“Oh, come on.” Charlotte gave her a look. “This isn’t for you.”

They’d reached the front door, which Hannah proudly informed them was the original, the first door on the first house in Blackwell. When she led them on a tour, they were particularly impressed with the rifle over the mantel that had belonged to the founder.

“You know what they say,” James Scott announced regally. He was handsome and lanky with a wonderful, deep voice that sounded vaguely British. “If you see a gun in act one, it had better go off in act two.”

The gun hadn’t worked for years, Hannah informed him. Someone had broken the triggering mechanism ages ago. “Act two had better be something completely different,” she said, and again everyone laughed, charmed by her matter-of-fact humor.

They went out the back door, up to the gardens, past the gate into what had always been called the red garden, now planted with more tomatoes than the four New Yorkers would ever have imagined could be found in one town, let alone on a single plot of land. The scent of the vines was overwhelming, a mixture of sugar and sulfur.

“Hence the tomatoes in our drinks.” Charlotte laughed. “Now I get it.”

She and Abbey danced through the rows of tomatoes, their arms linked around each other’s waists, as the men applauded. Then Charlotte grabbed Hannah and they danced as well. When they came to the end of the row, where the vines were overgrown and met to form a bower, Charlotte leaned forward to kiss Hannah. The kiss was so hot and fast Hannah thought she had imagined it. But when the actors left, waving from the street, she was still burning.

IN THE MORNING, Hannah stood at her window and drank iced tea. She gazed at her garden, but she didn’t bother to water or weed. At last she left home and walked to the Lamplighter Motel. At the desk she asked Betty Harkness where the actors were staying, fumbling over her explanation, finally saying she was their official guide. It was even hotter than the day before. There were hawks circling in the blue sky, and the asphalt in the parking lot felt as though it was melting as Hannah walked across to the Scotts’ room. It was number seven and she wondered if that meant good luck. She stood and tried to peer through the curtained window, agitated, there to accuse Charlotte of misunderstanding. She knocked at the door. Her head was spinning. When at last Charlotte appeared, she grinned, then grabbed Hannah’s hand to lead her inside, saying, “What took you? I could only get rid of them for so long. Now we only have an hour at best.”

There were two double beds. They went to the one that was unmade and fell into it, already kissing. In moments they were naked and entwined. Hannah felt the way she had when she’d been cast to play the Apparition, her body in one place, her mind racing. She’d been terrified then. She remembered what her sister had told her on that long-ago evening, to let go and not think about anything else. She did that now, even though she could hear a car in the parking lot, though she knew that outside the sky was bright and the hawks were still above them.

They were dressed and sitting on the bed when the others returned from their outing. Charlotte’s hand was inching up the back of Hannah’s blouse and her touch was burning. Hannah wished she wasn’t so fair; surely her blushing would give her away. The actors filed into the room groaning, exhausted from their hike, kicking off their shoes. Their second foray up Hightop Mountain had been just as much a failure as the first. This time Stan had been stung by a wasp, and they’d stopped to get ice at the coffee shop on their way back.

“God, I hate the mountains,” Abbey exclaimed. She rubbed her feet and poured herself a drink from a bottle of vodka. “What I wouldn’t give for a bucket of ice.”


“Take this,” Stan said, offering the small wedge of ice that had helped bring down the swelling on his arm. “It’ll put a sting in your drink.”

James threw himself onto the bed and grabbed Charlotte around the waist, pulling her back with him.

“ ‘O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,’ ” he intoned regally as he sank into the mattress. “If I ever mention hiking again, slap me,” he told his wife. “Hello, local girl,” he murmured to Hannah, pulling her down on the bed as well. “I’ll bet you don’t mind wasps and mountain trails and bears.”

Hannah laughed and pulled away, quickly rising to her feet.

“I only stopped by to wish you luck,” she remarked.

“Never do that!” Abbey cried. “You’ll put a curse on us. Luck has nothing to do with good fortune.”

“You look like the heat is getting to you,” Stan noted as Hannah edged away from the bed. “Maybe we all need a dip in the Eel River,” he suggested.

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