Her drawing frenzies began with crayons and doodle pads before she went to kindergarten.
Mom and Dad weren’t married anymore. They fought it out on the front porch or in the courtroom. A ready-packed suitcase and pair of houses defined her family. Sometimes she heard, and she always felt, the undercurrents. Dissension, revenge, and later, each of them assimilating their own brand of freedom. To be responsible for her became the loss. Mom and Dad scurried through living, it seemed, punctuated by marked calendars, new people, and renewed hope, leaving her tossed on the waves of time.
Her head surfaced occasionally. A chance to breathe, the wild distraction to save herself, hidden in a well that never ran dry: thoughts within the mind, emotions of the heart. A fate relegated to brush strokes, a child’s unnoticed drawing frenzies, a teenager’s painting outbreaks, a woman’s studio sabbaticals. Nobody used the wordart, instead, a glance or comment. That’s pretty. You like to draw. Is it the ocean or the sky?
Ariadne Franklin, of canvases splashed in blues and greens, a mermaid darting between reality and escape, ever detected, if anyone had looked. Her bouts lasted until the waves rolled out to sea again and calm restored for a little while. The story of an artist.
“Sunshine and Lev” is a romance/suspense novel, my third release, available in print or eBook at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
They won! Dansby wholeheartedly accepted the stipulation: He had to pop the question for Andee to be his girlfriend…or his wife. He had the night of their lives planned.
The producers of LOVESCENE2020 arranged transportation to the hot air balloon site. Dansby couldn’t keep his eyes off his date. Andee wore a white slip dress. She looked elegant and tan and ready.
Their lovely jade green balloon glowed in the sunlight. Soon, it launched them into a new world, a wondrous perspective on Earth below. “This is exhilarating!” Andee wrapped her arms around Dansby and kissed his lips.
“It’s kind of scary.” Dansby hardly glanced downward.
“Dan, are you afraid of heights?” She laughed her Andee laugh, full of joy and dares.
He chuckled. “Maybe a little, An. Hold on tight and I’ll be fine.” She hugged him and they catapulted into the fullness of the adventure seekers that they were. They got a bird’s eye view of trees and mountains and water below and a special appreciation that they experienced it all together.
Later, the first of many surprises came to life. Dansby requested the balloon land anywhere on the shoreline of Lake Somewhere in the setting sun. They walked on the sand and simply soaked it up. They found themselves on the dock, reclined and making private jokes and kissing.
Next, he led her to the boat house, another request that the producers honored. Twinkling lights, a quiet dinner for two, and a romantic bed set the stage. They spent the night together with Dansby’s promise of a “very big breakfast surprise.” They had, after all, shared twenty breakfasts with each other so far.
He was a bundle of nerves at daybreak. It turned off exceptionally chilly, making him glad he’d planned the fancy, heartfelt lattes. He left hers bedside with a nudge and scattered petals to a grass path nearby, which they had walked before, talking and laughing in days past.
Soon, Andee tiptoed on the path. He stood, trembling, with a vintage ring held in his hand behind his back. He gulped when he saw her strange face. “What’s this, Dansby?” It was not a face she’d made before.
“There was a stipulation to winning. I’m supposed to, uhm, pop the question, uhm, ‘Will you be my girlfriend…or wife?’” She laughed an odd, nervous laugh in reply. They stood face-to-face. “Andee, with seven days left here, I’ve been wondering anyway, you know, what’ll happen to us.” She looked away. “I did some research. We live approximately a thousand miles apart, Portland to Orange County, California.”
“That’s a long…distance.” Did she have tears in her eyes? “Why can’t this just be fun?”
No turning back, Dansby had given her a most romantic evening and morning. “Will you be my girlfriend?” He produced the brassy, beautiful ring for his brassy, beautiful girl. “I want to leave here knowing we will try.”
She touched the ring; she took it; she turned it to early morning rays. “Wow. So beautiful.” She gave it back. “This is a lot.” She patted his heart and stepped away. “I came here without expectations. You’re…an amazing man. I like you. I…might could fall in love with you.”
“I think I am falling in love with you.” He looked smitten.
What a handsome and happy guy. Andee had enjoyed every minute with him. “Your business is in Portland. You are…uh…stuck there, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it stuck. I love my life and I make good money, An.”
“But you’re not moving to California. I love my life, Dan.” She fumbled with the braid at the nape of her neck. “Thank you for the best night I’ve ever had. You’re funny, you’re great in bed, you’re…very good with food and drink.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “Oh, Dansby, this is hard. To accept the ring is to enter a long-distance relationship or…to insinuate that I would eventually move to Portland.”
He didn’t mean to make her cry. This was supposed to be the best morning they ever had, too. “Hey.” He held her. “It’s okay.”
“I’m not saying no. I’m saying…” She looked up at him. “I care about you. I need more time.”
Dansby slipped the ring into his pocket and showed Andee his empty palms. “No rush. We have seven days before the contest ends. I only have eyes for you and…nothing but time.”
Paige wore a black one-piece swimsuit. Understated sexy elegance, just like her. Wilder waited in bubbling water. “This is one hell of a consolation prize. You’re gorgeous always.”
