“Friends and Lovers”….chapter 18

The weather remained idyllic over the next few days. Meg spent the langourous days reading and walking the beach with Jo and Max, and watching Luke surf the perfect white-capped waves. Together they walked the inland tracks to the waterfalls, where the bush transformed into fern-filled rainforests, the tangy freshness a stark contrast to the warm salty air of the coast. Most evenings Max put on a BBQ, and they enjoyed the soft fading light dining on the verandah, balancing their plates on their laps. Meg even found herself developing an incidental light tan, her auburn hair prettily sun kissed with golden streaks. Meg felt so happy, so relaxed,even her time spent with Luke was less fraught with the overwhelming attraction that had been such an obstacle to their friendship. It was only that first initial glimpse of him on waking each day that set her heart racing.

New Years Eve saw storm clouds gathering on the horizon, although the temperature remained warm, with a sharp increase in the humidity. They decided to stay home for the evening, and avoid the exuberant crowds that were sure to overrun the town. Max and Luke made a dash to the shops, returning with some bottles of wine, and one of champagne, some cheese, nuts, and a huge bag of grapes. After dinner they all settled down on the verandah to watch the spectacular lightening display across the broiling dark clouds, the humidity almost tangible as the rain still refused to fall. Jo disappeared momentarily to come back onto the verandah carrying a small amber bottle which she handed to Luke.

“”O.K. Luke, it’s time to work your magic,” she said with a coaxing smile. “I’ll just pour the wine,” she added, topping up Meg’s over-sized wine glass.

Luke took the cap off the bottle, and brought it to his nose. “Mm…..my pleasure,” he said.

“Lavender and bergamot,” Jo said, settling herself into one of the chairs.

“Who’s first?” Luke asked, pouring some of the fragrant oil into his palm.

“Do Meg first!” Jo said with a conspiratorial smile. “You’re in for a treat my love,” she added, looking across to her friend. “Luke is very good at this,” she concluded with emphasis.

Meg feigned enthusiasm, but the truth was she was panicking at the very thought of Luke touching her in such an intimate way. She gasped as she felt his fingers gently slip the straps from her shoulders, and closed her eyes in nervous anticipation. She was transported almost to the pinnacles of pleasure, the rapturous tingling seeping to the very tips of her fingers and toes. Apart from the pure sensuality of his touch, just the knowledge that it was Luke’s hands gliding across her shoulders, his fingers sliding the length of her neck, was enough to send Meg into a private ecstasy. She had to curtail her imagination, that threatened to embarrass her right there in front of everyone, as she felt Luke’s hips pressing against her back. The minutes seemed like hours, and Meg was shocked to hear a small moan escape her lips. Her eyes snapped open, and she straightened imperceptibly in her chair, Luke quietly moving the straps of her top back onto her shoulders.

“I think that might do you,” he said thickly, his dark green eyes holding hers for a charged second as he moved across to Jo’s chair. Meg felt the rush of warmth to her cheeks.

“Between you and this bottomless wine glass, I think you are all on a mission to get me legless,” she said, with an embarrassed laugh, trying to cool her face with her glass.

The rest of the evening was spent regaling eachother with stories of past new year’s eve antics, and probable new year’s resolutions. After numerous more glasses of wine, the champagne was opened, and they attempted a game of scrabble, which inevitably ended in shambolic laughter. Eventually they counted down to midnight and charged their glasses with the remainder of the champagne, toasting to eachother’s health and happiness for the coming year.

“Happy New Year Meg,” said Luke, his kiss finding her lips before she could turn her head. Meg momentarily felt the tip of his tongue graze the inside of her lips, sending a charge of adrenalin coursing through her body. Her eyes sent a shocked accusatory glance to his as she stood back, searching for her glass, flustered by his rashness.

“I…..I think I might have to call it a night,” Meg stammered.

Jo and Max followed her inside. “Yes,” answered Jo wearily. “It’s past the pumpkin hour darling,” she said to Max, taking his hand and leading him to the bedroom.

“Goodnight all!” called Max as they disappeared up the hallway. “Happy New Year!”

Meg laughed despite her previous discomfort. Luke was half-heartedly rinsing a few glasses at the sink. Meg watched him for a moment. “Goodnight Luke,” she whispered.

