People who didn’t know who Ganzo was might have thought of him as a good foil for the cute blonde he’d been showing up with in the bars and cafés on the beach and the restaurants along the glorified highway strip that Tulum thought of as the town of Tulum. Striking, if odd, couple. The oddly vacant young artisan and his red hot jewelry model.

Those who knew of Ganzo didn’t know quite what to make of it. The first time the question came up in the bar at the Paraiso one wag said, “He probably found her washed up on a beach,” and got a mild round of laughter out of it.

The blonde was kind of drifty too, in her own way. Don’t try getting her life story, that’s for sure. Even the total sharks around the cabanas had quit hitting on her. She was like a million dollar house that hadn’t had the electricity connected yet.

Women found her congenial, though, and Ganzo charming enough in a closed-circuit sort of way. She was in Paraiso talking to this American girl with glasses and frizz, a studious geek type, looked like Velma from Scooby Doo. The blonde animated and perky as usual, like a high school cheerleader who spaced out graduation. Saying, “Hey, it wasn’t just me who couldn’t believe it: those mariachi guys last night about fell out of their sombreros when you started jamming with them like that.”

“I don’t think those guys even read music, frankly. They just learned the parts for each song: no clue about improvisation. Trumpets are pretty simple when you’re used to tooting tubas and sousaphones.”

“That is just so cool, Celia. I never even knew any of those girls who played in the band.”

Because you were out there shaking your pom-poms and booty and nailing all the cool guys while we band geeks got the chess club dorks, Celia was thinking. But this dumb blonde didn’t really seem like that. Nice, not a “Heather” or anything. “Those guys were here again, earlier. But they didn’t let me play with them again. Too bad, I had this sort of Souza meets Gershwin riff that would have fit right in on top of that Cielito Lindo number.”

“I wish I could do something like that. You’ve really got it going on.”

Celia was floored. Here was Scarlett Johanson’s stunt double calling her cool? Whoa! And now she’s pulling out that gym bag, probably got more of that darling jewelry her Rain Man boyfriend made. But wait, what the hell is that?

“I almost forgot. I brought this for you.”

“What is it? Oh wow, it’s a seashell on steroids!”

She laughed and brandished the big conch, eighteen inches long even with an inch of the tip sawn off and polished smooth by Ganzo. “Yep. It’s a caracol. Ganzo did the hole in the end there.”

Celia moved the conch around in her hands, but when she pointed the cut-off end at her mouth, it fell into place. She could hold it up with one hand and blow into it. “Unbelievable! He reamed out the embouchure there and polished it.”

“Yeah, you know. You put your lips on it.”

Which is what Celia did. The big shell was surprisingly easy to play, with an open chop and exponential expansion like a flugelhorn. She did a few exploratory notes, ran some quick riffs. The conch had a unique, mellow sound and was hilariously easy to play. She did a line of Brahms, a quick hook from Herb Alpert. Everybody in the place was looking at her. She stood up and nodded, headed into a luminous, soulful take on Night In Tunisia. Curtsy stared at her with her mouth half-open and eyes shining: Ganzo watched with what might have been a smile. She did American Patrol, a sort of medley from The Music Man and nobody seemed tired of it so she started screwing around.

The conch was a natural for a muted, post-bop cool so she went into a sort of Virtual Miles thing, then started stutter effects and tonguing. She put her hand into the huge, flaring bell of the horn and moved it around, experimenting. Pulled her clenched fingers in and out, messing with bent notes and falling tones. Did a wah-wah riff with her hand moving in and out at an increasing frequency.

The blonde was delighted, clapping her hands and laughing. Get a kick out of fisting, do you, Goldilocks? But Celia felt bad at the thought: this girl was a true fan, open and alive and buying every bit of it. She blew out her cheeks like Gillespie, went way blue.

Aphra had been solidly pissed off for over a week. She’d figured out that her bug was giving such intermittent pulses because it was moving so slowly it had lapsed into a totally lackadaisical refresh rate. So yeah, she was pissed. She just couldn’t figure out why those bitches were cruising so slow. Or where or why. She’d come to the conclusion that the boat was adrift. No power, maybe nobody really at the wheel. But who the fuck knew?

