I wave at them, then step back inside and close the door. Then I lean against the door, close my eyes, and wish for Damien.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any magical powers, and he doesn’t immediately materialize. I check the clock on my cellphone. It’s three minutes later than it was the last time I looked. And, hopefully, three minutes closer to Damien.
Except it’s not. Because as I’m looking at the clock, a text message pops across my screen.
Going to be later than expected. Probably by at least two hours. Damn weather. It’s keeping me from you.
I start to type out a long, whiny text, but I rein myself in. He wants to be here with me as much as I want him by my side. So I suck it up and type my reply.
Miss you. Waiting for you. Hot for you.
His answer flashes on my screen in seconds.
Hard for you, baby. Soon.
I realize I’m smiling, which under the circumstances is good. I want him by me, but if he can’t be here, at least I’m not morose.
I head into the kitchen to open a bottle of wine. I figure I’ll spend the two hours between now and Damien watching a movie, and a glass of wine will make the passing time more palatable. Not only that, but the bottle can breathe, and Damien can have a glass when he gets home.
Except, dammit, we’re all out of wine. We’re also out of champagne, so no more mimosas for me. The vodka’s gone, too—apparently both Evelyn and Lisa have a penchant for Bloody Marys. I still have a tiny amount of gin, which I hate, and scotch, which I love but am really not in the mood for.
I frown, considering my options. I had a whole scenario starting to play in my head. Two wineglasses on the coffee table, and an open bottle ready for pouring. Candles flickering in the dark room. Me naked under a blanket, and rapidly turning off the television the minute I hear Damien coming up the front steps.
It’s a fantasy that I don’t want to abandon. More, it’s a fantasy I want to make real. And since I still have almost two hours before Damien will be walking up to the door, I decide to brave the nasty weather and walk down to the little market. It’s not far—just past the entrance to this gated area. It serves this quarter of the island and has everything from produce to wine to fine caviar.
In fact, maybe I should get some caviar…
I pull on jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt, then shove my feet into a pair of canvas sneakers without laces. I have a fisherman-style yellow raincoat that I bought on a whim. It’s not as attractive as my London Fog, but it’s fun and funky and keeps me dry. I tug it on, then pull the hood over my head. It’s late spring, getting close to summer, but it’s evening, and there’s a chill in the air.
Once I’m bundled up, I head out. I don’t bother locking the door—there’s really no point in this restricted area of the island—and if the storm picks up I want to be able to get back inside as quickly as possible. There’s both a crushed granite walking path and a paved road that leads out of the gated area. I walk along the path, running my hands lightly over the plants that are taking a battering in the pounding rain.
My head is mostly down, and I’m walking with my eyes on my shoes more than my surroundings. When I pass through the gate, though, I look up—and then I gasp.
There’s a man. He’s across the road wearing a dark trench coat and a low slung fedora-style hat that hides his face in shadows. I can tell nothing about him. Nothing, that is, except that he’s looking right at me.
He’s not doing anything sinister. Just standing in the alcove at the front of the now-closed spa. But even so, seeing him makes my skin tingle.
I realize I’ve frozen in place. My heart is pounding in my chest, so hard I can hear it in my ears. And my fingers are tight on the gate that I’ve just pushed through.
I have no idea why the sight of this man makes me nervous, but I can’t deny that my instinct is to go back. To shut the gate behind me, jog to the bungalow, lock the door, and wait for Damien.
But I’m being silly. I know I am. He’s not doing anything remotely freaky. And everyone looks spooky in a rain jacket and fedora if they’re hidden in the shadows.
I take another step—and then stop again. Because maybe my nervous reaction is silly, but it’s also genuine. And don’t all those self-defense articles and classes tell women to pay attention to their guts?
And who am I to argue with boatloads of self-help articles?
So I turn around. Then I push back through the gate, locking it securely behind me. As I do, I glance toward him one more time. But the spot is empty now, and there’s no sign of the man. Not in the alcove in front of the spa. Not on the street. Not anywhere.
I frown, wondering if I’d made him up entirely. I consider going to the store after all, but now all I really want to do is get home and curl up under a blanket. I still have that scotch, after all. And at the moment, it’s sounding pretty damn good.
I hurry back, then burst dripping through the door. I kick off my shoes, then peel myself out of my raincoat and damp sweatshirt, leaving me in only my bra and jeans. I grab a beach towel from a hook by the door and am dabbing my face as I step into the living room.
And then I stop cold, my heart pounding and my skin clammy.
The lights are out, but I’d left some faux candles burning, and the flickering light casts wild shadows on the man in a long, dark raincoat standing across the room.
Oh god, oh god.
I take an unsteady step backward.
And when he starts to turn toward me, I open my mouth and scream.
Even before the sound has left my mouth, I realize my mistake. But it’s too late to call it back, and I watch as Damien whips around, his eyes alight with a fierce, familiar protectiveness as he searches the room for whatever danger has set me off.