“And Sam and Tanner too,” their new neighbor said. “Went to high school with them all eons ago, though I was behind them a few years, and I was the biggest computer geek to ever live, so they didn’t know I existed.” She winced. “I had this really pathetic crush on Tanner. Haven’t seen any of them in forever. Is Cole still the sexy nerd, the MacGyver guy who can fix anything with a roll of duct tape and a screwdriver and those big ol’ hands of his?”
“Yes,” Olivia heard herself say, and then she bit her own tongue when Becca refocused her attention on her as if to say Really? “Fine, I saw him naked and he was amazing, okay? Can we drop it now? It’s not like we’re dating or anything. I don’t even know him.” Look at her fib. Because actually, she knew a lot about him. She knew that although he was easygoing and laid-back and didn’t appear to let things get to him, he’d been deeply hurt by his last relationship. She knew he loved his family, crazy or otherwise, and that he’d do anything for them and expected the same in return. It was those expectations of those he cared about that terrified her.
She’d never done so well with expectations. In fact, it was safe to say she failed at them, spectacularly.
Becca whipped out her phone. “You know what I want to know? Why my soon-to-be-husband didn’t tell me there was nakedness.” She was texting as she spoke. She paused as an answer came back and blew out a sigh. Then she showed Olivia and Callie the screen.
Stay out of it.
Callie laughed. “Still Sam, then. Grumpy as ever.”
“And dead,” Becca muttered, shoving her phone away. She pointed at Olivia. “And you. You pinkie promised me a story. Don’t you think I’ve forgotten.”
“I can’t wait to see everyone again,” Callie said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
“Well, since I’m going to have to kill Sam, I’m sorry ahead of time for your loss,” Becca said.
They came to the pier and the local diner. Eat Me was open for business, and Becca pushed Olivia in ahead of her.
“Food first,” she said. “And then you start spilling some serious deets.”
Cole stopped outside Olivia’s shop at the end of the day. It was pouring buckets and had been for hours. He’d called their chartered fishing group in early, which had turned out to be a good idea, since ten minutes after Tanner had moored, the swells were being clocked at twelve feet.
Hood up, hands shoved in his pockets, he took a peek inside Unique Boutique. The place was the picture of a warm, old-fashioned gift shop where you could find just about anything. The lights were on and so was the music, but he couldn’t see a single soul.
Above him, lightning cracked. And then a beat later, thunder rolled.
Cole let himself inside, tossed back his wet hood, and moved through the place. He had the pleasure of finding Olivia bent over a hip-high shelving unit in her office. It was a most excellent view, the best view he’d had all damn day, in fact.
Her feet were barely touching the floor as she reached for something on the floor, out of range.
But that wasn’t the best part. No, that honor went to what she was wearing—some sort of Valkyrie woman warrior costume, complete with a leather bustier dress and matching arm bands with high-heeled gladiator sandals that might as well have been the on switch to his libido.
Topping off the vision, she was swearing up a storm.
“Damn sonofabitch, piece-of-shit—”
“Problem?” he asked.
She squeaked, jerked, and then the entire shelving unit collapsed, taking her down with it.
Cole rushed forward and scooped Olivia up, setting her on her feet. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” She blew a strand of hair from her eyes. “Well, except for my pride.”
He found himself grinning. “Nice costume.”
“Got it from eBay. It came from the set of Game of Thrones.”
He didn’t care if it’d come from the moon. He loved the leather skirt¸ the straps wrapped up her calves, and especially the corset barely containing her breasts. He wanted to pull on the tie of the corset and unravel her. “You going to be a warrior princess for Halloween?” he asked.
“No, but I’m hoping someone in Lucky Harbor will want to be—”
Olivia jerked. “One, two, three,” she whispered, and cringed as thunder rolled through the shop. “That’s awfully close,” she said shakily. “Too close.”
“Hey.” He pulled her into him. “It’s okay. We’ve had worse.”
“But what if the power goes out?”
“It probably will,” he said.
She chewed on her lower lip, looking worried.
“You afraid of the dark?”
At this, her spine snapped straight. “No.”
He smiled, and she sagged. “Okay, maybe just a little,” she said. “I blame the Sleepy Hollow marathon I just watched.”
“I could get your mind off of being scared.”
She met his gaze. “That’d be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
True enough. He looked at the collapsed shelving unit at their feet. Cheap laminated plywood, and poorly constructed at that. “New?”
“Yes.” Olivia gave the pile a little kick. “And it’s a piece of crap.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “But it’s more how it was put together that was the problem.”