her soft, shining hair. "But we'll work something out. Somehow."

"Oh, Nicky, I hope so," she said, leaning back and wiping at her eyes.

"Go fix your face," Nick ordered. "We don't want Lola to think you were unhappy with what you did."

"Oh," Bobbie said, wiping at her face and then nodding again. "You're right."

"Of course I'm right," Nicky said grandly. "I'm the guy, after all."

"Oh, you. You'll pay for that," Bobbie said, shaking her finger at him. But she laughed as well and knew that he had achieved what he wanted.

"Promises, promises," Nick called after her as she disappeared below.

Lola came in a few minutes later, wrapped in her beach towel in lieu of the clothes she hadn't earlier felt the need to wear. Bobbie was still below decks taking a shower after her sweaty, lotion-saturated morning. When she came back to the salon, she was no longer wearing just a bikini. Her alternate 'casual' outfit of tiny, painted-on white shorts and a blousy-sleeved crop top was still well into the 'flattering' rather than 'concealing' side of fashion, but even that amount of coverage was a change, and therefore a statement.

Lola looked at her, and without any explanation burst into tears.

"What's wrong?" Bobbie asked gently.

"I'm wrong," Lola moaned. "I'm . . . just . . . wrong."

She tried to curl into a ball under her beach towel, but Bobbie intercepted her motion. Their size difference was important now as Bobbie's greater reach let her wrap up the smaller brunette like a mother with her child. Bobbie let her cry for a while, just holding her and comforting her with unlimited patience. She sent Nick away with her eyes and just held the smaller woman. Eventually, as such things do, Lola ran down into sniffles.

"Are you ready to tell me what's wrong?" prompted Bobbie in a soft, gentle voice.

"I am," Lola repeated, but this time she could explain further. "From the first moment I saw you when I was getting out of the cab in Baltimore, I wanted to . . . . to seduce you. You're the most beautiful woman that I've ever seen and the most perfect match to my desires. I wanted - I've always wanted - a tall, blonde lover . . . with a big bust and lots of hair . . . who was also smart, and competent and all the things that bimbos are not. And you're perfect."

Lola started to tear up again, but she pushed on, "And you're sweet, and gentle, and tender, and all the things that I could possibly hope for in a friend, too."

"Thanks, I think," Bobbie said with a small smile that was encouragement, not teasing.

"But you're married, and happy, and to a really nice guy. . . I'm so selfish and arrogant and proud that I thought that was even better. I thought I wanted to tear you away from your husband to demonstrate how much better I was - how much hotter and more sensual, and more . . . everything than any man could possibly be. To show that even the most perfect woman in the world would find me so desirable she'd throw away everything to be with me."

Now Lola broke down in to real sobs again but she was still gasping out her confession. "I know. I've done it before. Never with anyone as perfect as you, but with other women. I've destroyed their marriages, destroyed their lives, and then walked away, laughing at my conquest."

"That's . . . harsh," Bobbie said.

"Yes, it is," Lola confirmed. She buried her head in Bobbie's shoulder and said, "But I just can't do it anymore. I can't hurt you, and Nick, and you've both been so nice, but you, especially, what you did to me out there, was so perfect . . . I just . . . can't."

"Can't what?" Bobbie asked, but she shhh'd at Lola when she tried to answer. "You can't come between Nicky and me. That's true. But you can be part of it, at least in some way we can work out."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that . . . I wanted to do what we . . . shared out there. I wanted to . . . make you feel good. I love the feel of my hands on you . . . and of your hands on me."

She pulled Lola back to where the smaller woman could look into her deep, blue eyes and said, "And Nicky understands."


"Nicky is . . . secure in his masculinity, as he should be. I'm sorry, Lola, but you can't do all the things that Nicky does for me. You're not, um, equipped for it. But that doesn't mean I can't . . . enjoy what we - you and I - *can* share."

"Oh, Bobbie, do you mean that?"

"Yes," Bobbie said, then she smiled. "In fact, it will be even easier, now. Now that you've shown that you can be a sweet, loving person and not just selfish. Now that you've admitted that you were proud, but have shown that you can be humble. If you can find . . . success in a way that is not limited only to coming between Nicky and me, then . . . well, then there's room to maneuver."

"Really?" Lola asked, little girl eyes and little girl voice and little girl expression begging for reassurance.

"Yes," Bobbie said. Then she sighed. "But there's something you should know. Something about your grandfather."

"My grandfather? What does he have to do with this? I mean, I know he's paying the bills, but what else?"

Instead of answering, Bobbie raised her voice and called out, "Nicky? Could you come back in here, please?"

The big man walked down from the flybridge where he had been enjoying the pleasant breeze. At the same time he had been worrying about how the situation with Lola would work out, wondering if it would somehow meet Merlin's demands or if they were facing something nasty. It was a relief to be invited back into the discussion. When he was comfortable on another salon chair, Bobbie looked back at Lola.

"How much do you know about your grandfather, about what he can do?"

"I know he's rich," Lola said cautiously. Looking at the pair of them, she added, "And I think he can do . . . strange things."

"Strange?" Bobbie prompted.

"Like . . . magical things. Like one time I told him I wanted a kitten and even though I know he hadn't brought one when he came to visit me, he just, um, reached around behind his back . . . no, now that I remember, it was around my back like it had been there all along, and . . . handed me a little calico."

Then she frowned, and added, "And . . . I'm not sure, but . . . I think he may have done something to my . . . father."

"Your father?"

"Yes. He wasn't a nice man," Lola said. "He used to get drunk a lot - this was when I was little, and I don't remember it all clearly but there are snapshot memories of like, whisky bottles - anyway, when he'd get drunk, he'd get mean. I think he hurt mama and then he . . . disappeared."


"I don't know, exactly. I just know that Grandfather Merlin came to visit one time, and he got really angry, and it was like I could see . . . lightning crackling around his head, and then . . . my father was gone and my mother was crying and . . . I never saw my father again."

"What about your mother?"

"She was always afraid of Grandfather Merlin after that, and . . . she started to drink, too. She never got mean but she just . . . dissipated until she got sick. I remember an ambulance and some people who had that distant kindness where you know they don't really care about you personally, just about, y'know, kids in general."

"The next time I saw Grandfather Merlin, he took me away from an orphanage thing and set me up with some foster parents. They were nice and all, but I think they were paid to keep me and I think they were afraid of Grandfather Merlin, too. I don't think he's a very nice man."

Bobbie took a deep breath and said, "He's not a nice man. That much I will agree on, but in this case he may have done something nice without intending to."

Lola looked confused, so Bobbie continued. "Several weeks ago, about a week before we met you, Nicky and I were . . . different people."

"Different? How?"

"Well, I guess the most significant difference is that . . . I was a man and Nicolas was my wife, Nicole."

Bobbie expected Lola to be skeptical, even ridiculing of her claim, but the smaller woman just sat there quietly for a long moment. Memories were playing behind her eyes and it was clear that there were some memories of her grandfather that she hadn't shared. After a moment, she nodded - more to herself than to them.

Talking in alternate segments, Bobbie and Nick went back through all the things that had happened, not including Merlin's ultimate demand that Bobbie allow herself to be seduced by Lola. Finally, she reached the point where that had to be addressed.

"Why?" Lola asked. "Why would he transform you, and set you up on this yacht, and . . . ohmigod!"

"Yes," Bobbie said, recognizing the insight that had come to Lola. "Merlin demanded that I allow myself to be seduced by you, or he would . . . do unpleasant things to us."

"So you just . . . did me out there, because he made you?" Lola asked, her voice rising. "Because you're afraid of what he would do if you didn't . . . ? Like, you're just a whore servicing me?!!"

"No!" Bobbie said sharply, not really raising the volume of her voice, but putting a crack into it that pulled Lola up sharply. She took a deep breath herself, then continued. "Lola, if that's what it was, I'd have put you off until the last possible moment when we were in Alaska. Oh, I admit I started out letting you have little intimacies as a way to string you along - rubbing lotion into places that I shouldn't really have touched - letting you put lotion on me when I didn't need it - but we passed that point . . . and I didn't stop. I didn't want to stop."

Bobbie pulled herself out from the seat she had shared with Lola for such a long time and shook her arm to get the feeling back into it.

"What your grandfather didn't realize is that . . . I've never lost the part of me that was Bob . . . and Bob thinks you are a really, really attractive woman. You're actually quite a bit like Nicole was when I married her, prettier actually - sorry Nick - with a lot more energy. If I'm the image of your perfect woman, then you're at least close enough to my perfect woman - which is Nicole with a bit more . . . sensuality. So a part of me has wanted you since *I* saw *you* as . . . well, you. The day you gave up that Goth look and were just . . . yourself."

She took Lola's hands in her own and said, "Nothing I did today was for Merlin. It was all for me, and for you. That's why I had to tell you about him. Because . . ."

"Because?" Lola prompted, something like hope starting to show in her eyes.

"Because if we take this any further, then I don't want there to be any secrets between us," Bobbie said.

"Further?" Lola repeated.

"That's something I think we'll have to work out," Bobbie said, but she smiled in a complicated little smile that was part best friend and part sensual enticement, and part things that even Bobbie didn't really recognize or consciously intend.

All of the sudden, Lola looked at Nick and said, "And you're okay with this?"

"Well, I wasn't in the beginning," Nick admitted. "You have to understand that I was a woman and I had never done anything with another woman. I hadn't even kissed one as a sort of playing-around experiment. So when we were first transformed all I could think about what how to get us changed back. Or to be honest, how to get myself changed back into a woman. I was determined that I wasn't going to have anything to do - sexually - with the blonde woman who showed up in my bed one morning, no matter who she used to be. So what did it matter what she . . . did with someone else?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure that I loved Bob any more. I think he loved me, but he was . . . unsatisfied. And it was my fault. . . ."

Bobbie tried to interrupt, but Nick waved her to wait. "The reason I say that I don't think I loved Bob any more is that I don't think I loved myself very much at that time, and I don't think you can love someone else if you don't love yourself - or at least, respect yourself. I mean, how could you 'inflict' yourself on someone else if you weren't worthy of at least a little love?"

He shrugged, then pushed on. "In any event, all I was concerned with was getting changed back and if Bobbie had to do something . . . unpleasant along the way, then so be it. It wasn't like it was going to kill her or anything, and if she didn't do what was necessary then Merlin said we really would be killed."

"That was pretty smug, I know," he said. "Making it her problem was a copout. But then things changed."

He stood up and started to pace, his head carefully avoiding the grab rail in the slightly-too-low overhead. "I don't know how much of the changes are something imposed by Merlin and how much are just . . . inherent in being a man. As I, um, settled into my new life, I started to feel a lot more protective toward Bobbie. But more than that, I started to feel a lot more . . .attracted to her. Sexually. You would not believe how much of a man's thoughts are driven by his . . . needs. When I get aroused, it's more than . . . compelling.

"Bobbie is very beautiful, and very erotic. I lust for her. A lot. But here's the deal . . ."

He moved over to stand in front of Lola. "From the moment I saw you getting out of that cab, I've lusted for you, as well. Even when you were in your Goth mode, you were exotic and . . . captivating. I understand that you don't like men and I can control my desire. But I can hardly blame Bobbie for wanting something that I know in my heart I want myself. And here's the other thing . . ."

With that, he moved over to Bobbie, and pulled her to her feet, wrapping his trunk-thick arm around her. "I really, truly love Bobbie. I want whatever makes her happy. Your grandfather told us once, 'Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.' Well, I understand that now. I'm a guy and I feel like I should provide for her, and 'whatever Bobbie wants, Bobbie gets.' If she wants you, then I will willingly wish her well. I know that sounds all noble and self-sacrificing, but I can't help that. It's how I feel."

Lola looked at the two of them standing above her, and she started to cry again. But it wasn't heart-tearing sobs. It was the tears of wonder at a sight too beautiful to bear in silence.

"I guess what we're saying," Bobbie concluded. "Is that if you want to allow us in your life, we'd like to be part of it. Regardless of Merlin and his threats. We'll work on that when the time comes."

"We?" Lola repeated. "Both of you?"

"Well, not sexually," Nick said. "I know you don't like men."

"Maybe I just haven't found the right man," Lola said softly, looking more at Bobbie than at Nick.

"Maybe," Bobbie said. "I guess it's like Nick said. I can hardly fault him for lusting after someone I lust after myself. This will be complicated, but . . . that's what makes *living* different from merely existing."

Now she moved away from Nick and pulled Lola to her feet. The towel fell away revealing the slender brunette in all her considerable glory, but no one said anything about that. "We're not going to work out all the details now," she said. "This has been a pretty emotional time for all of us. I think we need to take a step back and let our minds catch up with our hearts a little. Okay?"

Lola nodded. Then she did notice that her towel had slipped. She blushed and reached for it, pulling it up around herself and trying to get the end tucked in.

"Go take a shower," Bobbie ordered, but her smile made it just a friendly suggestion. "We'll eat some of Nick's cooking, and then we'll . . . well, we'll just see."

Lola nodded, moving off down the passageway toward her cabin.

When she had disappeared, Nick looked at Bobbie and asked, "How much of all that was real?"

"All of it, as far as I'm concerned," Bobbie said.

"Good," Nick said, taking her in his arms and holding her tightly. "Me, too. This will be complicated, but . . . I know we'll work it out."

"Me, too, Nicky," Bobbie said. "Me, too."

Chapter 8 - "A Private Yacht"

After Lola finished her shower there was an unvoiced mutual agreement not to discuss their relationship over lunch. She was still emotionally ragged and that tired her enough that lunch was followed by a nap. Nick rigged a hammock for her in the shaded cockpit where the breeze was soft and the Sorceress undulated gently at her anchor. Perhaps they should have taken that time to clear a few things up on their path forward instead. In hindsight it certainly seemed so, but under the tropical sky it seemed like they had all the time in the world.

When Lola got up from her nap she decided to make her typical afternoon check in on Facebook and e-mail. Not long after she logged in she hurried over to Bobbie.

"We have to go back," she said urgently.

"To where?" Bobbie asked in confusion.

"To Norfolk," Lola said. "Alabaster is in trouble."

She explained that she had a message from Alabaster, who sounded so depressed that Lola was worried about her. Apparently Twilight had dumped her with virtually no money in a city far from home and Lola was the only friend she knew how to contact. Her family never accepted her lifestyle - neither the Goth look nor the lesbian relationships - and she just couldn't handle the 'I told you so' condescension if she went home.

"Well, we need to see what we can do," Bobbie said thoughtfully. After a moment she looked up with an idea in her eyes. "Okay, here's a plan. It would take too long to sail all the way back to Norfolk. We'll make a high-speed run - Sorceress will do most of 20 knots - and get you back to Nassau as soon as possible. From there you can fly back to Norfolk."

She pulled Lola with her to the pilothouse and they looked at some charts. "From Nassau, Nick and I and Sorceress will head to Cancun by way of Key West. You can catch up with us in one of those places. If she has a passport, you can bring Alabaster. That's not her real name is it?"

