Austin throws himself into every experience, including something as simple as a walk in the moonlight. Liat finds herself swept up in his enjoyment. She finds the setting, not to mention the man, captivating.
A crunch of footsteps on gravel alerted them that they weren’t alone. Dexter stood on the shore.
“Sorry to bother, but I’m about to lock up and turn out the lights. I saw the car and thought I’d better come looking.”
“Just was enjoying the river for a few minutes,” Austin mumbled.
Dexter laughed at his friend. “It’s been nearly an hour, mate.”
Austin’s fingers laced with Liat’s. “Good company,” he replied.
“Thanks, Dex.” Liat kissed his cheek.
Dexter clapped Austin on the back, grinning. When Liat’s back was turned, he gave his friend a subtle thumb’s up and a wink. Austin smirked, nodding.
Austin and Liat chatted quietly as they drove back to town. His apartment wasn’t far from where she was staying. It was a modest building, though comfortable.
“You can afford a bigger place,” Liat commented. “Not that this isn’t nice—”
“I like the people,” Austin said with a smile. “Dwight’s right across the hall. Next door is this elderly couple who have been married close to sixty years. They’re amazing. Some of the others from the show live here, scattered about.” He wiggled his fingers at the large, old fashioned brick building. “Downstairs is a fabulous restaurant. When I feel adventurous, or really hungry, I go down. The chef lives down the hall with his wife. He keeps a table for me, in the back, so I’m not bothered by fans. His wife works for the paper.
“I can exercise here, or take a dip in the hot tub. They’ve got a dojo upstairs and the lads and I work out there. I think Naomi’s father owns it, though he doesn’t live here. There’s a convenience store on the main floor. They stock my tea and biscuits, order them in specially for me. There’s a dry cleaner’s and a hair and nail place. Everyone knows everyone else. It’s like having a huge, extended family all around. I love it.”
His eyes sparkled happily as he extolled the virtues of his housing choice. Liat could see the appeal. For a man who’d come from nothing, lived on the street and hadn’t any family, a place like this would be like heaven. Her heart ached when she thought of the things he’d lacked, but she knew he was changing that. Having the job as The Magician had turned his life around.
“You want to come in for a bit?”
“I would. Don’t have to get up early.”
He smiled and got out, going around to open her door. “I always get up early. I go out on my balcony and I listen to the city wake up. I can’t do that the days we work, there isn’t time. But on my days off, I do. On rubbish days, the trucks rumble around and clatter and bang as they collect. I used to hate rubbish days. Had to run fast or you might get yourself dumped in a truck.”
“Did you live in a dumpster?”
He shrugged. “Briefly, when I was young. It wasn’t a busy one. Mostly just boxes and paper trash at an office, so it was fairly clean.”
“How old were you when you started living on your own?”
“Why? Didn’t they take care of you in the foster homes?”
“Not so much,” he replied, clamping his lips together. “Can we please not talk about my youth? It’s behind me and I’d far rather think about my future.” He unlocked his door and ushered her in.
His home was Spartan, but clean and neat. He had simple tastes and only a smattering of furniture.
“When I find something I want, I buy it. Otherwise, I wait until something catches my eye. I don’t watch much television.”
“Do you watch your show?”
“Why? I live it. No need to see it. I used to.” He led her to the kitchen. “Then I’d look at myself and say, God, do I really look like that? It’s enough to make me contemplate surgery, so, I stopped.” He put the kettle on and pulled cups and tea out of the cupboard.
“What’s wrong with how you look?”
“I’m all arms and legs and this big, huge head. Floppity ears and an enormous nose. Don’t get me started on my bum.” He turned, examining it critically.
Liat giggled, clapping her hands. “Stop being such a girl! You look wonderful. All the bits fit together splendidly.”
“Even my bum?” He winked at her.
Liat’s eyes focused on his close fitting jeans as she smiled secretively. “Most especially your bum.”
Austin put the tea on the counter and walked over to her. She took a few steps toward him and they met in the center of the kitchen. His hands cupped her chin, lifting her face to his. She moved closer, putting her fingers through his belt loops as he bent toward her. Their lips met with a small spark.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes
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