1.37: A Sixkiller Interlude, Part 2

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Layla awoke late in the morning, and slipped on the new bikini she’d brought with her under the clothes Lilith had loaned her. She hadn’t been swimming yet, and the island was dotted with many lovely tidal pools and lagoons that she’d run across in her explorations. It would be a shame not to experience that while she was here.

Seeing Joel at the bar, she went to say hello. He eyed her garments, eyes lingering half a second long enough to make her blush. “I see they’ve got you outfitted for island life. It looks good on you. Real good.”

There was a pause as Layla pondered if Joel was teasing or not. He looked like some hot island god as he stood there looking at her, sunlight angling off his shoulders and lighting sparks in his amber eyes. When his eyes locked with hers again, she stared right back, giving him a smile that was almost a smirk. His wide mouth flashed a grin as he bent to lift something onto the bar in front of her.

 

 

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“How’s the exploring going?” he asked. He placed an exotic-looking drink before her–she guessed that’s what it was anyway–poured right into a melon. Sipping the cool, lightly alcoholic drink, she  filled him in about her work in Shane’s orchard. “He even showed me what some of the seeds look like, so I can find and plant them. I think I want to have a garden of my own when I reach Appaloosa Plains.”

When Layla announced she was going to find a good place to swim and sunbathe on the beach, she was surprised when Joel said he’d go with her. “Don’t you have to tend the bar?”

“I work when I want to, and right now I don’t want to work. I can tend the bar later.” That sounded like the best kind of job to have, she thought, and oddly she wasn’t averse to the company. In fact she found she was glad he wanted to come with her, even though her walks and forays were usually her preferred time to be alone.

 

 

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They walked down to the beach and up along the shore until Layla found a spot she liked. Joel gave  a low, appreciative whistle when she lifted her top over her head, revealing her bikini top. Reclining on the beach, talk was of their travels. Joel had been around the world almost, and Layla had been to a couple of the same ports. She sensed there was some mystery about why he was on Ouroboros. Running from something? Tall, dark, and mysterious. And shirtless. What a package!

“It seems like everyone else here has family somehow, where’s yours?”

“My mother died when I was a kid. After that, I just drifted from port to port, to see what I could see and learn what I could learn. Isn’t that what you’re doing?”

“Something like that. You have no one here?” He must at least have a girlfriend.

“No Layla, I’m here alone.”

When they ran across a small tidal pool, Layla couldn’t resist the cool water. She ducked under the water for a moment, then stood and beckoned at Joel. “Are you coming in or not?” He eyed the rivulets of water running down her body briefly, then stepped into the pool. Lazily, he swam toward her, leaning against the bank to watch as she splashed around for a few moments. When she joined him against the bank, she was feeling languid from the sun and water. Sunlight sifted through the palm trees, shadows and light dancing across the water. “It’s beautiful here.”

“Yes, it is,” he agreed. She realized he was looking at her when he said it. Turning her head, Layla saw his face was very close and studied him, saying nothing. He had broad, high cheekbones, with long lashes framing his eyes. Her gaze dropped to his wide, full lips, which smiled under her scrutiny. Raising her eyes to his, she returned his gaze for some long, utterly magnetic moments, and still he watched her, unmoving, as she drifted closer.

 

 

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Reaching for his wrists under the water, she pulled herself up to him fluidly, so that they were floating together in the tidal pool. His eyelids lowered fractionally. Hesitating before his face, she stared at his mouth, only inches from hers, and a little thrill ran through her belly. I’m going to kiss him. And he wants me to.

 

 

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Finally sliding his hands down to encircle her waist, he pulled her those last few inches and inclined his lips to hers. Layla gripped his shoulders in the water, returning the kiss, tasting the salt of sea and sun on his lips. He tasted rich and heady. Pulling back finally, she floated backwards through the pool with a delighted smile.

“So what was that for?” he asked. He was smiling too.

