Katerina crawled the last few feet up the beach, collapsing next to Pierre, who laid gasping and coughing on the sand. Above the sounds of the gentle surf she could hear the high-pitched shouts of the Sultan's eunuchs as they directed the long boats searching the waters around the pleasure barge, anchored almost a mile off shore. They would not believe that a mere woman could swim the distance, even in the warm Mediterranean waters, and would not search the beach until sunrise, by which time Katerina knew she and Pierre would be long gone on the horses he sure-as-Hell better have stashed behind the dunes.
Pierre rolled towards her, propping himself up on one elbow so he could look at her. She felt him undressing her with his eyes, though she had to admit it probably wasn't all that hard to do. She was clad only in a silk chemise, all that remained of the School-Marm costume the Sultan insisted she wear when he felt the need for "detention". It was the least modesty would allow and the most she could swim in. Now it clung to her body, accentuating rather than hiding her full hips, flat belly, and heaving bosoms.
"We must get you out of those wet clothes," he said with a smile. "You'll catch your death of cold."
"It's eighty-five degrees out! I won't catch cold here if I stayed in wet clothes until January! Besides, your trousers are as wet as my shift." He had worn nothing but stolen guard's pantaloons and his sword belt for the swim.
His smile became a leer. "Then perhaps I should take them off, too." Rocket-flares rising from the barge signaled the search shifting into a higher gear. "Though, perhaps, there is not time for that. But there is certainly time for this."
Pierre rolled half on top of her, his arms sliding around her as his lips sought hers. Katerina returned the embrace, pulling him tightly against her body. She felt her gratitude for his help in escaping and her desire for him mix like the sand churned in the surf, rising like the tide that caused the waves to rush around them, swelling like…
"You stole that last bit from Airplane: the Movie," Ted whispered in Laura's ear. He kissed his way down her neck, then across the back of her shoulder to the spot where a mis-positioned bathing suit strap had let the Caribbean sun burn her pale skin.
"No, I stole it from From Here to Eternity, just like the writers for Airplane! did." Laura squirmed on the air mattress. The way she lay face down with her upper body propped up so she could type on her laptop would have driven an ergonomics consultant to tears. "Let me be, for just a while longer. I want to get another thousand words down by this evening."
Ted continued kissing in a way that wasn't nearly "letting be". He reached the knot that tied her top together. "If you weren't such a coward, we could have researched that beach scene all the way. Got some real authenticity." He took hold of one string in his teeth and began teasing it loose.
Laura reached behind her, swatting at him with one hand while trying to type with the other. "Leave that alone! And I am not a coward. With the launches running back and forth to the cruise ship, and the fireworks show lighting things up, I thought someone might see us." She switched hands and pushed him away. "I need to get this down. I need almost ten thousand words in the next three days in order to write the cruise off as a business expense." She continued typing.
Ted started kissing her calves, working his way up her leg. At the same time, he squeezed first one foot, then the other, in a way he knew would bring moans from her lips. "No one can see us now," he murmured from around her knees. "It's too bright to see through the screen into the cabana. Besides, almost everyone else is down by the water or at the dock, waiting to go back to the Tropical Vacation." He continued past her knees a few inches, then said, "And I have to be able to write off the cruise, too, and you're the one who decided your research assistant should get paid piece-work." He continued his upward progress.
Laura looked at her screen. Of the last ten words, the only one that wasn't misspelled was "a", and it was in the wrong place. She tried one last time. "I NEED to work!"
Ted was kissing the stretched material of her swim suit bottom, and demonstrating that cloth that would pass cool sea water would also pass warm breath. Between kisses he murmured, "We still need to research the Bedouin encampment chapter. This cabana is rather tent-like." He ran his tongue up the small of her back. "Abou, the shy yet eager young camel herder, who knows his way around the desert and around a woman's body." His teeth were back at the string, again.
Research is writing, too, were Laura's last verbal thoughts for a while.
Some time later, as Ted dozed among the scattered swim suit pieces, Laura typed a few notes, then shut down her computer. In truth, she could always have written the trip off as a business expense, but she found she did well with a bit of pressure. And the piece work deal for research was turning out better than she would have hoped for. Then she snuggled up to Ted, and fell asleep to the sound of the waves, almost exactly the way Katerina would in chapter 23.