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Cold water leaked through her shoe. She felt the chill first, then the dampness. Curling her toes away from the irritant, she looked down. She had been sitting on the sand too long and not noticed the tide creeping grain by grain towards her canvas covered feet. She slapped her thighs in frustration and jumped up, soaking her one dry foot in the stumbling process. She sighed and tried to remember what she had been thinking about. The gentle roll of the waves was fascinating. It was nice to be distracted and calm.

The sun drifted behind the pines, leaving her alone in the twilight but it was still light enough to see. It was a blue light that made her think she was losing her eyesight. She had to squint to make out the details. She would have been chilly in her plain white T-shirt but she had brought her navy cardigan with her. It had been wrapped around her shoulders but she was now pulling her arm inside and through the sleeves. She pulled her hair elastic from her hair, shook her head and put her hair back in a ponytail, scooping up the wisps that wanted to play.

The expanse of beach made her feel she was on an island no one had discovered yet. It was deserted save for three seagulls being disturbingly quiet on their evening walk in search of sandwich bits. Summer was over, autumn well on it’s way. This day was what would be the last of a soothing Indian summer.

Tonight was the bonfire, the last one of the year. It was always sad, bordering on tiresome. The end of a season, change. With one every month beginning in May, it was now a tried and true tradition between old high school friends and sweethearts. As long as they were all living within driving distance, the bonfires would continue. One missing member would not bring a halt to the celebration, the celebration of life, of friendship and of love.

The fires were full of music, talk and too much wine. All too soon they knew it would become more of an early picnic with festivities wrapping up by bedtime as babies and then children were added to the mix. Marriages now came with regularity almost every weekend during the spring. Already, a golden retriever puppy had been welcomed into the fold. This would be his second bonfire and he was most definitely the life of the party.

This particular bonfire was especially difficult for Eirian. Her first without him. It was strenuous not to become sullen, difficult to ignore the tightening of her chest when she pictured his face. She missed being cuddled between his legs, leaning against his chest. She had been a long time without him but this night brought it all back. It was his favourite time of year, his favourite night.

She sat in Claire’s café, warming her hands around a cup of Amaretto hot chocolate. Claire offered her hot coffee but she declined. She loved the nostalgic smell of freshly brewed coffee but hated the aftertaste.

She was daydreaming. It made Claire nervous to see a woman usually so sociable and merry now so quiet. Claire thought she knew the reason but Eirian never told Claire that she was constantly worried that someone else would be next. To go through a death again would certainly kill her. Eirian was so sure of it that she endeavoured to keep her friends as safe as possible.

Eirian sat still on her couch the entire time Cullen was flying to Banff for a ski vacation. She was unable to concentrate on anything, as if the sheer force of her will was keeping her friends plane in the sky. She never worried about herself but another loss, no matter how deep, could not be allowed to happen.

“Eirian, where are you?”


“You were lost there for a minute.” Claire stated. She was standing before Eirian dressed in her gingham uniform and white apron.

“Just remembering, that’s all.” Eirian responded, now fully back from her reverie. Claire had no idea. I was remembering the heat she wanted to say. Remembering the fire she’d once felt with a man.

It seemed strange that this was the first she’d thought about sex in months. It had been occurring more and more lately, usually in her dreams at night. For a daydream that aroused her to happen in Claire’s café meant Eirian needed something to happen. She needed not just any sex. No. She needed hard, jarring sex that would make her feel something; that would take away the numbness. But no, she could not tell even Claire those thoughts.

“Are you coming tonight? It’s going to be so much fun.” Claire wiped a nearby table as she spoke

“Of course I’m coming. Don’t I always? I just wanted to warm up and I have to go home to get changed. Could be very cold tonight.” She didn’t tell Claire that she was dreading the fire.

Claire sighed, “What can I do Eirian?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, just that I miss you and I’m not sure how to get you back.”

“Maybe I’ve changed Claire. Maybe the old Eirian is gone for good.”

“I don’t think so and neither do the others.”

“Oh, so you all sit around talking about how to fix me?” pendik escort She was becoming impatient with the futile line of discussion. “Eirian! You know that’s not true. We love you and we loved him. We loved the two of you together but that’s not going to change anything. It’s been so long Eirian. What can we do? We just want to help.”