She dipped a toe in. “Thank you, Mr. Wisconsin. The voters have loved us all along.” She slid into the hot water.
He didn’t wait around and roped her in. “Smart people, they are.” He kissed her. They sure did like to kiss.
“Wilder, this is nice. Steamy. Literally and physically. Gosh, I hate to kill the mood, but I must confess. Caroline upset me when she got voted off and left.”
He made a concerned face as they floated apart. “Okay…”
“She told me that if I planned to move forward with you, I should probably know that she showed up in your bedroom the same night we had our second boat date. She said she showed up because you had been wanting her to.”
“Paige, I can explain.” He took her by the wrist. “Look at me.”
She didn’t. “I’ve heard it all before. I told you, I’ve been cheated on twice.” She faced the edge of the hot tub, back to him. “Trust is so hard.”
He didn’t close in on her, sat opposite, and soaked, simmering inside. “There was a spark between Caroline and me, at first, I admit. A few times, we made eyes at each other going into our bedrooms, but…once I had a chance with you, I made it clear when she showed up.” He sighed because still Paige didn’t face him. “I turned her down. Nothing happened.”
Paige dried off. Wilder got out. The bar had been set with champagne and glasses. “What would it take?” He embraced her. She let him. “Paige, I want a chance with you.” He poured champagne into glasses, grasping at any strategy to persuade. “Sweetheart, give trust a try. You’ll never be happy if you don’t.” He handed her a glass. “Trust me. I’m your guy.”
She toasted his glass and nodded. “Thank you for your patience. I am trying.” After a bout of quietness, Wilder told her that he thought it’d be best if he called it a night. He promised her that he was up for anything, when or if, she felt ready.
Paige spent a restless hour in her bed alone. She remembered handsome Wilder from day one onward. His grounded nature, his romantic gestures, their sneaky date offsite, and dozens of snitched kisses since.
She found lacy nightwear in her drawer. After midnight, in a direct replication of Caroline’s boldness, she slipped into his bedroom. She found him awake and not all that surprised. “Hello, Miss Paige. What’s on your mind?”
She sat on his bed with her back turned. “I believe you, Wilder. I thought I might replace the memory of…Caroline here with…one of our own.”
He crawled behind her and put his arms around her. “Thank you.” His nose nudged her hair. “You smell so good.”
“Would you mind if I stay the night, you know, to sleep with you? Like, hold me.” She had a shy smile. “I do love how much we kiss.”
They found their way under the covers. He did hold her. “Paige, you’re a serious kind of girl. I’m falling hard for you. What I mean is, what would you think of life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, when this is all said and done?”
She giggled. “I’m falling hard for you, Wilder, but I’m a music teacher in Kansas. Any chance your cows would tolerate voice lessons?”
He chuckled. “You’d be teacher of the century if you could make their mooing sound like a song.”
“I definitely want to explore a relationship with you. I told you that I wasn’t planning to you know here. Seven more nights like this and…”
“I read you loud and clear, Miss Paige. Just say when.”
They kissed till she, hesitantly, said goodnight and fell asleep in broad, steady arms.
Who cared about third place? Leo and Jacinta had been voter favorites for weeks. Who cared about votes, anymore, anyway? Not Leo. If he had his way, he’d be leaving Lake Somewhere with the love of his life.
Tonight, he would wine her, dine her, and, well…whatever came next. The other couples stashed away on dates, Leo opted for dinner and dancing on the shore. He held hands with his Jace and led her there. She went ooh and ah.
“Teach me to slow dance properly,” he requested after a relaxed meal on the sand.
“Properly? You, Leo?” She bumped noses with him. “I know you. You’d rather dirty dance.”
“You know me well! Show me the slow and easy and dirty way, Jace.”
Leo had music piping from a wireless speaker. He played Ed Sheeran again, same song they danced to the first time they danced. They ended up falling asleep on the same sheet they picnicked on after a lot of slow and easy moves.
Next morning, Jace awoke to a sparkling diamond engagement ring, a painted rock- Marry Me- and Leo on bended knee. She cried while he spoke. “The winner of the hot air balloon ride was supposed to pop the question, ‘Will you be my girlfriend…or wife?’. Jacinta, I don’t need a stipulation from the producers to give my heart to you. You have it. So, I’m asking…” He winked and took her ring finger. “May I move in with you in Miami? I’m a rambler, a hiker, a tour guide. My home is anywhere I choose to make it.” He wiped a tear on her cheek. “What do you think? You want to start planning our future as soon as we leave here? I love you.”
“You know I love you, too.” She snatched her ring, and after bouncing up and down, gripped him tightly. “Yes, yes, yes! I can’t wait to be Mrs. Leo. Ha, ha! One day…” Leo twirled his Jace around. “One day suits me fine.”
MEANWHILE, PLOT TWIST!
Before Caroline left Lake Somewhere, she ratted out Andee and Dansby for picking the lock to the loft hideaway and Wilder and Paige for stealing the boat and wandering out of sight on their second date.
