Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Read You Like A Book
Worn out from a walk on the beach, Vivian was dozing on the porch swing with Abby’s warm weight curled against her hip. A late afternoon breeze set the patio awnings to fluttering like slow flapping canvas sails, chased the scent of honeysuckle across the sun-dappled lawn, and dusted her skin with a fine salt mist.
This was peace, pure and untainted. This was relaxation at its glorious pinnacle. This was everything she had hoped for in a seaside vacation.
Abby’s sharp bark roused her from daydreaming and she opened her eyes to see a man strolling through the backyard as confidently as if he belonged there. Well built and casually dressed, he was more striking than his press photos portrayed, perhaps because a still camera couldn’t capture the sure sleek grace of him.
Moving with a sense of purpose, he closed the distance between them, and damn if her heart didn’t stutter as she took in the landscape of his well-lived-in face: keen gray eyes, a supple mouth and close cropped brown hair gave him a boyish appeal that belied his age.
He came directly to the patio, and without preamble, said, “You are a kingmaker, Ms. Fairchild, and I am a man in want of a crown.”
“I appreciate the compliment, but as I made clear in our volley of emails, I don’t have a viable project for you or the time to develop one.”
He sat beside her on the swing, completely at ease. “Oh, but you do. I’ve been reading you for weeks.”
Good heavens, that sounded chilling and delicious!
His stroked Abby’s ears. “You’d be surprised how much reading and research I do. For example, I’ve mastered every John Wayne expression in Sands of Iwo Jima, know the precise boxing combo Ali used to knock out Foreman and have a rudimentary understanding of Cantonese.”
She fussed with the fringe of her beach cover up. “Impressive, but hardly - -”
“I also know you published under a pseudonym several years before the studio optioned your fantasy series.”
A slow dread wriggled through her belly. “Lots of writers have sidelines.”
“Sure, but it’s usually cheesy erotica or sappy romance, not quality adventure.”
He can’t possibly know. “Some books just don’t find an audience.”
“There’s no logical explanation for your St. Augustine novels falling under the radar.”
“Forgive me, but you’re hardly qualified to give me commentary on the literary industry.”
“Maybe not. But I’m more than qualified to discuss characters and that’s why I’m here. I want you to transform me into Augustine on the big screen.”
She stood so quickly that the swing wobbled and Abby yelped. “No!”
“Why not? Augustine was practically written for me! I promise you I’ll make him everything you intended him to be!”
Get control. Of yourself. Of the conversation. “You have a thriving film career. You hardly have need of me or a set of novels that never should have seen the light of day.”
He rose off the swing like steam, full of heat and intensity. “Why the hell won’t you write for me, woman?!” And cooled off just as quickly. “Damn it. Didn’t mean to – I’m sorry. Look, if you change your mind, or just want to talk, I’ll be next door.”
She grabbed the brace of swing to steady herself. “What?!”
“When I found out you were vacationing here this month, I rented the house next door in hopes that we could come to an agreement. Well, actually, I rented the whole block in hopes of cutting down on the paparazzi encroachment, but after you wore that swimsuit on your walk this afternoon, the paparazzi swarmed --”
“You better go home. I need some time to recover from the whirlwind that is Aaron Lee, movie star, red carpet darling and closet bibliophile.”
He held out his hand. “Friends?”
She slid her palm into his. “Sure.
“Thanks,” he said, planting a quick kiss on her temple before heading back across the yard.
“Did you make enough for two?”
He looked around the hood of the grill and grinned at her. “I did.”
She sat in the lounger, stretched out her long bare legs and leaned back. “Nice house. Doesn’t have the view mine does, but I like all the shade trees - although, they do block out the stars.”
“And the media helicopters too,” he said, taking the lounger beside her.
“To answer your question, I won’t write for you, Mr. Lee, because I already have. Yes, St. Augustine. And the reason the trilogy got buried is that after the studio optioned my fantasy series, I was terrified someone would find and option Augustine, and I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone but you playing him, so I paid an exorbitant amount of money to have the publisher deep-six them. ”
He got up and went to the cooler beside the grill. “I’m gonna need a beer for this conversation.
You want one?”
She shook her head.
He sat on the lounger beside her, his hip against hers, his bare feet planted on the tiled patio.
“Never met anyone who could inhabit a fantasy world as easily as me. Wear other people’s skin. Walk around in their heads. Read their hearts. I started reading your books and it was a damn rush. By the time I got to Augustine, well, reading you was pretty much an addiction. Heard you were taking a month long sabbatical and paid my travel agent a hundred grand to find out where you were going and get me next to you. Key phrase being ‘next to you.’”
She propped herself on her elbows.”Just how close did you want to get, Mr. Lee?”
Fire shimmered behind the cool gray eyes. “Close enough that you stop calling me Mr. Lee. Close enough that you consent to write for me. Close enough that the lines between our real lives and our fantasies are blurred.”
“You want to wear my ink, Aaron?”
“You know I do,” he answered, leaning closer.
“Then you have to deliver on your premise.”
“That you’d been reading me.”
He kissed her, quick, gentle, like the brush of butterfly wings, and pulled back. “I’m going to read you like a book, Vivian, right here under the stars. I’m going to rifle your pages, savor my favorite passages and adorn them with beautiful bookmarks.”
She scooted to the edge of the lounger but his knowing hands slid around her waist and turned their bodies so that they faced each other lying on their sides.
He kissed her eyebrows and nose, his mouth tender and unhurried. “I’m going to write my name inside your cover, keep you at my bedside and mark your pages with coffee and kisses and fingerprints. And when I’m done, I’m going to turn to page one, and read you all over again.”
And beneath the sheltering trees, they began to write Chapter One.
A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.