Sun Sensitive Steele Part 5
Date: Monday, October 02, 2000
Lauryn Poynor <lpoynor@zebra.net>


SUN SENSITIVE STEELE - PART V

By Lauryn Poynor

Rated SPF 45 (Coppertone)
Some parts slightly NC-17

Permission to archive granted

Thanks again to Anne Rose for her encouragement and her most helpful beta reading.

His mind racing, Steele paced distractedly around the confines of the suite. He had stripped down to his briefs and was searching for the large bottle of sunscreen. After several frantic minutes he found it back inside of his suitcase, partially covered by some socks and underwear. He dug through the clothing and unearthed several pairs of boxer style swim trunks. He spread the choices out on the bed and surveyed them unhappily. His sartorial options seemed decidedly limited. At Paraiso del Sol, no doubt, the only sin against fashion was to be over-dressed.

He was struck with a deep pang of nostalgia for his new, silver-grey three piece suit. It was hanging securely on a solid wooden hanger in the capacious closet back in his apartment. It felt strange to him that such a feather light and sublime creation could in hindsight seem as substantial as a suit of armor. Well, he thought. On this battlefield one had to think like a native.

Steele stripped off his briefs and moved with a smoothly determined stride to the bathroom. He pulled a large and medium bath towel down from the rack and twisted each in turn experimentally around his waist. The medium was definitely out of bounds but the large was serviceable, though a bit short. Not ideal for chasing down a taxi or engaging in calisthenics, but he hoped those weren't on the day's agenda. He secured the towel as tightly as he could around his waist and fished out a pair of sandals from the closet.

He slapped his forehead in irritation as he realized that he'd forgotten to apply the sunscreen. Well, all of the most sensitive areas were covered, he reasoned. He didn't want to waste any more time away from Laura. After all, hadn't he agreed to be her backup, her defender? Something more was called for on this assignment, he thought grimly. He was going to be her shadow.

Steele quickly moved toward the door. He knew he was forgetting something but whatever it was he didn't have any place to carry it anyway. He stepped outside the suite and closed the door behind him. As soon as he heard the door latch, he realized what he had forgotten. Both room keys were still inside the suite, on top of the dresser. Out of pure reflex, he bent down to try to pick the door lock, then realized that he didn't have any lock picks.

"Lose something?" he heard a feminine voice behind him say. He turned around and looked up in surprise. He found himself just below eye level to a tanned and bountiful pair of breasts. They belonged to a twenty-something blonde wearing nothing but a sports headband and a friendly smile. She was joined by a lovely, slightly paler skinned red head equally bare except for some dangling earrings.

Steele scrambled desperately for an explanation. "Contact lens. Always losing them." He straightened suddenly and realized he was losing his towel as well. He made a valiant grab for it and missed. The blonde caught it on the way down. "Let me help you. You'd better spread this towel out. The contact lens could be caught in it." She got down on her hands and knees and smoothed out the towel over the carpet. The red head joined her and both began to run their hands over the towel and surrounding carpet.

Feeling incredibly foolish, not to mention exposed, Steele kneeled down and joined them in the hunt. It was distracting work in very close quarters. He forced himself to concentrate on the tiny sunburst pattern in the carpet during each incidental brush up with nearby flesh. After several minutes of searching, he was beginning to lose the battle of mind over matter. Affecting an air of casual unconcern, he picked up the towel and stood up, replacing it snugly around his waist.

"It's quite all right, really. Don't go to any more trouble. I just use them for reading."

Both women stood up and gave him apologetic smiles. "Well I guess it's a lost cause. I'm sorry we weren't much help", said the blonde. "I'm Britney and this is Heather."

"We're from across the hall," added the redhead. "We saw you earlier with Mrs. Sommers. We were playing volleyball this morning." Steele had a flash of deja vu.

"Yes, my wife and I arrived this morning. Richard Blaine. It's our first time at a resort like this. We're recent converts I guess you'd say."

"Yeah. I could tell," said Britney. Steele looked uneasy. "Your tan line," she explained.

"Ah, yes. A bit more sun should do the trick," Steele rattled on nervously.

