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Excerpts from my books

"Julia.”

 

His voice was unsteady, his face warped with apprehension. Finally, he pointed to the slips across the water.

 

“Do you see that boat docked over there?”
 
“Yeah?”
 

“That’s a catamaran. It has a double-hull, so it’s more stable and smooth out on the open ocean. Good for carrying passengers.”
 
“Okay,” she said, unsure why he was telling her this. 

 

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He looked out at it and said quietly, “It’s for sale.” 

 

“Are you thinking of buying it?” 

 

He shrugged. “Or something like it.” 

 

“What are you going to use it for?” she asked, and instantly knew the answer. “Whale watching.”

He turned to her now, his face sphinx-like. 

He shifted his weight and looked back out at the catamaran. 

 

“Oh,” she said. “Oh.” 

 

Against her better judgment, against her will even, her spirits soared. He was thinking of her. Making plans that involved her.

 

“It will take a lot of time,” he said so quietly that she almost couldn’t hear him. “I would have to get a license. I’d have to actually buy the thing. We’d have to make a business plan.”

 

“We.” 

 

She reddened, realizing she had said it out loud. He turned a piercing gaze on her. 

 

“Give me a minute,” she said, sitting down right there on the pier. 

 

To her further amazement, he sat down next to her. “If you’ll do it with me, you’ll be my business partner.” 

 

She took a few deep breaths. Collected herself. “Forgive me, but – how are you going to buy a boat like that?” 

 

“I saved most of the money I made in Alaska.” 

 

Had he really made that much money? “William. Like I told you, I don’t know if I have the time or the luxury to work on this. Also, my future is a bit uncertain right now. I’m still married. I don’t know what will happen if he ever comes back.” 

 

“Will you go back to him?” 

 

She saw the pain in his eyes, the creases in his forehead. She drew her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. 

 

“This is all so sudden,” she murmured. “I need a little time. I’m not saying no. To any of it. I just need time.” 

 

He nodded his understanding. After sitting together with him for another minute, she stood up, and he stood as well. Then she turned to go back inside. 

 

The first thing she did was pull out her cell phone, retrieve the slip of paper from her wallet, and dial her lawyer's number.

William recognized the piercing hazel eyes of the woman on the other side of the door, but for a few seconds, it wouldn’t quite register.

 

“Haze?”

 

She blinked, apparently just as dumbfounded to find him there. “William? Is that really you?” 

Turning back to Mike, he jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Her?”

 

Grinning, Mike pushed past William and held his fist out to her. “What up, Haze?”

“You’re not black, Mike.” Haze stepped aside and waved them in.

 

“Mike,” William began carefully. “Let me just make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re here for what we talked about at the pub, not tattoos – right?”   

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“Dude, are we at her studio?” Mike scoffed and looked toward Haze, as if to say, can you believe this fool? 

But Haze did not look at William as if she thought he were a fool. Her restrained gaze put him at ease as he crossed the threshold into her foyer. 

“Nowadays I only do this for a select few,” Haze explained, closing and locking the door behind them. “Jimmy and Mike have been loyal customers for years.”  

“Of both enterprises, apparently,” William observed. 

“Jimmy and I have single-handedly kept her in business all these years,” Mike quipped. 

“In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a one-month wait list at the studio,” she retorted. Fantastical creatures stampeded down her arms from somewhere beneath the short sleeves of her black peasant top. The décolletage above its neckline hinted at more.  

She had never once removed her eyes from William.  

“Mike didn’t tell you it was me?” William ventured. 

“No, he did. You just look... different.”

 

He felt the familiar heat rising to his face, along with his old insecurities around women. Every instinct in his body commanded him to look away, but he forced himself to hold her gaze.

 

She blinked first.  

“Make yourselves comfortable,” she offered, gesturing toward the couch. She settled herself on the adjacent chair, at right angles to them. Her eyes swept past Mike’s grinning leer in favor of William again.  

“Haze,” he said. “And all this time I thought it was because of your eyes. Or because you were in Hayes Valley.”

 

She returned his smile, circumspect. “After they tore the freeway down, the yuppies moved in. That’s why I’m in the Mission now.” 

Her voice still bore traces of her Russian origins. A silver barbell septum piercing adorned her nose. She had deliberately streaked her long, shaggy dark hair and bangs with gray. She reached up with slender fingers to tuck a lock behind her ear, showcasing a scaffold piercing with an arrow-shaped earring. 

She said, “How is your albatross?” 

“I followed orders, and kept it out of the sun.” 

Her features remained Russian-stoic. “Are you ever going to let it out of its cage?” 

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