Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 10

Thursday, November 8, 2001

Randy and Nicole had only missed using the hot tub a couple of nights in the week since Danny had delivered it for them. Obviously, it was a new toy, one they planned on using, though that might diminish once the new wore off. But for now, it gave them something special to do together. Of course, that something involved a lot of sex, but it involved some talking, too.

Despite the fact they both felt there was a message for them in Debbie's recital of Coyote and the Ducks, they had some mixed opinions about what that message was. They did agree on one point, though – open your eyes to what this is doing to you, or let it eat you up. Randy had attempted to act upon it, at least a little. When he met Danny over the breakfast table at the cafe on Monday, he raised the question of whether he and Debbie might like to join him for a few days at Buddha and Giselle's before the construction season got going good.

"Afraid not," Danny told him. "Not that I don't want to, but I'm not setting foot in the state of Florida for another six years. Let's just say that there was a little incident between my ex and I just before I left." Danny didn't explain, but it left Randy wondering how many of his ex's bones had been broken.

"Well, this summer sometime, maybe on the big lakes or something," Randy suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," Danny smiled. "I'm looking forward to seeing Debbie on a surfboard."

At least it had been a step in the right direction, even if it had been a baby one. And, it looked like the New Year's trip to Buddha and Giselle's was still on. Randy would have preferred something a little more exotic, but the commitments had been made. Another year, he promised himself. Besides, if he didn't have two major jobs going, he might be able to get out whitewater kayaking more than once or twice with Rod and Joe, something he'd enjoyed since college days. But still, that seemed like a lot of the same old, same old.

While the weekend had been fairly decent weather wise, on Monday the clouds moved back in and started dropping rain, which didn't help his spirits any. It wasn't a hard rain, just the dismal, humid stuff just bad enough to make him run the windshield wipers, but seemed like it was going to hold on for days. At least he wasn't a deer hunter; he couldn't imagine being out in the woods with a rifle in this crap, but by Thursday night, a relaxing soak with Nicole was about the only bright thing he had to look forward to.

He worked a little late on Thursday afternoon, just chasing materials for the upcoming gymnasium job, but he was sort of in the middle of a ticklish price negotiation and not wanting to stop when quitting time rolled around, so he stayed with it until he'd saved the company a good chunk of money. When he got home, he found Nicole in the midst of preparation of a beef and rice dinner he'd always liked; it was something handed down from her grandmother and would have tasted pretty bland without whatever special spices she used. "So, how did your day go?" he asked.

"About the same," she sighed. "I had to send Bobby Lufkin to detention again for talking back. Unless someone kicks the crap out of him and it gets replaced with some sense, there's no way he's going to come to a good end."

"Would you like me to talk to him sometime?" Randy asked. "Maybe I can goad him into taking a swing at me, and I could break a few bones."

"No, it's more trouble than it's worth," Nicole sighed. "He's just a pain in the rear, and there's always one like him in any class, it seems. But sometimes it makes me wonder why I ever wanted to be a teacher. Maybe being a river bum like Crystal isn't such a bad idea after all. So how was your day?"

"Fairly productive, if not very interesting," he said. "It's just that every time I looked up, there was the same old rain out there."

"From what I get on the weather, it's supposed to change to snow this weekend."

"Yeah, but then it'll be that sloppy wet stuff that's too sticky to snowboard on. I could sure stand a weekend adventure if I could think of one."

"It's hard," she agreed. "Maybe we could invite Danny and Debbie over again. We could play some cards, soak in the hot tub again, or something like that."

"That's a better idea than anything I can come up with for this time of year. Damn, I hate November, especially miserable ones like this. If we get some decent snow, then things perk up a little. It'd be nice if Phil and Duane could come home, rather than have to hang around out there in Idaho or Montana or wherever it was they disappeared to."

"Why don't you give Danny and Debbie a call while I finish this up?"

"Sounds like a plan," Randy agreed, and picked up the phone to call Danny and Debbie at home. He finished the call a couple minutes later. "They've got something over at Three Pines on Saturday, some cultural thing from the sound of it, but Sunday sounds like a go. I told them around one, but they're welcome to change it if they want to."

"That'll work just fine," she said. "You know, I really like the two of them. I can see us doing stuff together."

Dinner was fine – that improved their day, but after they did the dishes they made the mistake of watching the news on television, and that was depressing, as usual. Sometimes Randy wondered why he bothered to watch. "The hell with it," Randy said as he turned it off. "It's a little early, but let's go get in the hot tub and snuggle up."