So she’d been moving down the coast in a truly stupid little rental Volkswagen called a Bora. More like Boring. Like it mattered when she couldn’t go anywhere. Get a reading, head down the weird multi-lane highway south of Cancun, drive off on some wretched little road to the ocean and look out there and see nothing. And nobody else had seen anything, either. She knew better than to be asking about any blondies or chinkies, but had managed to figure out nobody she was looking for had been through. Once, just south of Puerto Morelos–odd little dump with a great Chinese restaurant, of all things–she’d gotten a possible scan about a hundred yards out, middle of the fucking night. Maybe saw some sort of boat out there, just at the edge of the beam from this bizarro lighthouse, tilted over like the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Since then, nada.

She’d been around Playa Carmen and that whole tourist trap, Riviera-wannabe scene for almost three days. They were out there, but she couldn’t close. It was driving her out of her ever lovin’ skull.

And now Tulum. What a pit. All about Mayan ruins. Near as she could tell the new stuff they’d slapped up along the highway was just ruins that hadn’t gotten around to being totally ruined yet. On the road to ruins, so to speak.

And of course, some washed-out two-laner full of potholes and speedbumps in the middle of nowhere going down to the beach. Which didn’t seem to have any big powerboats sitting there with her little runaways waving welcome to her. Mostly had all these shacks full of European hippies running around naked and stoned to their eyeballs. Some of it not bad stuff, come to that. She saw two sets of tits there that looked pretty toothsome and she got the feeling that if they didn’t swing her way yet, they might be susceptible to the right swing vote.

Which would have been just copasetic if she hadn’t been too pissed off to get into it. It had been an hour since she caught a squeal on her little ElectroFink gadget and it sure as shit looked like those ‘ho’s were right here, right now. But she was stalking down a damn beach in the damn dark, in her bare damn feet, is what she was doing. Fuck it.

She’d decided she could use a drink or three, maybe see what kind of chickadees were in these little cabana bars along here when she heard this just other-world music. Coming out of little bunker over there with the cute candles in paper bags out front. Some unreal riffs, she was picking up. What was that axe, anyway?

And what’s the beat, there? Tropical bebop? Trop-bop? One minute sound like some Tibetan temple thing, next minute it’s like Freddy Hubbard trying to do Delta. She turned and walked up the beach to the Paraiso.

Huh, what it was, was some white chick with nerd glasses playing a conch shell. Figure that out. Nice, though. Defly diff. Crowd of euro-wonks getting into it, nerd girl doing a sort of reggae/calypso thing now. She shills seashells from the Seychelles.

Then she stops and takes a big corny bow and there’s some nice applause, Aphra putting her hands together, too. Gotta hand it to Four Eyes. And this blond groupie up front just jumping out of her well-shaped hide over it all, nice looking stuff. Wish she’d turn around.

Which she did. Holy fuckin’ shit on a stick!

Aphra practically ran across the room and faced the smiling blond. Who looked at her without a flicker of recognition. What kind of wack game is this? She leaned into her, scowled, “Hey homey, don’t you know me?”

Evidently not.

The blond was looking at her like some oblivious livestock of the cud-chewing food group. Slight smile, looking expectant. Aphra was about ready to slap this bitch, snap her out of it, call her play. Instead she slumped slightly, met the big blue eyes at their own level. Said, really loud, “Yo, Curtsy! You in there girl?”

Evidently not.

Fuck.

On an impulse, Aphra reached out and cupped one of those nice firm titties under the loose T-shirt, then stepped close and reached down to clench a tight buttock, long fingernail just barely like brushing the Promised Land, there. Aphra’s patented Full Nelson Mandala hold. Pushed her lips up to hers and started going all tonguey. There was a shocked hush in the room, then she got a bigger applause than the conch girl did.

She broke it off and rared back, looked into Curtsy’s face. “Bring anything back, girlfriend?”

“No, well, wait a minute…”

Aphra snorted through her flared nostrils. “Now I been called a lot of things, especially afterwards. But never forgettable. Meanwhile I coulda just sworn you and the little chinkette headed out of Isla on a boat I paid for and never saw again. Ring any bells? Wanna cut the shinola and play nice?”

She saw something pass inside the baby blues, a sort of flutter that got her thinking that whatever this was, it might not be an act. “Hey girl,” she said in a friendlier tone, “Give it up.”

She watched as Curtsy’s expression seemed to crumple, then fall away like loose stucco. Her eyes widened, then moistened, her lips started trembling. Suddenly she dashed herself into Aphra’s arms, shaking violently. She threw her arms around her neck and clung for dear life.

“What up, baby?” Aphra asked her softly, patting her shoulders in a sisterly way. Looking over the heaving shoulders she could see this decently cute Mayan guy staring at her. In a kind of impersonal way.

