This is a scene I wrote last month during NaNo, knowing that it would never belong in the final book. It might be the best bit I wrote....
This is my spot. Midway between two guard towers. Which means moms and dads and babysitters shy away from it. They want to be near the guardians.
I want my own spot on the sand. A place that I can pretend is my own private island. Me. Sun. Sand. Crashing waves.
Someone is in my spot.
Well, not exactly in it. But close. Close enough that I feel crowded as I toss out my blanket, settle onto my back. Not close enough to touch. But close to hear.
He is humming. Nothing that I recognize.
I try to close my eyes and imagine that the humming is a radio. But he keeps getting distracted by what his hands are doing. He pauses, slows down, speeds up. It ruins my illusion.
I give up and roll onto my side and watch him.
He is closer to the water than I am, down where the sand is saturated. He is using the soggy sand to build something.
Like the song he hums, I can’t identify it.
I stare at his hands. Browned by the sun. Strong. Long. Agile. They sculpt and smooth the sand in a way that makes me wish I were a fragment of silicon.
I shake my head and make myself look away from his hands. The rest of him is just as troublesome. He is shirtless. Which lets me see that he is all sun-kissed. All strong. All long. All agile. His whole body moves, following the lead set by his fingers. His whole being is invested in using the sand to create.
A sea shell emerges to his touch. A giant, open clam shell.
I expect to see a pearl appear.
Instead, he begins to sculpt two long legs.
His hands form every line of those legs. I imagine them running over legs made of flesh instead of sand.
I force myself away from his hands again. This time my eyes land on his face. The look there is magic. He is a god creating the woman of his dreams. I can’t imagine his face would be any more intense, more expressive, if he were gazing at a real woman. I suppose to him, she is real. She is his.
I am lost. Not the way I intended to be when I came to the beach today. Instead of being isolated, alone, and calm, I am lost in the world this man is creating before me.
The man never looks away from his creation. I don’t think he knows I am watching him. I hope he doesn’t know how intently I am staring.
Then his gaze pulls away. I follow his line of sight. A wave touches his bare calf. Tide is coming in.
I suck in a desperate breath. He’s going to lose it all.
He begins to move faster, sketching in the bits that remain. The torso remains armless, reminding me of David. But he adds enough detail for me to finally figure out what he has created. Venus. On the half shell. She is missing the arm that protected one breast from view, so both are bared.
But only for a moment.
A wave crashes into the man, tipping him into his sculpture. He is soaked. Venus is crushed.
He is laughing.
He lays sprawled in the remains of his goddess, laughing up at the sky. Then he rolls in my direction.
He catches me with my hand raised to my mouth as if it can push back the scream that already burst free. He is still laughing as he looks at me.
I know that he knows I’ve been watching him. I know that part of this is a show for me. But there is no way that laugh is fake. It comes straight from his soul and bubbles out into the air.
I finally get a clear look at his face. Hazel eyes surrounded by laugh lines. A heavy layer of scruff lines his jaw. His hair is dark, lightened by the sun where it tops his head. But the hair on his face is dark, almost black.
My hand wants to touch, feel the scrape of it along my palm.
I look away.
I swallow hard.
His laugh follows me. I will hear it in my dreams tonight. Maybe until the end of time.
I lift my eyes and he is standing in front of me.
“My name’s Bryant.” He is holding out a hand to me.
“Viv,” I say. I lift my hand to his, thinking he wants to shake it.
He wraps his fingers around mine and I know how Venus felt. He leans over, rests his lips against my knuckles.
I have never had a man kiss my hand.
I am surprised to find that I like it. At least when it’s this man. I feel the touch of his hand, his lips all the way to my toes. It makes my heart tremble in my chest, makes my breath flutter a little too fast.
“Sorry about your sculpture. She was beautiful.” I gather just enough oxygen to make the words.
“Not as beautiful as you.”
Heat pours over me.
He is warmer than the sun.
He might be more embarrassed by his words than I am. He drops my hand and looks away, brushing his hands over his shoulders and chest to wipe away the bits of Venus that are still clinging to his skin.
I follow his hands, looking at the skin he touches. There is a web of tattoos draped over his left arm. I can pick out some individual pieces. A cupcake. A cigar. A hair dryer. The images are tied together by vines.
He must look back at me and see my stare. “These are the things I love,” Bryant says. “Well, the people I love. They are my family.”
“A cupcake?” I ask.
“My mom. She likes to bake. She makes these amazingly complicated desserts for the restaurant.”
“The hair dryer is your sister?” Please, don’t let it be a girlfriend.
“My brother. Benedict. He’s a stylist in Miami.”
I feel myself blush yet again. “Oh.”
“My sisters are back here.” He turns, shows me his back. A pair of dice and Spiderman are etched on his shoulder blade.
I raise an eyebrow. I have no idea what that means.
“They own a comic book shop together. Their lives are full of role playing games and superheroes.”
That seems to be all I can say. I can’t imagine being surrounded by a family this rich.
Bryant drops to the sand beside me, pivoting as he sinks to look out at the ocean. Waves are still crawling in, inching closer to us. The last of Venus has been washed away. It’s as if he never built a thing. So easily erased.
“What about your family?” he asks.
“I don’t have any tattoos,” I answer.
He laughs. “That’s not what I meant.”
His eyes trail over every inch of my exposed skin as if he is looking for ink that isn’t there.
“Any brothers I should know about?” Bryant tries again.
“Nope. No siblings. Just me.”
“A dad with a shotgun?”
I smile. “A dad in Pennsylvania. Too far to shoot you. You’re safe.” I look away from him again when I realize those words sounded like an invitation.
He takes them as one.
“Are you hungry? It’s just a couple of blocks to this dive that has the best crab cakes.”
I should tell him no. I should tell him I need to get home. I need to study, to get a good night’s sleep. I need to be sharp tomorrow.
Instead I look into his eyes. I see the laughter etched around them. I see the heart bubbling inside.
I say yes.