Two weeks had passed since Lana and Dylan had their encounter at the cottage, the first of which Lana had spent moping around in her condo. Of course, she was attracted to Dylan and would have loved to get to know him better, but she was more depressed about her situation. She felt like Nathan was going to control her life forever. She had contemplated moving again, but she wasn’t sure it would do much good. She knew that no matter where or how far she went, he would find her.
It was a Saturday afternoon when Lana stepped into the post office to check her mail. She had a P.O. Box listed on her website for professional contacts. Usually, there wasn’t much to be found inside, but upon opening the door she saw that the small box was filled with a padded envelope. She pulled it out of the box, looking at the return address area to find that there wasn’t one there at all. Only the name “MACNAMARA” was scribbled in the top corner. Lana smiled to herself, setting the envelope to the side as she went through the few other items, tossing most of them in the garbage. She went back to the envelope, carefully opening it and pulling out a hard copy of Dylan’s Reap What You Sow and a hand-written letter. She folded the letter in half and placed it inside the front cover before leaving the post office and heading home.
Just as Lana stepped in the front door of her condo her phone started ringing. It was the gallery owner who had told her that he wanted to display her work at the LA Art Festival. She spent nearly a half hour talking to him before he put her on the phone with his assistant for another half hour. By the time she was off the phone she was running late to meet some friends for dinner. All throughout the evening, the letter and book that were now sitting on her kitchen table were in the back of her mind. It was nearly midnight by the time she showered and found herself climbing into bed. She picked up the book that she had set on the bed earlier, pulling the letter out and unfolding it as she leaned back against her pillows and finally had the time to read it.
I’m so sorry for scaring you off the other day, that was the last thing that I would ever want to do. Truthfully, I am unfailingly attracted to you and would love the opportunity to get to know you better if you can find it in your heart to give me a second chance. Perhaps we can get together for dinner or drinks and discuss the baggage we both have. Let me know when you’re in town and we can get together.
Lana smiled to herself as she picked her phone up from the night stand and programmed Dylan’s number in. She set it back to the side before picking up the book and opening the front cover to see that it had been inscribed and signed.
For Lana, the most incomparably beautiful woman I’ve ever met.
Until we meet again
Despite being exhausted from having such a long day, she settled into bed as she opened the book to the first chapter. The story immediately captured her attention, but she was so tired she started to drift off within minutes.
The next morning, she made herself comfortable on her sofa, sipping at her coffee as she looked out through the sliding glass door at the shimmering water. She had decorated her home in a Bohemian Chic design, loving how the interior and exterior atmosphere was calming and relaxing. She drank the last few drops of her coffee before picking Dylan’s book up again and starting where she left off. She lost track of time as she continued reading, captivated by the storyline and the quirks of the characters. She didn’t set the book down until her stomach started growling mid-afternoon.
After making herself a strawberry salad, Lana picked her phone up from the counter and chewed on her lip as she contemplated calling Dylan. She wasn’t sure if he would still be interested in her, assuming he had sent the book only a few days after their encounter and she had only recently retrieved it from her mailbox. She had also done some research on him and found out that he had appeared to be somewhat of a playboy, at least according to tabloids. She decided on a simple text message instead of a call.
I’ll be in town next weekend if you still want to discuss our “baggage.”
She smirked, setting her phone back to the side and taking another bite of her salad. Before she could even swallow the bite her phone started to ring. Dylan’s name flashed across the screen and she felt her heart skip a beat. She placed her fork down on the counter and took a few sips of water. She contemplated letting it go to voicemail before scrambling to answer it before it was too late.
“Dylan?” She breathed softly, hoping he was still on the other end of the line.
“Lana?” He questioned. She realized then that he hadn’t had her number prior to this. “Are you there?”
“Yes,” she swallowed the lump in her throat, “I’m here.”
Dylan and Lana talked for nearly an hour, not hanging up until they had officially made plans to see each other again while Lana was going to be nearby meeting with another Los Angeles based gallery owner. Once they ended the call, Dylan put his reading glasses on, picked up his pen and started reading the copy of his book he had gotten back from the editor with the suggested changes. He only got through a few sentences before setting his pen back down on his desk and placing his glasses down next to them. He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes as a smile crept up on his lips while he thought about her. He knew that he couldn’t blow it again with her when they got together, he just hoped that she was able to deal with what he had to lay on her.
