Title: Desert Wind
Author: Shatterpath
Feedback address: shatterpath@shatterstorm.net
Date in Calendar: 21 December 2012
Fandom: LWM
Pairing: Dace/Akiko
Rating: Explicit! That taxi driver will never be the same...
Word Count: 6819
Book: Cartomancy
Series: Light, Water and Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Category: sequel to Fun and Business in Tokyo, at http://fsac.shatterstorm.net/yule2011/entries/22.html
Summary:A friend of Dace's brings her an unexpected New Year's gift!
Spoilers: Nope.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD12

Author's Disclaimer: I should technically put one up for Dace, but really? And Akiko is all mine! Though I confess that she was originally inspired by fandom.

Note: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, Japanese in this case.

Beta: ariestess

Desert Winter
Prolog to Unexpected

++ Dace ++


Groaning around the ache in my skull, I grind the heels of both hands into my eyes until blinking won't focus them anymore. Wiping at the self-induced tears, I settle back into the new Tribeca's leather seat and fiddle with the radio until I find something more soothing than classic rock.

This would normally be scut work for me, a thing of my past, but this is an unusual shipment and worth enough money that I want a hand in it. The quarterly meeting is in only a week and New Year's, always a massive shindig in Vegas, is uncomfortably close. It's been years since I've actually enjoyed the passage of one year to the next, we're just too damn busy, but I can't complain about the business. Catherine and whoever of my playmates may be around know that they can expect little attention during this busy time. Such is life in entertainment in the City of Sin!

Shaking off my rambling musings, I scrub the fatigue away with decades of practice and turn to the glowing laptop. There are details that needed attending to, and I'm just the King to do it.

I still don't know how Tessa tracked down six hundred pounds of sushi grade tuna. And there's just as much yellow tail, cod, octopus, fish eggs and a bunch of crap I can't even pronounce. The salmon already arrived this afternoon and I ate well from the samples the chefs whipped up. Gonna be a hell of a party at the Black Pearl, that's for damn certain! We always strive to improve and food is certainly part of the equation.

Hours later, I'm at the airport in the dead of night, as the flight has been deliberately timed that way to avoid any potential heat spoilage. The quality expert from the Black Pearl has confirmed that the fish is in proper condition, after sampling slices removed from several carcasses. It's hard to believe how big the damn things are! The smell of the headless, frozen behemoths is making me a bit nauseous, even if they do taste really damn yummy.

Now, I'm following the restaurant truck back to its home berth. There's some paperwork to do, then I'm thinking about hitting the Belagio for some spoiling. I've earned it, and the next couple days will be potentially just as hectic. It'll depend on if things go smoothly at all the various parties and events involving the House of Hearts. Hopefully, it'll be smooth sailing, because I'm looking forward to just getting past the New Year.

My phone trills in Tessa's 'I'm Too Sexy' ring tone and I smack the speaker phone button. "S'up?"

"Hello, Dace," she says cheerfully and something makes me wonder what she's hiding. "The Lady has a request of you."

Oh, this does not bode well for me.


Scowling at the early morning dregs of holiday travelers, I stand quietly at the outskirts of the baggage claim, wondering what the hell I'm doing here. No description, no clue who the hell I'm here to pick up, just a request that I be in my play jacket, which is always habitually on my body or very close by, and packing the house special. I don't do these sorts of errands anymore and I have to wonder what in hell I’ve been volunteered for. Gonna take this out of Tessa's hide later...

As it's the ass crack of night, deep and dark and desert-night cold, the terminal's pretty empty. There's a pretty little dark girl with inky hair and a teasing grin that reminds me of Zo, who's been playing peek-a-boo with me over the back of her bench for at least ten minutes. Her exhausted grown-up hasn't even noticed, but the cute little scamp is totally making my night. She reminds me of Rose, and not just in coloring, but her happy fearlessness.

Guess I space out, because I'm startled by weight on my booted foot, fetish chains chiming, and little hands grabbing my belt. Giggling, the child looks up the tall length of me, smiling winningly. "'Lo, kitty!" She squeals happily, pulling at the heavy belt and I have to chuckle at her observation. "You look like Patches!" Children seem to have a knack at making me feel as though I really do belong in the larger whole of humanity. They recognize what I am and feel little or no fear.

