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BOOK: Damon, Lee
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Slowly raising her hand, Kitt rested her fingertips on the place his lips had touched. She stared blankly at the closed door, unmoving, not thinking, hearing still the deep voice, soft, almost husky, saying "Dear Kitt."

"Excuse me. Miss? Excuse me? Are you the new owner?"

The woman's voice finally penetrated Kitt's daze, and she turned to take care of her second customer of the day, forcing all thoughts of deep blue eyes and warm, gentle lips to the back of her mind.

Chapter 3

Kitt managed to pull herself together enough to chat with reasonable intelligence with Mrs. Elbridge. Fortunately, considering Kitt's state of mind, Mrs. Elbridge was in something of a hurry and had only come in to pick up a special order. She left after a few minutes, and Kitt scooped Hero out of his chair, dropping into it herself and settling him onto her lap.

"Well, dog, and what do you think of that? O'Mara. Right out of the blue, and after all these years." She absently rubbed him behind the ears with the tips of her fingers, her eyes unfocused as she stared across the shop. "And it's still there. Something special... I don't quite know... it can't be possible...." Her voice trailed off as she became lost in remembrance of the strong rapport she'd felt with him in that long locking of eyes.
need you. I'm here.
It had been so intense, that feeling, as if they had spoken. She remembered, in wisps of recall, times in those long-ago summer days when they had shared a silent communication. Not as strong or deep as that of a few minutes ago, but in those days she hadn't yet experienced anything like the emotional disasters of these past years—and, perhaps, he hadn't either.

She stroked her hand over Hero's side, rubbing along his ribs with her fingertips, and he moaned with pleasure. "I think you're going to make a new friend this afternoon. Bet you'll like that, won't you, my Hero? Wonder what kind of a deal that was. She must have been an odd woman to take off and abandon her baby after only six months. To say nothing of O'Mara." She continued petting the dog, thinking dreamily of deep blue eyes and remembering, suddenly, the feel of those long, sinewy arms wrapped around her, holding her close to his strong, lean body. So long ago and—

The opening door jolted her back to the present, and she blinked to bring her eyes into focus as Midge bounced in.

"Hi! Wow! You don't know how glad I am that it's Friday.

Only three more weeks and I'm done, done, done! If I last that long. I have a feeling that Russian lit. final is going to be a beast." Midge boosted herself up onto the desk and sat with her small feet swinging two feet off the floor. "You look comfortable. So do you, Hero. Is this break-time?" She glanced at the littered floor in front of the cabinets. "Looks like you've been spring cleaning." Looking back at Kitt, she noted the bemused expression in the smoky eyes and had a strong feeling that the older woman wasn't quite seeing her. "Kitt? Are you all right? Hey!" She leaned over and snapped her fingers in front of Kitt's face.

"Hmmmm?" With considerable effort, Kitt brought her wandering mind back to the immediate moment. "Oh! Midge. Russian lit. Ahh, why don't you ask Ez about it? I'm sure he'd be enchanted to help you."

"Enchanted?" Midge grinned, and her eyebrows lifted out of sight under the blonde curls tumbled across her forehead. "That's not a word I'd think of in relation to your bear of a brother. Besides, he spends all week coping with students. I'm sure he'd rather get away from all that on weekends. Now, what's got you so starry-eyed? Don't tell me one of our local Lotharios has ventured in here. I didn't think any of them could read and, even if they could, I wouldn't have thought they'd appeal to you. Or have you run across an old boyfriend, perhaps?"

Kitt looked startled for a moment and then laughed, unconvincingly, as a light flush of betraying color tinged her cheeks. "I don't have any old... that is, he's not exactly..." She took a steadying breath, suddenly feeling much younger than Midge.
am not going to let that man rattle me like this. It's ridiculous!
She stood up, dropped Hero into his chair and reached for a stack of publishers' catalogs and order forms.

"It was nothing, really. Look, let's go over these while things are quiet and see if we can figure out what the summer folk will want to read this year. You must have spent enough time in here in the summers to have a good idea what kinds of books the Baxters stocked."

