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Authors: Barbara Samuel,Ruth Wind

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

Light of Day (9 page)

BOOK: Light of Day
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“Nothing matters but keeping you safe,” she said, looking directly into his troubled eyes.

He continued to study her, coming to conclusions he did not share. With one last, tender pressing of his fingers to hers, he released her. “How much farther do we have to drive?”

“About a hundred and fifty miles. We’ll be there by late afternoon.”

Until she followed the highway out of town, heading west toward the coast and Highway 101, Lila had not stopped to consider the discomfort that might lie between strangers trapped together in the close confines of a car. They really knew very little of one another.

But as the miles swooped away below the tires, she found she had no need to worry. They spoke in spurts, sometimes long ones, sometimes short, with pauses in between that she felt no compulsion to fill with small talk. There was no uneasiness in the silences, although Lila was very much aware of him as a man. She watched his elegant hands move as he talked and smoked and changed cassettes in the tape player. She wanted to simply hold one of them between her own hands, to look at them and feel the bones and heat of blood below the fine-grained flesh—but she also felt no urgency. It was enough to be here with him.

As the morning passed, however, she did begin to feel the terrible stiffness of her back growing more and more unwieldy. She shifted repeatedly, trying to find more comfortable positions, but none worked. Finally she broke down and pulled the car over, removed her coat and rolled it into a tube she wedged behind her.

“Better,” she said with a sigh.

“I wish I could help.”

“Thanks, but I’d like to get there alive,” she said with a smile. “It’s hard for me to drive, but it would be impossible for you.” Although he’d said nothing, he held his right arm close to his chest, and occasionally his other hand crept up to the wounded spot as if he could somehow protect it. “You probably need a sling.”

“They gave me one at the hospital, but I could not wear it, for obvious reasons.”

“I’ll rig one up for you later.”

“Would it be easier for you if we stopped and rested?” he asked.

“No. I’ll get stiff, then I won’t be able to drive. It isn’t much farther.” She liked his concern. It was the mark of a man who had been raised well. Angling the car back on the road, she said, “Tell me about your mother, Samuel.”

“My mother.” He glanced out the window, down the black rocks that led to the sea far below. “She’s very beautiful,” he said at last. “My father is fond of telling us that when he saw her, ragged and worn-out from her trip from France, he could see she was a princess, even beneath the grime.”

“How romantic.”

“Yes. He is a romantic man, and it is, in its way, a romantic story.” Samuel glanced at her, catching a fleeting expression of pain around her plump lips. Suddenly he knew he did not want to create fictitious backgrounds for himself, not in the company of this woman. “My grandfather liquidated his vineyards and moved to Paris when the Nazis began to overrun Europe. But he saw that even living in the city would not be enough, and just before France was occupied, he sent her to Palestine. When the British turned the ships away, she jumped, rather than go back.”

“Why didn’t he go with her?”

“He wanted to fight the Germans.”

“And did he?”

“For a time. He was a part of the Jewish Resistance, but he was captured and spent most of the war in the work camps.”

Lila looked at Samuel, then back to the road. She remembered his telling her that his grandfather had learned to appreciate the small joys in life. It was a little unsettling to learn in what terrible grimness that appreciation had been born. “What does your father do?”

“Nothing, really.” He chuckled. “He owns a great deal of land, though not as much as he once did. The wars in Lebanon have cost him dearly, but he will always have more money than he needs.”

“And they live in Israel, your parents?”

“Yes.”

“You miss them.”

“Sometimes. My mother, mainly. She’s getting older.” He clicked his tongue in dismissal.

Lila sensed him drawing away, as if his words had stirred up things he was reluctant to discuss. Restlessly he pressed play on his stereo, and the light, airy strings of Vivaldi filled the car. Over the black rocks lining the cliffs, a flock of seagulls soared as if they were dancing on the ocean breeze.

She watched them with a pinch of sorrow, thinking of the long days she’d spent practicing ballet to this very piece. The room had been Oklahoma-dusty, filled with hard sunshine and photographs of dancers, but it had been her world for nearly nine years. With a deep, poignant sense of loss, she sighed. “When I was fourteen, I was sure I’d be the next Anna Pavlova,” she said, and glanced at him.