"Do I?" Is my reply, in my gentlest voice, as I scoop her up to return her to her sleepy packmate. "Patches must be your kitty."

"Yes. I miss her very much," the girl sighs and snuggles into my leather-clad shoulder as though she is meant to be there. My maternal urges are stimulated by the pure, sweet scent of her and I suddenly miss my own cubs, who haven't been this little in some time.

"Ma'am?" I speak gently and the dozing young woman snaps awake. Terror chases through her eyes at the sight of me, holding this cub that's obviously hers. "Your daughter made friends with me, but I think she really belongs over here with you."

"Oh god," the woman frets, obviously still half asleep. "Tammy, you were supposed to stay close. When did I fall asleep?" Kneeling, I smile gently at her, pouring reassurance into the expression.

"No harm done. She picked the right person to come to." Turning my attention to the child, I grin at her. "Now, you listen to your mom and stay close, okay? Not everybody is nice like your Patches. Give her a kiss for me when you get home, okay?"

"'Kay," little Tammy promises gravely and gives me a hug before clambering back to her mother's side. Confusion radiates from the young woman, and I give her a last grin before standing and turning away. Wonder what the woman thinks of my Hell's Angel appearance?

The musing thought vanishes when a sweetly familiar scent wafts across my nasal passages. Instantly in predator mode, I sniff at the clogged air of this public place, not quite able to place the smell yet. Casting about with sensitive eyes, I pass right over her at first, the current image completely incongruous with the memories of her.

"Hot damn."

When I met Akiko decades ago, we were both punky teens trying to find our place in our worlds. When reunited with her just this last September, I had been impressed with the woman she had become. Gorgeous, powerful in so many different ways and sensual as hell, she is a memorable soul. But I hadn't the opportunity to see this particular facet of her.

And it sure as hell twigs a few of my personal fetishes!

Whoever designed that impeccable, sleekly feminine business ensemble needs to get some business from me. Subtle goldenrod silk wraps Akiko's slim, strong body, providing a feast for the eyes. The cut teases the senses and highlights her figure beautifully. Oh, how I love a smart, sexy woman in business drag!

Sweeping up the unexpected, angelesque vision in my path, I squeeze her to me with a happy "Hi!" Chuckling happily, Akiko allows me to yank her off her high heels, wrapping her arms around my neck, tucking her body into mine. There's a heavy sigh as she clings, and I squeeze her ribs, making a mental note of the stress in the sound. "I see why Tessa was being so coy now."

There's no verbal reply, but Akiko pulls away only far enough to greet me properly, kissing me like she really means it, moaning softly behind my teeth. Happily allowing the intimacy, I let myself get swept up in the hormones and trust between us, enjoying the oh-so-femme taste of lipstick and horny woman on my taste buds.

A chuckle makes me abruptly lean away, but there's no malice in the face of the young man walking by, and I allow myself to smirk predatorily at him and tuck Akiko under my arm. "You look amazing, by the way."

"Arigato," Akiko murmurs softly, keeping her face tucked against my ear and throat. "I have never quite dressed this way before."

"Bet you're soaked," I comment softly and laugh out loud when she whimpers softly. "C'mon then. I can't exactly take away that ache right here in the middle of the terminal, now can I?" With that, I take the bag hanging from her shoulder, recognizing the weight of a laptop and assorted paraphernalia, and lead her away. Arranging to have her luggage found and shipped to HQ is a snap, and we head out into the dry Vegas coolness. We pause there, hand in hand, while I debate on exactly my next move. Once again, Akiko is pressed to my side, and I'm amused and gratified by the subtle press of her pubis against my hip. "Can't wait, baby?"

"Please," she breathes heavily, that hand sneaking over my belly, tracing the line of the belt. "I have been waiting so long…"

Seems like I'm gonna need to think fast. Good thing that's a strength of mine, when it comes to ladies in erotic distress.



That'll work.

Dialing up my vision, I browse the drivers, trying to read their minds. Who will let me borrow their backseat for awhile? There are laugh lines that speak of mischievousness on that guy's face, gentle scars of good humor and a zest for life. Time to give that kind-faced old man a serious thrill.