A quick spasm shot through Curtsy and she pushed away from Aphra and faced her, definitely all there and aware. And not one little bit happy about it. Her eyes filled and spilled and she started sobbing. “I killed those guys, Aphra! I shot ’em and they’re dead.”

Aphra reached out for a soothing stroke on her upper arm. “It’s okay, honey. I’m sure they had it coming.” Whoever “they” were.

Curtsy’s sobs slowed down and lessened in volume. She held Aphra’s gaze, looking like a miserable little girl who totally knew her whole life is just ruined for the moment. Then it was like the sun came up behind the sky blue of her irises. Aphra had always noted (and coveted) the girl’s innocence and girlish enthusiasm, but at that moment she saw it go off the charts. It was Christmas and Birthday and First Prom in there. Curtsy beamed, wiping tears and laughing.

“But they came for me,” she almost yelled. “I knew they would.”

She grabbed Aphra’s upper arms in her powerful grip, practically jumping up and down. “They came, Aphra! They came and saved me.”

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Ever since he showed her the coralcaturas she’d been obsessed with them. He’d come and find here her poring over them, stroking their surfaces, rotating the big coral chunks in different angles of light to study the shape of the symbols on their faces. No stranger than any other gringa behavior, maybe. Ganzo was no authority on how women acted around the house.

He paused inside the door of his rooftop hovel, watching her work on a pencil sketch of one of the coral heads, bending over his crude table in cheap panties and cutdown t-shirt, nibbling her lush lip in concentration. He stood with a stringer of fresh-speared fish dangling from his hand, trapped into immobility by the sight of her.

She finished her drawing and studied it, scowling prettily in dissatisfaction. Then became aware of his presence in the room and turned to smile at him. He smiled back and showed her the fish. She applauded silently and rubbed her bare tummy.

But when he laid the fish by the gas stove and came over to see her sketch, she turned a troubled face up to him. “I just feel like they mean something. Trying to say something, you know?”

Ganzo nodded solemnly and touched her sketch with one finger. “It does mean something. This means, Zotz.”

Her eyes widened and she stared at her sketch with new eyes. “Oh, right. It’s a word. Wow! So what does it mean?”

“It means, Zotz.”

“No wonder you call them cartoons. What does it mean in English, cutie?”

“It’s… they’re like mice, you know.”

“No I don’t know.”

“But they fly. Not like birds, little black wings made out of leather.”

“Bats?”

“That. Like Bacardi bottle.”

“So the coral are talking shit about bats?”

He shrugged and sat down on a hardwood stump, watching her with his still gaze.

“But look at this.” She turned the coral over to show him the bottom, but got no reaction so she grabbed another drawing and held it up beside it. “Look, this thing is six inches thick… it broke off right, like in a storm? But see, it’s this different symbol.”

Ganzo continued his serene gaze, patiently awaiting something he could comprehend.

“So the corals are like, writing these little words, and changing over time. How can that possibly be?”

“I don’t know.” He paused, not really giving her the impression of thinking, but some sort of search going on. “I don’t understand how anything possibly is. If it is, it’s possible, I guess.”

“No shit, big guy.” He looked like a sea God, but wasn’t exactly a rocket scientist. Or even a Little Leaguer, really. “But see… it’s like I’ve seen this thing before. Like I can remember…”

“You remember something?” That seemed to make some changes in his super-calm face.

“Yeah, well, almost. I just know I’ve seen this before.”

“Do you remember your name?”

“Baby steps, fellah,” she sighed. “Baby steps. Maybe I’m better off without a name. Living like this it doesn’t matter much.”

“No. Because if you don’t have a name, they give you one.”

“That’s how you got Ganzo, right?”

He nodded, everything self-evident, and she frowned. “Maybe I should just make one up?”

“Why?”

She stared at him for a long moment, causing zero discomfort to his stolid pose. “Tell me something, Ganzo,” she said softly, “Why do you haul these things up here to your shack?”

“They catch me.”

She waited, but nothing further came, so she made little “get with it” motions with her hands and he cranked back up. “I see many things, but then I see one thing that says I should take this home. It catches me, I can’t look away or leave it there.”

“Like me?”

“Yes.”

“So I caught your eye?”

“Yes. Here you are.”

She could have kicked herself when she heard her coy tone, but had already said it, “Do you think I’m attractive?”

