"You could say that," Dyan responded without turning around. She leaned forward against the wooden banister of the boardwalk, enjoying the feeling of the wind in her hair. The night was cool for this time of year, and she welcomed the refreshing breeze blowing in from the ocean.
Mist stepped up beside her. "I still don't get what you see out there," she stated, squinting her eyes, then shaking her head. "You can see the sand up to a point, yes, I grant you that much, Dee, but other than that, there's the sound of waves crashing, and an invisible ocean. In fact, it's too cloudy to even see the moon." She turned to face Dyan, and frowned. "Wait, where's your camera?"
"Alright, spill it," Mist said, crossing her arms against her chest, and turning around so she was leaning back against the railing. She looked around for a moment. "Wait, before you say a word, start walking. I can't talk to you with all these people around."
Until that moment, Dyan had been oblivious to the fact that the boardwalk was a zoo. Behind her, mobs of people rushed from one side to the other in search of entertainment, and the level of noise finally hit Dyan's ears. As a response to Mist's suggestion, Dyan headed down the steps to the beach below. Mist caught up to her a second later. They walked in silence for a long while, until Dyan finally asked, "Remember earlier when you said that something was going on at Vickie's party?"
"Well you were right. She's selling Vamp."
Mist's jaw hit the hand. "She's what? She can't do that!"
Dyan shrugged. "She's auctioning it off at the party on Saturday."
"Well that explains it."
Dyan glanced at Mist curiously. "Explains what?"
"Why I keep having visions of Vickie holding one of those mallet things and yelling 'Going once.. going twice… sold! To the rich guy in the back.'"
"This isn't funny."
Mist shrugged. "It's not like Vamp is your only source of income, Dyan. You have the studio and your work for sale in a billion galleries, and even if Vickie does sell the magazine, it doesn't necessarily mean that the new owner will come in and fire everyone. Besides, who in their right mind would fire Dyan Warren?"
Dyan fell silent for a while, trying to understand where the main source of her pain was coming from. It wasn't about the money, or about the job. It was more than that. It felt personal.
Eventually, they walked far enough away from the main tourist area that they were now alone. This part of the beach was probably the least impressive part of the entire island. Remnants of wild parties, along with old junk long ago discarded decorated the sand. Dyan's favorite attraction was an old fishing boat that had been sticking out of the sand for decades. She had photographed it several times over the years if only because it looked so poetic in black and white—even if it was an artistic cliché.
She led Mist to the boat, and they sat down beside it, Dyan leaning back against the rotting wood. She stared at Mist for a moment. "It's not the money I'm worried about," she said at last.
Mist nodded. "I know. You're worried some idiot with a bag full of money is going to come along and ruin your greatest masterpiece."
Dyan frowned. "It's not mine."
Mist dismissed the statement with a wave of the hand. "Vamp is where it is today because of you. I know it, Vickie knows it, the staff knows it, the world knows it. The only one who doesn't know it is you, and that's because you're dense. That's okay, though, it wasn't my point. I know how much the magazine means to you, Dyan. I've watched you pass up hundreds of opportunities because of Vamp, so I know it must be hurting you to think that someone else could change all that with a flick of the checkbook."
"I just wish I could afford to buy it myself." Dyan absently played with the sand between her fingers.
"Hey if Midnight Island had a lottery I could put my psychic powers to good use and conjure the winning lotto numbers," Mist joked. "Or you could sell all your camera equipment. Who knows how many millions you've invested there."
Dyan shook her head, but grinned slightly. "You should've been a comedienne."
On the other side of the boat, a young writer listened intently to the conversation taking place behind the shielding barrier between her and the women speaking. Sara looked down at the laptop, feeling guilty for intruding in what was obviously a private conversation. She looked around the desolate beach for a moment, and leaned her head back against the wooden boat. I'm kind of stranded here until they leave. She bit her lip. I hope my cell phone doesn't ring. She turned it off for safe measure.
So far, the conversation had shocked her, but most of all she was confused. She couldn't believe that Vickie would sell the magazine. Why would she do that? Sara wondered. She knew that Vickie had given up her entire modeling career, and put everything at stake to create Vamp. For Vickie to up and sell it like that was unexpected to say the least. And is that Dyan Warren at the other side of this thing? Sara struggled to hear the rest of the conversation over the roar of the waves. That voice sounds so familiar. She frowned. How could I have missed the fact that Dyan works for Vamp? Melinda should've at least known that much.