"Hey," I greet him with a grin, bending to look in the passenger window, his smile flashing answer in the shadows. "I need a spot to take the edge off my girl here." A handful of twenties sagging over the edge of the door beneath my chin draws his eye. "Can I rent your backseat for a few?"

There's a moment of startled consternation, before the man laughs raucously and I'm relieved that my choice is bang on. "City a sin indeed," comes the thick east coast accent, perversely reminding me of Jo. "Sure thing, handsome." Fingering the money, he chuckles again as I move to open the back door and swat Akiko on that fine, tight ass. "For this, you can take your time."

"And you'll get a free show, front row tickets," I tease and climb in behind my wide-eyed playmate, who shies away as I loom over her. Kissing her like an attacking shark, I feel and ignore the reverberation of her skull against the door. The car begins to move, slow and smooth, as I bodily grab Akiko to drag her beneath me, flat on the battered vinyl seat. Hooking my left arm over the back of the seat, I stay on the rough kiss, while I press my right hand over her curves. Wisely, I pull away as I duck under the skirt to feel how wet she is. "Damn, I've missed you," I leer and give her a rub that has her hips up and her head back, her groaning filling the car.

"Please, please, Daisu," she moans, slurring my name with her heavy accent. Grabbing one of her hands from the jacket, I pull her fingers down to curl around the package behind the button fly.

"Get it out," I snarl, and her fingers shake as she fumbles at belt and buttons. While she fiddles, I reach into the right pocket to palm the object that she had been rubbing her crotch against earlier. "C'mon, c'mon." Hurried, nervous, terrified about the windows so close, the always-operating airport alive around us and nearly cross-eyed with need, Akiko whines in her native tongue, and makes me wince as she jerks a little hard on the better-than-real dick in my pants. "Ouch! Good thing it's not flesh and blood, eh?" I joke, Akiko whimpers and the cabbie chuckles. He's circling in a pretty-well deserted parking lot, I can see that as I lean back to shift around the object in my palm. "Stay," I growl at Akiko, who sprawls back against the vinyl, skirt hunched up, face flushed, looking delicious.

She freezes at the silver that springs to life in my hand, her eyes dilating in the scattered electric lighting. My thumb caresses the small blade that has lain hidden in my hand, just an expensive pocketknife, a useful gift from a grateful past client. The evil grin on my face obviously scares the hell out of her, but I see the jerk of arousal in her hips, smell it fill the car like perfume.

"Nothin' like that," I laugh, catching the driver's alarmed eyes in the rearview mirror as the car jerks to a halt. "Just gotta get this succulent morsel a little more naked. If you'd stay put for a sec, that'd be great."

"Sure thing," the cabbie agrees, and I snort internally at the edge in his voice. Bet he has no complaints about getting his hands off the wheel for a minute!

Akiko remains frozen, eyes wide, as I trail the knife up her stockinged thigh, the blunt back of the single-edged blade making her nerves squeal. Her breathing is shallow, hunted, and she reeks of need and fear. A thumb at the center of those soaked panties contrasts with the deadly point of steel on her softness. Head back trustingly, voice strangled in her throat, the woman's magnificent.

Hooking the blade under the edge of the flimsy material, I trace the elastic, careful not to let the twitch of her hips result in a nick. "Hot stuff, you are so beautiful," I compliment softly, and use fingers and blade to peel up the soaked material, making her gasp and sweat. "Hold still," I warn, adjusting the dick strapped to my hips so that we'll both enjoy this. Ever so carefully, I press the blade to lift the material away from her dripping pussy, ignoring the distraction of the mouth-watering smell. "Ready?"

Mumbling tensely, tendons in her throat standing out, Akiko's eyes are crazed and animalistic.

In two smooth moves, I rip the blade towards me, slicing the crotch of her panties cleanly, and drive the erect phallus into her as I toss the blade beneath the driver's seat.

Crying out like a cat in heat, Akiko meets the thrust, scrabbling at me as I hook my left arm under her knee, forcing her leg up nearly to my shoulder. Scrunched up as I am in this backseat, I nonetheless get my right leg and arm braced correctly and draw back, feeling her prone body, stretched open by her trapped leg, the other hooked over my bent thigh, trying to keep me in her dark heat.

