Home > Murder at Sunrise Lake(3)

Murder at Sunrise Lake(3)
Author: Christine Feehan

He quirked an eyebrow at her. Evidently, he thought he could. He set the mug on the opposite side of his body so there was no way she could lunge over the dog and grab it. Ignoring her, Sam calmly drank from his mug and looked out over the lake. Bailey didn’t even help her by biting him. Or lifting his head and growling.

“Did you come out here just to annoy me?” Stella demanded.

He didn’t answer. She knew he could keep the silent treatment up forever. It was like his annoying nickname for her. He called her Satine in that silly voice— Satine from the lead character in the movie Moulin Rouge! Well, not that he had a silly voice exactly; he had a low, mesmerizing, sexy-as-hell voice. Fortunately, he didn’t call her Satine in front of anyone else. He didn’t talk much, so it never came up when her friends were around.

She was not one to be embarrassed by much, not even when she was caught in a ridiculous situation, but because she harbored a slight crush on Sam, she found things she normally would laugh at nearly humiliating.

She loved the movie Moulin Rouge! Loved it. It was her go-to movie when she was in a funk and wanted a pity party. She didn’t have them often, but when she did, she played that movie and cried her eyes out. When she wanted to watch something that made her heart sing, she played Moulin Rouge! and ate popcorn and cried and laughed.

Stella didn’t even know how it happened that Sam had come in while she was having a pity party, but he had. He sat down and watched the movie with her. After that, he’d joined her more than once and seemed to watch her more than the movie. As usual, he didn’t say anything, he just shook his head as if she were a little nutty and walked out afterward. She didn’t even know if he liked the movie, but if he didn’t, he had no soul, which she shouted after him. He didn’t even turn around.

She knew every song by heart, and every single morning, when she did her exercises, she played the songs, sang to them and danced. At night she did her fitness routine to them and did a little burlesque show. Naturally, Sam had walked in just as she was kicking her leg over a chair and she didn’t quite make it and landed on her butt. That was the first time.

She loved to do aerial silks as a form of exercise. Because the house was two stories and open, she had her own rigging in her home and practiced some nights. Of course, when she’d gotten tangled for a moment and was upside down, desperately trying to get her foot unlocked from the silks, music blaring, he had walked in.

The third time she was doing a very cool and sexy (if she didn’t say so herself) booty shake to the floor and back up again. Naturally, he would be leaning against the doorjamb watching, arms crossed over his chest, those dark eyes of his on her. She could never tell what he was thinking because he had no expression on his face.

He took to calling her Satine in a low, dramatic movie voice every now and then. She wanted to glare at him but it always made her laugh. He didn’t share the laugh with her, but his dark eyes sometimes went velvet soft and her stomach would do a strange little roller coaster loop, which irritated the crap out of her.

“Seriously, Bailey, what kind of watchdog are you?” She sighed as she sank her fingers into her dog’s curly fur. There was no getting around the fact that now that coffee was in her reach, she needed it. “Sam, thank you for thinking to bring me coffee. I appreciate it so much.”

Since she did appreciate him bringing coffee, it was easy to keep the sarcasm out of her voice, although a part of her wanted to be sarcastic. Maybe push him off her private dock into the snow-fed freezing-cold water. He’d no doubt find a way to drag her into the water with him, so she couldn’t even get satisfaction that way.

Without a word Sam handed her the to-go mug. She gratefully took her first sip as they both watched the breeze play with the surface of the water. She stole a quick look at Sam’s face. Fortunately, Sam never smirked. He was a restful person in that he never demanded anything from her. Sometimes she was so exhausted at the end of the day she didn’t want to have to give one tiny bit of herself to anyone.

Those days, Sam would be on her deck grilling vegetables and steak or whatever, as if he knew she’d had a terrible day and didn’t want to talk. He’d indicate the cooler and there would be ice-cold beer in it. She’d grab one for herself, hand him one and go sit in her favorite swing chair hanging from the ceiling covering the porch. He never asked anything of her. She never asked anything of him. That was the best part of their strange relationship. He just seemed to know when things were bad for her. She didn’t question when he’d show up and make things better or how he seemed to know she needed a little care.

She sighed and took another sip of coffee, her hand moving through Bailey’s fur. She’d found a few things made life great. This place and its beauty. Her dog. Coffee. Her five friends. Her favorite movie of all time and maybe Sam Rossi. She wasn’t certain what category to put him in. They didn’t exactly have a relationship. Sam didn’t do relationships. Neither did she. They both had too many secrets.

The leaves on the trees closest to the pier were yellow and red, some orange, and they swayed with the breeze, creating a frame on either side of the wooden planks at the shoreline. Many of the leaves had dropped on the boulders where the lake’s waters lapped at the shore. On the pier, where the breeze sent the leaves spiraling down over the wood, it had turned into a carpet of blazing color.

The sun was just beginning to rise and the colors shifted subtly. Rays began to spread across the water. They were low at first. A golden globe barely seen reflected in the deep pools of the sapphire lake. The sight was pure magic, the reason Stella lived here. She felt connected to the real world. Humbled by nature. As the golden sphere began to rise, the trees took on a different look altogether. The ball looked as if it grew in the water, spreading out across the lake, shimmering beneath the surface like a golden treasure.

Stella kept her gaze on the sphere. It appeared to be moving, as if alive. Each sunrise was different. The colors, the way it presented in the water. The magic. She couldn’t always get to her favorite spot to watch the dramatic entrance, but she tried. There were always the sounds of the morning accompanying sunrise. The melodies of the early birds. Some were the songs of the males defining their territories. Some birds had beautiful musical qualities while others seemed to be raspy.

She listened for the way the birds sang; some ended on high notes while others let their notes trail off low. Some called out on a single coarser pitch as if they had just greeted one another or called out to say, I’m here! She enjoyed her early morning solitude before the sun actually rose and she could see which birds were up with her.

She noticed the hum of bees and skitter of lizards in the leaves. There was always the drone of insects, the cicadas calling. It was all part of nature she could count on there in the Eastern Sierras. It didn’t matter what time of year, there was always something that gave her that connection she needed to the earth itself instead of the insanity that made up a world she didn’t seem to fit into or understand.

“You gonna talk to me?”

Stella’s stomach was already in knots. She needed to talk to someone. If she was going to talk to anyone, it would be Sam, but what was she going to say? She sent him a look from under her lashes, hoping he wouldn’t see fear in her eyes. That was the thing about Sam. He was far too observant. He noticed everything. Details everyone else missed.

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