Your Heart Belongs to Me Read online

  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

  The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

  The ceremony of innocence is drowned…

  —W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

  The houses are all gone under the sea.

  The dancers are all gone under the hill.

  —T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”


  Ryan Perry did not know that something in him was broken. At thirty-four, he appeared to be more physically fit than he had been at twenty-four. His home gym was well equipped. A personal trainer came to his house three times a week.

  On that Wednesday morning in September, in his bedroom, when he drew open the draperies and saw blue sky as polished as a plate, and the sea blue with the celestial reflection, he wanted surf and sand more than he wanted breakfast.

  He went on-line, consulted a surfcast site, and called Samantha.

  She must have glanced at the caller-ID readout, because she said, “Good morning, Winky.”

  She occasionally called him Winky because on the afternoon that she met him, thirteen months previously, he had been afflicted with a stubborn case of myokymia, uncontrollable twitching of an eyelid.

  Sometimes, when Ryan became so obsessed with writing software that he went thirty-six hours without sleep, a sudden-onset tic in his right eye forced him to leave the keyboard and made him appear to be blinking out a frantic distress signal in Morse code.

  In that myokymic moment, Samantha had come to his office to interview him for an article that she had been writing for Vanity Fair. For a moment, she had thought he was flirting with her—and flirting clumsily.

  During that first meeting, Ryan wanted to ask for a date, but he perceived in her a seriousness of purpose that would cause her to reject him as long as she was writing about him. He called her only after he knew that she had delivered the article.

  “When Vanity Fair appears, what if I’ve savaged you?” she had asked.

  “You haven’t.”

  “How do you know?”

  “I don’t deserve to be savaged, and you’re a fair person.”

  “You don’t know me well enough to be sure of that.”

  “From your interviewing style,” he said, “I know you’re smart, clear-thinking, free of political dogma, and without envy. If I’m not safe with you, then I’m safe nowhere except alone in a room.”

  He had not sought to flatter her. He merely spoke his mind.

  Having an ear for deception, Samantha recognized his sincerity.

  Of the qualities that draw a bright woman to a man, truthfulness is equaled only by kindness, courage, and a sense of humor. She had accepted his invitation to dinner, and the months since then had been the happiest of his life.

  Now, on this Wednesday morning, he said, “Pumping six-footers, glassy and epic, sunshine that feels its way deep into your bones.”

  “I’ve got a deadline to meet.”

  “You’re too young for all this talk about death.”

  “Are you riding another train of manic insomnia?”

  “Slept like a baby. And I don’t mean in a wet diaper.”

  “When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re treacherous on a board.”

  “I may be radical, but never treacherous.”

  “Totally insane, like with the shark.”

  “That again. That was nothing.”

  “Just a great white.”

  “Well, the bastard bit a huge chunk out of my board.”

  “And—what?—you were determined to get it back?”

  “I wiped out,” Ryan said, “I’m under the wave, in the murk, grabbin’ for air, my hand closes around what I think is the skeg.”

  The skeg, a fixed fin on the bottom of a surfboard, holds the stern of the board in the wave and allows the rider to steer.

  What Ryan actually grabbed was the shark’s dorsal fin.

  Samantha said, “What kind of kamikaze rides a shark?”

  “I wasn’t riding. I was taken for a ride.”

  “He surfaced, tried to shake you off, you rode him back down.”

  “Afraid to let go. Anyway, it lasted like only twenty seconds.”

  “Insomnia makes most people sluggish. It makes you hyper.”

  “I hibernated last night. I’m as rested as a bear in spring.”

  She said, “In a circus once, I saw a bear riding a tricycle.”

  “What’s that got to do with anything?”

  “It was funnier than watching an idiot ride a shark.”

  “I’m Pooh Bear. I’m rested and cuddly. If a shark knocked on the door right now, asked me to go for a ride, I’d say no.”

  “I had nightmares about you wrestling that shark.”

  “Not wrestling. It was more like ballet. Meet you at the place?”

  “I’ll never finish writing this book.”

  “Leave the computer on when you go to bed each night. The elves will finish it for you. At the place?”

  She sighed in happy resignation. “Half an hour.”

  “Wear the red one,” he said, and hung up.

  The water would be warm, the day warmer. He wouldn’t need a wet suit.

  He pulled on a pair of baggies with a palm-tree motif.

  His collection included a pair with a shark pattern. If he wore them, she would kick his ass. Figuratively speaking.

  For later, he took a change of clothes on a hanger, and a pair of loafers.

  Of the five vehicles in his garage, the customized ’51 Ford Woodie Wagon—anthracite-black with bird’s-eye maple panels—seemed to be best suited to the day. Already stowed in the back, his board protruded past the lifted tailgate windows, skeg up.

  At the end of the cobblestone driveway, as he turned left into the street, he paused to look back at the house: gracefully sloping roofs of red barrel tile, limestone-clad walls, bronze windows with panes of beveled glass refracting the sun as if they were jewels.

  A maid in a crisp white uniform opened a pair of second-floor balcony doors to air the master bedroom.

  One of the landscapers trimmed the jasmine vines that were espaliered on the walls flanking the carved-limestone surround at the main entrance.

  In less than a decade, Ryan had gone from a cramped apartment in Anaheim to the hills of Newport Coast, high above the Pacific.

  Samantha could take the day off on a whim because she was a writer who, though struggling, could set her own hours. Ryan could take it off because he was rich.

  Quick wits and hard work had brought him from nothing to the pinnacle. Sometimes when he considered his origins from his current perch, the distance dizzied him.

  As he drove out of the gate-guarded community and descended the hills toward Newport Harbor, where thousands of pleasure boats were docked and moored in the glimmering sun-gilded water, he placed a few business calls.

  A year previously, he had stepped down as the chief executive officer of Be2Do, which he had built into the most successful social-networking site on the Internet. As the principal stockholder, he remained on the board of directors but declined to be the chairman.

  These days, he devoted himself largely to creative development, envisioning and designing new services to be provided by the company. And he tried to persuade Samantha to marry him.

  He knew that she loved him, yet something constrained her from committing to marriage. He suspected pride.

  The shadow of his wealth was deep, and she did not want to be lost in it. Although she had not expressed this concern, he knew that she hoped to be able to count herself a success as a writer, as a novelist, so that she could enter the marriage as a creative—if not a financial—equal.