Samuel met her gaze. “And I was going to be Einstein,” he said quietly.

Neither of them spoke for a long, long time.

At Johnson’s Corners, the tiny Oregon town closest to Lila’s isolated cabin, she stopped for groceries. The little store didn’t have much in the way of variety, but the items offered were of highest quality. She bought fresh grapes and crackers, canned tuna and several varieties of cheese to hold them over until morning.

“If there’s anything else you think you’ll need, throw it in now,” she said.

“There is nothing I need,” he said.

And so it was that Lila found herself pulling under the tall Douglas firs that surrounded her cabin with a man she had known less than two weeks. A breeze from the ocean tossed the branches lightly as she climbed out of the car. “Remember,” she warned Samuel, “it’s extremely primitive.” She pointed toward the back of the house. “The latrine is behind that stand of trees, and I’ve got a pump for cold water around the side.”

He nodded wearily. “As long as there is a place to sleep, it doesn’t matter.”

They each took a bag of groceries inside. Lila deposited hers on the small wooden table just inside the door. Nervously she turned, looking at Samuel as he took in the open first floor of the cabin. His eyes showed nothing as they lit upon the black, potbellied stove, the rough finish of the walls, the bed shoved against a wall beneath the window. A curtained pantry was nestled against the opposite wall at the foot of a set of stairs.

Finally he looked at her. For long seconds Lila read on his face a sultriness that had not been there before, and she felt an answering breathlessness sweep her lungs. In the utter isolation it was simple to imagine crossing the plain wooden floor to him, reaching to wrap her arms around his neck.

Instead, she gestured toward the stairs. “There’s a loft upstairs with another bed. I have more blankets here,” she said, and headed for a cupboard under the stairs.

He caught her elbow. “Please, Lila, do not wait on me. You’ve saved my life, driven hundreds of miles to protect me and put yourself in danger in the bargain. Now I would like to do something in return.”

“Samuel, there’s nothing for you to do. I’m going to draw some water and wash, then go to bed.”

“Show me where the bucket is. I will bring in the water.”

“It’s heavy. You don’t need to exert yourself like that.”

He frowned. “Please. You have done enough.”

On the verge of making a stubborn stand, she capitulated under the force of that frown. “All right. The buckets are under that cupboard.”

When he’d gone out, she sank down on the bright quilt that covered her bed. Now that they were both safely tucked away in this remote place, exhaustion settled in her elbows and knees and neck with the weight of a black hole. Her back ached relentlessly. She tugged off her coat, nudged her feet out of her tennis shoes and fell backward on the quilt.

Samuel was gone only a few minutes, but when he returned, he found Lila sound asleep on her bed, her arms flung over her head, her tiny, stockinged feet dangling over the edge of the bed. The vulnerable pose outlined a body lushly, deliciously female.

He placed the full bucket of water on top of the stove and crossed the room. In sleep she seemed even more youthful and innocent. Her long, dark lashes cast a half-moon shadow over smooth cheeks, and her lips were gently parted.

As he looked upon her, the never-distant desire he felt for her rose again in his loins, but mixed with that earthiness was a more gentle stirring. He felt tenderness as his eyes washed over the thin flesh of her inner wrist and the hollow of her throat. As he watched her waist lift and fall with her deep breathing, he had an inexplicable urge to cradle her against him, to shield her vulnerable innocence from anyone who would corrupt it.

And he knew as he protected her, she would heal him.

He grimly turned away, refusing to lie to himself. Even now, Hassid would be looking for them, and while cradling Lila might indeed restore Samuel’s worn spirit, he could offer her no protection. The cabin, isolated as it was, would provide whatever harbor either of them found. To entertain any other notion would be indulging a dangerous masculine pride. If she were to leave here unscathed, he had to remember that.

For a moment he wavered over helping her into a more comfortable position. Deciding that might awaken her, he found a blanket in the cupboard she had indicated, and settled it gently over her. Without waking up she curled beneath the blanket’s warmth, and Samuel turned on his heel to wearily climb the stairs to his loft.