The distinctive sounds of two women getting up reached Sara's ears, and she instinctively ducked down. Please don't let them come this way… Sara held her breath. Maybe if I pretend to be asleep…
Fortunately, they headed off in the direction they had come, and Sara breathed a sigh of relief. That was close. Then she rolled her eyes. You'd think I'd just overhead a top-secret plan to overtake the Earth or something. Nonetheless, she made sure the two women were far enough away before rising from her hiding spot, and starting down the beach in the opposite direction.
"You just caught me on my way out the door," Melinda responded at the sound of Sara's voice.
Sara flopped down on her couch, and placed her legs on the coffee table in front of her. "Would you like me to call back later?"
The sound of a light switch clicked through the phone, followed by a door closing. "No, that's what cell phones are for; walking and talking. What can I do for you?"
"Vickie's selling Vamp?"
"Wow, news sure travels fast on that island."
The noise of the New York City traffic echoed in Sara's ear, as Melinda stepped out of the building. "Why is she selling it?"
"You know I can't tell you that, Sara," Melinda answered. She yelled for a cab, then sighed into the phone. "I don't know why I bother."
Sara laughed. "Where's your car?"
"The shop. It died on me this morning. So is that all? You called to ask me why Vickie is selling the magazine?"
Sara bit her lip. "How much is she selling it for?"
"A lot," was the response. Melinda paused for a moment. "Sara, whatever's going through your head, make it stop."
Sara frowned. "What do you mean?" she asked innocently.
Melinda yelled again for a taxi, and this time Sara could hear the distinct sound of a car pulling over. After giving the driver the directions to her home, Melinda turned her attention to the conversation at hand. "I know you. I know what you're thinking, and I'm telling you it's a bad idea."
Sara sighed. "But I can afford it, right?"
"Honey, between what you make, and what your parents left you, you can afford whatever you want. However, may I remind you that—"
"There's a deadline," Sara finished for her, rolling her eyes. "Trust me, I remember."
Melinda was silent for a long moment. "Do you know what you're doing?"
"Probably not," Sara admitted. "But if I don't buy Vamp then someone who cares nothing about the magazine's integrity might. And what about all those people who might get fired? Am I just going to stand by and let that happen? No sir! I just can't—"
"You've lost your mind, did you know that?" Melinda sighed. "Look, it's your money. You do whatever you want with it, just don't let this madness interfere with Island Fever or I will personally fly over there and beat some sense into you." She paused. "Why in the world are you doing this, anyway?"
Sara glanced up at the framed photograph hanging on the wall above her television set. "I'm not sure," she answered. "But somehow… it feels important."
As instructed, Dyan had left her camera at home on Saturday night. As for the bathing suit, she'd left that at home too. She had, however, dressed for the occasion: a black tank top, black Levi's, and her trademark black biker boots, a nice contrast to the guests who sported designer bathing suits and happy peppy clothes. Her outfit suited her mood just fine.
She looked around the patio for a moment, her azure eyes narrowing suspiciously at anyone who looked wealthy enough to bid on Vamp, but as it turned out, most of Vickie's guests looked like they could afford to buy the magazine.
"Doesn't it just suck?"
Dyan arched an eyebrow, and turned to find Nancy Gallagher, Vamp's managing editor, clutching a wine glass, and staring up at her inquiringly. "I didn't think anyone from the staff would be here."
"Vickie flew a few of us in for the special occasion," Nancy responded, sarcasm dripping from her tone. "How long have you known about this?"
Dyan shrugged. "Just a few days."
Nancy nodded, and sipped her drink. "Did you get that lovely letter too?"
Dyan decided this was one of those times where lying would yield a better result, so she nodded. Nancy was not one of her favorite people, and tonight their current conversation was grating on her nerves. She excused herself as politely as she could manage, and entered the house through the living room.
It appeared as though the entire population of Midnight Island—tourists included—was present at Vickie's party. The annoying part was that they seemed to be having a good time, while Dyan was stuck walking around aimlessly, feeling miserable and helpless. The guests were scattered in small clusters across the living room area. Some were standing, while others had found the black leather couches and loveseats more to their liking. Conversations sprung forth from every direction, and Dyan caught random phrases here and there, as she made her way across the room.
Dyan frowned slightly as she caught sight of a figure sitting at the end of a couch; her gaze momentarily locked in place.
The girl looked different under the bright lights of the chandelier; less mysterious but far more angelic. The lights cast a soft glow on the shiny reddish blonde hair of the stranger, who once again, appeared completely taken by the images on her computer screen.