She shrugged. “Because I wanted to.”

“Ok.” He grinned and climbed out of the pool. They headed back toward the village, where he left her to return to the bar. Layla was exhilarated.  She thought she might like to kiss him again, in fact–when she wanted to.

 

 

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As it turned out, Layla did want to kiss him again, sooner rather than later.

She hiked around the shoreline to find a pristine beach well away from the village where she could just sit, and think. Usually she liked being alone. Except now she wanted to kiss Joel again.

Kissing Anthony hadn’t been exciting, nor had it been her choice to be kissed in the first place. She realized now Anthony had used the circumstances as an excuse to sneak that kiss in, and she’d just about decked him for it. Joel, on the other hand… what had made that kiss so different? It made her shiver a little just remembering it. Why hadn’t she felt like that when Anthony kissed her?

It was the meeting of lips between two people. This time just happened to be in a tidal pool on a gorgeous island with a seriously hot foreigner. And it made me feel excited. Is that why the other kids at home were all about making out? But then why didn’t that happen between Anthony and I?

But after their kiss in the tidal pool, Joel hadn’t made any move to kiss her again. Oh, PlumbBob! What if he’s feeling right now like how I felt about Anthony? What if I pushed myself on him?

But wouldn’t she have noticed him pulling away? He himself had closed those last few inches to meet her lips. Perhaps he was okay with it. Perhaps, he might even be okay with her trying it again. Well, there was only one way to find out. To find him, and try that once more. I’ll never know until I try. And she found herself rather excited to try it again.

 

 

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Shaking herself from those thoughts, Layla decided to visit the Meadowstones again, but when she arrived, Shane and Carrick were leaving to go fishing. Fishing was something her dad had taught Cyrus, and she’d always wanted to learn too, but after Cyrus left, Buck never went fishing again. So when Shane invited her to come along, she jumped at the chance. Carrick promised to show her how to cast her line.

Carrick still seemed reserved around her, but Layla saw that he opened up more around his dad, who he clearly idolized. He was jubilant over every little fish he caught, and talked incessantly at Shane about his day at school and about his friend Jake Riverhaven. Carrick  showed her how to hook the bait and reel in a fish, encouraging her in a manner that reminded her a lot of Shane. Layla was thrilled when she reeled in her first tiny fish, although she wasn’t all sure how to go about getting it off the line or what to do with it after that. Shane smiled on as Carrick showed her what to do.

 

 

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When the three of them returned to camp, Lilith showed her how to cook the fish by spitting it on a slender stick and turning it over the fire. It tasted fresh and amazing. Imagine that, me catching and cooking my own dinner! And I didn’t even burn it–or myself!

 

 

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Layla hadn’t decided how to approach Joel again yet when she wandered up to the bar the next day. She sat sampling another new drink of his creation, making small talk while watching him move around behind the bar. Whenever he said her name, she liked how his tongue flicked against this teeth when he spoke the L sounds, and kept getting distracted thinking of that kiss.

“Have you been to the waterfalls yet?” he was asking her. He came around the bar and leaned against a stool in front of her.

She shook her head slightly to clear it, and he apparently took that to mean that no she hadn’t.

“There’s also a faerie ring you may be interested in seeing,” he continued.

“Uh huh.” Wait, what? “A faerie ring? What’s that?” It sounded like something she’d seen near her parents’ home in Riverview. “Will you show me?” she asked hopefully.

“Which one?”

“Both.”

 

 

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The ring of stones sat astride a low cliff overlooking the ocean. “There is magick here, it is a place of power,” Joel told her. He recounted the legends of the stones and pointed out markings on some of them, explaining the islanders believed ancient fairies and witches had brought the stones together through magick.

She walked over to some pools of sparkling crystal water and stood looking into them. There were markings on these stones as well. Tracing her finger across them made her hand feel tingly. Kind of like when she’d placed her hands on Joel’s shoulder yesterday while she kissed him.