"That may be the best idea you've had all day," she smiled. "I'm going to go up and change, though. I don't want to screw up this outfit by just tossing it on the floor."

"All right," he smiled, anticipating the fun of the next few hours. "I'll go get the cover off. See you in a few."

Nicole headed up the stairs to their bedroom, unbuttoning things along the way. She knew it wasn't a "for sure" thing, but this was the day that Scooter and Jim were supposed to get off the river, at least according to what Karin had told her more than a week before. That meant there was a good chance Scooter might call tonight. She might not, too – she might have to do some thinking about the problem – but at least this was the earliest she could expect the call, and she figured she might as well have Randy in a good mood when it happened.

She hated to have to go behind his back like she'd done here, but Randy had his pride and could be bull-headed. Now, if things worked out like she hoped and if Scooter could keep quiet about the things that Nicole had asked, this might work out.

Besides, this was the first opportunity to do something special. While Randy had been at his martial arts practice on Tuesday, she'd gotten out the sewing machine and did a little creating, involving a purple scarf that had somehow gotten a hole in it. It really amazed her how much of the scarf was left after she'd created her first micro-bikini. There really wasn't much to it – the narrow strips of the top barely covered her nipples, the bottom barely covered her pubic hair and it was a thong in back. She'd tried it on Tuesday night and had been satisfied; the thing was almost transparent dry and ought to be close to invisible wet. Now, she got her clothes off, hung them up, and put the purple micro-bikini on, almost embarrassed to look at herself in the mirror. Christ, this thing would be slutty even at the West Turtle Lake Club, she thought with a smile.

At least she only had to walk through the house wearing it. That was hard enough; it would be easier to do it in the nude, she thought, remembering back to being nude with Randy and Danny and Debbie the other night. She might be nude with them again, but wearing an alleged swimsuit like this? No way!

She paused in the kitchen, gathered her courage a little, and then headed out onto the porch. "Hey Randy," she said with a grin. "I thought you might like to see my new swimsuit for when we go to Buddha and Giselle's."

Randy looked up and said, "Holy shit! I mean, uh, holy shit! You might want to rethink that. You might give Buddha a heart attack."

"You think?" she grinned. "I was thinking more in terms of giving Preach a heart attack."

"It'd manage that for sure," he laughed. "My God, that looks good on you. That's the Nicole I've always thought I married."

"A lady on the street and a slut in the hot tub," she laughed. "That's what you wanted, wasn't it?"

"You said it, I didn't," he smiled. "But yeah, something like that. I'll bet it just about disappears when you get it wet."

"If it does, that's what it was intended to do," she said. "Let's find out."

It proved, as Nicole had suspected, that it turned nearly invisible in the water, and it soon went away, although Randy's fingers were involved with that. They'd had several good evenings in the hot tub, but over the next couple hours this one was the best one yet.

*   *   *

Over the course of the last few evenings, Nicole and Randy had discovered they both particularly enjoyed it when she rode him cowboy style, with the water taking their weight so they could both use their muscles more effectively rather than just supporting themselves. That was what they were doing, and not for the first time that evening when the phone went off.

"Oh, Christ," Randy groaned. "Wouldn't you just know it? Somebody's timing really sucks."

"I'll get it," Nicole said, hoping it was Scooter. "It's probably Mom, and she'll want to talk."

"Oh, Christ," Randy said in disappointment. There were times that he wanted to rip the phone out of the wall by its roots, and this was one of them.

"It's for you, Randy," she said. "I'll bring it over." Fortunately, there was a phone on the porch with a long cord; Nicole brought it over to him, then climbed back into the hot tub and resumed the position she'd been in before the call came.

"Hey, Randy, it's Scooter!" he heard a cheerful voice say. "How's things in Spearfish Lake?"

"It's November, it's raining, so it's about as attractive as hell with the fires out," he replied as Nicole settled back down on him. He tried to divide his thoughts between that wonderful sensation and Scooter. "I thought you were on the river with Crystal."

"No, Jim and I had to go relieve Dave and Mary on Team 1 so we're a week ahead of her," Scooter told him. "Hey, we just got back in and Karin tells us that Crystal told her you'd bombed on the sailing trip. Work get in the way or something?"

"No, hell no," Randy said, feeling the bitterness of the news of a week and a half ago rising in him again. He tried to keep his voice level as he continued, "When I found out she and Preach were going to use it as their honeymoon, I invited myself out. Crystal may be a friend but there's no way I'm going to horn in on their honeymoon."