“Like I said Claire, this is me now. Get used to it…wait…I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t mean to sound so…so…blunt. I just don’t think it’s going to change.”

“It will Eirian. You’re not happy and time will cure that. I guess I just want to see it sped up and you’re right, you may not be ready for it yet.”

“All right Claire. That’s enough. I’ll see you tonight. I will be there. I won’t miss it.”

“I know you won’t Eirian and we’ll all be there for you.”

Eirian smiled a genuine smile of gratitude. She laid a dollar on the table for the hot chocolate, which Claire wrapped tightly in her fingers. Secretly she hated the thought of everyone watching her, talking about her and feeling sorry for her.

Changing into warmer clothing made her late but she was usually late. She violently resisted being rushed as it built anxiety deep within in her torso. She certainly did not need any more anxiety and had learned to do things in her own time. It made for a much easier life in her opinion and so far, it was working. Reaching the top of the sand dunes, she stood watching her best friends pass around the hot dogs and s’mores before joining them. Fifteen people were huddled together around the campfire with Cullen set apart. They were waiting for him to begin the night’s entertainment.

Cullen had not taken his guitar out of its case yet so she had not missed much. For a moment, she considered going home. No one had seen her there on the dune yet. She could go home and climb under the covers, which was exactly what she felt like doing. But no…the fall out she’d take from all of them, Claire in particular, was not worth it. She was brave. She knew she could handle this. But did she want to? She took a few deep, rhythmic breaths and started forward.

There was a harvest moon, as they called it. Full and rusted, tired of the expectations of having to be full all summer in order to extend play hours. It would rest after this last night. As a final fulfillment of those expectations, it reflected a golden path across the ocean, shimmered by ripples. A salt-stung breeze rustled the grasses around her knees and brought to her the rustic scent of burning wood. He would have remarked on the expanse before them had he been alive, there, beside her. You can do this Eirian!

Eirian jogged down the dune trying not to lose her footing in the loose sand and fall on her behind. The outstretched arms of Claire, Cullen and others she had grown up with met her. It was hard to smile, but she did. They pretended not to notice how hard she was trying. She tucked her pea coat under her behind and sat down on the sand, wiggling a bit to make a comfortable seat. When she leaned back against a weathered, pale log of driftwood, the wind touched her ribs. She pulled her navy, wool coat tighter.

Cullen unsnapped the worn leather guitar case and pulled out his twelve-string guitar. He rested it on his lap and began playing. He did not play anything in particular right away, just some chords to set the mood. Everyone began talking and drinking as if the party could not begin unless there was guitar music. As each person noticed her they gave a quick wave of acknowledgment. Claire smiled a broad smile and motioned for Eirian to sit beside her.

“You came!” Claire whispered in her ear.

“Of course I did, I’m not a coward.”

“Don’t get defensive dear. I know you’re not. I just know that you’d rather not be here right now.”

“Actually Claire, now that I’m here it might not be so bad. I’d probably feel worse if I didn’t come and very likely would never come again. Maybe this was a good step.”

“I think it was Eirian. I’m glad you came. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Eirian smiled. Claire handed her a glass of red wine and as she brought it to her lips, she noticed someone new through the fire, sitting quietly. He was leaning on driftwood as well. He was tall, his legs extended before him, crossed at the ankles. It was easy to see his features despite the darkness. His face was the ideal of every woman, beautiful gray eyes that shone in the firelight, light whiskers on cheeks that just begged to be stroked and full lips that glistened as his tongue licked over them. Eirian easily pictured those lips between her teeth. Surprised by her own erotic thoughts, she quickly looked away before anyone noticed she was staring or that the heat he raised was causing her to flush. It seemed that everyone else knew him. It was either that or they did not realize he had joined them. Eirian elbowed Claire, who was sitting beside her, clapping her hands to one of Cullen’s newest creations, always so supportive.

“Claire, maltepe escort who is that in the long, grey coat over there?” She nodded almost imperceptibly in his direction. Somehow, she had caught his attention and he was now looking at her and smiling.