“The islanders call this the wishing well.” She jumped at his voice right behind her. “It’s fed by a hot spring. No one is sure why the water is warm, but it steams at night.” Wishing well…steam…oh PlumbBob just tell him already.

 

 

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But when she turned around to say it, it was Joel who leaned down and kissed her. Briefly. Too briefly. But there was that feeling in her stomach again. Without thinking, she reached and pulled his face back to hers for more. Her mind registered that he tasted of nectar and limes. Oh this is hot! The sun beat down on her closed eyelids. She could hear the soft wet sounds of their mouths,  the ripple of the pools, and the waves on the beach in the distance.

 

 

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When her eyes finally opened again, she realized he was holding her up, supporting her with his arms around her back and shoulders–she’d gone completely limp! Wow. No wonder the kids in school were always hooking up. Anthony never had that effect on me, but Joel’s presence makes my body feel electric. If a kiss can do this to me, I wonder what sex would do?

 

 

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A little weak-kneed, Layla walked a few steps and sat down on a bench, where Joel joined her. “I’ve never kissed a boy like that,” she blurted. “Anthony kissed me once, but it was nothing like that. And I didn’t even want him to kiss me. I was 5 seconds away from decking him for it. So it didn’t really count. But I like kissing you. After yesterday, I wanted to kiss you again, and now I want to do it again.”

 

 

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Joel chuckled. “You can kiss me any time you want, as long as you don’t deck me.” From her words, he realized she’d never really been kissed before. Scooting closer to Layla on the wooden bench, he weaved a hand around the back of her neck and leaned her backward. “And I promise you,” he murmured, kissing her again, “every kiss will count.”

 

 

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Another ship came to the harbor, and again Layla decided to stay just a few more days. Besides, now she knew ships really did come and go so often, she could leave anytime she wanted.

After asking Joel for some paper, she sat at a table near the bar with yet another new drink he mixed for her, writing letters to send out with the ship when it left. Phedra will love hearing about this island. And about Joel. She spared Phedra no details. A more chaste letter was sent to her parents, letting them know she was well. And also one to her uncle and aunt in Appaloosa Plains, telling them she’d be along in a week or so. “Uncle Trigger, I’ve learned so much about plants and gardening, I want to grow my own garden when I get there. Will there be a place for that at the house you find for me?”

 

 

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One evening at the Meadowstone camp, Layla finally met the infamous Riverhaven family. She’d gathered from Shane and Lilith that Daniel was quite a character–and had a rather large family. Under-freakin’-statement of the year. So. Many. Kids.  The two boys ran off to play tag with Carrick, but the gaggle of little girls were all fascinated by her, her clothes,  all talking to her at once, asking  questions, trying to get her attention, tugging at her hands or her skirt. Completely taken aback, Layla had no idea how to respond, until at last their mother mercifully shooed them away.  Ayala seemed to be in kid heaven, and Lilith and Shane appeared completely unperturbed by the chaos that had just broken loose over their camp.

“Wow, you have… a lot of kids!” she remarked. How on Sim Planet can they even remember all their names?

“It’s this wand,” the cheery Daniel piped in. He held it up. “She can’t resist it.”

Daniela snatched the wand from his hands and bopped him over the head with it, causing everyone to laugh.

 

 

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And although she’d heard long tales of Daniel and his wand, she wasn’t quite prepared to meet the legend himself.

 

 

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“Joel, you’re right on time, my man, I was just wishing we had a bartender here. I need a drink!” Daniel called, looking past her and Daniela. Layla felt a little thrill run down her spine when she turned to see Joel strolling down the path into camp. His slow smile liquified her knees. “And call me crazy,” Daniel said loudly, “but I’m sensing some magick that ain’t comin’ from my wand!” Layla felt her face redden and hoped the twilight hid her embarrassment, and the sudden giddiness when she felt Joel’s hand at her elbow.

