Read Light of Day Online

Authors: Barbara Samuel,Ruth Wind

Tags: #FICTION / Romance / Contemporary, #FICTION / Contemporary Women, #FICTION / Romance / General

Light of Day (6 page)

BOOK: Light of Day
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Somehow he seemed to sense her thoughts. His smile faded, and she saw his thumb restlessly tip the filtered end of his cigarette. As he had several times before, he seemed about to say something as he looked at her so intently, then the moment passed. He shifted.

“It’s going well,” he said.

“Yes, it is.” She scanned the room. “In no small measure, it’s your doing. They all seem very impressed with you.” Lila lifted an eyebrow. “And you speak at least three languages that I’ve counted—Arabic, English and something I’ve never heard before.”

“Four,” he said. He leaned closer. “In your ear, the words should be French, I think.”

His fingers caressed her elbow with no greater weight than an ounce of sunshine, yet Lila felt them. She felt, too, his breath over the edges of her collarbone. His voice, not deep or rumbling or gravelly like the voices of men she’d admired hitherto, held the pure tenor quality of a cello. Breathlessly she said, “Why French?”

“I leave that speculation to you,” he answered, pulling back to give her his off-center smile. “What’s the other one?”

“Other one?”

“Language.”

“Hebrew,” he said, and dropped his hand. “I see that I’m needed.”

She watched him glide through the crowd to a little knot of older men by the stone fireplace, ever more perplexed—and attracted—than before. Why would a man with high degrees in physics, an obviously Continental background and fluency in four languages fall into the line of work he was now doing?

Absently collecting several empty wineglasses, she headed back to the bar. While it was true that she was involved in an unusual occupation herself, there was a big difference. Lila had been raised on an Oklahoma ranch, surrounded by people who admired higher education in the way they might admire a Fabergé egg—very fine and well for people in a certain class, wonderful if you could get your hands on one, but all in all, not terribly necessary.

In contrast, Samuel had obviously been raised to take some position in society. She couldn’t imagine how he’d find managing restaurants satisfying enough.

She put the glasses on the bar and checked the buffet, straightening a stack of napkins that had fallen sideways, then glanced back toward Samuel. He stood utterly at ease, listening intently to an older man, nodding in encouragement. As he began to offer his reply, he gestured with two fingers circling the air, his other hand stuck in his pocket. Lila sighed.

“That sounds a little frustrated,” a voice said to her left.

Lila jerked her head around, startled, to find an old professor friend standing next to her. “John,” she said in real pleasure. “How are you?”

“Well enough. I’m thirteen years past retirement age, and they haven’t kicked me out yet.” He grinned at his old joke. “And you?”

“Okay.”

He lifted a tumbler of whiskey to his lips, let several drops fall to his tongue, narrowed his eyes. “Is he someone you know well, girl?”

“Samuel? No, not really. Why?”

“Trouble there.”

“What makes you say that?”

John lifted hooded eyes to Lila. “I spent four years in Europe in the war. There were a lot of men like him around then. They have a scent about them.” He lifted the tumbler, tasted again. “Mark my words, girl, he’s got a cause.”

At that moment Samuel shook the old man’s hand warmly and he walked away. As if he’d been waiting, the visiting Middle Eastern professor slid next to Samuel. She watched the two men curiously as they exchanged a noncommittal series of words, both keeping their faces bland. No love lost there, Lila thought, for Samuel barely looked at the other man while delivering his words in an offhand manner that seemed to irk the professor. He leaned forward in a confidential manner, said something and smiled as Samuel went rigid.

Lila absorbed the drama carefully. Now Samuel turned, his posture straight and arrogant. Though his face remained as bland as before, she saw that he spoke through stiff lips. Whatever he said inflamed the professor, who raised his voice just enough that Lila, across the room, could hear that he’d spoken.

“Arabic,” the old professor next to Lila said confidently. “I doubt anyone here could tell us what they were arguing about. Mark my words,” he repeated in satisfaction.

With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Lila turned away. Who was he? Nothing seemed to fit.

She shook her head in dismissal and touched her old teacher’s arm. “I’m going to step outside a moment. Would you like to join me?”

“No, girl. Cold night air’s hard on my arthritis. Good to see you.”

She smiled. “You, too.”

