CHAPTER TWO FATE
Jazz woke from a vanishing dream where eerie shadows lingered. As she stood, her bedroom swirled around her. She slumped back onto her bed and peeked out of one eye to check if the room was still. The lace curtains fluttered, their blurry edges dancing in the wind coming through the open window. Streaks of early morning sunshine flashed along the wall. The grandfather clock in the corner, standing nearby since she was a child, drummed its comforting regular tick tock. She made it as far as the clock, grabbing the thick, aged wood for support.
When the room stopped circling, she staggered down the hall. She found peppermint for her dizziness. The pot whistled, and she poured the steaming water into a cup. With her elbows on the table, she sipped the tea, inhaling the piquant aroma. Maybe she had a hangover and blacked out from getting drunk, but she’d never done that before. Maybe she had the flu. The phone rang and Jazz jumped, spilling tea on the table. “Hey, Freddie,” she mumbled, fighting to focus.
“How are you?”
“I’ll help you move to Sandpoint. I’d like to stay friends.” Freddie sounded like guilt had taken over.
“You said you were moving to Sandpoint.”
“I did? Wow, my mind’s a total blank this morning. I might have the flu. Did we drink last night?”
“What? No. Did you go out drinking?”
“I don’t remember,” she replied, embarrassed.
“You need anything?”
“I’ll be all right.”
“Take care of yourself. Let me know if you need help to move.”
“Okay.” Jazz hung up after the obscure conversation. She poured the rest of the tea into the sink, walked unsteadily to her bedroom, and crawled into bed. Move to Sandpoint, that’s a great idea. She yawned, dropping into sleep.
A week later, Jazz finished arranging her glassware in the cupboard next to the kitchen window in the private bungalow near Sandpoint. She was grateful Freddie suggested the move and relieved he hadn’t called. Jazz went from room to room, checking her arrangement of antiques and lace. She lifted a photo of her parents, dusted it off with her shirt, and returned it to the center of the hearth.
The white stucco cottage had long draping rooflines. A brick chimney rose warmly from the peak. Purple clematis covered the wall next to the bay window. Bright pink rhododendrons and golden day lilies grew beside the winding rock path that ended at her door. The house sat on acreage surrounded by national forest.
It was almost time for spring to become summer. Outside, Jazz sank into a cushioned lounge chair on the deck and gazed at Lake Pend Oreille. A distant low rumble bounced across the water when a train rolled along the trestle over the lake. On the opposite shoreline, the small town of Sandpoint awakened to the early morning rays as the sun rose above the Cabinet Mountains, casting a sea of sparkles on the blue-gray water. Jazz closed her eyes, basking in the heat, especially appreciated after the dreary, snowy winter. Sparrows chirped as they made rapid trips to and from the bird feeder. The slow breeze rustled the branches of ancient cedars surrounding her, and rippled through her hair. The lake was so close she could smell the water.
She had many fond memories of vacations with her parents by Idaho’s largest lake, 148 square miles of empty water and hidden beaches. Every summer weekend they’d stay in a friend’s cabin at Bottle Bay where they moored their boat.
The deep lake possessed a power and a mystery, and had called for her return. Beside it she might heal, at the least hide her loneliness, immersed in nature where miracles dwell.
That afternoon, Jazz entered the coffee shop on the ground floor of a two-story brick building on Main Street. A group of retired men drank coffee while discussing politics. An eclectic mix of professionals sat at tables scattered through the room, sipping lattes as they stared into laptops. Jazz ordered a cup of chai and found a chair in a quiet corner.
The editor of the local paper wanted her to do a photo shoot today. A newspaper sat on a shelf by her, and she snapped it open to read the announcement. The speaker at the veteran’s seminar was Psychologist Aidan Jacobs, born and raised in England, now living near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. His lecture was on repressed memories and PTSD.
Jazz finished her tea, folded the paper, and left the coffee shop. The seminar would start in 15 minutes. She strolled past century-old buildings with decorative brickwork, gazing at the artistic window displays in the shops. It was exciting to call this quaint town her home.
The event center was three blocks away at City Beach, the sandy peninsula that gave Sandpoint its name. Inside the conference room, paneled windows covered one wall, lending a view of Lake Pend Oreille. Many people in the audience were veterans, some wearing dog tags and army jackets.