Lola laughed, relieved to see a positive plan forming from the confusion she had felt just a few minutes earlier. "It's Allison. Allison McCleod."

Bobbie nodded. "Okay. If you can't catch up by Cancun, we'll work something out. If you really do want us to go back to Norfolk, we can, but if you get things straightened out with Alabaster quickly enough - we'll continue on our journey."

"Cool," Lola said. "You guys are the best."

"I keep trying to tell Nick that," Bobbie said with an exaggerated sigh.

Lola giggled again and then ran below to pack her things. Even with the Sorceress up on plane and making 18 knots it was still a ten-hour cruise back to Nassau. They were getting a bit later into spring so the days were getting longer, and that meant they would be arriving in Nassau just about dawn, which worked out pretty well. Lyford Cay Marina was closest to the airport and they were able to get Lola on an early flight out to Miami, with connection to Norfolk.

It was an echo of Jennifer's parting when they stood near the gate. The return of Lola's mischievous joy was apparent when she pulled Bobbie down for an eye-watering, pulse-hammering kiss in the last few minutes before departure. Then she surprised even herself by doing the same to Nick.

"You guys are great," Lola said breathlessly. "I'll be back, but even if something should happen that it takes a while, I just wanted you to know that . . . well, that I love you both."

"Good," Bobbie said, hugging her. "We love you, too."

"Yeah," Nick said with a rumbling laugh, "and we lust for you, too. Hurry back."

"Ooh, you can count on it," Lola said, giggling even as her eyes took on a glossy shine.

With Lola off the Sorceress they weren't in any particular hurry and made a 20-hour cruise to fabled Key Largo at an efficient, ten-knot speed on their now-private luxury yacht. That meant they had another night at sea crossing the Gulf Stream, but they were now seasoned sailors with any hint of seasickness far behind them.

In fact, while Nick was taking a turn on watch Bobbie decided to take advantage of their privacy. She slipped on incredibly tall heels, an incredibly short skirt, one of her full-sleeved and very feminine crop tops . . . and nothing else.

"Ohhh, Nickkyy!" she sang lightly.

"Yeah, babe?" he responded, eyes lighting at her sultry smile.

"I owe you one," she whispered huskily.

"Owe me? More than one, probably," he said, playing along but not really catching the reference.

She swayed her way to the pilot-house table, pretending to lean against it but actually leaning back to arch her full bosom to best advantage. "I remember one time when *I* was on watch and this big brute came up and started manhandling me."

"Indeed?" Nick said, remembering now. "Sounds like my kinda guy."

"Oh, my kinda guy, too," she said, pitching her voice down to sex-on-the-hoof level.

Moving into his direct line of sight, she climbed the rungs of the captain's seat until her skirt was hovering over a by-now-quite-sizable mound in his shorts. Making a point of spreading her long legs to surround him, her skirt pulled up so that he could see the nothing-but-girl that was beneath it.

"Hmm, now I remember that big brute playing with my nipples, but you don't really have nipples anymore," she mused. "Whatever can I do instead?"

She leaned forward, still not touching anything but the rungs on the chair and the back of his neck, and kissed him.

"I'm on watch," he said through her kiss.

Leaving one hand around his neck, she reached back and flicked on the autopilot. "We're 100 miles from shoal water and the AIS says we won't be close to anyone for at least an hour," she reported, copying his earlier rationale.

When she put her other hand back behind his neck, she pulled him to her bosom and let him nuzzle into the canyon of her cleavage. His hand reached up to tweak the prominent buds within her blouse, and she pulled back. "No fair," she said.

"All's fair in love," he muttered, his response a bit muffled by the position of his lips.

"If you say so," she said, then stepped back from the seat. Reaching forward, she pulled at the zipper of his shorts, but when she tried to take the next step and extract the swollen shape within it, he gasped with sudden pain.

"Not so fast, gorgeous," he said. "You don't want to break that thing."

"Oh, god no," Bobbie agreed, laughing. She let him slip his shorts down far enough that his mast could rise free and eager.

He put his hands under her full hips and lifted her to a position that allowed the obvious next step. Then he paused. Moving her back and forth as though she weighed no more than a soft pillow, he lightly rubbed her swollen lips against his turgid mast. They could both feel a reflexive movement on her lower mouth as she tried to reach out and capture the prize he teasingly kept just out of reach.

"You bastard," she breathed in his ear, pulling her arms around his neck and kissing him urgently. "Do me, you bastard, or I'll go find a baseball bat."

"To hit me with?" he taunted, letting her slide down to engulf only the tip of his weapon.

"To replace you with, you bastard," she moaned.

"You're getting repetitious," Nick said.

"Do me, you . . .AHHH!!"

At her demand - at least this one - he had pulled her down to the base of his tower, impaling her so deeply that she rose up reflexively from the huge intrusion. Then she slammed herself back down, groaning again but frantically squirming so that every inch of her inner core could enjoy the impossibly full sensation.

"Oh, god," she whisper-moaned in his ear, "each time we do this I think I'm going to split wide open, but then you're in me and I never want it to end."

Nick wasn't saying much right then. He was trying to keep that image from sending him over the edge. He tried to remember things Nicole had heard about tricks a man might do to stave off the irresistible; tricks like reciting multiplication tables or trying to calculate the number of miles in a light-year. It wasn't much help . . . if help is even the right word. When Bobbie started squeezing him with muscles that were every bit as well-developed as the rest of her magnificent body, he lost it.

The good news was that the feel of his hot pulsing in her innermost core sent Bobbie over the edge, too. She screamed in a way that would have sent any passenger running for the life raft, but there wasn't anyone to hear but Nick and he was too busy to care.

The bad news was that Bobbie's body was far from satisfied.

"Oh, god, don't stop now," she begged. "I need more. Please! You have to . . . more . . . please?"

"Sorry, babe, but it's one of the limitations of sex from this side. You remember, don't you?"

"I don't care," she moaned. "I need . . . something."

"I'll go get the lotion," he offered. "You did a pretty good job of restoring life in the fallen last night with that."

"I can't wait," she moaned. Pulling herself off of him she began to caress his penis and croon to it. "C'mon, baby, you can do it. Do it for me. You know you want to."

Her soft, husky words roused a twitch or two, but not the full resurrection her body demanded. She was twitching and hopping with her need, and finally she looked up at her helpless husband and said, "Screw it. I'm not waiting." What had been literally impossible a few weeks earlier - so viscerally repugnant that it would have caused immediate, unstoppable nausea - was now . . . imperative.

Bobbie didn't know if her changed attitude was due to Merlin's spell. It was more important that she knew there was something she could do to make Nick feel good - and that's all she really needed to know. Like Bob, she was committed to whatever would bring her lover pleasure. That this was for her own pleasure, too, just made it better. She leaned down and took his half-masted flagpole into her mouth and began to run her tongue along the ridges it found. As millions of couples have known for thousands of years, that turned out to be quite effective. In moments he was gasping out a warning.

"If you want some of that, babe, you better get back up here."

Her answer was wordless, but clear enough. She launched herself back up into his lap, straddling his legs and putting her arms around his neck only because his own hand was ensuring that their aim was accurate.

This time she was leading the pace and she took advantage of her opportunity to the fullest in every sense of the word. She was filled up more fully than she could have dreamed, she was stimulated as fully as her body could tolerate, and after an uncounted number of additional trips up her personal mountain, when Nick finally let go again she was satiated as fully as she had ever been.

Hanging on his neck while her body twitched back into the possibility of cohesive motion, she kissed his gruff cheek and said, "Wow, stud, you are awesome."

"Me? I just held on for dear life. You're the awesome one."

"Yeah, but you're the studly one and I'm glad of it. Things from this side are way too good to give up."

"Things from this side are just fine, thank you very much," he countered, but he grinned and she hugged him again rather than continue the silliest of arguments.

"Um, babe?" he said after a moment.

"Hmm?" she responded languidly.

"You better go get a towel or something, or there are gonna be some strange stains on this seat."

"Let 'em," she said, but she giggled and pulled off to get something suitable. In fact, it took a bit of leather cleaner to get the seat looking good again and a bit of carpet cleaner for where she had dripped on her way to the head. But it didn't take long- just to the end of Nick's watch in fact - before they were resting in their respective seats.

Somewhere in there Bobbie had found a tiny panty to slip on, but it replaced her discarded skirt which was one of the things that needed to be cleaned so the change wasn't really any increase in modesty.

"Privacy is a wonderful thing," Nick said, looking at her long, sleek legs so fully revealed. Bobbie giggled and wiggled her bare bottom on the alternate helm seat.

"Ain't it, though?" she agreed.

Despite the romance of the old movie, Key Largo was just a stop for fuel and provisions. From there to Key West was an easy 80 miles as the crow flies, about a hundred on their course. That's a longish day of cruising but not a problem in the fine weather that the spring provided. During hurricane season the best place to be was in another universe - certainly nothing south of Norfolk - but hurricane season was still a few months off and with reasonable progress they'd be well up the West Coast by then.

Lola and Alabaster met them in Key West. The blonde Goth girl looked tired in a soul-draining way that wasn't just a single night's loss of sleep. But Lola was an expert in energy. She wouldn't let Alabaster withdraw even if it meant she had to physically grab the thinner girl and tickle her.

They made the run to Dry Tortugas National Park for a day at anchor, playing with the kayaks and doing some more snorkeling. Perhaps Lola reined in her previous exhibitionism for Alabaster's sake, or perhaps she had turned a new leaf after the emotional encounter with the Adlers, but Lola remained at least legally dressed the whole time. Alabaster had a swimsuit as well but unlike the other girls, hers was a one piece and once Bobbie got a look at it she could see it included a very tight latex corset.

"Do you always wear a corset?" she asked the pale girl companionably as they walked on a sandy beach. It was one of the activities that Bobbie had used as a reason for Merlin to let her walk without heels, though it was supposed to enhance her time with Lola.

"24/7," Alabaster replied. "Or maybe 23 and a half. I've been training for years."

"It seems to have, um, been productive," Bobbie said. Even her tiny waist looked thick next to Alabaster's corset-compressed example.

"Just under 17, when I really lace down," Alabaster said with some pride. "Probably 18 or so with this latex corset, but I don't want to get any of my good ones wet."

"I can understand that," Bobbie nodded. "So, that means you intend to swim?"

"I guess so," Alabaster said, somewhat worried. "I'm not really a very good swimmer."

Bobbie laughed and pointed at Nick. "No problem. He's a really good swimmer, and he's big enough that he could probably walk on the bottom all the way from here back to Key West."

"He is a big one," she said admiringly, then blushed at the unintended implication.

The pale girl was rescued from her embarrassment by a call from Lola, and Alabaster went to join her friend. After a day in the water the pale girl was showing too much sun so they decided to weigh anchor and head for their next port of call, Cancun. That was a longer trip; one that would take another overnight. When they were well clear of the shallows Nick called them to a nicely complex dinner on the pilothouse dinette with courses from a light salad through baked fish - both of which the always-dieting women could enjoy guilt-free - to a positively decadent chocolate cake where the guilt was half the flavor.

Lola had Alabaster giggling throughout the meal, first with ribald tales of past adventures that made even Nick blush, then with over-the-top stories about places she claimed she had been that started a liars' competition for ever more improbable locales and things to do there.

They were all laughing so hard their distended stomachs hurt when Lola dramatically stood up and announced that it was bedtime. Taking the still-snickering Alabaster by the hand, the dark-haired girl pulled her down to their stateroom.

Bobbie sighed in contentment, keeping a watch on the radar and nav displays while Nick cleared the table. It wasn't long before he rejoined her. Not long after that they heard giggling, and then more expressive sounds from the master stateroom.

"It would seem that Alabaster is getting over her depression," Bobbie observed with an indulgent smile. "She is a noisy little girl."

"And that Lola has found a way to put off resolving our own relationship," Nick added.

"Do you think she's doing that deliberately?" asked Bobbie.

"No," Nick said. "But I also don't think she knows quite how to proceed. I think she's waiting for some magic moment where everything seems right."

"Should we try to arrange that?" Bobbie asked.

"Yes," Nick said, "and not because Merlin wants it. Lola is a lot more lonely that anyone knew - certainly not her friends or her grandfather. I think the closeness of actual lovemaking - and not just sex - is just what she needs."

Bobbie laughed and said, "So, are you offering yourself to fulfill the doctor's prescription?"

"No," Nick said, laughing in turn. "She is a pretty girl, but she's still a little girl to me. I can't imagine wanting anyone else after being with you."

"Thanks," Bobbie said. "But . . . can you imagine wanting me after I've . . . been with someone else?"

"Oh, yeah," Nick said, leering at her.

"You are such a pig," Bobbie said, giggling.

"Yep, but a lovable one," he replied.

"Yep," she agreed. "Go get some sleep, you horny old goat."

"Hey, I'm not old," Nick protested. "Not anymore." But he left to get some sleep before his turn on watch.

It was after midnight, an hour or so before Nick's turn on watch and about that long after the last sounds from the master cabin, when he arrived back in the pilothouse.

"You're early," Bobbie said.

"Not for what I have in mind," he countered. "As I seem to have heard somewhere before, I owe you one."

"I'm on watch," Bobbie said. "Really. I'll, um, make it up to you later."

"Yes, you will. But you'll make it up to me now, too."

"No, really," she said, laughing but backing away. "You know I get too, um, noisy. We can't let them know that we do this when we're on watch. What will they think?"

Nick pulled out a washcloth and said, "I've taken care of that, too. If they did see us, they'd think you were hot . . . because you are. And if they heard you scream, then they'd think I was a great lover . . . and I can live with that, too."

He advanced on her and she turned to grab the wheel, facing forward.

"I'm on watch," she said, but a teasing note had crept into her voice, and her always-revealing tattletales were doing their all-too-frequent advertisement of her interest.

"And I'll let you stay on watch," he promised. Nick's big, powerful hands wrapped around her tight little waist and bodily lifted her a couple of feet to the left, away from the chart table and the wheel itself.

"You just keep looking out that way, just in case something shows up that's not on the radar or the AIS," he directed. Then he laughed and put the washcloth in the panel before her. "Just in case another problem shows up."

She waited in anticipation, not quite sure what he had in mind but more than willing to find out. In a moment she felt her snug little shorts slide down her smooth legs, followed by her wisp of panty. Then she heard a zipper.

And then she felt Nick's hands pushing her shoulders forward over the panel. "You might want to stand on your toes," he suggested.

"I always stand on my toes," Bobbie countered, looking over her shoulder at him.

"Eyes front," he commanded. "And get taller on your toes."

A firm, warm, soft-over-steel shape began to hunt around her folded-over body, dipping in the moisture that was flowing down her legs, and then in the source of that moisture.

"God, you are so damn big," she panted. "So . . . beautifully big."

"I don't think I'd call it beautiful," he whispered in her ear. "And it seems to me that it's exactly the right size."

With a strong, slow stroke, he proved his point. "See, it fits just right."

