A waning moon, p.5
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       A Waning Moon, p.5
 

           Bliss Addison

  Her voice squeaked, like a mouse. “What?” She gulped.

  “The car.”

  “It's fine.”

  “Don't let Mustang lovers hear you say that.” He turned his chin upward. “Looks like a storm’s coming in.”

  She glanced at the snow clouds, claiming the sky. “Looks like.”

  He helped her into the car, then got in behind the steering wheel.

  She found it disconcerting sitting so closely to him. His body generated an electricity she found hard to resist. She squirmed and fidgeted and wasn't at all surprised when Ian noticed.

  “Something the matter?”

  “No.” She forced her body to still, wondering how she'd resist throwing herself onto his lap and finding out how his lips would feel against hers. My God, Blossom, what's the matter with you? Pull yourself together, woman.

  To take her mind off Ian, she ran her hands over the rich leather of the seats and savored the new-car smell, something her old Honda lost a long time ago.

  Minutes into their journey, snow fell in large fluffy flakes and the wind picked up.

  She sneaked a peek at Ian. Brow crinkling, his focus devoted to driving. If the snow didn't let up, this would be a long, tedious drive.

  “Tell me about Hesper's hex,” Ian said, breaking the silence.

  Happy to hear something other than her heartbeat drumming in her ears, she answered, “There isn't too much to tell. Hesper Higginbotham, the woman who my great-grandmother, Aggie, stole her husband from cast a whammy spell on Aggie and all her successors." Blossom made her voice sound heavy as she imagined Hesper's voice had sounded when she'd cast the spell. "From that moment forth, Agnes Frederica Drummond and her descendants would not have a smidgeon of good fortune, nor would she or her successors know true love, or live to celebrate their thirtieth birthday." She stared blindly out the windshield. "None of us have."

  “Do you believe you're cursed?" he asked, looking over at her.

  "Wouldn't you?"

  "I don't know." He shrugged, turned his attention back to driving. "I believe we make our own way in life and our own luck. Do you know what the words to the curse were?”

  “How would anyone but Hesper know? The story I just told you was probably fabricated, for all I know, or at least, embellished. Great-granny wrote about the effects of the Curse in her diary, and everything she experienced, I've experienced.” She shook her head. “You wouldn't believe the things I did to improve my luck. I stuck thorns from white roses into three garlic cloves and buried them in sight of a church while reciting the Lord's Prayer. I drew curious looks and a few insults all for nothing. The spell didn't work and neither did the terminator spell the priestess I hired cast, which she'd guaranteed would remove all obstacles preventing me from enjoying life to the fullest. Nothing worked.”

  Ian flicked on the windshield wipers. “If a victim knows of a curse and believes they're doomed, then the curse is all the more potent and helps to cause their demise.”

  "So you do believe in curses." She looked at him, smiling.

  "I didn't say I didn't believe in them, just that there are other things that could account for what happened to your foremothers."

  "Such as?"

  "Accidents that not one of them saw coming."

  "All three? That's a stretch, to say the least." Blossom didn't know how anyone could accidentally poison themselves with a known toxin, or how someone who knows a terrain could unsuspectingly walk off a cliff, or how someone could drown in a bath and leave the medical examiner baffled as to a cause of death. An inconclusive finding, her mother's doctor had told her.

  She recalled what Ian had said about victims of a curse. "Maybe that's why my foremothers killed themselves. They believed Hesper had cursed them and were therefore defenseless against themselves.” She swallowed. “The same could happen to me.”

  “Only if you allow it.”

  How could she not? The force of the Curse was stronger than her will. She knew that through experience. She'd done things she knew at the time would come back to haunt her, yet she'd done them anyway.

  "Tell me about your ex-husbands," Ian said.

  "There isn't that much to tell. My marriages did last long and all of my husbands cheated on me. There's a lot I can tolerate and much I can forgive, but adultery ... I couldn't excuse that breach of my wedding vows." She looked down at her lap and thought back over her three marriages. "It seems I'm always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I tried to change that by going left instead of right, but it doesn't make any difference which path I choose. Bad luck and misfortune are my constant companions.”