Tuesday morning rolled around and Lana parked her car next to Katie’s at the gym. The two friends had joined a boxing gym shortly after Lana had split up with Nathan with the goal of Lana being able to defend herself. The group classes turned out to be so much fun and such a good workout that they continued to go together. They always went to lunch afterwards and caught up on each other’s lives. Lana headed inside and found a punching bag next to Katie’s, dropping her gym bag at the side wall and starting to wrap her hands as they greeted each other. A few more minutes passed before the instructor cranked up the music and they started to warm up.
Over lunch Lana told Katie about her phone call with Dylan. Katie had already known about their encounter at the beach house, and she had convinced Lana to be open to the idea of Dylan. Katie sympathized for Lana’s situation, but in her eyes, Lana couldn’t allow her life to be put on hold forever because of the psycho. She didn’t know Dylan as well as her husband Mark did, but she had the feeling that if he ever did get involved with her friend he would have no problem putting Nathan in his place.
The girls sat and talked for close to two hours before parting ways. Lana went home and showered before heading out to the La Jolla Children’s Pool to try to take some pictures of the seals on the beach. It was an area of the beach that was protected by the sea wall that had been dubbed as Seal Beach due to it’s frequent occupants. It was a busy area that attracted many locals and tourists, but if Lana needed to capture the essence of Southern California, it was a must-have location to shoot.
The rest of Lana’s week was spent choosing and editing photos that she wanted to submit for the magazine. She had about half of what she needed and hoped that she would have some down time to take more pictures while she was in LA. She hoped to get pictures of the iconic Hollywood sign as well as the Capitol Records building, but she also wanted to get some shots from Venice Beach if it was possible. For every 50 shots she took, she would only end up submitting a few for the magazine’s review. For every five shots she submitted, only one would end up printed.
Saturday rolled around and Lana made the nearly three hour drive to the Galleria De La Sol. As predicted, traffic was horrendous on the 101. By the time she reached the gallery her eyes were so tired from staring at the road she was ready to take a nap. She climbed out of her car and stretched before grabbing her portfolio out of the back seat. She set the items on the roof of her car as she straightened out her fitted low-rise denim shorts and flowing white crop top. She decided to grab her sweater out of the car just in case it was cold inside.
She was greeted by the gallery owner Penny (which she discovered was short for Penelope), and the women chatted for a bit about the gallery before they sat down and Penny started to page through her book. Penny said that she had heard about her from a friend who had gone to her most recent show in San Diego. She felt that the content of her work was both beautiful and controversial, which was what LA thrived on. She was so excited to feature Lana that she chose a date and offered her a dedicated show before she left the meeting. Lana agreed tentatively on the date which was a mere 3 weeks away, and Penny told her she would e-mail her the contract with the agreed-on commission within the next few days.
By the time Lana pulled up at the restaurant she had agreed to meet Dylan at in Marina Del Rey, she was starving. She hadn’t eaten much for breakfast and the rest of her day was fueled by iced mochas. He had sent her a text a few minutes before she pulled into the parking lot saying that he would meet her at the entrance to the harbor. They planned on eating at a locally owned brewhouse that sat right on the water. Dylan raved about the food and beer, and Lana knew she would need alcohol to get her through the night if she planned on telling him the truth about Nathan.
Lana stepped onto the end of the boarded walkway and quickly spotted Dylan. He was wearing khaki colored shorts and a fitted black t-shirt, and he was sporting a pair of sunglasses as he looked out over the water. His dark hair was styled tamely and his face had the lightest bit of stubble, she shivered as she remembered the feeling of it on her skin as he had pressed kisses to her neck. She pushed the thought away as she got closer. For all she knew, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her after tonight. Hell, she might not want anything to do with him if his baggage was any worse than hers. Dylan looked up and saw her, straightening up and flashing her a genuine smile. She smiled back as she approached him, and he reached for her hand, gently pulling her into a friendly hug.