The producers of LOVESCENE2020 determined that perhaps Leo and Jace fell into third place because the other couples broke the rules and created sultry dates of their own. Very unfair strategies to gain votes, even if it was in the name of love. The punishment? Andee, Dansby, Paige and Wilder – LOCKED AWAY in their own rooms each night- 8 PM – 8 AM- until voting for the FINAL episode ends Sunday 4/26 at midnight.
THE GRAND PRIZE AT STAKE? Six nights in Costa Rica upon leaving Lake Somewhere and $50,000.00 for the winning couple!
Here’s what happened next:
Andee counted on maximizing her days and nights with Dansby to make her decision about the ring and being his girlfriend. They walked in from his morning proposal to have the bombshell bad news dropped on them. She grabbed his hand. “Our only hope is to win that trip, Dan. I’m not ready to let you go. That I do know.” He kissed her in front of the others. “I’ll be in the kitchen making your breakfast at 8AM sharp every morning left here, An. You can count on that.”
Paige and Wilder came downstairs with dopey grins to really bad news. With a frown, she whispered, “We need Costa Rica. I’m ready for more with you.” Wilder nodded. “We’ll win. If we don’t, I won’t lose you.”
Leo and Jace felt sorry for the rulebreakers for about ten seconds after they arrived in the house. Then, they showed off her ring. Leo turned directly to the voters with his plea. “Vote for us. We’re in love and we could celebrate our engagement in Costa Rica. Who knows, we might go crazy and come back married!”
WHO ARE THE GRAND PRIZE WINNERS? Comment below. Take care, world. –CC
Midafternoon felt hot but not as hot as Jace looked to Leo. They won the jeep keys, first time any remaining competitors had left the property of Lake Somewhere in three weeks. Propped on the side of the vehicle, Leo sipped his cold soda and watched her approach. She wore a tank top and cutoff denim shorts over a swimsuit. The two of them fit like that, he thought, neither being the dressy, indoors type. She called out, “Hey, cool dude. May I bum a ride with you?”
“My pleasure.” Leo would’ve opened her door for her, but he’d taken the top and doors off the jeep for the short ride. A hike, a waterfall, a campfire, a grill, a tent. That’s what the produces of LOVESCENE2020 had offered him for their excursion, along with directions: Three miles down the lakeshore drive.
“Hot day,” Leo commented as he drove away from the house. “But not as hot as you.”
Jace giggled. “Feels good to get away for a while, huh?” She took his hand.
“Feels good to go anywhere with you, Jace.” Leo didn’t even have time to play music in the jeep before they arrived in the middle of nowhere. Their sunshine, lake, and mountain view.
“Wow,” Jace said. “Look at all the trees and trails. Look at the view…” Leo parked on the dirt road. They stepped out. Their eyes toured- their destination for the rest of the day- and if Leo had his way, the night. It was a lakeview of loveliness, set with lanterns and logs yet lit, a tiny tent for two, and a trail that stretched out then vanished on a slope near the water. Leo sent a silent thank you out to the producers and up to the clouds above. What a fate.
“Didn’t they hint there’s a waterfall around here?” Jace shed her clothes in the broiling sun, revealing a white bikini. Her rich dark skin suggested that she lived and breathed outdoors, like Leo. She took off, dragging him. “Let’s go!”
An hour later, tricked by water splashing all around and setting sun, Leo produced a compass. “Northwest of the campsite, they said. We must be near the origin of the falls.”
Jacinta giggled. “You are a man with a plan. I’m glad you’re mine.” Leo’s eyes stared into hers. “I am yours, Jacinta.” He led her on a twiggy trail until water crashed over the mountainside into a swirly pool right before their eyes. “Let me guess, you’re not gonna wear clothes,” she joked, watching Leo approach the bank.
“Hopefully, you’re not either.” Leo’s challenge issued, they skinny-dipped in their own little oasis until darkness and hunger prevailed.
Leo got his wish. They spent a starlit night feeding each other grilled meat and veggies, talking quietly by the fire, and much later, entwined together in tent blankets, sleepy and satisfied. ~ ~ ~
The time to act came quickly. …Since Wilder saw Paige the night everyone danced to Jace’s salsa lessons, he’d been thinking about their boat date on day one at Lake Somewhere.
Her beauty stood out among the rest. Quieter, more graceful, ladylike. Often, when he’d sneak a peek at her from afar, Wilder would catch Paige sneaking a peek at him.
Then the voters went and threw them a curve ball, too. Wilder & Paige, one vote shy of winning the jeep keys. Maybe the voters saw what Wilder had begun to feel- the potential for more. So, he went about the task of recreating their first date on the boat, set to take place (hopefully) while Leo and Jace were away in the jeep. An apology, a second chance, a consolation prize for second place. He went full-scale romantic and slipped a note under her bedroom door this morning. ‘We almost won another date. So…me, you, boat, 5 PM? Wilder‘
Wilder waited…and waited on the dock. 5:01 p.m. 5:05 p.m. He told himself women are always running late for dates. 5:10 p.m. At 5:15 p.m, he decided to give up on her, maybe even invite Andee or Caroline out on the boat. He’d gone to A LOT of trouble, an evening of surprises, to be stood up. He sighed and turned the corner by the boat house. Paige came down the grassy hill. Wilder was taken aback. This woman, a mixture of formal and informal. She never wore much makeup. Style-wise, he never knew. For twenty-one days, she might be found in jeans, a swimsuit, or a sundress. Today, she wore a sleeveless top and fitted shorts. So fitted that he wondered how she got into them.