I wasn't wrong, Vickie did invite the entire island. Dyan shook her head, and after a moment's hesitation, walked over to where the girl was sitting. "You know, I hear chatting online can be addicting."
The girl looked up, fixing her bright green eyes on Dyan's. "Oh hello again," she said. She laughed. "I'm not chatting actually, although I wish I were."
"So, what, may I ask, is it you're doing exactly?" Dyan inquired, curious to know the answer.
"I'm writing. I have a deadline to meet in—" She looked at her watch "—four hours."
Dyan frowned, both surprised and confused by the answer. "You're a writer?" she asked, knowing it was a stupid question. To cover it up, she quickly followed the first question with a second. "How old are you?"
The girl looked at her in amusement. "Isn't that supposed to be one of those no-no questions?" She smiled. "I'm twenty-four."
Dyan arched both eyebrows in surprise. "Twenty-four?" She shook her head. "You had me fooled. I thought you were a high school student or something."
"I get that a lot." She paused. "I'm sorry, do you know where I could find some Tylenol around here?"
Dyan thought about it for a moment. "Uh, you can try the kitchen," she suggested. She turned, and pointed to a corridor running perpendicular to where they were situated. "It's at the end of that hallway."
The girl stood up and excused herself. Dyan watched her walk away in the direction she'd instructed. She felt slightly disappointed that their conversation had ended. It was the first time all night she'd forgotten all about the magazine. Dyan sighed, and decided to go back outside and sit by the pool. At least there she could get some fresh air.
Sara's head was pounding, and so far the Tylenol hadn't done much good. She'd found a more or less private spot, and though she could still hear the ongoing chatter coming from the party, at least she wasn't in the middle of it anymore.
She looked around the small porch which overlooked the parked cars in the circular driveway of the mansion—calling it a beach house was simply too much of an understatement. From what she could tell, the rest of the guests were having a good time, and it unnerved her to say the least.
Sara found a lounge chair, and sat down on it, placing the computer on her lap. She was not having a good day, and the headache pounding away on her brain was not helping matters.
So far, the party had proved to be more stressful than had been anticipated, and Sara was trying to keep her nervousness under control.
Her expectations of the auction had involved people sitting around in a room raising a numbered paddle each time they wanted to bid. Instead, she'd walked in the door to find a steel box, guarded by a Jean-Claude Van Damme-look alike who'd appeared as though he'd rather be elsewhere.
After figuring out the significance of the all mighty steel box, she'd filled out the form provided by the guard, which included the amount of the bid, and then inserted it into the slot. It had felt more like voting for Homecoming Queen in high school than bidding on a multi-million dollar investment.
And now, an hour and a half later, she was still waiting for the announcement that would either change her life forever, or shatter the spark of excitement that was blazing through Sara's heart. Buying Vamp was risky, and the fact that she had no experience in the field made it even worse of an idea, but as illogical as it may have seemed, it still felt right.
And she had no idea why.
Somewhere below the balcony a car horn shrieked, cutting the stillness of the night like a knife. It was then followed by someone yelling for someone else to move their car.
So much for peace and quiet, Sara thought. She looked down at the laptop, which stared up at her in a mocking reminder of what she should've been doing. She'd managed to finish the first chapter of Silent Longing, the fourth book in the series, and though it was a little less than twenty pages long, it would have to do. The only thing keeping her from sending the file to her editor was the fact that she hated what she'd written. It felt shallow, meaningless and stupid. She leaned back against the chair and closed her eyes. How can I be a best-selling romance novelist if I don't even know what it feels like to be in love?
* * *
"…truly a shame that Vicky has to sell the magazine…"
"… she lost all her money in Vegas…"
Dyan walked through the crowds, trying not to pay attention to what the people were saying. A glance at the clock announced that midnight was quickly approaching, and the feeling of dread resting in her heart worsened. I should just leave, she thought. Doesn't matter who gets it. It's not going to be the same. She sighed, but kept walking, nodding politely here and there at anyone she recognized.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Vicky standing by herself overlooking the party. Dyan examined Vicky's face for any signs, but as usual, she couldn't read Vicky's expression. She hesitated a moment before walking over to her boss.
"Having fun?" Vicky asked when she saw Dyan approach.
"It's a wonderful party."
Vicky smiled. "That's not what I asked." She looked around for a moment. "Where's Jonathan? I haven't seen him around in ages."
