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Better Late – 21

“Let’s get out of the rain,” he said. David guided her along the path from the dock to the cottage in the trees. He didn’t dare touch her, so he just let his hand brush the back of her coarse tweed jacket in case she tripped or staggered. She was walking quickly on long, steady legs, with her round, pretty head down to watch her steps and shield her eyes from the pounding rain.

David Goodman reached past Shaynah Levy to push open the cottage door. She preceded him into the warm, dry, cosy foyer. They stood together shaking the water from their clothes and hair. They looked at each other, drenched and bedraggled and began to laugh. They laughed heartily, releasing the tension of their proximity to each other, and the ordeal of the boat trip. David helped Shaynah off with her coat, and saw through the soaked linen blouse the broad brassier straps digging into her supple flesh. David indicated a door on the far side of the large living room.

“You can go in there and refresh yourself,” he said. “It’s a guest bedroom and has a full bathroom en suite. Take your time. It’s been a ragged day for you, and you should take time to relax. Shower or bathe if you like, and there are dry clothes that should just about fit you. My ex-girlfriend left most of her clothes when she moved out, so I brought them here to the guest cottage because I didn’t want them up at the house.”

“What will you do if I rest for an hour or two?” Shaynah asked, dubious about taking such liberties in this young man’s home.”

“I’ll start a fire,” he said and nodded at the large stone fireplace, “and then do the same as you, but over there,” he said, and nodded at another door on the opposite side of the cottage from the one he offered to Shaynah. “I stay in there sometimes, if I don’t feel like staying in the large house.”

“It seems you don’t like being alone here,” Shaynah said. “Do you think I would enjoy it?”

“No,” David said. “To be honest, I don’t think you have the knowledge or experience to enjoy the solitary life here.”

Shaynah looked at David studiously before she spoke.

“You’re a very strange man,” she said. “I’ve never known a person who would discourage a customer.”

“The money isn’t important,” he said. “It only matters that the place is appreciated and the people who live here are happy that they live here.”

“You really are extraordinary,” Shaynah muttered and went to the door David had indicated. There was a key in the doorknob lock, Shaynah took it out and looked back at David, but he had his back to her as he crouched to build a fire. She locked the door from inside and felt immediate relief that she was separated from David Goodman by a locked door. She wasn’t sure if she was nervous about his potential actions or her own potential behaviour.

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