Paige glanced back at the house and went onto tiptoes when her body was close to his. She kissed him hastily. “This is nice of you.”
Wilder didn’t know a man could lose his breath. How had he missed this on their first go-around? Or had he? He did have a compulsion to kiss her that day. A memorable kiss… He guided her into the boat. “Easy now. No flipping it over.” He winked in the sunlight. Paige giggled. Both recalled her hammock dumping, first moment they met.
Wilder slid close to her, once seated, and put his arm around her. “Mind?” “No.” “You smell good.” He sniffed her shiny brown hair. “Like last time. Like…honey, I think.” Paige laughed. “Thanks.” She moved away slightly and made eyes with him. “My shampoo, probably.”
“Mm, hm.” He sniffed again and winked again. Certainly not the smoothest conversation Wilder ever made with a woman, but it did keep his nerves at bay, kind of, until he pitched Part 2 of their second chance. “The voters are pulling for us, you know. Must sense something here.”
Paige’s turn to go, “Mm, hm.”
Wilder had rowed halfway across the lake and went for it. “You insinuated, on our last date, that since I’m a dairy farmer, I might be good with my hands.”
Paige made a funny little gasp. “And?” Wilder grinned. “Paige, would you be opposed to anchoring away from the house? We might find a surprise.”
“This is very,” Her beautiful eyes scoped his, “romantic, Wilder.” She looked away. “And I think it’s against the rules.” She laughed.
Wilder made an unconcerned face. “What are the producers gonna do? Kick us off Lake Somewhere? I’d find you and try this again, just so you know.”
Paige frowned. Almost too good to be true, the transformation that Wilder had made. “Dansby suggested you don’t know what you want. That you’ve never played the field, Wilder. A good way for me to get hurt.” Light breeze blew her luscious hair over her shoulders. “I felt something for you, just from reading your bio before we ever arrived at Lake Somewhere.”
Wilder shrugged his shoulders and opted for honesty. “Dansby may be right, about when I first got here. A lot of women, flirting, pressure, but…all I know is, you catch my eye daily, and…I’ve rehashed our date more than once.” The boat landed on a sliver of shore. “Paige, you’re a lady.” He heard her breath catch. He offered his hand. “Will you join me?”
She saw a most romantic display in the grass nearby. Flowers and wine and fruit and a guitar and a quilt. “You did this?” “I did.” “You sing or play?” Paige began to walk toward the setup.
“I make food and music. I’m told I’m pretty good with my hands.” Wilder followed her.
She snickered. “I’m a music teacher, you know.”
“I know. I’m nervous as hell.” He chuckled. She sat. He sat. Her eyes were on the guitar. “Um, how ’bout a glass of wine first?” Wilder opened the bottle and poured glasses. “To second dates,” Paige toasted. They ate fruit and talked about life in the lake house outside the real world for a few minutes. Wilder picked up the guitar, strummed, stared at her, took a deep breath, and…The Beatles, “Love Me Do” showed up. They sang together in setting sun.
Later, lying on their backs, sated by wine and an easy date, Paige considered the dusky sky. “I love evenings outdoors.” She ruffled his windblown hair. “You told me on our first date that country boys know a thing or two about pastures and moonlight, walks in the woods and quilts in the grass, truck beds and homemade wine… This has been wonderful. Thank you.”
Wilder had a wine buzz and a Paige buzz, which made him daring. “I want to kiss you so bad. Are you shy, Paige?”
She smiled through the haze of evening. “Only half shy.”
“The other half?”
All the encouragement he needed, Wilder rolled close to her and kissed her lips. They kissed on the quilt until unexpected raindrops interrupted. “Whoa, a big cloud.” Wilder gestured to the sky. “We should probably go.” They gathered items and rushed to the boat.
Seated and rowing in a downpour, Wilder chuckled into the night. “Rain interrupted our first date, too.”
“Oh yeah…you’re right!” Paige huddled close to him in the chilly pelt. “But, truthfully, Wilder, I would’ve stopped anyway.”
The pitter-patter of droplets hit the boat for a span. Wilder finally said, “I’m sorry, I have to ask. Because you…aren’t interested in me?”
Paige’s half-shy side emerged. “No, I’m very interested, but I’m not planning to, you know, with anybody in the short time we will be living at Lake Somewhere.”
Wilder hunched her body close to his. “No worries, baby. I could kiss you into next month and be happy.”
Paige smiled into the pouring rain. “Good. Maybe the voters will give us a chance to…kiss again.”
“Never mind the voters. I can give you that right now.” Wilder’s lips found hers easily. The boat bumped into the edge of the dock, reminding them that they were in a rainstorm and had arrived at their temporary home. ~ ~ ~
He had, maybe, expected this. He had certainly wished for it, a night or two, going into his bedroom at the same time she went into hers, after an evening downstairs with the Lake Somewhere group.
