Author's note: This starts out as a whimsical little satire, that eventually grows serious. It is inspired by recent chat room and message board conversations with the lovely ladies at OTKWS.
Kendall knocked on Zach's condo door. There was no answer. She saw light shining through the blinds, so she knew he was home. She knocked harder. "Zach?" She also saw that his newspaper wasn't in front of the door, so despite the early hour, he had to be awake. She tried the doorknob. It opened. She walked in and looked around. "Zach?" That was when she heard it. The shower. Rolling her eyes, she walked towards the direction of the bedroom. "Zach?" She heard a muffled and bewildered, "Kendall?" The shower stopped. By the time Kendall appeared in the doorway to the bathroom, Zach had wrapped a towel around himself. The expression on his face was half annoyance, half amusement. "Do you mind telling me why you're barging into my bathroom?"
Trying to appear nonchalant, Kendall tossed her hair. "Your assistant couldn't get ahold of you, so she called me. An urgent matter has come up at the casino, and they want us both in there. You wouldn't answer my knock, so I came in." She shrugged, as if it was no big deal. She hoped that her acting was good, because the last thing she wanted was for Zach to know that she was having a very hard time taking her eyes off his body. Or that she had to force her eyes not to follow the rivulets of water that were trailing down his torso. When she realized that she was leaning against the doorjamb for support, she straightened up and waved a hand. "I'll be in the living room while you get dressed."
She went into the living room, ignoring the chuckle she heard as she walked away. She sat down on the sofa and rubbed her face. The raw sexuality that exuded from Zach was endurable as long as he wore his fancy suits and professional demeanor. It was hard enough whenever he would touch her, or step right into her personal space – which he was doing more frequently. Lately the thin veneer of civility that covered his animal magnetism was beginning to crack. And Kendall was beginning to respond. The last thing she had needed was to see him all but stark naked and dripping wet. Kendall spent the next several minutes composing herself, so that when Zach came in, properly clothed, she was able to greet him with her usual cool smile.
After they left the condo and were walking by the pool area, Kendall heard a meow. She stopped and peered over the fence. "There's a cat in there! And he's walking too close to the edge. I better get him before he falls in." She went to the gate. "Kendall, I'm sure the cat will be fine. They usually know what they're doing." She shook her head. "I'm not taking the chance." He sighed and followed her. She inched her way around the pool, moving slowly as to not startle the cat. He looked at the two of them warily. Kendall was almost to him, and was reaching out her hands to grab him, when he suddenly darted away. Startled, Kendall lost her balance and fell into the pool. Zach burst out laughing.
Fuming and spluttering, Kendall managed to get herself upright and wade over to the steps of the pool. Mustering as much dignity as she could, she pushed her hair out of her eyes and said, "At least the cat is safe now." She marched past Zach and walked to her condo. As she passed him, his laughter died as he got a close up view to the fact that her wispy dress was now clinging like a second skin to her body. Her bra was apparently not padded, because he could see her nipples very clearly outlined. He followed behind her and sat on her couch to wait for her to change. He tried not to imagine her peeling off her sopping wet dress to reveal soft skin glistening from the pool water. Fortunately she had been too humiliated to notice him checking her out. The last thing he needed was for her to know just how attracted to her he was. She was certainly capable of trying to use it to her advantage.
She came back out wearing another dress, and this time they made it to his car without incident. Usually in September, the mornings were cool, but it seemed chillier than usual. Maybe it was because her hair was wet. On the drive to the casino, she stared out the window, while Zach called Dolores on his cell phone to find out what had happened that needed their attention. Kendall noticed for the first time that the sky was overcast. Sure enough, about a mile from the casino, it started to rain. By the time they pulled into the parking lot, it was pouring. Kendall sighed in disgust. She hadn't brought her umbrella. When Zach slid into his reserved spot and turned the car off, Kendall looked at him. "Did you bring an umbrella?" Staring straight ahead and clenching his jaw, Zach shook his head. Kendall looked at him in horror. "What? Mr. Always Prepared and In Control forgot to bring his umbrella? For crying out loud, I'm gonna be soaked. Again!" Groaning, she opened the door and made a mad dash for the entrance to the casino. It was a very long dash because the walkway to the entrance was very long and sweeping.