Jazz assumed the man being bombarded with questions was Aidan. He stood about 6 foot, was trim yet muscular, probably in his early 30s, with dark almost ebony hair. His white shirt tailor fit across his broad shoulders. The tight blue jeans accented his long legs, Jazz noticed with a gulp. Aidan excused himself from the group, and appeared composed as he made his way to the podium. He stood, surveying the room until everyone quieted. Jazz moved closer to take a few photos.
Aidan described, in a rolling English accent, the therapeutic techniques he used to help veterans reconcile lost memories after appalling wartime experiences. He told the story of a soldier trapped in a home with a family of Vietnamese as Agent-Orange fell like toxic rain over the surrounding jungle. The man had repressed the memory of witnessing the entire family murdered. The crowd remained silent. Aidan had grabbed Jazz’s attention, so she took a seat in the back.
He discussed the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, symptoms Jazz knew all too well. He gave information on where victims could go for help. Aidan asked for questions, and Jazz noticed several women staring intently at him.
“Where are you from, Mr. Jacobs?” A woman with wavy blond hair called out in a cajoling voice.
“England,” he replied, quickly pointing to a gentleman with his hand raised.
After he finished answering questions, Jazz reached under her chair for her camera and bag. When she stood, Aidan was in front of her.
“Are you from the press?”
“Yes, I’m Jasmine. People call me Jazz.” She became engrossed in his light blue eyes, spattered with specks of yellow, under thick, long, curly lashes. Wow, she thought, glancing away.
“Did you get enough pictures, love?”
Aidan studied her as if he could unravel her secrets merely by looking. Jazz wondered if he learned how to do that while getting his doctorate. “Let’s take a few more. Out there on the balcony?”
On the terrace, Jazz centered him in her lens and caught his dimpled smile as he leaned on a rock wall. She put her camera in the bag and started to leave. “Nice meeting you, Aidan.”
“How long have you lived here?” Aidan asked, stopping her.
She turned to face him. “I just moved here from Spokane.”
“This is a stunning place. Do you ski? I’ve heard great things about Schweitzer.” Aidan’s eyes danced with a happy twinkle.
“I board now. My parents started me skiing when I was still in diapers,” she laughed. His joy seemed catching.
“You’re kidding; you must be good.”
Aidan’s grin sent an unwelcome tingle along her spine. “Do you ski?” This guy is too attractive. He probably has lots of women, is a player, and trouble.
“Yeah, I try. What else do you do for fun?”
“Explore the lake on my boat.”
“I’m here for a couple days. Can you show me around?”
His response was disconcerting. A part of Jazz’s reinvention involved going with the flow, to see if that strategy helped her find her way. Moreover, here he was, ostensibly perfect, which scared the hell out of her. “I’m taking my boat out tomorrow. You want to go?” She didn’t say it in a hopeful way, but forced as if gritting her teeth preparing to plunge into icy cold water.
“Sounds fun. What should I bring?”
“Swim trunks; I’ll take care of the rest. Ten at the marina?”
She said goodbye. As she rounded the corner, Jazz gazed back and saw Aidan still watching her.
Jazz searched for something on a street with tall buildings she couldn’t see the tops of, and a dark alley she couldn’t see the end of, thinking she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Men appeared from deep doorways, startling her before wandering off. The shadowy figure of a man came toward her. Jazz’s steps became rushed. She took a path that led through a park, made a leap over a narrow stream, and melted into a noisy crowd. Jazz checked the grounds, but didn’t see the man.
She jolted awake. Why do I keep having that nightmare? She always got away, but the dream planted a lingering gloom that took a while to shake. Jazz rose from bed, rearranging her twisted pajamas as she headed down the narrow hall to the kitchen. She rummaged through the cupboards searching for tea.
On her deck, she held the warm cup with both hands, inhaling the minty aroma. Her dream gradually faded, and by the time she finished her tea she had abandoned the nightmare. Then she remembered her date with Aidan, and excitement tainted by dread engulfed her. She feared abandonment to the point of not engaging at the outset. Relationships ended before they began, before she became emotionally involved.