"You know I could help you with that," Britney offered. Steele's blue eyes widened. "Your tan. I was Miss Nude Tanning Queen for 'Barely There' suntan lotion last year. Heather was second runner up."

"I'll, um, keep that in mind."

"Well, we better be going. We're in training for the volleyball tournament at New Eden Sun Club. It's another resort near San Diego."

"Hope to see more of you soon," said Heather with a flirtatious smile. They waved in farewell and continued chattering together down the hall. They rounded a corner and both grinned at each other conspiratorially. "Ooh, la la," said Britney, fanning her face. "Where's he been hiding? I'd give anything for an hour alone with him and a bottle of sunscreen

"Who needs an hour," said her companion. "Even fifteen minutes would be long enough."

"Yeah," Britney grinned. "It's long enough, all right." They hugged each other in a fit of girlish laughter.

Steele watched their bare bottoms disappear around the corner. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, grateful for a few moments of relative privacy. If anyone had told him 48 hours ago that he would end up naked on all fours with two nude tanning queens while searching for a nonexistent contact lens, he would have thought they were stark raving bonkers. As it was, he had a strange premonition that this sort of thing would seem quite normal after a few more days.

He walked down the path until he found the restaurant. It was marked by a sign with a smiling naked chef wearing a tiny apron under the words "Del Sol 'Bare' and Grill." Steele scanned the crowd of breakfasters for Laura, but she was nowhere in sight. He saw the recreation activities director Lars Johanssen sitting at a table near the juice bar and tapped him on the shoulder. Johanssen turned around and greeted him. "Mr. Blaine. Good morning. Enjoying your stay so far?"

"Oh, yes. I've just been, ah, mingling with some of the guests, getting to know everyone."

"Great. Glad to see you're making some new friends. You'll find that our guest do a lot of things together at Paraiso del Sol. We like to have a friendly atmosphere here, where people can be themselves and just enjoy what we have to offer. Actually, I have our current group activities schedule right here. He pulled a copy of the schedule out of a leather binder that was on the table. It should have been in your orientation packet. Did you get one of those when you checked in? I have one here." He handed the papers to Steele.

"We were a bit rushed, really. Problem with our reservation."

"Oh, I hope everything was taken care of."

"Yes, the staff has been most accommodating. There is one thing you can tell me, not having yet been apprised of the club rules and so forth. I'm hesitant to ask, it's, ah, rather personal.." Steele stopped, temporarily at a loss for words.

"I've been at this gig for a long time, Mr. Blaine. There's nothin' I haven't heard before, believe me."

Steele glanced apprehensively around the table at the other diners. He lowered his voice, hoping no one was listening in. "Mr. Johanssen, I'm rather new at this naturist thing, really." He paused and leaned closer to Johanssen's ear. "With all of the rather bare young women around a place like this, do you..I mean, do the men here ever get, um.."

"Erections?"

Steele winced, motioning Johanssen to turn down the volume. "Well, yes. In a word."

"Listen, don't be embarrassed. It's the number one question new guys ask."

Steele let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "What's the um, proper etiquette in those situations?"

"It's nothing the women here haven't seen before. Most people come here as couples. There are a lot of secluded areas around. You can just excuse yourself for a while. When I first started out I always carried a towel."

"What if there's no towel handy?"

Johanssen gave him a wink. "Well there's always Plan B."

Steele was afraid to ask.

"Mrs. Greenburg. One of our retirees. One look at her is better than a cold shower. Ya know, it's a crime what 72 years of gravity can do to a woman's breasts."

Steele made a mental note to carry a towel as often as possible.

"Don't worry. You'll get used to it. We're all friends here. After you've been around the life for a while, you get more turned on by a chick with clothes on."

Steele couldn't argue with that. "I wonder if you may have seen my wife Laura. She was heading this way for breakfast."

"Yeah, she was here. Ordered some juice and bagged a couple of croissants. I think she was headed for the pool."

"Thanks for the advice, Mr. Johanssen. And the information." Steele folded the schedule and orientation pages into a small square and tucked them inside the towel at his waist.

"Any time. Always glad to help."