* * *

Samuel could barely see for his fury. Bad enough to find an enemy in the city he was forced to occupy for the next two or three months. Worse to remember what a base, mongrel lech he was. It offended Samuel’s dignity to know the man had actually wormed his way into the role of a visiting professor.

He glanced around for Lila, almost immediately seizing upon the idea of her as a balm to his anger. A moment before, she’d been adjusting things on the buffet. Now she was gone.

No, not gone, he realized, glimpsing the Byzantine decoration of her dress as she slipped through the doors that led to the deck. He followed her without hurry into the chill night.

She stood against the balcony where he’d paused earlier. “You’re going to catch a cold out here,” he said as he joined her. “Where is your shawl?”

“It’s inside. But I’m not cold.”

He shrugged his coat from his arms and settled it over her bare shoulders. “Nor am I.”

“I’d say you were in need of a cooling draft of air.”

Samuel leaned next to her. “I don’t like him.”

She grinned. “That much was obvious. Do you know him?”

“Unfortunately no. We were once in school together.”

“Small world.”

Not that small, Samuel thought. He inhaled a long sip of air, shifting to look at the sky. “Look,” he said, pointing. “Stars. I’ve not seen stars since I arrived in Seattle.”

She raised her head, exposing the moonlit column of her throat. A slender golden chain glittered against her flesh, the charm it held hidden beneath her dress. Before he knew he would do it, he touched a single finger to the chain. “Your jewelry is mild tonight,” he said.

She gave him her impish grin. “I left everything off but the essentials.”

“This is essential?”

“Definitely.” She tugged the chain from the neckline of her dress to show him an array of charms: a small oval medallion, a silver thunderbird with turquoise inlays and a wooden cross. “Homage to my ancestors,” she said. “St. Christopher is for my Italian mother, this thunderbird is for my Indian grandmother and the cross is for the rest of them. I figure it’s generic enough to cover anything else.”

He grinned broadly, delighted with the comfortable synthesis she had achieved. “But St. Christopher is no saint these days,” he teased.

“Oh, that,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, dropping the charms safely back below her dress. “You can’t take away a saint. All of my mother’s children wear St. Christopher. She wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I see.” He tucked a foot into the slats of the railing.

Although being silent was not ordinarily her way, Lila waited now for Samuel. There was a caged feeling about him, about the way he shifted and the way the grooves alongside his mouth hardened. He looked, she thought, like the strained man she’d seen in his car the first day. A man with a cause, John had said. Maybe that was true.

“Do you miss your Oklahoma?” he asked suddenly.

“Sometimes,” she said. “After it’s rained for two weeks, I’m ready for sunshine.”

“Yes.”

“Where are you from, Samuel? Do you miss it?”

“I’m from many places,” he said, dodging again, but the dodge seemed to relax him. He smiled at her. “I miss several of them. But mainly I miss the vineyards near my grandfather’s home in France. It was a beautiful place.”

“Is that how you learned so much about wine?”

“Yes. He walked with me often, telling me this and that thing about the grapes and the fields, which vineyards would bring a good harvest and which would not.”

Lila smiled. “How wonderful.”

“Good memories,” he said. “He would have liked you, you and your motorcycle and your pillows.”

“Was he an eccentric?”

Samuel touched his chin with a thumb. “Something like that. He survived a great many trials. They taught him to celebrate little things.”

Lila felt his tension flowing away as he spoke, and she leaned her elbows on the rail to listen more comfortably. Her hair blew over his shirtsleeve, very dark against the white. It was oddly intimate, and she couldn’t quite decide whether to leave it or catch it. Silly to dither over it, she thought, and left it.

It was somehow easier to be with him outside like this, away from the company of others. His jacket on her shoulders smelled of cigarettes and cologne, a celebration of its own, and she decided she didn’t care if he was in trouble or if he’d be gone in a few months or if he was out of her league. Very rarely did a man intrigue her at all, and this one was riveting on every level.

“Did you spend a lot of time with your grandfather?”

He gave an expressive shrug. “Yes. My mother wanted me to know him.”

“It’s her father, then?”

“Yes.” He looked at her. “Give me one of my cigarettes from the pocket there, will you?”

“Terrible habit,” she said, but reached into the pocket for the weeds, anyway.

“Does it offend you?”