"Damn you," she gasped. "I won't be able to walk tomorrow."

"Then I'll carry you," Nick promised, easing forward and back. She squirmed to get their arrangement right and leaned just a bit too far forward.

"Whoa, babe, come back here," he said, then reached for a way to hold her in place. He found something to hold onto - two somethings in fact - and returned to his steady pace.

Bobbie stretched up even higher on her toes when Nick pushed forward into her, then eased when he eased, and then repeated the pattern - adding a bit of wiggle whenever she had enough awareness to remember to do it, which wasn't often.

"Where's my rag?" she gasped, her voice squeaking up in tone and adding in a few extra vowel-only words.

"Find it yourself," Nick said. "I'm busy."

He probably should have helped her. She didn't have time to get the washcloth herself before she detonated with a high-order explosion. Perhaps it was the new position, or the piquancy of having others below, or some forbidden-fruit element because she was supposed to be on watch, but Bobbie went from building-though-controlled arousal to stellar nova in one timeless heartbeat.

She did scream, but Nick's thick tool had filled her so full and so deep that it seemed to be pressing all the air out of her lungs. All she could do was pant and gasp and try to manage simple breathing. Actual noise took too much air. Nonetheless, she seemed to be getting enough oxygen for motion. Her arms and legs began to ripple and twitch with whipcrack intensity and threatened to slap the instruments. Nick moved his hands to wrap around and support her sharply indented waist and stepped back, holding her in the air while still pistoning in and out.

Perhaps it was the new position, but this time Nick did not follow her into immediate fulfillment. Enough of his concentration was on holding her and on continuing their motion that he was able to ride out the first storm. And then the second. And then her cannonade lost definition as one explosion began before the prior one had crashed to completion.

When his own inexorable tsunami finally started to roll over him, he locked his legs and braced himself against the captain's chair. His strong arms were locked in a repeating do loop of ever-faster motion, using his flailing wife as a soft, moist tool to stimulate his implacable desire. His own crash of completion was almost distant, like thunder that rolls on and on and on without the sharp crack of a single lightning bolt. It surrounded him with an echo of the totally consuming sensation of Nicole's old experience, as though he and Bobbie were joined at a level beyond the flesh, as though their very nerves were merged into one multi-souled being.

And he showed that he needed his own gag, with a grunting, guttural roar that sent his own challenge back to the storm thunder that only they could sense.

Bobbie didn't make it through that storm. At least, not consciously. In a moment Nick realized that his wife was hanging limply in his hands, her head drooping near to the deck and waves of bright hair wafting back and forth in the breeze through the open side-deck hatches. He moved her carefully off his shrinking shaft, finding the washcloth to keep her from adding any more stains to the seats. She was just starting to come around when they heard a snickering voice from the head of the stateroom companionway.

"Are you two alright?" Lola's voice asked.

"Yes," Nick said, trying to hide the panting that still hadn't supplied enough air.

"We heard a shout . . . or three," Lola persisted.

Nick's granite-slab cheeks flushed with heat but he decided that he was not going to apologize for what had been a spectacularly wonderful experience.

"I sometimes have that effect on women," he replied smugly, looking at Bobbie who was aware enough to be scrambling for her clothes.

"Seems to me it was more of a roar than a scream," Lola said, laughing and finally moving far enough that she could see into the pilothouse.

"I sometimes have that effect on men," Bobbie countered, sticking her tongue out at her husband.

"And on women, too, as I recall," Lola said with a leer.

Nick matched her leer and let his eyes roll toward the stateroom below. "Something you two share, then."

"Oh, yeah," Lola said, laughing. "Allie was . . . rather vocal tonight. I think that's a good sign."

"I agree," Bobbie said, now a bit more serious. "Is she going to be okay?

"I think so," Lola said with matching seriousness. "If we can get her a bit of a tan without burning enough to peel, then she'll seem like a new person. I want to take her shopping in Cancun. We'll get her some bright colors and maybe a new hairstyle."

"Sounds great," Bobbie said, grinning again only now at Nick. "I can't wait."

"Oh, lordy, the mind boggles at the thought of letting you three loose on innocent civilians," Nick said, but he grinned as well. "Well, Cap'n, if you're going to be running this tub when we enter Cancun, then you should probably get some sleep."

Bobbie nodded and headed below. But she was back before Lola had even left the pilothouse. All she had done was brush her waterfall of hair back into some semblance of order and change clothes. She now wore one of her pirate outfits, complete with thigh-high boots and leather pants, but this time wearing a flowing silk blouse that tucked into the pants. She also brought a pillow and she put it on the pilothouse settee.

"I'll spend the night here," she said. "I never sleep well when we're not together anyway."

Nick nodded, smiling as he fetched a light blanket from a storage locker. In a moment Bobbie was tucked in and in two she was asleep.

"Man, you tuckered that girl out," Lola teased Nick.

"It was mutual, believe me," Nick said with an exaggerated sigh.

"You two really have something special," Lola observed quietly.

"Yes," Nick said. "Much better than we had before . . ."

"Before you met my grandfather?"


"What's going to happen when this is all over?"

"I wish I knew," Nick said softly. "I wish I knew."

Chapter 9 - "Butterfly Kisses"

Not long after they were tied up at their berth the girls left Nick to watch over the Sorceress and launched a cash-backed invasion of Cancun. Among many other skills, Nicole had spoken Spanish and Nick retained that so he could negotiate for fuel and provisions better than Bobbie anyway. Bobbie was taking advantage of her tan in tiny white shorts and towering white heels. White continued as the main color in an embroidered, off-the-shoulder top that was a bit unusual for her because it had a body-suit bottom that tucked into her shorts rather than stopping just below her bust.

Lola was in a bright red sundress with huge white flowers, and she was foolishly trying to match Bobbie's impossible heels for the day. In contrast, Allie was wearing a dark, longish knit dress that would have been unflattering in December and was positively baking her in the hot Mexican sun.

"First off, we have to get you into something fun!" Lola announced, looking at her friend.

"Absolutely," Bobbie agreed. She and Lola began a running dialog of what sort of styles would look good on Allie - with the obvious conclusion that something bright, short, and daring was the order of the day.

Allie wasn't comfortable with a barely legal miniskirt like Lola was wearing so she took Bobbie's path with some blindingly white shorts that were so tiny and so tight that they immediately sent her back to model them again with no panties. With her impossible waist - thanks to the corset - she couldn't really wear a crop-top style either but they found her a perfect little bright-blue halter top that was tight enough to show off the shape of her improbable midsection while still revealing arms, legs, and the upper part of her back.

And then, because she was so pale, they immediately proceeded to cover her up again with a wide-brimmed straw hat and huge sunglasses.

"Okay," Lola said. "Now that you at least *look* like you belong in this century, let's get you some real clothes!"

Of course, it was never her intent that only Allie would be looking at clothes.

Bobbie found herself caught up in the whirl of trying on pretty, flirty, daring clothes. The only limitation she made was that she wouldn't show her trim waist directly.

"What's wrong with you today?" Lola whispered at one point while Allie was in a changing room by herself. "What are you hiding? I know you're not wearing a corset like Allie."

Bobbie blushed, and looked around to see if anyone could overhear. When she decided they were acceptably private, she whispered back, "Bruises."


"I've got some bruises on my waist," Bobbie reported.

"From last night?"

Bobbie nodded.

"That man is a brute!" Lola said, wide-eyed. "I would have sworn he could never hurt you."

"He doesn't know," Bobbie said. "He was . . . holding me up last night, and I guess he just . . . squeezed a little too hard."

"Wow. Did it hurt?"

"Not at the time," Bobbie said, blushing again. "It was pretty, um, intense."

"Awesome," Lola said, snickering. "I’m instantly and insanely jealous."

Bobbie frowned, and leaned close to whisper even more privately. "I thought you only, y'know, like girls."

"So did I," Lola said, giggling but also a bit pensive. "But there's something about Nick that just . . . resonates with me, I guess."

"Maybe it's because he used to be Nicole," Bobbie said thoughtfully.

"You think so?" asked Lola, then she laughed again, "Or maybe it's just that he's such a nice guy and I'm jealous of what he does for you . . . or to you, or whatever."

"Oh, what he does *to* me is certainly good *for* me," Bobbie said, eyes dancing with remembered passion. Then she laughed again and said, "Well, except for the bruises."

"Speaking of bruises . . ," Lola began, to be interrupted by the returning Allie.

"Oh, yeah," the brunette declared. "That you have to get."

'That' was a tight little sundress with splashes of blue and green and white that was a perfect color match for the whole Caribbean Sea. If Allie took nothing else home from this trip, that one dress would always remind her of her time on the Sorceress.

So, of course the others had to get matching dresses. Not exactly the same design, but the same memorable mixture of shining sea colors. If she were going to be wearing a dress, Bobbie needed some sandals that picked up the sea-foam color, while the ones that Lola had started with were just too plain, and . . .

"Oh, lordy," Lola sighed sometime later as they found seats in a shaded, open-air bar. "I intended to find a place to sit and rest my poor, bruised feet an hour ago." She tried to put a glare on her face as she looked at Allie. "This is all your fault. I was just about to tell Bobbie that we should take a break when you came out in that killer dress, and . . . well, we just couldn't let you have the only one."

"Oh yes you could," Allie said, but she laughed and leaned over to hug her friend.

They were about to order when three drinks - classic Pina Coladas complete with little umbrellas - arrived at their table. The waitress, a curvy little Mexican girl who didn't seem entirely pleased to see the beautiful American women in her bar, pointed at a table where three young men sat.

Three good-looking young men, Bobbie realized with a shock at her instant assessment.

"Ohmigod," she whispered to the others.

"Oh, stop," Allie said, giggling. "Don't try to tell me you've never had strange men buy you drinks before."

"But they're so young," Bobbie said.

"The tall one is older than you, I'll bet," Lola observed, smiling and raising her provided drink to them in salute.

"No," Bobbie said. Then she realized it was likely to be true. At least the guy was probably older than she appeared now - perhaps even a year older than Nick. That this made him several years younger than her memories made her didn't show on the outside.

"Ohmigod, they're coming over," Allie said, giggling behind her hand.

"Hola, senoritas bonitas," one said, not entirely sure of his Spanish perhaps, but sure of the appeal of his charming smile.

"Hola," Lola said lightly, but she didn't offer them a seat, waiting to see what they would do next.

The tallest one - they were all fairly tall and one was even taller than Bobbie in her insane heels - smiled comfortably and pointed at himself, then at the other men. "Trevor, Mike, Zeb."

"Bobbie, Allie, and I'm Lola," the brunette replied with the appropriate pointing.

"What brings you to this fair city?" Trevor asked, and while the question might have been general his attention was focused firmly on Bobbie.

"A Sorceress," Bobbie said.

Allie leaned over to whisper in her ear, "Oh, god, I hate you. If I asked that dude how many girls are at this table, do you think he could count above two?"

Bobbie laughed then turned back to the young men. Trevor smiled at her again - a smile that looked slightly practiced . . . as though he had studied the shape in a mirror - and asked, "Can we join you?"

"I already have someone," Bobbie said. She realized as she said it that although she was wearing several decorative rings none of them looked anything like a wedding band.

"Surely no other man can possibly be enough for a goddess as perfect as you," Trevor said grandly.

"No other man?" Bobbie repeated, arching a shapely eyebrow in challenge. "Meaning, I presume, that you think you might yourself be enough for me?"

"Well, li'l lady," Trevor drawled, affecting a cowboy stance and accent, "Ah kin say that it'd shore put a smile on muh face to die tryin'."

She couldn't hold in a laugh at his little act and that seemed to be an invitation for the next scene. A second guy - Zeb, whom Bobbie realized she had assessed as the cutest one, with sparkling blue eyes and a little Superman curl of glossy black hair looping toward one eye - went to one knee in front of Allie and took her hand for a courtly kiss.

"Oh, my princess, let me wine you and dine as we dance the night away until the very stars themselves pale with jealousy at your beauty."

Allie just stared at his so-eloquent approach before audibly closing her mouth . . . then giggling behind her hand. She blushed and looked away. But when she let her glance return a moment later, Zeb was still waiting on a more explicit response. . . . and still holding her hand.

"Fools!" the third man - Mike - said. "You think that these impossibly beautiful blondes are the prize, but I choose intelligent conversation, philosophical discourse, and a deep, enduring passion that will keep me warm for ten thousand nights to come. I choose the stunning brunette."

With that, he pulled Lola to her feet and swept her away in a grand ballroom swirl that had nothing at all to do with the tunes played by wandering minstrels in the club. Lola let him, mostly because she was laughing too hard to resist.

Bobbie laughed as well, but as Mike and Lola were grabbing the attention of the others in the room she reached out quietly to Trevor and silently mouthed, "Married," while pointing at herself. Trevor mimed the sign language for sad, wiping his hand before his face, then bowed and smiled to her with that same practiced smile.

By this time the still-chuckling Lola had pulled Mike back to the rest of the group. "Sorry, Casanova," she said, "but I'm taken."

"Let me at him," Mike said grandly. "I'll arm-wrestle him for your hand!"

"It's not a him," Lola said, then pulled Allie to her feet. She kissed the taller girl with the toe-curling, hair-straightening, breath-destroying passion that she put into her best kisses, And this was definitely one of her best.

"Oh, shit, that's hot," Trevor muttered.

When she came up for air, Lola reached over to Mike and pulled his chin up so that his mouth was no longer hanging open. Allie leaned over the still-kneeling Zeb and kissed him on the forehead in a blessing of benevolence - but not passion. "Sorry, Zeb, but she's right. I'm taken."

"Oh, hell, it figures," Zeb said, standing. "But damn, you are hot. All of you. What a shame."

"Not from where I'm standing," Lola disagreed. Wrapping her arm around Allie, she used the other to grab some of their packages, let the other girls grab the rest, and made her grand exit with Bobbie trailing behind.

"God, that was fun," Lola said when they were out of the club.

"Oh, you are ssooo right," Allie said, giggling. "Damn, when you kissed me I thought Zeb was gonna fall right over on the floor."

"So, thinking about someone else when I kissed you, were you?" Lola asked archly.

"For about one second," Allie said. "I don't remember much after that."

"Well, I'll have to see if I can remind you," Lola promised, smirking at her own memories of the disappointed suitors.

"You guys are sssoo bad," Bobbie said but she added her own giggle at the little episode.

They were still snickering when they arrived back at the Sorceress and the story got better with each girl's recitation of her own version of the adventure. That day seemed to be a watershed for Allie. She didn't give up her beloved corsets but she blossomed like a butterfly - losing the dark clothes and stark makeup for bright colors and natural-looking though still flattering cosmetics that made her truly cute in a way that complemented Lola's co-ed look.