He turned around and leant against the bench, looking as if he wanted to say something. Instead, he sighed and smiled gently. “‘Night Meg. Sleep tight,” he said, and watched her until she could tear herself away and make her way back to the loungeroom.

Though her thoughts were fuzzy, Meg’s emotions were heightened disproportionately by the alcohol, and all she wanted to do was escape into the oblivion of sleep. She listened to the soft sounds of Luke moving about in the kitchen, and couldn’t remember the exact moment she fell asleep, though vaguely aware of the rain finally falling. Her sleep was deep and dreamless, until she woke in the grey hours of the early morning, with an overwhelming thirst. Dragging herself sleepily from the warm depths of the covers, she padded to the kitchen, filling a large glass with water. She leant against the bench as she sipped the cool water, until she became aware of movement in the laundry at the far end of the kitchen. She knew the back door was off the laundry, and for a moment she felt a prickle of fear, until she saw Luke’s back, clad in his wetsuit. He had obviously been out for an early morning surf, the waves no doubt pumping after last night’s storm. On the verge of catching his attention, Meg watched him peel the skin-tight wetsuit from his shoulders and over his arms. He pushed it down to his hips, the paler skin of his buttocks just visible. His olive skin was raised in goose flesh, and Meg stood mesmerised by his masculine lines rippling in breath-taking perfection. As he bent to push the wetsuit the rest of the way down, Meg retreated in silent panic, burying herself in her doona again. When the erratic beating in her temples finally subsided, she drifted once more into sleep, never hearing Luke return to his bedroom. In fact she didn’t hear another sound until she was woken some hours later, the insistent smell of brewing coffee calling her from sleep.

Fingers of morning sunshine made their way across the loungeroom floor. Meg struggled up to a sitting position, stretching her arms slowly above her head, feeling she could have slept on for hours. The sunshine had obviously come back with a vengeance after yesterday’s absence, and Meg lazily watched the dust dancing in the rays above her head.

“You’re awake I hope?” Luke called cheerily from the kitchen, carrying them both a cup of coffee. His chest was bare, a dark blue sarong wrapped around his hips. Meg was sure he must have noticed her reaction to him, the sunshine from the partly opened drapes guilding the bronze skin of his chest and shoulders. He sat on the arm of the couch, and smiled down at her, handing her the cup.

“Thought you could use this,” he said, with obvious reference to their over-indulgence the night before. Meg smiled a little guiltily.

“You don’t know how much!” she answered, shifting into a more comfortable position. But she was still obviously more asleep than awake, taking the hot coffee, and immediately emptying it straight down the front of her, the thin T-shirt plastered painfully to her chest. Crying out in distress, Meg plucked at the wet fabric, trying to relieve the seering pain. But Luke pushed her hands away, tugging the shirt swiftly over her head in one quick movement. He ran to the kitchen, returning in haste with a tea towel soaked in cool water, draping it gently across the redness, already starting to appear on her skin. Meg clutched the cold towel to her chest, her breath slowly returning  to normal, allowing her to finally speak.

“Thankyou Luke,” she whispered. “I’m such an idiot!” she added, frowning, as she dabbed at her chest.

“Let me see,” Luke said with concern, gently peeling the wet cloth from her skin. Her skin prickled as the air touched it, then throbbed dully as they assessed the spreading pinkness. Meg gradually became aware of her nakedness, and slowly wrapped her arms across her breasts, lifting her eyes to meet Lukes. His face revealed his own inner struggle, until he finally took her hands and gently pulled them away from her breasts, her nipples tightening in the sudden coolness, and the insistent caress of his stare. Meg sighed resignedly, closing her eyes in invitation. Luke lowered his face to her breasts, his warm soft lips tenderly kissing around the periphery of her pain, then moving gently down the slope of her breast. He took her nipple deep into his mouth, warming it to its original plumpness, until it ached with his insistent suckling. The longing ran down the ancient chords of desire from her breasts, to the depths of her womb, and she buried her fingers in his hair, pulling him down to be beside her. Meg pushed the covers down with her legs, as Luke tore the sarong from his waist, and pressed the length of his body against hers. She looked down the tense slope of his back to the stark white muscles of his buttocks straining against her thighs. But the sharp sound of tyres on the gravel outside dragged them quickly back to reality.

Jo and Max had left earlier for the annual new years day market on the foreshore, not willing to wake Meg from her sound sleep.