It was a narrow room under the eaves. A bed lay on the floor, with a window for a headboard. Through the glass he saw the ocean and beaches blurred by rain.

He sank down on the bed and with difficulty, removed his shoes. Next came his coat, then the torn shirt. His wound throbbed dully with the exertion, and a deep stiffness surrounded the muscles of his shoulder. Still, he was lucky. A few torn muscles and the chipped bone were minor, although they would have severely limited his ability to defend himself in the airport had Lila not shown up to save his life.

Now she had given him shelter. As he crawled beneath the heavy quilt on the bed, the knowledge warmed him and followed him into a sleep as restful as any he could remember.

Chapter 6

L
ila awoke at dawn the next morning. It was a lazy awakening, the first moments filled with nothing except the pleasure of finding herself in bed at the Oregon cabin. She stretched hard beneath the quilt.

The pull of tired back muscles reminded her of the reasons she had come to her seaside retreat. Automatically she lifted her knees to her chest, one at a time, holding each three minutes to ease the recalcitrant lower back into order. Her thoughts scurried through the appearance of Samuel at her door, through the run from the airport, to the long drive yesterday.

She had done impulsive things before, but this—she closed her eyes briefly—this beat anything else she’d ever done by quite a stretch. This impulsiveness might cost her everything. If she was unable to deliver her pies and cakes, she would lose accounts. Her car was still parked in the driveway of the professor’s house, awaiting a starter. She barely knew Samuel Bashir, to boot. What in the world had gotten into her?

Her exercise finished, she swung her legs out of bed, slipped on her high-tops and headed for the latrine. She wondered with a wicked smile how the elegant Samuel would fare in this primitive setting.

At the pump she washed her face and hands with cold water. Later she’d have a bath in the galvanized tub she would set before the fire, but heating the water would take quite a bit of time and since the cabin had no privacy to speak of, she’d have to warn Samuel of her intentions. He would no doubt enjoy the chance to bathe himself.

In the meantime she climbed a low rise behind the cabin. Between two fir trees was a small circle of smooth stones she had placed here the first summer she’d spent at the cabin.

She stepped into the circle, turning her back to the sea that lay just beyond the rise. The gentle roaring of the waves, punctuated with the sharp cries of sea-birds, provided her with music.

Facing the sun, which was just breaking over the trees to the east, she murmured her prayers. It was always the best moment of the day for her, a moment when she remembered grandparents from tribes and cultures the world over, remembered their faces and stories and warmth. Lila thought of who she was and from whom she had come, and she knew any problem she faced, no matter what its magnitude, could be overcome.

It was a moment of great joy this morning. She expressed her gratitude for the sea and the good weather of the day, for her cabin and her family—and most of all, for the fact that her back didn’t trouble her. She fingered each of the talismans on the chain around her neck—the cross and medal and thunderbird, one at a time.

Her ritual finished, she headed back to the house. It was odd, considering everything she’d done the last few days, but her back didn’t hurt at all, and there was a spring in her step to prove it.

Samuel had not yet risen. Lila, humming softly, built a fire in the potbellied stove and put coffee on to boil. From the curtained cupboard at the foot of the stairs, she took flour and preserves and muffin tins. She mixed up a batch of raspberry muffins, wishing only briefly for her sourdough starter. They would have to eat the muffins without butter, so she added an extra helping of preserves. With the grapes and cheese, it would be a solid meal.

When there was still no sound from above, Lila began to worry. Samuel had missed a night’s sleep and had been injured, but they’d come to the cabin in the late afternoon. By any count, that was better than twelve hours sleep. It was possible his injuries were more serious than he’d let on and he was now unconscious, rather than merely sleeping. She ought to check on him.

Frowning, she climbed the stairs. At the top she waited a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dimness. The shape on the bed gradually merged into one recognizable as Samuel, shirtless and sprawled unguardedly in sleep.

Suddenly breathless, Lila approached, her stomach fluttering. Clear light fell through the window, touching the tousled head of black hair and illuminating shoulders and arms that were hard and rounded with lean muscle. Dark hair was scattered lightly over a broad chest, and his stomach was as lean as a boxer’s.

BOOK: Light of Day
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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