The only problem Allie had was that she couldn't work up a good tan. At first she replaced the Goth-pale look with a nice shading of color that gave contour to her cheeks and shoulders and legs, but it turned out that her light ash-blonde hair was natural and a sign of the pale complexion that was an inherent part of the real girl. She couldn’t go beyond that soft touch of color without burning. As they made their way from Cancun down to Panama for the Canal crossing she tried different lotions, different times of the day, and any other variation she could think of but all she really won for her labors was a faceload of freckles.

"I think I need to go home," Allie said one evening at dinner. They were anchored in a little bay near Playa Bonita, Costa Rica, enjoying yet another perfect late-spring evening. Nick had set their meal up in the cockpit, moving a table out from the salon. They could hear birds singing in the nearby jungle but an ambient wind was just enough to keep the land breeze from forming so no insects were carried out to them.

"Why?" Lola asked with a frown.

"Because I can," Allie said simply. She smiled at Lola and then at the others and said, "Because I'm a lot more comfortable with who I am than I was when I arrived." Allie reached out to pat Lola's hand, and sighed. "Lola, I love you, but I don't think we're meant to be together forever. Partly that's because you've shown me how to be happy as a 'normal' girl."

She laughed and looked at Nick. "Don't get me wrong, I still like girls. That's normal for me. But Nicky is so wonderful that I could even see, someday, finding a friend like him. I don't think I ever met anyone who was as . . . balanced as Nick is, with strength and tenderness that don't fight with each other. Making love with a girl is wonderful in more ways than just how the plumbing works, but now I can see being with a guy as just different, not as, um . . ," she wrinkled her nose, but grinned, ". . .gross like I always thought it would be. Whether there was any sex in some future friendship with a guy would have to depend on the guy, but it's no longer unthinkable. That's a revelation to me as well, thanks to you."

Nick nodded at her, but let her continue. "So," Allie said, "I'm a different person than the wreck Lola towed behind her into Key West. I want to go back home and visit my family, then go back to college. I've had a wonderful time, but . . . it's time."

She laughed to defuse the tension of her announcement and concluded, "Besides, all I'm doing now is piling on freckles. I need to get back to the frozen north."

"It was 80 degrees today in Baltimore," Bobbie announced.

Allie smiled - for once not hiding behind a little-girl giggle - and nodded the point to the other blonde. But she didn't add anything.

Lola looked at Bobbie for advice and Bobbie put on her captain persona for a moment. "Well, we're on the way to Colon, Panama. You can get a flight from there. We have one more stop-over in Kusapin, which is an isolated little bay with nothing but a fishing village, but you can be on your way by day after tomorrow."

"Good," Allie said, but her eyes took on a shine that said there were many dimensions to her decision.

"Good," Lola said, surprisingly. She took Allie's hand in her own and squeezed it. "Allie, beautiful, I'd love for you to stay with us as long as you want but I understand. And I think you're right. You are a different person; a much warmer, happier, and more desirable person than you were before. I think your family needs to see how special you've become."

Lola's eyes were shining as well, but she pushed on. "And if, someday, you want to meet again, well . . . you just let me know, okay?"

Allie was too far gone to speak, tears drawing shine trails down her face. They hugged each other and then moved off toward their stateroom, barely managing to nod at the Adlers in their very abbreviated exit.

That wasn't the only problem the previously idyllic cruise had to face. The next day as they were pulling into the bay at Kusapin, Sorceress had her own complaint.

"Uh, oh," Bobbie muttered, looking at a diagnostic display.

"What's wrong?" Nick asked.

"Looks like we have a problem with the starboard stabilizer," Bobbie reported. "It's showing low hydraulic fluid."

She changed into 'grubby' clothes; a pair of torn shorts and one of Nick's t-shirts, and squirmed her way to the stabilizer in the engine room. It was definitely leaking. The bilges were catching the fluid so they weren't going to cause any environmental waste, but they couldn't run that stabilizer any more. They contacted Burr Yacht Sales over the satellite phone and found out the good news and the bad news. The good news was that they could change the actuator without any need for a drydock. In fact, the Adlers could change it themselves. All it took was a bit of muscle, of which Nick had plenty; a few tools, with which the Sorceress was well supplied; and a careful attention to detail in bleeding the hydraulic system after the actuator was changed . . . and attention to detail was Bobbie's specialty.

The bad news was when they asked about the timing.

Captain Jones said, "We could ship it to Panama tonight with an overnight delivery. But it still might take a several days before you can get it."

"How many is several?" asked Bobbie.

"Well," JP said carefully, "it's just that getting the export permit, and then the import permit, and then convincing the, um, 'officials' in Panama to release it to you . . . It might take a little work to, um, 'expedite' it."

"'Work' with little pictures of dead presidents?" Bobbie guessed.

"At least some," admitted JP.

"What's the alternative?"

"If you, as the owner, were to take delivery directly from us then there's no export permit beyond the license you already have for the Sorceress herself. And if you put it in your own baggage as personal possessions - not for sale - that you take directly to your yacht then you probably won't need too many dead presidents to get it through Panamanian customs. It would mean you'd have to sit on an airplane for the round trip flight from Panama, but I could meet you in Miami with the parts."

"Sounds like a plan," Bobbie said, sighing. She thought, "Now is a time when I could use some of Merlin's magic but it's not a problem we can't handle."

They made it to Colon on schedule, although the loss of the stabilizers let the Sorceress roll a lot more than they were used to. That certainly reinforced Allie in her desire to get off the yacht and by the time they reached the breakwater at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal even Lola was thinking about a new mode of transport.

The next problem was that when the removed the old one they discovered that the actuator weighed about 30 pounds. While that was a pinky-lift for Nick, it was a struggle for Bobbie.

"Well, the solution to this is obvious," Nick said. "I guess I'm the one who goes for the other one."

"Oh, Nicky, after two days in those little airline seats you won't be able to walk."

"I won't have to walk," he said with a grin. "That's why I'll be in a plane."

"You know what I mean," she said, punching his rock-filled abdomen.

"Merlin is paying for it," Nick said, "so I'll be going first class. I can live with that."

The net result of that conclusion was that Allie was going to have a companion on her flight back to the States. When they said good-bye in the terminal, Bobbie's plan to send Nick off with a kiss he would remember worked . . . too well, in fact. She threw her arms around his neck and poured her passion and her love into her lips, pulling so tightly that her toes left the floor. She added fuel to the fire by squirming her full bosom against his muscular chest, hard points scribing into his skin. And then she wriggled her ample hips against the solid bar she felt forming below his belt.

A lesser man might have had to let the floor help hold her tall, curvaceous body. A lesser man might have succumbed to her motions with a response that might take care of one problem at the cost of a spot on his jeans. But Nick gave as good as he got, leaving Bobbie as breathless and . . . needy as she could ever remember being.

As the wave of passion was absorbed, a wave of sadness flowed in behind it. It was loneliness at a level they had never felt before. It was each missing the other before Nick even left. It was happy sad because even as tears started to fill Bobbie's eyes, she realized how special it was to have someone that she missed that much, someone that she wanted to share every single second of the rest of her life with . . . and someone who, somehow, through a miracle that still seemed impossible, shared that same longing.

When Nick finally let her back to her feet she didn't realize that Allie and Lola had shared a tender kiss of their own, but it didn't really matter whether Bobbie knew of it or not. As the slender, ash-blonde woman walked down the jetway with the huge, dark-blond man, no one was able to see very clearly through the tears that clouded their eyes.

"This is the first time since we, um, changed that we've been apart," Bobbie said softly. "I didn't realize until just now how much I've been depending on Nicky's strength to hold myself together."

"It must have been terribly frightening," Lola said sympathetically.

"Yes," Bobbie said. "I suppose that's part of what makes what Nick and I have now so terribly wonderful. It's so different from what I expected when I woke up in this body."

She gestured toward the exit from the airport, continuing to talk as they walked along. "Did you know that when your grandfather first transformed me, I couldn't even walk?"


"Well, I couldn't walk with my feet flat on the ground. I had to beg him to let me wear normal shoes at least part of the time. The first day I had to stand on my tiptoes even when I was in the shower."

"Is that why you wear heels so much?"

"Yes," Bobbie said. "It still hurts my feet to put them flat on the floor for very long."

"Why would he do that?" Lola asked.

"I guess you probably know better than I do. Do you like your . . . paramours in heels?"

"No, not really . . . well, maybe. I do like them to be very feminine. Lipstick lesbian. But heels are just a part of that, not something distinct."

"I wish Merlin would have known that," Bobbie sighed, then she chuckled. "That's not the worst, though. You wouldn't believe what else was different when I first woke up as Bobbie."

"Oh? Tell me, you tease!"

Bobbie discreetly - well, sort of discreetly, they were in public after all - cupped her ample bosom and said, "The 'girls' were, oh god, twice this big!"

"No!" Lola said, laughing. "Oh man, I'd love to have seen that."

"Shh!" Bobbie said, urgently, but spoiling the effect with a giggle. "Don't give him any ideas. He might be listening."

"Just for a little while?" Lola wheedled, putting her arm around Bobbie as a way to cover a quick grope of the taller woman's curves.

"No way!" Bobbie said adamantly, but she was still laughing.

Lola started in on a list of 'improvements' she thought Bobbie should have, some of which were physically impossible . . . and the rest of which were worse. Except some of them were costumes that just might be possible and that that brought a light of curiosity to both their expressions.

It got them past the immediate pangs of loss from their now-airborne companions. Then there was the ship's business of moving the Sorceress over to the Fort Sherman side of Colon bay while they waited for Nick to return. By now Lola was a fair deck hand herself, though it was hardly necessary. There was no shortage of dock hands willing to work their lines for them. In fact, they were better cared for than they knew because Sorceress was apparently a magic word. Anything she asked for was made available and in a hurry. The Canal Authority, at least since the US quit administering it, was notorious for making ships wait for a turn at transit even if they had reservations and 'expedited' service. Delays of a week were more common than not, and two or three weeks from the time a private vessel arrived in Colon Bay were not exceptional. Sorceress, on the other hand, could have gone the first night they arrived if they were shipshape. But she was not, so they laid over for a day in the western part of the bay.

The anchorage where they waited was not as nice as most of the ones they had found. It was very efficient, but there wasn't anything particularly attractive in the views and the land cut off the fresh sea breeze they had enjoyed so much. It also cut off the sunset except as a quick, too-early shadow that spilled down from mountains to the west of the bay.

Bobbie and Lola shared a simple sandwich supper up on the flybridge, allowing the shadows to engulf the Sorceress rather than turn on any lights.

Out of the darkness, Bobbie heard a soft, tentative voice, "Did you mean what you said about me?"

"Sure, whatever it was," Bobbie responded lightly.

"Back, right after we, y'know, the last time you, um, put suntan lotion on me," Lola said.

"I'm sure I meant it," Bobbie said, more serious now. "But you'll have to remind me what you're thinking about."

"You said that you wanted me ever since you first saw me," Lola said. "Saw me like this, I mean. Not Goth."

Bobbie nodded in the darkness, her bright hair showing the motion even in the shadows. "Yes," she said. "You're a lot like my image of the perfect woman - like Nicole . . . might have been."

"She wasn't though?" prompted Lola.

"Well, I wasn't all that . . . I didn't pay enough attention to her desires, either," Bobbie said, not quite answering.

She sat silently for a moment, waiting to hear what Lola would say next. But she didn't hear any words at all. After a moment there was a sound, though.

"Lola, are you alright?" she asked.

Lola didn't answer.


The dark-haired girl still didn't answer, prompting Bobbie to get up and walk over to her. On the way she flicked on the anchor light which made them legal but didn't really provide a lot of illumination under the bimini top. It was enough to keep Bobbie from bumping into things but it still let Lola have the false anonymity of darkness. Bobbie realized that Lola had been crying so she sat down next to her and gathered the smaller woman up into a comforting embrace.

"Tell me about it," she commanded gently.

"Oh, Bobbie, I'm so selfish, so . . . greedy."

"I think we had the conversation once before," Bobbie said, "and I think we decided that you might have *been* selfish, but that you were doing pretty well on getting that under control. What's the problem now?"

Instead of answering, Lola asked a question of her own. "When you and Nick . . . make love, do you ever think about . . . someone else?"

"No," Bobbie said, but then she added. "Not anymore."

"But you did?" Lola pressed.

"Not since . . . this," Bobbie said, sweeping one hand down her lush body. "At first I just couldn't think about sex at all. All I cared about was getting changed back to the way I was - even though that person was older, boring, and not headed anywhere in life."

She sighed, but there was a note of wonder in her tone. "Since then, Nicky has been . . . teaching me . . . gradually, just how wonderful this body is and how spectacular he is, and I haven't believed how great it was with him, let alone thinking of someone else."

Bobbie hugged the silently weeping woman and provided the other side of that fulfillment. "But back when I was Bob, and she was Nicole . . . yes, sometimes even as we made love, I'd think about other women."

Her voice took on a pensive tone and she corrected herself. "Actually, it's more like I'd think about a . . . an 'improved' Nicole. It would still be her - dark hair, petite, and tender - but . . . different as well."


"You know what I mean, Lola," Bobbie said. "Frankly, more like you. A bit younger, like you, because none of us want to admit that we're older. A bit better shape, like you. And more than a bit more sensual . . . though I never thought of someone as hot as you."

"But back when you were Bob and married to Nicole, you thought about someone like me?"

Bobbie nodded, the motion enough in their close embrace.

Lola sighed in her arms then said softly. "I felt so guilty ever since I brought Allie back to the Sorceress."

"Why? You were really good for her."

"I know that, but I was really selfish too," Lola said. "The whole time I was with her - every single night - all I could think of was . . . was you."

Lola rushed on with words spilling out as fast as she could talk. "I used her. I used her because she was blonde. I used her because she was taller than me. I even made her over into a bright little butterfly instead of her dark Goth raven . . . all so that she would be more like you."

"I'm flattered," Bobbie said. "But just because she was meeting some of your needs doesn't make you selfish. It makes you lucky. You met some needs that she had - critical needs - and that wasn't selfish."

"But I didn't do it to help her!" Lola whimpered. "I did it because . . . because I was . . . aroused, and I wanted . . . someone to . . ."

"Someone to make you feel good," Bobbie said. "There's nothing wrong with that."

"Would you like me to make *you* feel good?" Lola whispered.

Bobbie leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "Yes, but not tonight."

She pulled back and helped Lola to sit up straight. "Tonight, I've been too much your friend, and even your mother. We need our first time to be something with more joy and - frankly - spontaneity. Confession is good for the soul but it's lousy for romance. Right now it would seem like an obligation even without Merlin's hovering threat."

"We'll get there," Bobbie said as she stood. "And we'll both know when that time comes."

Lola nodded, and despite her rejected offer she smiled with contentment. Then it was clear that an idea came to her and she smiled again. "How about a compromise? I don't want to sleep alone tonight. That might be one of the reasons that I was so down. Would you sleep with me tonight? Nothing more than sleep, and maybe a cuddle or two?"

Bobbie remembered when she had made a similar pact with Nick. It had worked . . . for about one night. But that was not a complaint. When she and Nick finally were ready it was well worth the wait. So the tall blonde nodded and let the petite brunette lead her below decks.