Steele hurriedly shook hands with him and made a beeline for the pool area, visions of Laura and naked swimming instructors dancing in his head.

He found her sunning pool side in a lounge chair, eyes closed, looking relaxed and dozy. He touched her bare arm. "Mr. Steele." she said, her eyes starting open at the sudden contact. "I see you finally decided to make an entrance." She glanced amusedly at the towel around his waist and gave it a gentle tug. "It's not up to your usual GQ standards but it has a certain cheek."

"I'm getting rather attached to it. So, what have you been doing with your morning thus far? I don't see your favorite lifeguard around." Steele scanned the area for the swimming instructor.

"If you mean Brad, he's probably getting ready for his water aerobics class. It starts at 11:00."

"Checked into his schedule, did you?"

"It's posted right there in front of your nose." Laura pointed to a sign by the outdoor shower. Actually, I spent the morning getting some work done." She pulled out a thick sheaf of pages from her croissant bag. "Mrs. Sommers brought me the guest list and employee records we asked for. She promised to FedEx copies to Mildred at the office. Speaking of which, I need to check in and make sure things are going OK. Now that we have something to go on, we need to devise a plan of action on this case. Why don't we go back to the suite, call Mildred, and then start working on this?"

"You might want to pick up a spare room key at the desk first."

"You locked them in the room? Why didn't you..?" She pantomimed a lock picking motion.

"Don't ask. Believe me. You don't want to know."

After getting a key from the desk, they went back to the suite and Laura dialed Mildred on the phone. "Hello, Mildred. How are things? Holding down the fort? Listen we're FedExing a list of hotel guests and employees for you to check. Concentrate on all of the staff and guests who have been here at least two months. Look for criminal records, anything suspicious. Start with these two names. Jonathan Edwards and Ethan Deerfield. They'll be on the employee list.

"What's that? What am I wearing? Let's see. Rapture red nail polish. Mr. Steele?" She looked down at his feet. "A pair of Birkenstocks. Gotta run. Have to put on some more sunscreen."

Steele could faintly hear Mildred's disembodied voice talking a mile a minute before Laura hung up. "I'm not sure you want to rattle her cage like that."

"A girl's gotta have a little fun."

"Yes, well you may have a lot of explaining to do when we get back to LA. I must say it will be entertaining to watch."

Laura opted for a change of subject. "It's time both of us did some leg work, Mr. Steele. We need to find out who was on the scene at the mountain climbing accident, the hot tub, and the riding trail. Why don't I check out the hot tub and the horses and you handle the climbing? After all, second story work used to be a specialty of yours. Assuming you haven't lost your touch."

"I regret to say I haven't done any climbing of the wilderness variety. Although I suppose some of the principles are the same, save the lack of a convenient window ledge or balcony."

"I'm sure you'll get the hang of it in no time, Mr. Steele." Laura picked up several items and disappeared into the bathroom.

Steele discarded the towel. He rummaged through the dresser and found some underwear and a pair of cargo shorts. He quickly put them on along with a heavy weight cavalry twill shirt and thick socks. He kicked off his sandals and dug out some LL Bean hiking boots from the closet, lacing them securely on his feet.

Laura popped out of the bathroom, hair in a pony tail, wearing a sleeveless V-necked midriff blouse and medium length denim shorts, fanny pack around her waist. As she walked past Steele deftly grabbed the elastic of the fanny pack and reeled her in. He kissed the hollow of her throat and continued to trail warm kisses down to her collarbone. "Have I ever told you you look lovely in the mornings? Especially wrapped in a towel." He gave her a brilliant smile.

Laura smiled back at him. "A last minute inspiration. Your towel had it's charms, too."

"All too brief I'm afraid." He tightened his hold on her waist and pulled her fully against him, continuing to explore her exposed skin with his lips. Laura's earlier resolve was edging dangerously close to collapse. She forced herself to break contact. "Legwork, remember. It's going to be long, hard, climb. You'll need your strength."

"I was hoping to save it for better things." He raised a salacious eyebrow at her.

