Even in the middle of a blizzard a hundred people showed up to hear the notorious Darby Moody read from her latest licentious bestseller. Andrew got there early and secured a seat in the front row. Her eyes were blue, kind and wise; they caressed Andrew every time she looked up from her text. He knew that had to be his imagination. Or maybe one of her lovers was sitting behind him. When she paused to sip her water, he casually looked around, as if to see whether someone he knew had come in late.
Who was her lover? It could be almost anyone. Darby Moody cleared her throat like a teacher waiting for an unruly classroom to settle. Andrew returned his attention to the front. She looked right at him, and smiled. She had smiled at him; he couldn?t doubt that now.
It wasn?t personal. She was shy and didn?t like reading to large groups. Andrew knew that. He knew everything about Darby Moody that could be known. So, obviously, she had picked him out the sparse crowd and was pretending to read only to him. It was a strategy he?d heard authors used to conquer their fear of speaking to crowds. Andrew couldn?t help the warm feeling her gaze created inside him, but he could have been anyone. Anyone sitting where he was would have got the same attention.
Darby Moody had been his favourite writer since he?d been fourteen. He had found her first volume of poetry at the library and been captivated by her picture on the back, by her elfin face framed by platinum hair. She looked more like a movie star than a poet. In person that impression was accentuated. She was average height and wasn?t built like a model, but there was something about her. Charisma wasn?t quite the right word, Andrew thought. Perhaps mystique described it better? Whatever. Beyond any doubt she was the most fascinating woman imaginable.
It was a physical thing. Yes, it was very much that. Dreams of her rocked him to sleep many nights. It was also far more than that; from the time he got past her picture and between the covers of her book, he had also been in love with her words and her style. The passion she had for life excited him every bit as much as her full and bowed lips, and her knowing smile. He had borrowed the book of poetry and her first novel, taken them home and hid them under his bed. When he?d had to return them to the library, he?d bought his own copies, volumes he?d had to replace several times since. He kept them hidden. If his mother had seen those books of Darby Moody, she would have taken them away, saying a woman like that was not a writer suitable for a young boy, or for any decent person.
Unknown to his parents, Darby Moody had been his inspiration through his teen years. They blamed his desire to become a writer on a permissive school system, on bad blood in each other’s family, or on the Devil.