If you’re curious, yes, I created the cover image myself. The main picture was taken at Point Lobos. The lightning is from a NOAA image in the public domain. Editing, including addition of words, was done using Pixlr.
Melody Irving sat in her car for a moment before getting out. She’d come down this weekend because she was worried about Aunt Cassie, but she wasn’t ready to face her aunt. Instead, she glanced over toward the jumble of rocks across the street, overlooking the ocean. They were practically spitting distance from here. She slipped out of her car and closed the door softly.
Crossing the empty street and wending her way to the rocks was a matter of moments. She used to spend hours here, staring out at the water, letting it calm her soul. Aunt Cassie had worried that Melody was brooding about her parents’ deaths, but nothing could be further from the truth. The ocean took her pain and left her whole; maybe it could ease her fears now.
Breathing in the salty air as she watched the waves calmed her. After a few minutes, she turned back to her car. It was time to see what Aunt Cassie wasn’t telling her.
After she pulled her duffel bag from her trunk, she sneaked a glance at the neighboring house. She would see Blake at some point during this visit, she was sure, and he would be as tall and handsome as ever. She wasn’t even certain whether she was looking in the hopes that he would be there or that he wouldn’t.
Melody had tried to get over Blake in college, dating a few different guys. Kisses from them never made her quiver the way a single look from him did. She felt alive when she was here in Seacliff near him. He was her home.
His door opened, and her heart skipped a beat. Blake stepped out, his pale hair darkened and slicked back as if he’d just stepped out of the shower. Melody swallowed and tried to erase that image from her head before calling out a greeting. Blake had that way of looking at her, looking through her, as though he knew her every thought and disapproved. And he would definitely disapprove of her fantasies — steam billowing around his figure, making him seem even more mysterious than he already was; licking the drops from his chest as he stepped out of the shower; his damp skin brushing hers when he bent to nuzzle — she cut her thought short as he crossed the lawn to intercept her.
“Back again to heckle me about missing a spot when I’m mowing the lawn?” His body was as trim as ever, and the thought of those legs lying twined with her own made her swallow hard.
Not a conversation starter she would have expected, but she tried to respond gamely. “It’s always the same spot. I might think you were doing it on purpose.”
“Just to hear you comment on it, of course.” Blake had reached her by this time, and he took her duffel bag without asking.
His fingers brushed against hers, and an electric shock shot up Melody’s arm, making her shiver. Absently, she noticed that he wore no wedding ring, and she wondered how the women of Seacliff had managed to leave him alone so long.
He swung the gate open and waited for her to pass through. “Are you planning to stay for a while this time?”
She could have insisted on opening the gate for herself, but she wanted to save her energy for other battles this weekend. Maybe this time, she could convince her aunt to come see the doctor Melody had found. “That depends on Aunt Cassie. She always seems to be in a hurry to get rid of me.”
“You’re young; you have a life of your own.” Her aunt stood on the front porch. She’d lost even more weight since Melody’s last visit, though her smile was as welcoming as ever. “You have better things to do with your time than look after a failing old woman.”
Melody hugged her close, trying to be gentle. She rested her head on top of her aunt’s, glad that Cassie couldn’t see the tears brimming in her eyes at the moment. “Old? Not you.”
Blake cleared his throat. When Melody looked up at him, he tapped her duffel against the post. “I’ll set this inside for you.”
“Oh, don’t bother.” Melody released her aunt. She might not have argued about the gate, but she still could do things for herself. “I need to go throw stuff in the washing machine, and you were probably coming over here for your morning coffee together. Some things never change, right?”
She grabbed the bag without waiting for an answer and headed inside. From behind her, she heard her aunt say, “No, some things don’t.”
The laundry could have waited until later; she really hadn’t brought that much with her. But this was part of their ritual, settling back to the routine they’d established years before. Cassie and Blake would talk out on the porch over things that Cassie said didn’t concern her. Meanwhile, she would toss her undies in the wash and fantasize about Blake seeing her in them, and then she’d put together some coffeecake to take out to them.
Except that when she went out to the kitchen, she found only crumbs on the plate. She set it into the sink, doing her best to ignore the water flowing away as her hand approached and then rushing back to cover the plate. Being near Blake made her mind play tricks. That was all it was. If she pretended hard enough, maybe it would stop happening.
That had worked before, up until the night when the pipes had burst in her apartment. She’d been stressed over the final she was studying for, which meant that she was alone, no one around to ask embarrassing questions. Such as, how did she stop the water from coming out of the pipes without using the shut-off valve?
She’d stayed away from here for two and a half months after that, certain someone would notice. Nothing dire happened, though, and she resumed her monthly visits back to see Cassie. She hoped the weirdness wasn’t flaring up again; she didn’t want to abandon Seacliff and her aunt.
Taking a deep breath, she glanced around the kitchen, but no previously unnoticed coffeecake materialized. Out of excuses to stay away from Blake, she headed back to the porch. As she walked down the hall, she heard Cassie’s voice through the screen door.