Something almost approaching surprise showed on his impassive face. “Of course. I think you’re the most beautiful thing I ever saw.”

“But you don’t think you have to do anything about that?”

“I do. I look at you. What else to do with something beautiful? You look, you feel good. You look more.”

Curtsy actually felt a little dizzy for a heartbeat, there. She shook her head at him, smiling. “You’re a very sweet heart, Ganzo. It’s really nice.”

Up to a point, she thought.

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The guy just stared, totally fascinated but not in a way that alarmed her. Which was a good thing, considering she seemed to be laying on the only bed in his weird little hovel, naked under a huge beach towel printed with jaguars and parrots peering out of a jungle. She didn’t see any of her clothes and couldn’t remember showing up here. The lack of a hangover led her to think it wasn’t another one of those deals, though. She just didn’t have a lot of recall at the moment. No big.

He brought her bottled water, then just sat staring at her. She sat up clutching the towel to her chest, smiled prettily, swept a handful of gold hair back from her face, and accepted the water. She sipped, then guzzled greedily, realizing she was very dry, perhaps borderline dehydrated. Might have something to do with her brain not hitting on all cylinders. He sat watching her drink, seemed to be working something out in his head. And must have finally figured out what it was because he suddenly said, “What your name?” in heavily flawed English.

“Let me get back to you on that,” she told him seriously. “But how about you?”

It only took three re-wordings of the question to understand that the guy was named Ganzo. Good start. The rest would come back pretty soon. It always did, like it or not. Meanwhile, she scoped Ganzo out. Obviously local, but taller than the normal Mayan and pretty easy on the eyes. Which rang a bell somewhere in her head, but she ignored it. Nicely muscled, maybe a swimmer. The tight, chiseled calves you get from using dive fins a lot. Another ringtone back in the warm, dusky wool. What she was really wondering was whether of not the guy’s looks and her nude presence in his bed were connected and if that was going to complicate her life. She kind of doubted it.

For one thing, she was getting the feeling this Ganzo guy was beyond uncomplicated: was more like not all there. Not so much because of his blank stare and limited conversational tools, or even the fact that he had a great-looking naked blonde in stock and didn’t seem interested in much more than staring like a little kid: there was just a blankness to him, like a big dog or draft horse. Exactly the kind of animals she was very comfortable around. More so than good-looking men, actually. Legacy of her rodeo farmgirl childhood. Hey, now there was backstory right there. She lay back to think that over, but when her head hit the ball of T-shirts that served as a pillow she yelped in pain. Apparently her head had been beaten pretty badly. Hmm, head trauma, can’t remember anything: just like the cartoons.

Her gingerly explorations of her lacerated scalp indicated that her wounds had been treated with iodine and a band-aid here and there. But no matted blood in her hair. Had he washed her hair for her? She palmed a handful over her nose and sniffed. It smelled of cheap hand soap. Like the big yellow cake sitting over there on the rickety table by the plastic paint bucket.

She raised the towel and took a peek: yep, her golden gorgeosity was marred into a camouflage pattern of scrapes and bruises. She thought about that a little as she drained the last of the liter of AguaPura, but came up with zip. Ganzo came up with another bottle of water. This time she patted his hand before taking the bottle and chugging another few pints. “You rescued me, didn’t you?”

He cocked his head at her like a dog, and with as much comprehension. Not much of a talker. She rather liked that in a guy, sometimes. Apparently. She toasted him with the bottle and slugged down some more.

And no, Ganzo never talked much. For one thing, he didn’t have much to say. A physical type, you could call him. But also there was a sort of reticence inside him. When he worked the beach he held up his wares for examination, dickered with the foreigners using his fingers, stared at the women when they tried to draw him out–and all the time conflicted whether he wasn’t worthy to talk to them or they didn’t belong in his world. Or something. Concepts swirled in his head like clouds. Sometimes the clouds came together and massed to form shapes. He could express those shapes, adroitly carving them onto shell, coconuts, coral, driftwood, fruit pits. But the clouds almost never formed words.

Meanwhile, she figured her dehydration was responding well to treatment because she had to pee. She looked around the cluttered little palm frond shack but didn’t see any sign of a bidet or vanity. She looked at Ganzo, who was still squatting on his heels, regarding her with his calm fascination. First word in Español a girl picks up around Mexico: “Baño?” He pointed at the door without breaking his stare. Okay. the towel was big, but not really up to a Dorothy Lamour shot. She tried another major word in Chick Spanish: “Ropa? My clothes? Nice fluffy guest bathrobe?”

