Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas


  * * *

  Both the condo and Lucy’s studio were ominously still and dark, the way a place looked when it would be vacant for a long time.

  A cold feeling settled into Sam’s chest and at the back of his neck. The urgency that had driven him to town had gathered in a desperate knot that constricted his heart.

  Lucy couldn’t have left already. It was too soon.

  On impulse Sam went to Artist’s Point, looking for Justine. As he entered the inn, comforting breakfast smells wafted around him, hot flour-dusted biscuits, pastries, applewood-smoked bacon, fried eggs.

  Justine was in the dining room, carrying a stack of used plates and flatware. She smiled when she saw him. “Hi, Sam.”

  “Can I talk to you a minute?”

  “Sure.” After carrying the plates to the kitchen, Justine returned and went with him to a corner of the reception area. “How’s it going?”

  Sam shook his head impatiently. “I’m looking for Lucy. She wasn’t at the condo or the studio. I was wondering if you had any idea where she was.”

  “She’s gone to New York,” Justine said.

  “It’s too soon,” Sam said tersely. “It wasn’t supposed to be until tomorrow.”

  “I know, but her professor called, and they wanted her there for a meeting and some big party—”

  “When did she leave?”

  “I just dropped her off at the airport a little while ago. She’s taking the eight o’clock flight.”

  Sam yanked out his phone and looked at the time. Seven-fifty. “Thanks.”

  “Sam, it’s too late for you to—”

  But he was out of the inn before Justine could finish.

  Leaping into the truck, he drove toward the airport and called Lucy on his cell phone. The call went to an automatic voice mail box. Swearing, Sam pulled over to the side of the road and texted her.

  don’t leave

  He pulled the truck back onto the road and floored it, while the words ran through his mind in a constant loop.

  Don’t leave. Don’t leave.

  * * *

  The Roy Franklin Airport, named after the World War II fighter pilot who had founded it, was located on the west side of Friday Harbor. Both scheduled and chartered flights took off from the airport’s single runway. Passengers and visitors who were obliged to wait for one reason or another could usually be found in Ernie’s café, a blue-painted coffee shop right next to the airfield.

  Sam parked beside the terminal and went to the door in ground-eating strides. But before he had even made it inside, the snarl of a Cessna turbine engine filled the air. Shading his eyes, Sam looked up at the yellow and white nine-passenger plane, climbing high and fast on its way to Seattle.

  Lucy was gone.

  It hurt more than he’d expected to watch the plane carrying her away from him. It hurt in a way that made him want to go to some dark corner and not think or talk or move.

  Making his way to the terminal building, Sam propped himself beside the doorway. He tried to straighten out his thoughts, tried to think of what to do next. His eyes were burning. He closed them for a moment, letting the fluids soothe away the sting.

  The terminal door opened, followed by the rattle of suitcase wheels. Through a blur, he saw the small form of a woman, and his heart stopped. He said her name on a breath.

  Lucy turned to face him.

  For a moment Sam thought she was a figment of his imagination, conjured from the magnitude of his need to see her. In the past few minutes, he’d gone through lifetimes.

  Reaching her in three strides, Sam hauled her against him, the impact spinning them both. Before Lucy could say a word, he covered her mouth with his, devouring every word and breath until the suitcase handle dropped from her fingers and clattered to the pavement.

  Her mouth yielded and clung to his, her arms lifting around his neck. She fit against him as if she’d been made for him, so perfectly close, and still separate from him. He wanted to pull her inside himself, to make them one being. He kissed her harder, almost savagely, until she turned her face away with a gasp. Her fingers came to his nape, stroking as if to soothe him.

  Sam took her face in hands that weren’t quite steady. Her cheeks were fever-colored, her eyes hazed with bewilderment. “Why aren’t you on the plane?” he asked hoarsely.

  Lucy blinked. “You … you texted me.”

  “And that was enough?” Sliding his arms around her, Sam asked huskily, “You got off the plane because of two words?”