Chapter 10 - "Spontaneity"

**Thump, thump**

"Knock, knock! Anybody home?!"

**Thump, thump**

"Hey, on th' Sorceress, 's anybody in there?"

Bobbie pulled herself from a wonderfully deep sleep at the sound of someone rapping on the hull. Then she woke up for real and realized that she was sleeping with Lola, that it was still dark, and that meant it was way too early to be getting up. Bobbie scrambled out of bed, grabbed a pair of shorts to go with the loose t-shirt she had been sleeping in, looked in the mirror at her rat's nest of hair and groaned, then moved quickly out of the stateroom.

When she got back to the cockpit there was a small boat - apparently a tender from another yacht - tied up to the swim platform with someone rapping on the wood with his knuckles.

"Hey, you awake in there?"

"I am now," Bobbie said with little grace, stepping through the salon doors to the cockpit after turning on several floodlights.

"Great," the boat's occupant, a rotund young man who was obviously drunk, said. "D'you have any beer? We're outa beer and they don' open up for hours."

"No," Bobbie said curtly.

"Hey, babe, you gotta have somethin'. I'm dyin' a' thirst here. I'll pay you."

"Oh, you're thirsty are you?" Bobbie said. "I can help you with that."

"Great," the man said, either sitting or falling more or less on the seat on his dinghy.

Bobbie walked back inside to find an equally bedraggled Lola looking confused. "Are you gonna help that asshole?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah," Bobbie said. "After all, he says he's thirsty. Who wouldn't help a thirsty man on a salty ocean? Besides, he said he would pay and I think that we should, um, make him pay." Grinning and putting a shushing finger to her lips, she looked around for a second then got an idea and walked back out to the cockpit.

"Just gotta get something from the lazarette," she announced to the swaying intruder. Pulling up the hatch, she disappeared below. When she returned she carefully closed the hatch then moved back into the salon. A few minutes later she was running cold water into a bucket. As soon as Lola saw what she was doing she giggled and went to the icemaker to gather a scoop of ice.

"This should help," the brunette said, adding a second quart-sized scoop of ice.

"Oh, yeah," Bobbie agreed. "That'll make him pay." Since Bobbie had brought two buckets, it seemed only neighborly to fill both of them for the needy sailor.

The girls walked out onto the cockpit sole with their buckets hidden behind their backs. The guy staggered to his feet, nearly dumping his slightly-too-small RHIB, and looked expectantly.

"Ready?" Bobbie whispered to Lola.

"Girl, I was born ready," Lola replied, snickering.

"On three," Bobbie whispered, then loudly, "One . . . two . . . three!!"

On the beat, they each hurled the contents of their icy bucket. Simultaneously, two voices shouted, "You bitch!" One of those voices was not Lola's.

Unfortunately for Bobbie, she was a much better shot than Lola. Her bucket nearly knocked the drunk into the waters of the bay, which would not have made him any wetter though perhaps a bit warmer. Lola's stream of ice water, on the other hand, had landed squarely on Bobbie whose t-shirt immediately turned the next best thing to transparent.

Unfortunately for Lola, Bobbie was not stuck in an unstable small boat. When the first shock had passed and she was breathing again, she unhesitatingly moved over, picked Lola up, and threw her into the bay. Then just as firmly she untied the painter from the drunk's dinghy and pushed it away from the Sorceress.

"You bitch!" a pair of voices called again, though this time one voice was laughing. Lola was sputtering something nasty out of her mouth but she couldn't help snickering at the success of her little ploy.

"This water is awful," she said, holding position off the swim step to see what Bobbie would do next.

"Too bad," Bobbie said, but her eyes were twinkling, too. She offered Lola a hand and - after setting herself carefully to avoid swapping places with the brunette - she pulled her out of the water.

"You are basically not a nice person," Bobbie accused.

"Look who's talking!" Lola replied, acting as though she were the aggrieved party. She looked around at where the drunk's boat was still drifting. "Is he gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, the tide is setting in and even if he doesn't get that thing moving again he'll drift up against the shore," Bobbie assured her.

She looked at the sodden brunette and in one instant Bobbie passed from amused to aroused because the look she saw in Lola's eyes was not the sad, penitent girl who had cried into her shoulder on the flybridge. This girl, with her wet t-shirt and soaked hair was cute in a deliciously naughty way, and needy in a stunningly sensual way that implied she could give as much as she received.

"God, you're hot," she breathed.

"Yeah, I need a shower," Lola said. "That water is icky - warm and sticky, and I think there's like, oil in it."

"No, you're . . . hot," Bobbie repeated, and this time Lola heard the tone in her voice.

She looked at the taller woman and her breath caught for a moment so long she felt the blood pound in her ears. The change in the way that Bobbie looked at Lola showed in the taller woman's stance, in her eyes, and in her accelerated breathing. That breathing was hard to miss as Lola admired the most perfect pair of wet-t-shirt-accented love pillows she'd ever seen, just inches away and screaming for attention. Despite Merlin's assumption, Lola didn't have a fetish for high heels but she did have a real . . . appreciation for big-bosomed women.

The blue eyes and brown eyes sent messages back and forth that neither could translate, then Bobbie whispered, "I'll wash your back if you'll wash mine."

Lola tried to agree but her mouth was suddenly dry. All she could do was nod. She turned to go into the salon but Bobbie laughed and pulled her back. Taking off Lola's soaked t-shirt and then her own, she dropped them on the deck and pulled some towels from cockpit lockers. In a moment they were dry enough that they weren't actively dripping and they made their way to the large-enough-for-two shower in the master stateroom.

Lola ducked her head under the spray as soon as it started even though the water was still cold. While her eyes were closed, just as the temperature started to rise the water was blocked. She felt Bobbie's hands on her waist and when she opened her eyes she found Bobbie's lips descending to hers. Long blonde hair was pulled behind her head, leaving the water to stream down her perfect cheekbones and run between and around her full, round breasts.

"You are so beautiful," Lola whispered.

"You are so exciting," Bobbie countered. She picked up some scented body wash and a loofah and began to scrub Lola's taut, quivering body. Lola reached behind her head and caught a towel rack then demonstrated her suppleness by lifting one smooth leg to the taller woman's shoulder in a vertical standing split so that Bobbie could clean every nook and cranny - particularly the nooks . . . or maybe the crannies - that her body possessed.

At some point - it didn't matter when - they decided that Lola was clean enough and one or the other of them - it didn't matter who - turned off the water. Bobbie started to squeeze the water out of her mass of hair into a towel but Lola didn't let her finish. "I can't wait," the dark-haired girl said. She began to pull the taller woman toward the bed.

"We'll get it wet," Bobbie said.

"I don't care," Lola whispered.

"*I* do," Bobbie said, laughing. Then she pulled Lola the other way. "Come with me."

She led the dark-haired girl to the steps leading to the salon and then on to foredeck. "I want to do you here," she murmured, "where we first kissed, and where . . ."

"Where we first touched," Lola supplied, but she smiled and helped Bobbie with the mats.

Then there was a moment of awkwardness as each looked at the other before Lola finally kneeled down, pulling Bobbie behind her.

"You've really never done this, have you?" Lola asked softly.

"No," Bobbie confirmed. "I'm not sure what to do."

"I am," Lola said. "Girl, you are going to enjoy this."

At first all they did was kiss, lying on the mats under the tropical night sky. Then Lola's hands started to wander, but not aimlessly. They explored, sending messages both ways through her sensitive touch. The smaller girl didn't hide her fascination with Bobbie's breasts and moved down so that she could worship them with her lips and tongue. Bobbie gasped and arched her back at the sensations, nearly falling over the edge into ecstasy from that sensation alone . . . well, that and the talented ministrations of Lola's fingers, and the soft caress of smooth legs against smooth skin.

Lola didn't lose track of her objective and after holding Bobbie at the tantalizing edge of release until the blonde was tossing her head and practicing on her vowels again, she moved lower and trailed her tongue toward and around a prize that had never been touched in that way before.

"Ohmigod," Bobbie whisper-screamed. "I can't believe . . . that's so good . . . I never felt . . . oh god . . .

Unfortunately, as Bobbie's responses became more disjointed her volume started to climb. Lola didn't want to interrupt her tactics but she needed some way to keep Bobbie quiet or people in the neighboring boats were going to start sending for the coast guard, or whatever.

"Well," she thought, "there's one thing that I know will work."

Pivoting around the center of her attention, she straddled the blonde's head with her smooth, rounded thighs. When she had Bobbie's head in place, she used her own lower lips to fill Bobbie's mouth.

"Ahhh," Lola sighed when Bobbie started reflexively sucking at her nubbin. "Damn, that's good."

It was more than good for Bobbie. She only managed a moment of return pleasure-giving when Lola finally found a previously undiscovered combination to her secret core . . . and Bobbie went insane. She screamed an unending torrent of sound that had no place to go. Only Lola's strong leg muscles kept her blonde head from bouncing off the mat. Tremors raced up her arms and down her legs and then orbited back again. And still she soared higher into realms she had never imagined.

Unfortunately for both of them, she was bigger and even stronger than Lola. Her impossible conflagration consumed some infinite dimension of energy in high-frequency vibration. Then the pace changed and she bucked so hard that Lola was thrown to the side.

"come back," Bobbie whisper-begged, "don't leave me . . . come back . . . oh, please . . ."

"I'm right here, beautiful," Lola said, moving back to her previous position. But the moment was lost. Stimulation that had been perfect before was now too intense to be survived. Bobbie flinched at Lola's renewed attention and her arms were pulling the brunette away.

"No more," she gasped. "I can't . . . no more."

"Okay, my lovely one, it's okay," Lola murmured, moving back up to hold the still-trembling blonde.

Bobbie just huddled in the smaller woman's arms for a while, trying to get her mind to accept what had happened. At one point, Lola thought that Bobbie had fallen asleep but her stillness was just the transition from helplessness to coherence.

"I never imagined that could be so wonderful," Bobbie said softly. "You are . . . amazing. But you didn't . . . I mean, I didn't . . ."

"Listen, beautiful, you don't know how wonderful it makes me feel, how special and how . . . worthy it makes me feel when I can help someone to find that kind of pleasure. Frankly, no one I've ever known has been as responsive as you so you made me feel really magical. I can't imagine how Nick even survives."

"Nick," Bobbie whispered, slumping a little.

"Is something wrong?" asked Lola.

"No," Bobbie claimed, but she wasn't really a very good liar.

"What's the matter?" Lola persisted.

"It's just . . . the whole time we - Nicole and I - were together, even when we were just going together during high school, I never . . . not with anyone else. And now . . ." Her voice trailed off, then she squared her shoulders and looked directly at Lola. "Don't get me wrong. I wanted to do that. Hell, I needed to do that. . . or to have you do that. But now that we've . . . done it, it's . . . real somehow and even though I know Nick loves me and told me to go ahead. I wonder if he'll still feel that way now that we . . . did it."

"So you're worried about what Nick will say?" asked Lola.

"Actually, no," Bobbie said. "I know he'll still love me and I know that he won't complain or act like I've cheated on him. But I wonder if he'll feel hurt. I . . . feel so selfish because I wanted you so bad that for a while I didn't care about him. I guess . . . now I do."

"I'm sorry," Lola said.

"No!" Bobbie said sharply. "I'm not sorry. Not for what we did. If I'm sorry about anything, it's that I don't want to hurt Nick, but if that's the price for what we shared then I'll pay it."

She sat up and pulled Lola into an embrace. "Lola dear, we do love you. We really do. And we both lusted after you because you are an incredibly sensuous woman. You've shown me something beautiful, and I will never regret what we've shared. I just wish that somehow, Nick could . . ."

"Could what?" asked Lola.

"I don't know. But I hate to think that he might feel . . . left out, somehow."

Lola hugged her new lover and said, "Well, we can fix that."

"What do you mean?"

"Would you be willing to . . . share him? With me?"

"Like this?" Bobbie asked. "Where I go off and you two . . .?"

"No," Lola said quickly. "A long time ago I. . . did it with a guy. It wasn't very nice. He was young and so was I and neither of us knew what we were doing. But I don't think I want to be with a man . . . by myself."

"You mean, all three of us together?" Bobbie asked, gasping with shock . . . but with interest as well.

Lola nodded, but she smiled and pointed to Bobbie's little tattletales. Bobbie laughed and then she pinched one of Lola's matching messengers.

"Oh, god, I know just how to set this up, too," Bobbie said. "Let me tell you my plan . . ."

"Later," Lola said, laughing. "If we don't get below, you're going to be giving quite a show when the sun comes up - which it will be doing pretty soon."

"You're putting on just as much of a show," Bobbie claimed, but she started moving toward the hatch.

"No, beautiful," Lola murmured as she watched the departing derriere of the impossibly pretty blonde. "Not as much of me to show, and not as much of a show when I do."

Nick arrived on schedule and they fixed the stabilizer. They gave it a good test run back into the Caribbean and when it seemed to be okay they asked once again for a time slot for their transit of the legendary Panama Canal. The name Sorceress continued to function as a magic word, gaining them a slot in the traffic flow that evening. Atlantic-to-Pacific traffic (which, ironically, is west-to-east traffic) goes through the Gatun locks in the late afternoon. They went through in a raft with a Nordhavn trawler, a sturdy single-engine boat that carries enough fuel to cruise continuously for a month or more. However, it can only make 6-7 knots so if there is any sort of current, they might still be able to see their departure point that month later. Both vessels used Sorceress for thrust, moving through the locks on her power though handlers worked lines to keep them in the middle of the lock. Not surprisingly, there was no shortage of volunteers to be line handlers. After all, the captain of the Sorceress was an awesome blonde that looked like she was made by Mattel, and the second mate was an impossibly cute brunette whose smile had a promise of both passion and mischief.

The transit included an overnight anchorage on Gatun Lake where Nick finally had a chance to catch up on lost sleep. While he slept Bobbie had an opportunity to show Lola some of the tricks that Bob had used on Nicole. Thankfully, Lola was not as vocal when she exploded as Bobbie was, and if they rocked the boat . . . well, Nick was very tired.

Eventually they cleared the Miraflores locks and entered the limitless Pacific Ocean. The first leg, the afternoon they left the Canal area, was an easy cruise to Casaya in the Pearl Islands located in the center of the arch formed by Panama's eastern half. That leg was almost straight south and they found a beautiful little anchorage to enjoy the fresh sea air after the closeness and industry of the Panama Canal. Bobbie let Nick "reintroduce" her to the joys of married life that evening - complete with sound effects - but that was only the first step in her plan.

The next leg was a long overnight run and that was the setting for Bobbie's intended mutual seduction of Nick. Her plans did not survive contact with the enemy . . . and the sea became their enemy. It was not actively dangerous. The Fleming is a strong, seaworthy design and if the weather would have been really bad Bobbie would never have left the breakwater at Balboa. But it was seas of six feet, or even a bit more, and while they weren't breaking they were whitecapping. It kept Bobbie at the wheel for the whole night and kept the others awake, not only because of the active motion but because Bobbie was actively using the engines - powering up the front side of the swells and coasting down the back side. By the time they rounded the southernmost tip of Panama and advanced up the coast to Cohia Island they were all more than tired and ready to collapse.

