A Sight to Dream Of

Oberon: Book Two

 

Paige Delaney sat at her same old table on the patio of the Beach Hoppers Cafe, drinking her same old double-tall-caramel-low-fat-latte, and contemplating her life.  The prospect was not a pleasant one.  Her thoughts were as gray and as gloomy as the day itself.

Paige had first come to Oberon as a student at nearby UC Abraxas.  She had stayed at first, for all the usual reasons.  Because she’d been charmed by the climate and the scenery, the open-minded tolerance, and the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle she found there.   When those reasons had all worn thin, she stayed because she’d been spoiled by the big fish/little pond fame she’d achieved as a reporter here.  And because she’d fallen in love.

Hopelessly, disastrously, unrequitedly in love.

And even though the affair itself had been brief, and she had, in most respects, moved on with her life since then, it was still the one that got away that kept her tied to Oberon.

For too long.  For way too long.

Paige took another sip of her coffee.  Usually all the breakfast she had, the sweet, frothy drink had never before failed to raise her spirits and rev her engines.  Until today.  Today, not even the sight of bright-blue flowerpots overflowing with California poppies, Mexican primroses, and red and blue columbine, all set against the whitewashed walls of the patio could cheer her.

It was time for a change.

For years she had been reasonably content with her life and her career.  She hadn’t ever really craved the big-city celebrity status she knew she could have achieved elsewhere.  She had carved out a life for herself here, and it had been enough.  Or so she thought.  Until two months ago when the first really big news story to hit Oberon in years was stolen--right out from under her nose, by someone she’d once considered a friend.  Now, the idea of reporting on even one more two-bit local festival left her feeling as if she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.

Men.  They were the source of all her problems.  They took what they wanted, and then walked away.  They acted as if their careers, their goals, their needs were all that mattered.  And if she had mostly behaved the same way herself, well who could blame her?  It was a dog-eat-dog world out there.  Even in Oberon.  She’d had to be tough, hadn’t she?  She had to fend for herself, stand on her own two feet, look out for her own best interests--all those stupid cliches that had the nasty habit of proving themselves true.

Because there was always some man who would make her feel loved, or at least wanted.  Who would pretend to be her friend.  And each time she made the mistake of thinking one of them was different, he’d always end up doing the same damn things.

When the chips were down, there was always some other woman he’d end up being loyal to.  Some other woman he’d want to marry, and protect and have children with.

Some other woman he would always, always, always choose over her.

Well, she’d had enough.  It was time to stop settling for table scraps when, God knows, she deserved the whole damn banquet.  Time to stop waiting for some man to come to his senses and give her what she wanted.  Time to go out and get things for herself.

Fantastic.  More cliches.

It was time to get out of Oberon, too.  Now, all she needed was a plan.

A familiar honking, flapping sound made her look up.  A platoon of Canada geese flew fast and fearless in from the south to buzz the patio.  As she watched, they made a low swooping turn through the parking lot and then disappeared behind the bank of scrub brush and low trees that stood to the west of the lot, and separated it from the narrow beach that rimmed the bay.  Paige looked at her watch and smiled.  Regular as clockwork.

“Well, aren’t you beautiful?”  A man’s low voice, rich with appreciation, caused her to look around, quickly.  But it was clear from the man’s gaze--still locked on the western horizon--that his appreciation was for the geese, and not for her.

Which pretty much summed up the way her life had been going lately.  Upstaged by a flock of fuckin’ geese. 

She glared at the man.  There was something vaguely familiar about him, although she couldn’t quite place him.  Not too surprising.  Although it was a small town, she’d lived here for a lot of years, and dated a lot of men--many of whom she had very good reasons for not wanting to remember.  She was just about to dismiss him completely from her thoughts when her journalistic instincts took over.

Something told her that, had she actually met this man before, she wouldn’t have forgotten him that easily.  If she thought she recognized him now, it had to be because he was Somebody Important.  She narrowed her eyes and observed the man more closely.

He was dressed entirely in black—motorcycle jacket, jeans and boots—with touches of silver showing at his neck and wrists.  Despite his neat ponytail of silver gray hair, he looked to be no more than mid-to-late forties.  And the motorcycle he was straddling—a 1948 Indian Chief Roadmaster--exhibited signs of loving care, excessive recent use and, most curious of all, New York plates.  

Interesting.  Paige reached for her notebook, as she automatically memorized the license number.

As if he were aware of her scrutiny, the man turned a quick glance in her direction as he donned his helmet.  She saw a wary, watchful expression enter his eyes just before he snapped the dark visor down over his face and kicked the bike into gear.  In another minute, he was roaring off in the direction of town.

Paige lounged comfortably back in her chair.  He could run, but he couldn’t hide.  Not for long, at any rate.  She remembered now where she’d seen his face before.  The cover of Time Magazine.  And she couldn’t imagine it would take more than a couple of phone calls to New York before she managed to locate a local number for him.

She might not know, yet, what Sam Sterling was doing here in Oberon--at a time when all the financial papers were hinting at rumors of big trouble at Sterling and Vaughn--but she meant to find out.  Her gut told her that there was a story here.  A big one.  And even if it was only the second biggest story to hit Oberon this year, this one, at least, would be all hers.

She tossed back the rest of her latte with the first hint of good humor she’d felt all day.  This just might turn out to be more than a great story, she thought, happily.  It just might be her ticket out of town.

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