Tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, Chris surveyed the traffic creeping along the clogged lanes of the freeway. Surrounded by vehicles of all description from bug-like economy cars to smoke-belching semis, the impression rendered by his writers eye was not of the eternal bottleneck of rush-hour traffic, but of herds of migrating wildebeest moving en masse across a vast savanna.
Driven toward a common destination, the metal beasts snorted exhaust, their tires clenching the baking tarmac like hooves treading across the parched soil.
Above, the rusty haze of smog draped an anemic sky, a line of jets queued up in their final descent toward the nearby airport. It was another scorching day, evidenced by the heat waves shimmying from the tarmac and countless idling engines.
To right, the citadels of the downtown area rose into the smog-shrouded sky, helicopters incessantly buzzing with the tenacity of late summer mosquitoes. Sunlight reflected from the mirrored windows of skyscrapers, dazzling Chriss eyes even through his sunglasses.
Everything was heat and brightness in this buzzing hive that he called home, and right now all he wanted to do was retreat to the peace of his house and dive into the refreshing depths of his pool.
Chris mopped his forehead with his hand, his shoulder-length sweep of sandy blond hair clinging damply around his neck. Even with the arctic flow of the air conditioner, the relentless July sun bore through the car windows with the force of an anvil. He glanced at his reflection in the rearview mirror, a fine sheen of sweat erupting on the pensive, Byronesque features of a face that could have offered him a career as a model … had he chosen to pursue it.
For Chris, his preferred expression was not through the body, though his wistful green eyes and the lines of his lean, finely muscled physique begged for the cameras eye. His domain was the written word, the blank pages of his computer screen a canvas transferred into tales from the heart and soul. He glanced at his laptop resting in its case on the passenger seat and marveled at the perfect marriage of technology and creativity.
The ringing of his bluetooth speaker mounted on the visor broke his reverie.
Well, youre sounding very formal this afternoon.
Chris smiled. Hey, Lyssa. Im driving.
How did the meeting go?
Great, as always. Clients about as quirky as the come, but his bios more than just about his art. It reads like a whos who list.
Lyssa laughed, her throaty voice oozing through the speaker like the purr of a jungle cat. Anyone we know?
That, my dear, is confidential, Chris said. Youll have to wait until the book comes out.
They shared the good-natured laugh of longtime friends.
So, you busy tonight? Rachels in town for a few days and we thought wed bring some dinner and a few very good bottles of wine.
Chris inwardly sighed. Despite his numerous attempts to impress upon Lyssa the importance of his deadline for the book, she never quite grasped that his work as a writer did not involve a leisurely schedule with no commuting and no boss to answer to apart from his sometimes eccentric clients. It was often difficult for him to convey to her that dropping by without notice or calling at odd hours was disturbing a routine that involved as much work, if not more, than the average office employee. He loved Lyssa like a sister, but it was time to reinforce some boundaries with her.
Id love to, Lyssa, he said, but Ive got to transcribe my notes into legible sentences and finish two chapters tonight. Maybe another time.
He anticipated the slight sulk in her voice even before she responded.
Rachel was really looking forward to seeing you, she said in an obviously disappointed tone. You know how much she likes you. Couldnt you even spare a couple of hours?