Dyan rolled her eyes at the question. I guess she was bound to notice sooner or later. "Florida I believe."
"Florida? And you're not with him? I wouldn't leave him alone too long, Dee. One of those Florida girls is bound to snatch him up."
Dyan snorted. "Too late for that," she mumbled under her breath.
Vickie heard her anyway. "What are you talking about?"
Dyan sighed. She wasn't in the mood to talk about Jonathan at that moment. Or ever, if I can help it. Knowing there was no way out of it, she gave Vickie a rundown of her conversation with Jonathan, and hoped she wouldn't ask too many questions.
"Oh, Dyan, I'm sorry to hear that. How are you handling it?"
Dyan simply shrugged. "It's not the end of the world." And that was the truth. In fact, she had barely given Jonathan a second thought since she'd found out about Vickie's plan to sell the magazine. Talk about priorities. No wonder he bailed on me.
"Well you know what they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea."
Too bad the ocean isn't what it used to be. Instead of speaking, Dyan merely nodded, and looked around, debating on whether or not to ask about the magazine. Finally, curiosity won out. "So, do you know who won yet?"
Vicky glanced at her quickly, then nodded. "Just found out."
Dyan's heart skipped a beat. "Well…?"
Vicky glanced at her watch. "I'll announce it in five minutes."
"Ugh." Dyan sighed. If I can wait days, then I can at least wait five minutes, she resolved.
"Heard any interesting gossip?" Vicky asked, changing the subject. "From what I gather, there's a rumor going around that the reason I'm selling the magazine is that I'm involved in illegal activities and need the money to pay back a drug dealer."
Dyan laughed. "I heard you lost it all in Vegas."
"Oh that's a good one!" Vicky shook her head. "I really should give them a better topic of conversation."
"I should start gathering people up." She turned back to Dyan and offered a supportive smile. "Ready?"
Not at all. Nevertheless, she followed Vicky out to the patio.
* * *
Sara walked out to the patio surprised at the crowd of people that had already gathered along the edge of the pool. Conversations sprung forth in every direction merging into one loud, obnoxious roar which made Sara even more anxious than she already was.
"Did you find some Tylenol?"
Sara turned to find a pair of bright blue eyes staring down at her inquisitively. Everywhere I go, there you are. "Yes, I did. Thank you." She looked around for a moment, then turned back to the woman standing beside her. "I'm sorry I wasn't much of a conversationalist earlier."
"It's okay. I'm not really in the greatest of moods either. This whole magazine bidding thing is giving me ulcers."
Sara smiled. "Are you a bidder?"
The woman snorted. "I wish. I'd bid in a second if I had that kind of money." She looked around quietly for a moment. "I keep looking at all these faces wondering who my next boss is going to be, and I can't help but want to shoot someone. It's just wrong."
"To shoot someone?"
"Well maybe not in this case," came the answered, followed by a half-smile.
Sara forced a smile.
Anyway, we haven't been properly introduced." She stretched out her hand. "My name is—"
"I would like to have everyone's attention," Vickie called from the podium situated on the center of the small stage area set up at the end of the pool, interrupting all conversations taking place. "Quiet down everyone." The clamor of voices quieted down to a mere whisper, then ceased completely.
Sara held her breath.
"I want to thank you all for coming tonight. Especially my staff members at Vamp who flew in to take part in tonight's event. Before I announce the winner, I would like to say a few parting words in regard to my position as owner of Vamp. It has been a long road getting the magazine to where it is today. It was my dream once; one that kept the fire within me a live, and kept me going through the many twists and turns of reality. I will miss each and every one of you who stood by me through the hard times, and even through the fun times. I stand here before you now, ready pass on my dream to someone else. So without further adieu, I will announce the winner. Ladies and gentlemen, the new owner of Vamp Magazine is none other than Sara Audin!"
For a split second, Sara glanced around the crowd, waiting for the winner to emerge from some secluded corner and claim her prize. The noise level around her rose as people turned to each other to exchange comments. It was then that the name clicked in her brain and she finally recognized it as her own. Her mouth opened in surprise.
"Sara, I know you're out there," Vickie called through the microphone. She scanned the crowd for a moment, then smiled triumphantly as her gaze met Sara's. "Please come up here and say a few words."
