Inspiration comes in strange places, and all writers know that there are occasions when we’re not quite sure what’s real and what comes from our imagination.
The night of that first encounter I was restless, and my imagination had been running wild ever since I’d landed in the States two nights before. I had been having dreams, crazy dreams, lust-filled sexy dreams that had driven me from sleep to find myself in sweat soaked sheets aching and wanting and needing … something. ‘Be present,’ I kept telling myself. I needed be present. I needed to learn to be in the moment. That’s a part of what this holiday was all about. Being in the moment was something of a struggle for me with one tight deadline bleeding into another and then another. The insane pace had been going on for over four years and now, for the first time in a long time I had given myself space between projects, space to breathe, space to rest, space to regroup. The problem was; now that I had the time and the space, I didn’t know what the hell to do with it. I’m a writer. That’s not just my job, it’s my vocation, and my identity is tied up in it – very possibly more so than I had imagined.
It had been the dreams that had driven me to the dry canyon in the middle of the night. In my dreams someone I could never saw, someone holding me in a close, sensual embrace, someone nuzzling and cupping and caressing, kept whispering in my ear that I needed to write the story, that I needed to get it all down, but they would never tell me what story I was to write, and when I burst into wakefulness restless and uncomfortable in my own skin, the feeling of being stretched and expanded and then shoved back into myself was overlaid with a shimmering patina of arousal. Feeling like I’d suffocate if I didn’t get some air, I’d dressed quickly and left the house, leaving a note on the kitchen table for my sister just in case she should wake and find me missing.
In ten minutes I was in the dry canyon alone in the middle of the night wondering why I wasn’t at least a little bit nervous about my choice of how to spend my time in the wee hours. My sister said that in spite of the fact that the canyon ran through the center of the town with five miles of paved walking path from one end to the other as well as other footpaths meandering along the canyon’s edges, in spite of the fact that the canyon was almost never deserted, occasionally there was a mountain lion spotting, occasionally warnings were posted. There had never been an attack, never been even a threat, but it wasn’t all that uncommon in areas where human habitat encroached on puma territory for the two to come in contact with each other. But not now, I told myself. In my visits to my sister’s I’d seen deer in the canyon, myriad birds, rock chucks and other wildlife, but never a mountain lion. And if I were being completely honest, the I found the shiver up my spine at the thought of seeing one of the beautiful cats at least as exciting as it was frightening. The full moon hung heavily just over my head, almost like I could reach out and touch it. It gave off enough silver light that I could see in exquisite monochrome layers, juniper and sage and the rise of the steep volcanic cliffs of the canyon walls.
The dry canyon splits the town of Redmond, Oregon right down the middle and until recently the only way to get around it was to drive to the end. Now there’s a huge bridge that spans it joining the two sides, the architects and builders having taken particular care that the bridge should blend in with the canyon and the high desert’s natural beauty. The bridge glistened pale in the moonlight, giant concrete arches rising like the bones of some graceful prehistoric monster whose death throes had spanned the canyon in rib-boned arches. It’s the landmark I always walk toward. And that night, when I got there, I drank deeply from the water fountain placed strategically in the shade for passing bikers, runners and walkers. There’s even a fountain for dogs next to it. Then I settled on the lone picnic table beneath the bridge, lie down on my back and look up at the shadowed underbelly of sinuous concrete.
I heard him before I saw him. I heard his heavy breathing, I heard the scuff, scuff of his feet against the ground, and I stayed still, listening, not wanting to startle him. I knew I should make good my getaway, or at least make my presence known, but I didn’t. For some reason I just lay there and watched as he drew near. The moonlight glistened on his bare chest, and I didn’t even pretend not to look. He was light footed, slender of build, long and well muscled. His hair was tawny pale and unkempt, clinging in wet curls around his ears and onto his shoulders. At the fountain, he drank long and deep, then tossed several cupped handfuls of water onto his head, down the back of his neck and onto his face. His nipples beaded, and goose flesh bloomed and spread across the rise and fall of his pecs where the water dripped onto his chest and over his taut belly. It was then that his gaze lit on me and the little breath of his surprise sounded like a soft growl in the muted night.
‘Strange dreams,’ I said in response to his unasked question as to my presence. I made no attempt not to stare at him, which didn’t seem too impolite, since he stared right back at me. ‘I needed some fresh air.’ Frankly I was surprised I could speak at all, let alone that I can be so brazen about it.
He bent for another drink, and I noticed he was barefoot. My insides quivered at just how little clothing the man really had on. The running shorts were thin and rode low on his hips revealing his navel and the slender path of soft hair disappearing into his waistband, a path I found myself wanting to follow with the stroke of a palm.