"Yeah, that's pretty much what Jim and Michelle and I figured, too," Scooter replied. "Look, Randy, it ain't all nailed down yet; Jim and I had to head down the hill in a hell of a hurry, but the way it was when we left Preach and Crystal were going to do two weeks and the rest of us do two weeks. We hadn't worked out which was which. You were in on the deal and you're welcome to come along on our half of the trip. It's still a split-the-expenses deal."

"Scooter," he said in pure shock. This wasn't anything like what he had been expecting. "Are you kidding?"

"No, no way," she laughed. "Actually, I'm a little happier it turned out that way. What with Crystal hanging around Preach, she's gotten a little straight arrow. It's gonna be up to the rest of us to restore the reputation of Grand Canyon boatmen. Dave and Mary are talking about coming too; it's not a done deal yet. You probably don't know them but they're pretty cool, too. It'd be an extra few hundred bucks but split six ways it wouldn't be that bad. You up for it?"

"Scooter . . . my God, this is coming out of nowhere. After Crystal bombed me, I gave up on the idea. What dates are we talking?"

"Don't know yet, Randy," he heard her say. "We still gotta work out first half or second half, maybe a bigger boat and like that. We just got off the river, and Crystal and Preach are gonna be out for another week, so we can't settle anything till they get back. You're coming out for the wedding, ain't you? Maybe we'll have to find a few minutes to thrash it out."

"Yeah," he said, a little in a daze from this unexpected turn of events. "We're planning on being there; we'll have to get together."

"Good enough," she laughed. "Hey, just wanted to get that straightened out, and when Karin told me I figured I'd better be about it. I don't want to cut you off, but I just got off the river; there's a shower head with my name on it waiting for me; you know how that is."

"Yeah, Scooter, I do," he said, rather breathlessly and incredulously. "Thanks, Scooter. I really appreciate you thinking of me."

"Shit, I'd have settled it ten days ago if I'd known about it," she replied. "Now, you be cool and say hi to Nicole again for me. Tell her I'll be looking forward to seeing her, too."

"Thanks again, Scooter," he replied. "See you in a few days."

"Looking forward to it," she told him cheerfully. "Hey, Randy, we're going to have a great old time and it'll be a hell of a lot warmer than it is in Spearfish Lake. You take care and we'll see you at the wedding."

Randy hung up the phone, shaking his head and adding, "Well I'll be damned."

"What's this?" Nicole asked, trying to act like she didn't know what it was all about. "I didn't pick up all of it."

"It looks like the sailing trip is back on," Randy said. "I didn't understand Crystal clearly the other day or something. Scooter says the plan is to split the trip, two weeks for Crystal and Preach, the rest for a bunch of us. The details are still up in the air, they won't be able to settle anything until Crystal is off the river next week. Anyway, Scooter is talking her, Jim, Michelle, maybe Dave and Mary. You remember, we met them at Karin and Al's wedding."

"Yeah, I remember," Nicole said, allowing herself to settle down and stay in place, still impaled on her husband. "I didn't much more than get the chance to say hello to them, though. That's great! You'll have fun with Scooter and Jim."

"I don't know them anything like I know Crystal," Randy agreed. "But I sure like Scooter. Salt of the earth."

"I like her, too. Remember, I ran half a trip with her and Jim last summer. Hanging around Preach has turned Crystal a little straight, but it doesn't appear to have affected Scooter or Jim."

"Yeah, well, maybe that's just as well. I don't know Preach all that well, but it strikes me that they're going to have to knock some edges off of each other. I mean, you get right down to it, there's a good reason why everyone is surprised that the two of them are getting married."

"Yeah," Nicole sighed. "I suppose you're right. I sure hope it works out for them."

"Me, too," Randy agreed. "Don't get me wrong, Crystal is a friend and a very special one, and I sure hope it works out for her. I have come to believe that it would never have worked out as well between her and me the way it's worked out between the two of us. I always felt she was going to hear the wild geese calling her all her life, and I've had no reason to doubt it's still true. I don't want to say Preach can control it, but he may be able to live with it. If they can't change enough to tolerate each other, then they're going to have some rough times. I really wish they'd thought to put it off a year, but that's not my decision to make."

"I think you're right on that, too," Nicole said, squirming around just a little to remind Randy of what else they were doing. Randy got the message and started moving with her again as she continued. "I don't know exactly how to say it, but Crystal wasn't quite the same person last fall that she was last spring. But, she deserves a little love in her life, too."