“Hey, Gorgeous,” he greeted softly.
“Hey,” she greeted back shyly, pulling back with a small blush.
“Hungry?” He continued to smile as they started to walk.
“Starving,” she laughed, realizing that her petite fingers were now laced with his as she held onto his strong hand.
The pair made friendly conversation as they continued toward the restaurant. Lana asked Dylan about how it was going with the book since he had gotten it back from the editor, he had told her during one of their phone conversations that he was working on minor changes. He shared that he was finished with his changes, just reading through it once more before sending it off to publishing. He asked her about how her meeting went and he seemed genuinely happy for her that she had landed the show. He knew that it also meant that he would have the opportunity to see her again in the near future.
They were quickly seated once they got inside. The lighting was dim and relaxed as music played in the background and the voices of the other patrons filled the air. They ordered their first round of drinks and shared an order of nachos before getting their meals. They had each ordered burgers with a side of fries. Classic bar food and good beer in a relaxed atmosphere was the perfect way to relieve any other tensions before they got involved in the heavy conversation. The waitress cleared their table and they ordered another round of drinks, waiting until they were brought to the table before they addressed the elephant in the room.
“So, who goes first?” He smirked, and she playfully groaned and rolled her eyes. “It can’t be that bad, unless you tell me you’re really a man. That would be devastating,” he joked and they both laughed.
“Last time I checked, no penis, so I think we’re good,” she sighed as she started picking at her napkin and he smiled. He lightly placed his hand over hers and pushed the napkin out of the way, causing her to look up at him.
“Tell me what’s going on, then we’ll decide if there’s any reason for you to be nervous,” he assured her as she smiled weakly. “I don’t scare easy, so it better be good if your plan is to never talk to me again.”
“Promise?” She bit her lip, and the thought of tugging on it with his teeth while he took her on his kitchen table flashed through his mind. He forced it away and reassuringly stroked his thumb across her knuckles again.
“I won’t run if you don’t,” he gently squeezed her hand. She took a deep breath and picked up her glass of beer, taking a few gulps before looking back up at him.
“I kind of have a psycho ex who’s been stalking me for the past two years,” she paused, then cleared her throat before continuing. “It’s not the kind of stalking where he just leaves notes and roses, either. I’ve moved three times now since we split, and he tracks me down and starts with the harassment. The other week he cornered me in the parking garage late at night and I was lucky to get away.”
“Jesus, Lana. Why don’t you get a restraining order against him? Do you think he would ever seriously hurt you?” Dylan looked at her with concern.
“Oh, he already has in the past,” she scoffed as she looked down at the table and he reached over with his free hand and tilted her chin up so she was looking at him again. He protectively placed both of his hands over hers. “The problem is, Nathan Schmidt is one of San Diego’s top defense lawyers. He has everyone on his payroll, I don’t stand a chance.”
“So, you’re stuck,” Dylan sighed as he processed everything. “Can’t you just move out of the area? He can’t really follow you if he’s tied to San Diego, right?”
“He will follow me until the day I die, or until he finally gets locked up, whichever comes first,” she wiped away a tear that had slipped from her eye. She forced out a laugh as she looked up and tried to blink the tears away. “Shit, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.”
“I don’t want to see it happen anymore than you do,” he reached up and wiped another tear away with the pad of his thumb. “So, what’s your plan then? Never have another relationship again?”
“I don’t know,” she replied softly with a shrug. Her eyes met his and she smiled weakly. “I don’t think it’s fair to get anyone else involved in my bullshit. It’s bad enough that I have to put up with it.”
“Fuck that, Lana,” he spat before she could continue, and she looked at him in surprise. “You shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of shit. I’d like to see him try to come near you with me in the picture, I’ll snap his goddamned neck.”
“You mean you are still considering being in the picture?” She questioned, only partially joking.
“If that’s all you got, then don’t even sweat it. I’m not going to let some douchebag interfere with us getting to know each other better and seeing where this goes. He’s not going to get in my way of being with you if that’s what I choose to do.”
