“This isn’t funny,” she said.
“It’s okay, I’m right here.”
She’d been staring down at her shoes to avoid the dizzying view, but she turned to eyeball him. “What are you going to do if we get stuck up here?”
“Get us unstuck.”
He said this so calmly, so reasonably, that she had to laugh too, but it was a breathless laugh.
He sipped at his shake, looking steady as a rock.
“We’re both drinking shakes,” she said inanely.
“And walking the pier,” she said.
“Do you do this a lot?” she asked.
“Always have,” he said. “Started when I was young. I told you I was the runt of the house, right? I’d escape and come here.”
The idea that he’d had anything to escape from caught at her, even more than the night air in her face, ocean-scented and chilly. “What was wrong at your house?”
“Estrogen overload in the form of three bossy older sisters,” he said. “Ever been held down and had your hair curled, makeup put on, and your toenails painted?”
Actually, yes. It was called the makeup trailer. She took in his long, leanly muscled build. He was strong as hell, and she knew it. “You were the runt?” she asked in disbelief.
“Yep,” he said. “Small and puny. I weighed about eighty-five pounds soaking wet until high school.”
“What happened in high school?” she asked, unable to help herself.
“I caught up.” He met her gaze, his smile fading. “So we both came looking for comfort tonight.”
“I hardly call being a million feet in the air comfort,” she said. And though she hadn’t looked out, she could feel her stomach drop, signaling that they were getting higher. And higher. She closed her eyes.
“What were you seeking comfort from?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head. “Not going there. Not in space.” Or ever.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll go first.” She felt him shift slightly and risked a quick peek. He was leaning back now, long legs stretched out in front of him as if he didn’t have a care. He was staring out into the admittedly glorious night, and still they were rising, rising, rising, and she slammed her eyes closed again.
“I just left a meeting with Sam and Tanner,” he said casually. “It was a good meeting. Our business is solid, we’re solid. But it’s a lot of pressure to keep up with our expectations. Open your eyes, Olivia.”
She squeezed them tighter. “Hell no.”
She felt him shift again, felt his arm settle along the back of the bench, brushing her shoulders comfortingly, his fingers lightly stroking the nape of her neck.
She shivered. “Still no.”
Something brushed her jaw. His mouth? Her entire body tightened at the thought and her eyes flew involuntarily open.
And met his.
It wasn’t his mouth touching her, it was his thumb, though he was close enough that they could—and did—share their next breath. He stroked her jaw again. “We’re at the top.”
We’re at the top…
That’s what Olivia used to hear every week when the ratings would come in. And then the network would shower her with love and appreciation, and life would go on.
Until it’d come to a crashing halt.
She opened her eyes, going stock still. Behind Cole, the sky was purple, with only a hint of the stars that would light it up when full darkness hit. The ocean swells stretched out as far as the eye could see, meeting the horizon. Far below them were the twinkling lights of Lucky Harbor.
He was right. She could see everything, the whole world in a glance.
“Breathe,” he said quietly, entwining their hands and bringing them up to his torso, letting her feel his chest rise and fall steadily. “Just breathe.”
She sucked in some air, suitably distracted by the feel of the hard pecs beneath her hand. He looked so deceptively normal in his clothes that she forgot that beneath he was anything but. She’d seen that for herself, every single perfectly sculpted inch.
And a certain number of those inches? Mouthwatering.
She’d been wondering about him over the past few days. The town had gotten it in its collective head that they were seeing each other, and she’d been fending off the “So you and Cole?” question at least once a day.
At night she had only her own questions to fend off…
“Better?” he asked, still holding her hand to his chest.
She thought of his reaction to her peeking beneath the blankets at him and smiled in spite of herself.
“Yeah,” he said, watching her face carefully. “Better.”
Good thing he didn’t know why.
His gaze never left hers, and his mouth twitched. “Care to share?” he asked.
“Expectations.” She breathed some more and stared out as they—finally!—began their slow descent back to earth, the cool, salty ocean air blowing in her face. “You said it was hard to live up to the expectations you had of your business.” Her entire life had been nothing but one long expectation. ”I know how that feels.”
“You don’t say much about yourself,” he said after a moment. “When did you leave home?”
“You never really leave, do you?” she said.
“You mean you can take the girl out of Kentucky, but you can’t take Kentucky out of the girl?”