Inexplicably, when she was halfway to her destination, her frustration vanished. She stopped suddenly, and looked up at the sky. Though it was still raining heavily, the clouds were starting to break, and some sunshine was peaking through. She started to laugh. Zach stopped running, also, and gave her a strange look. He started to laugh, too, and they walked the rest of the way to the doors of the casino. As predicted, they were soaked by the time they made it inside. Kendall wrapped her arms around herself, shaking from the cold air conditioning. Zach went over to the front desk, where one of his employees was looking at him wide-eyed. "I need someone to go up to my suite and get me a change of clothes." He turned to Kendall. "Did you ever put any clothes in your suite, like I suggested?" Miserably she shook her head. Trying not to smile, he turned back to the employee. "Get something suitable for Mrs. Slater to wear from the women's boutique. We'll be in the sauna getting warm." He led her towards the pool and sauna room. "The sauna is going to be the quickest way for us to get warm and stay warm while we wait for our clothes." He tossed her a towel, took one for himself, and then went into the men's locker room, peeling his jacket off on the way. She looked away from the sight of his shirt clinging to every muscle on his back and went into the women's locker room.
She undressed, fumbling with the buttons with her shaking hands. It was downright frigid in the locker room. She made a mental note to tell the staff about it. She wrapped the towel around herself and took a deep breath. She went into the sauna and found Zach lounging on one of the benches. She looked down at him. "We're supposed to wear swim suits in here, you know." He grinned at her. "We're the owners, Kendall. I think its okay for us to break the rules." He had one of his legs propped up on the bench so that if she was looking from the right angle she would probably have been able to see plenty more than she really wanted to. She took a seat on the opposite side of where his leg was propped, and self-consciously hitched her towel up further. She didn't know why she was feeling so modest.
Zach heard the puffing noises as the sauna chugged to fill up the room with more steam. He sighed in contentment as the chill left his bones. He glanced over at Kendall. Big mistake. He became mesmerized by the beads of water that collected on her collarbone. His eyes traveled up her graceful neck and settled on her face. Her eyes were closed. She was like an elegant swan. Her bone structure was so delicate. When her eyes opened, he quickly looked away. "Did Dolores tell you what the emergency was all about?" He cleared his throat. "Nothing bad, just some signatures that didn't get put on some documents that were supposed to go out yesterday. An oversight, but one that needs to be dealt with immediately. It shouldn't take us long."
Kendall kept her eyes on his face, in a vain attempt not to closely examine his broad shoulders. But as she looked into his eyes, she felt like she should have perhaps kept her own closed. Despite the business-like nature of their conversation, the glint of light in his eyes seemed to convey something much more personal. She took a deep breath. "Zach…." There was a knock at the door. With one last considering look at her, Zach got up and opened the door. The employee he spoke to before was standing there. "Mr. Slater, your change of clothes are sitting on the bench in the men's room. We've taken away the wet clothes to be laundered. Mrs. Slater, I hope that your clothing selection will be acceptable. Unfortunately the boutique has only fall clothing in stock, so everything has long sleeves." Kendall smiled. "I'm sure it will be fine. It seems to be pretty cool today, anyway." They went their separate ways.
Kendall sighed, feeling like she had dodged a bullet back there. She picked up the dress. It was very pretty, but definitely made for wearing in the fall. Late fall, actually, she thought as she fingered the heavy fabric. She shrugged. So she'd be a little warm in it. She got dressed and met Zach outside. They went to the office and and took care of the needed signatures. Kendall put her pen down. "I have some business I have to take care of back in town. If you want to stay here, I can take the limousine service." Zach shook his head. "No, I need to go back to town, also. We can go together." They went back down to the entrance to the hotel, this time armed with umbrellas. They were unnecessary, since the rain had stopped and the sun was now shining. They threw each other amused looks and walked out to Zach's car. By the time they got there, Kendall was starting to feel a little uncomfortable in the long-sleeved dress. "Turn on the air-conditioning, will you?" They took off down the road.
When they were about half-way to Pine Valley, in the most forested part of the journey, smoke started coming out of the hood. Then Zach's power steering locked up. Muttering an expletive, he maneuvered the car to the side of the road. "This is a brand new car, what the hell?" He opened the hood. The hose for the coolant was torn. He shook his head. It was a good thing he stopped when he did, or the engine would have seized up. "I'm going to have to call someone to pick us up." He checked his cell phone. No signal. This couldn't be happening. He walked around a bit, but there wasn't even a glimmer. Seeing what he was doing, Kendall quickly took out her cell phone and checked it. She couldn't get a signal either. "Well, that's just great. We're stranded." He leaned against the car. "Someone will come along soon and we can hitch a ride." They both sat down on a nearby log and waited. Ten agonizing minutes passed with no vehicle in sight. Zach noticed that Kendall was plucking the fabric of her dress away from her skin. She was sweating, and the fabric kept sticking to it. He tried to distract her. "So what was the business you have to take care of?" She glanced over at him. "I'm meeting Greenlee. On, um, some Fusion contracts." He gave her a skeptical look, so she changed the subject. "What business do you have, Zach? Usually I can't pry you away from the casino." He narrowed his eyes. "I need to follow up some leads on Julia's case."