Lila shifted so that she half faced him. “You make me think of Humphrey Bogart when you smoke.”

His black eyes shone in the darkness. “Humphrey Bogart?” He lit the cigarette. “Does that mean you think I’m romantic or dangerous?”

“Maybe it isn’t either one,” she said airily. “Maybe I think you’re old-fashioned.”

This brought a faint smile to his features. “I don’t think so.”

Lila felt a ripple of excitement dance in her chest as his gaze tangled with hers. It seemed a long, even endless, moment. His cigarette sent a curl of blue smoke into the calm night air. He was not a particularly young man anymore, she realized. He was surely forty, but it didn’t seem to matter to Lila, not when his fathomless eyes spoke to her as they were now. Not when he had more grace and intelligence than any man she’d ever met. Just standing next to him, looking into his eyes, made her feel breathless and languorously aroused.

With one hand he reached out to brush an errant strand of hair away from her face. “I think I agree with my grandfather,” he said softly. Then, with the abrupt turn of attitude she was learning was a part of him, he shifted away from her, turning his face to the view before them, lifting his cigarette to his lips.

“I suppose,” she said, straightening, “I should go back to the guests.” She removed his coat and handed it back. “Thank you.”

Samuel couldn’t resist one more long sip of her innocent green eyes, eyes that promised things he’d forgotten to even dream of. He took his coat. “You’re welcome,” he replied.

He didn’t allow himself to watch her departure, focusing instead on the starry sky overhead and the faint scent of her perfume left on his jacket.

When his cigarette burned his thumb, he flung it away angrily. A woman, he thought as he blew the air from his lungs. A woman. Now, of all times, when he felt the circle closing around him and had nothing to offer but danger and trouble for as far into the future as he cared to look.

For the first time, he wondered about compromises, and realized that was a vague dream. Hassid proved that.

Lila would have to remain a wish.

Chapter 4

B
ut it seemed fate and Samuel had different plans for Lila.

After the guests had departed and the buffet had been packed away for transport, he told her to go home, promising to look after the final cleanup himself. It disturbed him that she seemed to be limping a bit from her high heels. Around her mouth was a fine white line of fatigue. He wondered what sort of problems she had with her back and why she felt compelled to hide them. He shrugged mentally and insisted she go home, where she would also be out of his sight.

A few minutes later she reappeared at the head of the stairs, her fingers smeared with grease. “I need to call a tow truck,” she announced. “I don’t remember seeing a phone.”

“What’s the trouble?” Samuel asked.

“I can’t tell in the dark, but it seems my starter has gone out.” She flashed a wry little smile. “One of the risks you run with a used car.”

The host of the reception came forward. “You may leave it until morning if that would be easier.”

She hesitated only an instant. The towing charge would amount to a small fortune. If she waited until morning, she could call Allen to bring her back to fix the starter. “If you’re sure it’s not a problem, I’d appreciate it.”

“No trouble at all.”

“In that case,” she said with a smile, “I need only a cab.”

“Nonsense,” Samuel said. “I can take you now if you like.”

“That’s not necessary. You’ve gone out of your way once already this week.”

He had his keys in his hand, brooking no argument. He spoke to the bartender and the waitresses briefly, then took Lila’s arm and led her outside. “You’re bossy, aren’t you?” Lila commented.

“Sensible.” He looked at her. “A good quality in moderation.”

“Overrated,” Lila said with a smile.

At the car he paused. “Would you like to drive?”

She stopped dead. “Really?” She grinned. “I’d love to.”

He dropped the ring in her hand with a quirk of his brows. Inside the car he pointed out all the controls for her, then leaned back comfortably. She had to pull the seat up a bit, but other than that, it was a perfect fit and she started it with a sense of excitement. It rumbled to life under her feet, responding smoothly as she pulled out of the parking area and onto the street beyond.

“Oh, Samuel,” she exclaimed, “this is wonderful!” She rolled down the window to let the air flow through her hair, enjoying the quick, hard bite of it on her bare shoulders. When her shawl started slapping her arms, she whipped it off and flung it on the seat beside her.

BOOK: Light of Day
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Bending Over Backwards by Cari Simmons
A Christmas Bride by Susan Mallery
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith
Rise of the Enemy by Rob Sinclair
Sweet Seduction by M Andrews