Cameron stood, hands in pockets, and watched her retreat. For a self-taught potter, Rebecca knew a great deal, he thought. And he looked forward to seeing her at work. But more than that, he was just pleased to be in her company for the day.
He took in her sea-green silk top and black drawstring pants and thought he wouldn’t last the day. How could he go that long without touching her flat, tanned belly that peeked from beneath her short top? How could he go that long without reaching beneath it to feel whether or not she was now wearing a bra?
He had to!
He shook his head to clear it. This was his job, not a summer fling—though he certainly wouldn’t object to one, he mused.
He cleared his throat. “All right. Let’s go!” He opened the passenger door of his truck for her and she climbed in.
Once they were on the road, Rebecca gave him directions to the Ford’s Cove Gallery. The drive was winding and picturesque as they headed west across the island. Gnarled red arbutus trees grew along the roadside and small herds of sheep grazed in several of the green pastures.
They passed people on bikes, people walking, people pulled over on the curb chatting. This time of the year the island was a swarming mass of tourists.
“Have you been to the island before?”
“No… It’s quite busy for such a small place,” Cameron observed.
“Yup. The locals look forward to the fall when the tourists head home. We may make our livings off them, but most of us choose to live here because of the rural lifestyle. Hornby definitely turns into a tourist park of sorts in the summer, though.”
“How long have you lived here?” He hoped he could start to coax some personal information from her for his article.
“About ten years. I grew up in Victoria and came over when I was twenty to apprentice with one of the local potters here. As it turned out, after a month the potter decided to take off to study African art in Kenya for a year. I was already making friends and connections here—and I’d met a man, so I decided to stay!”
That was the first time Cameron had considered that there may already be a man in
Rebecca’s life. He silently cursed himself for his idiocy.
Of course there is! Why would a successful, beautiful lady like her be single?!
And why do you care?
He wished he could think of a discrete way to determine whether or not she was taken, but knew it really was none of his business.
Stick to your job, buddy. There’s nothing going on here but an interview.
He tried to suppress his sigh. It wasn’t like he was desperate for a woman. Sure, it had been a while since he’d been thrown off balance by a pretty lady, since he’d even entertained thoughts of touching and holding one. It had been since Sonya.
Two years ago he and Sonya had been a hot and-heavy couple. Having fun, dating and playing, and not taking life very seriously. Then she found out she was pregnant. Cameron was shocked, but once he’d adjusted to the idea, he was elated. They were going to have a baby! Sure, it was unplanned, but he’d always wanted to be a father, sooner or later. He asked Sonya to marry him, but she’d refused.
“It’s been fun,” she said, “but I don’t want to settle down. For me, life is about being free— enjoying each day as it comes. I’ll take care of it.”
Cameron had wanted to try to change her mind, but he knew it wasn’t his choice to make. It was her body. Sonya had an abortion and he was devasted. He’d wanted that baby! He realized that he and Sonya weren’t on the same page. While he wanted a family, she wasn’t ready for that. The sadness he felt about losing the baby had stayed with him for a long time. It had kept him from even looking seriously at any woman. Each time he felt attracted to someone he met, he thought about the consequences of getting involved before a commitment was made. It cooled him down, and thus he’d remained single since then.
“Here,” Rebecca said, drawing him from his reverie. She was pointing to the sprawling building on the hillside up ahead, as they pulled into the small, gravel parking lot at the end of the road.
Cameron shut off the engine and climbed out of the Jeep. The vehicle was an older model and had seen many, many miles of winding country roads in its time. He felt attached to it, though he knew its years were numbered.
He came around to her side and opened the door for her.
“You OK?” He asked.
Her head was bent to the side.
“Yeah.” She gave a silly grin. “But I’m stuck. Your seatbelt doesn’t want to undo.”
“Oh, damn. Sorry about that. It happens sometimes, but I so rarely have passengers that I forget…”
He reached across her to fiddle with the buckle and then he froze. The mild fragrance of Jasmine reached his nostrils.
Rebecca held her breath. This large, sexy man had his face inches from hers as he looked down at the stubborn clasp. His thighs pressed against the side of hers and his left forearm was brushing her breast. Her whole body became hyper-aware. She could feel her nipples harden, and her lips parted.
She noticed the faint dusting of stubble on his firm jawline, and that his ear was pierced, though he wore no earring. He smelled of the salty air and sexy male—there was no other way to describe it!
He smelled good. Too good.
She couldn’t really be attracted to this total stranger, could she?
Things were happening too fast.
She wanted to squirm free of the seatbelt. But she didn’t dare move. It would just cause her to rub more intimately against Cameron, who’d now gotten a grip on himself and was trying to work the buckle free of its clasp.
He was doing his best to ignore the uncomfortable tightening in his loins, making his jeans feel too snug. Rebecca’s warm, soft breast felt heavenly against his arm and he couldn’t help but brush unnecessarily against her as he worked to release her.
She could hold her breath no longer and she let it out in a loud sigh that fluttered the hair on Cameron’s forehead, causing it to fall into his eyes. He turned to gaze down at her.