 

 

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As the gathering grouped around the fire, chatting, or in the case of Daniel, making inappropriate jokes, Layla’s eyes kept finding Joel’s. The firelight shone in his eyes and skimmed over the muscles in his arms. Looking at him, it hit her she wasn’t ready for her time on the island to be over. I really could get used to this simple way of life. I love being outside, and there’s so much to discover here…her eyes met his again. So much. I’m really, really attracted to Joel. Really. He’s nothing like the boys at home. I want to kiss him again. Right now. She recalled how her parents had been; they were constantly in each other’s arms, embarrassing her and Galen with all that frisky business. Sometimes their personalities had clashed, but they’d made it work. She could do that here, with Joel, couldn’t she?

 

 

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Looking around the fire, everyone else seemed absorbed in their stories and conversations. Making sure to catch Joel’s eye again, Layla stood, and paced into the foliage behind the house. Hearing him behind her, she took the path down to the orchard.

 

 

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The kiss this time wasn’t a tentative meeting nor a slow exploration, it was a collision. She’d been wanting this since the moment he strolled into the camp all dark and tall and shirtless. That electric feeling in the pit of her stomach when he kissed her was addictive.

“I take it you’re glad to see me.” He chuckled against her mouth when she finally had to catch her breath. Layla could feel his smile against her cheek, and tossed her head coyly. Her hands still rested against his chest. It was surprising how comfortable she felt being this physically close to someone else’s body. She already wanted to kiss him again.

Gathering herself a little, Layla turned away to look into the night. “Uh, yes. I was happy to see you.” She threw a grin at him over her shoulder. Raising her arm, she gestured at the night around them. “You know, this island is making me come alive, it’s the most wonderful place I can think of being. The only thing missing is my sister Phedra; I bet I could talk her into coming here, she’s always wanted to explore islands.”

“Why would you do that?”

 

 

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Layla took a deep breath. “‘Because maybe I think I might like to stay.” She looked back at his face, looking for a sign, a spark of interest, a hope that she might stay. He was watching her intently, but his face remained impassive. “I mean, the people here are friendly. And I think I could get used to this simple way of life. Pretty easily in fact.”

“Isn’t your family expecting you?”

She remembered the letters she’d sent off to let them know she was still on her way. They would be expecting her. “Not in any set time frame. But, I guess my uncle has gone through a lot of trouble for a niece he’s never met.” A little sadly, Layla looked at the ground and bit her lip. That future that she’d dreamed of was waiting for her in Appaloosa Plains, and here she was doubting following that dream. Frowning, she drifted in her thoughts for a few moments. “I’ve always kind of looked forward to taking that path that everyone else just walked by,” she sighed. “On my own, my own way. Without anyone to tell me what to do or how to do it.” Her words broke off again, considering. Much as she loved the simplicity of this island, much as she wanted Joel, living permanently without the comforts of life that she was used to would take a lot of adjustment. No electricity? And no running water? No heat in the winter? She pictured herself with a pack of kids, with Joel at her side. She wouldn’t be able to wander and explore, to be alone, and that’s not ultimately who she was.

 

 

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Joel walked to her and tipped her chin up. “Experiencing life is what’s making you come alive, and the fire that was already in you. It isn’t this place. You should follow your dreams Layla, living every moment to its fullest on the way. To not be true to yourself is to live in doubt, and doubts can turn into regret. I do like having you here, but I’ve lived life not being true to myself before, and I wouldn’t want you to do that. I wouldn’t want me or this island to be something you regret.”

He was right, she realized. This island was a beautiful respite, but it was only a stop along the way to the rest of her life. As Joel said, she wanted to live life to its fullest, that’s what she’d wanted all along, not to settle down at the first opportunity that presented itself. She wanted to squeeze life for every last drop, not miss a single moment. There shouldn’t be time for regrets.