Right now, Wilder merely felt a mix of compassion and guilt. Caroline had come in second, or third place, to Paige and Andee, garnering votes here and there but never a chance for them to pursue each other away from the microscope of the others. When his doorknob clicked and partial light came into his room, he hoped, for a flash, that Paige had changed her mind about spending a night with him. He knew better.
So here she was, Caroline, alone, dressed in a cami and pajama pants, striking red curls stacked on her head, standing over his bed. Wilder watched her in night shadows. Her hand touched his head. “Hair’s damp. I heard you and Paige come in from the storm, laughing.”
“I took her on the boat. I’ve, uh…” Wilder shifted on his pillow. He could hardly see Caroline now with the door shut, or decipher what she’d do next. “…felt something for her, all along, I think.”
“That’s against the rules. Taking the boat out. Besides, Wilder, most of the time, you felt something for me.”
“True.” Wilder became aware of her presence, actually her breath. Her fingertip moved along the edge of the sheet at his chest. His pulse did kick up.
“I overheard Paige say that she wouldn’t come into your room tonight…I’m offering.”
Wilder jerked away as Caroline’s knee pressed onto the mattress. “Caroline, what’re you doing?”
“We deserve a chance.”
Wilder gripped her arm lightly. “I have been attracted to you. You’re a beautiful woman and an interesting person. Of course, I’d go out with you if we won a chance.” He climbed out of bed on the other side. He could feel Caroline’s eyes scan his body in boxers through the shadows. “Otherwise, I…want to give Paige a fair trial. Let’s leave it up to the voters. Goodnight.”
Dansby took Andee by the hand and led her up the elegant second-floor staircase, assuming it would take them to the loft hideaway on the third story. They had agreed at their ritual breakfast this morning; they were tired of coming in third place. Yet, third place…it meant something! A pair of daredevils, they dreamed up a scheme to dress for a real date and break into the loft, come what may. They were going home soon anyway, if they didn’t win more votes. Maybe this would do it…
Dansby brought along hand tools in his pocket. Andee brought wine and cheese. He started to work the lock. “Wait!” Andee whispered. Glancing down the staircase, she squeezed her eyes shut. “Are we sure we won’t be found?”
“If we are, you’re worth it.”
“Dansby…” “Andee…” Dansby jiggled and fumbled. Andee, impatient, confessed, “It irked the hell out of me when you danced with Paige.”
He tested the knob. No dice. “Ditto you and Wilder, babe.”
She sighed. What effort she’d put into her dynamic black dress and elegant up-do just to sneak around like a horny teenager. “Have you ever picked a lock before, Dan?”
“No, An.” He paused, looked at her, and smiled crookedly. “But I work with all those fancy coffee machines and ovens and pastries in the cafes. I’ll get it.”
He jiggled and fumbled, jiggled and fumbled, jiggled and fumbled. The knob turned. The door opened. Handsome Dansby in a nice suit held out his hand. “Please, miss. Right this way. A mere coffee guy at your service.” Andee laughed. Their humor matched, always. She stepped in to a quaint, appealing, secretive place. “We’ve officially crossed a line,” she declared.
“Ah, doll face, you have no idea.” Dansby swatted her backside. “By the way, you might be the prettiest woman I’ve ever been this far with.”
“You’re gonna earn it, playboy.” She handed him the wine bottle and opener and started music on her phone. Dansby knew what to do with food and drink. It was forever an enticement. Smoothly, he opened the bottle, poured glasses, and arranged cheese, bedside. Andee started music on her phone. A slow, jazzy, old-timey tune. This guy was a throwback and it did her heart good.
Dansby stepped into the rhythm and waltzed her around the room. The window view to midnight on the lake far below glittered. Andee had been envious of Leo and Jace’s off-site escapade. Until now.
Whatever that tune was (Caroline, an author and librarian, had helped Andee conjure a playlist) faded and “Moon River” (a song Andee recognized) began.
“That’s my favorite waltz,” Dansby whispered. “Did you make this playlist for me?”
“I did.” Her dazzling eyes seemed to smile at his.
“Thank you.” He tipped her chin. “How did you learn to waltz? You’re good.”
“Jacinta. Today. Crash course.”
“That fast? You’re good.” But, Dansby abandoned the waltz to pull her in close. “You know what they say?”
“No, tell me, funny boy.” Andee melted in his arms, floated on his deep voice, and desired more.
“If you’re good at the vertical dance, you’ll be good at the horizontal dance.”
She laughed louder than planned. “Dan, you can do better than that.”
“Right.” He escorted her closer to wine and cheese and soft sheets. “Breakfast in bed at sunrise, An? You love my lattes…”
Leo & Jacinta, “Drinks on the Dock” – Late spring and late afternoon, lakeside, warm sun, and a duo set to enjoy seclusion and the voters’ aim for a love match. Competitors have now been confined to Lake Somewhere for seven days. Week Two, Leo and Jace won a date after Wilder and Paige’s boat date gained 4000 readers but L&J received 25% of the vote!
The LOVESCENE2020 producers left sangria, nachos, and guac on the dock for this New Mexico-born kayak guide and Miami-born salsa teacher. Interacting here and there around the house since day one, they were sincere that they felt like they found each other among the others, and that they were different. Whispers in the house hinted that they were sparking too quickly and, like a firecracker, would explode and burn out fast.