In a daze, Sara drifted through the crowd, not sure how she made it to the stage, but found herself suddenly facing an overwhelmingly large group of people. She stood in front of the microphone, staring at the crowd before her, which quieted down the second they saw she was about to speak. It felt like one of those hateful oral presentations that she'd been forced to do in high school, only this time she had no pre-planned topic of discussion. "Uh, hi," she said into the microphone, startled by the sound of her own voice magnified through the speakers at both sides. She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. "I know how much this magazine means to a lot of you, and I want to put your minds at ease by saying that I do not plan to come in and alter something that is already a masterpiece. I have no intent on changing anything or ruining the hard work that so many of you have put into…"
Dyan fled the party the moment the winner was announced, and her identity revealed. How can someone so young afford to buy a magazine company? Dyan was baffled. She was baffled and outraged. Who the hell is she? The question looped around in her mind. Sara Audin. I have heard that name somewhere.
Without knowing how, she suddenly found herself on Mist's porch, pounding on the screen door. The inside door opened a few minutes later, and Mist stood before her with something that could only be described as green ooze dripping from her hair.
"Trying to contact the other side again?" Dyan asked, hiding a smirk.
Mist opened the screen door, and held it open to allow Dyan inside. "You can make fun now, but when you see the final product you'll beg for my forgiveness."
Mist's house was small, but was a fitting tribute to the psychic's personality. The living room was simple, housing only a blue couch, and a 24" Television set, which Dyan guessed had never been turned on. In front of the couch was a small coffee table, which had been painted bright yellow by its owner after she had decided that brown was too dull a color.
Mist started down the hallway, and Dyan followed suit, noticing a couple of her photographs lined across the hallway. "So what exactly is the project?" she asked, following Mist into the bathroom. Her question was answered a second later as she spotted the source of Mist's oozing hair. "New color?"
"It's call 'Kiwi Sensation'," Mist boasted proudly, checking the dye's progress in the mirror.
"Isn't that a drink?"
Mist shrugged, turning around to face her guest. "It's possible. Now, tell me what's up. You never come by here."
Dyan stuffed her hands into the pockets of her black jeans. "Vamp was sold."
"Aw, Dee, I'm sorry. I forgot that was tonight. So who's the lucky bidder?" Mist began cleaning up the floor area, picking up hair dyeing utensils as she went and stuffing them in one of the cabinets.
Dyan watched her silently for a moment, then answered. "Sara Audin."
Mist stopped what she was doing and stared up at Dyan.
Something in Mist's expression caused Dyan to frown. "Do you know her?"
"I've spoken to her a couple of times." Mist shook her head, and went back to storing things away. "Small world."
"Small Island," Dyan corrected. "What do you know about her?"
Without looking up, Mist asked, "From what she's told me, or from what I know?"
"Start with what she's told you." Dyan leaned against the bathroom wall and crossed her arms across her chest.
Mist was thoughtful for a moment. "Well she's here on business in search of inspiration."
Dyan recalled Sara saying she was a writer. "Inspiration for what exactly?"
"Well that information would come from my pool of psychic knowledge…"
Dyan rolled her eyes. "Fine. What else did she tell you?"
"Well from our two short conversations I can gather that she's got some kind of deadline to meet, making her too busy for love." Mist snapped her fingers. "Oh, plus she's a fan of yours."
"You heard me. I met her at the gallery that day I went with you to pick up that check. Anyway, she was admiring your work."
Dyan shook her head. "I really don't get it. What does a twenty-four year old want with Vamp? And where would she get that kind of money?"
Mist leaned against the bathroom sink, whistling in mock innocence.
Dyan stared at her best friend for a moment, finally surrendering to curiosity. "All right. Go nuts. What else do you know?"
Mist grinned triumphantly, and led Dyan next door to the master bedroom.
The bedroom, in Dyan's opinion, was the most interesting part of the house, and from looking at it one could easily tell that it was Mist's favorite place to spend her time. The walls, in contrast to the rest of the house, were painted black. Glow in the dark stars formed constellation patterns methodically set across the walls and ceiling.
Mist flipped the light switch, flooding the room with a purplish glow.
"Several. I got them a few weeks ago. Adds to the ambiance of the room. It's great for entertaining guests." Mist grinned and winked at Dyan, then moved toward the nightstand. She pulled open the top drawer and withdrew a paperback book, which she tossed to Dyan.
Dyan caught it easily, and glanced at the cover in confusion. "Island Fever." She read off the title and looked at Mist for an explanation.
"And the author…"
Dyan glanced down, her eyes widening in surprise. "She's a best-selling novelist."
"Romance novelist," Mist added.