  She looked at him in a way no one ever had before, her eyes lit with brilliant tenderness. “They were the right two words.”

  “I love you,” Sam said, and set his mouth against hers, and broke off the kiss because he had to say it again. “I love you.”

  Lucy’s trembling fingers came to his lips, caressing them gently. “Are you sure? How do you know it’s not just about sex?”

  “It is about sex … sex with your mind, sex with your soul, sex with the color of your eyes, the smell of your skin. I want to sleep in your bed. I want you to be the first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see at night. I love you the way I never thought I could love anyone.”

  Her eyes flooded. “I love you too, Sam. I didn’t want to leave you, but—”

  “Wait. Let me say this first … I’ll wait for you. There’s no choice for me. I can wait forever. You don’t have to give up New York. I’ll do whatever’s necessary to make it work. Long-distance phone calls, cyber-whatever. I want you to have your dream. I don’t want you to give it up or have less of a life because of me.”

  She smiled through her tears. “But you’re part of my dream.”

  Sam wrapped his arms around her, and rested his cheek on her hair. “It doesn’t matter where you go now,” he murmured. “No matter what, we’re together. A binary star can have a distant orbit, but it’s still held together by gravity.”

  Lucy’s chuckle was muffled in his shirt. “Geek love talk.”

  “Get used to it,” he told her, stealing a hard kiss. He glanced at the terminal. “You want to go in and reschedule your flight?”

  Lucy shook her head decisively. “I’m staying here. I’m going to turn down the art grant. I can do my glasswork here just as easily as I can there.”

  “No you’re not. You’re going to New York, to become the artist you were meant to be. And I’m going to spend a fortune in plane tickets to see you as often as possible. And at the end of the year, you’ll come back here and marry me.”

  Lucy looked up at him with round eyes. “Marry you,” she said faintly.

  “The formal proposal comes later,” Sam said. “I just wanted you to be aware of my honorable intentions.”

  “But … you don’t believe in marriage…”

  “I changed my mind. I figured out the flaw in my reasoning. I told you it was more romantic not to get married, because then you just stay with each other for the good times. But I was wrong. It only means something when you stay during the bad times. For better or worse.”

  Lucy pulled his head down for another kiss. It was a kiss about trust and surrender … a kiss about wine and stars and magic … a kiss about waking up safe in a lover’s arms as the morning climbed past the flight of eagles and the sun unraveled silver ribbons across False Bay.

  “We’ll talk about New York later,” Lucy said when their lips had parted. “I’m still not sure I’m going. I’m not even sure that I need to, now. Art can happen anywhere.” Her eyes sparkled as if she were pondering some secret knowledge. “But right now … would you take me to Rainshadow Road?”

  For an answer, Sam picked up her suitcase and put his arm around her as they walked to the truck. “Something happened to that window you made for me,” he told her after a moment. “The vineyard is changing. Everything is changing.”

  Lucy smiled, seeming not at all surprised. “Tell me.”

  “You have to see it for yourself.”

  And he took her home, on the first of
many roads they would travel together.

  Epilogue

  A hummingbird’s heart couldn’t have beat any faster than Lucy’s as the taxi turned onto False Bay Drive and headed toward Rainshadow Road.

  During the past year she had made the journey between New York and Friday Harbor countless times, and Sam had traveled to see her just as often. But this trip, unlike all the others, wouldn’t end in good-bye.

  Lucy had returned to the island two days earlier than she had originally planned. After a year of living apart, she couldn’t stay away from Sam any longer.

  They had mastered the art of the long-distance relationship. They had lived by the calendar, scheduling calls and plane flights. They had sent cards, texted, e-mailed, and Skyped. “Do you think we’ll talk this much when we’re actually together in person?” Lucy had asked, and Sam’s reply had been a distinctly lecherous “No.”