Kendall's expression darkened. "Are you meeting with some underworld people? What if they don't want you snooping around, Zach. They would kill you without blinking an eye. Maybe you shouldn't…" Zach stood up. "Kendall, we've discussed this." She shot to her feet. "Damnit, Zach, please listen to me." Zach stepped closer to her. In her personal space, again. "I'd love to hear about these Fusion contracts you're looking over with Greenlee. Maybe I can offer some advice." She tried to think of something plausible. "That's what I thought, it has nothing to do with Fusion. And you refuse to tell me what's really going on with Greenlee."
She glared at him, then looked up and down the road. "This is ridiculous, we've been here twenty minutes and no cars have come by." She turned on her heel and marched away from the road. "Where are you going?" She looked over her shoulder. "If I remember right, I think there are some subdivisions back here. We should come across a house sooner or later." Shaking his head, he said, "I think its only woods back there. We should stay by the main road." She kept on going. "Then you do that, Zach. I'm going to find a house." He watched her walk further away for a minute or so, then decided to follow her. Better he get lost with her than for her to end up alone and out of sorts.
As she trudged along, she could hear Zach behind her, slowly catching up. She didn't feel like slowing down so he could get to her quicker. Damn, it was hot out. The chill was completely gone from the air. The trees were sparse where she was now, so the sun was beating down. The heavy fabric of her dress, combined with the activity of trying to walk through the thick foliage, began to make her feel suffocated. Zach caught up with her as the trees started to thicken again. She felt relieved that there was some shade now, but the day seemed to grow warmer and warmer. They walked in silence, and after awhile Kendall heard a roaring noise. She began to feel dizzy, and wondered if the roaring was in her head. Her steps faltered. "Kendall? My god, you look deathly pale. What's the matter?" She started to see dark spots, and then the ground rushed up to meet her.
Zach managed to catch her before she hit the ground. He knew what had happened. As they were walking, her face had been flushed, and then all of a sudden she went white. Heat exhaustion. It was the damn dress. He picked her up in his arms. Just before she fainted, he had heard a noise that sounded like a river. From the roaring noise, it might even be a waterfall. Zach carried her in the direction of the noise. Sure enough, he came upon a stream, and there was a small waterfall. Under other circumstances, he would have been enchanted by the pastoral setting, but he was too concerned for Kendall. He laid her down in the soft grass next to the stream. He unbuttoned her dress and took it off. He dipped his hands in the stream, and patted water on her face. He kept repeating this, with various parts of her body. Kendall groaned a few times, but didn't wake up. He thought for a moment, then stripped down to his boxers. He picked her up, and walked into the stream. He hissed through his teeth as the cold water shocked his system. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea – if he was reacting strongly to the cold, Kendall might fare worse. But he had to wake her up.
He waded over to the waterfall, and stuck her feet under the cascading water. She jerked. He continued forward, so that the water hit her knees, her thights, her pelvis. By this time, the water was starting to cascade over him, too. Soon they were both under the water, and Kendall was thrashing in his arms. "What the hell is going on here?" He grinned widely. She rocketed out of his arms and ended up in the stream. She sat up, spluttering. She looked at him in disbelief. "You passed out from heat exhaustion. I needed to cool you off."
She assessed the situation. Wet again. How could all these things possibly be happening. At this rate, she would be a prune by lunchtime. She stood up. She realized at that moment that she was no longer wearing the dress. All she had on was the very delicate and very expensive bra and panties set from the boutique. Then she noticed that all Zach had on was his boxers. At this point, though, she was too tired to care about their attire, or lack thereof. She leaned her head back to let the waterfall push the hair out of her face and eyes. When she brought her head back up, she saw Zach staring at her. The expression on his face seemed to convey some sort of breaking point. As if he was losing control of a situation, and he wasn't happy about it. His chest was rising and falling as he took slow, measured breaths. Kendall stared at him, wide-eyed. She'd never seen him like this before. For as long as she had known him, she'd been trying to push his buttons. Nothing had ever seemed to work, and she often wondered if he was made of granite. Yet now he looked like any little thing could push him right over the edge.
