She’d finally stopped when she’d had no choice, when the money had run out and both her mother and her sister were hounding her to go back to acting.
She’d refused. Still aimless, she’d gathered all the stuff she’d collected and had in storage and had done what no one would have ever expected of her, the one thing she’d been yearning to do since Mrs. Henderson had told her of the idyllic Lucky Harbor.
She’d moved here and opened up a shop and, for the first time, was living like a real person. Not off a script or her forged bio.
That had been a year ago, and though she was literally living paycheck to paycheck, she’d been happy—until the past month, when her mom had started making noises about needing money again.
But the night pushed that worry away for now. So did sitting so close to Cole, close enough that she could feel the warmth of his thigh pressed to hers, the easy strength of him, not to mention the fact that he smelled more delicious than chocolate fudge brownies—which was really saying something.
“I’d love to hear about your family sometime,” he said quietly, as if he didn’t want to spook her.
She’d been telling tales about her past for so long that they always slipped easily off her tongue. Naturally. And since she’d never really cared what anyone had thought of her, she’d never felt particularly guilty.
But she did now, because already Cole was different. She found she cared that she’d let him believe her family was gone, that she was alone, and she wished she could take it back and start again. But she couldn’t.
You could try the truth…
She opened her mouth to say…what? What could she possibly say? I lied because I’m a coward? Or I lied because you don’t know this yet but you’re going to leave me like everyone else always does, and it’s my little way of protecting myself from pain?
Lame, and she was afraid it was also a little pathetic.
Tell him, said the usually silent angel on her right shoulder.
Don’t tell him, the devil on her other shoulder said. We haven’t gotten to sleep with him yet! You’ll blow it!
Olivia shook her head. Cole wouldn’t understand. He was strong of mind and body. He was honest to the very core. He didn’t shy away from the difficult or the hard-to-take. He didn’t shy away from anything. If she told him the truth now, he’d stop looking at her like…like she was interesting.
Like he wanted to eat her up with a spoon.
The Ferris wheel clicked to a stop before she could decide what to do. They were back on the ground. She stared at Cole in amazement, and he grinned.
“Yeah,” he said. “You lived.”
Tiny let them off the ride. Full dark had fallen now. Long fingers of fog were riding in, sliding along the water’s surface, dancing around their heads. They walked back to the beginning of the pier, where Olivia expected Cole to break off and go his own merry way. Instead, he kept stride alongside her toward her shop. “Where are you going?” she asked.
“Walking you back to your car.”
“No need,” she said. “It’s not like this was a date or anything. There’s no getting lucky at the end of the night, you know.”
Apparently uninsulted and not at all bothered, he laughed. She wasn’t sure what was so funny.
“You are,” he said, reading her mind.
At her block, she headed around to the back door of her shop, where it was pitch-black, as usual.
Cole stared up at the light that wasn’t lit. “You need to put that on a timer so you’re never out here in the dark like this.”
“I have a timer,” she said, fumbling through her purse for her keys. “I just can’t get it to work.”
He waited until she opened the shop door, and then he stepped in behind her.
“Hey,” she said. “I said you’re not going to get lucky…” She trailed off because he wasn’t even looking at her. He was flicking the light by the door on and off.
Nothing was happening.
“New bulb?” he asked.
She sighed. “It doesn’t work, never has.”
He shook his head in reproach. “You have a new bulb?”
“You’ve already fixed my front door and office lights, Cole. I can’t let you—”
“Could’ve been done by now, Supergirl.” Then he leapt onto the landing railing, balancing there with absolute ease as he reached up with his good arm and unscrewed the bulb.
She stared up at him. “You’re injured. You can’t—”
“Here.” He handed her the old bulb. “Grab me a new one, yeah?”
She blinked. How the hell could such a laid-back, easygoing guy also be so alpha? “Please?”
“No worries, babe. I won’t go until I’ve fixed this.”
“No.” She had to laugh. “I meant ‘go grab me a new bulb, please.’”
He looked down at her, eyes glittering. “I like the way you say please.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“Fine,” he said. “Would you get me a new bulb, please?”
So of course she did.
When she got back with the bulb, he had a penlight in his teeth, shining it at his hands, which were working a piece of duct tape around and around a wire. He looked like he knew exactly what he was doing, and her pulse kicked.
Which was absolutely juvenile. She’d seen good-looking guys handling tools before.