Not Always Happenstance

By: Rachael Anderson

(Power of the Matchmaker)

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

6:00 AM

Time to go.

Easton shoved the last of his toiletries in his travel bag and walked through the small, one-bedroom apartment to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Laptop, check. Phone in his pocket. Drawers empty, nothing under the bed, bathroom cabinet clear.

He glanced around the room one last time before he slung his laptop bag over his shoulder, picked up his large duffle, dug the keys to his rental car from his pocket, and opened the door to pouring rain. It came down in sheets, blurring the normally lush, tropical gardens that surrounded the tiny cottage he’d called home for the past three months.

Apparently Sao Miguel wasn’t happy to see him go.

Squinting through the murk, he took a deep breath and bolted in the direction he’d parked the car. A push of the remote button caused his headlights to blink, and the trunk popped open. He tossed everything in the back, slammed it closed, then ducked inside, pulling the driver’s door shut behind him. His shorts and hoodie were soaked and would probably remain that way for a while.

Only then did he see a little blue Peugeot parked directly in front of him, blocking the only way out.

“Going somewhere, meu xodó?”

Easton jumped and swung his gaze to the side. Samah sat in the passenger seat, arms folded, back straight, jaw taut. Her dark brown eyes fumed at him through the gloomy, early-morning light. She looked as put-together as she always did: long, wavy black hair, pullover top, skinny jeans, and heeled sandals. But instead of the easy smile she usually wore, her plush, kissable lips had tightened into a straight, angry line.

Easton looked away and ran his hand across the back of his neck, giving it a quick massage. He’d begun traveling at the age of twenty, and after eight years of experience, he’d learned that goodbyes should be treated like an expired passport—avoided at all costs. They were awkward, uncomfortable, and when a woman was involved, typically tearful and dramatic, though he didn’t understand why. Each and every woman he’d dated had known from the beginning that he didn’t plan to put down roots—at least not deep ones. That was one of the reasons he never let relationships move beyond a certain point. When it was time for him to leave, he needed to be able to uproot himself easily and move on. Staying was never an option.

Unfortunately, no matter how clear he tried to make that, the few goodbyes he’d attempted earlier in his travels had ended in disaster. When Mali from Thailand had served him a sharp slap to the cheek and threatened to send her father after him, Easton had decided that goodbyes weren’t for him. It was so much easier and less painful to leave the way he’d come—quietly, without fanfare, incident, or emotions.

How had Samah known he was leaving this morning? How long had she been sitting in his car? He probably should have locked the doors, but the near-zero crime rate in the Azores had gotten him out of the habit, not that it would have mattered if he had. Her car now blocked the only exit, so a confrontation would have happened regardless.

“Well?” the shrill voice came again, her Portuguese accent stronger than before. Samah was beautiful, passionate, and adventurous. It’s what had attracted him to her in the first place. Her small and lithe body could scurry up and down mountains, leap from the tops of waterfalls, and dive deep below the surface of the ocean. Those petite arms could wind around him in a way that made kissing her its own adventure. His time with her had been the equivalent of a thrill ride. Exciting and exhilarating but now… over.

“Samah, you knew my visit here was only temporary,” Easton tried, hoping her hands would stay where they were—tucked under her arms.

They didn’t. They flew into the air in a dramatic gesture. “You like to see the world for… pesquisa. Si, I know.” Although Samah had a strong grasp of the English language, many words still eluded her, like “research.” Easton had filled in the blanks and translated for her more than a few times over the past few months. It was one of the things that had attracted Samah to him. Win-win, right? He’d helped her with English, and she’d introduced him to the lay of the land, so to speak. Why then did she look so angry, so ready to pounce and do some serious damage to his face?

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