“Wow, okay,” she smiled, and his face softened. “Your baggage must be really bad then,” she laughed, and he couldn’t help but smirk.
“I don’t know, it more has to do with your opinion on the situation.”
“I think I’m pretty open minded,” she continued to smile. “Unless you’re married, then I think I’d walk out right now,” she teased, and he gave her a weak smile.
“Not married,” he held up his left hand to show her there was no ring or mark from one that had been removed. “However, I do have a thirteen-year-old daughter,” he explained, searching her face for her reaction. Lana took a deep breath and gave him a small smile. “I was young and stupid when she came into my life, but she’s been the light of my life since the day she was born.”
“Does she live with you?” She asked. He relaxed slightly as she seemed to be genuinely interested.
“Not full time. She’s with her mother about four nights out of the week. Thankfully her mother and I have been able to keep the focus on what’s important for her. I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we try not to turn into complete enemies for her sake,” he explained, and she nodded. “If you don’t want any part in it, I understand.”
Lana took a deep breath as she laced her fingers with his again as they rested on the table. It ran through her mind that if things worked out and they ended up together, his daughter would be another person that would be affected by Nathan’s bullshit. She felt extremely conflicted.
“What thoughts are rolling around in that pretty little head?” He asked softly, and she chewed on her lip again.
“I’m just worried about my baggage interfering. It’s one thing for you to get involved on your own free will, but it’s not fair to your daughter if...”
“Don’t worry about it, I can protect Natalia,” he assured her. “I can protect you too, if you decide to let me,” he said seriously.
“Are you sure you want to take this on?” She continued chewing her lip nervously.
“Only if you are,” he squeezed her hands again with another smile and Lana squeezed his back as their eyes met once again.
“Can I get you anything else?” The waitress interrupted them, and Dylan looked up at her.
“Just the check, please,” he replied. The waitress nodded politely before leaving to go get it. Lana opened her purse and he shook his head. “Don’t even think about it, I’m covering it this time.”
“Fine, but I get the check next time,” she closed her purse back up again and picked up her beer and drained the glass.
“I’m just glad to hear that there will be a next time,” he laughed as he pulled out his wallet, handing his card to the waitress quickly after glancing at the bill.
Dylan and Lana walked hand in hand back to the parking lot. Lana stopped at the end and looked out at the water, thinking that maybe she could get some good pictures of the sunset in a couple of hours. Dylan slipped his arm around her waist, pulling her from her thoughts as she looked up at him through her sunglasses. They exchanged smiles and he lightly brushed his lips against her cheek, not going any further for fear that she would get scared off again.
“Do you have any other plans tonight? Did you get a room up here or are you driving back down?” He asked as he tucked her hair behind her ear.
“I was just planning on driving back down, but now I’m thinking I might try to get a few pictures of the sunset before I go back. Any ideas for a good location?”
“I know just the place,” he nodded with a smirk. “Do you just want to follow me in your car?”
“Sure, that would be great,” she nodded.
Lana followed Dylan in his black Range Rover. He hadn’t been specific about where they were going but she figured they were headed for his place when they took the exit off the highway for Venice Beach. She was in awe of all the beautiful homes that sat right on the water, his home in particular took her breath away. It was a large home that was very modern looking. He backed into the driveway and motioned for her to park in the driveway as well. As she parked her car and climbed out, slinging her camera bag over her shoulder, he opened one of three garage doors and climbed out of his car while it was still running. She saw that he had a sporty-looking speed boat parked in the garage. He kicked the blocks out from in front of the tires and straightened the hitch out, the view of the definition of his muscles in his upper arms making Lana’s blood flow straight to her nether regions. He jumped back in the driver’s seat and backed up a bit more before getting out to hook up the hitch and brake lights.
“Do you have a sweatshirt or something in your car?” He called over to her.
“I have a light sweater,” she shrugged, and he turned and grabbed a couple of windbreakers from a hook on the wall. He tossed them in the back seat before coming around to the passenger’s side and opening the door.