Luke stood naked before her, every muscle taut from the sheer effort to remain there; a beautiful warrior trembling violently from undelivered passion, his dark eyes intent, daring her to move. A ragged sigh escaped Meg’s lips, a hybrid of fear and longing. With that, Luke threw his head back, his chest heaving, his manhood straining from his body. He grabbed the sarong, wrapping it roughly around his hips as he strode away. Meg heard the car door slam and jumped from the couch, running to the bathroom. The unfulfilled desire was a delicious ache between her legs, as she let the tepid water pummel her breasts, where Luke’s tender kisses had been just moments before. She had never felt such all-consuming passion before, all logic and sense deserting her. It frightened her to think she might never have the strength to resist him, but right at the moment she didn’t really want to fight it.

Meg finally gathered enough courage to leave the bathroom, and she joined Jo at the kitchen table. She had brought home fresh bagels from the market, while Max busied himself unloading some firewood from the back of the van.

“Good morning,” said Meg nervously. “Sorry I missed the market,” she said with a guilty smile, avoiding looking at Luke, who was toasting the bagels at the stove.

Jo laughed, wrapping her arms around Meg as she came up behind her. “You were sleeping like a baby,” she said fondly. “I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

“I think I needed to stay in bed more,” replied Meg, exchanging  a nervous glance with Luke as he brought the bagels to the table. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she realized the hidden truth behind her words.

“Oh, but I bought you a present!” Jo said happily, bouncing up from the table to fetch a parcel from her basket. Unfolding a buttercup yellow kaftan, she draped it around Meg’s shoulders. “This color is perfect for you,” she said excitedly. “Try it on!”

Meg smiled at Jo’s enthusiasm, and slipped the top over her singlet. “Thanks so much Jo,” she said, the gratitude for her generosity only exacerbating her feelings of guilt. “I love it,” she said, returning her hug.

“Doesn’t she look beautiful Luke?” Jo asked, as Luke turned to let his eyes hold Megs for an uncomfortably long moment.

“Yes she does,” he said, his serious tone grabbing Jo’s attention.

“What’s wrong with you darling? Maybe you should have stayed in bed longer instead of going surfing,” she said with gentle chastisement, planting a kiss on Luke’s cheek. Luke smiled then, his manner markedly relaxing as he wrapped Jo in his arms.

“Maybe,” he said softly. “But I couldn’t sleep in too long, Rick’s on his way down today,” he added, sitting back down at the table.

“Oh, lovely!” cried Jo. “I haven’t seen Ricky for an age. Is he going to stay?” she asked, beginning to unpack the basket of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“No, I’m actually going with him for the weekend up to Apollo Bay,” Luke explained. “He’s lined up a place for a couple of days. There’s some good surfing to be had there at the moment.”

Meg’s heart lurched in disappointment, to contemplate Luke’s absence, but then she didn’t quite know how she would negotiate being around him if he stayed! He caught the mixture of  hurt and confusion in her eyes, and held her gaze thoughtfully for a moment.

“Why don’t you come with us Meg?” he asked, his casual tone belying the hunger Meg saw in his eyes. Meg’s heart hammered excitedly at the possibility of spending two days alone with Luke. There would be no need to hide anything, but there would also be nothing to inhibit the flood of desire she knew was threatening to engulf them. Lost in thought, she was shocked to hear Jo speak.

“What a wonderful idea!” Jo said excitedly. “Why don’t you go Meg? You get to see more of the coast,” she said encouragingly. “And Max and I get to release our romantic side!” she added playfully, just as Max entered the kitchen.

“Get to release what?” Max intoned interestedly. Jo laughed and wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist.

Meg tried frantically to sort through her emotions, but as she seemed to only invite more confusion, she took a leap of faith instead. “OK, why not?” she said quickly, surprised to hear the words out loud. “If Rick doesn’t mind?” she added hastily by way of qualification. Maybe he would object and let her off the hook, but she also felt the weight of disappointment just at the thought of it.

“You know Rick, he won’t mind,” Luke said decisively. “He’s the most laid back guy I know,” he said with a faint smile.

Meg returned his smile nervously. “OK,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I better go and throw a few things in a bag,” and she hurried from the room.

Rick arrived about an hour later, rumbling up to the front door in his old panel van. Just as Luke said, he seemed genuinely happy to have her along. Meg sat between them on the front seat, the back of the panel van full with a mattress, two surfboards, and a pile of clothes, towels and blankets.

