“Hey,” the nagging voice of his childhood said sometime later. “So you live.”
His oldest sister, Clare.
“You know I’m okay,” he said without opening his eyes. “You made me add you on that Find Your Friends app so you can stalk my dot.”
“Yeah, well, your dot wasn’t moving,” she said. “I was voted to come check and make sure you were still breathing.”
“Now you’ve seen firsthand that I am,” he said. “Feel free to go back and report to the coven that I’m fine.”
She made a sound that was half laugh, half pure annoyance at the old nickname he’d assigned to his sisters from the day they’d begun interfering in his life.
Which had been his birth.
Clare, Cindy, and Cara had been possessive of him from that day forward. His mom was the same. For most of Cole’s life he and his dad had banded together to ward off the estrogen. Cole hoped the guy was sitting on a cloud in heaven eating a pizza as a big fuck-you to his cholesterol problem, amused at Cole’s inability to fend off his sisters’ nosiness on his own. “And just out of curiosity, why wouldn’t I still be breathing?” Cole asked.
“Because you fell into the water two days ago, and apparently had to be rescued by some chick. I can’t believe you about drowned and I had to hear about it on the street.”
“What the hell?” Cole sat up, nearly upending himself off the hammock as he stared at Clare. “How did you hear that?”
“It’s Lucky Harbor,” she said in simple acceptance of the fact that while you could keep your car unlocked in the small coastal town and not worry about theft, you couldn’t keep a damn secret to save your own life.
“That’s not what happened,” he said, pointing his beer at her.
Clare set the large brown bag she was carrying onto Cole’s picnic table, her gaze going to his sling and then to the healing cut on his temple. “Then how did you get hurt?”
Well, shit. “Okay, I did fall into the water. But I did not need rescuing.”
Clare absorbed this and sat at the table. This was a problem because now he was stuck with her. “I’m fine,” he said. “And it was days ago.”
“Were you alone?”
Her eyes sharpened. “Is this where the chick comes in?”
“Her name is Olivia, and she doesn’t come into anything.”
Those sharp eyes studied him. “Olivia who?”
“Not telling,” he said, well versed in this little game. “You’ll have me married by next weekend.”
“If you don’t tell me, I’ll just sic Cindy and Cara on you.”
Her co–coven members, aka his other sisters—and they were all equally crazy. Well, actually, maybe Cara was the most crazy of them all, which was really saying something. “Don’t even think about it,” he said. “Cindy’s busy with the baby, don’t stress her out. And Cara doesn’t need to bother herself.”
Clare looked at him for a long beat. Probably using her powers to read his mind. “You ever going to tell me what she did to piss you off?” she eventually asked.
Yep, reading his mind.
“I’m not pissed,” he said. “Do I look pissed?”
Clare snorted. “No, but then again, you never do. You put on this air that you let everything bead off your back. Nothing gets to you, isn’t that your deal? You could be ready to jump off a cliff and no one would ever know it. You’re just like Dad that way.”
“And the problem?”
She met his gaze. Matching stubborn blue. “He dropped dead of a heart attack at fifty-five,” she reminded him quietly.
Oh, yeah. That.
“Tell me about the Cara thing,” she said. “Maybe I can help.”
When their dad had died, Cara had pulled away from the family to grieve in her own way. Only Cole knew which way that was, and it was a huge bone of contention between the two of them. And it was literally just between them, as she’d sworn Cole to secrecy. “It’s nothing,” he told Clare.
“You’re so full of shit your eyes just turned brown.”
“You kiss Mitch with that mouth?” he asked.
Clare took a long breath. “Fine. Be stubborn. Change the subject. Works for me. I want to talk to you about something else anyway.”
“I’m talked out.”
Unconcerned, she rose, snatched the beer right out of his hands, and took a long pull from it as she looked around his yard.
He knew what she saw. A beach shack on the bluffs that had been built a hundred years ago and was in desperate need of renovation. He’d been working on the place slowly from the inside out, so most of his work didn’t yet show.
He wasn’t in a hurry. The most important thing was the mind-soothing view of his favorite place on earth.
“Do you want the truth?” Clare asked quietly.
“If I say no, will you go away?”
Of course she wasn’t going to go away. She never did what he wanted.
“I’m worried about you,” she said.
Ah, Christ. “Don’t be.”
“You’ve been in Lucky Harbor for two years, and near as I can tell, you haven’t dated. You haven’t dated at all since Susan—”
Shit. Cole snagged his beer back and finished it off, trying to remember whether he had more in his fridge. Doubtful, as he hadn’t been to the store in recent memory. Rising, he peeked into the bag she’d brought. Homemade chili and cornbread. Nice. But beer would have been nicer. He reached in to pinch off a piece of the cornbread and Clare smacked his hand like he was her five-year-old son, Jonathan. “Save it for dinner,” she said. “Now back to Susan—”