Dyan shook her head, glancing back down at the book. She flipped through it.
"You can borrow it if you'd like," Mist told her, smiling. "I read it already."
Out of morbid curiosity, Dyan accepted the offer. "That still doesn't explain why she'd want to buy Vamp."
"Well I'm afraid that's all you're getting out of me," Mist responded, with mock regret. "If I gave you all the answers, what fun would your life be?"
Sara stepped into her beach house and was greeted by the welcoming chimes of the ringing telephone. Running to answer it, she nearly tripped on the rug, but managed to stay on her feet long enough to grab the receiver. "Yeah?" she breathed.
"What the hell is this?"
Sara recognized her editor's voice, and cringed. Does the woman ever sleep? "What's what?"
"The twenty—no, sorry, make that eighteen pages you sent me. Did you even read over this?"
Sara sighed to herself, glancing at the time on the microwave. Three twenty-five…she's a vampire. "Are you saying it’s no good?"
"Start over, Sara. You have one more week. Twenty pages, at least. Get some sleep. I'll be in touch."
The phone went dead in her ear, and Sara stared at it. "Well I love you too, Katherine." She hung up, and cradled the receiver, then headed up to her bedroom. Not that I wasn't expecting that kind of reaction, she amended. I haven't written that badly since I was two. Entering the room, she collapsed on the bed. What a day.
Her speech at the party had been received with more enthusiasm than she'd been expecting, considering the circumstances. The rest of the party passed by in a blur of congratulations and introductions. The attention had been overwhelming. As a well-known author she had the privilege of living a life of fame from a more detached perspective. She tried to keep herself as far away from the media as humanly possible. Tonight, however, she'd felt more exposed than she was accustomed to, and it had made her uncomfortable. She'd finally escaped the eager crowds of curious strangers, and ended up at the beach, where she’d proceeded to walk home, grateful to the lulling tranquillity of the ocean.
Sara rolled over, knowing that she should get up and change, but feeling too exhausted to carry out the commands her brain was sending out to the rest of her body. She closed her eyes, deciding that she’d rest for just a few minutes.
A minute later, she was asleep.
Sara stared down at the cup of coffee in her hand, inhaling the sweet aroma. She wasn't generally a big coffee drinker, but there were just some instances in life where large doses of caffeine were imperative.
Like now, Sara thought, taking a sip.
The phone had rang at seven in the morning, waking Sara up from a three-hour nap—because three hours couldn't constitute anything more. An hour and a half later, she was sitting at The Escape drinking much needed coffee, and staring across the table at a grinning Vickie.
"So what possessed you?" Vickie asked, staring back at her intently.
Sara was confused for a moment, due in part to the fact that she was still half-asleep and rational thought was out of the question. "To bid on the magazine?"
"I don't know exactly. It just felt like something I had to do." It was the truth, however vague, yet Sara wondered if Vickie would buy it. It does sound pretty strange. I'm not sure I would believe me, if I were her.
"Well, I'm grateful to you, Sara," was Vickie's response. "I feel so much better now that I know the magazine is in good hands."
Sara shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Well, to be honest with you Vickie, I don't really know much about running a magazine."
Vickie waved the comment away. "Don't worry about a thing. I'll get someone to teach you the ropes. One of the reasons I asked you here today was to ask you exactly how you plan to run things. I know you have a pending deadline, and that movie thing, so I would imagine your time is limited."
Sara hadn't really thought about that. "Well yes..."
Vickie smiled, then looked thoughtful. "All right, what are you doing for the rest of the week?"
Writing…writing… and more writing. Hopefully. "I have a deadline for Saturday."
"Well you can work anywhere, right?"
Sara considered. "I suppose so."
"Great!" Vickie began to gather her things. "Listen, I have to run, but I'll have someone from my staff contact you today about going to L.A."
"L.A.," Sara repeated, frowning. "Los Angeles?"
Vickie nodded, standing up. "Yes, that's where our offices are. You'll get a tour of the facilities, meet your staff, and then you can decide where to go from there. Sound good? Good. I've got to run, dear. I'll be in touch."
And then she was gone, leaving Sara alone with a lukewarm cup of coffee and a million questions. What have I gotten myself into?
Thirty minutes on the treadmill, and Dyan was still going strong. She'd purchased the machine years ago, and turned it on twice, preferring to go for a run on the beach instead of staying stationary and having to stare at the same wall for an hour. Today, however, she didn't feel like going for a run on the beach. Today she was simply going to bury herself in the studio and resurface in a week or two. Maybe even in a month, she thought, considering the idea.