  When Ian didn't make any comment or give her more sagacious advice, she asked, “Did you notice the charcoal drawing of a woman in my dining room?”

  “The one who looks like an army general?” He brought his brows together and sank into thought a moment. “She’s a woman?”

  “Uh-huh.” She giggled. “I always thought she resembled Hitler. What Milton Higginbotham saw in her is beyond me. Great granny Aggie was not a good looking woman.” She raised her eyes to Heaven. Just then something occurred to Blossom. "How'd you know about the Curse?" She looked sideways at him.

  He shrugged. "From my step-mother."

  Blossom nodded. "Auntie Z."

  "And Vivian filled me in on the parts I didn't know."

  "Vivian?" Blossom frowned. "My friend Vivian?"

  "Uh-huh."

  "How do you know her?"

  "I don't. I introduced myself to her at the bank, and we got to talking."

  "And she just told you everything she knows about me?" She huffed a breath. "Unbelievable." She'd have a word with Vivian when she returned home. If she was still alive.

  "Don't be mad at your friend. I have a way with getting information from people. Learned how in private investigation school."

  She looked at him. "You did, did you?" Unable to help herself, she laughed.

  "For the record, I'm sure she didn't tell me all your secrets." He grinned.

  The day grew darker and snow fell crazily, some to land on the car and some to settle on the asphalt and the shoulders of the road. The windshield wipers slapped a mournful tune. No other motorists traveled the highway. Smart Newfoundlanders knew better than to brave a Nor'easter outside.

  She watched Ian, his fingers tense on the steering wheel, the skin between his brows creased. Thinking music might make him relax, she turned on the radio in time to hear the DJ say the storm would follow them the entire way to St. John’s.

  “Looks like we'll have to hole up in a motel and wait out the storm,” Ian said.

  She hoped this wouldn't be like the movies where only one room was available. As though on cue, Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart sounded from the speakers. In her mind, she sang along. I need you now tonight... She gave her head a shake and shut off the radio.

  “We should have checked the weather forecast before we left," she said.

  He smiled. "Yes, we should have. Why didn't you?”

  “You're directing. I'm following.”

  “Is that how you live your life?” Ian looked at her.

  "Not always." If she had, she probably wouldn't have made some of the mistakes she did. There was nothing she could do about it now. What’s done, stayed done.

  Blossom sat quietly and gave Ian full rein of the motoring. A few minutes later and one hundred miles into their trip, snow came at them like a blanket of white and gusts of wind slammed against her side of the car with the force of a battering ram. For the first time since the storm began, she became uneasy. That alarm quickly turned to outright horror when a whiteout blinded them. She looked at Ian, mentally willing him to pull over or stop somewhere to wait out the storm. Only a fool would venture onward. A second later, her body jerked forward against the seatbelt when Ian slammed on the brakes, bringing them to a standstill in another whiteout.

  Wind rocked the car, and snow violently drifted past in a sideways spiral. A half-m
inute later, the road cleared and Ian, who had been sitting motionless and wordless, put his foot on the accelerator. The car moved forward slowly and smoothly.

  Blossom raised her eyes upward and mouthed a silent thank you.

  From then on, they made slow progress through high winds and drifting snow. On the outskirts of Dildo the neon light of Jack O'Lantern Cabins flashed a vacancy sign.

  Without a word, Ian pulled into the parking lot and drove up to the office.

  Blossom sighed with relief.

  Moments later, he came back, snowflakes clinging to his eyelashes. He held one key in his hand.

  Chapter Seven

  Blossom stared at the key. “Why didn't you get two cabins? One for each of us,” she said stupidly. “Surely, they couldn't all have been occupied, not in the middle of a snowstorm. Who'd venture out in weather like this?” She recognized the absurdity of the question the second the question left her lips. Of course, strangers and travelers got caught unawares, especially when a storm came in unexpectedly, and those strangers and travelers would have the sense to find a place to wait out the storm. Like they had.

  Ian grinned. “Is there some reason why you don't want to share a room with me?”