  If there was such a thing as changing together while living apart, Lucy thought they had done it. And the effort required in maintaining a long-distance relationship had made her realize that too many people took the time they spent with someone they loved for granted. Every precious minute together was something they had earned.

  During her time as the Mitchell Art Center’s artist in residence, Lucy had joined other artists to create conceptual works with techniques such as vitreous painting—applying a mixture of ground glass and pigment to the glass—or layering mixed-media pieces with glass fragments. Her main work, of course, was with stained-glass windows, using natural motifs and experimenting with ways to manipulate color with light and refraction. A respected art critic had written that Lucy’s stained-glass work was a “revelation of light, animating glass images with exhilarating color and tangible energy.” Near the end of her tenure, Lucy had been offered commissions to create stained-glass windows for public buildings and churches, and she had even received a request to design theater sets and costumes for a production of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

  In the meantime, Sam’s vineyard had flourished to the point that he had reached his target yield of two tons of grapes per acre at least a year earlier than he had expected. The fruit quality, he had told Lucy, promised to be even better than he could have hoped for. Later in the summer, Rainshadow Vineyard would hold its first on-site bottling process.

  “Nice place,” the taxi driver commented as they turned onto Rainshadow Road and approached the vineyard lit with orange and gold.

  “Yes, it is,” Lucy murmured, drinking in the sight of the sunset-colored house, the gables and balustrades gilded with light, the shrub roses and white hydrangeas spilling over with profusions of blossoms. And the vineyard rows, lush with fruit. The air rushing through the car windows was sweet and cool, ocean breezes filtering through healthy young vines.

  Although Lucy could have asked Justine or Zoë to pick her up at the airport, she hadn’t wanted to spend time talking with anyone—she wanted to see Sam as soon as possible.

  Of course, she thought with a self-deprecating grin, since Sam wasn’t expecting her, he might not have been home. However, as they pulled up to the house, she saw Sam’s familiar form as he walked back from the vineyard with a couple of his crew. A smile tugged at her lips as Sam saw the taxi and went still.

  By the time the vehicle stopped, Sam had already reached it and wrenched open the door. Before Lucy could say a word he had pulled her from the taxi. He was sweaty from working outside, all testosterone and masculine heat as his mouth covered hers in a devouring kiss. In the past few weeks he had put on a few pounds of new muscle, and his tan was so deep that his blue-green eyes were startlingly vivid by contrast.

  “You’re early,” Sam said, kissing her cheeks and chin and the tip of her nose.

  “You’re scratchy,” Lucy replied with a breathless laugh, setting her palm against his bristly face.

  “I was going to get cleaned up for you,” Sam said.

  “I’ll help you shower.” Standing on her toes, Lucy said near his ear, “I’ll even take care of your hard-to-reach places.”

  Sam let go of her just long enough to pay the cabdriver. In another few minutes, he had said good-bye to his grinning crew and informed them not to show up before noon the next day.

  After carrying Lucy’s suitcase into the house, Sam took her hand in his and led her upstairs. “Any particular reason you’re here two days early?”

  “I managed to wind things up and pack a little faster than I’d expected. And then when I called the airline about changing my flight, they waived the change fee because I told them it was an emergency.”

  “What emergency?”

  “I told them my boyfriend had promised to propose to me as soon as I reached Friday Harbor.”

  “That’s not an emergency,” he said.

  “An emergency is an occasion requiring immediate action,” she informed him.

  Sam paused at the second landing and kissed her again.

  “So are you going to?” Lucy persisted.

  “Propose to you?” His lips curved against hers. “Not before I take a shower.”

  * * *

  In the early hours of the morning Lucy awakened with her head nestled against a hard masculine shoulder, her nose tickled by the light mat of hair on his chest. Sam’s warm hands drifted over her, raising gooseflesh.

  “Lucy,” he whispered, “I don’t think I can let you leave me again. You’ll have to take me with you.”