Unfortunately, they couldn't even do that immediately. They were stowing all the cruise gear in designated locations, watching to make sure the anchor was holding and generally cleaning up the small issues that arose during the heavier seas when a small boat approached.

"Uh, oh," Bobbie said quietly. Both Nick and Lola lifted their heads at her comment.

"Something wrong?" Nick asked.

"I'm getting a bad feeling about this guy," she said, pointing at the approaching boat. In it was a fairly small man whose features showed a mostly-Indian heritage. He was wearing an official looking uniform shirt with a badge but part of his shirt tail was showing and a button was missing.

"In what way?" Nick prompted.

Bobbie just shrugged - a motion that had as much shiver as dismissal. "I don't know. Call it woman's intuition, I guess. But I don't trust this guy. I have a feeling he's not a real park ranger; that he's going to try to shake us down."

By that time the man was pulling alongside the Sorceress, rounding the stern to reach the swim step and board.

Until he saw the ship's name painted across the transom. At first, he just glanced at it. Then he did a classic comedy double-take and they could see him spelling out the English word to confirm what he saw. His face - despite his dark tan and the swarthy complexion he started with - became very pale. He looked up at Bobbie where she stood in the cockpit and gulped, then waved quickly and turned his little vessel away. Without ever saying a word he motored back to the shack they saw on the shore.

"What was that all about?" Nick asked.

"I don't know," Bobbie admitted, "but he obviously changed his mind when he saw our name."

"I noticed that," Lola added. "He didn't think we had a real sorceress on board, did he?"

Bobbie mused for a moment, then smiled. "No, but I think we do have a real sorcerer watching over us."

"Lady and Gentleman," she said grandly, "I believe we have just seen our first pirate."

"Pirate?" Nick repeated.

"Next best thing," Bobbie said. "I think that guy was going to demand some sort of fee for anchoring here - it is a Panamanian national park and a fee could be expected - but I don't think he's an actual representative of the Panamanian park service. I think he was just going to try to extort some money from us - which counts as piracy, I think."

She looked at Lola and said, "When we were agreeing to this cruise I told your grandfather that I was worried about pirates. That seems to have been a false alarm in the Caribbean but the criminal gangs have been getting a lot worse on this side of the Americas so maybe my concern was valid after all. And maybe his claim that we didn't need to worry was valid as well."

"You think he's put some sort of spell on the Sorceress?"

"I don't know if it's a spell or whether he has somehow just gotten the word out, but I've noticed that everywhere we go we've been given first class treatment. And now, apparently, protection as well."

"Good," Nick said, putting an arm around Lola in a quick hug. "That old man can be mean and I think he enjoys it, but he does love you so if he's watching out for you and we benefit from it, then good."

"I hope that's the extent of the protection we need," Lola said and the others nodded an enthusiastic agreement.

The rest of that day was spent unwinding from the tough passage. They spent another day just enjoying the quiet bay while the sea settled down. Well, that and ship's chores. Nicky took advantage of the so-called rest day to don mask and snorkel so that he could scrub the bottom of the growth that seemed to love the Sorceress more than their normal habitat. And since he was doing that, Bobbie changed the oil in the main engines which had reached their time limits.

The weather guessers had underestimated the sea state before Sorceress left the Pearl Islands so Bobbie was going to be conservative for the next leg. However, the forecast was right in one respect. It said that the storm was distant and diminishing. The next day the waves were gentle and well-behaved. Their trip to the Secas Islands was just a normal day's cruise and then another anchorage in another pretty bay - an isolated bay, or at least so it seemed. There was no evidence of anyone else around.

Nick was handling the last few chores connected with anchoring and Bobbie was doing yet another bit of navigational planning when they heard a splash.

"Woman overboard!" Nick called, but his voice held laughter.

"You guys are too boring," Lola called from the water. It was very clear water.

Clear enough to show that the only thing covering any part of Lola was the drifting strands of hair that reached out behind her - longer than when she had joined the Sorceress, but not nearly long enough to hide her sun-browned curves.

"Water nymph sighted four points off the port bow, Cap'n," Nick announced next.

"A cute one?" Bobbie asked.

"Oh, yeah," Nick said with a bit more emotion than he might have intended.

"Well, you better go rescue her then," Bobbie said softly.

"Are you sure?" Nick asked.

Bobbie nodded, assigning herself the task of staying on the Sorceress. They never left her completely abandoned unless they were tied up in a marina - either to a dock or to an established mooring buoy.

Nick started below.

"Where are you going?" Bobbie asked.

"To get some trunks," he reported.

Bobbie spoke with the portentous gravity of a master mariner. "In the present circumstances, I'm not sure that we have the time to wait for . . . irrelevancies. Is the, um, victim you need to, um, rescue wearing any swimming attire?"

"No," Nick said, eyes studying his wife.

"Then it would seem that there is no present need for swimwear," Bobbie observed.

Nick looked at her for another long moment, then a broad grin broke out on his granite-hewn face and he saluted sharply. "Aye, aye, Cap'n."

He stripped off the polo shirt and shorts that were all he had been wearing, and it was immediately obvious that the water was not going to be able to hide what his shorts had barely managed to contain.

"Damn, I hope that water is cold," he said, looking down at his straining mast.

"I don't," Bobbie said, dropping her captain solemnity for a giggle. She reached out as though to caress the source of so much of her pleasure, but he intercepted her hand and pulled her into an embrace.

"I do," he repeated. "If not, I may get stuck in the bottom."

"Which bottom?" she asked, moving so that she could straddle his seeking tower.

"Any bottom that comes along," he said, still watching her eyes.

"Well, the water here is only about 15 feet deep so I guess that is a real risk," Bobbie observed, still squirming with his member squeezed between her legs.

"Not much longer," Nick groaned as her motion started to feel much, much too good.

"Oh, then I'll stop," Bobbie said, first with a giggle then with a more serious whisper. "After all, Studly, we wouldn't want our . . . passenger to be disappointed. Her first sight of the white whale should be memorable, don't you think?"

"Nothin' mopey about this dick," he said, chuckling. "That's the problem, beautiful."

"Not a problem from where I'm standing," Bobbie countered with a smirk. She looked up at him with a more serious expression. "Truly, Nick, go . . . rescue her. I'll watch."

"Like *that* helps anything," he groaned again. But he gave a snarky little grin before ostentatiously squaring his shoulders like a man going off to battle a monster.

Chapter 11 - "Planning"

The splash when Nick hit the water was substantially larger than Lola's had been. Bobbie was watching from the cockpit and she didn't know if Nick had deliberately timed it so that Lola was facing the other way when he dove in, but the petite brunette did not see him until after the splash.

"Man, tell a girl when you're going to start a tidal wave," she complained when he resurfaced, but her eyes were dancing.

"That's 'tsunami,' Nick said pedantically. "And you were already wet."

Lola laughed and then she realized that Nick was nude as well. Nick's far-from-typical lack of attire revealed an accent of pale skin - visible even through the clear water - that was almost magnetic in its ability to capture her attention. She blushed and swam around aimlessly for a few minutes, pausing when she could hold a corner of the swim platform at the stern.

Nick was also trying to appear casual as he flowed into a fast crawl stroke that had him twenty or thirty yards away by the time Lola managed to get her own blush under control.

Bobbie watched them and thought, "This isn't really what I had in mind but it might be a good idea. Lola needs a chance to understand what she's signing up to if we all get together. Nick can be more than intimidating."

Then she laughed to herself and added, "Besides, that little minx was doing her 'clothing optional' thing to tease us. It's only fair that she get a, ahem, taste of her own medicine."

Snickering at her silent pun, Bobbie turned back to her navigation only to be interrupted by a resurrected demonstration of Lola's sense of humor.

"He'p me, he'p me!" she cried out like an actress in a high-school melodrama, raising a limp wrist to her forehead in apparent distress, "Ah've got a terrible cramp."

"A cramp?" Nick repeated. Instant concern mixed with confusion at the artificial accent.

"Yes, suh, Ah do," she repeated.

"Where?" he asked, catching on and resurrecting his snarky grin as he swam over to get his own hold on the platform.

"Whah, suh, how verra indelicate of y'all to ask."

"Well, if I don't know where the cramp is, I can't help," he said, turning to swim away.

"Suh!" she said sharply. "Y'all are a cad!"

"Yep. Card-carrying and dues all paid up," he declared. Then he moved his free hand to his hip and sighed. "I don't seem to have my card with me, though."

Lola winced and moaned again, "Oh, deah me, what a terrible cramp! Whatevuh shall Ah do?"

"If you can't tell me where it is," Nick said, moving closer, "perhaps I could just . . . guess at a few places to massage. To help ease the cramp, of course."

"Oh, would you?" she simpered, batting her eyes at him.

"If it's the only way I can help . . ," Nick said nobly. He kept his hand under the water but his shoulder showed that he was starting his exploration.

"Ooh, my," Lola gasped.

"Is that where the cramp is?" Nick asked.

"If it's not, I'm not going to tell," Lola said, dropping her accent.

Nick leaned in to kiss her as he continued his 'massage.' In a moment, Bobbie could see Lola's shoulder move as she reached for something under the water as well. And then things fell apart.

"Ohmigod!" Lola gasped. She pushed away from her corner of the swim step, moving to where the boarding ladder was stowed.

"What's wrong?" Nick asked.

"N-nothing," Lola stammered. In a moment she was up the ladder and running for her stateroom, still dripping.

"Damn," Nick said. "Now what have I done?"

Bobbie frowned as she looked toward the disappearing Lola, but a moment later she started to giggle.

"Well, Studly, I don't think she is disappointed in you. At least, not if she found what I'm thinking she found."

Nick looked at her, then his face flushed. "I didn't . . . I mean, I was playing along with her cramp thing, but I didn't try to . . . make her, y'know . . ."

"Oh, I know," Bobbie said. "But you are more than merely, um, impressive." She sighed and looked at her sharply cut, massively muscled husband as he made his own way up the ladder. "She told me that she had a bad experience with a boy - nothing violent or abusive, just inexperienced. I think we can safely say that he was not as intimidating as you are. I think our Lola just realized what she may have signed up for with her flirting."

"I would never . . ," Nick began.

"I know, dear," Bobbie said, handing him a towel. "And I know that Lola knows you'd never do anything she didn’t want. But of course, that's part of the problem. She does want you, but she's afraid, too."

Bobbie hugged her huge partner and sighed. "Believe me, I know."

"Were you really afraid of me?" Nick asked.

"Yes," Bobbie said directly, but she followed up immediately. "And of myself. Because from the very first time I saw you - when we woke up in bed together - a part of me wanted to know just what it would be like. I didn't want to admit it even to myself and that was frightening, too."

She reached down and caressed the source of the recent turmoil in Lola's life. "I'm glad I got over it."

"Me, too," Nick said, leaning down to kiss her.

Bobbie let him. And helped. Just as much as she could. But after a moment she pulled back and laughed. "Go get a shower, Stud. Get that salt off of you. We'll move the Sorceress to a little place that's listed in the cruising guide as a decent restaurant. Now that you've done the nude-tickle-in-the-water bit, we'll give her a chance to catch her breath with a nice dinner out together."

"What are you gonna wear?" Nick asked, leering comically.

"Oh, don't worry, it'll hurt you more than it hurts me," Bobbie said, giggling and adding a little hip shimmy.

"Oh, god, I believe you," Nick said, turning so that the tent in his towel was a little less obvious. "At least I won't have to worry about running out of hot water. I may have to have you bring me some ice."

"Ooh, do tell," Bobbie purred, licking her lips.

"Oh god," Nick grunted, now really hurting. "You are basically not a nice person."

"Don't you ever forget it," Bobbie said, laughing again.

The run to Boca Chica and the reported "Gone Fishing Panama" restaurant/resort took a couple of hours. They found a small but protected anchorage and even a good-sized floating dock. That was fairly unusual for a little village since the tides ran 6-8 feet and making a large floating dock was not easy. The resort was the reason. They had a nice little restaurant and the crew of the Sorceress looked forward to an evening ashore. None of the crew of the Sorceress had actually walked anywhere but on her decks for several days and they were all ready for a change of pace even though - or perhaps especially because - in the case of Bobbie that meant sky-high heels. Her tan was a deep golden bronze several tones darker than her hair and she set it all off with white accents of tiny shorts, an off-the-shoulder blouse with full sleeves, beads at neck and wrist and ears, and strappy sandals that only let the barest bit of her toe sit flat on the ground. Lola couldn't let her taller, curvier friend have all the attention so she wore deep red in a little halter top, jeweled earrings, and almost-as-tall heels. The big difference was that Lola wore a skirt that pretended to be long, but hung so low on her hips and had a slit so high it was immediately clear that she wasn't wearing panties.

"Oooh, that's wicked," Bobbie said, laughing but chalking up a point for the brunette.

"Look who's talking?" Lola sputtered. "You're a walking invitation to riot even when you aren't showing 15 feet of leg to go with 6 feet of hair."

"Good thing we have Nicky along then, isn't it?" Bobbie said cheerfully as she let their handsome escort help them through the sidedeck hatch to the floating dock.

"Glad to be of service, ma'am," Nick replied. "Ma'ams," he corrected himself.

"Do I look like an old ma'am to you?" Lola asked the comfortably aging man standing on the dock.

"No way," the man replied gallantly, showing a wide grin. "But that's as far into this little squabble as I'm going to get. Welcome to Gone Fishing Panama. I’m Bruce, the owner."

"Thank you, kind sir," Bobbie said, taking his hand. "At least someone around here is a gentleman."

"I guess some of us will just have to make do with the leftovers," Lola said, snaking her arm around Nick's massive bicep.

"Oh, my, I can see this is going to be a lively evening," Bruce said. When they arrived at the actual restaurant area he introduced them to his extended family and to the few hotel guests as though they, too, were part of his extended family. The whole evening was much like a family gathering. There was a very limited menu (basically, whatever fish was fresh caught that day) and lots of talking with the cook (Bruce's wife) while she fixed the food in a kitchen that was only divided from the tables by a low counter.

The girls from the Sorceress tried to rein in their enthusiasm for the meal so that Nick's culinary exploits would not seem lacking. He didn't feel any need to defend his own cooking and was the most vocal of all the diners in his praise for the cook, for the wine, for the garden-fresh vegetables, and for anything else that it took to make it clear that he enjoyed a day out of the galley. Bobbie and Lola were more than satisfied with a single pass through the options, but Bruce and his wife pressed seconds on Nick so even the towering man felt stuffed when he finally pushed back from the table. .

"I don't know how you walk in those heels," one of the other wives said when Bobbie stood up.

