The going was tough, and Olivia’s leg muscles were aching so much her legs shook with the effort of continuing. Far too scared to take the time to look around and to really appreciate the wild, primitive beauty that surrounded her, she kept her gaze steadfastly on where she was placing her feet. Soon, they reached a part of the trek where there was already a fixed ladder and line. Olivia gulped in shocked dismay. This was no miraculous climbing aid but just an ordinary aluminum ladder and sturdy nylon rope that had been bolted into the ice by the Sherpa’s. Her breathing had risen a notch, whether through nerves or the altitude, she wasn’t sure. Trying to steady her nerves by raking slow, deep breaths, she slowly moved to take her place in line.
This was it!
The moment in time where everything seemed to stand still, where her next actions would leave a significant mark on her life. She took another deep breath. This was where the real danger began.
The clang of the ladder had her muscles tightening. The ladder was the only pathway across a deep, bottomless crevasse. Her skin, already chilled, was breaking out into further goosebumps. The strange thing was, she felt cold, yet sweat was trickling inexplicably down her back, to pool at the bottom of her spine. How ominous that clanging seemed, eerily filling the hushed silence of nature with the harsh, man-made, discordant sound. Ethan was the first on the ladder, and as he stepped onto the initial rung, the team held their collective breath. Olivia momentarily closed her eyes, far too scared to watch, but too terrified not to. Slowly but surely, Ethan made his way across the now seemingly insubstantial metal ladder. Minutes—heart-wrenching minutes—later, a united sigh of relief went up as Ethan arrived safely on the other side of the crevasse. The anxious silence that had held everyone in its grip was finally released and smiles and laughter relieved the tension. Time passed slowly as one by one the team began to follow in Ethan’s footsteps across the ladder. By the time it was her turn, Olivia’s nerves were a complete jangle. Her skin felt icy and tight, and her heart was beating loudly in her ears. Wishing this was all over, and that she had never been so stupid as to be persuaded to take Eleanor’s place, it was all Olivia could do not to sink to her knees and cry like a baby.
Aware the others were waiting, Olivia gathered her nerves around her like a thick comforter and, with shaking hands, attached the carabiner, a large clip, to the rope and then to the webbing on her harness, following exactly what everyone else had done.
“You can do it, you can do it,” she quietly chanted. “Just don’t think about what could happen, but only of getting to the other side.”
Her hands in their thick down gloves tightened on the ropes, pulled taut by the team members as an aid to her crossing. Bravely looking around, she was more acutely aware of just how alone she was, even whilst in the company of her teammates. The ice loomed, beautiful, majestic, and deadly, towering around the icefall with its ever-moving ice. On occasion, the ice blocks shifted, sending showers of snow dusting anyone in its path. This aberration was quaintly called “dusting.” Dustings were terrifying—there was no escape out of the block’s destructive path and nowhere to run. Everywhere was white, even the air seemed a blue-white due to the glacial temperatures.
Returning to staring down at her feet, she saw her right foot move seemingly of its own accord and settle onto the rung of the horizontal ladder. Leaning slightly forward, she moved her left foot to join her right, the spikes on her boot clanging noisily against the metal. Wobbling above a fracture in the ice on the top of the world with the swaying of the ropes caught tightly in her hands, she tensed in indisputable fear. Everything was so unstable, the ladder, the security ropes, and even the bloody ice. Why couldn’t just one thing feel safe and constant? Just one thing!
“Come on, Eleanor!”
She looked up at the shout of encouragement, realizing she was just standing there neither coming nor going. She had to move. Focusing on her feet and blocking out everything in her peripheral vision, Olivia moved her right foot to the next rung. Clang went the ladder, swish went the rope, and bang, bang, bang, went her heart. Gritting her teeth, she stayed focused, taking every step slowly, making sure each move was secure before progressing on to the next. The wind whistled around her head, stirring up the snow and making it swirl like a miniature tornado. Looking back down at her boots, she made a herculean effort to move and lifted her foot. Counting the rungs to keep focused, she continued to block out everything else—that was until she came to the middle, where two ladders had been joined together in order to extend right across the fissure.
She stopped as the ladders sagged under her weight. Fear, which she had so far suppressed, rose like the sun from behind the mountain. Closing her eyes for a bare second, she tried to get a grip. But the joining of the ladders somehow scared her more than anything else. The thought of taking that step that would bend the ladder even further was anathema to her. A mental block? An unreasonable fear of something so insignificant? She snorted—hardly! Olivia gritted her teeth and stared across the fissure, where her gaze met that of Ethan’s. He gave a reassuring smile and indicted she should come to him. She knew had no choice but to go forward. Refocusing on her boots, she took a deep breath and moved her foot. She could see her boot, it seemed to be moving of its own accord, but move it did, and as she stepped over the join, her heart lurched into her throat. But her gaze stayed focused on her feet. She didn’t want to see the movement of the ice, didn’t want to notice the gaping chasm below the insubstantial bridge, and didn’t want to think about slipping from the icy ladder to fall down, down, to a lonely and freezing death. And then…
“Eleanor!” Ethan groaned as he turned to take her in his arms.