Laura didn't look his way, forcing herself to remain businesslike. "I'll check out the hot tub first and then go to the stables. Why don't we regroup back here in about four hours?" Laura tossed him a door key. Don't forget this, Mr. Steele."

Steele patted the set of lock picks in his shirt pocket. "Always prepared Miss Holt." Well, almost always, he thought.

***

Laura walked along the pool and over to the hot tub area. The tub was filled with bathers although they didn't seem to notice her. She located the electrical panel box nearby, noticing that it was locked with a padlock. The padlock looked new. She made a mental note to ask Mr. Sommers whether it had been in place at the time of the accident. She turned to make her way back to the path and almost ran into Ethan Deerfield. He was carrying a box of pool cleaning supplies. He was a strongly built man in his mid forties, ruggedly handsome, with a full mustache. He was shirtless, wearing just jean shorts and a tool belt around his waist. Laura noticed a large wad of keys attached to the belt.

"You might want to adjust the water temperature. It wasn't terribly warm earlier. I wondered if there was a control switch back here."

Ethan gave her a look that said he wasn't buying any of it. "I haven't heard any complaints. Nobody touches this equipment but me. We keep everything locked up. It can be really dangerous - if you don't know what you're doing."

"So I've heard. Wasn't a guest almost electrocuted here a couple of months ago? We were talking about it this morning."

"Before my time. Wouldn't have happened on my watch." He turned away from her and walked in the direction of a storage shed. Laura watched him open the shed with one of the keys. Jotting down some notes, Laura walked the winding series of paths to the stables and riding trail.

She entered the stable area and looked around for the riding instructor, Jaimie Thomas. She felt something push hard against her and turned around. One of the horses, a chestnut with a star shaped blaze, had given her an experimental nudge with his nose. "Hello, there," said a cheerful looking blonde carrying a water pail. "Aren't you Mrs. Blaine? I'm Jaimie and that's Sonny Boy. He likes to follow his nose."

Laura laughed. "I can see that. Can a girl hitch a ride on one of these?"

"Sonny Boy can take you wherever you want to go. He's not much of a looker but he can step lively and he's smooth as glass. He's a Tennessee Walker. So's his neighbor there." She pointed to a bay with a handsome head and small, well set ears. That's Macaroni. We just call him Mac for short. I don't have any riders on my schedule this morning so we'll be a twosome. I'll have them saddled up in a tick."

Laura followed Jaimie to the tack room and helped her carry the saddles and bridles. Laura noted that the tack seemed in excellent condition and the tack room and stables were nearly spotless. Jaimie had needed a key to get into the tack room. The lock on the door appeared to be recently installed.

Jill cinched Sonny Boy's saddle carefully several times. "You've got to watch this character. He hates a tight cinch. Always tries to puff up big as a toad. But I'm on to him."

They mounted their horses and started down the path. Laura found Jaimie easy to like. She kept up a steady stream of chatter about ex-husbands, boyfriends and horses she had known. She'd only really loved the horses, she said.

Laura spent a blissful two hours with Sonny Boy, lulled by the mountain scenery, his long reaching stride and the rhythmic bob of his head. Jaimie pulled up Mac when they reached a small clear lake. "Would you like to go for a dip Mrs. Blaine?"

"It's Laura. And yes, I'd love to."

Jaimie pulled off her top and boots and stepped out of her jeans. Bra less, she shimmied out of her underwear. Laura stripped off her own clothes and rolled them into a tight bundle.

"To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure what I should or shouldn't wear this morning. I'm just getting started with this." Laura began to put on some extra sunscreen.

"Yeah, you could use more sun. Actually I tell my riders to wear jeans and boots. What ever's comfortable is how we work it. If you go bare you can get some saddle sores in places you don't want to think about." Jaimie waded out into the water and swam several strokes, ending up floating on her back. Laura joined her. The water felt wonderfully refreshing lapping over her skin.

"You know, my schedule's been kind of empty lately. Since Mr. Sellers had his accident I get the feeling people don't trust me."

"What accident?" Laura feigned surprise.

