The summer Kate turned seventeen, she often went to Griffins Bay with her mother to spend the day at the library reading or working in the gardens. One such Friday in late June, Cara handed her a packet.
“Would you mind delivering this to the Blakes’? Carmen is researching the first settlers in the area, and I came across some information for her.”
“Sure.” She’d love an excuse to see Carmen, although she’d heard Gabe was in Maine for the week and regretted she’d miss him.
“I get done at three, honey,” Cara reminded her. “Don’t forget and make me wait.”
The day was made for landscape artists and casual strolls, the sky a brilliant blue, the sun a crystalline yellow, and all around were the sounds of people enjoying themselves. With nothing to distract her but the buzz of outdoor activities and a pleasant breeze, her half-mile walk went quickly. She approached the Blake house in high spirits.
The Blakes had made interesting modifications to their traditional beach home over the years, effectively blending modern architectural elements with classic styling to give the structure a freshness that somehow went with its original charm. And despite its expansive setting and prominence, the house gave the impression of privacy. Kate noted how discreet side-mounted box awnings hugged many of the windows from the inland side, presumably directing the view from the interior toward the water but also restricting visibility into the home. Seaside, a series of sculptural, wave-like walls hid an ascending walkway between the ocean and a platform Gabe mentioned had once served as a deck for entertaining. The Blakes had built the deck out as a small guest cottage, offering visitors coming from the water a private path much of the way to the main house.
But she approached from the inland side this time, skipping up the steps of the deep, gray porch to knock at the door. She heard a burst of masculine laughter inside, which was unusual, and she tensed. A few seconds later, an absolutely stunning man opened it, smiling to welcome her in.
The normally tranquil Blake household had transformed into an upscale frat house of sorts with the presence of more than a dozen truly beautiful young men. They were everywhere, milling around and lounging, looking as if a modeling agency had sent them over for a retro, Ivy League fashion shoot. Every single one of them oozed charm, vitality, and—Kate could think of no better word for it—virility. Several stood around a flat screen television to watch qualifying races for the U.S. Olympic men’s swim team. They seemed amused.
She stood wide-eyed inside the front door, not sure she wanted to navigate this group to find Carmen. Maybe she could just hand off the envelope and apologize later to her for being in a hurry. Her greeter closed the door behind her, however. The sound startled her. What happened next unnerved her.
“Hi, I’m Luke Hokeman.” The door opener extended his hand. “Catherine Sweeting,” she replied. She had no idea why she gave her formal name, which was used almost exclusively by her mother when she was in trouble. In fact, she felt like she was in trouble. She mustered up enough bravado to extend her hand.
Instead of shaking it as she expected, Luke turned it so he held it almost to his chest, and she panicked as she thought he might raise her hand to his lips. Did guys still do that? He placed his other hand gently around her wrist, she could swear to God, to check her pulse. “Are you home for summer break from college, Catherine?” He smiled. Distracted and more than a little terrified, she dropped her envelope, which attracted a different man to her side, bending to retrieve it. Yet another of the party came to stand behind her, placing his hand proprietarily at the small of her back. “Come in and sit down.” She broke out into a sweat.
“Hoke, Libby, Gins—back off and give the poor girl some air.” Kate felt weak with relief as she saw Gabe bounding lightly down the stairs. “Hi, Kate.”
He took her hand from Luke and tucked it through his arm, a gesture that would have been remarkable and strange in any other situation. He grabbed her envelope and led them firmly away from the front door and its trio of male sirens. “And no, she’s not home from college, Hoke,” Gabe threw over his shoulder. “She’s seventeen, which is I think what you were getting at. Too young for yo-oo-oo-ou,” he sang, grinning down at Kate.
“Not too young for you though, looks like,” someone teased. “You’re not supposed to be in the running yet. Why don’t you give this one up and wait your turn?” Bass laughter rippled across the room.
Gabe paused to stare at the group with mock admiration. “You guys are so smooth. Desperation gets the girl—is that right?” Guffaws all around. One member of the group high-fived Gabe as he and Kate left the room. Kate’s legs shook.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish