November 23, 2012
The lake stalled moisture overhead leaving the air heavy with foreboding. The mist’s fingers were ever grasping today, hovering around the rocks that wreathed the lighthouse. The sun lost the battle with the clouds today.
He burrowed his hands into his windbreaker that he’d thrown over his fisherman’s sweater. Water had always been a balm for him. This place felt different. Close to all that he knew, but as foreign as a distant country. Fishing trawlers and rusty barges played cat and mouse along the inlet. No pleasure cruises here. No phony smiles and slick suits—no, Prince’s Bay was a good place to hide.
His boots crunched on seashells and stone as he made his way down the path. The hooks that held The Bar’s weathered sign creaked in the brisk wind. He shook off the damp, flicking his hair back with his palm. The bar was as dank and grey as the roiling sky outside. The fact that it suited his mood was even better.
Nodding to the waitress, he took the corner booth. Her booth. Her empty booth. He smiled tiredly at the waitress when she dropped a napkin at his elbow.
“Bottle of red?”
“Coffee with a—“
“Coffee with a Tyrconnell chaser—two of them.”
He looked up, his eyebrow rose at the woman standing there. He hadn’t heard her come in. His body was usually so in tune with her.
“I saw you come in.” She shrugged and sat. “I followed.” A fat, messy braid fell over her shoulder and copper leaves dangled from her ears. She was dressed similar to him, but her sweater was a battered navy with ratty sleeves at least two sizes too large for her. She leaned forward her long, unadorned fingers clasped his wrists. Metal clunked to the table.
He jolted, his fingers fisting.
She scanned his face, fierce and fiery gold eyes took everything in. “You’re angry. The arctic chill has moved through those ever changing eyes.” Her voice was rusty as if she didn’t use it much.
“When a woman I don’t know grabs me, that’s what happens.”
She flattened his hands to the table her palms infused his skin with warmth. The copper beads at her wrist pooled around his middle finger and slid across the table. “It’s not sexual.” She paused, her gaze flitting from his eyes to his mouth. “Yet.”
He tried to pull away, but she pressed harder. His lungs stalled and his stomach muscles clenched as tight as his cock. Christ. What the hell was it with this particular female?
“Even deeper.” Her voice conveyed fascination and a blood pumping sexuality that clawed at the deep freeze living in his chest. “I bet you could make an employee piss his pants with that hundred yard death stare.”
He blanked his face. “How do you know I have employees?”
“A man that sings for…” She trailed off, her whiskey eyes calculating. “What? Thirty years? You have employees.”
Regret swamped him. “Is that what this is? You want to touch a famous person?”
The waitress came back. Her faded dollar bill eyes flicked to the woman before him. Not a stranger to her—but there wasn’t any warmth in her gaze, or her body language. Just an odd curiosity.
His table-mate sat back and her hands slid away. He curled his fingers into his palm.
Heavy white mugs and a pair of tumblers clunked to the scarred table, but the stranger’s eyes never wavered from his. The waitress wandered off before he could thank her. Evidently rude was catchy today.
The stranger cupped her hands around the mug, lifted it for a gulp then dumped the whiskey into her mug.
He lifted his mug to do the same and scalded his tongue. “What? Do you have asbestos in your mouth?”
“I’m used to the heat.”
He steepled his fingers over the steam that rose from the high octane coffee. The backs of his hands still tingled from her touch. He ignored it. Happy cock or not, he didn’t have it in him to deal with a fan right now.
“What can I do for you?”
“Just sit here. Just drink. Maybe fuck.” She shrugged and he realized she was reading his emotions like a damn teleprompter. “We don’t need to have sex. Ah, there’s a new blue now. Is that interest or disgust?” She looked down at herself. “I actually have a really amazing body under all these layers. A strong body. Quite bendy.”
Jon’s hands fell to the table. At a loss, he didn’t even know what to say to that one. He’d been objectified, assaulted, even propositioned on more than one occasion, but nothing like this. His dick swelled until his jeans pinched. For the love of fuck, he didn’t want to think about how bendy she was.
“This is the strangest conversation I’ve ever had. And that’s saying something.”
“Your eyes telegraph everything. Stunning, haunting, witchy eyes.”
He knew how to work around anyone. Whether it was a lawyer, an executive, a fan, or an employee—he knew how to chameleon himself to suit his role. So what did she see that others couldn’t? Or was he really that lost?
“I’m sorry. I don’t do the public thing much.” She held out her hand and the copper rosary swung between them. “I’m Fiona Bettencourt.”
A lifetime of dealing with crazy had him fitting his palm in hers. “Jon.” The buzzing awareness returned in full force.
“Obviously.” She leaned forward, covering his hand on the table again. “I’m not a crazy fan or anything. I think I like one of your songs. Not with the super band—a stray song I tripped over on internet radio.” Her thumb tapped on the table. “Now that cold grey fog’s just a rolling down the highway, he’s come to carry me home, it puts a little smile on my face.”
Her voice was honest and throaty, haunting and heartfelt. Everything that Little City had been when he’d written and recorded it. And the song was about as random as this night and twice as odd.
“So, what do you want with me if you’re not a fan?”
He cleared his throat. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say to that.”
She shrugged. “I’ll sit here and get my fill if that’s what you want. I think you might be uncomfortable with that.”
She leaned in until her scent wafted over him. Rich and dark…plums maybe. Just outside the edge of her eye a tiny silhouette of a bird in flight tattoo made her face even more fascinating. “I like your eyes. I want to figure out the color.”
“Why not?” She searched his gaze. “You’re as bored as I am. Restless and grey inside. I want one thing—well, two if you’re willing—from you.”
Everyone wanted something from him. “Really.”
Her mouth curved into a smile and a dimple popped in her left cheek making the bird twitch on her skin. “I like how you can do that. The deep freeze in your tone curls right into your eyes and stays there like the fog here. September in Prince’s Bay is all about the fog. I hope you’re not here looking for sunshine.”
The conversation had gone so far off the rails, Jon scrabbled to catch up. “As fascinating as you are, Mz. Bettencourt I’m not interested in whatever it is you want from me.”
“Sure you are.” The heel of her palm slid along his hand. “It doesn’t require anything other than time.”
“Why would I give my time to you?”
“You want to live again and I want a subject.”
October 20, 2012
She’s had the torch blasting since dawn. She turned away from the pearl grey of the morning and back to the flames that had driven her from her bed even earlier than normal. Pounded copper spiraled off her work table. Vices held each side of the snapping flames shape. She’d been at her annealing station for hours, but finally formed the bastard into the right shape.
She’d cut out keyholes shaped like tears at the center of the brightest flames. Originally she’d been happy with the oxidized sheets, but now she knew it was meant for glass. Blue glass in a million shades between grey and deep cobalt.
Like the stranger’s eyes.
She’d stopped and spoken to him. She never spoke to anyone. She’d made her home in Prince’s Bay for five years and had never spoken to a soul. One stranger with fire for eyes and she’d broken her rule.
Well known eyes.
But the fame didn’t matter to her, she wanted another look at his eyes. Crystalline and undefinable. The blue was as ever changing as the heart of a flame. And she couldn’t get the color right.
The glory hole of her fire sparked bright. She set her mug down and brought the pipe up to her mouth and turned with a steady lungful of breath. The glass was malleable with heat, the chemicals were at the right temperature. Maybe this time.
She dipped the glass into a water bath and the steam curled the baby fine hairs along her temple out of its tight band. That told her she’d hit the right heat. In the heart of her palm she rolled the glass over the pristine white cloth. Soot and streaks of ash revealed a diamond pattern of shadows and blue.
Not the right darkness and light.
Why couldn't she get this color?
Anger climbed up and crawled across her back muscles. It had been so long since she'd felt it, she had to resist the urge to tap it into the box of shards beside the water bath.
She simply had to see those eyes again.
She needed to process the color until it crawled in her brain like every other project she’d ever started. She’d finish this piece.
Reggie needed another show piece. And she was damn tired of listening to her phone calls. For the love of fuck she’d resorted to leaving video messages on her phone. She knew she needed another piece for the gallery. Even when she priced her work off the charts, they still bought it.
Still wanted more.
She couldn’t complain. It kept her in chemicals and paid for the groceries when she remembered to eat. And it kept the cases of Tyrconnell coming for her daily trips to The Bar. But there was only so much money a person needed.
And she had enough for eight generations.
She could tell Reggie to suck it. But there was a part of her that needed to make sure her work left the workshop. This was her only legacy. The only beauty she could offer to the world.
She put aside the glass. There would be time enough to find the stranger and his famous eyes tonight. For now she’d do a little light lampwork.
September 16, 2012
He’d tripped over the hole in the wall bar—his favorite kind of bar, truth be told—on an impulsive drive. The studio should be calling his name. The need to get back to the familiar and the tactile board of his studio had distracted him for the last four weeks.
But as soon as he’d gotten back to the Sanctuary it was obvious that wasn’t what dragged at him. Restless, he’d tried the ocean and his family. The kids filled the void as always. His boys and the indulgent half smile of his daughter that mirrored his own had eased the ache for a while. But as always, August moved too quickly. School and the promise of football packed away some of the yawning days.
Until it didn’t.
Until the lines of the road offered his only solace. He’d followed the coastal roads until he’d seen signs for New York. Thinking he’d go back into the city, to the penthouse suite he’d purchased in the spring, he’d crossed the border. But instead of the city, he’d followed the water again. Through towns and roads he’d never traversed. With all his years on the road, he was surprised there were roadways he’d never been on.
The coastal town had lured without fanfare. They didn’t give two shits about who he was. In fact he was greeted with a skeptical brow instead of the maddening gasps of recognition.
He was a stranger here. And he liked it that way.
So close to his life, but far enough away to feel like he could start over. At least for a little while. All he needed was a little while.
It was off season. Hell, he wasn’t even sure there was a true season here. All he knew was that he’d driven until he found the eclectic lighthouse with the weathered sign. He’d called and rented it on the spot for two months.
The woman stood up, dragging him away from memories and his own twisting thoughts. She tipped the last drops of her whiskey back. Her elegant neck worked with each swallow. He knew it burned. Missed the burn sometimes, but didn’t miss the free fall into stupid. He gulped instead of sipped. And when you gulped, you went with wine. He liked his liver and intended on being buried with all his original organs.
A jangle of copper chains and beads curved over her wrist, peeking from the layers of thermal and plaid she wore. A cross dangled into her palm before she clenched her fingers around it. Dressed like a local and yet not quite. Butter soft cords hugged her hips, giving a hint of curves under the bulk of warmth. She was no fisherman, and definitely no long shore worker. He wasn’t sure what she was, but the woman didn’t seem to fit in with any of the familiar working class people that were growing roots into their bar stools.
She walked toward him, her butterscotch eyes finally resting on his face. No trace of recognition, not even a hint of interest. Instead of walking on by like she’d done the night before, she stopped.
He looked up at her. “Hello.”
She scanned his face, his shoulders, his neckline. His heart kicked at his breast bone and pounded at his temple. Finally her gaze slid back up to meet his and held. “Hello.” Her voice was as smoky as her choice of liquor. Then she turned and pushed through the door.
He tapped the stem of his glass and wished for a cigarette for the first time in over a year. He forced himself to stay in his booth. To finish the bottle and not chase after the woman, but her hauntingly steady gaze stayed with him. And the wine lost its soothing quality.
“Shit.” He stood and left a pair of twenties by his glass. Outside, the bite of the water soaked air slapped at his face clearing his head. He hadn’t expected the gnawing lust. Hell, he was half convinced that he’d tapped himself out after the divorce. A string of women and too many parties had filled the first two years after he and Dot had divorced.
He was tired. He couldn’t remember a day when he hadn’t been tired.
And now with a third year of single status under his belt, he couldn’t be bothered with anything more than schmoozing. He’d been certain his dick was in retirement. And he was happy to leave it there most of the time. Now, with a single word he was back in play.
September 14, 2012
And while there was more than one bar in her little town, there was only one The Bar.
And here, she could sit in the corner each night. She could soak up the life of others with her one tumbler of Tyrconnell, neat. Sometimes it was the conversations between the sailors that lined the bar bitching about the day’s haul, sometimes it was a few bar flies looking for company, sometimes it was a businessman that had tripped over her tiny town on his way out of New York. Like the one that sat by the door with his ever full glass of white wine.
She didn’t talk to them, but she liked to listen.
Sometimes it was the steady hum of conversation that stopped her from feeling alone. Sometimes it was just knowing there were other people out there. She needed the interaction. She’d go mad in her workshop without it. When she was working she needed the loneliness. Her work required the heat and the emptiness.
But she’d learned over the years that the lapping of the water on her dock could drive her slowly insane in the hours between midnight and sunrise.
She sat back against the smooth wood of her tiny booth for one. The cracked vinyl seat would bite into her left thigh, and a tiny chip of wood on the underside of the table would be there for her thumb to worry over as she watched.
As she soaked in the sounds of people that kept the madness at bay.