CAMERON GRABBED the ornate handle and pushed open the door to a jewelry shop that someone had told him about last week. He paused as the door shut softly behind him with a tinkling sound, feeling like he’d just stepped into a different world. The shop was tiny—dark and cool after the brightness of the LA sunshine. Gauzy curtains floated from ceiling to floor, diaphanous blues and purples shot through with silver glints. Jewelry-laden display counters ran the length of each wall, while at the back stood a service counter with an old-fashioned cash register. The stillness of the place was complete. No one appeared to be there, either customer or employee.

Cameron ventured farther in to look at the jewelry in the display cases. Intricately carved and fantastical pieces gleamed, even in the dim light—rings, necklaces, earrings, and pins made with peacock feathers, beads, silver, precious gems of purple and dark blue. Stars, skulls, and mermaids lay scattered alongside more abstract shapes—curved, sensuous, and mysterious. Cameron was staring at a striking enameled and jeweled brooch of a fish when a soft, musical voice spoke behind him.

“May I help you?”

When Cameron turned, he forgot to speak. Standing there was a man—a beautiful creature, whispered a voice in Cameron’s head. He didn’t quite look of this world. He was tall with dark hair swept off his face, its highlights of turquoise and green reminding Cameron of the peacock feathers he’d been looking at earlier. Dressed all in black, he was adorned with silver earrings, necklace, and rings, and his eyes were lined with purple. And what amazing eyes they were: sea green, ocean gray, ancient, wise, and warmly regarding Cameron as if the man knew him well. His generous mouth curved in a small smile. He looked to Cameron like some fantastic nobleman from the eighteenth century.

After staring at the man far longer than was considered polite, Cameron cleared his throat.

“Yeah, hi. I’m looking for some rings and was told to come here.”

The man continued to watch Cameron with those unusually compelling eyes. “Told? By whom?”

Cameron hesitated, remembering the stranger he’d met in a music club last week after another frustrating day of business school.

“Uh, I don’t know his name. Some guy I met in a club, and when I told him I needed ideas for wedding rings, he said to come here.” That guy had been kind of unusual looking too, come to think of it. Nowhere near as exotic as this man, but there had been something different about his pixie-ish appearance and the jeweled pin he’d worn on his lapel.

“Ah. Very good, then.” The man smiled, and Cameron felt his fingertips tingle as warmth and a strange sense of relief filled him. “Come with me.” He turned and walked toward the back of the shop while Cameron trailed behind him. At the service counter, the man indicated a stool and went around to the other side. “Sit and let’s talk. I’m Apollo, by the way.”

Apollo? Oh, well, it’s LA. “Cameron.”

“Nice to meet you, Cameron.” Apollo extended his hand. Cameron took it, then gasped as an inchoate longing surged through him; vague images of sunsets and ocean waves drifted by, accompanied by the whisper of a melody, the taste of deep, slow kisses, and such a sense of wholeness and peace that Cameron wanted to cry. He pulled his hand hastily out of Apollo’s.

“So,” Apollo said, giving no indication that he noticed the storm his touch had set off in Cameron. “Tell me what you’re looking for.”

“Uh, I’m engaged to be married and, um, she wanted me to get ideas for the rings and so….” Cameron closed his mouth, feeling lame, and suddenly hated himself and his life.

“And she’s not here because…?”

“Sarah’s home in Vermont. That’s where I’m from. I’ll be moving back there after I finish business school. We’re getting married this summer.”

“Ah.” Apollo said nothing further, just continued to look at him, and Cameron was so oddly comforted by the expression in his eyes that he found himself spilling his guts in a way he almost never did, and certainly not to a complete stranger.

“Yeah. I want to live here. I love LA—it’s where things are happening. The… the creativity, the music, and performers. People are making their dreams happen, man. I wish… but it looks like I’ll be heading back to work somewhere so I can support my wife and when we have kids.”

“Dreams?” Apollo responded, regarding him with a focus and interest that Cameron found almost peculiar. He wasn’t used to people giving him such attention. “What are your dreams?”

“Music is my dream. I write music, songs mostly, and play guitar and piano. Oh, and sing. I… my dream is to make a living as a musician. But I know it’s not practical.”

“Tell me about your music.”

His music? Cameron started to talk, hesitantly at first, and then the ideas started to flow. He had no idea why he was sitting here in this shop having such an unusual conversation, or what all this had to do with picking out rings, but he found he didn’t care. He talked on and on, impelled by a sudden urgent longing for something he’d never believed he could have. Apollo listened, his unearthly eyes with their hint of compassion inviting Cameron into revealing more and more of himself. When Cameron finally shut up, he saw by the jeweled clock on the counter that nearly two hours had passed and he’d missed his Principles of Marketing class completely.

“Wow, sorry. I’ve been talking your ear off. And we haven’t even talked about the rings.”

Apollo gave him a mysterious smile. “I have an idea for the rings. I’ll work on a design. Can you come back tonight at six? That’s closing time, and I can show you then.”