  “No reason at all.” How would he react if he learned she behaved like a sex fiend when it came to handsome men? What was she thinking? He was a man who liked women. Of course, he'd love the idea.

  "We spent last night together, and you didn't seem to mind."

  "That was different."

  "How?"

  "We didn't sleep in the same room." There. She said it.

  "I won't rape you, if that's what you're worried about." The corners of his mouth crinkled with a grin.

  She was conflicted, and he was finding it amusing. Lardy. "I know you're a man of your word."

  “I am. Why don't we get something to eat? They have a nice restaurant.”

  Through the path the windshield wipers made, she watched snow swirl in small flakes to land on the thick blanket on the hood of the car. “I could use a bite to eat.” Maybe she'd relax with something to drink. Yes, that was what she’d do. Ply herself with alcohol and pass out until morning, then she wouldn't be a threat to anyone. With her luck, though, the restaurant wasn't licensed. “Do they serve liquor?” She crossed her fingers.

  “They're licensed. See? Your luck is already changing.”

  Behind his grin she read that Ian expected he might get lucky tonight. He just might.

  On a mat inside the door of the restaurant, Blossom shook snow from her hair and clothing, noticing the smell of fried onions, grilled beef and over-used grease in the air and country music blaring from a jukebox.

  She welcomed the heat and peered around. The place was filled to capacity with couples, probably travelers, and men dining alone, probably truckers or salesman who, like them, got caught in the storm. She returned their nods and smiles and exchanged pleasantries of the day.

  Ian helped her out of her jacket. He hung his coat next to hers on a peg near the door, then ushered her to a window booth.

  She admired him from across the table. Red whiskers mingled with the dark stubble that shadowed his jaw. The lines at the corners of his eyes enhanced his handsomeness rather than aged it.

  When she finally understood the finer points of the Curse, her life, though not all she hoped for, smoothed out, but only for brief periods of time. Someone or something always managed to come along and knock her on her butt, like this situation with Ian, for instance. She’d gone a long time without a man in her bed and the Curse seemed to know it.

  Unable to stop herself from thinking, she wondered how his skin would feel against hers? What kind of lover was he? Was he patient and tender or –

  Don't go there, Blossom. Refusing to give in to her desire to find out, she picked up the menu and hid behind it.

  “Something wrong?” Ian asked.

  “What? Nothing. Have you decided what to order?”

  “You have the menu.”

  A waitress in a pink blouse and leg-hugging jeans appeared with a water pitcher and two glasses. “What'll it be, folks?” she asked, pouring water into the tumblers.

  Blossom handed Ian the menu. “I’ll have the moose hunter’s delight and the figgy duff dessert.” Food first, liquor later. “And a beer. Whatever you have as long as it's cold.” She scrunched her nose. “Not that light stuff, either.” The more alcohol content, the better.

  The waitress turned to Ian. “And you, handsome?”

  “The same as the lady.” He propped the menu between the salt and pepper shakers and a bowl of sugar packets.

  “Coming right up.” She walked away, wiggling her hips, obviously for Ian's appreciation.

  Noticing he paid no attention to Miss Wiggly Hips, Blossom smiled and gave him a point for discretion.

  Ian winked. “I like a woman with a good appetite.”

  Lardy, he had no idea. She smiled, praying he would never learn first-hand about her sometimes-uncontrollable sexual urges. Those feelings of lust lingered too close to the surface, and it wouldn't take much for her to act on them.

  Ian looked out into the storm. “No sign of it letting up.” As though confirming his assessment, snow salted the panes and the wind howled like a beast determined to break through the barrier that stopped it from proceeding farther. “We might be stranded here more than one night.”

  How would she resist giving in to temptation for that long? Ian looking the way he did, all handsome and heavenly, posed a complication she hadn't anticipated. She didn’t know why she hadn’t. Maybe she’d been so caught up in the idea of an adventure she experienced a momentary lapse.

  Her mouth went dry. She gulped her water, draining the glass, hoping to get her mind from her wanton self and the gorgeous man sitting across from her. “We should have outrun the storm.”