Midge slid off the desk as Kitt started to sort out the catalogs and order forms. She leaned sideways on one elbow on the desk and looked up into Kitt's face inquiringly. "Did I step-in it? If so, sorry. But you did have a very strange look when I came in, and you seemed to be miles away." She straightened up and reached for a stack of brochures. "How do you want these sorted?"

"Let's start by separating hardcovers and paperbacks. I think most of those big envelopes are from paperback publishers. The Baxters just piled them up for the last few weeks without opening them." Kitt wrinkled her nose in mock disgust. "They said they thought I'd like to pick my own stock. Which is true, but it would have helped to have some basic orders already in. I may have to take a trip down to the distributor's in Portsmouth to get what we want on time. Oh, well, at least we can look over this stuff and make a list." She worked rapidly through the pile of material at her end of the desk, separating it into two stacks. A few minutes later, she paused with a catalog in her hand. "Guess we'd better make a third pile, Midge. Ez would be interested in anything from the university presses. Or anything pertaining to history."

"Yo. Ah, when do you expect him? Is he still going to be here for supper?" Midge managed a fair imitation of casual .inquiry, but Kitt caught the gleam of intense interest in the brown eyes as Midge slanted a look up at her.

Managing to control her impulse to smile, Kitt said lightly, "Nothing's changed since yesterday and the day before and the day before that. He'll still be here around five-ish." Unable to hold back a grin any longer, she added, "Maybe I should have made a sign, so you wouldn't forget."

"Funny, funny," Midge grumbled. Then she laughed. "Okay, so I'm interested. It's not often I meet a bear. Especially one who totes me around like a doll and has a sense of humor and is intelligent." She paused long enough to take a deep breath before continuing dreamily, "And besides all that, he's so handsome and... well, you may not realize it, Kitt, since he's your brother, but Ez is not exactly an everyday experience."

"Believe me, I realize it only too well." Kitt chuckled. She glanced down at Midge speculatively, wondering how she'd react to O'Mara's rather overwhelming charisma. Then it dawned on her that Midge probably knew him as Michael Talbot and saw him in a completely different light than she and Ez did.

Unable to resist the temptation, and curious about Midge's reaction, Kitt casually tossed out, "Oh, by the way, Michael Talbot and his son are joining us for supper."

She watched, first with interest and then with laughter, as Midge's brown eyes opened so wide in blank astonishment that they seemed about to pop out of her face. Midge sputtered and stammered and finally gave up trying to say anything for a minute. Eventually, she managed a squeaky "Michael Talbot! You actually
Michael Talbot! How? When? Where? Talk to me, Kitt. Don't just stand there laughing. It's not funny. He's famous, and all—absolutely all—the women under fifty are hot for him, and some older ones, too, and you just calmly say, 'Oh, by the way, Michael Talbot and his son are joining us for supper,' as if it's no big deal. Kitt! Stop laughing and tell me!"

"Heavens, Midge, you make him sound like... like some kind of superstud movie star or pop singer dripping with women. He's really very nice, you know, and down to earth. There's nothing to get so excited about."

"Oh, Kitt, he's a dream. How can you be so blase? And those wicked eyes!"

"Not you, too," Kitt groaned. "I can still hear all those beach bunnies squealing 'Oooooo, what gorgeous eyes!' It was enough to make you sick."

"Beach? What beach? When have you been to the beach with him? Kitt, don't keep me in suspense like this!"

"Okay. Once through. Ez and I knew Michael Talbot years ago when we used to spend summers on Cape Cod. He worked a summer job at a resort hotel near our cottage, and we became friends. Except his name wasn't Talbot then; it was O'Mara. Well, it still is, I guess. I don't know where the Talbot came from, but his first name was always Michael. Sounds funny to think of him as Michael. We always just called him O'Mara."

"Never mind what he's called. Stick to the story. How long did you know him, and why haven't you said anything? Didn't you know he lived here?"

"No. We lost track of each other years ago. I never quite understood why. Ez and I knew him for three summers. We last saw him when we were eighteen and getting ready to start college. He was twenty-two and had just graduated with a degree in political science. It was the last summer he was working on the Cape. After Labor Day, he was starting a job in Washington, but we planned to keep in touch."

"What happened? How come you never saw him again?"

