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Part Thirty Five

Laura watched him for a little while, her heart in her mouth, he was wearing a pair of shorts that were wet, clinging to his thighs, and his tanned body was as beautiful as she remembered a smattering of hair across his chest trailing down a body that was sculpted from years of surfing. She almost laughed when she remembered how much she hated him at the beginning. Seeing him cavorting with two huge dogs was almost ironic as the first time she'd met him she'd presumed he was scared of the dogs she was walking.

When had he become so perfect? When had he become everything that she wanted and needed? She'd fought it for months, tried to do the right thing, but now as she watched him sprinting, the dogs fighting for the stick he was waving in front of him, she knew she couldn't fight it any more. She'd left him with that super model, why? Because she felt outclassed by her. Simple as that. But that was just giving up, walking away. The relationship with their father was damaged anyway, so there was no benefit to keeping away from him anymore. She literally had nothing to lose.

It was suddenly really clear to Laura. Adam was the man of her dreams, he represented everything she wanted. And she wasn't going to give up without a fight. This beach was far enough from his home that his presence here wasn't an accident. So she took the bull by the horns, and made a plan.

Adam loved walking Bruce and Otto, they were both crazy dogs and far too much for her mother now his father...or rather Mike, was dead, and his mother was recovering from cancer. So when he could he walked them, and today they were just the distraction he needed whilst he waited for Laura to come out of the water. She was spending a ridiculous time surfing and he was starting to get frustrated at her dedication. He knew she wouldn't have seen him from her place deep amongst the surf.

He was drenched, a sign of the child these dogs brought out in him. He'd left his clothes and the dog leads in a pile further along the sand, so he finally called out to the animals and turned back in the direction he'd come.

As he approached his shoes, and sweater, he spotted something flapping in the gentle breeze. As he jogged over the sand, he felt the whole of him stop and stare at the floor. Using a combination of beach debris - sticks, stones and scratched letters, the message, 'Pick me up at 7!' beamed up at him from the smooth sand next to his belongings.

Staring around he suddenly realised that she was no longer out at sea; of the dozen or so figures astride boards he instinctively knew none were Laura. Then turning he saw a flash of something flying off the beach.

Damn that woman! He thought, and not for the first time.

A whole day without her, a whole Saturday. It seemed interminable, but there was nothing he could do about that. He was just grateful that she'd given him that chance! Suddenly his relaxing weekend was anything but. He intended to surf, but suddenly that seemed out of place, so he instead dropped the dogs back to his mother, then headed to work. No one else would be there on a Saturday, so no one would complain at his still wet shorts and t-shirt.

Laura was nervous, more nervous than she'd ever been. She'd left that message for Adam in the hope that it WASN'T a coincidence that he was on the same beach as her, and that he'd sought her out. If not, then this would all fail on a rather grand scale. As soon as she'd dumped the board and wetsuit, and then had a shower, she suddenly wished she'd suggested mid afternoon. Seven seemed so far away.

But she had to prepare. So after a brief breakfast, she started her journey to Santa Monica. Whilst she had little money in her emergency account, this quantified as an emergency. So she was shopping and pampering prior to this evening. If Adam turned up, then she had to prove that she could be as glamorous as the woman he'd introduced her to the previous day, Kristen? Kirsti? No Kristi...that was it. Fake boobs and Pacific tan Kristi. A daunting prospect to live up to, but Laura had no choice.

She finally settled on a dress, a loose kaftan with flowing sleeves, but it had a plunging neckline and was gathered tightly around her waist, enhancing what curves she did have, then stopped mid thigh. Flirty, yet pretty, then there were new heeled sandals, and a full beauty work out. Wax, paint, primp and tease. She felt like her mother. And it was a long time since she'd made this much effort for anything, or anyone. She only hoped that Adam appreciated that, and that he was on the same page as her. That was still a risk.

At half past six, Laura was sat in the small bar of the hostel drinking a steadying glass of wine. She was more nervous than she ever had been in her life. Carlos, behind the bar was someone she'd spoken to at the barbecue the previous night, and she was never more glad to see a familiar face.

"Going somewhere nice?" he asked as he placed the glass in front of her and took the bill she offered.

Laura shrugged, "catching up with an old friend."

He nodded knowingly, then served some guys who appeared beside her still wet and sandy from the beach. The four then became embroiled in a conversation about the surf predictions for the next few days and how often they all planned to hit the beach.

For Laura any conversation was better than sitting and waiting for something, anything to happen, this was worse than her end of school dance, waiting for Paul Robbins to pick her up, and wondering whether the over the top exotic dress would appeal to him. She learned then that all men fell into one category, that of ogling curves if they were openly displayed. It was a wise lesson learned at a young age, and one she'd always appreciated. Though she didn't appreciate revisiting that level of anxiety as she waited for the clock to tick around to seven o'clock.

She'd be no good as a spy or in any secret agency as she was crap with conspiracy or collusion. That meant she was waiting in the reception of the hotel five minutes to seven, and was pacing the pavement...or rather the sidewalk, at seven o'clock. As soon as she saw the black low slung saloon approach, she knew it was Adam. And she had to deal with a heart racing like an overactive time bomb she waited for the vehicle to slow, and the tinted window to lower.