  “Outrun it?" He looked at her like she'd become unhinged. "We moved toward it.”

  “Aren't there studs in the tires?”

  “Studded tires won't help the car plow through snowdrifts the height of hydro poles.”

  His sparkling eyes caused her heart to beat erratically. Hot with desire, her entire body blazed. Another flash of his delicious dimples and she'd be putting out shamelessly. Right there. In the restaurant. For everyone to see.

  Lard tunderin’.

  She needed a diversion and quickly. “Where's the waitress with our food and beers? I’m starving.”

  Ian unwrapped a packet of crackers and shoved one in her mouth.

  She chewed and swallowed. “Thanks,” she said, brushing crumbs from her lips. “I'm thirsty.”

  He caught the attention of the waitress — how could he not? Wiggly Hips couldn't seem to take her eyes off him. Ian, seemingly oblivious to her blatant admiration, asked, “Could we have more water, please?”

  Feeling less needy, Blossom followed Ian's gaze around the diner. He was an interesting man, one who could adapt to any environment, and she wanted to know more about him. "Tell me about yourself, Ian."

  "Ask away."

  "Were you always a PI?"

  He shook his head. "I worked for the IRS as a tax examiner for a few years."

  "You have some stories to tell, huh?"

  "Oh, yes." He smiled.

  She watched as his expression turned melancholy and his gaze moved to a corner of the diner. She suspected he recalled those years and gave him a few moments alone with his memories.

  “How's your dad? I haven't heard from Auntie Z in ages.”

  “My father died several years ago.”

  She caught a glimpse of his sadness before he looked downward. “I'm sorry,” she said. Twice now, she'd brought up subjects that either saddened or depressed him.

  He raised his head and stared at her. "It was a long time ago."

  She noticed the flecks of gold in his hazel eyes. “Were you ever married, or are you one of these guys who think wedding bands are effeminate.”

  “Never found
a woman I wanted to share my life with.”

  Blossom wished she'd asked herself that question before each of her proposals. Her life might be different today. “I hope we have good news to bring Olive. She'll be devastated otherwise. She doted on her granddaughter.”

  "Jennifer's not dead.”

  “You sound sure.”

  “I have an instinct about these things.”

  She hoped Ian's intuition was spot on.

  The waitress arrived with their orders.

  With a ravenous appetite, Blossom devoured everything on her plate, finishing her meal before Ian. She glanced at her watch. 2:05. Not trusting herself to be alone with him, she wondered what excuse she could use to remain in the diner. She wanted him, and now that she knew him better, that want had intensified.

  “I'd like another beer,” she said, batting her eyelashes. “How about you?”

  Ian flagged the waitress and ordered them another round.

  She noticed a sign above a doorway leading to another room. “They have pool tables. Feel like a game?”

  “Why don't we settle in first? Go to our cabin, unpack, relax awhile.”

  No way. No-no-no. “A couple of games,” and a half-dozen more beers, “then we'll go to our cabin. Okay?” Judging the set of his jaw as determination, she decided Ian needed more persuasion. “We might not want to come back out in the storm. One game.” She smiled her brightest smile. How many beers could she guzzle in the time it took to play one game? A lot, if she prolonged the game. She wished she knew how to play pool.

  He agreed.

  “Great!”

  Four beers, two shots of Tequila and three hours later, Blossom was sloshed and barely able to stand. Outside, the snow bit at her cheeks and a blast of wind veered her off-balance. Strong hands encircled her waist and kept her from falling. The next thing she knew, her feet left the ground and she found herself in Ian's arms, snuggling against his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her through snowdrifts the height of his knees. “Please don't drop me.”

  “I won't. I promise.”

  Flopping her head under his jaw, she breathed in his masculine scent, closed her eyes and sighed.

  Blossom was right where she wanted to be.

  Chapter Eight

  Whit had been keyed up the entire day. He left the office early, something he rarely did, and mindlessly wandered the city streets. When the storm offered him no alternative, he went home, and sat, disconsolate and alone, in his study.

 
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