Midnight Fantasies

By: Vicki Lewis Thompson

CHAPTER ONE




RAIN SLUICED DOWN to the desert floor, warm and heavy, soaking B.J.’s T-shirt in under ten seconds. She didn’t care. A good summer downpour brought her almost as much satisfaction as a good orgasm. These days a downpour seemed a more likely source of satisfaction.

Unfortunately her horse, Hot Stuff, wasn’t big on getting drenched. Some trauma from his childhood, no doubt. B.J. had all she could do to keep the gelding from bucking her off. She knotted the reins in case he succeeded, so he wouldn’t step on them and cause more problems. Even if she stayed on this horse, the ride back to the ranch promised to be rough.

The storm had blown in suddenly, catching her coming back from a neighborly good deed for a newcomer to the area. Sarah was a sculptor, and she’d rented a little house about five miles away. She’d asked B.J. to pick up her mail and water her plants for a week while she went to a gallery showing in New York.

Tightening her thigh muscles as Hot Stuff crow-hopped another ten yards, B.J. estimated the distance to the barn. Then she estimated the distance to a cozy cave where she and her sister had played as kids. The cave was closer.

She wrestled Hot Stuff’s head around and pointed him in the direction of the cave. The rolling hills in this particular part of Southern Arizona were strewn with large granite outcroppings. Two particularly huge ones had sparked the name of the ranch—Twin Boulders. Many jokes had been made over the years about the phallic significance of those jutting pieces of stone.

As if to balance out the maleness of such a prominent formation, another cluster of rocks closer to the mountains contained a cave about the size of a three-person dome tent. Assuming the flashlight in her saddlebag revealed no snakes, she’d wait inside. Hot Stuff could cool his heels outside until he was ready to become civilized again and then they could mosey on home.

Soon the cave appeared in front of her, the boulders shellacked with rain. The deluge kept coming, running off her hat in a steady stream. Keeping a tight rein on Hot Stuff, she spoke soothingly to him and kept an eye on the tilt of his ears while she reached behind her to dig the flashlight out of the water-slicked saddlebag.

As her hand closed around the barrel of the flashlight, the wind gusted, throwing water in Hot Stuff’s face. He laid his ears back and leaped into the air with such force that she lost her stirrups. Then he launched into another twisting maneuver creative enough to land her in the mud on her butt.

Still clutching the flashlight, she scrambled to her feet. Before she could grab the reins, Hot Stuff took off in the direction of the ranch.

B.J. sighed, more angry than alarmed. The horse should be okay. The reins were still looped over the saddle horn and he knew his way back. As long as no one noticed him coming in riderless, which might cause a panic, there would be no harm done except for the long walk ahead of her.

Fortunately her dad and Noah had driven into town to run some errands so they wouldn’t be there to notice Hot Stuff had dumped her. That left Noah’s brother Jonas, and she didn’t think he’d be hanging around when her father and Noah weren’t on hand to suggest he spend a rainy afternoon cleaning tack. Given the choice, Jonas much preferred whiling away the hours in the arms of whichever girlfriend was currently in favor.

As she debated whether to follow her horse home since she was already wet and muddy, the rain turned to hail that ricocheted off her hat and bit the exposed skin of her arms. She was willing to walk in the rain and the mud, but being pelted with hail was a whole other thing. Flashlight in hand, she turned toward the cave.

Passing the beam over the entrance, she took off her hat, stooped and went in. As a kid she hadn’t had to stoop, and about the time she’d grown too tall to walk in without crouching, she’d decided to abandon the cave. Yet for years it had been the perfect hideout.

She and her sister Keely had spent hours in here planning battle strategies against Noah and Jonas. For some reason the girls had been allowed to keep the cave to themselves, probably because the boys had built a tree house they thought was more strategic and far more cool because they could pull up the rope ladder and be isolated.

Funny how the dank smell of the cave instantly brought back those days. She ran the flashlight beam over the dirt floor and the smooth rock ledge that had served as table, chair or bed, depending on what adventure she and Keely had been cooking up at the time. Except for some leaves that had blown in, the cave was empty and dry.

Brushing the leaves off the rock ledge, she sat down. Then she hung her hat on an outcropping they’d once used to suspend an electric lantern. But she wasn’t drawing treasure maps or decoding messages today, so she didn’t need to see. She switched off the flashlight.