"Oh, you might say that my feet were just made for heels," Bobbie said lightly, letting a hip slide out so that she could look down her long, long leg at her tiny little sandal.

The woman - they had been introduced but Bobbie couldn't remember her name - looked at her husband, slapped his shoulder, and said, "Down boy, or it will be Iceland for you until we really do get to Iceland."

"We're not planning to go to Iceland," he protested.

"Exactly," she said, but she grinned at Bobbie while giving the irresistibly cute Lola a motherly hug.

Whispering in Bobbie's ear, she said, "You realize that if you two really were my daughters, I'd never let you out of the house in outfits like those. But it will give my dirty old man something to talk about for years. And you never know, if it excites him enough . . . I might reap the benefits of your little display."

"I hope so," Bobbie whispered back, eyes sparkling.

She managed a quick planning whisper to Lola as they were leaving. When they walked away from the restaurant Bobbie took Nick's right arm and Lola took his left. The girls put about 25% sashay and 75% strut into their walk and left the diners with an image that would certainly figure in the stories of their own adventure.

The weather was good with clear skies and light wind so Bobbie took up her captain's privilege and declared that even though it was only a ten-hour run, they would sail through the night to get to their next stop, Golfito village in Costa Rica. That was a large enough town to replenish fuel and supplies so they would probably stay all day and through the night before starting out yet again.

However, waiting until they were through Golfito was too long for the plan that Bobbie had in mind (though she didn't tell her crew that). After they had cleared the Boca Chica anchorage that evening, she volunteered for the first watch running from about 9:00pm until sometime after midnight. Nicky appeared a bit early for his watch and had more than a bit of suggestion in his eyes at the other opportunities associated with watch change on a night at sea. But Bobbie didn't take the hint. She vanished below and he resigned himself to another long shift watching the autopilot keep them on course. It was such a pretty night that he moved up to the flybridge helm and enjoyed the soft touch of a gentle tropical breeze.

"Hey, sailor, been at sea a long time?" a throaty whisper purred. He looked back to see a blonde goddess dressed in heels and a smile leaning against the chocked skiff. It wouldn't be true to say that Bobbie had 'snuck' up the ladder from the cockpit to the boat deck - after all, that's what it was there for - but Nick certainly hadn't noticed her until she announced her presence in such a sultry manner. The nearly full moon enabled Nick to see Bobbie's awesome form . . . including the pale accents of places that never saw the light of day.

"God, woman, what you do to me. . ," Nick growled.

"Is just the start of what I'm *going* to do to you," she purred back.

Swaying to his position at the wheel with a motion that seemed only remotely connected to the limits of skeleton or gravity, she spread her shining legs to straddle his already painful demonstration of appreciation. Even as she kissed him she was undoing the zipper and when it was down they eased through a well-practiced set of motions to get his shorts out of the way.

She slid onto him with slick urgency, taking him into her heart and soul in a way that she would never have believed was possible, let alone wonderful.

"Man, you're ready tonight," he murmured into her neck.

"That's because I had help," she whispered back.


"Lola . . . helped me get ready," she repeated. The response to this claim proved that Nick found that idea very interesting indeed.

"Oh, god, you mean . . .the two of you . . ?"

"Yep," she said. "Twice - for me that is. Maybe more for her - it's a little hard to tell sometimes."

"Oh, man, that is so hot . . ," Nick moaned.

"It means that I won't be in such a hurry tonight," she promised. "Though it doesn't mean that I'm satisfied. Yet."

Nick was rapidly moving past words, now growling with animal resonance in his huge chest. Bobbie was moving up and down, kissing him when she could keep her attention focused enough to control her arching back and her tossing head. In moments she quit trying and just hung on while Nick's meaty hands lifted her up and down with increasing speed.

Lola had prepared her, but she was far from satiated. Nick, on the other hand, had been consumed by thoughts of his beautiful blonde wife - and to be honest, with thoughts of the cute brunette as well. He was more than anxious when Bobbie first showed up, their joining had led him to even higher peaks, and then she sent him over the top with a whispered comment.

"Fill me up, lover. I want your baby in me."

His guttural roar was almost loud enough to cover the escalating scream from Bobbie - because the idea of making a baby was emotionally overwhelming for her, too.

When they came down from the stellar core blast of impossible sensation all they could do was pant for long, delicious moments. When Nick finally had enough air to whisper, he said, "Do you really want a baby?"

"Yes," she panted back. "But I think we're okay for now. Hold that thought, though."

She pulled off of him and pulled a handy towel from a nearby locker - placed there for just such a contingency - to keep from leaking on the deck. Nick was leaning back on the captain's bench, looking appreciatively as she moved around in her glorious, sensuous nudity.

"I like that outfit you're wearing," he said with the resumption of a bit of growl to his voice.

"This old thing?" she said with a laugh. "I've had it for like . . . weeks."

They both laughed at the ironic change to the old joke, but Bobbie took the opportunity to stand once more before him. "And I do like what it can do," she murmured.

Dropping to her knees she began to worship the fallen mast, urging it back to a strength and rigidity that would support sails if the engines ever failed.

"Woman, you are just incredible," Nick gasped. Then guilty fascination added to his arousal when he asked, " Did you really already do it twice? With Lola?"

"Do you want me to stop and talk?" she asked, pulling back for a moment but continuing to use her hands to keep him . . . interested.

"Hell, no," Nick said. "I'm just impressed . . . and . . . curious."

"You're pretty impressive yourself, big boy," she said, and if it appeared that she was talking more to his tower than to his face, well, her breasts had that happen a lot so it was probably fair.

"Very impressive," another voice intruded.

"Lola?" Nick asked.

"I hope so," Bobbie said. "If not we've been boarded by pirates."

She used her handy handle to urge him - gently, but irresistibly - to a longer settee on the other side of the flybridge. Guiding him until he lay back with his head toward the stern, she straddled his chest facing forward.

"I'm on watch now, Nicky," she said. "I can see the radar repeater and the sea ahead of us so you can just . . . relax."

"Um, right," Nick said, torn between complaining and anticipating.

Bobbie took Nick's hands and put one on her nipple and the other on her nubbin and said, "Find something productive to do. I'm going to be busy."

She motioned for Lola to join them and the smaller girl tentatively moved to that side of the deck. With Bobbie's gentle guidance, Lola straddled Nick's legs, but didn't mount him. Instead, she sat a bit lower so that his tower stood between her and the cooing blonde.

Bobbie pulled Lola toward her and they started to kiss. This had an immediate and obvious effect on Nick's 'contribution' to the festivities, which swelled impossibly larger and turned a dark, pulsing red. It totally destroyed his concentration and he stopped his manipulation of Bobbie, who squirmed a bit on his chest as a reminder. Well, and it just felt good, too.

Lola started to respond to Bobbie's caresses, and to her kisses, and to something that the blonde whispered in her ear that Nick couldn't make out. It wasn't long until Lola was moaning into Bobbie's warm, full lips, twitching with need and overtaut nerves.

"Touch it," Bobbie said softly.

Lola, to her credit, didn't ask what 'it' she was supposed to touch. She pulled back from Bobbie's kiss but the blonde pulled her back and said, "Don't look. Just touch."

Nick felt a soft, tentative pressure on his straining mast; exploring more than deliberately stimulating; feeling all the heavy veins, the sharply defined cap, and the incredible length of it.

"I'll never be able to . . ," Lola gasped.

"Yes you will," Bobbie assured her. "I felt the same way the first time. Then I felt . . . a new way that was . . . magical."

"Magical," Lola murmured, but her hands became more active, more needy.

Bobbie squirmed again on Nick's chest. "Hey, you down there. Are you awake?"

"Oh, yeah," Nick grunted. "But I'm . . . concentrating."

"On what?"

"On anything except what you two are doing to me," he said. "Do you know the recipe for good old Texas-style three-alarm chili?"

"Chili?" Bobbie said, laughing.

"I don't either," Nick admitted. "But I'm trying to invent one. Or else . . ."

"Well, don't forget me," she said. "I can be very . . . distracting if I need to."

"Oh, God," Nick gasped. "That's not helping."

"Good," she said, giggling again.

Lola had taken advantage of Bobbie's dialog to tear away from her kisses and look down at what she was caressing.

"Ohmigod," she whispered. "It'll never . . ."

"Yes it will," Bobbie said again. She used her long fingers to urge Lola to rise up and position herself over the pillar between them. Bobbie's fingers teased their way around the mutual intersection, spreading Lola's nectar and making sure that all the stars aligned properly.

"This calls back some old memories," Bobbie said with a giggle. "I never thought I'd see things from this perspective again."

Nick was muttering behind her, " . . . 7 times 7 is 49, 8 times 8 is 64, . . ."

Now Bobbie's hands were urging Lola down, urging the smaller girl to impale herself on a spear that only Bobbie had sampled before.

"It's so big!" Lola gasped.

"Yeah, ain't it?" Bobbie said, tweaking Lola's nipples and using them as another way to urge the brunette lower.

". . . 12 times 12 is 144, 13 times 13 is 169, . . ."

Lola's face was screwed up in concentration and this time Bobbie let her set her own pace. Lola actually rose up again a little, but then she lowered herself even further. Once it was clear that she was on a path to success, Bobbie leaned forward and started kissing the brunette again. Lola kissed back - enthusiastically - but even as she did she began to pump up and down more aggressively, both further and faster.

Nick had totally lost track of his calculations but one thought did come to him. "If this was the first one tonight, I'd have lost it a long time ago. But Bobbie took care of that one and I don't for an instant think that was a coincidence."

"Oh, god," Lola whispered, "that's so big. I'm so . . . full."

Bobbie giggled and said, "When you can feel it pushing all the air out of your lungs, let me know. I'll help with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."

Lola wasn't nearly as vocal as Bobbie but she started a high, keening wail that was almost at the limit of Bobbie's hearing. Nick probably didn't hear it at all. But it was the clue that she had been waiting for.

"Now, Lola, all the way down!"

She pushed on Lola's legs with her hands and made the smaller girl take all of Nick into her tight sheath. Lola gasped and twitched and disintegrated as all the limits of her body disappeared. She screamed with a volume that would do Bobbie proud and a roar from Nick raced it into the surrounding darkness. And best of all, from Bobbie's perspective, Nick's muscle tension when he came carried all the way to his probing fingers which stabbed her with inexorable pressure and put her over the edge as well.

None of them were sure just what happened next. Somehow, they survived. For Lola, it was apparently a pretty close thing. She passed out and would have sailed on into infinity pinned to Nick's tower if Bobbie had not brought her back to earth. She cradled the smaller girl in her arms until it was clear that Lola was breathing again, and then she swung her leg back from Nick's chest so that he could sit up to help with the still-unfocused brunette.

"Good job, Studly," Bobbie said.

"Me?" Nick said, still panting. "Hell, all I did was lay there and do multiplication tables. You're the one who made all this work."

"Work?" Bobbie repeated, grinning. "If you think that was work, then I don't think we did it right."

"Oh, we did it right," Nick said, matching her grin. He lifted Lola carefully off his still-impressive mast and took her into his arms like a baby. "I'm thinking she should wake up in her bed."

"I agree," Bobbie said. "But wait just a second." The blonde used the towel to wipe off the fluid that coated both Lola and Nick, and then with a laugh she did herself as well. "More cleaning duties tomorrow," she reported.

"It's worth it," Nick said as he moved below.

"Bring me back some clothes," Bobbie ordered. "And not just a bikini. I want a full set."

"Aye, aye, Cap'n," Nick said.

In a few minutes he was back with fresh clothes for himself and the promised full set of clothes for Bobbie. Of course, they were thin, tight, and didn't cover all that much but she had to admit they met the minimum standards she had set.

"Why don't you go get some sleep?" she suggested.

"Oh, I'll sleep," Nick promised. "But I'm going to do it right over here - even if I have to use a towel to cover the seat until we can get it fully cleaned up. This place is . . . well, let's just say that it has an especially welcoming aspect to it now."

"I think you could say that," Bobbie agreed.

As Nick was settling himself into the corner of the settee, he mused, "You know, in all of that - when we were making love - I never even kissed her."

"We'll have to do something about that," Bobbie said.

"God, woman, you are mean," Nick said. "Now I'll never get to sleep."

"Wanna bet?" Bobbie said. "I've been there, done that. After you get through with me I could sleep through a hurricane."

But she was speaking to herself. Nick's snores rendered any further conversation highly irrelevant.

Chapter 12 - "ARRRhh!"

Despite another all-nighter, Bobbie had to move the boat three times before reaching their overnight berth in Golfito. First she had to go to the customs dock where the name Sorceress might as well have been a sign of diplomatic immunity. After a cursory examination of her papers and a polite "ooh, ahh" tour of the luxurious yacht's features, the agents were wishing them a pleasant stay and stamping their passports. That was followed by a trip to the fuel dock where the consumption of most of a week's cruising was replenished. Only then could Bobbie take them to their final berth. As soon as Nick had Sorceress tied off and the fenders placed he bounded to the flybridge and sent Bobbie off to bed . . . alone.

Lola was now part of the crew, though it wasn't really because of what happened on their night at sea. At least, it wasn't because of the sex alone. It was because they were now sharing their lives in a total, fundamental way that made distinctions like passenger and crew irrelevant. While Bobbie slept, Nick took advantage of the opportunity to go into town for supplies and Lola took advantage of the opportunity as well. In addition to cleaning up the galley and starting laundry, she swapped all the personal items between the master stateroom and the portside cabin. When Nick got back the master cabin was for him and Bobbie to share and Lola would not accept any alternatives.

"Besides," she said, "I may not spend much time in 'my' own bed anyway . . . at least, not alone."

"You're not nice," Nick said and a newly awakened Bobbie agreed, but no one wanted it any other way.

Golfito was a nice little town and they enjoyed playing tourist a bit, but the opportunities when alone - either at sea or in a secluded cove - occupied so much of their thoughts that there probably wasn't a town in the whole west coast of Central America that could hold their interest for long. They lasted 24 hours from their early-morning arrival, but the next morning found them making ready for sea.

And it found Lola with a new set of responsibilities.

"You think you can take her out?" Bobbie asked.

"Me?" Lola squeaked.

"Well, certainly not Nicky," Bobbie said, laughing. "He's as ham-handed as a gorilla - which is not surprising since he looks like one."

"Oogha boogha," Nick grunted. "By the way, Lolicious, I was signed off as captain same as Bobbie. I just don't like to do all the navigation stuff."

"And you're ham-handed," Bobbie said.

"Well, that too," Nick admitted, laughing as he readied the lines.

"A delicate touch is a good thing," Bobbie explained. "So, you ready to give it a try?"

"In the harbor?"

"No better place," Bobbie said. "At least, we need to start in a place where the winds, waves, and current are small. That's what harbors are for, after all."

"Um, okay," Lola said, gulping a little. "What do I do?"

