TIMELINE: This is set about two weeks after Take Back the Night, which was about two days after Drowning In It. So, about two weeks, give or take, after the events in Company Man.
Perhaps she was enjoying herself a little too much considering why she was here. If she closed her eyes and stopped thinking about the fact she hadn't heard anything about her parents or her brother and whether they were safe. Well, it was kind of like a vacation. She was sure when it went from a couple of weeks to a month or longer she'd start to feel different. But she was in Mexico and not in school. No homework, no petty arguments with the other cheerleaders, and she was on the verge of her first real boyfriend. Or she thought so anyway unless she was seriously reading his signals wrong.
She watched the man in question from where she sat on the sandy area some might call a beach near the back of the house. It was small, both the beach and the house, but anything flashier would have stood out. She got that. And somehow it seemed appropriate that he would know of this place. Simple, basic. Those words could describe him in some ways.
The setting sun outlined him in a variety of colors that made him seem otherworldly. She'd say angelic, but there was nothing angelic about him. He was a little frightening, especially since she didn't understand what it was they were doing. Or feeling. All she knew was when she was near him she wanted to touch him, even if it was holding his hand or just brushing up against him. In those ways he wasn't simple or basic.
Her heart skipped a bit when his eyes found her, almost as if he'd known she was watching him. Thinking about him. He smiled, his face normally so serious lit up in a way that made her wave like an idiot, letting him know for sure she'd been watching.
This was their third and, according to him, last house until they could go back to the States. She wasn't sure why this house was safer than the first two, but she had to believe he knew what he was doing. Her father trusted him after all and he was used to this sort of life. She wasn't. She was just along for the ride in a way. He had told her their first house in Mexico would be it, but evidently he'd gotten information to change that. Living on the run sucked as far as she was concerned.
She wasn't a geography person, but he had shown her on a map where they had been. They'd worked their way south from Texas, West toward the coast and then back up North a ways. The Haitian believed they were safer closer to the States. It made sense in a kind of odd way. Who'd look for them to be only a couple hour car ride away from Texas? According to him, no one knew this place existed.
She could believe that. It was rustic, no place she'd picture herself spending time at normally. There was electricity and plumbing, but it was basic. The shower was outside, but secluded enough she didn't mind. The saving grace was that they were on the water. He seemed to think the water presented a problem, another area he had to protect. She loved it, though, and knew she'd spend as much time out here as she could.
He approached her, and she knew the instant he realized she had taken her clothes off down to her bra and panties. He took a step backward and she couldn't help but giggle softly at the sight. He looked frightened.
She closed the distance between them, her arms going around his waist as she rested her head against his chest. She was still getting used to how touching him made her feel, but she enjoyed it. He was getting more comfortable with it, too.
"Whatcha doing out here?" She was just about to go for a swim. When she'd left him in the house he hadn't mentioned coming out here, too, or she would have waited for him. And probably would have rethought the clothes thing, except she really wanted to swim and hadn't brought a suit. So, it was bra and panties or nothing at all. Somehow, she thought he'd prefer some clothes to none.
"Just watching the sun," he replied.
"Can't a sunset just be pretty?"
He regarded her, sliding his arms around her waist. It thrilled her that he did that, reached to touch her whether he knew he was doing it or not. The feel of his hands against her bare skin felt nice and warm, and kind of tingly like.
"Yes, I suppose it can."
She shifted her head to get a better look at the sky. "It's so beautiful. How did you find this place?" While they were on the water, she saw no sign of there being other houses or anything nearby. She found that odd, because waterfront property was always prime. Even she knew that.
"I own it."
"Are you going to start making me repeat myself?"
"I could, just to get you to talk more."
"Very funny, Claire."
"Yeah, that's me. So, you own this place?"
"Yes. It was my great grandfather's, passed onto my grandmother, my mother, and now me. That is the reason no one knows of it, it has been passed down through the females."
She frowned, wondering what that had to do with anything. And then she realized. The names. If anyone knew his name it wouldn't be traceable back to him.
"Wouldn't they know your mother's name?"
"No," he said simply. "I've given them nothing personal or identifiable."
"They took you."
"Yes, and they really never cared to learn anything about me."
"I know, with time I'm sure I will get used to such a concept."
She smiled at that. "So, what now?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've whisked me away to your out of the way spot. We stopped for food on the way. The day is about to end. So, what now?"
"Whatever you want."
"Anything?" He had no way of knowing her mind was on the water just in front of them.
"Yes," he said simply.
"I vote for swimming."
"What?" She stepped away from him, gesturing at her rather non-existent clothes. "Do you think I dressed like this just for you?" She closed her eyes and shook her head. Way to flatter the guy, Claire. "Don't answer that, it sounded bad. I meant that I wouldn't have come out here out of your line of vision if it was you I was undressing for."
"I realize this. I just," he shrugged. She was getting used to the fact there were times he really couldn't find the right words. He'd spent so long not talking that it was almost like he was learning all over again.
"You don't know how to swim?"
"I did as a child, but haven't since then."
"Well, come on."