Adam looked at Laura, studying her up and down, pleading with his eyes and his body to remain cool and calm. The flare of her eyes showed her unease, and he was immediately pleased at that. She was unsure of him, what he was feeling and he commended himself, he was a better actor than he gave himself credit for. And she looked a rather over done way. One of the things he'd started to realise was that he loved the naturalness, the unenhanced beauty of Laura, that suited her laid back personality, her joie de vivre so perfectly. That didn't mean that she couldn't carry the clothes, the makeup, the teased all suited her perfectly, and he was appreciating the version of Laura that her parents longed to see, and despite it being a wonderful vision, it wasn't Laura...the surfing, cursing and karaoke singing Laura that he knew and loved.

He wanted to reach out and wipe the gloss from her lips, the mascara from her eyes, but he knew this effort was important, that it helped her create a facade that she could hide behind. So instead he gave a curt nod, "get in. I can't stop in this street; let's not give the police an excuse to ticket me!"

Nodding she circled the car then lowered herself into the passenger seat, securing her seatbelt. He hit the accelerator then sped away from the building. Laura didn't comment that his speed was far more likely to attract the law. There was a time and a place for everything. This was neither.

Laura glanced to her left. Adam was sat there all imposing and untouchable, and all she wanted to do WAS touch him. He had on a v-necked t-shirt, grey and figure hugging, and black jeans, they too clung indecently to his firm thighs. Thighs that rekindled memories that she'd tried to block out. Taking a deep breath she fought eyes that wanted to wander up to check out his jaw, his cheek bones, those luscious lips. Instead she deviated rapidly and stared out the window at the road that Adam's car ate up at a rate of knots.

"Where are we going?" She finally asked. She'd been there long enough to get over her anxiety at seeing him.

Adam shrugged, "somewhere neutral!"

Laura laughed, "I know NO where here, surely ANY where is neutral?"

Shrugging again he accelerated onto the freeway and headed away from the city.

The sun was setting; a beautiful sight on the horizon as they ultimately headed what she presumed was north. They passed through suburbs and then hit what she knew they classed on TV as 'the valley', but still he didn't stop.

They'd been in the car for almost an hour when he finally spoke.

"I don't know what this means. You agreeing to see me."

She looked up at him, but he kept his eyes trained on the road ahead. "I presume you wanted to speak to me. Hence the message."

That warranted a turn of the head and a raised eyebrow before he turned back to the road, "I did want to speak to you. Today AND yesterday. It's not my fault you had company! The last thing I wanted was to interfere with that! I just wanted to say my piece, then leave."

Adam glanced at her again, then in a rather maniacal fashion swung the car off the next exit and stopped as soon as the road allowed it. Then he turned to her, "ok, you have my attention. Speak."

Laura shuddered as he literally ruffled her feathers, "are you sure I'm not eating into your time with what was her name? Kristen?" It was a childish riposte, she knew that, but he always seemed to bring out a childish streak in her. He rolled his eyes in response, and that almost made her spontaneously combust. "Ok! I came here to tell you I found out about my father, all that he said. It made me feel sick, I wanted to kill him...I can't speak to him again. I needed to distance myself from that." It was a start, but nowhere near how she felt about him.

"So you've said that. Thanks. Is that it?"

Suddenly the bravado of her dress and make up evaded her, this was so much more difficult than she'd imagined. "What more do you want me to say? I'm sorry!"

"Sorry? Hmm?" His voice was filled with anger and sarcasm.

With that he started the engine and performed a rather dramatic u-turn in the road, then sped back onto the freeway, and the silence now was more than awkward.

Adam knew he was over gripping the steering wheel, not only were his knuckles white, but also every little adjustment to his driving was exaggerated. He tried to take a few steadying breaths, but his emotions were running too high. He wanted to shake Laura, tell her that he didn't want her apologies, her making excuses for her family. He wanted her to tell him that she wanted him the way he wanted her, that she didn't sleep for him occupying her thoughts. But all he had was pity. And that was driving him insane.

He flicked on the radio hoping that anything would drown out the painful silence. He'd never felt as comfortable with someone as he had with her, so this awkwardness was doubly difficult. But the car stereo was tuned into a sixties radio station - it was his mother's favourite, and he'd taken her out a few days earlier.

Groaning he tolerated Elvis, even a few country numbers. All the while Laura sat with head bowed; her fingers linked staring at her hands. He drove back the route that had taken them out of the city, and he was within ten minutes of Venice Beach, before the starting notes made him reach for the dial to silence the music. 'Tell Laura I love her', even if he hadn't been forced into singing on that fateful night in London, he'd have turned it off. Too painful and FAR too poignant.

But a hand reached to cover his stopping it reach the stereo. And with that contact everything changed. He grasped her fingers and cursed under his breath, before pulling the car off the road to stop near a gateway leading to a park. Not the safest place, but he'd fight anyone who argued with him.

Cutting the engine he turned to her, still gripping her hand.

"You really only came here to say sorry?"

Laura was struggling to focus; the song still sang out, the tragic ballad of a dying man's wish, all the while her hand was encased by his strong fingers, the touch turning her defences to mush. She managed a shrug, but it wasn't enough for Adam, turning in his seat, he reached out, lifted her chin and forced her to look at him. She hated the scrutiny of his eyes, the whole drive had been uncomfortable, and she had no idea how to answer him, not when he was so aggressive, so angry.

When he saw her flinch he cursed his heavy arm tactics. "Sorry, I don't want to fight with you, and I'm sorry if I scared you."

"You didn't scare me!" The shakiness of her voice surprised even her. "I just..." She sighed, unsure of how to say all she wanted to say.

Adam gave a groan, and then restarted the engine, "I'm not having this conversation by the side of the road." And with that he pulled back onto the road, but changed route, heading for his home.

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