Abra has inherited her parents' rural property, a haven where she can focus on her art. Driven and independent, she has never needed a man for very long--until the day the noonday demon comes to call. Her passion and lust catch fire only to smolder when he vanishes each time she doesn't accept him. The fire he ignites in her soul comes through in her paintings, revealing the sinister thing that he is. Will she succumb to his temptation?
Abra walked among the rows of wheat, her fingers splayed to feel the soft kiss of each bulging seedhead. The sun hung at the center of the sky, its glorious rays warming her pale skin. She wore a tank top and a long, green cotton skirt with beads sewn into the seams. Her mother had given her the skirt years ago, and she still loved it. Her sandaled feet made small sounds against the earth she crossed. Far in the distance, her parents’ house stood on a flowing hill dotted with pecan trees. This is my heaven, she thought. My parents left me this paradise. What a great place to hide from the world.
She crossed the wheat and strode along the green meadow that separated her from the porch. For days she’d read book after book in her newly made study, pored over her father’s collection of tomes and news magazines until she couldn’t take any more. When she reached the steps to the wooden porch, she realized that the stain was wearing thin on the planks. “Maybe I’ll start on that tomorrow.” Abra climbed the five steps, her fingers skimming the banister as she hurried to the screen door. She felt the strangest sensation that someone was watching her. At once, the midday heat felt too stifling. Her skirt clung to her legs, and beads of sweat broke out across her brow. She felt weary, as if she’d worked for a whole day when here it was just noon.
Being alone never bothered her before now. She shook her head, trying to ward off the unnatural feeling. Sweeping a hand through her loose hair, she flinched when a gust of hot air blasted her face and body, sending the blonde tendrils flying across her field of vision. She turned to look into the wind and saw a lone figure walking beside the road. He crested the hill, his gait a gentle lope, the shape of him unclear through the waves of heat in the air. She squinted, staring as he ambled along. A quell rose in her chest. Is he going to stop here?
She backed to the wicker chair her mom favored when she was alive, and sank into the cornflower blue cushion. Picking at the corner of it, she waited. His voice carried on the ill-wind, a basso that thrummed out a lulling, manly tune. He crossed the ditch that separated the road from the fence, and ran his hand along the barbed wire, lifting his fingers every time a metal thorn might prick his skin.
Abra thought she ought to ease back, maybe even close her eyes against his approach. He’ll pass by. No one stops here. No one has any reason to. There’s nothing to see or find in this empty old house except…me. The thought startled her. Did she want to be found by him?
He moved like a panther, a shadowy man with tanned skin and jet black hair that fell in straight locks around his face. The wind tousled it, and Abra decided that the wind did so at just the right time. He wore a white t-shirt, simple and clean beneath a black dress shirt that flapped in the breeze. His blue jeans looked a little worn in the knees and his leather hiking boots made a deep crunching sound in the dry November grass.
At the gate by the drive, he stopped. The stranger held one hand to his forehead, his gaze searching even from such a distance for...
Me, Abra thought.
He waved in a casual manner, as if he knew her, and strode past the slight opening in the gate.
Abra cursed herself for not locking it. No one did so far out from the city. The feeling that securing it wouldn’t have mattered made her uneasy.
She looked away, across the fields and then turned her gaze on the shed where the thrasher waited inside. She didn’t know how to operate it and had only driven her father’s tractor a few times. A feeling of hopelessness settled in. No matter what I do, this farm will fail. The Owens, down the road, know how to make things work. I should just sell it all to them. She spied their lot at the edge of the hill the stranger had come from. The house, even from this distance, glowed with its fresh, white paint. The pecan trees looked wider than the ones on Abra’s property. The strangeness of the thought to sell struck her. Only moments before, she’d felt her parents’ property was paradise. Not now, not since—
“Afternoon,” the stranger said.
Abra shivered as she rose to face him. He stood atop her porch, flashing a sly grin. His arms looked well-made, built for heavy lifting and his firm chest and stomach showed beneath his white shirt. She studied his narrow face, the arch of his ebony eyebrows and the lure of those eyes.