THE SPARROW AND THE HAWK
Jillie did another visual sweep of the lobby and met the gaze of a red-hot guy across the room. The guy was so good-looking he could stop time and convince it to travel backwards and forwards. This wasn't a comfortable analogy, since her earlier experience today had just featured alternative time, different dimensions or something else totally weird.
Jillie grinned, thinking she should probably be producing this documentary for Sci-Fi or Occult Networks instead of the Arts channel.
The man across the lobby sent her an answering smile.
Jillie held her breath as the serious eye-yum moved toward her. The guy didn't walk as much as he swaggered in that cocky, loose-limbed and fluid way that some great-looking men have programmed into their bones. He was tall and lean, with wheat-blond hair sporting a hint of a wave that fell almost to his shoulders, brilliant blue eyes, chiseled cheekbones and a strong jawbone. Still holding her gaze, the man smiled. His teeth were so strong and white that Jillie was tempted to reach for her sunglasses. He looked like a cover model for a man's Western cologne. All he needed was a wild horse between his thighs, a wilder woman hanging onto him as if she'd never let him go, and a pulsating soundtrack.
His smile broadened as he came close. "Hey," he said.
Jillie glanced over her shoulder to see whom he was addressing.
"Hey," he said again.
Redirecting her gaze, Jillie was surprised to find him standing directly in front of her. Given her recent image of him on a horse, his "hey" sounded appropriate.
"Hey, there." His voice was deep and a bit raspy, intimate enough to make Jillie think of hot, sweaty sex.
She frowned, wishing she could shut her eyes. Her nose started itching. Maybe she was allergic to so much male beauty. Jillie concentrated on gathering her thoughts to respond, "Hey what?"
His grin moved up a notch to more-blinding-than-the noonday-summer-sun. Jillie blinked. "You must really have a great dentist."
The guy looked confused for a moment. "Huh?"
"Forget it. Just a joke."
"Oh." He hooked a thumb in his belt. "Are you Jillian Harte?"
Instant wariness dropped over her like flies covering a picnic basket. "Who wants to know?"
"I'm Griff Ryland."
"Uh-huh." Damn, that old drunk's conversational style must be catching.
"You know. Griff Ryland."
Words formed in her mind as she felt the full power of his blue eyes, but given his questioning look, she didn't think her verbal answer came out well. She tried again, taking care to form each syllable. "No. I don't know any Griff Ryland."
He shrugged, "We've never met personally. I thought Kenny might have said something, since I've already heard a lot about you."
"Kenny who? The only Kenny I know is my cameraman." No one could be further from this prime piece of smoldering male than her rumpled, easy-going Kenny.
"Yeah, Kenny Podansky."
Jillie tilted her head, wondering where this was leading. "I know Kenny Podansky. He works with me."
"Not on this project. You get me instead."
"Can I do anything I want with you?"
They ran to the car, where Griff opened the door and shoved her inside.
"Windows up and lock the door," Griff ordered before taking off up the path they'd just come down.
"Where are you going? Get back here. He might attack." Jillie yelled after him.
"Stay in the car," was Griff's only answer as he practically flew up the hill and disappeared into the rocks.
"Macho idiot!" Jillie grumbled, grabbing the gun from her purse as she clambered out of the car. Leaning back against the warm metal, she braced herself to take a shot if necessary.
The raven still hovered motionless in the sky, but not for long. A mere speck appeared in the sky behind the bird, a speck that grew in size and golden intensity as it came closer to the bird. The raven turned, extending its wings for flight. Rising, the raven darted toward the image. The image resolved into a hawk whose feathers gleamed gold, or so Jillie imagined as she stared upward.
Stunned, Jillie watched as the two predators streaked toward each other with a wild furious scream that pierced all the nerves in her body. With their claws extended to gouge and beaks open to rip and tear, the two birds collided in mid-air. After the initial clash that flung them both to the ground and out of sight, they rose again to continue the contest. They were well matched, with enormous wingspans, sinewy bodies and razor sharp talons. They met again and again, with no victor in sight. Then both birds disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared.
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