New York City, January, 1977

The blonde woman entered the Raven Club, turning heads as she did so. That wasn't bad, she thought, for a woman in a thick mink coat, worn to fight off a mild winter storm. She handed her coat to the girl at the coatcheck counter and turned even more heads. This time with even greater reason. She was dressed in a plain black sleeveless minidress with sheer black stockings and high heels. She wore no jewelry, not even a wristwatch. Nor did she need any such adornment. She was narrow-wasted, yet with all the appropriate curves that added up to a fully feminine package. But there was more than just a hint of muscle in her arms and legs. Women tennis players had a hint of this... this woman positively oozed athleticism and power.

Many of those who were fortunate enough to know her called her Cymbaline. Most of those were men, though there were a few women in her circle of friends. Very few. Most of the women who knew her had been her victims. It was the rare one who earned her friendship. She was meeting one of those here tonight.

Cymbaline was the undisputed women's champion of apartment house wrestling. Undisputed because no one had ever beaten her. In these contests, two women met in combat before an audience, usually all men, and the contest would not end until one of the women either surrendered, or was clearly unable to continue. Terrible pain was inflicted and occasionally blood had been shed, but usually no permanent damage occurred.

Two nights ago, Cymbaline had met Eileen in defense of her title. Eileen had been a fiery redhead, an inch shorter than Cymbaline, a little stockier, but very strong and very determined. Cymbaline's body scissors had eventually proven to be her opponent's undoing, but she had developed a respect for this woman. They had agreed to meet this night for a more sociable time together.

Cymbaline began to look around for her new friend and spotted her in conversation with a ravishing brunette, on the other side of the room. As she walked over, she began to study the brunette. The dark hair hung to the middle of her back and Cymbaline was surprised to see a body, which appeared almost identical to her own in size and shape. The red dress that the woman wore was roughly the same as her own, the plain short sleeveless dress that was common at the time, and the brunette was also without jewelry. Her stockings were taupe, and she wore red high heels that matched the color of the dress. What struck Cymbaline the most was the paleness of her skin. Cymbaline immediately thought that this girl must be from the Deep South, where some women still hid from the sun.

"Eileen", she said as she approached the pair.

The redhead turned suddenly and seemed hesitant. "Cymbaline... you look great."

"So do you," Cymbaline replied, though she never took her eyes from the brunette.

For her part, the brunette turned a pair of liquid brown eyes on Cymbaline's. There was almost a challenge in her look, as though daring the blonde to try and look away. There was something incredibly magnetic about her, and an odd chemistry seemed to spring up between them. Cymbaline noticed that, like she, the other woman was not wearing a bra - her nipples were erect. Cymbaline would have been surprised to realize that she was in the same condition. For some reason, she knew that she and the brunette were destined to tangle and it confused her somewhat. She wasn't sure exactly what was about to happen, but she was certain that the brunette would test her to the fullest.

"Cymbaline," Eileen said, stuttering somewhat, "this is Nikki. She's a friend of mine from New Orleans."

Cymbaline was about to offer her hand to the brunette, but she received yet another surprise. Nikki stepped forward just enough that her nipples came into contact with Cymbaline's. Just the nipples - nothing else. The contact was electrifying - it took Cymbaline a moment to remember to breathe. Obviously, there was a similar effect on Nikki. But Nikki was good - she swayed backwards just enough so that only the nipples remained in contact. Eyes stayed locked, though the expression had changed. The challenge from the brunette had become something more concrete. And even more mysterious. Maybe even dangerous.

"So you're Cymbaline." The brunette looked away, down to Cymbaline's upper left arm, where her right index finger stroked the triceps. There was the sound of an educated voice, a Southern finishing school, with just a trace of Cajun to it. "You're a beautiful woman, all right, but you don't look strong enough to be a champion."

Cymbaline's eyes had never left the brunette's face. Nikki looked back up and locked eyes with her once more. Immediately, both women's nipples hardened even more, as though there was a test of strength between them at that moment. Perhaps there was.