"Damn shame there's no one in that window behind me," I rasp meanly, hovering there, with just the head of the dick stretching her wet tunnel. "Give 'em a hella show, needin' me to fuck you so bad. Hmmm?"

Whatever she's ranting, it sounds pretty begging and desperate. Besides, not asking for a translation will give me an excuse to take it out of her hide later when we have the space and time. So, I slam back home, making her cry out again, clenching every muscle, and we're off and rutting.

Her hands are punishing in my hair, at my neck and the collar of my jacket, her hips rocking in time to the thrusts, and I feel the burn in my own clit as the phallus rubs me just the way I like. This damn toy took some serious field testing at the pleasure of my various playmates, to get exactly right. Now, the Suits favorite toymaker has the cast and gear waiting at my beck and call.

It must sound like a wildlife video in the backseat, as she climaxes, twisting beneath me, but I keep going, jamming the dick into her softness, making her come harder and harder.

The old man's trying not to groan at the show in his ears and rearview mirror.

Again, Akiko cries out, and I draw it out by sinking my teeth into her shoulder, harder than I normally would because of the layers of mussed silk protecting her. It's enough to set me off, the sharp near-pain of climax roaring in my ears.

"Done?" I wheeze breathlessly, feeling the effort in my ass and hips, of screwing so enthusiastically in the back of a car, no matter how spacious. After a moment, Akiko looks deeply in my eyes, while I relish the shuddering of her thighs against my body. Languidly, she tugs me down, the kiss open and sweet as she teases and coaxes at my mouth, her hips circling just that little bit in encouragement. "Guess not, greedy thing."

"I have missed you," she flatters, stroking my cheeks and batting her eyelashes flirtatiously. "Missed this, the way you make me feel."

"Flatterer," I chuckle throatily against her swollen lips, rocking my hips slow and gentle now, riveted by the look on her face, and the depths of her eyes. Once again, she's thrilled me by not wearing the concealing contacts and letting me watch her fascinating amethyst eyes, night-fire dark in the dim light. There's no friction now, as I remain with our cunts pressed tight together, just circling my hips, letting the hard between us stimulate gently this time.

The cabbie grunts like a dog in heat, even as we're climbing that cliff again, and we break out into hysterical giggles that we've riled him up enough to need relief of his own. I let the humor wash over us, before lacing our fingers together, pressing her knuckles to the seat, kissing her deep and slow. The climax grows slow and implacable, like a tsunami rising to erupt over the beach and beyond, pushed by an unfathomable amount of water behind it. Akiko's heels clench and kick at my ass and back, as she writhes, voice gone cartoon high-pitched and squeaky, tears on her temples. My own groan echoes painfully deep, the hard, slow ecstasy rippling through our joined bodies making me see stars.

Next I'm really aware, the taxi is again moving slowly through airport traffic, the radio chattering drawling country music. The slim, strong, curvy body beneath me feels good, and I grin at the renewed sense of connection I've felt with this woman from the get go. The dick is indenting my belly, pinned somewhat painfully between my tingling clit and the dirty seat. Gonna have to replace this toy, darnit, but it's my own damn fault for not wrapping it in latex first. Hugging Akiko until I get a breathy squeak, I manage to get enough energy gathered to hook my fingers under her ass and yank at the ruined underwear.

Wonder what the passersby think of the pair of fine legs stretched up my torso that I'm languidly drawing off the tattered, frilly panties? Hope there's no kids watching… Once free of the underthings, I kiss Akiko again and tug her skirt back down over her thighs so that she can sit up woozily. "You okay?"

Her response is to smile vaguely and kiss the corner of my mouth. Leave 'em fucked senseless is a good motto in my book. Wadding the panties up, I scrounge out a somewhat battered business card and lean over the front seat at the cabbie's shoulder. He's good. No one would ever suspect he'd been beating off just minutes ago.

"Can you pull in near that garage over there? That's where my bike's at."

"Sure thing," he agrees easily, hardly flinching when I tuck the lump of fabric and paper into his chest pocket and pat it firmly.

