Lank stood at the back door and watched the lightning. The mountains were invisible, shrouded in black from the ground to the heavens. Each bolt of lightning illuminated the sky with an iridescent glow that gave clear understanding of the term, electric blue.
“This is spectacular,” Lank said.
“It is pretty incredible,” Summer agreed. It was the first time they had been seen each other in forty-eight hours, and Lank couldn’t help but see the irony of them being together during a lightning storm. Every time he thought about her lately, he felt like he’d been hit by a bolt out of the blue.
Another strike hit a distant mountain with offshoots of light emanating from the bolt like the long, spindly branches of a tall, pine tree.
“The lightning is seriously intense,” Lank said, feeling like a kid mesmerized by his first storm.
“And dangerous. One strike to a dry, dead tree can start a fire that would spread for miles and lay waste to everything in its path.”
Lank marveled once again with his new appreciation for nature. “I guess that’s something I’ve never given a thought to. Forest fires are pretty non-existent on the east coast.”
“And pretty common out here. We had one about seven or eight years ago that spread all the way up to the base of the San Juan’s. You could see the haze and smell the smoke even with the doors and windows closed.”
Lank was speechless. He’d never seen such a beautiful storm, and it was hard to reconcile that with the destruction that he knew a forest fire could create. He turned to Summer.
“Why do you stay up here? So far from civilization? With bears and mountain lions and lightning that could burn down your house? Why, with everything you’ve gone through over the past couple months, do you stay in this house, on this mountain, alone?”
Summer looked at Lank and then turned back to the light show. She fiddled with the cross dangling below her throat as she watched the light flash across the sky. When she finally spoke, her voice was low, and her gaze was fixed on the black horizon with its intermittent blue light.
“Once, when I was younger, my parents took us to Disney World. It was a dream come true for me. Even Johnny, who acted like it was a stupid trip for his baby sister, had the time of his life. We went to all the parks, rode all the rides, watched the shows, and had our pictures taken with every Disney character imaginable.”
Lank watched her as she spoke. Her red hair hung loose around her shoulders, and the occasional flash of light made her eyes even greener than usual. She was the most beautiful sight he had seen since he’d arrived in Colorado. He watched her lips curve into a smile as she remembered her family trip.
“One night, we went to see Fantasmic, the light and water show. Have you seen it?” She turned and looked at Lank who shook his head, too awestruck by her to speak.
“It was this amazing show of lights and lasers and water spouts. But as I watched it, all I could think about was that it was made up. It was a technological wonder of grand proportions, but it was a show.” She turned back to Mother Nature’s show outside the window. “This,” she said as she gestured to the sky, “this is the real deal. This is a light show of epic proportions that Walt Disney could only dream of portraying with his fancy lights and music.”
Summer turned to Lank and smiled. “I wake up every morning with a heavenly masterpiece painted across the sky outside my window. I drive to work amid the majesty of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I see God’s version of a magical light show every time we have a storm. If I’m lucky, Black and I can spot a bobcat or a mother bear and cubs up on one of our rides. I walked through Cinderella’s castle, rode the Matterhorn, watched Fantasmic, and met creatures of all kinds in their costumes and wigs, but I never once saw anything that compares to what I have on top of this mountain.”
Without thinking, Lank reached up and tucked the stray lock of hair behind her ear. He felt Summer catch her breath at his touch. His hand lingered near her face before he gently touched her cheek and let his finger trail down her face.
“I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as what’s standing in front of me at this moment,” Lank said quietly as he lightly caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers.
“Lank, I,” Summer began to speak, but Lank put his finger on her lips.
“Shh,” he whispered. “You don’t have to say anything. I think you know how I feel, but I don’t think you know how you feel. Not yet.” He felt her shiver and saw the relief in her eyes. It was all he could do not to take her into his arms.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m here on business. God help me, I might not sleep a wink waiting for you to decide what you want, but once you can see clearly and choose me for who I am and not what I can do to save you; once you’re no longer the damsel in distress but the strong woman I believe you to be, then I’ll be here.”
Lank leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on her lips before backing away and heading upstairs to the room next door to hers. He had made up his mind, right or wrong. Summer was the only woman who had ever made him feel this way – focused yet confused, secure yet unsteady, manly yet like a child in need. He was too far gone to turn back now.
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