Leo arrived first at the dock and toyed with the setting, fine-tuning the romance. He wore cargo shorts and a dopey-happy face. Jacinta was all he had thought about since they celebrated second place, Week 1, and dove into the lake for a swim. He heard footsteps and saw Jace standing in sinking sun. Her peach bikini and brown skin were sweet accessories to vivid orange sunrays on shiny brown lake water. Their first date.
Perhaps he’d fallen in love…
“Hey, Leo.” “Hey, Jace.” “You’re the first to call me Jace. I like it.” They sat on wooden planks with feet kicking water. “What do you want to know about me?” he asked first.
She smiled. “Actually, I’ve learned a lot about you, our snippets of conversation this week and…well, observing you around the house. Plus, you swam naked on our first day here.” Her eyes made large circles and she giggled.
He grinned. “You didn’t tell me not to… Are you interested in anyone else, Jace?”
Jacinta’s head bobbed side to side. “Too early to say, don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t.”
Her face whipped toward his. “A nacho and guac?” She handed him a chip. “Such a gorgeous day.”
“Yes, perfect. For a gorgeous woman.” They snacked and sipped.
Leo reclined on the dock first. She followed. On their backs, his hand found hers, which she allowed. “Are you going to teach me salsa? I like to dance.”
That possibility lit her face. “I’d love to! Now?”
“Soon. For now, tell me more about you.” Leo was a gorgeous guy, fully muscled and easygoing. Perhaps Jacinta wouldn’t notice anyone else after all. She talked about her life in Miami and her big family, a jovial mom and dad and five boisterous brothers and sisters. Leo talked of mountains and rivers and boats and trails. Their conversation was as easy as everything else had been for them so far. They shared details for an hour. Until the sun was shadowy.
Music drifted from the house. Other competitors had been invited to share cocktails on the patio. Leo asked her to dance on the dock. As soon as his arms were around her, he veered them toward the open door of the tiny boat house. The cool, fresh air on the water turned woodsy and damp inside. Jacinta, shorter than Leo by several inches, knew he was about to kiss her when he leaned in. Then he did. A delicate kiss, his mouth touched hers for mere moments, to inhale her breath and taste her lips. His kisses didn’t escalate, teasing her with softness. He danced them deeper into the boat house. Her hands pushed his chest lightly. “The others are gossiping. Saying we’ll burn out quickly.” Her words sounded breathless. “That we’re a fluke, you know, disillusioned by all the votes.”
“This has been my favorite first date ever, Jace. Kissing you wasn’t a fluke.”
“Agree.” Her voice still sounded airy. “The party sounds fun.” Happy voices and laughter floated down to them along with the music. “Maybe we should join them? Slow things down.” She couldn’t look at the very appealing Leo when she added, “We haven’t even noticed anyone else.”
He motioned toward the doorway. “Okay…after you.”
~ ~ ~
The party was in full swing when they arrived on the back lawn bedecked in white lights and dusk. Their housemates drank sangria and gabbed. Mamie and Erik seemed to be tiptoeing into their own little world since Skye was voted off. Dansby and Andee conversed with Paige. Jacinta had tied a turquoise, gold-beaded sarong at her waist. She entered the scene with, “Hi, everybody! We had a fantastic first date.” Her fingertips touched her lips. “Leo is a catch and the best kisser.” She winked at him as everyone watched them curiously, then she tinkered with the sound system and her phone. “Anyone up for a salsa lesson?” There were murmurs of agreement. Sultry beats came from the speakers.
Wilder stepped out of the house onto the scene with Caroline on his heels. The first thing he noticed was Paige. They’d been awkward since their boat date and swift kiss. She was a beauty, especially tonight in a fitted top and flowy skirt; it surprised Wilder when his breath caught. Their eyes met. She did a butterfly wave with one hand. He walked over and said, “You are extra beautiful tonight, Paige. Thanks again for a great date. We should make a point to chat soon.” She swallowed visibly. “Sounds great.”
Upbeat Latin music leading the way, Jacinta purposely alternated between Leo and Dansby, who, therefore, alternated between her and Andee. Wilder took Paige and Caroline each by a hand and announced, “A bucket list moment. To dance with two pretty ladies.”
After Jacinta’s brief lesson and the first full successful song completed, everyone had partnered with everyone, left out of breath and loosened up. A slow song began; Leo had changed the music. He took Jacinta by the hand and into his arms. “You said you wanted to slow things down. This is a good song.” Ed Sheeran, it made her smile. “I’ve noticed everyone now, Jace.” He whispered into her hair. “I don’t see anyone but you.”
Wilder happened to be standing in front of Andee. Blonde hair shiny and straight, sexy orange clingy dress. Where had she been for seven days? “Let’s dance,” he dared and swished her into a pose. Andee, a live for the moment kind of girl, abandoned Dansby for a turn with big, handsome Wilder.
