“Kentucky,” she admitted, a surprise to herself. Why had she told him that?
He smiled. “I like it. You grew up there?”
“Sort of. On a horse farm.” It was what her bio said, that Sharlyn Peterson had grown up on a horse farm in Kentucky, and everyone knew that a bio was always true. And besides, her grandparents had worked on a horse farm, and so had Tamilyn. Six degrees and all that.
“You ride?” Cole asked.
“No, that was my grandpa mostly.” Another sort of truth. He’d worked in the stables, but he’d been a rider at heart. He’d definitely had the touch with the fillies.
Both the two-legged and the four-legged variety.
“Well,” she said, “thanks again for checking in on me. Good-bye.” She moved to go inside, but Cole just stood there, studying her like she was fascinating. “You’re supposed to be polite and say good-bye,” she said.
“Good-bye,” he said.
His smile was nothing but pure, unadulterated trouble, and at the sight of it, the devil on her left shoulder woke up and jumped up and down. Oh please, can we have him, just once?
But Olivia no longer gave in to frivolousness. Life wasn’t about that. Life was a series of hard knocks that you had to be strong enough to survive.
She was still working on that.
Falling for a guy like sexy charter captain Cole Donovan was not only frivolous, it would be distracting in the extreme.
The falling for someone and having them walk—that she couldn’t handle. Cole, with his tight-knit friends and family and perfect small-town life, was so far out of her league she couldn’t even see the league.
With nothing else to say, Olivia stepped inside and, unable to break eye contact, stared at him as she reached out and gave the door a nudge.
Just before it shut, Cole flashed her a grin that said game on, a grin that she felt all the way to her toes and back. For a long moment she stared at the door, wondering if he was still standing there, wondering how to tell him that there was no way in hell she was going to play.
Cole was lying in his hammock, his good arm up behind his head, a beer in his other hand as he idly swung in the afternoon breeze.
For the third day in a row.
He’d gone to the doctor in the hopes of getting him to say Cole was fine and that Sam and Tanner were being overly cautious not letting him work.
Dr. Josh Scott, an old friend, had agreed with the majority. No work for at least a week.
Cole was still pissed about it.
He had a radio on the grass beneath him so he could hear Tanner and Sam if either needed him. It absolutely wasn’t because he was bored out of his mind.
The radio crackled to life. “Got some chop,” Tanner said. “Move clients from swimming platform to belowdecks. Over.”
“No can do,” came Sam’s reply. “Head honcho says rough seas don’t bother him. Over.”
“Repeat: ten foot swells ahead,” Tanner said. “Move him the hell off the swimming platform if you have to drag his ass with your own two hands. Over.”
“Negative,” Sam said. “He’s trying to get a tan to impress the ladies and is wearing a Speedo and nothing else. You want him moved, you move him yourself. Over.”
Okay, maybe he wasn’t so sorry not to be there. Still, it was hard to be idle, and he hadn’t had so many days off in a long time. None during his five years on the rigs. Not many more than that since starting up Lucky Harbor Charters. He’d spent all his time behind the controls of the boat, with Tanner at his back prepping whatever equipment they needed and Sam either helping or in their warehouse hand-building one of his many custom boats.
But now they were working without him. They’d be fine, he knew this. But he wasn’t feeling fine. He was feeling left out. The three of them had been a team so long they operated by instinct, and their bond was strong.
And now they were operating without him.
It felt wrong. He’d always been the nucleus of the group, the one who kept them all together, and it hadn’t been easy. The day after high school graduation, Tanner had gone off to the navy, and he’d eventually become a SEAL. Sam hadn’t had money for college, so he’d gone straight to the gulf, to the rigs.
Cole had spent two years playing college baseball, a little bored, a lot unmotivated, snoozing his way through life. He’d watched two of his sisters get married and create their own families, until the holidays had become these huge, noisy, overwhelming affairs where no less than thirty people would bug him about his future.
He hadn’t known then what his future would hold. What he had known was that, while he loved his growing family and the insanity that came with it, he hadn’t wanted that for himself. So when Sam had called him to the rigs, he’d gone without looking back. They’d met Gil there, and he’d fallen into the group like he’d been born to it.
And then Tanner had caught up with them after his navy stint and stayed. It’d worked. Everything had worked.
Until Gil had died—in Cole’s arms, as a matter of fact.
His phone was vibrating like it was having a seizure, but as it was ten feet away in the wild grass where he’d chucked it an hour ago, he didn’t give a shit. He sipped the beer and continued to swing idly, taking in the seagulls squawking, the waves hitting the rocky beach far below the bluffs where he lay, the sound of the wind whistling past him.
That’s what he concentrated on.