*   *   *

Scooter hung up the phone. "Well, that's that," she said. "He didn't even put up any protest about the Wild Woman of the Grand Canyon coming along like he did the last time. He's just about flattened with surprise."

"What was that about me?" Michelle asked.

"Last winter, he said he didn't think it would look good for him to be out on the Felicity Ann with three single women," Scooter sighed. "When you get down to it, he was probably right."

Michelle nodded understandingly. "I'll have to get together with her when she's out here and make sure she understands I'll lay off him and flatten him if he tries anything."

"Might take some flattening; he's got more black belts than you do."

"Then we'll have a hell of a fight in the process," Michelle snorted. "I don't mess around with married guys, at least if I know they're married." She giggled, and continued, "Of course, there's been a time or two I haven't tried very hard to find out."

"That leaves just one thing to do, but we'll have to wait for Crystal to get off the river."

"What?" Mary asked. "Work out the details?"

"No, Michelle and I are going to have to kick Crystal's young ass for letting Randy get the wrong impression. I'd do it myself but she's got that black belt, I'm going to need help."

"So that means we're going sailing however it works out, huh?" Michelle asked.

"However it works out," Scooter nodded. "And it will work out one way or another. I know we hadn't settled things as much as I told Randy before we started that last trip, but I do know I spent some time pissed off that Crystal and Preach effectively kicked us off it without asking. If they want to share the boat over that period, fine. If they don't, we can always charter another one, even if the dates don't quite add up. I like Randy, don't get me wrong, he's as fine a boatman as you'll ever meet who'll never be a boatman, and we go back a ways. I just think Crystal wasn't thinking. Maybe she'll come to her senses before this time next week. I could just have read everything all wrong, too. After all, things got screwed around in a hell of a hurry, and we were supposed to have the whole trip to work this shit out."

"I suppose," Michelle said. "It sure is going to seem strange to not be messing around most of the winter with you and Crystal, though. I'm guessing we don't see a lot of her before spring."

"Wouldn't be surprised," Scooter shook her head. "Things change, and sometimes they change in ways you don't expect them to. You gotta remember that even you and I aren't going to be helling around, part of the time, anyway. Jim and I want to get off by ourselves a bit."

"Yeah," Michelle sighed, and shook her head, the long blonde hair billowing off of her shoulders. "It's not going to be like the last few winters, that's for sure."

*   *   *

Randy and Nicole felt rather shriveled but very relaxed when they headed to bed not long after Scooter's call. The day started early for both of them, and they couldn't stay up until all hours the way they'd been used to in college. By ten o'clock the lights were out, and they were snuggling together, just enjoying being close. Sex wasn't part of the game; after all, they'd both already had about all they could handle for one evening.

"OK, Nicole," Randy whispered. "Is the sailing trip going to make you sufficiently jealous?"

"It's a start," Nicole said. "I want you to get used to the idea of making a few winter trips without me. Maybe when Myleigh and Trey get here, Trey might want to do something like it sometime. Or Danny. Most trips, it wouldn't bother me if Myleigh or Debbie or the both of them were along."

"I still want to do stuff with you more than with them," he told her. "But I think we're going to have to accept that we're not going to be able to do them as often as we like. But let's sort of plan in the direction of doing something a year from Christmas. Maybe not South Africa, but something. I saw you in that swimsuit tonight and got to thinking maybe Brazil. Girls really do wear swimsuits like that on the beach there, you know."

"Oh, Christ," she shook her head. "So you want me to be your Girl from Ipanema now, right?"

"Well, on Ipanema dressed like the girl from there."

"I hope you're teasing Randy, because I think you could actually talk me into it."

"So, we both know you've got a little bit of exhibitionist in you and Brazil ought to be far enough away to be safe," he giggled. "But for now, I think the sting is gone a little. We've got Crystal's wedding, we've got the Buddha and Giselle trip and I've got the sailing trip. By the time I get done with those I should be able to think about the Blair gymnasium without it giving me a gut ache."

"Good enough," she smiled. "You know I would like to be on that sailing trip with you, but you'll have a good time, anyway. The story they told about the trip last year was that Crystal, Scooter, and Michelle spent most of the trip last winter wearing bikinis that didn't cover a lot more than the one I had on tonight."

"Well, that's interesting," Randy snickered. "I don't know how much I'd look forward to seeing Scooter in a bikini like that, but Michelle ought to be interesting. Mary too, for that matter."


"You were the one who brought it up. Of course, I'd like to see you on the sailboat in a bikini like you had on tonight too."

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To be continued . . .

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