home, Jo decided. She’d been very close. She could have traveled a bit south down to Georgia and ferried from the mainland to the island.
There were no roads to Desire, no bridges spanning its sound.
But she hadn’t gone south. She’d completed her assignment and come back to Charlotte to bury herself in her work.
And her nightmares.
She crushed out the cigarette and stood. There would be no more sleep, she knew, so she pulled on a pair of sweatpants. She would do some darkroom work, take her mind off things.
It was probably the book deal that was making her nervous, she decided, as she padded out of the bedroom. It was a huge step in her career. Though she knew her work was good, the offer from a major publishing house to create an art book from a collection of her photographs had been unexpected and thrilling.
Natural Studies , by Jo Ellen Hathaway, she thought as she turned into the small galley kitchen to make coffee. No, that sounded like a science project. Glimpses of Life ? Pompous.
She smiled a little, pushing back her smoky red hair and yawning. She should just take the pictures and leave the title selection to the experts.
She knew when to step back and when to take a stand, after all. She’d been doing one or the other most of her life. Maybe she would send a copy of the book home. What would her family think of it? Would it end up gracing one of the coffee tables where an overnight guest could page through it and wonder if Jo Ellen Hathaway was related to the Hathaways who ran the Inn at Sanctuary?
Would her father even open it at all and see what she had learned to do? Or would he simply shrug, leave it untouched, and go out to walk his island? Annabelle’s island.
It was doubtful he would take an interest in his oldest daughter now. And it was foolish for that daughter to care.
Jo shrugged the thought away, took a plain blue mug from a hook. While she waited for the coffee to brew, she leaned on the counter and looked out her tiny window.
There were some advantages to being up and awake at three in the morning, she decided. The phone wouldn’t ring. No one would call or fax or expect anything of her. For a few hours she didn’t have to be anyone, or do anything. If her stomach was jittery and her head ached, no one knew the weakness but herself.
Below her kitchen window, the streets were dark and empty, slicked by late-winter rain. A streetlamp spread a small pool of light—lonely light, Jo thought. There was no one to bask in it. Aloneness had such mystery, she mused. Such endless possibilities.
It pulled at her, as such scenes often did, and she found herself leaving the scent of coffee, grabbing her Nikon, and rushing out barefoot into the chilly night to photograph the deserted street.
It soothed her as nothing else could. With a camera in her hand and an image in her mind, she could forget everything else. Her long feet splashed through chilly puddles as she experimented with angles. With absent annoyance she flicked at her hair. It wouldn’t be falling in her face if she’d had it trimmed. But she’d had no time, so it swung heavily forward in a tousled wave and made her wish for an elastic band.
She took nearly a dozen shots before she was satisfied. When she turned, her gaze was drawn upward. She’d left the lights on, she mused. She hadn’t even been aware she’d turned on so many on the trip from bedroom to kitchen.
Lips pursed, she crossed the street and focused her camera again. Calculating, she crouched, shot at an upward angle, and captured those lighted windows in the dark building. Den of the Insomniac , she decided. Then with a half laugh that echoed eerily enough to make her shudder, she lowered the camera again.
God, maybe she was losing her mind. Would a sane woman be out at three in the morning, half dressed and shivering, while she took pictures of her own windows?
She pressed her fingers against her eyes and wished more than anything else for the single thing that had always seemed to elude her. Normality.
You needed sleep to be normal, she thought. She hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in more than a month. You needed regular meals. She’d lost ten pounds in the last few weeks and had watched her long, rangy frame go bony. You needed peace of mind. She couldn’t remember if she had ever laid claim to that. Friends? Certainly she had friends, but no one close enough to call in the middle of the night to console her.
Family. Well, she had
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