May 11: Midnight

She refilled my glass, and hers, emptying the slender bottle between them, and then tucked bottle and glass into one hand and stood, reaching the other down to me. “Come.”

I braced for the shock of cold as my palm met hers, felt the answering warmth waxing in my own. I stood, let go of her one sunlight-filled finger at a time, sipped at my wine and let it sit on my tongue. Buried my toes in the stone of the plateau and felt the rock between them like so much beach sand while she tucked the bottle away somewhere in the elegant lines of a dress that should not — most certainly not — be able to conceal so much as a spare legume.

Her boot heels clicked softly as she turned her back on the sea and paced away from the edge, a delicate tracery of frost dancing up them. I followed her like an echo, leaving footprints in the stone; I turned my head and saw the starlight pooling in them with its sheen the color of her eyes.

When I turned back, she was far ahead, and I had to run to catch up, the sea wind twisting to nestle in my back, pushing me forward with every step, blowing my hair into my face again. I took a drink without breaking stride, thought about her pale, smooth, untousled hair, wished I could echo that skill.

A soft breeze flicked over my cheekbones, sending the wayward strands back out of my eyes to drop behind me. It was warm, with the faint scent of new earth and rain-dampened grass, not the sharp cold sea wind that still blew firm and demanding from behind. I inhaled, tasted rain and fresh-turned fields, ran faster.

She was leaning against an outcrop, studying her wine. Her lashes flicked up at my arrival, her north-star eyes cataloguing my disarray. Her lips turned up at the corners — half mirth, half mockery — and she reached her free hand out to curl one lock around her fingertips again, this time tugging slightly, drawing me closer.

I took a step, and then another, my toes finding the soft leather of her boots. I could feel the cold radiating from her, the air around her chilling at the edges, but I wasn’t.

She lowered her hand. “The night,” she said, her breath cool on my cheek, mingling with the warmth of the sourceless breeze, “is half gone.”

Like what you read? Give Erin Vataris a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.