“Yes.” She slipped her hand into the pocket of her shorts. He saw her hand clench, and he wondered what sort of defense she carried in there. A can of pepper spray, perhaps. He watched her summon her courage.
“I’m afraid you’re trespassing,” she said. “This is a private beach.”
“Yes, I know. I have a house nearby.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that. I’m new here myself.”
He extended his hand. “Dominic St. John.”
After a moment’s hesitation, she placed her hand in his. “Tracy Patterson.”
His fingers curled around hers and he felt it, a sharp jolt of recognition as his essence brushed hers. Excitement swept through him. It was she, his soul mate, the woman he had found and lost countless times through the centuries. He had known her in many guises, by many names.
She was staring up at him. It took him a moment to realize he had fallen silent, that he was still holding her hand.
He smiled. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Thank you.” She withdrew her hand from his and glanced back the way she had come. “I should go.”
“May I walk with you?”
He could easily read her thoughts by the expressions that flitted over her face. He was a stranger. It was late. For all she knew, he could be the next Cliffside Strangler.
“Perhaps another time,” he suggested, fully aware of her apprehension.
“I’d be glad for the company, actually.”
“Afraid of the dark, are you?” He asked the question lightly even though he already knew the answer. She had feared the dark in every life.
“Just a little,” she admitted.
She turned and started walking back the way she had come. He fell into step beside her, aware of the warmth radiating from her body, the scent of her hair and skin, the beat of her heart.
“Have you lived here long?” she asked.
“Yes, for years.” More years than she had been alive in this body.
“It’s lovely here. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding a house near the beach, even though it was a little more than I planned to spend.”
“Nightingale House has been for sale for quite some time.”
Startled, she looked up at him. “How do you know that’s where I live?”
He smiled to put her at ease. “It’s the only house that was for sale on the beach.”
“Oh.” She laughed self-consciously. “Of course.”
“What do you do for a living?” he asked.
“I paint. Landscapes, mostly. What about you?”
“Retired?” She looked up at him. “You don’t look old enough to be retired.”
You’d be surprised,
he thought. Aloud, he said, “I made some good investments when I was very young. Now I live off the interest.”
“Must be nice.”
They had reached the long flight of wooden steps that led up to Nightingale House.
“Thank you for walking me home,” she said.
“Shall I see you to your door?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
“Good night, then.”
“Good night.” She started up the steps, paused, and turned to face him again. “Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow night at, say, five o’clock?”
“That’s a bit early for me,” he replied. “How about a movie later instead?”
“All right. What time?”
“I’ll pick you up around seven-thirty.”
“I’ll be ready.” She smiled. “See you then.”
He watched her climb the stairs, admiring the sway of her hips, the graceful way she moved. When she was out of sight, he dissolved into mist and followed her home.
Materializing in his basement lair, he dropped into his favorite chair. A wave of his hand started a fire in the hearth. Sitting back, he grinned in mild amusement as he stared at the dancing flames.
He had a date for tomorrow night.
Tracy hummed softly as she plugged in the blow-dryer. She couldn’t help noticing that her hand was shaking or deny the butterflies in her stomach. She told herself it was just a case of nerves. After all, she hadn’t had a date in the last five months, not since she’d broken up with that creep Richard. But even as she tried to convince herself it was perfectly normal to be excited at the prospect of going out on a date with someone new, and a wickedly handsome someone at that, she knew she was just kidding herself.
There was something intriguing about Dominic St. John, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on, something that made her skin tingle with both anticipation and trepidation when he was near. She still didn’t understand what it was that had possessed her to ask a complete stranger to come for dinner. She had never done anything like that before and had had no intention of doing so last night.
Thinking of him now, she realized that he had looked vaguely familiar but try as she might, she couldn’t recall ever meeting him before. And a man like that would not have been easily forgotten.
When her hair was dry, she brushed it out, carefully applied her makeup.
Was she making a mistake in going out with him? He seemed nice enough, but then, wasn’t that what friends and neighbors always said about the boy next door who turned out to be a serial killer? “He was such a nice boy. Never caused any trouble.”
She shook her head. She was really letting her imagination run wild this time! She hated this part of dating, hating the “getting to know you” stage. Some of her girlfriends thought that was the fun part, but not Tracy. She’d only had three serious relationships since she graduated from college and each one had lasted just over a year.
Leaving the bathroom, she glanced at the antique clock on the small antique oak table beside her bed. Whoever he was, he was going to be here in less than thirty minutes. Slipping on a pair of sandals, she went downstairs into the living room. She turned on the stereo, flicked on the lights.
She loved this room, she thought, glancing around. Her furniture had arrived yesterday morning and she had spent the day arranging it. The white wicker sofa and chair brightened up the room considerably. The pillows were covered in a variegated blue print. An antique oak bookcase held a number of books and videos. Several dragons, some she had bought for herself, some that had been gifts, decorated the mantel. Her entertainment center took up most of one corner. The next time she went into the village, she would look for an area rug to put in front of the fireplace and another one for her bedroom.
A knock at the door sent her stomach plummeting down to her toes. He was here.