"I don't know. We wrote a few times, but the letters got further apart. You know how it is in college—all sorts of things going on and never enough time to fit them all in. After a while, when we didn't hear from him for a long time, Ez and I figured he'd gotten tied up in his job and... maybe other interests."

"What 'other interests'?" Midge narrowed her eyes, and Kitt could almost hear her deceptively sharp mind clicking rapidly through the possibilities. "Was there something between you two? Did you think he'd found somebody else?"

"No, it wasn't that exactly. Well, maybe.... Oh, I don't know how to explain it. The three of us were great friends right from the start, but that last summer O'Mara and I seemed to spend a lot of time alone and—"


"And we liked each other." Kitt's fingers played idly with a pencil as she gazed thoughtfully out the window, her mind searching back to that last summer. "Maybe more than liked. I simply don't know, now. It was so long ago, and I—"

"You what?"

"Oh, I guess you could say I didn't know diddly damn about boys or men or... whatever. You have to understand, Midge, that that last summer was the first time I really
at males. Until then, I'd been the world's greatest tomboy. Always chasing around after Ez and his friends, playing football, baseball, all kinds of sports, and keeping everything very buddy-buddy, one-of-the-boys. It was Ez's fault, too. We'd always been close and, since I was tall and athletic and could keep up, he always took me along."

"Didn't you date? Look at you—you're gorgeous! I should have thought you'd have guys in heaps at your feet."

"Nonsense. I'm not at all gorgeous. And I certainly wasn't anything like it then. Believe it or not, I was almost eighteen before I even started looking like a girl. Talk about arrested development! I was taller than most of the boys I knew and flat as a flounder in all directions. Then, in a few months, all of a sudden I finally got some curves. Not a lot, maybe, but enough to keep the top of my bikini in place."

"So, when you got a shape, what happened with Michael O'Mara?"

"I'm not sure. We understood each other in a very strange way. I mean, really strange. We didn't even talk a lot of the time. We just
what the other one was thinking or feeling. I can't explain it. We used to walk on the beach a lot, early in the morning before he had to go to work, and hold hands.... I know that doesn't sound like much, but holding hands with O'Mara was like being kissed by someone else. No, it was better, because I never felt all that much from kissing someone else."

"Did he kiss you?" cried Midge, wide-eyed again. "Is that what you mean? Oh, drat, I don't suppose I should have asked that, should I?"

"It's okay. It's... just....It was a long time ago, Midge, and we've both been living different lives. You can't just pick up something from where you left off after twelve years. At least... I didn't think you could... but it was so odd...." Kitt's voice trailed off in a whisper as she closed her eyes, remembering that silent exchange.

"Kitt!" Midge shook her arm until she opened her eyes. "What was so odd? What happened this morning? That's when you saw him again, wasn't it?"

"Yes. He came in looking for some books he'd ordered, and—" She flung her hands out and laughed. -"It was incredible! We were both so stunned, I don't think we said a word for the first two minutes. Oh! He forgot his books. Remind me to give them to him tonight."

"Never mind his books! What happened that was so odd?" pleaded Midge, her eyes gleaming with excitement.

"Nothing really earthshaking. It was just that for a few moments we sort of... talked without words. It's hard to explain. We were looking at each other, and he knew what I was thinking... well, I wasn't exactly thinking it... I was kind of saying something to him in my mind, and he knew and... answered me... I mean, I could... pick up somehow what he was saying in his head. Oh, damn, it sounds so crazy when I try to put it into words. It was like the communication we used to have, but much stronger. And it threw me. It really did. So many years, and... bang!
was still there. It didn't even take ten minutes from when I looked up and saw him standing there."

Kitt wrapped her arms around herself and looked at Midge with more than a bit of bewilderment in her eyes. "It's scary. The effect that man has on me. I don't want to get involved with anyone. And I just
he's not going to listen to a word I say. Oh, damn, when he finds out...."

Midge waited, but Kitt turned away, picked up a catalog at random and started flipping through it. Finally, Midge said calmly, "It sounds to me as if you two have an unusually strong telepathic link. I'm not sure if I'd like that. It would be a hell of a disadvantage if my favorite man could read my mind. How could you ever win an argument? Or get away with anything?"

BOOK: Damon, Lee
7.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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