She tried to meditate, but anxiety got in the way. Instead, she went into the house. She made turkey sandwiches, sliced carrots and cucumbers, putting the lunch together in a basket. She debated whether to wear her bikini or a one-piece suit. What am I after? She wasn’t sure.
Eventually, anticipation ousted her sense of dread. She was more than ready when she walked out her door.
Aidan sat waiting on a bench at the marina, dressed in sandals, swim trunks, tank top, baseball cap, and hoody. He watched Jazz attempting to balance multiple items she gathered from her car. God, she’s beautiful, he thought. “Good morning,” he called, lifting his sunglasses. “Let me help.”
“Thanks.” She gave him the picnic basket and a blanket.
The sun blazed through the deep blue sky, unhindered by clouds. A light moist breeze flowed above the water. “This way.” Jazz motioned to her white, open bow ski boat and led him toward her slip.
“Nice boat.” Aidan ran his fingers over its sleek surface, admiring how perfectly maintained she kept it. He climbed aboard and sat across from Jazz.
After stowing their gear, she warmed up the engine and carefully maneuvered out of the slip. She gathered her hair into a ponytail, put on a hat, shifted forward, and slowly drifted past the no wake zone. Jazz picked up speed on the calm water, piloting to the other side, strands of her ponytail twisting in the wind. She pointed to the steep mountains ahead. “The Green Monarchs,” she called and Aidan nodded.
Where the southern branch of the lake met the northern branch, she concentrated on plotting a path through the low waves splashing against the bow. The water became tranquil again near a secluded beach below the cliffs of the green mountains. They motored toward a weather-beaten wooden dock supported by decaying posts. Aidan jumped onto the wavering deck and stepped around missing planks to tether the boat to a rusted hook. He balanced as Jazz handed him the basket, a blanket, and towels.
The beach lay in a half moon shaped inlet, surrounded by sheer gray-green rock cliffs topped with pine trees. A few persistent shrubs emerged from cracks in the rocks. Aidan spread the blanket on the unsoiled sand. Jazz took her heart locket off, put it in her shoe, and peeled off her shorts and top to unveil the bikini. Aidan forced his eyes away.
“I want to show you something,” she said with a sly summons.
He kicked off his shoes, tossed his hat, jacket, and shirt on the blanket, and followed Jazz to the shore.
“Take a deep breath,” she warned before diving into the limpid water.
Aidan dove in as she swam deeper. At a rock wall, Jazz disappeared through a narrow opening. Aidan felt the pressure in his lungs and pushed himself through the hole. They surfaced in an underground cave for much-needed air.
“This is bloody gorgeous,” Aidan remarked, circling in the water, taking in the slick, moss covered rocks that surrounded them. A thread of light shone from an opening near the base of the cliffs, causing the walls to shimmer as if embedded with emeralds.
“My father found this. I love it.”
Facing each other, treading water, Aidan became lost in her golden eyes, illuminated by the light reflected off the water. What he saw was strength and pain. That same conflicted look he saw in most of his clients.
Jazz bit her lower lip, questioning his scrutinizing stare. “Ready?”
“Yep.” They dove under the surface.
Back on the beach, Aidan lay with his head cradled in his hands, welcoming the heat of the sun. The bill of his cap rested on his nose. From underneath it he watched Jazz stroll toward him, pulling the band from her hair and tossing her head. Her copious auburn hair fell to her waist. Jazz’s legs were trim and defined. Her feet dripped sand as she lifted them gracefully, causing her hips to sway. Aidan stifled the persistent images of her enticing curves, reminding himself why he was there.
Jazz sat down beside Aidan, trying to ignore his muscular biceps and abs. She discreetly inhaled his seductively salty masculine scent.
Aidan sat up, repositioning his hat. “How long have you been doing photography?”
At the same time Jazz asked, “So, you’re a psychologist?” They both chuckled.
“You first,” offered Aidan.
“For years. Mom was a photographer. She taught me everything I know.”
“Where do your parents live?”
Jazz paused, gathering strength to use those words she hated, that minimized their lives, that seemed to tell the whole story, but didn’t. “My mom and dad died in a car accident when I was 12.”
“I am so sorry.”
“It’s been hard.”
“I can’t even imagine.”
An uncomfortable silence encircled them. Jazz felt as if she were sinking into a dark pit and changed the subject.
“Where do your parents live?”
“In London. My father owns the London Review. My cousin, Tom, is the editor. I worked for him until I came to the states to study psychology.” Aidan added with a warning grin, “I was pretty spoiled by my parents, and all my aunts and uncles.”
Jazz remembered the joy of being spoiled. “The paper said you live near Glenwood Springs.”
“Yeah, south of Glenwood, in a house too big for a bachelor.”
“I’ve been there. I took a picture of an amazing sunset behind Mount Sopris.” Jazz brightened from sharing her passion.
“I can see Mount Sopris from my living room. I have an affinity for it. The Ute Indians consider it a sacred mountain.”
“It’s so majestic.” She mentally gave Aidan kudos for having a kinship to a mountain as the Black Foot Indian stirred in her DNA.
“What brought you to Sandpoint, Jazz?” he asked, using her name for the first time.
“I’ve wanted to live here since I was little. What took you to Colorado?”
“I bloody love it there. The beauty, the hot springs, the people… I found a dream spot and built my house.”
Jazz grabbed the basket and prepared plates for them. Once they finished eating, Jazz stretched out her legs, lying down. Aidan reclined beside her. The sunshine penetrated the air, warming everything in its path, giving rise to stillness. They didn’t speak for a while. Gentle waves lapped against the beach. Soaring ravens cast shadows across the sand. Osprey glided high overhead, searching for their next meal with an occasional riveting cry.
Jazz remembered she put her necklace inside her sneaker. She tipped it, but the locket didn’t fall out. Her heart pounded. She was nearly in tears, ruffling the blanket, moving her hands through the sand.
“I can’t find my necklace,” Jazz choked out the words.
Aidan searched, spotted it, picked it up, and gave it to her.
“Oh. Thank you.” She placed it safely in a pocket of her shorts.
Jazz was ashamed that she nearly lost it. Her fear of having a panic attack had become almost worse than the attack itself after several humiliating incidents in public. “Race you to that rock.” She pointed to a boulder 30 feet out. Jazz jumped into the water, hoping to leave her anxiety on the shore.
Aidan dove in behind her. Both were strong swimmers, but Aidan made it to the rock first. He reached out to help her, and as she settled, he left his arm resting lightly on her shoulder.
“That’s one of my favorite spots to camp.” Jazz pointed to Green Bay, leaning against him. “I love to hike to the mountain lakes over there.” She gestured north toward Trestle Creek.
Aidan skimmed her back with his fingers all the way down to her waist. His touch was powerful, moving her out of apprehension and making her feel more alive than she had in a long time.
When Jazz’s shoulders unwound, Aidan’s heart sank and guilt struck. What the hell am I doing? Is this how I’ll win her trust? He folded his hands together as if that would muster his self-control. “Should we head back?”
“Sure.” They slid off the rock and swam to shore.
Daylight dimmed as the sun moved into the western sky. They piled their things into the boat and raced across the smooth water. Jazz expertly maneuvered into the slip. Aidan jumped out lithely and tied the boat off. She handed him their supplies and Aidan walked Jazz to her car.
“Thank you, Jazz. I had fun.”
“Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked.
“Let’s meet at the Farmer’s Market about 10.”
“Perfect. See you then, love.” Their eyes lingered before she drove away.
The next morning, Jazz noticed a zing in her step as she went to the kitchen for tea. Aidan’s different. Confident, intelligent, thoughtful. Jazz glowed, thinking of Aidan’s accent and dimples, and how his smile was a mischievous tease, like a young boy ever ready for adventure. He seems happy, too.
After sipping her drink on the deck, she decided to get ready. Jazz lingered under the shower, trying to squelch the sensations pulsing through her body from thoughts of Aidan beside her. She felt like he had awakened a sleeping giant within her of romance and faith, tempered only by an occasional jolt that pleaded with her to slow down, and get a background check. While shampooing her hair, she forced “careful” away and returned to her pleasant daydream.
Jazz drove across the bridge over the tranquil lake, flat as a mirror in the still air. She maneuvered through tourist traffic until she reached the bustling Farmer’s Market. Aidan tapped her shoulder as she leaned over examining radishes. “Hi!” she called, spinning around.
