“You’re right, of course. This dream is going to blow sky high, just the way Owen’s did a hundred and fifty years ago.”
A woman’s voice. Rich, throaty. Lazy. Marek Sumner looked up from the lecture notes he’d been shuffling together. Audacious, slanting brown eyes scrutinized him, taking his measure in a leisurely way.
“You must be the only one here who agrees with me,” he drawled slowly, stalling for time while his own glance played back over her with the same boldness. His gut tingled a deep, primitive reaction. Nothing to do with words or ideas.
She tossed her head, scornfully. “I know. I spend my days arguing with people who believe a society of peace and love is possible. That, the ‘revolution’ will come, and the police will waltz through the streets distributing flowers.”
“I’ll bet that doesn’t make you many friends here in Haight-Ashbury.” He kept his voice dry, calm, belying the wild, reckless response teasing the edge of his consciousness. Adrenaline had begun pumping, tightening his muscles, his skin. “Of course it doesn’t.” Her shrug showed how little “making friends” mattered to her. “It’s easy for students to claim material goods don’t count. In a few years, when they’re career-oriented citizens with families and mortgages, they’ll change their minds, all right.”
Fascinated, he noted the mass of curling orange hair pulled together in a high, wild, knot at the top of her head. Who are you? Where did you come from? Tallish, very slender, almost fragile—yet tough as steel. He could certainly sense that. Astounding looking. A sharp thrill rippled along nerves stretched elastic tight.
“They will.” He smiled slowly. “Which is why I wanted to give this lecture on the ‘Empire of Good Sense.’”
The words came automatically. Watching her, he forgot about ideas, time, the room, the people waiting to talk to him, the soft evening sun spilling through the Bookworm’s wide doorway. He forgot everything except this woman standing here, right in front of him.
And she knew it. Her secret smile met his. Still, the conversation continued, words weaving together, forming a bridge where they could meet.
“I’ve been called a reactionary three times in the last ten minutes.” He laughed.
“The ultimate insult!” She laughed back, a rich warm sound, as smooth as a caress on his bare skin.
“Thank goodness, as a traitor to the people’s revolution, I’m more likely to be smothered under a blanket of flower petals than face a firing squad.”
“With your detractors all chanting, ‘I love you.’ ” She stopped abruptly, her smile fading, faint shock sliding into her eyes.
I love you. The words—so casually, so mockingly said—had jolted him too.
He stared at her, his excitement pulsing into want. High cheekbones, a thin, slightly aquiline nose. Freckles—childish freckles contradicting the hawk-like ferocity of her features: she was a mixture of Tom Sawyer and a foreign queen. Dancing brown eyes that probed, tempted, provoked. This was a woman certain of her charms, of her magnetism. And aware of her power to seduce him.
He also knew he was having the identical effect on her, and the amused and softened curve of her mouth also showed him she wasn’t considering a refusal. An austere, elegant mouth. Narrow lips. Difficult to pull his eyes away from them…
Then, as quickly as it started, it was over.