"You're a saint, good sir. Those are souvenirs, so your poker buddies might believe that you didn't make all this shit up."

He laughs as I hiss with overstimulation, getting the phallus hidden behind denim once more, but not bothering to do up every button. Just in time too, as the cab slides to a smooth halt and I hop out, dragging Akiko along with me.

"Like your visit so far?"

Akiko only giggles in response.

Tugging my pal into the well-lit parking garage, we pause there, where Akiko rubs her eyes wearily like a child and sways on the obviously unfamiliar skyscraper heels. A huge yawn illustrates how ruined her nice make-up job is now, and I scrounge for a hanky to clean her up as best I can. "Shit, I made a mess outta you," I complain good-naturedly and she smiles as I gently scrub away what I can of the ruined face paint and tug her shirt to sit a bit more orderly.

"I have no complaining," she grins, and I let the not-quite-accurate terminology slide. Hell, I barely understood her anyway.

"Lazy mouth," I tease, tweaking her lower lip before planting a quick kiss on her. "C'mon, I gotta get you to a bed before you fall over. You look a half-step from collapsing."

"Yes," she smiles serenely, the way people do when they're high as kites, and I chuckle.

"Can you hold on?"

The hog is only a few paces away, and Akiko's scattered braincells fire up enough to admire the magnificent machine. Whatever she breathes in that awed tone makes me puff up with pride, before slotting the key and kick starting the engine to life with a roar. And roar my baby does, making the garage echo like a movie effect and Akiko to grin like a kid on Christmas.

The seat conceals a custom compartment, and I yank out the protective coveralls that I market on the side. Damn things feel like canvas and are as sturdy as Kevlar. There is much giggling and carrying on as we wrestle her totally inappropriate outfit into the baggy coveralls and I hand over the spare helmet, which she thankfully fits in decently. I settle into my comfy spot behind the gas tank, rev the engine hello, and wait for my pal to settle behind me, hands on my belt.

"You'll see some of the strip," I chatter companionably into the headsets installed wirelessly in both helmets. "We're going to the Belagio for some spoiling and a nap. We'll get you a change of clothes and stuff from the desk. Bet you won't need jammies."

"Belagio?" She echoes the word painfully awkward, but I don't laugh. Paying the parking fee from the change in a little compartment by the gauges, I roar out into the night and head away from the airport. "Jammies?"

"Sorry, my slang gets loose. Especially after a good fuck." The only response I get is a hiss of breath and a tightening of her embrace. "You're feeling the vibration now, huh? The Belagio is one of the luxury hotels on the Strip. You'll have to see it to believe it. Lady Heartsblood keeps a room there. As for jammies? It's sleep clothing, and like I said, doubt you'll need them."

As we travel the relatively short distance across Las Vegas to the famous Strip, Akiko idly caresses my belly and keeps her body wiggled up tight to my back and ass. It's sweet and sexy, and I tell my heartstrings to shut the hell up. "I was sent to see Michael about the photos." Again those slender digits stroke my skin through my shirt and I swallow hard, feeling the burn starting up again. Something sweetly shy creeps into electronically-carried voice. "She spoke that the New Year is stressful to you. I asked Mistress if I could come to you."

"It really was a wonderful shock to see you. Especially in my favorite fetish gear. How I love a sexy woman in business drag, even if I can't really pull the look off myself as well as sometimes I'd like."

"Hmmm," she hummed neutrally. There isn't much to see, Vegas is like any other town for the most part, until we get closer to the Strip. The blinding searchlight from the Luxor, perpetually aimed for the heavens, the multicolored turrets and towers of Excalibur, the misleading visuals of New York, New York, where one building looks like many pressed together and miniatures of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge wow visitors. Hanging a right at the MGM Grand, whose vast glass sides glitter that fascinating green in the rising dawn, we move amid the thinnest traffic this street sees and I give Akiko the nickel tour. We putter past the Belagio and it's enormous lake of dancing fountains, get a quick glance at the sprawling Romanesque decadence of Caesar's Palace, the classy pirate theme and the twin mock ships locked in their futile battle over the crowds at Treasure Island. There's the herald to the grand history of old Europe in the Venetian, the vaudevillian Circus Circus, and all the glitter tucked amid the behemoths.