He stood up smoothly and stepped over to some sort of workbench, snagged a bright red rayon sarong off the plastic armchair. Very nice hibiscus pattern. A Barcelona girl had given it to Ganzo two days ago. He’d looked a complete espectaculo, striding up out of the surf bronzed and naked, a blond goddess hanging off his hands. She wouldn’t have been completely comfortable with the idea of a guy just carrying off a naked unconscious woman like that, but one thing Tulum beachniks figured out was that Ganzo was harmless. She’d made a bit of a play for him, like some of the other little sluts in the cabañas, but he just didn’t seem to swing that way. He’d just stare at some topless Euro-hotty modeling his jewelry salaciously in front of him, his inner drum wacking out.

So she’d draped the red sarong over the comatose blonde and waved them off into the dusk before turning back to the bar swing for another cup of black espresso, shot of mescal, and line of toot.

When she stepped out of what amounted to an outhouse with a fall pipe located on top of a two story cement building in some tacky little village, she had figured a few things out. Or remembered them anyway. This was Mexico, the blue shine she saw to the east was the Caribbean, she was American, she’d been pounded over a coral reef. Indicating a familiarity with reefs. Another thing she figured out: she could just walk down those risky-looking wood stairs, head up that dusty street and be free of this situation. She wasn’t exactly kidnapped here. Slightly later she realized that walking around wounded, wearing only a wrap, with no money or clues, wouldn’t be the best plan of action available. So she turned back to Ganzo’s hovel, seeing it now as a palapa, a wedge of woven palm thatch sitting up here on somebody’s roof. She pushed aside the plush acrylic blanket with fading Mayan calendar print, stepped back into the dusky, gold-shot light of the palapa, and almost ran into Ganzo. He extended his hands toward her, running them into her hair and around her throat.

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Mayan Calendar Girls, Pelican SkullHe wasn’t really retarded. Not even a “savant” like some said because it was the only way they could explain somebody so talented in one field not having all the social skills and flashy acumen their own lives had led them to expect. The best way to explain Ganzo might be to just realize he marched to a different drummer. A really slow, muted drum with wacko syncopation.

He waded ashore naked, the rip tugging at his strong brown thighs. He stood firm, resisting the pull of each receding wave, moved forward as each new one flooded up from behind him. This ebb and flow was something he’d understood before anything he could remember, was his ultimate measure.

He’d left his frayed white cotton manta shirt and pants back on the other beach, the one just south of the ruins with all the cabanas. Clothes meant nothing to Ganzo. He’d learned you’d better have something over your hose when around other people, but the cabana crowd didn’t seem to care. They ran around naked all the time, especially the women. Who Ganzo had learned not to stare at.

He had no way to evaluate these people who paid more for two nights in waterfront shacks with no floor, mosquito screen, electricity or running water than he paid for a month in his shed on the restaurant roof. The phrase “rich Eurotrash stoners” would have meant nothing to him. They laughed at him and bought him drinks. And bought his obritas. The women wore them. He’d see women so enchanting it stopped his breath and heart, splashing in the surf wearing nothing but a necklace or bracelet or anklet that he’d made at night in his shed, turning shells and coral and native wood and hennequen fiber into something that brought him money, something that could hang touching that fascinating, forbidden flesh.

Once there was a blond girl with blue eyes who wore one of his necklaces around her waist. She would walk the entire beach every morning, completely naked, but with his necklace–a nice piece of coral with the tunnels bored out with a nail–dangling right in a little thicket of golden hair that shone on the sun. When he finished one of his obras now, he held it up and saw it nestled in fine gold threads, displayed on a bed of sunlight.

But they didn’t come to this beach. It was a dangerous swim and offered nowhere to sit, no beachfront bars to sell them margaritas and drugs. New arrivals would give him drugs when he walked through the bars selling his work. They wanted him to do something funny, say something weird. But they gave up when they learned that drugs had no effect on him. His drum beat on undisturbed, an ebb and flow in fifths and starts, diminished sevenths.

This was “his” beach, the kingdom of his beachcombing. And Ganzo was the King of Beachcombers, a fine-toothed comber of sand and shallows where the waves played around hollowed rock. He walked right to a little eddy between two shafts of limestone protruding out from the sand and reached down to scoop up a handful of tiny caracol shells, min-conches less than a half inch long. Once the mobile homes of tiny mollusks, then of miniature hermit crabs, soon to be darling earrings to be taken back to Italy or Winnipeg and forgotten in a drawer. He sluiced the little calcium spirals in a wave and dropped them into the mesh bag hanging around his waist.