The phone next to her started ringing, and she picked it up before it had a chance to ring twice. "Hello?" she said, turning off the machine so she could hear better.
"Dyan, it's Vickie. Listen, I'm leaving the island tonight, and I need a favor."
"I want you to go to L.A. for the next few days and show Sara Audin around. Answer her questions, get her acquainted with the staff, you know, that sort of thing. She's staying at 1198 Ocean View. I told her you'd call her but I figured you dropping by would be a nicer gesture. She is your new boss, after all…"
"Oh, and I already called Gina about reservations. You leave tomorrow morning at 8. I told her to fax you the flight information A.S.A.P. I know this is kind of sudden, but I know I can count on you… right Dee?"
Dyan opened her mouth to argue, then thought better of it. Hell, I have to go back and work on the August pictures anyway. Might as well get it out of the way. "I'll drop by her house later."
"Excellent. Oh, and Dyan, try and show her a good time while you're in L.A."
"Vickie, I don't even know how to show myself a good time."
"I know that. You can learn together. Anyway, I'm off. I'll get in touch with you when I get back on Midnight Island. Ta-ta."
Dyan heard the click on the other end, and hung up the phone. Vickie must have lost her mind. She just sold her entire life's work to a twenty-four year old romance novelist, and she sounds almost giddy about it.
Dyan shook her head, and started toward the bathroom. She'd shower, and then take her new boss out to lunch.
This is going to be hell …
Sara rolled over in her sleep, then her eyes opened slowly. She looked around, confused as to what had awakened her. Then the doorbell echoed through the house, and Sara sighed, sliding out of bed. Why won't anybody let me sleep today? she wondered, padding slowly down the stairs. She paused to yawn before opening the door, and frowned when she saw who was standing there. "Well hello once again," she said, smiling at the unexpected visitor. "You disappeared last night."
Blue eyes met green. "I’m flattered you noticed," came the dry response.
Sara flinched at the other woman’s tone, and she wondered briefly if she was about to get told off. She certainly looks dangerous, Sara noted, surveying the woman’s attire, which consisted of a sky blue cotton tank top, black Levi’s, and black biker boots. Her black hair was parted in the middle, and loose strands whipped against her face as the summer breeze blew through the air.
"Vickie sent me. I’m supposed to be your tour guide."
Tour guide? Oh…right. Sara opened the door wider, moving aside. "Come in."
Her guest stepped inside, and Sara shut the door after her. "Would you like something to drink?" She started toward the kitchen. "I think I’ve got Coke, or maybe it was Pepsi…"
"No thanks." The woman nodded toward Sara. "Were you sleeping?"
Sara paused in front of the refrigerator to look down at her outfit: a white Garfield T-shirt with matching flannel boxers. Quite the sophisticated look, I must say. She nodded and shrugged. "It was a long night, and Vickie woke me up at seven for breakfast." She opened the fridge. "All right, so I have neither Coke nor Pepsi, so I guess it’s a good thing you didn’t say yes to either. Can I interest you in some bottled water perhaps?" She looked over her shoulder, and received a negative response from the other woman. Turning back to the empty refrigerator she decided to offer the only other thing inside. "How about some lime Jell-O? Though I don’t remember it being green a week ago."
Sara grabbed a bottle of water for herself, and turned her full attention on the photographer. "I never did catch your name."
Sara choked on the gulp of water in her mouth, causing a chain of coughs to explode through her body.
Narrowed blue eyes focused in Sara’s direction. "Are you okay?"
Sara nodded. "Fine," she managed to say, her coughing finally subsiding. "Would you excuse me?"
Sara walked out of the kitchen and into the downstairs bathroom where she met her reflection and nearly cried out in horror. A hairdo like Marge Simpson would have been a step up from her hair’s current state. So much for a good first impression. Sara leaned her head against the mirror, and closed her eyes. Dyan Warren is in my kitchen, and I’m walking around looking like Don King.
Dyan looked around the beach house, unsure of what to make of her new boss. Up to this point she had mixed emotions. How evil can a person who wears Garfield pajamas possibly be? She felt the corners of her mouth curl into a smile. I wonder if she’s noticed her hair yet?
Dyan noticed a line of framed photographs across the back wall, and moved toward them, frowning at the display. I hope these came with the frames.
"You like them?"