A wisp of air was all that separated them. Her pupils were dilated and he couldn’t help looking longingly at her mouth.
“Did you do that on purpose?” He asked suspiciously.
“Do what?” Rebecca couldn’t remember a thing!
He gave in. Rational thought evaporated and he brushed his lips gently against hers.
She gasped as she felt his firm mouth press to hers. It was blissful. Her whole body tingled. She wanted more.
He pulled away and looked intently at her. “That was what you were waiting for, wasn’t it?” His voice was gruff.
“Oh!” She reached her hands up intending to shove him away, but her hands contacted only the dashboard before her, as he’d quickly withdrawn from the truck, chuckling. Her forward movement yanked on the seatbelt, and suddenly it gave, and she was free.
Rebecca pulled herself indignantly from the cab.
“Quite the technique you have for dealing with that stuck buckle!” She said sarcastically. “Do you kiss everyone who gets stuck in your passenger seat?” She asked heatedly.
“Yup!” He teased, then relented. “Actually, you’re the first,” he admitted.
Her eyes went wide for a moment, then she turned abruptly and headed across the parking lot. He shut the door behind her and followed her quickly retreating back towards the stairs leading to the store and gallery.
His hormones were raging out of control. It had taken all his willpower to pull back from Rebecca’s delicately full, surrendering mouth. He paused to look out at the rocky shoreline that lay beyond the parking lot, as he tried to regain his composure. The coast curved south, below the tourist building that had been constructed in levels, hugging the hillside. It was a unique shoreline… a solid, sandstone slab with indented pools naturally carved by stones that had worn away at the surface. Cameron pulled out his baby (a high-end Canon EOS-1D Mark III digital camera) to take a few photos… he’d have to get a closer look after Rebecca showed him her art. For now, he focused his mind on the photos he planned to take in the gallery and forced his body to relax.
Camera in hand, he followed the boardwalk to the quaint gallery space, where his interviewee was already chatting with a man behind the counter. He let her socialize while he looked around.
He took in his surroundings in a quick glance. Hand-woven tapestries hung on the walls next to watercolor paintings of beach scenes. Handmade cedar baskets were displayed beside brightly colored pottery bowls and delicate cornhusk dolls. Several pedestals stood in the center of the open room displaying pieces of artwork.
These were definitely Rebecca’s work. The whimsical sea creatures holding shells and the reclining forms of women poised on magically shaped pieces of driftwood caught his attention. He circled each of her sculptures, photographing them from various angles and then photographing the gallery as a whole.
“Cameron. This is Jay,” Rebecca said, crossing the room towards him with the clerk at her side. He lowered his Canon, stood up from his crouched position and turned towards them. “Hi. Nice to meet you.” He extended his hand and Jay took it in a brief, but firm shake. “I was just telling Jay about the article you are writing.”
“I might be getting some free publicity, eh?” Cameron nodded. “If these photographs are used in the final article, I’ll make sure your gallery is mentioned.”
“Great!” Jay said with a smile.
Just then someone else entered the store and the bearded man in brightly colored clothes turned his attention towards the newcomer.
“Could I take your photo near one of your works?” Cameron asked.
“OK. Where do you want me to stand?” Rebecca nervously ran her hands over her wild curls.
She should have done something with her hair! Yeah right! Like what?
She was a low-maintenance gal, and her hair needed to be, too. So, other than keeping it knot free, she just left it long to do its own wild, free thing.
You could have tied a ribbon in it, or pulled it back with a hair-band.
It was her mother’s voice silently advising her. The woman was always trying to tame and “civilize” her daughter.
A lot of good it had done though, Rebecca thought ruefully.
“Don’t worry,” Cameron said, looking over the top of the camera he’d been busy adjusting the settings on. “You look stunning.”
“You’re just saying that,” she replied, hands clasped nervously in front of her. She was sure he said that to all the women he photographed during the course of his job.
But he shook his head. “No, I’m not. I mean it.” His voice was sounding rusty again. Rebecca liked that sound.
The sun was high overhead when they left the gallery, and Cameron asked if they could spend a few minutes on the Ford’s cove shore before heading to lunch.
“Of course,” Rebecca said, with a smile, ever the nature lover.
Together they strolled along the sandstone ledge that jutted out into the deep water. Cameron studied the sea anemones with their delicate tendrils waving in the shallow water of the rounded-out pools. It was such a rare and fascinating phenomenon: this rocky slab that had been worn away in places to create these circular tide pools. He took photos of bright purple starfish and little orange crabs, clinging to the sides of these micro-ecosystems.
He was equally fascinated by the way the sandstone swept up away from the water into a bluff line, where it had formed hollowed-out mini caves. They were just big enough to sit in…these ancient stone thrones sculpted by nature. After taking many photos of the unique patterns carved by the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide in the rock, he looked up to see Rebecca. She sat, blissfully leaning back against a jutting-up piece of sandstone, her face turned to the sun. She was so lovely and ethereal somehow…
“Ready?” She asked, when she noticed him watching her.
He swallowed an unexpected feeling of yearning and nodded, and they headed back to the Jeep.