Cymbaline smiled slightly, almost contemptuously. "Ask your friend Eileen. My strength does the job just fine." She felt her muscles begin to tighten. It felt good.

"Does it? Does it really?" Nikki returned the smile, measure for measure.

Never looking away from the brunette's eyes, Cymbaline began to stroke Nikki's right triceps. "Maybe you'd care to test me with your own strength."

Almost breathlessly, Nikki answered. "I'd like nothing better"

The bouncer came up at that moment and interposed himself between them. "Nikki, behave yourself."

Nikki smiled sweetly at the bouncer, but never took her eyes off Cymbaline's. "Tommy, can we have one of the private rooms in the back, darlin'?"

Tommy looked at the two women, locked in each other's gaze, and was afraid to say no. He shrugged. "Right this way." He headed away.

Nikki followed, Cymbaline after her. Cymbaline felt Eileen's hand on her arm, pulling her back. "Don't do this, Cymbaline. Nikki likes this, too much. And she doesn't know when to quit."

Cymbaline smiled slightly. "What makes you think I do?"

"I'm serious. This is no simple match to her, no private little test of strength."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that this will be like nothing you've ever done before. You'll start out with a teasing game, and next thing you know, you'll be fighting for your life, and loving it, just like she will. You'll be so wrapped up in each other, you won't be able to quit. All you'll care about is winning. Your strength against hers, your will against hers. You'll be willing to die before you give up."

Tommy was holding the door to the private room for her. She entered and heard the door close behind her. She looked around the room. It was about twenty by twenty, with a small table and two chairs at one end. The table was barely wider than a foot across, rectangular in shape, about two feet long, and bolted to the floor by a leg at either end. At the other end of the room was a set of lockers.

Nikki walked over to the door and locked it. She noticed Cymbaline looking at the table. "Some people do drugs in here."

Cymbaline turned to face her and the eyes locked once more. "Like you?"

Nikki smiled faintly. "No. Never touch 'em myself. I do other things in here." She approached Cymbaline again, until their nipples were once more in contact. Both women gasped slightly with arousal at the contact. Neither woman smiled any longer. Neither woman's nipples gave a millimeter.

Cymbaline couldn't remember any encounter ever being so intense. The contact between Nikki's nipples and her own, with no other physical contact between them, yet knowing that, in minutes, each of them would be using all of her strength against the other, aroused her like nothing else had ever done. She felt as though her breasts would explode. "It really turns you on, doesn't it?" she asked.

"You don't seem to be doin' too badly, yourself. It's like the first stage between us. If we stand here like this and think about what's goin' to happen between us, pretty soon we'd begin to sweat as though we were actually in combat. Doesn't this turn you on?"

Both women swayed backwards, ever so slightly, as each took a deep breath. Neither would be the first to break or increase their physical contact. Both felt the pressure within them increasing. Almost as if rehearsed, each woman's hands moved out to the sides, closing together, almost touching. Arm and leg muscles began to tense.

"Sure it does," Cymbaline replied. "What makes you like this mix of sex and muscle? And why with me?"

Nikki's eyes blazed. "Because I'm the queen in New Orleans. There's nobody there with a shred of sex appeal left that'll do this with me. I've beaten 'em all. You're the queen of New York. One of us, the stronger woman, is going to leave this room with both crowns. She'll be the one to win this duel between us."

If Cymbaline needed help getting her competitive juices flowing, those words did the trick. "You're on."

Nikki smiled slightly. Her right hand passed underneath their breasts and waited for Cymbaline's. The two hands clasped together, each woman using all her strength in the grip. The grips were strong enough that only the flexed hand muscles would prevent severe pain. "Like all duels," Nikki said, "this one needs rituals and challenges." Her left hand came up and slapped Cymbaline across the face, with all her strength.

Cymbaline went to her knees, nearly screaming in agony as she remembered the grip and quickly re-tightened hers. She could feel the slow drip of blood down from the right corner of her mouth. She looked up at Nikki's face, smiling above her, though the smile was strained by the effort of the gripping hand. Cymbaline's eyes were flashing angrily as she shifted her weight and rose, slowly, unsteadily, to her feet. She took a deep breath and moved closer, resuming the contact between the two sets of nipples, which had hardened even more, in spite of themselves.

