Excerpt

9

The question should not have been a surprise, but it is.

“Around the corner,” he answers. His pulse quickens. She is pushing too far, but her flattery disarms him.

“Can I see it?” she asks.

She is over the line now. He has only to answer, No,” and everything will be formal and polite, but he quickly says, “Oh, sure.”

He moves the car less than a hundred feet and turns the corner. He wonders, almost absurdly, whether she hears the sudden rush of blood that moves through his body, sees the nervous mini-spasms in his fingers as they clutch the wheel, or the fine line of moisture that settles above his upper lip, but all she says is, “Oh, what a pretty street.”

He directs the car up his driveway and stops. He lets the engine idle, and they sit for a moment. The ocean beats a cadence against the sand and there is the odd, shrill cackle of birds, but the air is otherwise quiet. He sighs, ready to move the Lexus into reverse, but she interrupts his idea of escape and asks, “Can I see the inside?”

Even before he thinks of an answer, she is pulling the door handle open.

“Take care on the steps,” he says. “They’ve just been re-finished.”

He slips his loafers off in the entrance and watches as she slides off her white sandals as well. He notices for the first time that her toes are coated with deep burgundy polish.

“I like to do what the host does.”

Her words drip with unvarnished innuendo. At the top of the stairs she turns and surveys the area.

“The view is great.”