The rippling water flickered like hundreds of camera flashes at a rock concert, causing Julianne to squint as she walked past the marina. She came to a stop in front of a bright yellow door and checked the address on the business card, hesitating. She was nervous about what waited on the other side.
Get a grip, she thought, you are going to have to be brave and confident if you want to impress Cameron. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she raised a hand and knocked.
The door flew open and Peter Raphael’s face lit up as he recognized Julianne. “You came. I am so happy! Come in.”
Julianne stepped into a spacious studio lit by floor to ceiling windows along the north wall. Four easels were evenly spaced in a straight line in front of the windows, all but one covered by old, spattered sheets.
The concrete floor was a work of art itself with splashes of paint around each easel. To her right, Julianne saw paintings leaning against the wall; six columns containing eight to ten canvases each. To her left there was an old refrigerator, a microwave, a small wooden table, and a deep sink.
“You were the only person who took notice of Sunburst last night,” Peter said, a look of sadness flickering in his eyes.
“Maybe they were just overwhelmed by the number of pieces being shown.” Julianne tried to sound reassuring but knew her words were hollow. “You do seem to be quite prolific.” She waved her hand toward the stacks along the wall.
Peter gave a dismissive shrug. “Those are okay, but nothing special. I can paint those in my sleep and yet that seems to be what everyone wants to buy. Can you believe Sabastian sold eight of my paintings last night?”
“That’s amazing. Congratulations.”
Peter shrugged again. “I only sell those so I can work on the ones I truly love.” He took Julianne’s hand and led her to the easels. Before placing her in front of the first, he stopped. “Close your eyes.”
She hesitated, but after studying Peter for several seconds, she consented. She felt him take her by the shoulders and guide her steps, then she heard a swoosh of fabric as the sheet was removed and dropped to the ground.
“Now open,” Peter said and Julianne could hear his excited smile.
She opened her eyes to find a canvas similar to the one at the gallery, but in purples, whites, and blues. At the heart of the swirling colors was a shape of a house like the one she had discerned in Sunburst.
“It’s beautiful,” Julianne whispered. Where Sunburst had made her feel energized, this piece relaxed her, reminding her of the peace she’d felt in the park only a week ago.
“It’s the view through the moon, right?” Julianne turned to find Peter practically shaking with joy.
“I knew you would understand. I call it Moonglow.” He slipped an arm around her shoulder and guided her to the next canvas. This time he didn’t make her close her eyes, but whipped the sheet off with a dramatic flourish.
This canvas was darker, predominantly black and grey with pricks of gold. Julianne studied it, looking for the now familiar house, but not seeing it. Peter stood slightly behind, waiting for her to speak. Julianne could sense him bouncing in anticipation
and feared disappointing him. She allowed her eyes to lose focus and then she saw it. Two of the pricks of gold were perfect squares, like lights shining through windows. With that realization, she was able to make out the faint outlines of the house in pale grey swirls.
“It’s almost like looking into a black hole and finding its core,” Julianne finally said, turning to face Peter. His expression assured her she hadn’t disappointed.
“Actually, looking from the black hole down on Earth, but you had the general idea. This one is Darkness.” Peter moved her on to the final covered canvas. When he removed the sheet, Julianne gasped.
The scene was completely different, but she understood right away that the house she could barely see in the other paintings was now before her, although obscured by a haze, as if she were flying over it and a thin layer of cloud spread between her and the scene below. But what truly took her breath away was the building itself. It was Garner House.