Olivia held her breath wishing with all her heart she could tell him who she really was. But what if they did survive this night, her revelation would ruin any closeness any intimacy they shared. But as his head lowered and his lips claimed hers all thoughts of honesty dissipated like an English fog on an April morning. The first touch of his firm mouth on her trembling one had Olivia’s stomach muscles clenching. Sensation after sensation shot through her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Breathe,” Ethan murmured against her mouth, and Olivia, about to die of asphyxia, let her breath out in a great gush just before Ethan’s lips claimed hers again.
His kisses were like a drug, and she couldn’t get enough of them—of him. Twisting in his arms until she was facing him, she sat astride his thighs and pressed closer. Her clothes were in the way and she pulled ineffectively at her coat.
Steady.” Ethan gently caught her fumbling hands in his and placed them on his chest. Raising his hands, he dragged off his gloves with his teeth and pushed back the hood of her coat and caught at the tendrils of hair that trailed out from under her woolen cap. Letting them sift silkily through his fingers, he raised them to his face and inhaled the scent of her. She smelt of lemon and roses. Cupping her face, he lowered his head and gently kissed her soft lips, loving the way she poked out her tongue to taste him. He could feel her eagerness tinged with trepidation. It was her first time, and she was understandably nervous.
“Just breathe,” he whispered again.
Slowly helping her out of her harness he threw it to one side, then turned his attention to her jacket. Undoing the zipper, he pushed under her layers of clothing to rearrange her serviceable sports bra and cup her warm, soft roundness.
Olivia drew a shaky breath. She had never felt anything as erotic as having Ethan’s hands under her clothing. The cold soon seemed a distant memory as his hands worked their magic on her sensitized flesh. Molding and caressing her breasts, his fingers flicked at her nipples before his head lowered and his mouth took the place of his fingers. Olivia closed her eyes as feelings clouded her perceptions. Everything around her seemed hazy as she gave herself up to the sensations that shook her limbs and knotted her stomach. Wanting to strip off her clothes and press naked flesh against naked flesh, she was stopped from doing so by Ethan’s firm hands and urgently whispered words. To remove her clothes would be risking hypothermia. If they were to make love, they would have to do it fully clothed. Disappointed by his words, Olivia nevertheless recognized his wisdom and so instinctively followed where Ethan led.
Lying back on the ledge, the silver blanket a barrier to the cold, Olivia let Ethan do as he wanted. Pushing aside her layers of clothing, he caressed her neck, his mouth finding all those funny little places that had her writhing in delight. He kissed and licked her shoulder, her décolleté and the curves of her breast. Immobilized by desire, Olivia lay helpless and debilitated, wanting nothing more than to feel Ethan inside her, possessing her and taking her to a place where nothing else mattered but her love for this man. His hands were inside her pants, his fingers trailing under her serviceable long-johns until he found the tightly closed petals that protected her pussy. Slowly his fingers caressed her sensitive flesh, and she caught her breath.
Staring intently into her eyes, Ethan smiled gently. “Just breathe, Eleanor, just breathe.”
Biting her lip, Olivia nodded and slowly exhaled only to catch her breath again as Ethan inserted a finger between the folds of her pussy. Moisture gushed from her onto his fingers, and she could feel herself stiffening.
“Just relax, Eleanor, this is perfectly normal.”
Relaxing with difficultly, Olivia moved restlessly as his fingers sought out her clitoris. Oh God, this was like nothing she had ever imagined!
Rubbing and flicking at her swelling nub, Ethan moved slowly down her body, popping buttons and adjusting her clothing as he went. His mouth was hot and urgent, kissing her ribs, her torso, her stomach, and flicking his tongue into her naval. She was helpless in the face of his seduction and could do nothing but run her fingers through his hair and concentrate on breathing.
Pulling down her pants. Ethan gazed at the soft flesh of the woman he loved. She was truly beautiful. Her skin was almost translucent in the light from the ice. The soft, fair cluster of curls protecting the gently curving mound of her pussy was a temptation beyond his control. Sliding his large hands under her rounded buttocks, he lifted her to his mouth and, inhaling the musky scent of her, he laved her opening folds with his tongue. Griping her buttocks firmly as she squirmed in response to his attentions, Ethan slowly licked her clit before sucking it into his mouth. Olivia gave a small scream, and he pressed his face firmly into her pussy, licking, sucking, and nibbling until he brought her to orgasm.
Olivia couldn’t believe what she was experiencing. She had no thoughts of anything but what was happening to her. The feel of Ethan’s face between her legs, of her thighs pressed against his face as she crossed her legs behind his neck. The soft rasp of his tongue against the most intimate part of her, and the feel of his teeth and lips as he alternately licked and suckled her clit. Sensations throbbed and pulsed throughout her body. A low ache in her pelvis that was as pleasurable as it was painful, along with the silky wetness between her legs, which moistened her thighs and eased the careful but limited intrusion of Ethan’s fingers, had her gasping his name. And then there was the slow but sure quivering of her clitoris as it swelled and pulsed in response to Ethan’s mouth. And finally…