"Had enough for one night?" I tease and flip a bitch to head back to our destination, feeling the vibration of the engine and lure of her body making me a little anxious. At the parking garage, the games begin, as I flash the Golden Ticket. Yeah, the nickname is a herald to the miraculous pass to Willy Wonka's magical land. After all, what better parallel to the extreme nature of the highlife of Las Vegas?

The guard nearly trips over himself, bet he's rarely if ever seen these things before, and waves me through with all deference. Since there are only two of these that live in Vegas, one is mine and the other the Lady's, they're damn rare. There are others that are similar, but only we royal cards have them quite this fancy. The metal pass is about as thick as cutlery and shaped like a playing card, plated in real gold and highlighted with our particular face cards in real semi-precious and precious stones. There are special touch points located in three places for thumb, index and middle, where only Tessa's and my touch activates the device. Some mumbo-jumbo about biomechanics that Tessa tried to explain while she programmed the silly thing to me. Makes me feel like the family dog, that hears nothing but gibberish, except for those favored words, like 'walk', 'food' and 'ball'. Regardless of my complete, happy disregard of the silly thing's internal electrics and alien aptitudes, this is the Golden Ticket of the Suits empire. Even the biggest whales don't have these kinds of toys, though some have a slightly lesser version. The kind of material respect that makes billion-dollar hotel empires ask where and when should they jump, and just how high would you like, ma'am?

There is a giggling and tickling reversal of the Ordeal of the Coveralls that just about has us both in tears with the hilarity of it all, and I finally have to kiss Akiko like I wanna fuck her silly right there on the bike, to get us to shut up and focus. Whistling the golden ticket song from the Wonka movie, I take her hand and saunter to the elevator to begin our little adventure.

Now, I know that Amaterasu and her family are independently wealthy, with bankrolls that made Fen whistle in appreciation, but I also know that Akiko's never been outside the confines of Japan, and the sheer, over the top, holy-crap excess of Las Vegas is like nothing else this world has ever seen. The Belagio is very classy, with clean lines and luxury you'd expect from a five-star hotel. Only done in grandiose scale, larger than life. There aren't just great sculptures and flower arrangements that would make anybody's inner gay boy weep with joy, but a garden beneath a soaring greenhouse roof, and a collection of massive glass flowers above check-in that could light up a Superbowl.

"Ah, Leonacouer," simpers our attaché as we saunter past the garden, and I'm breathing deeply of the green things there. "So good to have you with us. I am George, and I am at your disposal. All of your arrangements have been made. Is there anything else you require?"

"Double the dinner order please, and I need a casual outfit for my companion please. Something simple and lightweight. Slacks will be fine, something classy and in colors that suit her." The guy's good, raking his eyes quickly and shrewdly over Akiko's slender frame like an interested buyer would a prize race horse.

"Very good ma'am. Is there any particular time that you would like the requested selection of clothing sent to your suite?"

A glance at my watch startles me. "Damn, it's almost six. Have them ready by noon, and I'll call the desk when I'm ready."

"Done!" George grins, and I'm happy to see that he's not all plastic. "May I show you to your suite? Or would you care for a drink before you go up?"

The carnal gleam in my eye must have earned me the careful tease, and I swat playfully at him, making him jump and giggle girlishly. "Lead on, m'man. Tonight, the mini-bar, a bath and the companionship will see to my needs."

There's no chatting on the long elevator ride up, and Akiko presses into my side again, reminding me that I left the pocketknife under the cabbie's seat. Oh well, finding it down the line will give him yet another thrill. George opens the double doors with a flourish and wishes us a quiet good-night, closing out the rest of the world.

Akiko breathes something vaguely coherent, translating with a sheepish grin into "Wow."

There's no resistance when I pull her to me, tasting her again. I don't even realize I've dug my fingers into her glutes until she moans all sexy-like and just about bites my tongue. "I would like that drink," she grins after blinking away the sensual fog and I laugh.

"Sure thing, sexy. Feel free to look around to your heart's content." I refrain from making a pun about 'hearts', and shed the heavy motorcycle jacket, tossing it negligently over a chair. The whole massive penthouse is on the top of the hotel, and Akiko exclaims in appreciation of the full-length windows when she wanders into the central room between the bedrooms. I follow, but head for the well-stocked bar to ply another little-used skill. "Hard or mild?"

