The sun cast long shadows across the concrete patio. Her sunglasses lay forgotten on the table as she watched the sky explode. She doubted she’d ever get used to such shows of light and color. The Pacific dazzled and glinted with so many colors it made her hands itch to capture it. Paints, watercolors, even colored pencils were denied her-she had no skill for any of those. But words were her gesso and paintpots. She hoped she could capture the brilliance with them. The breeze tossed her hair back, the sunset threw even more reds and golds into the tangled mess that cascaded behind her. She wanted to write it, right now, but her hands just lay there on the table to each side of her computer. The scene unrolled like a movie reel, each frame subtly different from the moment before it. The blue of the water changed hue, the sky glowed with an intensity that she’d seen nowhere else but here. She was lost in it, lost in the moment.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
His voice made her jump. The man was soundless, and it bugged the shit out of her.
“I know this is your house, but while I’m here, it’s mine. It would be great if you rang the bell or knocked like a normal person would.”
“I’m not “normal”–how unutterably boring would that be?”
She rolled her eyes. Who even said that?
Oh dear gods. . .had she said that aloud? Her mouth often ran rampant.
“You do. You use it regularly in your stories.”
“You’re disturbing the sunset.” Her voice was terse. Not really clear to her just now if it was annoyance or a hint of embarrassment.
“I assure you, my dear, that the sun has been setting right about there every evening for millenia, and nothing I or you could do would ‘disturb’ it. And for the record? I did ring your bell. When you didn’t answer I let myself in. Hard to hear it sometimes with the mesmerizing effects of that.”
His head nudged fractionally towards the water that was behind his left shoulder as he sat in a seat that angled to face her.
“If you came here to watch the sunset with me, shouldn’t you be watching it?”
The smile on his face did funny things to her belly.
“I am watching it, as it washes over you. I hear the purr of the water, seductively calling to her lover to return. His regret–the reds and golds and silvers, are also his promise to her that he will be back.”
She swallowed the lump that settled in her throat. His voice was husky, sexily so. Damn the man. Hands pressed to the arms of her chair, she began to rise.
He lifted a bottle to the table. It was open already, a faint wisp of condensation curling from the mouth of the bottle and sending a subtle scent of wizened red to her nostrils. The scent was so perfect with that of the sea and the fragrant wild lilac bushes that dotted the cliff edge. She sat back into her chair, and decided to ignore him and his damn perfectionism. No one was that …perfect. She hated overusing words, but that one just fit. On the horizon, thin clouds burst into a golden hue that staggered the senses. The water below was deep purple, with the refraction of a million shades of gold and pink echoed on every wavelet.
“Gods, how do you stand it?”
Her words were a moan of pure pleasure as her eyes drank in the sight that she knew she’d never tire of, and never forget.
“You don’t. You absorb it. You breathe it in, and you offer a prayer to Sol for the beauty of his leavetaking.”
“How very Zen of you.”
“This is Southern California, my dear.”
His smile teased at her senses, every bit as mesmerizing as the sunset had been. As night crawled across the sky, the lights in the pool came up.
“You haven’t tasted my wine yet.”
“Gl— how did you do that?” She stared at the two goblets. The bowls were almost perfect spheres, with some sort of etching around them. She swore they hadn’t been on the table a moment before.
“You were watching the sky show, not me.”
She sipped the wine. It was fruity, a bit sweet. Perfect. Of course. She almost rolled her eyes.
“Will you swim?”
He looked at the pool, shook his head with a faint smile.
“I’m on my period,” he said.
She threw back her head and laughed. Damn him for making her feel so comfortable. They talked then. He steered the conversation here, there, keeping it light and general, but always slightly amusing. He had a way of making her open up, and he was smart, too. She had to admit privately that his brains were more attractive to her than his pretty, perfect face.
“You sound like you’re eons old. All this talk of the way things were–as if you were there. Somehow I can’t picture you so into gold mining. It was dirty, rough work.”
“I’m not afraid of rough work…who do you think planted these grounds?”
She looked around. Though it was full dark now, she could trace in her mind’s eye the variety of plants, the little patches of gardens around the grounds, including the wild-seeming, yet carefully cultivated landscape of the pool and patio area. As someone who loved to get her hands into her gardens back home, she could appreciate the sheer amount of labor that went into creating this paradise. She was more than a little impressed.
“You didn’t hire it out?”
“Only the hardscape. All the rest were done with these.”
He held up his hands, turning them this way and that. Big hands. Hands she could privately imagine touching…but best not to go down that path, even in her imagination.
“I know your talents lay in your hands as well…and your brain. One only has to read one or two of your sordid tales to appreciate the depth of your imagination.”
She blinked. Was that a compliment?
“That was a compliment, I assure you. As a man who’s spent some time on the top side of the slash, as you so adroitly put it in your stories, I have a keen taste for the erotic word. You do it well. Very well. One does wonder if you are a practitioner as well as an imagineer?”
There was no swallowing the lump in her throat now, nor quelling the sudden tickling in the sensitive bud between her thighs. By the way his gaze sharpened on her, she knew that he knew just what his words had done to her.
Damn the man.