Thursday, January 24, 2019

First Meeting from A Night in St Augustine by Dellani Oakes

Sorsha drives a horse and carriage in St. Augustine. One night, a man stumbles into her carriage and passes out. Not able to shift him, and unsure what to do with him, she drives back to her home, leaving him in the carriage. Later that night, she hears a noise....

A tall man sat on her couch, holding his head. Dark, silvered hair was cropped close to his scalp. He was broad of shoulder, narrow hipped, well muscled, but lean. Over six feet, he made her feel small in comparison. She might be smaller, but she wasn't entirely helpless. Squaring her shoulders boldly, she walked around where she could face him. Back to the big screen TV, facing her kitchen, and the man, she held up the can and waited. Slowly, he raised his head, his startling azure eyes widening slightly in alarm. He waved large, long fingered hands slowly.
"You've nothing to fear from me," he promised quietly. "But perhaps you could tell me where I am and how I got here? I woke to the smell of horse."
Sorsha perched on the arm of a chair across from him. The pepper spray was lowered, but still clutched in her hand. "You fell in my carriage. I couldn't budge you, so I left you downstairs."
"You didn't call 9-1-1?"
"Perhaps I should have, but I don't know a thing about you and, to be honest, I didn't want to get stuck with a bill. You weren't bleeding and you were still breathing...."
He chuckled, nodding. His eyes registered pain and he winced. "Lord have mercy, what did they slip me?"
"Someone drugged you?"
"Aye. Wish I knew who."
"Where were you?"
"The Pub."
She nodded, easing onto the chair rather than staying on the arm. The pepper spray went on the TV stand behind her. "Do you think someone there drugged you?"
"It's the only place I've been. You mean—one of the staff?" He considered that a moment. "Doubtful. I know them all. It's unlikely."
"The man I was living with stole everything I owned. Even if you know someone, doesn't mean they won't screw you over."
"Good point. Could I get a coffee? Then I'll be out of your hair."
"And go where? Someone drugged you. They either intended to kidnap or kill you. You can't go back anywhere you're known."
The blinked slowly. She could almost hear his mind working as he puzzled over that.
"Good point. Though I'll have to go out tomorrow morning. I've a package to deliver and it's locked up." He clamped his lips shut, realizing he was about to say too much.
"Let's get that coffee." She led him to the kitchen where she set up her French press pot. She set out mugs while the water boiled in an electric pot. "Start with something simple. I'm Sorsha."
"From California."
His blue eyes widened in surprise.
"I looked at your license. Thought I could take you home."
He nodded. "Sometimes."
Her eyes held a question.
"From California."
"Northwest Florida." She pointed at herself. "Horse country."
The coffee was ready. She pushed the plunger down and poured them each a steaming cup. James added sugar. Sorsha added cream and sugar to the nearly black brew.
"Now, the question vibrating in the air between us—why would someone drug you? An angry ex? A cuckolded husband?"
James chuckled, shaking his head. "Nothing like that. Haven't had a woman in weeks." Blushing slightly, he found the contents of his cup very interesting. "Been working. Needed to be clear headed."
"Professional athlete?" Head tilted, she raised an eyebrow.
Topaz eyes riveted him to his seat.
He laughed loudly. "No. Truth?"
"I'm a thief. A very good thief."
"And what do you steal? The hearts of women?"
"Jewels, mostly. The odd piece of art. I take others when someone has a job of particular discretion."
"Oh, my God! You aren't kidding!" She backed away. "You wouldn't have told me if you intended to let me live." She clutched the top of her robe and edged toward the TV stand.
James watched her, amusement in his brilliant blue eyes. "If I intended to kill you, Sorsha, you'd be dead and none the wiser. If I'd wanted to run out without saying thank you, I'd have left as soon as I woke up. You saved me when I needed your help and I wanted to extend my appreciation. And use your restroom, if you wouldn't mind. I had a few ciders and they've gone right through me. Then I'll be out of your hair."
"You can't leave. What if they followed you? I can't be here alone!"
He hadn't thought of that, she could see it in his face.
"And you shouldn't be out on the street if they're looking for you. This place is surrounded by an eight foot, wrought iron fence with a top of the line alarm system. It's not fool proof, but it's better than being out on your own." She pointed to his left. "Bathroom."
He shut the door behind him, resisting the urge to lock himself inside. He'd been a thief almost thirty years. He'd dodged police in a dozen countries, outsmarted Interpol on more than one occasion, but the idea that there was some unknown person on his trail, terrified him.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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