No-one would have known it had been storming the day before, their journey was bathed in such brilliant sunshine. A surreal feeling enveloped Meg for the next hour, unable to project beyond the moment. When they finally arrived, Meg retrieved her bag and Luke’s pack from the back of the van, while Luke talked to Rick through the driver’s side window. She came around to hear the end of their conversation.

“O.K. mate,” said Rick cheerily. “I’ll catch you tomorrow afternoon,” he said, and Luke clapped his friend on the shoulder. “See you Meg!” Rick called, and took off, heading further up the coast road. Meg stood dumbstruck for a moment.

“Why isn’t Rick staying?” she asked, her heart starting to beat faster as she realized they were completely alone. Luke picked up the bags and headed towards the house across the road. He dropped the bags on the front steps and turned to Meg, taking her hands in his.

“Rick is staying in the van, don’t worry about him,” he said, his eyes dark and serious. “You know why we’re here Meg,” he said, and led her into the house amidst  a loaded silence.

The double bed stood at one end of the bedroom, a voluminous white eiderdown hanging down on either side, large colourful pillows stacked against the wooden bedhead. Plantation shutters were on the windows, half opened to let in perfect shafts of sunlight, striping the floor and the bed. Meg let Luke lead her in silence to the bed, pushing her gently ’til she sunk across the vast whiteness of the covers. He lay beside her, raised on his elbow, his green eyes telling her all he intended to do. When he finally kissed her it was as if she had plunged headlong into icy waters, every inch of her body suddenly alive, and she clung to him as if only he could save her.

With nothing to stop them now, Meg hadn’t expected the gentle reserve Luke was displaying. He caressed her with relentless homage, until she cried out in desperation, pulling him into her until she possessed him totally, feeling the length of him driving her to the edge of her need and beyond. Sleep took them for a time, and Meg slowly woke, becoming deliciously aware of Luke’s body moulded warmly to her back, his steady breath caressing her neck. She gently placed her hand on top of his as it rested on her hip, unwilling to disturb the perfection of the moment. But eventually she slipped from beneath the covers and went in search of the bathroom. It felt as if she was floating, the air like warm liquid over her skin. As she stood in the shower, the gentle flow of the water slowly roused her from her dream-like state. Reaching down with her fingers she felt the sudden release of his warm essence on her thighs, and she tentatively tasted the sharp, bitter tang of him on the tip of her tongue, sending a new shock wave of longing through her body that threatened to overwhelm her. Her knees buckled under the weight of the raw emotion, and she turned her face desperately up to the warm water. She had barely recoverd when Luke joined her. He made love to her then with none of the gentleness he’d shown her before, and the insistent passion of his youth completely mastered her. Slipping and gliding, in and over eachother’s wetness, relishing warm water-filled kisses, he thrust relentlessly, pinning her to the cold tiles, in such sudden contrast to her burning flesh. She writhed in the exquisite blurring of pleasure and pain. Sucking and lapping at her breasts, they soared beyond the confines of their flesh, to finally cling breathlessly to eachother, lost to a purpose  and a force greater than both of them. They returned to the bed , and Luke held her quietly in his arms.

“We could stay in bed all weekend,” he whispered into her hair. “Like John and Yoko.”

Meg shook with restrained laughter. “They did it for peace. I don’t think our motives are that altruistic,” she said, turning onto her stomach so she could look into his face. “Besides, we might get hungry.”

He smiled, running his fingers down her face, pulling her forward to kiss her tenderly. “I’m not hungry, are you?” he said huskily. “I just can’t believe how the wanting never stops,” he added, rolling her over so he hovered above her.

“Luke, stop please,” Meg pleaded gently, bringing her hand up to his lips, running her fingertip across their softness. “I just couldn’t fight it anymore,” she said softly, trying to ignore the growing need she saw in his eyes that made her want him all the more. “I wanted you….I want you so much, but this has to be one time Luke. We can only have this weekend,” she said as convincingly as she could, her own need for him stirring again, finally robbing her of all reason.

Luke lowered his head to press his forehead against hers, and sighed deeply. “I know,” he said quietly. “But I also know I won’t ever regret it,” he added, moving to look deeply into her eyes. Meg trembled, and opened herself to him again.

“Me either,” was all she managed to say.

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