Honestly, I should have expected the girlish snerk of laughter, and I'm in turn cracked up by her standing there with a hand over her smile, looking every inch the uber-girlie-girl. Quite the contrast, to be damn certain!

"Smart ass," I complain mildly, and she laughs for real this time, sashaying off with a swing in those narrow hips that makes me toss some whiskey over ice and follow her. At the side of the big bed, dressed in Anastasia's custom bedding, Akiko is carefully unbuttoning her shirt, eyes cast down, but flashes me a flirtatious grin through her disheveled bangs. Then her gaze sharpens and she holds out both hands.

"I did not have a chance to see it closely. May I?" I'm a little confused until I step closer and she grasps my right wrist.

"Oh that," I chortle in understanding, mockingly playing up my completely false nonchalance in the brilliant art that decorates my skin. Michael labored countless long hours over my scarred forearm, treating the damaged flesh like a canvass of the highest quality. Gentle fingers trace over the green and rainbow shades of the forest of plants tattooed there. Only the twin, parallel rows of surgery scars retain their natural color, framing the ghost-pale swatches of healthy flesh between. The glowing blue cougar eyes glare out from where they lay in the shadows inked over the tendons that flex when I use my thumb. The eyes were an unexpected gift from my old pal, and she wouldn't let me see what it was until they were complete. To this day, I adore them.

The scarred flesh has never lost its extreme sensitivity, and Akiko's gently stroking fingers over the inked flesh are awaking less artistic needs. "You are never naked," she observes, tickling a fingernail, feather soft around the eyes, and shying away with a shudder that amuses me. She remembers the cat all too well, and the memories spike up the cloying scent of her arousal. Circling around, I stand by the bed, relaxed and undemanding, holding her fascinating gaze.

"How was your first flight?"

This time the shudder is for less than pleasant reasons. "Fearful. Not something I want again."

Hugging her tight relaxes away that stress and a nice cuddle seems like a good idea. "That's fair. I think a long, hot soak is in order, don't you?"

"Oh yes."

++ Akiko ++

Somehow, I do not startle upon waking. Despite this being a disorienting, foreign place that smells impossibly wrong, despite being stark naked, despite the stranger in the unfamiliar, too soft bed. However, I am instantly awake, rolling my head over to take stock of my surroundings.


It all comes rushing back to me. The hellish plane trip, the ground far too far away, the noise and chaos of New York that reminded me of Tokyo in many respects. The arrival here in this dry place and the memorable reception I received! My skin prickles and heats with the memories that are heightened as I take in Dace's sleeping body beside me.

There is no surprise that she is one to sprawl out and take up much of the bed. With her powerful, sometimes overbearing power of personality, she is forever destined to take up as much space as she can. To sleep neatly and compactly would not be right. It is a glimpse into my companion that I am thrilled to have the privilege of. We did not have time for so many things in that brief meeting in my homeland.

I do not remember coming to the bed and it's pillowy, almost uncomfortable luxuriousness. I will still certainly need more time adapting to western sleeping arrangements. The bath had been so warm and relaxing, Dace's naked body a sensual anchor and I had been so tired from my trips and the sexual high of my reunion with my friend.

Sunlight seeps in around the edges of the heavy curtains, surprisingly bright for deep winter. The surroundings are luxurious and spacious and clean-smelling. All of that is of no consequence to the ache in my empty belly, however.

As though conjured by my thoughts, there is a sharp sound from beyond the open door. Not a loud noise by any means, but Dace blurs into movement, too fast for my eye to follow. As quickly as she is awake and on her feet, she stops and takes stock. For a moment, I swear that I can see the great, golden cat that she is so akin to.

"Good morning," she grumbles and I swallow my amusement and trepidation. Dace's wry look tells me that I have not been as discrete as I wished and my giggles break free. The freedom of her presence and this completely new location is making me a bit giddy. Shaking her head and smiling, Dace puts on a thick robe and makes her way from the room. I hear her greet someone and after a moment, she returns with a cart that smells of food. "Hungry?"