“You know, I don’t know. I believe Cullen knows him from somewhere but I haven’t been properly introduced either. Leave it to a man not to make introductions. I can’t say why he’s here. Perhaps he’s just by for a visit. I confess I haven’t taken my eyes off him. He would be one for my sculpture class in town. I should ask if he be interested in some nude modeling. Attractive isn’t he?” she answered with a wink.

“Very,” Eirian whispered, assessing him while cupping her hands around her wineglass.

It was not long before Eirian’s friends were up and dancing with one another all over the beach. Just moving freely with no steps in mind. She watched the swirls in her wine as she moved her glass in circles, absently wondering how long of a stay at the fire would be appropriate. She wanted nothing more than to go home, have a long bath and curl up underneath her down covers.

“Would you like to dance?” The voice made her jump. It was not familiar and she had not heard anyone creep up behind her. She turned, suddenly coming face to face with dusky, gray eyes. She stared solidly, not having met another with eyes quite that colour. They seemed to dance with the light of the fire.

“Yes, I love to dance. Thank you for asking.”

She agreed to the dance, feeling everyone had eyes on her. Her friends all knew her situation and she would become the focus of gossip if she were seen enjoying another man. She put her hands to her cheeks to hide the rising flush. The man in the long, grey coat offered his hand and she took it. It was a warm hand with strong fingers and rough calluses. Her hand was enveloped by it. She stood up and let herself be led by him.

God, it had been so long since she’d felt these butterflies. Just looking into his eyes started a pulsing deep within her that was becoming increasingly familiar and urgent.

The woman Cullen asked him to meet was breathtaking. She was small, with long straight hair that shone in the firelight. The idea of seducing a woman he’d never met had been something he’d never thought about before but Cullen had assured him it would not be wasted time. He’d said she was intelligent, quiet and hot. Thus far, he’d been right. Arden Winters trusted his friend and that trust was now cemented.

They had sat together on a cold morning, drinking strong coffee in Claire’s café. Cullen was stuck on Claire. They would most likely marry before long; of course, Cullen had yet to tell Claire his intentions. While pouring the coffee, Claire mentioned Eirian and that she wasn’t doing as well as expected by this time. Cullen caught the looks Claire was giving Arden as she spoke. Yes, he was attractive to women. Perhaps he could help out Eirian?

“None of us who live around here could do it. She knows us all too well and wouldn’t stand for it. What do you think?” Cullen asked after he had set the proposal to Arden.

“I wouldn’t mind helping. You say she’s pretty?”

“She’s hot, man. It doesn’t matter anyway. You just have to flirt with her. Talk her up. You know?”

Arden agreed to help his friend as a favor. He would talk to the girl, dance with her at the bonfire, and perhaps even kiss her. Now that he’d seen her, it was going to be downright enjoyable. It was definitely not going to be a hardship to seduce this woman.

Beneath his hands she felt tightly wound. She was having trouble relaxing but was trying to hide it. He led her slowly just outside the circle of the fire, beyond the curious eyes of her friends. She’d been horribly hurt Cullen had told him. He didn’t know the details but he didn’t need to. He could sense she was afraid. Standing a full head above her, he could envelop her in his arms. He couldn’t wait to hold her close against him, but no… he’d have to move slowly or she’d bolt. She was a beautiful woman, tender and sweet and he had no intention of hurting her.

The music was suddenly slow and soothing. Haunting tones full of emotion and gentle swells were pulled like taffy from Cullen’s guitar. Arden threw a glance of appreciation towards Cullen. He smiled mischievously and turned his head to watch the other dancers.

The man was surprisingly comfortable to dance with. Eirian felt her muscles softening. She did not feel that she had to strike up a conversation but she was curious.

“Can I ask your name?”

“Arden,” he paused. “It means burning with enthusiasm. I try to live up to it, to enjoy life at every moment. And what does Eirian mean?”

She paused to think, “I can only guess how you know my name but why is it important?”

“A name is more than just that. A being properly named gives others insight into the soul.”

“It means silver. Does that give you any insight?”