Dyan whirled around. Sara had changed into a gray short-sleeved V-neck shirt and sand-colored cargo shorts. Tan Birkenstocks adorned the young writer’s feet, and her reddish-blonde hair cascaded down her back in perfectly combed strands. Dyan once again wondered what Sara would look like through the lens of her Nikon, and then mentally slapped herself, remembering this was her new boss. She turned toward the photographs, unsure of what to say. God, they’re bad..
"I took them."
"They’re beautiful," Dyan lied, unsure of why she’d care to protect the feelings of a woman she barely knew. "I was just admiring their… texture."
Sara started laughing. "You’re a horrible liar, but thank you."
"Do you want to get some lunch?" Dyan asked, trying to change the subject. "I thought we should talk about our trip tomorrow."
Sara looked genuinely confused, and Dyan frowned. "Uh, we’re leaving for L.A. tomorrow morning. Vickie didn’t tell you?"
"She mentioned L.A., but I didn’t realize it would be tomorrow."
Noticing the younger woman’s discomfort at the news, Dyan shrugged. "You can change the reservations if you’d like. You’re the boss after all." The last part was said with more hostility than she’d intended, but it was too late to reign in the words.
Sara leaned against the kitchen counter, looking thoughtful. "No, tomorrow’s fine. Where do you want to go for lunch? No, wait! Let me guess, The Escape?"
Dyan arched an eyebrow. "Well that’s where I was thinking…"
Sara smiled triumphantly. "I’m starting to get the hang of this island already."
Dyan furrowed her eyebrows together, looking curiously at the smaller woman. "How’s that?"
"Well, I’ve noticed that the islanders always eat at The Escape, while the tourists generally eat at the Boardwalk."
"So how do you explain the billion tourists crowding the restaurant from day to day?" Dyan asked, enjoying this analysis.
"Those are just tourists with delusions of grandeur. Like me." She smiled proudly. "Ready?"
Dyan nodded, and followed the strawberry blonde out of the house, pausing on the front steps while Sara locked up.
"Don’t you get hot?" Sara asked, motioning at Dyan’s clothes, as they started down the sidewalk toward the beach. "It’s got to be like a hundred degrees out here."
"You get used to the heat."
"Yeah, I guess after years of this you automatically transform into a camel." Sara looked up at Dyan. "So Vickie’s forcing you to show me around?"
Dyan wasn’t sure that forcing was the right word, though Vickie had been pretty persuasive. Still, she could’ve backed out of it had she really tried. So why didn’t I? she wondered. "I have to go back and take some pictures for the August issue, anyway," was what she told Sara. "Plus I’m the only Vamp staff member on the island, so it makes sense that Vickie would ask me."
Sara simply nodded.
Dyan bit her lip, a hundred questions floating through her mind. She didn’t know where to start, or even if it was her place to ask. Instead of speaking, she decided to focus on the scenery. She’d walked by this same street so many times that she could close her eyes and still picture the large beach houses lining the street on one side, and the large expanses of trees at the other. Dyan was amazed that after all these years, those trees had not been cut down to accommodate for the growing number of tourists inhabiting the island each summer. She hated tourist season, and prayed that fall would come soon, so that the island would go back to its original tranquil state. The summer months brought forth an invasion of Dyan's privacy that she wasn't quite fond of.
"I bet this place is very peaceful once summer is over," Sara said, as though reading Dyan's thoughts. "Actually, it's peaceful for me now. Quite different from New York. How long have you lived here?"
"Six years," Dyan responded, though it didn't seem that long at all. Yet at the same time it felt like forever. And I never want to leave… "How did you hear about Midnight Island? I didn't think the travel agents in New York knew of our little paradise in the Caribbean."
"Well, it's kind of a weird story," Sara informed her. Green eyes caught the sunlight, and sparkled as the writer looked up at Dyan. "See, I was talking to my agent a few weeks ago, and I was telling her that New York just wasn't doing it for me in terms of inspiration. So she remembered that Vickie, who's one of her clients, spent a lot of time on this so-called Midnight Island, and she referred me to it. I made a few calls, and here I am."
"That's not such a weird story," Dyan responded, letting the information register in her brain. So obviously she didn't come here to buy Vamp. She glanced at the smaller woman, now feeling more confused than ever. She doesn't seem to be housing any evil plans to take over the magazine. She doesn't really seem to be concerned at all about Vamp. Dyan shook her head as though to clear it. Why would anyone spend a fortune on something that had nothing to do with them?
To be continued…
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