The Ties That Bind

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The Ties That Bind
    SHE HAD WATCHED HIM from her kitchen window for three mornings in a row. The routine varied little. He came out of the back door of the nearby cottage wearing a dark windbreaker, the collar pulled up against the chill of the early morning summer fog, and headed for the pebbly beach. There he disappeared into the mist, a stark, somber figure of a man enveloped by an eerie atmosphere that somehow suited him.
    Shannon Raine stood at the window sipping her tea and wondered why she felt so oddly torn about introducing herself. It was a natural enough gesture to make. After all, he was a visitor here in this small community on
's rugged Mendocino coast. She was a permanent resident and his nearest neighbor. There would be nothing unusual or remarkable about simply following him down to the beach and wishing him a good morning.
    Then again, a lot of visitors came and went during the summer around here, drawn by the spectacular coastal scenery, the quaint Victorian architecture of the tiny towns and the array of art galleries. Shannon reminded herself that she certainly didn't make an effort to introduce herself to all of the tourists who passed through the area.
    But this man was different, and it wasn't simply because he happened to be staying in the immediate vicinity. Last summer the cottage had been filled with two vacationing mothers and their noisy brood of children. Shannon had had very little difficulty keeping her association with that crowd to a minimum. She was reasonably friendly by nature but not the sort who felt compelled to seek out others for companionship.
    Perhaps it was the artist in her that made her content to spend long periods of time alone with a sketch pad or laboring over her silk screen. And perhaps that was what she sensed in the strange man who seemed so at home in the fog. He, too, was probably an artist. Shannon considered that possibility and then shook her head. No, it was far more likely the man was a writer or a poet. Yes, she could easily imagine him as a poet. There was a harsh, austere quality about him that told her he had discovered life to be a battle in many ways. Poets and other impassioned writers often found themselves at war with the world. Out of that inner conflict, Shannon supposed, sprang the fierce energy needed to put words together to form intense images. Idly she wondered how many restless, raging poets or writers drove silver-and-black Porsches like the one parked in front of her neighbor's cottage. The man must have had some measure of worldly success with his writing.
    Shannon sipped her tea and reflected on the subject. Whatever his craft, she was certain of her analysis of the dark, brooding spirit that animated him. It touched a chord in her, and she couldn't ignore it. Only a man with a great capacity for passion would have to go through life with such a tight leash on himself.
    With sudden decision Shannon set down her mug of tea and walked to the hall closet to pull out her

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