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Authors: Pamela Browning

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BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
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They turned back toward the stairs to the path and Jay pointed toward the horizon. "Look," he said, "there's a ship out there." They stopped and looked out to sea, where a light bobbed gently on the faint gray line between starlit sea and blue velvet sky.

"I wonder what kind of ship it is and where it's going," Lisa said.

"Sister Clementine would think it's a cruise ship full of happy people, and Sister Ursula would say it's a freighter crammed to the gunwales with illegal drugs," Jay said in a wry tone.

"Ah, Sister Clementine and Sister Ursula—how well they balance each other out," Lisa said.

He looked down at her, enchanted with the way her eyelashes curled against her cheek. She caught him staring at her and looked away.

He recognized the way she refused to meet his eyes as her admission of their mutual attraction. He slowed his steps and willed her to look up at him again, but she kept her eyes focused straight ahead. When he slid his arm around her shoulders, her bones felt small and delicate, and a wave of unexpected desire swept over him. She glanced up at him, a longer look this time, her wide eyes silvery with starlight. He would have had to be blind not to see that she was powerfully attracted to him.

He had intended to wait until after dinner, when things were cozy at his town house, when they had established a base of rapport and communication and when kissing her wouldn't seem like such a big step.

Suddenly he knew that he didn't want to wait. He wanted to feel the lightness of her in his arms. He wanted to bend his head protectively over hers, and he wanted to test the softness of her lips. He wanted to wind his hands through her hair and to feel for himself the silkiness of it, to inhale the fresh scent of it, of her.

Finally he stopped walking altogether, and he turned her to face him. She lifted her eyes, those incredible eyes that outshone the stars, and he knew that there was nothing he could say to explain what he was about to do because he wasn't sure he understood it himself.

"Lisa," he said, the syllables of her name blending with the sound of the surf, and then he folded her in his arms and felt the straining of her head lifting to reach his, and his arms raised her slightly off the sand so that their lips would meet, and he kissed her.

Chapter 5

Lisa had been aware of the electricity between them even before he was, she was sure of that. She'd felt it from the first time she'd seen him, and it was what had fueled her imagination.

But this—this supercharged jolt of energy surging through her veins—was totally unexpected. He relaxed his grip so that her feet again stood solidly on the sand, his head bent over her upturned face to extract every last bit of pleasure. Their lips fused, blended, explored the limits of sweet sensation, almost parted and then came together again in the swift realization that they couldn't stop now, not yet.

After the first shock of sensation passed, she was aware—but only barely—of her hands pressing against the front of his shirt, then sliding upward and unclenching against the corded muscles of his neck; then, as she felt herself melting inside, her hands met at his nape and her fingers twisted through his hair, pulling his head down even farther. When she sensed a lessening of intensity, she made a soft sound somewhere in her throat and realigned her head to make it more comfortable for him, and his lips renewed their quest, his tongue seeking more, more, until she opened her mouth and clung to him in unabashed passion.

He was the one who ended it, pulling away and staring at her in the moonlight, his breathing rough. She closed her eyes, willing her heart to stop leaping about inside her rib cage.

"I didn't know anyone could kiss like that," he said in clear bewilderment, which helped bring her back down to earth.

"I didn't, either," she whispered.

"That was—"

"Was what?" she asked.

"Wonderful," he said, his hands on her shoulders positioning her so that her face rested against his chest. He hadn't expected it to feel so right.

"Are you cold?" he asked when he felt a little tremor run through her.

"Warmer now," she murmured, her voice muffled by his shirt.

He pulled away. "We should have brought jackets. And, maybe, a blanket."

"I'm comfortable," she said.

"I feel like a crazy kid, kissing you on the beach out here in front of strolling senior citizens and tourists and skateboarders," he said. He struggled to control his voice so that it wouldn't tremble.

"I feel like—" she said, but she stopped.

"Feel like what?" he asked.

"Like doing it again," she said, sounding more helpless than he felt, and he laughed and pulled her close.

"In that case, we will," he said, and this time he spent more time at it, reveling in the softness of her lips, the sweetness of her breath, the delight he felt at indulging himself in something that was pure perfection.

Up on the bike path the teenage skateboarders whooped as they rolled past, their wheels noisy on the asphalt path.

"Are you ready to go?" Jay asked.

"Perhaps we should," she said, not sure if she meant it. She wished the skateboarders would leave.

"One thing I know for sure, and that is that we don't need to leave right this minute," Jay replied, and he led her up the beach to a spot where he bent to touch his hand to the sand. He straightened and sifted a few grains through his fingers. "It's not too damp," he said. "Do you want to sit here and decompress for a few minutes? I feel like I'll get the bends if I come up for air too fast."

Lisa smiled, happy that he could joke about it. She sat down and settled into the curve of his arm, leaned her head against his shoulder and inhaled the pungent scent of sea air. He could make jokes, but she hadn't reached that point. She was still overwhelmed.

"I, um," he said, but he didn't finish.

"Mmm," she said, moving even closer. She liked the way her shoulder fit exactly under his arm.