There wasn’t much in the way of really useful coral today. He hadn’t expected it. You got the best stuff after a big storm stirred the deeps and tossed its findings into the currents. Big blows brought in the real treasures. Including corazon de mono seed pods, little pucks of hard wood that took on a deep polish when he buffed them with old pantyhose and rubbed them with a little oil from the side of his nose. They looked like a heart, in a rounded way, but even if he thought of it he would have had no idea why it would have been a monkey heart.

The storms in November had been fiercer than usual, flattening many of the cabanas and scaring away the hippies for a few weeks. But they had brought him the strangest treasures of all, his coralcaturas. They had not been easy to swim to the main beach, then carry to a taxi, then tote up his shed, but they were precious in a way he couldn’t fathom, held his attention as much as any naked beauty romping in front of Paraiso or Bocola. He had not shown them to anybody.

The weather had been fair this week, though, and he knew there would be no deep sea gleanings. But there would be other things. Perhaps the skull of a pelican or frigate bird. Boiled, exposed to the merciless tropical sun on his corrugated tarpaper roof, then lovingly polished and lightly waxed, they were beautiful mementos and some he’d made graced walls in Mediterranean villas and Heidelberg dormitories.

Or perhaps vertebrae from fish discarded by fishermen. Spinal bones from tarpon or marlin turned into wonderful adornments in Ganzo’s instinctive hands. This beach was a sort of sargasso, a place where currents met and cancelled, cooperated to bring him things. If a dead bird fell into the water anywhere in a fan-shaped area of ocean extending out almost sixty miles the Caribbean currents would beckon it to this beach and to Ganzo’s sharp gaze. People marveled at the things the sea laid at his feet, but to Ganzo it was no more miraculous than breathing in air or sipping water. He’d found everything from SCUBA gear to a boatful of huddled Cuban refugees on his beach. Nothing he could find here would be a miracle of any kind. Or so he believed before he walked around the last fingers of softened limestone before the beach gave way to a cliff that tumbled straight into the waves.

Spectacular as his new find was, there was so much sand and seagrass piled up that a beachcomber less experienced and receptive than Ganzo might not even have noticed her. But he spotted her foot and calf immediately and stopped to stand in a semi-religious shock. There was a woman washed up on his beach. He could see her leg sticking out from the pile of kelp, could see an outthrust hand rising from the wash of sand… could see a flow of long blonde hair.

He dropped to his knees beside this visitation and began the slow, tectonic shifts of mind that he used on the rare occasions that called for him to think. It was a naked blond woman with golden skin. White skin burned red in a stripe across her back and on the portion of buttock he could see without moving any of the sand and seaweed. She wasn’t moving.

It took awhile for the concept to surface, but Ganzo faced the concept of death. This woman must surely be dead. And dead people were trouble. Deaths, even of beautiful women, were not unheard of on the hippie beach and they brought trouble by the carload. Ganzo reached out with glacial slowness, finally placing his hand on the woman’s shoulder. It was warm. And beneath the surface, like the submarine currents that rolled and ground huge rocks beneath apparently calm seas, he could feel a throb: dim, muted, syncopated.

He moved then, the thinking blessedly over and leaving him a grateful slave to the innate movements of his hands. He tossed away seaweed, he moved sand, he splashed water. He excavated a beautiful young woman in her mid twenties, muscular and shapely with lovely proportion even in the slackness of her private sleep. Her hair was a twisting flow of cornsilk… and a curly delta of honeygold fiber. He reached out shyly and pried one eye open. It stared sightless at the sky, a pool of topaz blue. She was breathing, though barely. She was badly bruised and moderately burnt in the areas that most held Ganzo’s attention. Her nipples were as pink as the inside of a shell.

He knelt with his head bowed, smitten silent and still by the presence of The Greatest Find Of All Time. Then it became mercifully clear what he would do. Again his hands moved unbidden. His right hand slid under her back, lifting her breasts up towards his face as her head lolled back, trailing gold glory. His left hand went to her thighs and sought the advantage he needed. Then he stood, his strong legs and shoulders hefting her slim frame effortlessly. He stood for a moment, holding her cradled, staring at her and breathing the briny, musky scent of her. Then he walked into the water, clenching his toes for purchase against the pull of the receding waves. He found her: he was taking her home with him.

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