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Home > Nights in Rodanthe(11)

Nights in Rodanthe(11)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

Not having expected him to arrive until later, Adrienne tried to overcome her embarrassment at being caught in such a state. Forcing a smile, she dabbed at her tears, trying to pretend the wind had caused them to moisten.

As she turned to face him, however, she couldn’t help but stare.

It was his eyes, she thought, that did it. They were light blue, so light they seemed almost translucent, but there was an intensity in them that she’d never seen before in anyone else.

He knows me, she suddenly thought. Or could know me if I gave him a chance.

As quickly as those thoughts came, she dismissed them, thinking them ridiculous. No, she decided, there was nothing unusual about the man standing before her. He was simply the guest Jean had told her about, and since she hadn’t been at the desk, he’d come looking for her; that was all. As a result, she found herself evaluating him in the way strangers often do.

Though he wasn’t as tall as Jack had been, maybe five ten or so, he was lean and fit, like someone who exercised daily. The sweater he was wearing was expensive and didn’t match his faded jeans, but somehow he made it look as if it did. His face was angular, marked by lines in his forehead that spoke of years of forced concentration. His gray hair was trimmed short, and there were patches of white near his ears; she guessed he was in his fifties, but couldn’t pin it down any more than that.

Just then, Paul seemed to realize he was staring at her and dropped his gaze. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “I didn’t mean to interrupt.” He motioned over his shoulder. “I’ll wait for you inside. Take your time.”

Adrienne shook her head, trying to put him at ease. “It’s okay. I was planning on coming in anyway.”

When she looked at him, she caught his eyes a second time. They were softer now, laced with a hint of memory, as though he were thinking of something sad but trying to hide it. She reached for her coffee cup, using it as an excuse to turn away.

When Paul held open the door, she nodded for him to go ahead. As he walked ahead of her through the kitchen toward the reception area, Adrienne caught herself eyeing his athletic physique, and she flushed slightly, wondering what on earth had gotten into her. Chiding herself, she moved behind the desk. She checked the name in the reservation book and glanced up.

“Paul Flanner, right? You’re staying five nights, and checking out Tuesday morning?”

“Yes.” He hesitated. “Is it possible to get a room with a view of the ocean?”

Adrienne pulled out the registration form. “Sure. Actually, you could have any of the rooms upstairs. You’re the only guest scheduled this weekend.”

“Which would you recommend?”

“They’re all nice, but if I were you, I’d take the blue room.”

“The blue room?”

“It’s got the darkest curtains. If you sleep in the yellow or white rooms, you’ll be up at the crack of dawn. The shutters don’t help all that much, and the sun comes up pretty early. The windows in those rooms face east.” Adrienne slid the form toward him and set the pen beside it. “Could you sign here?”

“Sure.”

Adrienne watched as Paul scrawled his name, thinking as he signed that his hands matched his face. The bones of his knuckles were prominent, like those of an older man, but his movements were precise and measured. He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, she saw—not that it mattered.

Paul set aside the pen and she reached for the form, making sure he’d filled it out correctly. His address was listed in care of an attorney in Raleigh. From the pegboard off to the side, she retrieved a room key, hesitated, then selected two more.

“Okay, we’re all set here,” she said. “You ready to see your room?”

“Please.”

Paul stepped back as she made her way around the desk, toward the stairs. He grabbed his duffel bags, then started after her. When she reached the steps, she paused, letting him catch up. She motioned toward the sitting room.

“I have coffee and some cookies right over there. I made the pot an hour ago, so it should still be fresh for a while.”

“I saw it when I came in. Thank you.”

At the top of the steps, Adrienne turned, her hand still resting on the balustrade. There were four rooms upstairs: one near the front of the house and three that faced the ocean. On the doors Paul saw nameplates, not numbers: Bodie, Hatteras, and Cape Lookout, and he recognized them as the names of lighthouses along the Outer Banks.

“You can take your pick,” Adrienne said. “I brought all three keys in case you like another one better.”

Paul looked from one room to the next. “Which one’s the blue room?”

“Oh, that’s just what I call it: Jean calls it the Bodie Suite.”

“Jean?”

“She’s the owner. I’m just watching the place while she’s gone.”

The straps of the duffel bags were pinching his neck, and Paul shifted them as Adrienne unlocked the door. She held the door open for him, feeling the duffel bag bump against her as he wedged by.

Paul glanced around. The room was just about what he’d imagined it would be: simple and clean, but with more character than a typical beachfront motel room. There was a four-poster bed centered beneath the window, with an end table beside it. On the ceiling, a fan was whirring slowly, just enough to move the air. In the far corner, near a large painting of the Bodie lighthouse, there was a doorway that Paul assumed led to the bathroom. Along the near wall stood a worn-looking chest of drawers that looked as if it had been in the room since the Inn had been built.

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