Nocte (Page 30)

Nocte (The Nocte Trilogy #1)(30)
Author: Courtney Cole

He smiles, a real one this time, and I collect it, putting it in my jacket so I can hold it for later.

Then he walks inside, his shoulders swaying and the sunshine fading into the backdrop because something about him shines so bright.

I fall into a chair on the side porch, thinking about Dare, about his complexity, his mystery, his endless contradictions.  I pull his smile out of my pocket and examine it, because it’s beautiful and real and I want to hold it forever.

I don’t see Dare again all day, but when I retire to my room for the night, there is a bouquet of calla lilies on my bed.

The note is written in dark scrawling handwriting, that simply says, Thanks again.

The mere idea that Dare had somehow managed to get inside of my room and stand this close to my bed, sets the butterflies free in my belly.  They whirl and twirl and fly against my ribcage as I collapse into bed.

I fall asleep with the flowers in my hand, and thoughts of Dare in my head.

His smile is the last thing I think of before I drift away into oblivion, and it reappears, over and over, in my dreams.  

18

DECEM ET OCTO

Finn

I wake with a start, from the nightmares of broken glass and burning metal.

It’sRealRealRealReal. She’s deadddddddddd.  The whispers hiss and laugh.

I gasp for air, gripping the bedclothes tight, as I fight the clouds of confusion and panic and fear.

Without a second thought, I pad down the hall to Calla’s room and climb into the empty side of her bed.  Something stabs me in the back, and I pull out a bouquet of flowers.  I stare at them for a second, puzzled.  Then I realize… Dare must’ve given them to her.  Suddenly and overwhelmingly annoyed, I get out of bed and crush them under my heel.

I want her to be happy, I do.

I do.

But… Not yet.  I just can’t be without her yet.

Calla quiets the voices.

She’s the only thing that does.

I crawl back in beside her, curling up next to her and then I fight for sleep, ache for it, pray for it.  And finally, finally, finally, the blackness comes, covering me up like a blanket, and hiding my crazy.

For now.  

19

NOVEM

Calla

I wake with a start.

My dreams were strange tonight.

Dare was in them, of course, but instead of the sweet images I usually dream, this one was more of a nightmare.  He was telling me something terrible, something that I couldn’t quite hear, but my heart could feel.  It was something dark.  I could see his lips move, but no sound came out.  Until he told me that he’d go away, if I wanted him to.

And that was it.

I’m awake now in a cold sweat because dream or not, I don’t want him to go away.

I apparently have a very real fear of loss now.

I toss and turn, trying to get back to sleep, but since Finn is in my bed and my thoughts are troubled, I’m not successful.

So I pad downstairs, and out the door to the side porch.  I curl up in a chair and stare down the mountainside, at the rustling trees and the black skyline.

The air is fresh and clean, and borderline chilly. I shiver in the breeze, and as I do, I glance at the Carriage House.

A light shines in there, through the window, warm and soft.

Dare’s up. It’s the middle of the night, and he’s up.

Without even thinking about it, I get up and walk in that direction.  I find myself standing next to his front windows, staring in, oblivious to the fact that I’m only dressed in a nightgown.

He’s sitting at the desk in the living room, staring in apt concentration at a paper in front of him.  He bends over it, working diligently, and I’m left to wonder what he’s working so hard at.

The light inside is warm and beckoning, but of course, I can’t knock.  It’s three a.m.  So I watch from the shadows for a bit longer, and just when I’m ready to turn around and head home, Dare stands up and walks into the kitchen.

Curiosity is killing me, so I dart around the edge of the house to the windows on the other side of his living room.  From this angle, I’ll have a good view of his desk.  Peering in, I gasp.

When I first saw Dare, I’d been right.  He is something artistic.  He’s an artist.

And he’s working on an amazingly beautiful drawing of me.

My breath is suspended as I peer closer, and leaning my forehead against the glass, I study the picture.

His skill is amazing.  And the way he’s drawing me is exhilarating.

In the picture, I’m walking away from him, and I’m completely na**d except for a pair of high heels.

Breathless, I study the drawing… enchanted with the way he imagines me to be.  I’m slender and pale, but pale in a beautiful way, an ethereal way. My hair is long and lush, my muscles curvy and perfect.  Through his eyes, I’m feminine and delicate and perfect.

I scan the entire drawing as my cheeks grow hot with the sheer thought that he imagines me like this… that he imagines me naked.  

And then my heart stutters and pauses in my chest as I see something.

A birthmark on my side.

The size of a quarter, it’s the color of coffee with cream.

Startled, my fingers subconsciously flutter to my side, to feel the place where the very real, very intimate birthmark lingers on my skin.

How did Dare know?

There’s no possible way he could’ve ever seen that birthmark, unless he’s somehow seen me shower or changing clothes.

He must be watching me.

What the hell?

I’m churning this through my mind with such intensity, that I forget to step away from the window, and Dare scares the shit out of me when he appears directly in front of me, his surprised face in front of my own.

I yank backward and so does he, then he narrows his eyes as he stares out into the dark.

At me.

I back away and then take off down the path toward my house, because of a hundred things.  Because I’m embarrassed that he caught me spying on him, because I’m nervous and confused about his picture, and because in spite of everything, I’m flattered and excited that he was drawing me at all.

I haven’t gotten twenty yards, though, before Dare is tugging on my elbow.

“Calla, what are you doing out so late?”

His dark brow is furrowed as he stares into my face.

I stop and stare upward, into his dark eyes and without bidding, the image of the beautiful portrait he’d drawn with his own hands pops into my head.  It was so lovingly rendered, so perfectly drawn.