Ch. 9 Music in the Water

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Russell lay in bed that night feeling the movement of the ocean beneath him. He went over every second of surfing, each wave rising and falling in the rhythm of his breathing.

Hawaiians invented surfing-ask any Hawaiian. Russell had been taught that surfing was a spiritual connection to all of nature: land, sea, air and life itself. As a teenage boy surfing through half a dozen summer vacations in the islands, he had never experienced much spirituality, simply the pleasure of being on the water, watching girls watching him, or watching girls and wishing they were watching him. It was about the pure fun of catching a nice wave, maybe some small tubes to ride through, but that had been the extent of it.

Not so today. Today, he had heard the whisper of a deeper world in the waves. Maybe he was listening harder. He had been listening for her voice for so long, maybe he finally heard something from her. It had given him a profound elation; of being joined to and freed from the world at the same time.

Beth was so different from Erica. Erica never would have told him to go surfing on his own; she would have insisted he take her along and teach her. She wouldn't have been afraid of parasailing, either. No, the Erica he remembered bit life in the butt and then hung on to it like a rodeo rider on a bull. Petite, energetic, driven-a tightly coiled spring-or she had been when she had been with him. Maybe that's why it all went horribly wrong.

In many ways Beth was her opposite: tall, full figured, lips as velvet as those orchid petals and movements deceptively languorous. The kind of woman who tricks the observer with her calm and lack of forceful language into thinking that she is low on intellect or passion. Russell was sure that's all it was: a trick. She hid her thoughts and energy from others and poured her passion into her work and talents. He wondered how it would be if she poured some passion into him.

Those orchids. He hadn't noticed the resemblance to a woman's body straight off, but the soft petals with their delicately ruffled edges, the dots of moisture, the long vertical slit in the middle coupled with Beth's nearness and her lightly perfumed scent had almost had him pinning her against the wall, exploring her neck with his mouth.

No, she was nothing like Erica.

He recalled Beth lying on the sand.

She had been a luscious pearl on the beach. Pale skinned from winter in Denver, touched pink on her cheeks and shoulders from a slight burn, and glowing gold where the light of the setting sun landed on her hair, arms, back, curved buttocks and not to mention her deliciously full breasts. Heat invaded his chest before spiraling downwards at the memory.

Of course that beach bum had hit on her. The guy was the human equivalent of a hyena with his shaggy head and beady eyes. He had stared at Beth like she was lunch. Not a chance-she outclassed him by light-years. Beautiful, talented, fun-loving, refreshing as the trade winds...afraid of taking risks, yes, but when presented the opportunity, courageous enough to face her fears.

What was he doing here with this woman? He had nothing left to offer her. Except, maybe an adventure here in the islands. What kind of adventure did he have in mind, exactly? Not the one they had agreed to, he told himself. Stick to the plan. Do your part of the bargain and don't mess up what could be a nice friendship. There was no room in his tightly bound life for mistakes. His rule about not getting involved with women he worked with was in place for a reason.

By 6:30 am the next morning, they were standing together at the gate, yawning, sipping coffee, and waiting for the flight to Big Island to board. Five minutes after lift-off, Beth was asleep, her head resting on his shoulder, and part of him wanted to set his cheek against her silky hair and sleep, too. The other half of him said to watch the islands and water from the window.

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