"What? You said we're safe here. Let your hair down a little, even if you don't have any. Come swim with me." She held her hands out to him. "Please."
She saw him waver, knew the instant he'd caved. He was getting better about that, or worse depending on how you looked at it she supposed. She was beginning to understand that being indestructible was not her only power. Three weeks ago he never would have given in. She liked it, he deserved to have some fun in his life, too. "Very well, for a few minutes only. We can't cavort outside."
She tugged on his hand, pulling him closer. "Mm, but the shower is outside."
"That is entirely different."
"What if I wanted to take a shower with you?"
He coughed then, jerking back on her hand as if wanting to take his back. It was cute, though that really wasn't a word she associated with him. He exceeded cute as far as she was concerned. "Claire."
"It was just a question. You said there wasn't a lot of hot water. We could conserve."
"I'll just be sure to shower at different times than you."
"You're way out there on the scale of no fun."
Of course, she wouldn't really do it. He had to know that. She had thoughts about them, but full visual in the shower was a little more than she could probably take just yet.
"I'm thinking safe."
"Hmmph," she said. She released his hand and approached the water. She glanced over her shoulder, saw he was shucking his clothes. Good. If she had known he was going to join her she might have rethought taking off her top, but it was too late now. And her bra showed less than some bathing suits she'd seen while they were driving down here.
She was in the water up to her knees. It was clear and while it wasn't cold it wasn't exactly pool temperature either. She'd get used to it once she had been in it for a few minutes. She dunked her head under water, coming up after a minute for air. She turned to face him then, watching kind of transfixed as he took the steps necessary to join her in the water.
He wore boxers and she had to remind herself that like her bra and panties, what he was wearing covered more then she'd see at a beach or public pool. She just couldn't remember being this interested in looking before. Oh, sure, she'd checked guys out with her friends, but this was different.
"I can't believe you didn't bring us here right away."
"I had to be sure we were not followed. And I did not want to risk coming here, exposing this place unless I absolutely had to."
"What did your grandfather do that he owned this place?"
"Great grandfather. By trade he was a fisherman. I'm told where this water is there was much more when he was my age, I do not know as he never got the property mapped. He also served as a shaman. This was one of the places he did a lot of work, he came back here often and passed the gift to my grandmother."
"So, a fisherman and a shaman. That's kind of cool. Did your mother fish?"
He smiled then and she was glad she'd asked the question. "She acted as a guide, yes. She returned to our home after meeting my father. As far as I know this place sat empty until now once Grandmother passed."
"It's okay. She had a good life, a long life, and liked living in the middle of nowhere. It was luck that my mother met a man from Haiti and moved there with him."
"Huh. How much of this is yours?"
"It's quite vast. I will show you one day."
"Thank you," she said, diving under the water and coming back up with a splash, carefully planned to get him as wet as she could.
"That is not fair," he said simply, but his mouth twitched at the corners. He was trying not to smile, and she couldn't help but giggle.
"Life is not fair, or so I keep getting told," she said, diving under again. She swam to him this time and grabbed onto his waist. She kissed his abdomen as she came up for air, felt the muscles there shift in response. There were things about being a cheerleader that came in handy. She was pretty agile and flexible. She managed to kind of shimmy up his body until she could put her arms around his neck.
"One day, huh?" she whispered, her eyes drifting to his mouth.
"Yes, when we have time and our lives are not in danger."
"Did you not talk because your voice is sexy as all get out and could be used as a weapon?"
"So, it's just me it has that effect on?"
"It would seem so."
"Good," she said.
"I'm beginning to think so."
"Beginning to, huh?"
"Now, I'm curious about what you can show me today."
"Claire," he said before she cut him off with a kiss.
They continued much that way for well over an hour. Kissing, swimming and splashing. She swore she saw the weight he carried ease until he looked like a normal guy. To her anyway. The sun was no longer visible and they were both on the verge of getting a chill. Backs to one another, they shed their wet clothes on the shore in favor of their dry ones. It was a bit of a walk back to the house. One thing for sure, you'd have to know a house was back there and really look for it in order to find it. She wondered if his great grandfather had done that on purpose, made it a hideaway.
She felt protected here. It was more than just her Haitian's presence. Perhaps it was the magic he spoke of his mother, grandmother and great grandfather possessing. Shamans. Weren't they magicians of some sort? Regardless, she felt safe. Safer than she'd felt in days.
She slid her hand into his and tugged him toward her.
"We must go inside."
"We've made enough noise for the past hour and when we were busy not being noisy anyone could have snuck up on us. I think we're safe. I feel it."
"Yes. I can't describe it any other way."
"What is it you wish to do out here?"
"I don't know. Why do we have to be inside all of the time?"
"If you didn't think we were safe you wouldn't have brought us here, you said so yourself."
"I must still exercise caution."
She reached for his chest, worked the buttons on his shirt he had done up only a few minutes ago. Her fingers trembled ever so slightly, reflecting her nervousness. She glanced up, into his eyes and found him watching her intently.
"I'm beginning to think there is no such thing as being safe with you around, Claire."
She whimpered softly, not sure what to say to that. She concentrated on his shirt, working the buttons, getting her hands on his skin.