Mamie and Erik had moved away from the scene, closer to the shore, not to partner with anyone else. Caroline slipped into the house, disappointed, although she had a sultry salsa dance memory with Wilder. She would get another chance. Their bedrooms side by side, he couldn’t wake up or go to sleep without running into her eventually…
Dansby felt he was unintimidating to bold Wilder and dissed by flighty Andee. He was shocked! He and Andee had been getting up each morning before everyone else. They had a blast in the kitchen. She was a pathetic cook and he was a master chef. They had shared six breakfasts and six kisses. Yet, Paige, right before his eyes that minute, was perhaps the most naturally appealing woman at Lake Somewhere. That, he had noticed before tonight. “A dance?” he offered. “I guess it’s you and me.” Paige’s eyes flitted in Wilder’s direction, then she accepted. Having Andee out of Dansby’s arms nearby, and Paige surreptitiously watching Wilder, Dansby said, “Wilder thinks he came here for a soulmate, but that guy’s never played the field. I think he’s flattered by the votes and female attention, a surefire way to break your heart.” Paige showed Dansby vulnerable, lovely eyes. The windy outdoors took her hair off her shoulders. “You think?” she finally uttered.
“I’m thirty-one, Paige; I know what I’m looking for. I’m here because there’s someone here I’m supposed to meet…”
Paige swayed, attempting to pay attention to the gentle beat of the love song. “I’d like to think that’s why I’m here, too.” Her eyes checked Andee and Wilder once more; they were making a mockery of the romantic music by twirling and swirling and dipping and chuckling. It looked fun. “Meet in the kitchen in the morning for bagels and coffee? I’ll be wearing at least an apron.” Dansby offered her a sympathetic smile. Paige decided to give him her full attention for the rest of the dance.
~ ~ ~ This week, WHO do you want to see? They are vying for a chance TO KEYS TO THE JEEP- a surprise date off-site! This week, the female AND male with the LEAST VOTES are going home! VOTE in the comments or by PM (Clare Cinnamon Author FB) before midnight, Sunday 4/12.
BE SURE to check out the additional “MEANWHILE” scenes below before voting!
Stay safe. Prayers for our world. -CC
EXCERPT from Week 1, Caroline and Wilder:
At the end of Paige and Wilder’s boat date on Day 1 at Lake Somewhere: “No woman would mind being kissed like that,” Paige had said between heartbeat flutters. She noticed Wilder’s eyes watching something else. She looked up. Caroline stepped from cover nearby. She called out, “Hi. Hope your outing was nice! Wilder, may we chat for a minute?”
He said to Paige, “Thanks for a good time,” and walked in Caroline’s direction.
Caroline had invited Wilder to join her in Adirondack chairs on the lawn. “Wilder, I’ll be honest. I felt a spark when we were the first two to arrive here and discovered our bedrooms side by side.” Her emerald eyes boldly stayed on his mildly surprised expression. “I saw you kiss Paige, and before things progress with her, I wanted a chance to get to know you.”
He clicked his tongue. “Truth is, you and Paige are pretty women, but I came here hoping for something unexpected. You two are basically what I’m set up with back home.” He had the decency to grin. “Although your gorgeous red curls are a new twist.”
Pleased, she lifted her shoulders. “Good! I’ll bank on that.”
Wilder leaned back on his chair. He glimpsed Paige making her introduction to others at the dock, glimpsed her attractive backside in jeans. “The date with Paige was really nice.”
Caroline nodded. “And the kiss?”
“Too rushed to judge.” Wilder smirked. “And partly interrupted, wouldn’t you say?”
“Wilder, I don’t apologize for going after what I want. So, tell me about life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin…” They talked until the sun went down, well beyond the others going inside, which left them climbing stairs to adjacent rooms in semidarkness.
“It’s just the first night here.” Wilder had a broad smile as he turned his knob. “I guess we’ll get used to this…”
Caroline made a flirty move of her hips. “It’ll be interesting! Goodnight.”
Andee and Dansby- Looking back at the first seven days… Six mornings, they shared the kitchen before everyone else got up. It started like this on Day 2, Morning 1 of Lake Somewhere:
“Flour, butter, sugar, spice. I’m trying to impress you.” Andee, in a camisole and pajama pants with cute, crazy-bun hair, lifted a shoulder at Dansby behind her.
“Good morning. I had a feeling I’d find you here, hoping to find me here. What are you…trying to bake?” he jibed.
Dansby saw a recipe card on the countertop. “No need to make buns, Andee. You already have great ones.” He swatted her hip. She laughed loudly and turned around.
“It smells good, but I confess, I’m doubtful.” Dansby glanced between her cheery morning face and the oven. They stood close. “How much longer before they’re ready?”
Andee frowned. “I forgot to check the clock.”
Dansby chuckled. “I’ll take it from here.” He intended to kiss her quickly, their first kiss. Instead, they kissed in the kitchen until his chef’s nose told him the buns were done.
Here’s how it works (estimated time for players/readers 10-20 minutes/week):
*These ten fictional characters have never met and will be in seclusion together for the foreseeable future. Each week, an author’s scenario will be presented and voted on BY YOU and eventually characters will be eliminated.
*There are keys to six hidden rooms/scenarios/future scenes where characters can be coupled off, through voting, to get to know each other better. Rooms/scenes: 1. Library/Reading nook 2. Game Room 3. Loft Hideaway 4. Outdoor hot tub 5. Boat house/deck 6. Boat
*Each character has separate bedroom quarters and all of them are invited to co-mingle in plain view in the great room, kitchen, dining area, or on the open porches/shores of the lake house. These writing scenes of all characters will also be included each week, so you know what they’re up to.