"Well, eat up quick. I'm afraid you've come to visit during my busiest time of year and there is still a mess of stuff I have to get done over the next couple days. How long are you here?"

"As long as I wish."

It's true. My Mistress sensed the restlessness in me, saying that it is long overdue. While my feelings are still conflicted, the giddiness I feel at my sudden freedom is quite exhilarating.

"Excellent," she grins wildly and gives me a quick, hard kiss before whisking away the silver domes over the food. "Then I’ll have time to make up for my negligence."

After our hunger is quieted, we discover the collection of apparel boxes tucked onto the lower shelf of the food cart. The man, George, from last night, has delivered on his promise and soon I am well clothed. Better, he stuck to a palette of neutral colors and a simple, elegant cut, rather than assume my personal style. A moment of critical preening in the mirror makes Dace smile where she has redressed and we return to the great motorcycle she rides.

The brightness and heat of the desert sun is a shock, as winter has a firm hold on the northern hemisphere in most places. Beneath the jumpsuit, I feel myself starting to sweat! In the darkness and exhausted haze of the night, the full scale of this place did not really impress upon me. Now, I gawk from behind the helmet's shield. Tokyo and the urban sprawl that is her lifeblood is an amazing place, but cannot compete with how this place simply takes up so much space. On the island of my birth, the crowded cities grew up. Here in the vastness of the American west, the cities sprawl out. Oh, certainly, the vast complexes of Las Vegas' heart soar high into the clear air, but just beyond is a city that goes halfway to forever and a stark landscape that goes on even farther.

"After you are busy, will you take me to the desert?"

"With pleasure, pretty girl!"

Once we draw closer to our mysterious destination, I realize that Dace took the scenic route to let me get a feel for her city. I will have to thank her later, when there is more time. We arrive at a quiet, well-groomed business park where we pull into a parking garage at the end of the cul-de-sac. Beside it is a ten story edifice of darkly mirrored glass with no markings to make it stand out amidst the sterile business neighborhood. Since Dace is clearly rushed and her mind elsewhere, I slither off the bike the moment she halts and quickly strip the jumpsuit and helmet.

Halfway through removing her helmet, Dace pauses with that same liquid, feline grace, as though a distant sound has captured her attention. There is a faint pucker of something between her brows and shading her bright eyes. Quickly shaking it off, she smiles winningly at me, but I cannot shake the faint sensation that something is wrong. Not with us, but close by.

"You're quick! I like that. Come on then."

Through a pair of industrial doors the likes of which would normally greet you at a high-end store, is a luxurious, spacious lobby with healthy plants and tasteful décor. There is a man in a business suit at the counter, who smiles warmly, but I sense that he could be completely dangerous should the need arise. "Hey, boss."

"'Sup, Randy? I need a VIP for my pal here, Akiko, you have your ID on hand?"

I have been careful to keep all of my necessities close and quickly hand over my passport and international drivers license to the security man. With quick efficiency, he scans them, compares me to my picture and hands over a sturdy plastic card with a clip on it. "Please keep this visible while you are in the building. You may keep it as the embedded microchip is now keyed to you."


That cracks a smile and I do as told, clipping the badge to my collar and returning my IDs to their safe pocket in my bag. Dace has scanned and stashed away her unusual golden card that once again conveys her considerable authority and leads me to one of three elevators. One opens as we approach. "It senses my card," Dace explains with a smile. "They can also be triggered remotely by the security personnel. There are secured areas, so the buttons only work so much."

"So, I should remain with you?"

That warm grin really could break the hardest of hearts and I am far from immune to it. The gentle kiss, and an affectionate nose rub make me giggle, but sense that all is still not right in her world.

"What is it?"

My life has prepared me with the skill of asking powerful women questions that would get most at least glared at. A carefully modulated tone, a edge of wheedling, but a lack of whine. Dace's gaze is trained slightly upward, again, as though there is a sound or sensation she cannot shake.

"There's something... Can't put my damn finger on it. Something's... off."

When the lights change shade and alarms shrill out, Dace's whole body stiffens, ready to burst clean through the heavy elevator doors. Only the laws of physics keep her from trying.

I believe that my visit has just grown far more interesting than anyone had planned.