“More kartal escort than you know.” It was all he said. They finished the dance but Eirian found herself reluctant to release his hand. Inside, she wished he would sit down beside her so she would not have to leave him but she did not have the courage to ask. Just the touch from him made her feel he was holding her close and tight. She wanted to feel that way again.

Eirian thanked him and he smiled brightly, as though he knew her. It was as if they had been reunited after several years. She thought of souls that meet in airports or on piers. He smiled that way.

She sat down against the log once more. She had been warm while dancing against Arden. His soft grey sweater under the coat held his body heat. She was chilled now, even though the fire was high, too high, she thought, burning warmly with little help from kindling. The flame was somehow different now in her eyes. It was not just a flickering flame. It was still and solid, ending in one fine point, deep purple at the center but not real purple, a violet emotion. The pale orange at the top was the colour of ripe cantaloupe. The warmth wrapped around her.

If she went to Arden on her own, the others would see. She would be the talk of the town. No, she would wait. If he were truly interested in her, he would return. She was sure of it or that’s what she told herself. She huddled into the log at her back, wistfully watching the waves crest and break in the moonlight.

Just after midnight, the dancers cuddled into couples and Cullen played quiet, soft music, notes that came into his head and seemed to fit together. Eirian walked down to the water and around a point, away from the bonfire. The closer she got to shore, the more intense the saline scent became. She breathed deeply to take in more. Sitting further from the fine, white edge of the shallows to avoid the tide, she noticed Arden watching her. She wondered where he had been. He stood and walked directly towards her.

“What do you fear most, Eirian?” His question seemed strange and his words carefully chosen but she answered.

“High winds, being surrounded by them. I can’t hear as I need to.” She paused trying to figure out what he was thinking. “And you?”

“Drowning. It will be the mechanism of my death.”

“How can you know that?”

“I’m not sure.” He looked out across the water.

She accepted his simple answer and did not ask any more questions. As the light of dawn coloured the ripples pink, Arden stood up. He held out his hand. Eirian took hold and he pulled her gently to her feet. She felt the warmth in his hand even as hers were cold.

“Come with me.”

” Of course.”

Just beyond the dancers lay a world of sand and grass. Wordlessly, Arden lowered her to the dune, which molded to her body beneath her. He straddled her leg, his arousal evident against her thigh. Can it be this easy? Briefly, Eirian wondered if the spirit of past love could see her. Was he above, chastising her every move with another lover? Would he feel jealousy, pain or regret? Maybe I can’t do this. Should I tell him now? No, oh, this feels too good!

When Arden saw her face, he realized her conflict and pushed up on his elbows. “Tell me no sweet and I will stop. Tell me anytime but realize that there is a certain point of no return. Don’t take me there if the memories are too forward in your mind. I won’t share you.”

How much did he know of her? She’d seen Cullen’s face during the dance. He knew this man that was shooting spears of passion through her body. Too late; questioning Cullen would have to happen later. He obviously approved and that made her feel safe, not that Eirian needed approval.

Arden paused his exploration of her neck, “What are you thinking?”

Eirian touched his face and put a finger to those luscious lips. “Shh, I think too much. Don’t worry; you’re already fending off all my thoughts now anyway. I can hardly see straight.”

Arden laughed and allowed his hands to travel down her torso and curve around her hips. He stopped momentarily and then hoisted her as his hands cupped her bottom. He squeezed and without knowing why, she instantly wanted his fingers inside her. She wanted him rather badly. She wriggled against him, trying to let him know her intentions.

“Not yet, love. Not yet,” he choked, sounding half strangled.

Holding her hard against him, he decided to ease her back to the sand. Sparks shot in front of her eyes as Arden pushed aside her coat and cardigan, snaking his hands underneath her clothing. He rocked against her, slowly and she was very aware of what it was he wanted. It was so perfect, exactly what she wanted as well. What she needed.

The arousal was growing in quick spasms within her. A hollow ache began in her pelvis and slowly spread lower as Arden roughly pushed up her sweater and placed her already tingling nipple between his teeth. He bit gently and she arched her back, urging him to take more. She knew she was wet and could take him no matter what was beneath his jeans. She pressed her thigh up between his legs and he groaned softly against her bared chest. She should have been cold but that was the last thing on her mind.

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