I was surprised when he moved to the table next to me, and settled a large hand in my hair, fisting it and stoking it until I sighed softly and moved against his palm. I was even more surprised when he stepped back, stretched his arms high above his head, yawned deeply, and then lay down beside me, settling himself around me in a spoon position. The dry desert air had dried the sweat from his flesh almost entirely. He was surprisingly warm and he smelled of desert heat, juniper and sagebrush. For a second I panicked as his strong arm snaked around my waist and pulled me back tight against him. Then I felt his mouth on the back of my neck, first parted lips, then tongue, then a slight nip of teeth. I found myself inexplicably calming under his touch, calming to the low rumble of satisfaction deep in his chest, to the steady hard pumping of his heart as he pressed his chest tight against me.
Once he was certain I wouldn’t run, his hold on me relaxed and his palm, flat against my belly, slid beneath my tank top and up to cup my breasts. I caught my breath in a startled moan as he thumbed my nipples alternately until they rose stiff and sensitive against calloused skin. I’d not bothered with a bra when I left my sister’s house. I never expected to meet anyone in the canyon. Easy access for anyone’s hands other than my own had not been my plan. While he cupped and kneaded and pinched, his mouth went back to work on my neck. He raised himself on one elbow to tongue and nip the hollow of my throat and I could feel the shape of him, hard and urgent, beneath the thin fabric of his shorts.
I barely had time to think about the hard rub and shift of him pressing against the back of my sweat bottoms before his hand migrated back down my belly and eased under my waistband with me shifting forward into the cup of his palm as he fingered and worked his way down. My legs parted and shifted and moved of their own volition to allow him access, and the shiver down my spine was not from the cool of the night as he stroked and fondled, all the while nipping and tonguing the back of my neck and the lobe of my ear, an effort leaving me weak and trembling with need that felt bone deep.
I don’t know how his hands could be everywhere, but they were. He slid my sweats down over my hips and, for a split second, I felt the cool night air against my bare bottom. Then I felt him bare and hard and anxious against me. The biting of my neck became more urgent and, God, I wanted him to bite me hard, I wanted to bite him back. I was only half conscious of the sounds he was making, animal grunts and groans, growls deep in his chest, sighs that I felt hot and moist against my skin. Then the nipping and the suckling and the caressing migrated down the length of my spine, and strong arms lifted me onto my hands and knees until my bottom was raised high in the moonlight and, before I could even think to protest, he continued his explorations, spreading me and kneading me with strong hands until his tongue found what he was looking for — me wet and restless and needing. I don’t remember much beyond that point except intense desperate pleasure, except his breath hot and fast against the swell of me, except him tasting me in hungry, lapping mouthfuls. And when I was boneless and weak from his efforts he pulled away, rose up and bit me on the shoulder, bit me hard enough to make me cry out, then he plunged into me, crushing me to him, holding my hips tight against his body, wrapping his arms around my waist, burying his face in my neck. I remember rearing back against him with each thrust, matching him growl for growl, holding my breath, bracing for impact, anticipating the breaking and shattering and falling apart as we came together and collapsed in desperate gasps back onto the table. Then he curled around me and we slept.
I remember waking alone on the picnic with the moon setting and dawn just beginning to gray the rim of the canyon, or at least I think I remember. I was barely aware of the walk back to my sister’s house, and the stripping off of my clothes and the falling into bed and into unconsciousness. In fact when I woke later in the morning snuggled down in the bed with the cool desert breeze blowing the curtains at the open window next to my bed, I figured I’d probably dreamed the whole experience. I mean the whole experience of dressing and walking in a dark canyon in the middle of the night alone, of sharing my body with a man I didn’t know, a man who never spoke, it wasn’t me at all. Surely it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d do. It was my imagination, I was sure. Jet lag often makes for powerful dreams, though it was strange the way my body felt that morning, I woke to the achy tenderness that follows rough sex, that follows a ravenous encounter too wild to really be just fucking, and yet just tame enough not to scare me into running away in fear of being completely devoured.
After breakfast my sister and I walked the canyon – her anticipating a good bit of morning exercise and me wanting to see if just maybe something would jog my memory, if just maybe something would bring the vividness of the encounter back to me. The dry canyon has been one of my favorite parts of where my sister lives for a long time. Walking it together has been a major part of our visits. We’d just descended the side road into the canyon and I was admiring how the bridge shown in the morning sun, thinking about my dream encounter, when my sister drew my attention to a sign on the notice board.
The breeze that had been warm felt suddenly chilled and the hairs on my arms rose.
‘There hasn’t been one in awhile,’ she was saying when I finally managed to turn my attention back to her. ‘Usually people see them at dawn or at dusk, people out for a late or an early run. They’re nocturnal, you know?’
‘Yes, I know.’ I said, remembering with a shiver low in my belly the nip of teeth on the back of my neck and the rough push and shove of flesh against flesh.