“Out,” he said.
“But I want to hear more about you getting scared,” Tanner said.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll go,” Olivia said, and still gripping her clothes, she shoved her feet into Cole’s athletic shoes. They were huge on her, and she had to work at not tripping as she moved past the guys, walking like a clown to keep the shoes on. “I’ve got to get moving anyway. I’m late—”
Cole caught her arm and very gently drew her around. The scowl that had appeared along with Sam and Tanner smoothed out as he ducked down a little to look into her eyes. “Give me a sec,” he said. “And I’ll walk you—”
“Not necessary.” She pulled free. “I’m…late,” she repeated.
Olivia wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong with her. She knew she was being rude as hell, but she had this overwhelming desire to get the hell out, to get away from Cole’s warm baby blues and his yummy man smell and the way his voice sounded like smooth whiskey.
She didn’t even know what smooth whiskey was supposed to sound like.
“You look familiar,” Tanner said.
She shifted her wet things to one arm and put a hand to her still damp hair, wondering how bad she must look if he wasn’t sure. “We’ve seen each other around,” she said.
“No, I know that,” he said. “You watch us surf.”
She did her best not to turn red. “I…” Well, hell. “Yeah,” she said on a sigh. “That’s me.”
“But that’s not it,” he said with a slow headshake. “It’s something else…You ever model or act or anything like that?”
Her heart picked up speed. This sometimes happened, people almost-but-not-quite recognized her from Not Again, Hailey! Luckily, enough time had passed that it rarely happened anymore, and it’d never happened here in Lucky Harbor. This was a good thing, as she was happy living anonymously. Not in the shadow of Sharlyn’s wild and crazy charades, but as Olivia Bentley, sole proprietor. Law-abiding citizen. “I get that a lot,” she said as casually as she could. “I have that kind of face, I guess.”
Tanner smiled easily. “My mistake,” he said.
She nodded and told herself to breathe, idiot, breathe.
Cole’s eyes were on hers, steady and sure in a way she admired, since she wasn’t feeling either at the moment. “You’re locked out of your place,” he reminded her, bending to pick up her sole boot. “I can—”
“No worries,” she said quickly. “I’ve got a hide-a-key.” Another big fat lie, but one of her dubious skills, on top of knowing a little bit about everything, was that she was a really good liar.
Taking the stairs with the big, built, intimidating Sam and Tanner still standing at the base of them wasn’t easy, but Olivia was nothing if not an actress from birth. She lifted her chin, kept hold of her smile, blanked out her expression, and…
Hightailed it out of there.
Once on the dock, she ran down the length of it like the devil himself was on her heels. She tried to banish the image of Cole from her mind—standing in his bare feet with his tousled brown hair and those warm eyes that were somehow both sharp and soft at the same time, holding her boot, looking for all the world like Prince Charming with the glass slipper.
Good thing she knew better than anyone that fairy tales didn’t exist.
Cole turned from the stairs to find Sam eyeballing the boat interior and Tanner eyeballing him. “Keep looking at me like that,” Cole told him, “and you’d better be buying me dinner afterward.”
“You fell in?” The words were heavy on the doubt, which made sense given the three of them were as surefooted at sea as a Navy SEAL, even if only Tanner had actually been one.
Cole thought of the stupid spark when he’d been rewiring the running lights, the one that had given him the flashback that had started this whole adventure, and how badly he didn’t want to admit that. Far less humiliating to let them think he’d been clumsy in front of the pretty woman. “Yeah. I fell in.”
“And then you convinced her to get naked,” Tanner said, and shook his head, impressed. “Fast work for a guy who usually moves like he’s been dipped in cement.”
“It’s called hypothermia,” Cole said. “I was trying to make sure we didn’t get hypothermic.”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Tanner asked drily.
“She thought she was saving me,” he repeated.
She’d certainly woken him up. He’d been walking around in a fog lately, a fact he hadn’t even fully realized until Olivia had plunged into the water on top of his head and nearly drowned them both.
Getting her out of the water and dealing with the aftermath, sitting and talking beneath the blankets, looking into her dark chocolate gaze and seeing all sorts of secrets there to be mined…he’d felt more alive than he had in a damn long time.
Even if his head was aching like a son of a bitch. And so was his shoulder, now that he thought about it.
“You could’ve just picked up the phone to get a date,” Tanner said. “It’d have been a hell of a lot easier.”
“Yeah?” Cole asked. “And that’s worked so well for you? When was the last time you got laid?”