“Good morning. You look smashing. How did you sleep?”
“Not bad. How did you sleep?”
“Great. Someone or something made me very relaxed yesterday.”
“Hum… wonder what that was,” Jazz teased.
“What are you up to?”
“Just buying vegies.”
“Well then… what should we do today?” Aidan emphasized the “we.”
Jazz paused. “Let’s go to one of my favorite places.”
“Where is that?”
“It’ll be a surprise. Bring swim trunks, shoes for hiking, and I’ll bring a picnic.”
“Great. Meet me in front of the resort in an hour. I’ll drive.”
Aidan steered the rented sedan along the banks of Lake Pend Oreille.
“Take the next left, Aidan.” Jazz pointed ahead.
They turned off the highway, moving away from the lake, and traveled a straight paved road that soon became a winding dirt track.
“Go down this trail.”
Aidan carefully avoided the jutting rocks, then pulled into a parking lot. Once parked, Jazz put on her backpack, and they started up a steep, muddy incline on the shady side of a mountain. The gray river below rushed round boulders, creating white water sprays that glistened in the narrow bands of sunlight. Tall bushes heavy with elderberries draped over the trail, and giant ponderosa pines soared toward the sky. They rounded a corner, and the thunder of the flow of water intensified. Beside them three cascading waterfalls plunged into pools surrounded by moss-covered rocks.
“Wow, this is stunning.”
It thrilled Jazz that Aidan appreciated the sanctity of her most treasured place. Whenever she visited Sandpoint, she would come here to meditate. The serenity helped her gain inspiration and strength, leaving her renewed. Now that she lived in the area, she planned to come here often.
Jazz was hot from the hike. “Shall we take a dip?”
Aidan followed Jazz down a winding trail to the pools. After spreading the blanket on a flat spot, she led Aidan into the water. They waded in slowly and once they became accustomed to the chill, they swam behind the falls to a rock ledge. The noise of the cascading stream made it impossible to talk, so they sat on the ledge in silence. Jazz shivered and goose bumps rose on her arms. Aidan reached around her, warming her.
“I need sun!” she called out.
They returned to the bank and stretched out on the blanket.
Aidan rolled onto his side. “It’s so peaceful here.”
“I know. I imagine sprites hiding in tiny moss-roofed huts, curiously watching me.” Jazz laughed, turning toward him.
“If I were a sprite, this is where I’d live.”
“It’s as magical as Mount Sopris.”
“You should come visit. We could hike it.”
His invitation surprised her. “I hiked Mount Sopris with my parents; one of our last hikes together.”
“It must have been hard losing your parents, especially at such a young age.”
“Yeah, it was. I lived with my grandparents. They were so different from my parents; rather cold and aloof. When I was 15, I ran away. I really struggled for a few years. Therapy and friends helped. Now, I can almost imagine being happy, but that scares me, like I’m setting myself up for disappointment.”
“You never had a chance to experience the optimism of youth.”
“Not so far. I learned that disaster lurks, and can instantly turn a beautiful life into a nightmare. Now I’m always on guard.” Jazz paused. Aidan was so easy to talk to. She’d never shared that much with anyone but her therapist. “We all face challenges, Aidan. What about you?”
“I’ve been lucky, but my best friend passed away a year ago. He had cancer and was in a lot of pain. I have never felt so helpless.”
“I know what you mean. When my mother passed, I felt that way. I couldn’t will her to live. I couldn’t stop the pain.”
Aidan scooted closer and reached his arm around Jazz. He wished he could ease her sadness. Her muscles relinquished control under his embrace. The roar of the water melded with the breeze and warmth penetrated their bodies. Engulfed by a powerful drive, Aidan leaned forward. His lips found her mouth, full and inviting. Jazz released a delicate moan as his tongue explored, and she pressed her damp body against him. As their lips parted, a large grin unfolded on his face as he stared into her eyes that sparkled as if he had turned her lights on.
“Wow,” his eyebrows lifted and Aidan beamed.
“Yes, wow,” whispered Jazz.
A first kiss carries a message. This kiss told them they wanted more.
Until Jazz’s stomach quaked and her desire dissolved into fear. After all, he’d be gone in another day. She didn’t want to set herself up for heartbreak, and she sensed that was where she was headed.
