Last Light(6)

By: Dean Koontz

She didn’t know the rules of poker, didn’t know how to read another player’s tells, but suddenly something about his smile or maybe a certain glint in his eyes, or the faintest hint of arrogance in the slight lifting of his chin, suggested to her that he might be lying about his work.

She must be wrong. He was such a big strong man, yet he didn’t use his size to intimidate. There he sat in his surfing-penguins shirt, like an overgrown boy, as sweet as anything. Her suspicion no doubt resulted from the uncounted times that her paranormal talent had revealed to her someone’s well-concealed deceit.

If she allowed unalloyed cynicism to settle in her heart, she would never trust anyone again. She’d have no hope of friendship, and certainly no chance of ever sharing her life with a man. The possibility of a life alone already gave her sleepless nights; the certainty of it would bring a depression that not even the consoling sea, with all its power and beauty, could relieve.

Pushing aside his half-finished beer, folding his hands on the table, leaning forward, Rainer said, “This is all a little awkward for me. I mean, I’ve thought about you for ten years, and never for a minute imagined I’d ever see you again. But here you are.”

“For real, now—you can’t have been thinking of me for ten years,” she said, though she wanted to believe that what he’d said was more true than not.

“Not every minute, ’course not. More often than you’d believe. When the waves were big and glassy and offshore and pumping, when it was a perfect day, then you kind of walked out of the back of my mind, as vivid as when I first saw you, as if you had to be there for it to really be a perfect day. Is it too much to believe that a man could see a woman across a crowded room or on the beach and be so drawn to her that he feels everything is about to change? But then, for whatever reason, he never has the chance to meet her, and so he’s haunted by that lost opportunity, by her, for years after? Do you think that sort of thing only happens in novels?”

Makani smiled knowingly, pushed her beer aside, folded her hands on the table, leaned forward as he had done, and took refuge in defensive sarcasm. “Haunted? Rainer, you seem to be a dear man, you really do. But what will you tell me next—that you’ve saved yourself for me all these years, that you’ve been as celibate as a monk? A guy who looks like you, a babe magnet?”

He regarded her with grave seriousness, met her eyes and did not look away. “Not at all. There have been women. I’ve been fond of all those girls, loved one. But never loved one enough. Never had that…electrifying moment, though I’ve hoped for it. I’ll promise you this—take me seriously, give me a chance, more dates than just this one, and I won’t pressure you to be intimate, not once, never. If that happens, it’ll be when you want it to. Whether it takes a year, longer, I don’t care. Your company, companionship, the sight of you—that’ll be enough for me until it’s not enough for you.”

He had rendered her speechless. Any guy she’d ever known would have delivered that pitch in such a way that insincerity would have dripped from every word. But from Rainer, it sounded as genuine as an innocent child’s pledge of fealty to a friend. When she found her voice, she said, “I’m not used to conversations like this, moving this fast. I’m not sure about the territory.”

“Makani, do you believe in hopena?”

“Destiny?” She thought of the unsought and burdensome gift that fate—or something in its guise—had bestowed upon her. “Have to say, I’ve had reason to wonder about it.”

“Have you?”

“Who hasn’t? Sometimes, it seems, things happen for no reason. You know? An effect without a cause. Crazy things.”

His right hand unfolded from his left. He reached across the table to her.

The moment had come. Skin to skin. All the dangers of a touch.

If she didn’t take his hand, he’d be stung by her rejection.

The possibility of a relationship was at stake.

Perhaps she had lied to herself. Perhaps she preferred to be alone. Her hesitation suggested as much.

No. She hadn’t been conceived in passion—and in the surf—only for a life of loneliness.

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