South Beach - The Harbor
Blade drew breath and listened to the voice on the other end. It was late morning, the ocean was calm and the skies were clear although in South Beach you never knew when a rain shower would breeze through. He stood on the deck, shirtless, wishing he’d had another cup of coffee before calling her.
“You need to understand this, I am not interested in getting involved with you or anyone else.” Elise’s tone was clipped and decisive, undercut by what sounded like water. Maybe she was outside.
Blade could sense that he may have pushed a little too much. Never one to give up on a challenge, and he was sure the prize was worth it, he switched directions. Backing off only a bit he kept his tone light. “Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren't you? I'm not asking you out on a date; it's business.”
She paused and Blade waited, imagined her thinking on the other end, not trusting himself to push further until she said something. He didn’t wait long.
“Blade, stop it please. This is not a good time for me, I'm really not into the games. It's not business. You know it and I know it. If you want to ask me out, do it, but no games.”
Satisfied that he had made it through at least one barrier, Blade smiled and gazed beyond the bridge, wondered if she was doing the same. He could hear the surf crashing through the phone. He’d won this round but he still had an uphill climb to win meaningful interest from her. In his most assuring voice, Blade answered. “No games, just dinner and some distraction. I can't do card tricks for you, but I promise I'll be entertaining.”
They’d settled on the time; he would pick her up in an hour. Moving toward the end of the deck Blade sighed and stared at the breakers. He had been serious about not playing games with Elise. He wanted her, knew her worth, at least he convinced himself of that last part. She was a woman of surprises and considerable strength. No doubt he had barely scratched the surface. Taking one last long gaze Blade inhaled and began formulating his plan to win her over.
South Beach - First Break: 11:00 AM
South Beach - Seaglass Corner: 12:00 PM
South Beach - Blue Moon Marina: 6 PM
Millwood - Parrot Pier: 10 PM
It had been a pleasant afternoon. They stood beside each other in the cool evening, comfortable and silent, listening to the ferries in the distance and the occasional gull. The salty air was crisp and damp, laced with the aroma of fish, both from the ocean and the seafood shacks that lined the beach down the road from where they stood. Eliset broke the silence, “You've been married four times.”
Blade glanced down, reflected on those marriages and what he had hoped to gain from each one. Grinning sheepishly he confirmed it. “Yeah, four, kind of embarrassing to admit it. I haven't sworn off marriage yet; maybe that's excessive optimism, but I still want it, if I can find the right person.”
Eliset turned to face him, her arm resting on the railing and a look of amusement in her eyes. “How old are you, twenty eight or nine? Thirty? Four is ridiculous. Maybe you ought to figure out why you keep driving the car into the ditch before you get back behind the wheel.”
His smile grew wide at the remark. Absently flicking a loose stand of hair from her cheek he challenged her. “Are you offering a refresher course in driver's ed?”
“You wouldn't want one from me. No doubt, NO doubt you've seen those photos of me in Probe.” Elise laughed and then turned away, gazing out at the darkness once more.
Blade moved closer, looking at her quietly, admitting, "I saw them; I've heard about the guy. You didn't go back to him when you split with Cooper, or is that still going on?”
Moving further down the pier Elise folded her arms, turned and shaking her head, answered, “No, it's over, it's been over for a long time. It was a terrible mistake, the one mistake I would take back if I could.”
Taking several long, easy strides Blade stood before her. He searched her face, wondered what went on in her head, looking for an opening that could draw her closer to him. “From where I'm standing, you look pretty damned human; you're allowed to make mistakes.” He paused, thought about it, thinking about what he knew about the man, what he'd done, what he'd done himself, looked away before fixing his eyes on her again. "Coop was on the road all the time, doing what we do. It's a problem that ends a lot of marriages. My hands aren't clean either.”
“Don't try to excuse what I did. There isn't any excuse. It's not a math problem: you don't get to cancel it out.” Elise stopped, changed course. ”You don't have any children? Out of all those marriages, no children?”
Blade gazed out at the surf and the lights lining the road back to the city. ”I grew up bouncing around from one place to another, and I hated it. It's no life for a kid. Children who grow up in this business, ninety percent of the time they're messed up. I'm not doing that to any child of mine.”
Blade looking back at Elise, realized how that sounded, “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to include your kids in that group. I can be pretty damned insensitive, one of the reasons I'm single again.” He shook his head and lifted corners of his mouth in a wry smile.
“It's all right. It's been hard on all of them.”
“You stuck with him and all his shit for a hell of a long time though.”
Elise turned and the ease with which they had been talking seemed to lessen. “Let me make this perfectly clear, I do not want to hear anything negative about Cooper. No trash talk. No revelations. Nothing.”
Surprised, Blade attempted to turn things back around. He raised his arms in surrender and threw his best smile at her. “Absolutely. The man's a saint. Not a word otherwise. I never saw anything, I'll never say anything.”
He allowed his smile to widen as he reached for her. “I know I'm an ass but I'm an interesting ass. Come on, aren't I?”
Elise smiled and moved just out of arm’s reach. “As long as you know you wear the ears, and that they're the most interesting thing about you, ok, I'll give you that much. I should go. It's getting too late."
Moving slowly, carefully toward her, knowing he might be pushing too far but needing to take it further, Blade’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Too late for what, Elise? He's not there. I'll take you home if that's what you want, but you can make your own decisions now.”
He moved closer, lowered his gaze to her mouth. Knowing the risk he was taking but unable to stop himself Blade leaned down, brushing her cheek with his lips, pulling her up against his body, slowly, waiting for her, letting her move first and maybe she did or maybe he imagined she did, but he found her mouth with his, and, finally, kissed her.
The return was not what he'd hoped for but she didn't shove him away. If she was thinking about what Cooper would feel, she hid it. If not, she was about as controlled and probably calculating as any woman he'd ever known. She did, however, kiss him back.