  “I’m not leaving,” she whispered back. Her palm slid to the center of his chest, the morning light catching the sparkle of an engagement ring and causing brilliant flecks to dance on the wall. “I know where I belong.”

  As she rested against Sam, his heartbeat strong and steady beneath her hand, she felt as if they were a pair of far-flung stars, caught in each other’s orbit by a force stronger than luck or fate or even love. There was no word for it, this feeling … but there should have been.

  As Lucy lay there steeped in happiness, pondering nameless wonders, the panes of a nearby window slowly pulled from their wooden framing, their edges curling, the glass turning luminous blue.

  And if any passersby had happened to glance in the direction of the bay at that early hour, they would have seen a stream of butterflies dancing into the sky, from the white Victorian house at the end of Rainshadow Road.

  Read on for a sneak peek at Lisa Kleypas’s next novel

  Dream Lake

  Coming August 2012

  Copyright © 2012 by Lisa Kleypas.

  One

  The ghost had tried many times to leave the house, but it was impossible. Whenever he approached the front threshold or leaned through a window, he disappeared, the sum of him dispersing like mist in the air. He worried that one day he might not be able to take shape again. He wondered whether being trapped here was a punishment for the past he couldn’t remember … and if so, how long would it last?

  The Victorian house stood at the end of Rainshadow Road, overlooking the circular shoreline of False Bay like a wallflower waiting alone at a dance. Its painted clapboard siding had been corroded from sea air, its interior ruined by a succession of careless tenants. Original hardwood floors had been covered with shag carpeting, rooms divided by thin chipboard walls, wood trim coated with a dozen layers of cheap paint.

  From the windows, the ghost had watched foraging shorebirds—sandpipers, yellowlegs, plovers, whimbrels—plucking at the abundant food in the tidepools on straw-colored mornings. At night he stared at stars and comets and the cloud-hazed moon, and sometimes he saw a radiant curtain of northern lights dance across the horizon.

  The ghost wasn’t certain how long he had been at the house. Without a heartbeat to measure the passing seconds, time was timeless. He had found himself there one day with no name, no physical appearance, and no certainty of who he was. He didn’t know how he’d died, or where, or why. But a few memories danced at the edge of his awareness. He felt sure that he had lived on San Juan Island for part of his life. He thought he m
ight have been a boatman or a fisherman. When he looked out at False Bay, he remembered things about the water beyond it … the channels between the San Juan Islands, the narrow straits around Vancouver. He knew the splintered shape of Puget Sound, the way its inlets cut through Olympia like dragons’ teeth.

  The ghost also knew many songs, all the verses and lyrics, even the preludes. When the silence was too much to stand, he sang to himself as he moved through the empty rooms. Every time it rains, it rains, pennies from heaven.… Or I like bananas, because they have no bones.… And We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when …

  He craved interaction with any kind of creature. He went unnoticed even by the insects that scuttled across the floor. He hungered to know anything about anyone, to remember people he had once known. But those memories had been locked away until the mysterious day when his fate would finally be revealed.

  One morning, visitors came to the house.

  Electrified, the ghost watched a car approach, its wheels ironing flat channels in the heavy growth of weeds along the unpaved drive. The car stopped and two people emerged, a young man with dark hair, and an older woman dressed in jeans and flat shoes and a pink jacket.

  “… couldn’t believe it was left to me,” she was saying. “My cousin bought it back in the seventies with the idea of fixing it up and selling it, but he never got around to it. The value of this property is in the land—you’d have to tear the house down, no question.”

  “Have you gotten an estimate?” the man asked.

  “On the lot?”

  “No, on restoring the house.”

  “Heavens, no. There’s structural damage—everything would have to be redone.”

  He stared at the house with open fascination. “I’d like to have a look inside.”

  A frown pulled the woman’s forehead into crinkles, like a lettuce leaf. “Oh, Sam, I’m sure it’s not safe.”

  “I’ll be careful.”

 
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