“You’ll get insurance money and find a place you love. It’s a new start.”
She stared at him, resentful. “Since when do you see the glass half full?”
“Since you taught me to.” Without warning, he rose and scooped her up with him.
She gasped. “What are you doing? I can walk!”
Ignoring her, he turned to the paramedic. “She’s all good, yeah?”
“All good,” the paramedic said with a thumbs-up.
With a nod, Jacob turned and strode up the deck and toward his cabin, where some of the best memories of her life had taken place. “Jacob, put me down.”
He did. On his bed. He set the keys to the cabin on the nightstand. Then he sat on the edge of the bed, a hand on either side of her hips as he leaned over her. His shoulders eclipsed the sight of the room behind him, leaving nothing to look at but him. Dark jaw set. Dark eyes serious. “I have to go,” he said quietly.
Huh. Turned out her heart could break in two over and over again. She looked away. Or tried. But his broad shoulders took up all of her view. Stupid broad shoulders. “So you’ve said,” she managed.
He brought her face back to his. “I have to, Soph,” he repeated.
“There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.”
“It’s not that I want to go,” he said.
“You’re the one who made the call.”
“I signed up for this. It’s my job and my duty, and I’ll finish it. I want to finish it.” He pulled her to him. “And then I’m coming back.”
Her gaze flew to his as she tried to pull back, but he just held on to her. With those big, warm, strong arms around her, it took her a moment to speak calmly, but even then she shoved her face into his throat first so as not have to look at him. “I’m sure that will make your family very happy,” she whispered.
With a rough sound of…regret?…he slid his fingers into her hair and pulled just enough that she had no choice but to look at him again. “My family’s not the only reason I want to come back,” he said.
“What else is there?” she managed.
For a long beat he said nothing, and she thought that was it, the end of the conversation.
But then he spoke, his voice lowered to the tone that always reminded her of when he was lusciously deep inside her, whispering naughty nothings in her ear.
“Thirty seconds,” he said.
She blinked. “What?”
“I saw the flames on the boat and knew you were in there. It took thirty of the longest seconds of my life to run from my driveway down the dock to the boat and find you alive and kicking.”
Her breath caught, but she wasn’t sure what to say to that, so she tried something new and kept her mouth shut.
“I keep getting these pictures of you in my head,” he said. “You lying in my bed, your hair a wild disaster all around your face.”
He smiled. “I love the way it smells—”
“It smells like smoke.”
“Shh. I love how it clings to my stubble.”
She liked where this was going, but she kept still just in case she was wrong. Because it wouldn’t be the first time.
“And when you’re truly pissed off,” he said, “it gleams like fire. Just like you.” He pressed his face into her hair and squeezed her hard. “Christ, Soph, you scared ten years off my life today.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I know.” He touched his forehead to hers. “I was wrong about some things.”
She didn’t move. Hell, she didn’t even breathe. “Were you?”
He smiled a little, not daunted in the least at her frosty tone. “A lot of things, actually. All of it regarding you and my ability to resist falling for you, and falling hard, Soph. You’re always on my mind.”
How was she supposed to hold on to her anger at a guy who wasn’t scared off by her mercurial moods or her temperament, a man could see through all of her BS and still love her? “Keep talking,” she said.
“I think about your eyes,” he told her. “How that deep green cuts right through me, past my armor, straight to the meat of things.”
“And by armor, you mean your stubborn obstinacy?”
He smiled, not insulted. “You see me,” he said simply, banishing the last of her resistance.
“What else?” she whispered, soft and warm now, no longer braced for rejection.
“I love how your pulse quickens when I touch you. You tremble for more and your lips part, begging for my kiss…” He leaned in, and she stopped him with a hand to his chest.