And he didn’t want to think about any of it. Not what had happened, not his reaction.
And most definitely not why.
What he did want was to go check on Olivia and make sure she’d gotten into her place and warmed up.
The sun was just rising over the top of the mountain peaks when he hit the dock. This did not mean the day was warm.
The temp was forty-five degrees, maybe, and as the salty breeze blew over Cole’s still bare chest, he refused to shiver, or go back for a sweatshirt, not to mention shoes. Hell no. Instead he went to the street where he’d parked his truck.
He was pulling out his spare duffel, which had a stash of clothes, when he heard a soft intake of breath followed immediately by the unmistakable click of a camera lens.
He whirled around and found the devil in the form of a barely five-foot-tall old woman named Lucille.
Lucille ran the local geriatric band of merry bluehairs and the gossip train with equal aplomb, and rumor had it that her internal elevator didn’t serve all her floors. Today her rheumy eyes were sharp as a tack, her lips hooker red. This somehow worked with her capri yoga pants and snug athletic top, neither of which hid the fact that gravity hadn’t been especially kind to her.
“What are you up to?” he asked her suspiciously.
He had good reason for the suspicion. A few weeks back she’d managed to catch him and Tanner stripping down behind their warehouse after surfing. Instead of apologizing, or, say, leaving, she’d stood there gumming her dentures while trying to talk them into posing for a “tasteful” nude show at her art gallery.
The woman needed her hormone levels checked.
“I’m just out for a walk,” Lucille said innocently.
Innocent, his ass.
“My doctor says I’ve gotta put in a few thousand steps a day minimum.” She waved her cell phone. “It’s an app.”
“Good,” he said, “because for a minute there I thought you were taking a picture.”
“Of you shirtless?” she asked guilelessly. “On the open street that’s free public domain? Would I do that?”
“Yes,” he said. “And then you’d put it up on Pinterest or anywhere you’re not banned.”
“Tumblr,” she said. “I’m at Tumblr now. They don’t have a stick up their ass about tasteful art the way Facebook does.”
“Uh-huh,” he said, and awkwardly—and painfully—yanked a sweatshirt over his head. Then he shoved his feet into another pair of running shoes. It was bad enough that he’d just gotten himself three to four days of leave for being a pussy. He didn’t need to extend the leave by getting sick on top of it.
“Going running or something?” Lucille asked.
He just gave her a long look.
She raised a hand in supplication. As if. “Fine,” she said. “None of my business. Moving on. But remember, call me if you and your fellow hotties change your minds about a show at my gallery. You and Tanner are the last hot single guys in town. That warrants a show, you know. It’s practically a public service.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
After leaving the boat, Olivia went straight for the old warehouse that was her current home, moving fast. She had a feeling that Cole was going to come after her in some misguided attempt to help her get into her place without a key, and she didn’t want that.
Correction. She wasn’t ready for that.
And she couldn’t even explain why; not to him, not to herself.
Halfway there a call had her phone vibrating in her pocket.
Hard to say why Olivia answered. Maybe she was just sick of the badgering about doing a retro show and wanted to get the fight over with. But there was also the daughter in her that needed to be sure everything was okay, especially since there’d been plenty of times when things hadn’t been. Such as last year when Tamilyn had wrapped her car around a pole after one too many drinks.
She’d walked away from that accident with a DUI and a leg cast, which had given Tamilyn yet another excuse to play the victim. But Olivia had been in touch with the doctors herself and knew that no matter what Tamilyn wanted people to believe, she was fully recovered. “Hi, Mom.”
“Finally, Sharlyn. My leg’s killing me and you’re taking your damn time picking up the phone. You’ve gotten my texts?”
“Olivia,” she said, as she’d had to for years now. “You know I go by Olivia now.”
“I like Sharlyn better. It’s my favorite name. As a baby having a baby, it was the only thing I could give you.”
How about loving her for who she was instead of what she was worth? “We’ve been through this,” Olivia said. “I needed the change.”
“You mean you wanted to get away from the paparazzi and the life.”
The life being the craziness, and yeah. Especially since it’d been of her own making. Fact was, she’d been a Hollywood has-been before she’d even been legal. That she’d stayed in the public eye past that time had been due to—as her mom called it—living the life. Aka, being stupid. “How are you doing?”
“You know how I am,” Tamilyn said. “So broke I can’t even pay attention.”
This was nothing new. Her mom had always been terrible with money, always looking for the next get-rich-quick scheme. She’d lucked out once and only once, and that had been the day that she’d heard about the open casting call in Lexington, Kentucky, where she’d been a housekeeper on a horse farm. A director had been looking for an “adorable young girl” for a commercial, and Jolyn had begged and begged to go audition.