Nikki watched her rival's eyes closely as Cymbaline's left hand came around to deliver a slap of its own. Nikki went to her knees as well, her mouth opening as her consciousness returned enough to meet her opponent's grip once more. Slowly, as Cymbaline had, she reached her feet, and resumed contact with her opponent. Nikki's tongue came out and the tip of it licked at the blood at the corner of her mouth. Involuntarily, Cymbaline did the same. Nikki took Cymbaline's right shoulder in her left hand and leaned forward. Cymbaline did the same.

The mouths of the two rivals fused together. Tongues met and each could taste the blood on the tongue of the other. Cymbaline couldn't believe the effect. The grip of her hand tightened, and she felt Nikki respond in kind. Her tongue probed deeper into Nikki's mouth, and she felt Nikki respond in kind. Nikki's nipples bored against her own, harder than ever, and she felt herself respond in kind.

The kiss lasted about ten seconds, and the two women broke apart, with their nipples and the incredibly gripping right hands as their only contact. Now there was only hatred in their eyes, and they grunted like animals as their grips tightened to their fullest. The bloodlust had taken full hold of each of them.

The breasts separated as they walked together, eyes locked, still grunting and beginning to sweat with their efforts, to the table. As they sat down on opposite side, each slackened her grip, as though this, too, had been rehearsed.

Eyes still dark with hatred, each slowly reached across the table to meet the hand of the other. The table was so narrow that the elbows were within an inch of each other. The grip between them was to interlace their fingers. There would be no leverage in this contest. Only strength.

As they closed together underneath the table, Cymbaline felt the outside of Nikki's right thigh press against her own, sliding along it as the nylons rubbed together. Nikki nodded, once, and the hands broke apart as each woman removed her stockings, laying them beside the stool on which she sat.

The grip resumed, as did the position of the thighs. Cymbaline thought to take the role of the aggressor in their sexual contact for once, and hooked her calf around Nikki's.

They were so close together across the table, their faces were just inches apart, over the interlocked hands. They began to apply their strength, feeling the sweat beginning to run down their backs, forming on their foreheads and upper lips.

Neither woman could budge the other. Heavy breathing turned to grunts, grunts turned into cries of pain, cries turned into sobs as the contest wore on, the two rivals still locked eye to eye, neither hand moving beyond the trembling of the eternal deadlock.

Cymbaline recognized the growing look of triumph in Nikki's eyes as her hand was slowly forced down. Their sobs turned into screams as each woman began to pour on the very last of her reserves. Underneath the table, the calf muscles had turned into diamond as they pressed against each other. The thigh muscles had turned to tempered steel. Each had placed her free hand into the hand of the other, resting on the thighs, but neither had closed her hand, intent on the other hand, the one involved in combat above.

Cymbaline realized that this had long passed the point of a simple contest. The bloodlust ran in each of them now. Eileen's words of warning were unremembered, but Cymbaline realized that she would die before she would surrender to this woman, in any contest. She was literally in a duel to the end. She screamed as her hand touched the table. She looked across at Nikki, who was too weak to do anything but meet her eyes, with that damned triumphant look.

It was twenty minutes before the two women had regained enough strength to release each other's hands. Slowly, painfully, the legs unwrapped and the two women stood, facing each other across the table.

"Ready to give up?" Nikki asked.

"I think you know the answer to that," Cymbaline replied.

"Good. Legs, then."

"Leg wrestling?" Cymbaline asked.

"I think we can manage something a little more intimate. You're a wrestler. You dish out punishment all the time. Can you take it while you dish it out?"

"What do you suggest?"

Nikki smiled slightly. "If your legs are stronger than mine, you should be able to make me submit to your body scissors before you submit to mine. A test of the strength of our legs. The ability to hold up is a test of the strength of our will. The loser either gives up or loses consciousness. If I win this one, I win it all."