"I don't usually make a habit of necking on the beach," he said after a while.

"Where do you neck, then?" she asked, sliding an impish glance up at him.

"What I mean is that this seems extraordinary to me. I've always been able to wait until I managed to find a private place. With you, it was kind of an urge. An imperative. A necessity," he said.

she said, and she couldn't help starting to giggle.

laugh. Lisa, I'm being serious," he said.

"It's funny, what you said. A necessity is something that you
she pointed out.

"Who says I didn't need to kiss you? Like now. I think I need to kiss you again."

"By all means, do it," she urged, and he cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her gently on her forehead, her nose, and finally her lips. One kiss, then another, and soon he was leaning over her and she was trying to keep her balance, which deserted her so suddenly that she fell backward in the sand with him on top of her.

He righted himself and pulled her up after him. Sand clung to her hair, stuck to her eyelashes and slid scratchily down the front of her shirt.

"Did you need
too?" she asked slyly.

"I must have," he said, and she tried to brush the sand off his face, whereupon he captured her hand in one of his and said "Don't," and when she saw the seriousness of his expression, she forgot about everything else.

"You've got sand in your eyebrows," he pointed out after a few minutes.

She brushed at it. "I really think we should leave before there's something else you need," she said. Her eyes sparkled up at him.

He stood up and reached a hand down to pull her up beside him. "What I need is you—just you. Your smile, your warmth, your companionship," he said.

Don't analyze this too much,
Lisa warned herself. Even though she knew that he now realized the impact of the attraction between them, he might not feel any real emotion for her. She couldn't dare to hope for love, didn't dare even to think the word, even though she had known in her heart from that first day that she could easily love this man and perhaps already did.

They made their way slowly up the wooden stairs, only to realize that they'd forgotten their shoes, and they bumped into each other all the way down the creaking wooden steps again, put on their shoes and, laughing, ran back up. In the distance, the skateboarders rumbled away, leaving the path clear for them.

At Jay's place, Lisa followed Jay into the kitchen and sat on a stool to watch as Jay piled turkey on thick slabs of pumpernickel bread.

"Did you roast the turkey yourself?" she asked.

"Yes. It's one of the few things I eat that doesn't come already cooked out of a zip-open bag at the supermarket," he admitted. "Mustard or mayonnaise?"

"Mayonnaise, please," she said.

"Mustard for me," he said, applying it with a heavy hand.

The sandwich was good, but it was Jay who was the real treat. She liked sitting across from him, liked the way he seemed to enjoy watching her. She found herself growing more animated as they sat and talked. Sometimes his eyes flickered with appreciation at something she said, and she fought the impulse to become reckless with wit, to laugh louder, to toss her head, bat her eyelashes—anything to impress him.

But that would be a mistake. He
impressed. She was flattered. And the attraction between them was magnetic.

After dinner, when Hildy had come out to say good-night and later retreated happily to her bed in the closet, Jay turned out the overhead light, leaving their faces illuminated only by the hood light over the stove. She held her breath and felt her heart fluttering in her chest. Almost ceremoniously he put his arms around her and kissed her.

"You're a girl who really knows how to kiss," he said after a few minutes. "You must have had lots of practice."

"Not with the right person."

"What makes me so right?" he asked, his mouth close to her ear.

How could she explain that she'd wanted him to want her from the moment she'd seen him standing in the community center at the mission in his paint-splashed blue jeans? That his caring and compassion for the children stirred her more than even his physical presence, which was at this moment making her think erotic thoughts that would embarrass her in the extreme if he were to guess them?

"Oh," she said, striving for but not attaining a lightness of tone, "it's some kind of special undefinable something, I guess."

"A good way of putting it," he agreed, and he drew her into the living room and turned out one of the lights, the brightest one, leaving only the glow of recessed indirect lighting above the paintings on the wall.

Jay drew her down beside him on the couch and reached out with both hands, tunneling them under the feathery hair at her nape and rubbing gently. Her skull seemed small and delicate, as fragile as a bird's. He wanted to kiss her again. In fact, he wanted to do more than that.

"Do you like this, or shall I stop?" he asked.

"I like it," she said, and her lips remained parted in open invitation.

He kissed her, fascinated with the way she sank beneath him with submission yet rose to meet him in ardor. Lisa didn't look like a femme fatale, but he was rapidly beginning to think that she was more
than any
he had ever known.

What could have happened didn't. He had no idea whether she would have shown restraint or not, but summoning what he thought were remarkable scruples, he managed to pull himself up short. He kissed her for as long as he could stand it without going any further, pleaded an early court appearance, which happened to be true, and saw her to her car. Then he kissed her chastely on the cheek, slammed the car door after her and watched her as she drove away.

He had to know how he really felt about her before he took this relationship to the next level. Sister Maria would never forgive him if he hurt Lisa Sherrill.

* * *

Lisa thought Adele was asleep when she let herself quietly into the house, but before she had tiptoed past the kitchen, she realized that Adele sat in her usual chair, the blue images reflected from the television screen flickering across her face.

BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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