No regrets. Suddenly she was at him again, fiercely now. She would follow her dreams when the time came, but this moment was hers to live how she wanted, and right now it was Joel she wanted.

Thrilling at her boldness, her hands wandered freely across the smooth skin of his back, and she pushed herself flush against his bare chest. Joel hesitated for a moment, leaning back slightly as if to break the kiss, but Layla wanted more and only pressed herself closer. His breath whooshed out a little raggedly and she sensed a change in the tempo of the moment. He wants me. It was an empowering insight. His hands dropped to her lower back, then lower, pulling her snug against his hips. The quivery tension in her belly sent shocks down to her toes and her arms broke out in goosebumps.

Reaching up to hook her hands behind his neck, she drank of his kiss there in the moonlight. Pulling back slightly she could see his eyes intensely burning into her, and knew hers must be speaking volumes as well.

“Take me back to your camp, Joel,” she said softly.

 

 

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She awoke the next morning with a start. This is different, she thought, realizing they’d fallen asleep curled up before Joel’s camp fire. Layla lay still within his arms, listening to Joel’s even breathing, and snuggled back against him.  Her thoughts lingered over the night before and a smile crept to her lips. She’d thought she had known what to expect after listening to all the girls gossiping at school about who was a hot lay and who was a dud. It had all sounded pretty messy and awkward to her, and in the end it had been anything but. I didn’t even know my body could do those things. She no longer felt like the girl she’d been the day before. Joel had made her feel like a woman. Like a woman who could conquer the world.

 

 

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The next days passed almost in a feverish blur as Layla took to heart the need to make the most of every moment. She was coming alive in ways she’d never even dreamed of, and while she knew she would take this new part of herself forward on her path into the world, she was desperate to stave off the moment she knew was coming.

Living in perpetual sunshine is a blissful dream, but it isn’t reality. Returning to the world she was from was going to be a very lonely shock for her. To make herself forget that, Layla stopped thinking as she was usually wont to do, instead throwing herself in to feeling and emoting.

But the day did come that another ship dropped anchor off of Ouroboros’s shore, and she knew the time had come. It was time to leave.

 

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“I’m leaving in the morning,” Layla told him.

“I know,” he answered softly.

He brushed his hand across her cheek at the sad look he saw on her face. “Hey. You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you. Be as glad as I am for the time we had together. And we still have tonight.”

At that she smiled. “That’s why I brought you here to the ring of stones,” she said, climbing into his lap and pushing him back onto the ground. “You said this is a place of magic. I want this to be a night I always remember. A night I can take with me forever.”

 

 

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The morning light shone pink on the sails of the ship behind her as she turned to kiss Joel again.

“I could still stay…” she whispered. Right at this moment, she wanted nothing more than to stay, even just a little while longer. For him to beg her to stay with him would’ve sent her into ectasies. But she couldn’t. Her break from life had been nice, but she couldn’t be on vacation forever, not even if she did stay.  “Damn it,” she cursed, scrubbing away a tear that had leaked from her eye, shaking her head.

 

 

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“Do you think you’ll ever visit Appaloosa Plains?” As confident as she was that her path must continue, that she had to move forward, this moment was still awful hard.

“No Layla, probably not. Go. Live your life and chase your dreams. I will always be there in your memory.” With that he kissed her one last time, tenderly, gently, and she turned away with a wistful smile to walk up the gangplank and out of his life.

 

 

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Joel sat above the beach for a long time after the ship left. He could have asked her to stay, and he knew she would have. And maybe he would have liked to. But Layla Sixkiller had her own life to live. And, for that matter, so did Joel.

Finally dusting himself off, he stood and headed back up to the bar.

 

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This chapter concludes the crossover of the Ouroboros and Secrets of the Sixillers legacies. Big thanks again to Sunny for the collaboration. We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have! You can follow Layla as she continues her life on ShakespearesSunshyne’s blog here.  Thank you for reading, and we look forward to your comments!