Cymbaline smiled slightly and licked the drop of blood on her lip, noting that Nikki did the same. She closed with Nikki and the two women kissed again, passing more blood from mouth to mouth. The kiss grew more sensual this time, a challenge of a different sort passing between them, strangely intensifying the hate between them. They had grabbed each other's upper arms as they held each other in the kiss. Their nipples grew so hard that there was pain between them, yet neither would relinquish the kiss. Each began to painfully squeeze the arms of the other, biceps tightening to abate the pain.

The kiss grew violent now, each biting the other's lips and tongue, softly at first, then hard enough to cause each of them to moan with a strange mixture of pain and desire. The kiss broke suddenly, neither woman quite sure which of them broke it. The nipples stayed together still, and neither relinquished their grip on the arms of the other. They looked at each other with even more hatred.

"What happens if I win?" Cymbaline asked.

"Then the duel has third part," Nikki answered, "even more brutal than the first two. With the greatest reward for the winner, and the greatest punishment for the loser."

Slowly, the two women slipped to the floor, lying on their sides, facing each other, each woman's feet at the other's head. Each woman bent at the waist, sliding the upper half of her body between the other's thighs, and each felt the other's ankles lock behind her.

There was an initial gasp from each woman as the other's pressure squeezed the air from her, then grunts as each strained to squeeze her scissors ever tighter. Within seconds, each woman was again drenched in perspiration, caught in the effort of trying to squeeze her opponent into submission while trying to move air into her own lungs. Powerful thighs clamped down even harder as each woman knew she was nearing the end of her own endurance. Will was matched against will, strength was matched against strength.

Cymbaline's chest was on fire, and she was silently sobbing, without enough air to cry out loud. She could feel Nikki's body shaking between her legs and knew that her own was shaking as well. She was just about to submit when she felt the pressure of Nikki's thighs go away. There had been no verbal submission and Cymbaline knew that Nikki had lost consciousness. Immediately, she stopped squeezing, fighting the temptation to continue until the beautiful brunette was no more than a lifeless shell.

Each woman lay wrapped about the other for an eternity, air moving rapidly in and out of their lungs, neither with the strength to release the other from her legs. Both women finally regained some strength and crawled around, turning to face each other, prone on the floor, grunting as they rotated. They stopped, their faces about three inches apart.

Nikki's face was a mask of hatred and Cymbaline felt the bloodlust rise in her again, just from her rival's expression. "Ready to give up?" Cymbaline asked.

"I'm just getting' warmed up," Nikki replied.

The two women rose to their knees, breasts touching once more. "What's next then?", Cymbaline asked.

"One of us walks out of here," Nikki replied. "The other goes out in an ambulance or a coroner's wagon. But let's get dressed first."

The women replaced their stockings and high heels and met once more in the center of the room. Once again, the nipples made contact, now harder than ever as the bloodlust was given full vent between them.

"Have you ever interlaced you fingers with another woman before tonight?" Nikki asked breathlessly.


"Ever forced another woman to her knees like that?"

Cymbaline smiled. "Of course I have."

"Ever kneeled before the strength of another woman like that?"

"Once or twice."

Nikki took a deep breath. "Ever knee a woman in the face after you did that?"


"Would you like to do that to me? Drive your knee into my face over and over again?"

Cymbaline voice was a whisper. "You know I would. And you want to do it to me."

Nikki's lips were just a kiss away. "Would you like to feel my body tight against yours, pressin' against you as you force me, your equal, down to her knees, your strength overcomin' mine?"


"That's the final duel between us. Each puts her right leg inside and behind the other's left leg, locked up tight. Bodies are tight together and the fingers are interlaced, no higher than the shoulders. The duel continues until one woman is forced to her knees and the winner is free to pound the defeated woman as long as she can hold her down or has the strength to continue. That's the only time our bodies come apart, is when one of us is deliverin' the coup de grace. To the finish, even to the death. Woman to woman, strength to strength. Neither one of us has any idea who's the stronger. We've come up dead even."

