Sleep No More by Greg Iles Read Online (FREE)
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Eve Sumner appeared on the first day of fall. Not the official first day — there was nothing official about Eve — but the first day the air turned cool, blowing through John Waters’s shirt as though it weren’t there. It was chilly enough for a jacket, but he didn’t want one because it had been so hot for so damn long, because the air tasted like metal and his blood was up, quickened by the change in temperature and the drop in pressure on his skin, like a change in altitude. His steps were lighter, the wind carrying him forward, and deep within his chest something stirred the way the bucks were stirring in the deep woods and the high leaves were pulling at their branches. Soon those bucks would be stalked through the oaks and shot, and those leaves would be burning in piles, but on that day all remained unresolved, poised in a great ballet of expectation, an indrawn breath. And borne on the first prescient breeze of exhalation came Eve Sumner.
She stood on the far sideline of the soccer field, too far away for Waters to really see her. He first saw her the way the other fathers did, a silhouette that caught his eye: symmetry and curves and a mane of dark hair that made the mothers on both sides of the soccer field irrationally angry. But he hadn’t time to notice more than that. He was coaching his daughter’s team.
Seven-year-old Annelise raced along the sea of grass with her eye on the ball, throwing herself between eight-year-old boys nearly twice her size. Waters trotted along behind the pack, encouraging the stragglers and reminding the precocious ones which direction to kick the ball. He ran lightly for his age and size — a year past forty, an inch over six feet — and he pivoted quickly enough to ensure soreness in the morning. But it was a soreness that he liked, that reminded him he was still alive and kicking. He felt pride following Annelise down the field; last year his daughter was a shy little girl, afraid to get close to the ball; this year, with her father coaching, she had found new confidence. He sensed that even now, so young, she was learning lessons that would serve her well in the future.
“Out of bounds!” he called. “Blue’s ball.”
As the opposing team put the ball inbounds, Waters felt the pressure of eyes like fingers on his skin. He was being watched, and not only by the kids and their parents. Glancing toward the opposite sideline, he looked directly into the eyes of the dark-haired woman. They were deep and as dark as her hair, serene and supremely focused. He quickly averted his own, but an indelible afterimage floated in his mind: dusky, knowing eyes that knew the souls of men.
The opposing coach was keeping time for the tied game, and Waters knew there was precious little left. Brandon Davis, his star eight-year-old, had the ball on his toe and was controlling it well, threading it through the mass of opponents. Waters sprinted to catch up. Annelise was close behind Brandon, trying to get into position to receive a pass as they neared the goal. Girls thought more about passing than boys; the boys just wanted to score. But Annelise did the right thing all the same, flanking out to the right as Brandon took a vicious shot at the net. The ball ricocheted off the goalie’s shins, right back to Brandon. He was about to kick again when he sensed Annelise to his right and scooped the ball into her path, marking himself as that rarest of boys, one who understands deferred gratification. Annelise was almost too surprised by this unselfishness to react, but at the last moment she kicked the ball past the goalie into the net.