Feeling light-headed, but no longer from heat exhaustion, Kendall slowly lifted her hand and rested it on his chest, just beneath his collar bone. She could feel his heartbeat. Opening her mouth to say something, anything, she wasn't prepared for him to snake his arms out and pull her to him. Just like that, her body was against his, and his mouth was against her still open mouth. Her arms wound around his neck so that their bodies were pressed even closer. Zach took a deep, shuddering breath, and deepened the kiss. Kendall's hands started exploring his shoulders, his chest, and his back. The water pouring over them made their skin slippery, and every movement they made caused their bodies to slide erotically against each other. Kendall started to shake, partly from her arousal, and partly from the coldness of the water. Sensing her discomfort, Zach scooped her up in his arms again, and waded out of the stream. For the second time, he lay her down on the soft grass of the bank.
She blinked at a sudden memory. "I remember this from before. I was lying here, and you were rubbing my skin." He caressed her cheek. "I was trying to cool you off, but it wasn't working." She smiled. "No it wasn't. I was getting hotter. I thought it was a dream." Zach rubbed his thumb against her jawline. "This isn't a dream, Kendall. This is very real. I need to be sure that you…that you want this as much as I do." Feeling like every nerve in her body was vibrating, she reached up and pulled him to her.
Zach saw the fire in her eyes as she pulled him down on top of her. He made a rumbling sound, deep in his throat, and kissed her. The lace of her bra rasped against his skin, so he worked to be rid of it. When he had tossed it to the side, she worked on her underwear, while he tackled his sopping wet boxers. Free of these impediments, they started leisurely exploring each others' bodies. With his mouth and his hands, Zach imprinted every inch of Kendall on his brain. Every sound she made went into the vault. Part of him was convinced that this would be the one and only time that he would get to touch her, make love to her. Their marriage was slowly becoming a train wreck. The secrets were piling up daily, and Zach knew that it would all eventually blow wide open. She would hate him even worse than she did before. But even if none of that happened, even if they would be able to walk the tightrope without falling, there was the likelihood of her disappearing out of his life the way Maureen had. Just the thought of it made Zach hold Kendall tighter, made his movements more feverish.
Kendall's head was spinning. Zach was doing incredible things to her. He wasn't just taking pleasure in her body, and it was more than just the desire to give pleasure, also. It seemed as if he was….cherishing her. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced. Now she knew what he meant by that seemingly flip comment last year about making her feel like a woman. She truly did feel like Woman who is desired and revered by Man. She rested her lips against his ear. "Zach, please. I want to feel you…." He groaned, goosebumps rising on his neck from her warm breath. With a swiftness that took her breath away, he was on top of her, entering her. For awhile they were both wild with their passion for one another. When she began to climax, Zach slowed slightly so that he could make another memory – the expression on her face. Would this be the only time he'd see it? She opened her eyes, and what he saw in their depths triggered something in his soul. His release came suddenly and forcefully. "Kendall," he said hoarsely, "Kendall."
Zach rolled to the side and gathered Kendall in his arms. They lay there peacefully, listening to the birds chattering and revelling in the warm dabbling of sunlight that shone on their bodies. Kendall started to feel a quaking sensation inside of her, that threatened to take over her body. She took deep breaths to calm herself, not wanting to alert Zach to her inner turmoil. It was happening again. She was falling in love. Only this time, the intensity of it was frightening. Would her strong emotions suffocate whatever Zach felt for her? The way they had suffocated Ryan to the point that he ran away from her. Twice. She knew that Zach was capable of intense longing. She had seen it on his face when he refused to discuss Maria with her. But maybe he had used up all his intensity on Maria and he had nothing left to give Kendall. Maybe all he was capable of was caring for Kendall. If that was the case, then she knew she would end up smothering the flame that was between them.
Kendall sat up, wanting to run away from Zach and her burgeoning emotions. Zach sat up also, and looked down at her troubled face. He saw the instinct for flight in her eyes. His heart felt horribly squeezed. He knew it. She would leave him, also. Maybe he should give her her freedom now. Offer her a divorce so they wouldn't keep hurting each other. She didn't deserve to be hurt anymore. He opened his mouth to speak, when he felt drops on his face. They both looked up and realized that it was starting to drizzle again. The rain was soft and warm, and it made them both smile. Zach pulled Kendall into a kiss, knowing once and for all that he didn't want to let her go. Divorce wasn't an option. Somehow, they would get through this.