“We should go.” She sat up and pulled her shorts on.
“Look, I’m sorry, love.” Aidan quickly dressed. He folded the towels, and they headed back to the car.
They were both quiet on the way to town. Aidan regretting his presumptuousness, and Jazz conflicted. A part of her wanted to trust Aidan. Yet, another part demanded she show restraint.
Aidan pulled into the resort. “Will you join me for dinner?” Aidan asked tentatively.
“Okay,” she agreed bravely.
They decided on a time and place as Aidan accompanied Jazz to her car. “See you at seven, love.”
When she got home, Jazz explored her closet, hunting for the perfect outfit. Finally, she chose a flowered short summer dress, and sexy heels to show off her long legs. She primped, adding makeup she seldom used, then gazed into the mirror. I may only have tonight, she told herself, mustering her strength and taking a stand. Once ready, she went to meet Aidan.
The restaurant was a replica of a cozy Irish pub, with a welcoming bar full of locals. A waiter led Jazz and Aidan to the deck overlooking the lake. The sunset shining through rows of bulbous red clouds created streaks of scarlet on the water and cast a complimentary radiance onto their tanned faces.
“How are you still single?” Aidan queried, setting his glass of Pinot gris on the table.
“I have to be in a good place before getting into anything serious.” She hadn’t met the right guy either, or had she? The one who would convince her she’d never be hurt; make her fall in love.
“Have you ever married?”
“Almost. She was a fine woman, but it didn’t feel right. Lately, I’ve been busy building my house and my clientele, so romance has been on hold.”
The waiter served crab legs, dangling over the edge of the plates. They dipped the meat into lemony butter sauce as the evening melded into a triumph of the senses; where everything felt enhanced.
After they finished eating, Aidan took Jazz’s hand, and guided her to the empty dance floor. She leaned against him, swaying to the sultry reggae beat, her head resting on his shoulder as they circled the floor. Their movements were foreplay, teasing a rising desire. When the music stopped, they discovered the inn was quiet. The bartender ran a rag over the bar again, waiting patiently to close.
“How about a ride home?” Aidan offered.
“Thank you, yes. Are you okay to drive?”
“I’m fine, love, only had one glass.”
“I’ll call a taxi tomorrow to get my car.”
They left the restaurant, strolling into the moonlight. Jazz sauntered backwards, gazing at him with inviting seduction. Aidan caught up to her, reaching Jazz in time to save her from stumbling. She bent down to take off her high heels. As she stood, he pulled her to him. They kissed softly, Aidan’s lips parting hers. Jazz yielded to an overwhelming pleasure. In that moment, it was only Aidan. Jazz wished to know him on every level: his past, his hopes, and his dreams. In return, she would share with him her secrets.
Earlier Aidan had recognized Jazz’s anxiety. Now, she relaxed and opened to him. Enticing her then leaving was never his intent, but he was overpowered. Aidan sensed he was at the point of no return. He stepped away, shook his head with a bewitched smile, then wrapped his arm around her waist and led her to his car.
Jazz slipped in, turning toward him in her seat. He drove across the bridge with one hand on the wheel, the other flirting playfully, tracing her fingers, smoothing her palm with his thumb. Aidan parked by the stone path and escorted her to the door.
“I really fancy you, Jazz. You are so…” he hesitated. “Charming and pretty, a little feisty,” he joked, “yet fragile.”
Jazz’s cheeks turned a bright red from the heat his words created. “I fancy you too, Aidan,” she admitted sweetly.
“I’m leaving in the morning.” Fingers under her chin, he lifted her face and gently kissed Jazz as if she might break.
Jazz sensed a twinge of sadness, realizing she may never see him again. “Do you think we were meant to meet?”
Aidan cleared his throat. “I don’t know. I find you irresistible, darling. Can I have your number?”
Jazz took her cell from her purse. “Give me yours and I’ll text you.”
Once the trade was made, he kissed her again, then leaned back to take her in. “Good night, love,” he said, and returned to his car.
That night as Jazz drifted between waking and sleeping, where remote viewing often happened, she saw Aidan in his hotel room.
He reached for his phone. “Hello Harvey.”
She forced her awareness away, not wanting to invade his privacy.