"Sellers took a tumble over that steep drop off we passed a mile ago. Someone had cut the horse's cinch. I still dream about it at night. I don't know how I missed it. I'm usually pretty careful. Still, we do make some stops along the path. Anybody could have done it I guess."

"Were there a lot of people riding that day?"

"We had thirteen. I remember it because it was an unlucky number, you know. Most horse people are superstitious."

This case had no definite pattern, Laura thought. Just lots of people with access and seemingly random victims. And no apparent motive to tie them together.

***

Steele hiked down to the log cabin that served as base camp for several of the wilderness activities. He spotted the climbing instructor, Les Gilroy, showing a pair of harnessed climbers how to secure a backpack.

He approached the group. "Do you have room for one more?" he asked Gilroy.

"Sure. Join the party. We're going up to Suicide Rock. I'll find you some gear." Gilroy disappeared into the cabin and returned with a helmet, ropes, and harness and backpack. He looked down at Steele's feet. "Those hiking boots are too heavy. You need to get yourself some proper climbing shoes for the mountain. I guess they'll do for today, though."

He handed Steele a harness and watched as he slipped into the leg loops, adjusting and buckling himself in with a minimum of fuss.

"Done this before?"

"A little. The terrain was definitely different, though." Steele put on the helmet and Gilroy filled the light backpack with rope and various climbing and trail supplies and helped Steele secure it .

Before they began, Gilroy lectured them on various essentials of belayers, carabiners, protection (bolts/chocks), harnesses, and rope and knot techniques. He explained that part of the climb would be a "pre-protected" route where bolts would already be set into the rock. The climbers would clip on to the protection. They would work in teams of two, a lead climber and a belayer. The lead climber would be responsible for placing bolts (if there were none) at safe intervals and hooking on while the belayer would be responsible for safety and handling the rope through the belaying device. At the summit, the lead climber would anchor themselves and belay their partner.

It was a three mile hike through a cool pine forest to get to the start of the climb. Suicide Rock was nestled in the flanks of Mount San Jacinto at an elevation of 7,000 feet. It's granite face offered a wide variety of climbs of various lengths.

After a breather following the hike, the four men paired off. Steele started as lead climber and Gilroy as belayer. Then as they reached the top of the first climb or "pitch" they switched positions. It required concentration, balance, and leg strength but the essentials were similar enough to Steele's previous experience that it wasn't difficult. In fact he was rather enjoying it. At the top of the final pitch the men stopped to rest and relax.

The top of the climb was relatively flat. Two of the climbers removed their gear and clothes and stood under the spray from a narrow waterfall above them. Steele and Gilroy did the same. They replenished their water and then stretched out on blankets and munched trail mix.

One of the climbers, a swimsuit salesman from LA, spoke up. "I can tell you one thing. I don't miss having Grizzly Adams along."

"Who's Grizzly Adams?" Steele asked.

"Ken Adams. We call him Grizzly. The wilderness geek. I know I shouldn't feel good about it because he's still in the hospital but things sure are more peaceful when he's not around."

"Why is he in the hospital?" Steele asked, even though he knew the answer.

"Took a fall two weeks ago. One of his links on his tether had been cut. You know, there were five of us guys there that day. All of us and Jackson, and Hankins. I don't think any of us were too sorry to see him take a fall."

Steele made a mental note of the names. "I take it he wasn't a popular member of the group." None of the men jumped in to disagree. In fact they made some rather rude noises.

"He drove all of us crazy," the salesman continued. "Always complaining about our lousy equipment, our climbing technique. Running off on his own. When he fell he said he checked his equipment before the climb but there was a major argument before we started out. I don't even remember what it was about. Everybody was tired of his attitude and he was pretty upset. Who knows if he really checked it. Maybe someone did want to help him over the side or maybe he did it himself and just wanted to blame us for it."

"That would be pretty extreme. To put yourself in the hospital over a grudge."

"Yeah. Well he's what I call an extreme guy."

The sound of a helicopter overhead caused the men to look up. As it passed, a flurry of green paper blew wildly through the air. Several pieces floated down on the group below.

