After years struggling to succeed as an artist, Lilah Randal accomplishes here dream, only to return from her first sold out
exhibition to find her husband and his mistress in bed, murdered. For a year she’s persecuted by the cops and media,
accused of killing the Senator, her husband. With no proof, only suspicious, the police give up, but not the news hounds,
nor the discomforting phone calls or late night attempted intrusions into her home. Reluctantly, Lilah stalls her career,
assumes a different identify and begins fresh hiding in a small town far away from the attention of DC. Her days are filled
with new vigor as the serenity of the Cherokee Valley surrounding Watauga Lake fed her creative muse under a fake
alias, Carmen. Yet her nights remain hollow, like her marriage to the Senator, until she becomes obsessed by the allure of
a stranger that glides by her cabin in his sailboat. Both his male form and solemn expression bleed into every painting,
every midnight fantasy, until her new dream becomes reality. Lilah learns her future will remain corrupted by the past
until she solves the secret behind her husband’s murder and explores her attraction to the mysterious sailor.
Copyright 2010 by Michael W. Davis
The shutter snapped three consecutive frames, capturing the subject in vivid detail; shades, black skintight trunks, no shirt, no protective lotion to degrade
his swimmer’s tan. The body, a perfect sculpture like that of Michelangelo’s David, captured her artist’s imagination and the desire to put on canvas the
magnificence of man.
 Lilah Johnson stepped away from her Cannon EOS 7D digital camera and stared along Bears Creek to the mouth entering the main leg of Watauga Lake.
The scenic vistas of Lunar Cove from the wall of glass fed her muse the imagery that bled onto each canvas. The painted morning skies, the moon beams
that flickered and marched toward the dam each night, and the blanket of colored foliage touched a chord deep within. Yet with all the stimulus to her mind’
s eye, the inheritance from her mother became a haven, one that placed her on the fringes of society, but kept her safe from paparazzi.
The strong scent of oil and turpentine saturated her small studio. On an easel facing the window, her newest painting sat half done. She’d captured the rich
glowing sunset in expressive detail. The composition lacked a focal point, a fault she planned to rectify after this evening’s photo session. She put her eye
to the viewer and sighted on the private cove.
To her left at the far end of the lake, a vintage sailboat trimmed in teak bobbed against its moorings. Its captain, a stranger with admittedly stunning male
features escaped from the ship’s cabin and scratched his left buttocks, unaware he was the center of someone’s attention. She repositioned the camera
with its tripod and waited. Finally, the craft departed, angled right, and motored forty yards from her porch.
No, not yet.
The day sailer advanced toward her lookout post, proudly displaying its graceful lines. With the mask still furled, she had a clear view of the man at the
helm, his bronzed skin gleaming with a fine sheen of sweat.
Lilah adjusted her telescopic lenses and snapped two shots of his sculpted chest. He reached for a dark blue pull over shirt. She grunted, wishing the cool
autumn breeze hadn’t forced him to don the covering. Powerful muscles strained with each rotation of the wench as the main lifted with the halyard.
Clambering onto the bow, he tugged on the jib halyard, and raised the second sail. He scurried for the tiller and brought the boat off the wind. The sail
billowed, filling with air, and the boat gently leaned to port.  After setting course, he settled into place alongside the tiller, looking for all the world like a man
with no worries.
The ripples dancing along the reflective surface of the cove spread willingly and created a V-shaped wake that licked the tight curves of the vessel’s belly.
She focused the lens, spotting the name of the boat. The Jenny May. A woman’s name. A girlfriend perhaps? His wife? A spurt of jealousy attacked so
swiftly, she inhaled a sharp breath.
Why on earth would I be jealous of a complete stranger?
 She’d never had such a reaction before while spying on the sailor, until now.
But she knew. She’d been painting this particular man since spotting him three weeks ago. And in that time, her brushes had lovingly sculpted his form on
one painting after another. In her creative mind, the man and boat had become one, an extension of the need she felt within.
Isolated for the past year with nothing but her paints and work at the library to keep her company, she’d become socially barren; the nearest neighbor half
a mile away.  The low profile, her attempt to horde this treasured privacy; the voice in her conscious mind declared her self-entombed a positive
achievement. Yet in that secret garden, the castle where her little girl still danced and sung happy thoughts, the guardian of Lilah’s spirit whispered, there’s
more out there, the possibility of love, passion, the pleasure only a man’s touch can bring.
She blinked twice and drove the distant echo back inside the fortress, until she was ready again. Better to maintain distance, an obsession with a complete
stranger from far. Lonely, yes, but save.
The hull skimmed the liquid body beneath its weight. A sharp starboard tack, and he vanished behind the foliage of Pelican Point, continuing on his journey
down the main branch of the lake.
She inserted the memory card from her camera into the computer and projected the recent replicas of him and his sweetheart, the Jenny May, against the
back wall. She retrieved her palette, several brushes, took a deep breath, and returned to the only source of relief from her chaotically messy world.
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