Cymbaline smiled and put her right hand behind Nikki's head. Nikki did the same. "Then the challenge between us remains, doesn't it? We have to settle it. Now." She pulled Nikki's mouth to within an inch of her own. "I challenge you to meet my strength with your own, body to body, woman to woman, for your life or mine."

Nikki moved forward and their mouths fused together for the third time, each pulling the other closer with all her strength, attacking the mouth of the other with lips and teeth. Each moved her right leg between the legs of her rival, placing her own strong calf against the equally strong calf of the other. Each felt the tops of the other's thighs against hers and nipple bored against nipple in a duel of their own. Each felt the thighs of the other flex against her own and the orgasm tore through them both. They clutched at each other, straining to hold the other close to maintain their own balance.

Their knees went weak and each sat on the thigh of the other. Slowly, they recover and stood upright once more. They released each other from their kiss, lips bruised, bleeding slightly, and they met, eye to eye, hatred once more filling their thoughts, the new passion again replacing the old.

With exquisite slowness, each woman interlaced her finger with those of her rival. Neither looked away from the other's eyes. All their strength built up against the other. Each placed her head on the right should of the other, and they were sobbing, exhausted from their evening of combat.

Each woman fed from the strength of her rival, each trying to summon her might to outlast the other. Because each now knew that their strength was equal. Each knew that her endurance was the only thing that would save her, her will.

Each felt her arms burn with effort, felt the shaking of her own arms and her rival's, as the never-ending duel between them continued. Cymbaline knew she could only last a few more minutes and wondered if it would be enough as she listened to the cries and sobs from Nikki, which matched her own.

Then Nikki's breasts slipped below hers and she felt the brunette beginning to go to her knees. She wondered if she could last. Then, the bodies came apart as she looked down on the brunette, still straining, still trying to rise from her knee.

And Cymbaline hesitated. But only for a second. The blonde was at the end of her own strength and she knew if she didn't finish Nikki, the brunette would rise and Cymbaline would be the one on her knees.

The first strike from Cymbaline's knee broke Nikki's nose. The second broke her cheekbone, rendering the brunette unconscious.

Cymbaline looked down at the fallen, bloodied, brunette, disengaging her hands and leaning against a wall, trying to stop the shaking of spent muscles. When she had regained control of herself, she left the room, watching Eileen run in, leaving the empty club floor.

Cymbaline was at the coat rack when she realized that the sun was about to come up.

It had been a long night.

Eileen had joined her in the hot tub at her apartment. It had been three days since her duel with Nikki. She had just asked Eileen how the brunette was.

"The cosmetic surgeon will able to repair the damage. She'll be fine."

Cymbaline looked across at the redhead. Both women were covered to their shoulders with the churning water. "You were right, you know."

The green eyes of the redhead locked with Cymbaline's. "About what?"

"I would have fought her to the death. It became that intense."

"I know," Eileen whispered. "I've been there. It shouldn't be that way, maybe. I don't know. A test of strength that winds up with one contestant in the hospital-"

"Now that it's over, I'm sorry that it came to that."

Eileen's look suddenly became intense. "Don't be. She's done it to others, and she would have done the same thing to you. And I'll let you in on something else. There are women all over the world that have dueled with Nikki, just like you did. It's a love-hate thing, just like it was with you. They'll be waiting for you. You'll have to do it over and over again, wherever you go. And years from now, when she's ready, you'll meet her again, too."

Cymbaline frowned. "She put a million dollars in my bank account."

"You won. She's lousy with money. She doesn't want you to get bogged down with anything that will prevent her challenging you again in the future."

Cymbaline looked at the redhead, who looked back with equal intensity. "When did you duel with her?"

Eileen stared deeply into the blonde's eyes. "Five years ago. I've been working out ever since. We were talking testing each other when you walked into the Raven Club." She stood up in the tub.

Something in her eyes made Cymbaline stand, too. "So you feel it, too."

Eileen nodded as the two nude women pressed nipple to nipple in the middle of the hot tub. They gripped each other's hand under their full breasts, gasping at the strength of the other's grip.

Eileen spoke first. "I challenge you-"