Steele picked up one of the pages and looked at it. It was a political leaflet of some sort. As he read through it he remembered Sommers' warning regarding anti-nudity groups. This was apparently the work of one of them, filled with large-type, screaming headlines and fervent prose. Steele began to read it aloud.

"FOOT SOLDIERS ARE NEEDED TO FIGHT FOR MORALITY. JOIN US FOR PSALM '83. THE ANNUAL PALM SPRINGS ANTI LEWDNESS MARCH! THE BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN. THE CAUSE IS JUST. WE ARE THE SOLUTION - NUDITY OPPOSITION ORGANIZATION NETWORK EMERGENCY RESPONSE!"

"NOONER?" Steele said with disbelief.

"Yeah." Gilroy chuckled. "Someone in the group wasn't too handy with the acronyms. They've been a nuisance for years. Locals call 'em NOONIES. They're a pretty loopy bunch. They demonstrate outside the grounds about once a month. Keep the peace for the most part. Sometimes we watch through the fences. A lot of the residents here are veterans of the peace movement. Aging hippies. They're pretty tolerant of civil disobedience, even when it's directed at them. I guess it's kind of a nostalgia thing, watching protesters linking arms, shouting slogans."

"Have they ever done anything violent? Steele asked.

"Not that I can recall. One time they strung a giant clothesline around the fence and hung choir robes on it. This gonzo guy in the helicopter drops leaflets. I don't think they're anything to worry about. To tell you the truth, I don't think they could organize a piss-up in a brewery."

***

Steele arrived back at the resort somewhat tired, but pleasantly alert. He imagined he would feel the full effects of his exertions in the morning. Living the soft life in LA had dulled his body and his senses, he realized. He wondered if Laura might be persuaded to join him on a climb. She was always after him to exercise. Maybe she wouldn't be averse to a soothing mutual rubdown afterwards.

Steele located the main fitness building and headed for the shower area. There were a few people on exercise equipment but the shower area was deserted. Steele looked at his watch. It was around five o'clock. He knew he was supposed to meet Laura before then but the climb had taken more time than he had expected. All he wanted to do now was to take a cool shower and maybe recline comfortably in the steam room for a while.

He stripped off his clothes and rolled them into a bundle. Finding a towel on a rack by the shower, he rolled everything up in the towel and put it back on the rack. He turned on the shower and gratefully let the water massage the tension from his overworked muscles. Hot water at first and then a cool rinse had him feeling almost blissful.

He dried off with the towel and rolled his clothes back inside of it. The steam room was adjacent to the shower area. He entered the steam room and was immediately enveloped in its dense, almost foggy atmosphere. The steam was so thick that it was difficult to see more than a few feet in front of him. He moved toward the near wall, feeling for the long slatted benches that were set in an L shape around the room.

He found the part of the wall closest to the ventilation system where the steam dispersed more rapidly. After a few moments his vision became clearer. It was then that he discovered that he wasn't alone. Someone was lying on the bench next to him. He felt his heart skip as he realized it was Laura.

She appeared to be asleep, completely prone, and totally relaxed. She was also completely naked. Minutes ticked by as Steele's eyes roamed hungrily over her form, memorizing every curve, every inch of her sweat-slicked skin. He longed to touch her. To traverse her body with hands and lips, from the soft roundness of her breasts and firm peaks of her nipples, to the depression of her navel and downwards, to the secret folds of flesh between her thighs.

In the close atmosphere of the room all of the primal functions of his body seemed magnified - breathing, heartbeat, arousal. She was so near surely she had the same awareness. Couldn't she sense his presence? How would she react if she found him like this? He groped around for the towel. Where was it? He twisted his body, feeling around awkwardly on the floor.

Suddenly Steele felt her fingers brush the skin of his arm. He turned toward her and found her sitting upright. Slowly Laura reached for him, her soft brown eyes and features hazy in the mist. It was but the work of a moment that found them tumbling to the floor, scrambling in a tangle of arms and legs across the slick surface. She rolled with him, cradled in his arms, her palms sliding downward over his skin, between his legs. For the briefest of moments he wondered if he should get up and try to lock the door. Then suddenly she was on top, riding every inch of him - and he forgot to wonder.
 
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