He kissed her as soon as her hands made contact with his chest, parting his shirt as she slid them from the center outward. God, he felt good. Muscles and warm skin and just yummyness. It was his turn to be assertive and he took her for a ride.
The kiss was long and deep and sexier than anything she could have imagined. If she paused to take a breath and thought they were done, he came back for more. As if he was hungry. For her. Lips, tongues, and teeth were everywhere as her hands made their way along his chest and abdomen.
She'd always thought the idea of Frenching was kind of gross. Who wanted some guy's tongue in her mouth? Well, she knew now she did. This guy. He tasted good, sweet and definitely delicious enough for her to want more.
Apparently, his defenses as far as kissing her had come down because her head was spinning he was doing it so thoroughly. She'd claim it was from sun exposure but knew better. She broke the kiss finally, needing to take a deep breath as opposed to the few quick gasps they'd taken for the past few minutes.
She watched as her fingertips traced an idle pattern along his chest. She worked to catch her breath but knew it would require time and space from him to go back to normal anytime soon.
"Have I done something wrong? It was too much?"
"What?" She lifted her eyes to meet his and smiled. "No. In fact, I was thinking that I like watching me touch you."
"Why do you like it?"
"I don't know. There's something about dark and light."
"You are fair, I am not."
"Yeah, that. It's kind of sexy." She lowered her gaze, afraid that might have sounded bad.
He took a hand in his, lifting it from his chest to his lips and kissed her fingertips one by one. It was a simple kiss, light, brief, no tongue or anything but it caused her whole body to tighten in need. That was the only way she knew how to describe it.
"It is, I would agree. And I have thought of that."
"Yes. My mother told me." He stopped then, kissed the palm of her hand and then pressed it against his cheek.
"What? What did your mother tell you?"
"She did not."
"I'd forgotten my mother's words. I was so young. I assumed they were the equivalent of fairy tales, stories. The fair one she called you."
"You're starting to freak me out a little."
"I've come across many people over the years, Claire."
"I've gotten close to none of them. Kissed no one. Until you."
"Well, that doesn't mean I'm who your mother told you about."
"I knew. The first time I touched you. In your room. Do you remember?"
"Yes." Did she remember? She'd never been so scared in her life! After what Brody had tried to do. The thought that someone could get into her house, her room had shaken her.
"It seems destiny picked the time and place."
"It would seem so," he replied and sounded so sincere.
He really believed it. That they were connected before she was even born? It was a little weird, but oddly right. Who was she to doubt him? She didn't know his mother to say one way or another if she knew what she was talking about.
"You believe in that? Destiny?"
"I believe in many things, Claire. There are forces at work more powerful than anything I can fathom."
She took back her hand, placed it against his chest again and pushed him to the ground. Catching him off guard made it easy to do. She straddled him as he sat up to face her, pausing just short of kissing her. He looked a little surprised but not hurt. "One of them's me."
"I would be a foolish man to disagree."
She smiled with a soft giggle. "Yes, yes, you would." She tilted her head slightly, her hair falling to the side of her face. "You do catch on fast."
"I've observed enough to know agreeing with the woman in the equation is usually wisest."
"Woman in the equation. Huh. That's me? We're an equation?"
"Yes, Claire, that would be you. Even if you are unpredictable."
"Mm, well, you seemed to enjoy the swim."
"You made it rather enjoyable. If it was a pool I would look into heating it for you."
"Huh?" She was thoroughly confused. Of course it wasn't heated. It had been on the cold side when she'd first gotten it but she got used to it. And as they swam and splashed around she didn't even notice.
His eyes drifted to her chest and she realized what he must mean. How embarrassing! She closed her eyes with a shake of her head. She hadn't even thought of that. That was how used to swimming in regular water she was.
"Do not be embarrassed. I didn't mention it for that reason. I will admit it made me think of how I could warm you."
She smiled, but her eyes remained closed. She supposed she should be flattered he noticed that type of thing about her.
He slid his hand from her hip to her chin. "Look at me, Claire," he whispered. Of course he had to ask her to do that!
She did. With her hands against his chest, she looked her fill. She was a startling contrast to him. A fair one he'd called her. Even with her hair dyed brown as it was there was no mistaking her complexion was that of a blonde or lighter haired person. Had his mother really told him about her? Foreseen her somehow? Why would he make that up? They were alone for who knew how long and she hadn't rejected his moves or anything. So, it wasn't like he was desperate.
"Does that mean you'll swim with me again?"
"Wow," she said, surprised. She'd expected some sort of argument from him. "That was too easy."
"Watching you have fun made it enjoyable."
"Hmmph," she said shifting off him to lie next to him on the ground. She wasn't sure she could recall seeing a sky so clear. They were quite a ways from the nearby town and on the water like this, they were in the middle of nowhere. There was no pollution, no smog, nothing but sky and stars and some clouds. "You just want to see me with a wet shirt again."
"There is that."
She laughed then, covering her face with her hands. "You weren't supposed to agree."
"I would be lying if I said otherwise."
She peaked out at him from between her hands. "You won't lie to me?"