“After you,” he gestured. She climbed into the car with a grin as she took in the luxurious interior. “You can’t get a better view of the sunset than from the water itself,” he shared. Lana leaned across the console and pressed her lips to his cheek with a smile and he raised his eyebrows. “Ooh, now I know how to get some sugar,” he joked and they both laughed.
Once they got the boat out on the water Dylan slowly navigated through the harbor until they reached the open ocean. He made sure that Lana was safely seated before easing the throttle open. He quickly picked up speed, heading west. He looked over and saw Lana with her head rested back and eyes closed, feet up on the dash and grinning from ear to ear. He smiled to himself before focusing out at the water again. For the first time since he met her she looked completely relaxed, and it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Once they reached a good spot with no other boats on the horizon, Dylan turned the boat around so they could see the beginning of the sunset over the back. Lana smiled as she pulled her camera out and perched herself on the edge of the back seat and he shut off the engine before spinning one of the center seats around so he was facing the sunset as well. He watched her face as she worked. She concentrated so hard on finding the perfect shots, changing lenses and messing with the focus. Occasionally she would smile unconsciously and look at what she was photographing in its natural beauty instead of through a camera lens. Once she was satisfied she put her camera back in the bag that was sitting on the back seat along with her sunglasses and she turned to face Dylan. She smiled, and he moved to the back seat as she carefully set her camera bag to the side, and he took her hand to pull her over so she was sitting sideways in his lap.
“Did you get what you were looking for?” He asked softly as the corner of his lips curved upwards.
“Are you kidding me? It’s beyond beautiful out here,” she replied with a small blush, draping her arm over his shoulders. Dylan propped his sunglasses on top of his head.
“I couldn’t tell, I was too busy watching you,” he reached up and cupped her cheek and she blushed again as she looked down at her lap. “Lana, look at me,” he stated, and she slowly lifted her head. “Don’t you realize how gorgeous you are?”
“I guess it’s just been a while since I’ve gotten genuine compliments. I’m not quite sure how to act,” she replied honestly. “I haven’t let my guard down with anyone in a long time.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve chosen me to be the man who gets to experience it,” he brushed his thumb back and forth over her skin.
“Just remember that, if you decide to break my heart,” she looked into his eyes, placing her hand over his and turning to kiss his palm.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he smiled as his thumb grazed over her bottom lip.
Lana’s lip tingled from his touch and she closed her eyes as she let herself take in the feeling. Sure, she had dated over the past couple of years, but it would be one or two dates, maybe a roll in the sheets, and then it would be over. She had been so deprived that his intimate touches made her melt into him. She felt like she was in a drunk haze when she opened her eyes and he met her gaze once again. He moved his hand to the back of her neck, the tips of his fingers tangling in her hair. She had no reservations when he pulled her in for a gentle kiss. He lightly brushed his lips against both corners of her mouth before pressing them to hers again. Her arm tightened around his neck as she made the move to deepen the kiss.
As their tongues touched and explored each other’s mouths for the first time, their bodies heated up with desire. Lana moved to straddle his lap and his hands quickly found her perfectly soft, rounded bottom. He pulled her up against him as he felt his body quickly start to respond. He could feel the heat from between her thighs against him and he did everything he could to be on his best behavior. She smiled into the kiss as she felt him getting hard, lightly placing her hand on his chest as she pulled back and they both breathed heavily.
“As much as I’m enjoying this, I would really like to not be in the back of my boat the first time I make love to you,” he panted huskily as he brushed his knuckles over her cheek before resting his head back.
“I’m with you,” she let out a small laugh as she carefully lifted off him and curled up next to him on the seat with her legs underneath her. “Definitely have to keep it in mind for the future, though,” she laughed again, and he shook his head with a grin.
“You’re going to drive me insane, I can already tell,” he joked as he looked over at her.
“What?” She shrugged. “You’ve seen my photographs. You should have figured out by now that I have a passion for pleasure.”
“Jesus Christ,” hepaused as he stared at her. “I’m going to need a cold shower,” he teased,brushing his lips against hers once more before getting up and heading over tothe wheel. He tried to subtly adjust himself and Lana smiled in satisfaction as she watched him. She definitely still mastered the art of seduction.