Bobbie, of course, had a checklist. It laid out every step, including the key decisions to make and the paths forward from each decision. Not that this was difficult. The winds and current were negligible and all Lola needed to do was order Nick to take in their lines and add power to drive out of the slip. But it was still her slender fingers on the throttles that controlled over 1500 horsepower and it was her petite hand on the wheel as she guided over 50 tons of vessel through the marina. Lola quickly found out that a delicate touch was a real asset as she eased the Sorceress through the clustered boats and into the main Golfito Bay, which opened into the larger Golfo Dulce.

Unfortunately for all of them, as soon as they were back into the main Pacific they found waves that had been rolling all the way from Hawaii with only a couple of flyspeck islands to interrupt the build. They weren't breaking, which is always a bigger issue, but the long rollers were as much as ten feet from crest to trough and it made for a tiring, constantly compensating passage. On the other hand, when they rounded the corner of Costa Rica the land politely stopped all of that and they dropped anchor in the blessedly quiet Drake Bay. This was one of the places that Sir Francis Drake stopped on his round-the-world cruise. It's been famous for other reasons since then - pirates, gold smugglers, and poachers.

No one bothered them, though. They took an easy day of rest- which, as always, meant cleaning the Sorceress of salt residue and hull growth. Then they were off again. The next stop was their last stop in Costa Rica.

It was almost their last stop altogether.

As soon as the bay dropped over the horizon behind them Lola demonstrated that they had returned to the 'clothing optional' part of the cruise. Bobbie laughed and went as far as a tiny little bikini herself, and Nick might as well have been naked because his speedo was stretched so tight it didn't really conceal anything at all.

Lola was happily - and nakedly - puttering around cleaning salt residue off of windows while Bobbie had the watch. Nick was fixing sandwiches for lunch when he felt the engines increase power.

"What's up?" he asked, leaving the galley to join Bobbie on the upper deck.

"Nothing, I hope," Bobbie said, but she was clearly tense. She pointed toward a speck on the horizon. "Take a look at that."

Nick picked up the powerful watch binoculars and spent a moment stabilizing himself enough to capture the target.

"A fishing boat?" he asked.

"Maybe," Bobbie said. "But they don't seem to have any nets out and they also don't seem to be heading toward either a fishing ground or port. Why would they just be sitting out here in the middle of nowhere?"

"They're moving right along," Nick said. "What do you mean?"

"What?" Bobbie said, taking back the binoculars. She looked again and saw that the fishing boat had a clear bow wake. "Damn, they just did that when I changed course."

"Are you serious? Are you thinking about real pirates?"

"Yes," Bobbie said. "Damn, I wish I had my rifle. But private guns are outlawed by these 'only the government can be trusted' kleptocracies. If we had something effective for self defense and put into any Mexican port, they'd probably confiscate the whole Sorceress."

"You knew that before we started," Nick said, "and complaining about it now is not helping."

"Yeah, fat lot of good that does us now," Bobbie said tightly.

"Oh, damn," she followed up as she thought of something more. "Get Lola below - completely out of sight. And get some clothes for all of us. We don't need to offer them any *more* incentive to come after us."

Their horizon was about five miles away and the fishing boat was not much closer than that so they had a little while to get prepared. For what, Bobbie wasn't sure. But she advanced the throttles and headed away from the smaller, but faster vessel. When they reached their maximum of 18 knots ("We have to get that growth off the bottom," she snarled to herself.) she figured the approaching boat was down to less than ten knots of overtake. It was costing the pursuers a pretty good pounding, too. Sorceress didn't like crashing through the rollers at nearly right angles, but the smaller boat was nearly launching itself from the crests. They still came on though, which made it even more likely they weren't peaceful fisherman.

Nick was back in a few minutes wearing jeans and a sport shirt, with an equivalent outfit for Bobbie. She changed from her cork-heeled wedges to deck shoes, knowing that her ankles would complain about it later. "If that's the worst that happens, then I'll take it," she thought.

Nick took another look at the pursuing boat through the binoculars. "Uh, oh," he said softly.


"I see some guns. Rifles, it looks like."

"Great," Bobbie said dryly. Looking at her husband, she said, "Nicky, just so you know. I'm not letting myself get gang-raped. Lola either."

"Over my dead body," Nick snarled.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Bobbie said. "I'll ram the sunsabitches before I let them board."

"Go for it," Nick said.

"Go for what?" a quiet, scared voice said.

Lola had 'declined' the offer to stay in her cabin. She was standing on the steps from the pilothouse to the flybridge, trying to see past Nick's legs and the settee at whatever they were worried about.

"Get below," Bobbie snapped.

”No," Lola said, still quiet, but firm. At the confirmation of Bobbie's distress, Lola continued up to the flybridge and looked aft at the pursuing boat.

"At least stay out of sight," Bobbie urged. "They don't need to know there are two women on board."

"Hell, beautiful, if all they saw was you and a squad of armed Marines, they'd still give it a shot," Lola said. Though she tried to keep her tone light, a quaver betrayed her own concern.

Suddenly, another problem demanded their attention. The depth finder alarm went off announcing that they were entering shallow water.

"What?!" Bobbie said. "That's impossible. We've got over 50 fathoms."

As quickly as the alarm had sounded, it silenced itself. And then they saw why.

At first, there was a shadow in the clear water aft of the Sorceress. The shadow moved closer to the surface and the water started to bulge as it tried to get out of the way of some massive submerged obstacle.

Huge, suckered tentacles shot into the air in a fence of waving tree trunks between the Sorceress and their pursuers. The pirates tried to turn away but all that did was cause them to slide sideways into the living wall. Those trunk-thick appendages could not snap closed around the vessel like a cracking whip, but they were quick enough . . . more than quick enough to capture it. The . . . apparition had some lesser tentacles as well. They recognized them when a pirate tried to jump from the captured boat and swim to some out-of-sight refuge. Smaller appendages struck out to capture him and hall him back into a maw that was thankfully on the other side of the creature.

"Someone's been watching too many Johnny Depp movies," Nick said softly, awe holding down the volume of his normally resonant voice.

Bobbie stared for along moment, then pulled the throttles back on the racing engines. Sorceress settled back to a more sedate cruise and she eased their heading back to their original course.

"Well, he said that he'd protect us from pirates," Bobbie said thoughtfully.

"Grandfather Merlin?" Lola asked.

Bobbie nodded. She frowned, and looked at Nick. "I think I should be horrified by what we just saw, but I'm not. I was afraid of the pirates - more afraid than I've ever been. Images of laughing, brutal men grabbing me and ripping off my clothes and . . . of you . . . dead. I could see all of that. Now that's . . . gone. And all I feel is relief even though we've just seen half a dozen men get killed by a monster out of legend. I just feel . . . relieved."

"Me, too," Nick admitted. "I guess they weren't really people to me - the ones on the other boat. I saw them as threats, but not as . . . individuals, I guess."

"Grandfather Merlin," Lola said again, sagging into a seat. "I don't know what to think about him. He just brutally murdered a boatload of men, but he did it to protect me. Does that make him bad . . . or good?"

"I don't know," Bobbie said. "When we first met him I thought he was worse than those pirates. But now . . . I just don't know."

"Good," another voice intruded. "That's the way I want it."

Merlin followed his voice up the hatch from the pilothouse and sneered at the tall blonde woman and the taller blond man. "Since you have needed my . . . direct intervention, I might as well resolve some other issues as well."

He glanced disdainfully at the instruments in front of the ship's wheel then moved over to one of the flybridge settees, claiming it as though he owned the place . . . which he actually did, of course.

Looking at Bobbie, he said, "So, you have 'allowed' yourself to be seduced by my granddaughter as we agreed." His beady black eyes moved to Lola to see her reaction to being played by those she thought were her friends, and even lovers.

"Don't expect me to be angry with them. I know of your agreement."

"Since when?" he challenged.

"Since the night we first made love, of course," she said calmly, matching his strength with an equally nonchalant air. "Before we made love, if it matters. Bobbie told me that you had threatened her if she didn't allow herself to be seduced. She also said that she was originally planning to put it off as long as possible - until we got to Alaska, at least - except . . . well, it wasn't important anymore that you were forcing her to do it."

"And you believed her?" Merlin challenged with a sneer.

"As a matter of fact, yes. And I'll tell you why, you old goat. Because she really, truly enjoyed it. And it was clear that she really, truly enjoyed giving pleasure as much as receiving it. She was aroused, not reluctant. So was I."

Merlin shrugged as though the genuineness of their emotions were unimportant. "Well, either it's true or she's done a good job of convincing you. It doesn't really matter. In any event, I believe you had a good time."

Lola nodded, smiling at the still-standing Adlers who had been watching their battle of wills - round one, at least. "Oh, yes. I certainly did."

Merlin stood and looked at Nick. "It is therefore time to conclude our agreement. I have considered changing you back - *Mrs.* Nicole Adler."

Nick flinched, but looked more sad than angry - as though a wonderful adventure were ending with only normal life ahead. He sighed and stepped away from Bobbie.

Merlin sneered and rasped out his dry, bitter chuckle. "But you're not worth my time. Your pain and distress won't provide a measurable blip on the power that I received from the pirates I so recently . . . devoured."

Something in his tone implied he might have been speaking literally; that he had actually been the Kraken. The shock showed on their faces and that prompted another vicious laugh. Then he looked at Bobbie.

"But you, my dear, have embraced your new life with such joy, such complete acceptance that turning you back into the old, pathetic Robert Adler might actually be a fate worse than death - a fate worse than those pirates received and so one that provides me with more power. I think I shall find out."

"No!" Bobbie said, stepping back, but with no where really to go.

"No!" Nick said with much more volume in a rumbling growl that promised a storm. He moved to stand between Merlin and Bobbie, bringing a scowl to Merlin's face that was in turn followed by a hard little smile of anticipated - but unfriendly - pleasure.

"No," Lola said quietly, moving to interpose her small body between the white-faced man and the towering giant. "Grandfather Merlin, I promise you that if you harm either one of them I'll never speak to you again. I mean it. I've taken advantage of your . . . aid in the past, and enjoyed myself at others' expense, not really caring what happened to them afterward. In that I am more like you than I want to admit. But no longer. I love them and I won't let you hurt them."

"You'll get over it," he sneered.

"Just like I got over being lesbian? You wanted that, too."

Merlin sighed and said, "I've come to accept that. I don't like it, but . . ."

Lola interrupted him, "But you realize that I can be just as stubborn as you . . . maybe more."

The sorcerer shrugged, but then he scowled again. "But they defied me! Me! They resisted my wishes! They imposed *conditions* on me! That will not be allowed to stand. I've bided my time for months and I will *not* be put off any longer."

Lola looked worried for the first time. Then a frown showing more thought than anger appeared on her face. "Wait. What if . . . what if I give you that grandchild you wanted?"

Merlin's scowl never wavered. "What, something artificial? Something of . . ," his voice dripped with disgust, " . . . science? Something that denied the essential, the fundamental magic of natural childbirth? That would not be any descendant of mine."

"I'll do it the natural way," Lola said calmly.

"With a man?" Merlin challenged. "Carrying the boy to term, and raising him until he is old enough to see if he has the talent and can enter training?"

Lola lifted her chin in defiance. "Carrying a child to term and then raising *her* as my child, whether *she* has talent or not. And she will still be my child - not yours - even if she enters training. But I will work with you so that she - or he - can develop her full potential."

The scowl on the sorcerer's tight face slipped, to be replaced by puzzlement. "Do you really love them that much? This couple that only pretended to befriend you because of what would happen if they did not?"

The petite woman shrugged. "Perhaps they pretended in the beginning, but not any longer. I'm not pretending either. If you continue as you have done - paying the bills for the yacht and letting them continue to cruise, protecting them from pirates and arranging for visas or paperwork wherever they wish to go . . ."

Merlin snapped with his own interruption, "So now *you* are imposing conditions on me."

"Yes, I am," Lola said calmly, but implacably.

The sorcerer's face took on another tight scowl. He turned to Bobbie and said, "You put her up to this!"

Lola moved once again to interpose herself between the angry magician and his intended victim. "No, Grandfather, they did not. They had no idea I would even intervene for them. They did not ask it because they did not want your hatred spilling onto me. But I want this."

He looked back at her. "Enough to find a man and become pregnant?"


Merlin scowled at Bobbie, letting his baleful glare encompass Nick as well. After a moment, he looked back at his granddaughter. "I could never refuse you anything. You know that and you use it against me."

Lola smiled - for the first time in what seemed like a very long time. It transformed her face into a heartbreakingly lovely young woman and it pulled a thin, unaccustomed smile onto his face as well.

"Yes, Grandfather, I do. But only when you need me to. You're not as much of an ogre as you pretend."

"Hmmph. Little do you know." His eyes caught Bobbie's and made it clear that if she ever tried to turn Lola against him, their deal would be off. Bobbie's eyes dipped in acceptance.

Since his attention was on her, he asked, "Is this your wish then, to remain as you are? To suffer all the aspects of being a woman? To continue to cruise on this yacht with no real home?"

"Yes," Bobbie said calmly, reaching to take Nick's hand in her own.

Merlin shrugged with an 'on your own head be it' dismissal and turned back to his granddaughter. "Will you continue to cruise with them?"

Lola shrugged in turn. "Perhaps. Whether I do or not is not part of the deal."

Merlin looked at the big man beside Bobbie. "But if you stay on the boat, and the only man is . . ."

Lola laughed. "Grandfather, I am not so unattractive that I can't find a man of my own."

He scowled at her and said, "So you've got this all thought out."

"Oh, probably not," she said airily, "but well enough. For now."

The sorcerer was not there.

Lola's words seemed to still be hanging in the air but it was as though she had spoken to empty space. There was no sound, no rush of air to fill a vacuum, not even a gesture from the wizard to indicate how he had worked his magic. He was just gone. For a second Bobbie wondered if he had ever really been there, or whether it had all been some sort of holograph-like illusion.

Epilog - "New Plans"

The Sorceress was docked in Seattle's East Lake, minutes from the main hospital district. In cockpit chairs two young women - one tall blonde and one shorter brunette - lounged enjoying some unusual sunshine. They wore shorts and blouses that did nothing to conceal their advanced states of pregnancy.

The blonde nudged the other to point to where two men approached. One was a massively huge blond who was easily carrying an armful of grocery bags. The other was dark-haired, lean like a runner, and shorter only in comparison. He moved with an economy of motion that demonstrated relentless training and total physical control. From that distance the training could have been in dance - but it wasn't. From a closer distance the hardness living in his eyes showed that his movement skills were from a very different field of study. If the one word to characterize Nick Adler was "power", the one word to characterize Justin Chambers - for that was the dark-haired man's name - would have to be "danger."

Unless he was in the presence of his new wife. Then he just looked like a boy at Christmas - every day.

"Here they come, Mrs. Chambers," Bobbie said. "Now remember, we're very pregnant and need to be waited on hand and foot."

"Absolutely, Mrs. Adler," Lola agreed, laughing, though she willingly struggled to her feet to greet the father of her child-to-be with a kiss as soon as he was in reach.

Bobbie was not far behind.