*Voting will close each Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. Winning characters will be announced on Monday morning. After voting closes and winners are announced, I will write the scene IMPROMPTU and present it to you on WordPress blog by Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. A new round of voting will begin each Thursday.
*PLEASE VOTE ON THE MAIN FACEBOOK PAGE @Clare Cinnamon, Author EACH WEEK OR HERE ON WordPress IN THE COMMENTS.* GOT IT? Let’s get started!
*** Learn more about each character under their pictures. ***
(Yes, there are more females than males 😊).
Leo – 6’0” 183 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? It may be unrealistic, but I’d like to find a life partner. I’ve dated around. I believe in love at first sight. I think I’ll know rather quickly within a given scenario. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m outdoorsy. I’m a hiker and kayak guide. I can fish, swim, hunt, or run with the best of them. I’m a survivor. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Adventurous and spontaneous. Lover of life and creation. Deep, intellectual, and meditative. I’ve gone for brunettes in the past, but I’m open. 4. Number of serious relationships? Too personal. It’s all serious for me. Serious and interesting. I have no regrets. Number of tattoos? 1. 5. I should’ve … gone to college, maybe? I tried it. Again, I have no regrets. Every decision leads you to the next level.
Mamie – 5’7” 132 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A hearty, lasting relationship. Someone who brings me out of my shell. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Good energy. I’m spiritual. I’ll see into their hearts. I’ll probably be the advisor and the shoulder to cry on. 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Very smart. Bookish but with a lighter side. Someone who loves the ocean, to go on adventures and discover a good view. To sit and have a conversation without words. 4. Number of serious relationships? Zero. I’ve always acted older than my age. When I was young, they would crash and burn, poor boys. Lately, I put my whole self into work in the city and the weekends are my time to reboot. Number of tattoos? Zero. 5. I should’ve … dated more. I don’t know what it means to be in love, and I tend to overthink.
Wilder 6’3” 215 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? My soulmate. I want to get knocked off my feet and vice versa. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m down to earth. I work outside. I’m grounded. I despise drama. I’m used to a big family and practical values. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? I live in a small town. I’ve been set up with every Homecoming queen/brownie baker/community sweetheart. They’re all great, but nothing’s worked. I’d like for someone to surprise the hell out of me. 4. Number of serious relationships? One. College girlfriend. She didn’t want to leave the city to marry me. Wait, does high school count? I kissed a lot of girls…I thought I was in love a time or two. 5. I should’ve … moved somewhere besides my hometown before I settled on the family farm. Oh well.
Paige 5’8” 125 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A long-term boyfriend or husband. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m a teacher. I’ll make sure they follow the rules of the game, set people straight, break up fights, and keeps us on a decent schedule. 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Loyal, charismatic, not afraid of romance, handsome, not necessarily in that order. 4. Number of serious relationships? Two. High school boyfriend, college boyfriend. 5. I should’ve … never dated either of them. I’ve been cheated on twice. I’m too trustworthy. I believe the best in people.
ERIK 6’1” 200 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? To relax, unwind, and maybe fall in love. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Medical attention? Ha, ha. Any injuries, I’m your man. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Calm, cool, and confident. 4. Number of serious relationships? Uhm…not too many. 😉 5. I should’ve … taken more time off from education and work. I’m almost 30 and never really chilled out.
Caroline 5’10” 141 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A romantic relationship to possibly lead to lifetime commitment. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? A ridiculous amount of useless trivia and book quotes stored in my brain! 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Casual, easygoing, down to earth. Someone to confide in and laugh with. Good looks, always a plus. 4. Number of serious relationships? 4 or 5, I guess. I tend to date based on marriage potential. 5. I should’ve … traveled more, but I will!
I confess. Christmas grinch here. Not horrible and grouchy and mean and selfish, just sluggish in a to-everything-a-season-in-due-course way. Every year, I awake with a jolly spirit in my own time (usually around the 21st of December or so). Well, who could’ve guessed this lovely little challenge would speed things along?
A magical trio for sure: Books, firelight, snowflake.
My newly published Lainey Cash, Book One found its way front and center amid a mad dash of personal authorship must-haves in tree form:
The Travel Book because the more you go, the more you know.
The Canterbury Tales because characterization is key.
Time Travel Short Stories because I need inspiration and direction for my newest venture, a historical, Halloween, time-traveling work-in-progress, Return.
The John Deere Story because Lainey and Jed are farmers. I’m a farmer’s wife and it’s something I celebrate!
Lainey Cash, Book One because I wrote it, it’s published, and that’s self-happiness, glee, and cheer in a rectangle.
Bella Tuscany because I adore Italy, particularly Tuscan lands and memories of Florence.
Such a Pretty Girl because such a pretty cover hooked me and every author harbors a to-be-read pile.
Pocket Thesaurus because this lady still loves one.
Writer’s Block because I penned an entire unforeseen trilogy in a sparked frenzy this summer from one question in there.