“Say it,” he said quietly. “Say what you need to say.”
How did he know? How did he always know? “All right,” she whispered. But she needed space for this, so she took a few steps back from him. “You told that lake patrol guy that we had a private dock secured.” She met his gaze. “We? Is that the royal ‘we,’ or you and the mouse in your pocket?”
“Babe, that’s not a mouse in my pocket.”
She rolled her eyes. “You lied for me, Jacob. Why?”
“It wasn’t a lie. You’re staff for the Wounded Warriors event. And did you forget what I told you about us?”
Her heart did a slow roll in her chest. “I’m yours,” she whispered. “For the duration.”
“Yes, but more than that, I’m yours,” he said, quiet steel. “That means I give you everything I can. Help. Backup. Whatever you need.”
Because that was way too much for her brain to compute, she turned away and looked at the spread he’d laid out. “This looks like a date,” she said warily.
“So…not a date?”
He smiled. “Which will get you sitting down and eating with me?”
“Not a date,” she said instantly.
“Fine.” He snagged her hand, pulled her down to the bench to sit with him.
“No glasses,” she said, nodding to the wine.
“No plates either.”
“I can go belowdecks and—”
“No need,” he said smoothly, opening everything and pulling out his pocketknife to slice the summer sausage and cheese. When he had a cracker loaded, he handed it to her and then made one for himself. He repeated that action a handful of times, until he sighed with pleasure. It was a sound she knew well, and it had her nipples tightening.
“I was starving,” he said, and opened the wine, offering the bottle to her.
It was a visceral reminder of that night they’d shared the Scotch, and the memory made her hesitate.
“Shut up,” she said without heat. “I swore off alcohol after the Scotch, but after a day like today, a girl needs a little something-something. And don’t—” She pointed at him. “Don’t turn that into a double entendre.”
“Don’t have to,” he said, still grinning. “You did it for me.” He watched her drink and then held out his hand. She passed the bottle.
He let his fingers drift over hers for a beat before taking a drink. There was something about watching his mouth covering the lip of the bottle where her mouth had just been that felt so…intimate.
As she had that night, she stared at the way his Adam’s apple moved when he swallowed, at the stubble on his jaw. And then, inexplicably drawn upward, she looked into his eyes and sucked in a breath when she found him watching her watching him.
It had her busying herself with wrapping up their leftovers, which granted, wasn’t much. Apparently a shitty day plus oral sex in public made a girl hungry. “I owe you dinner,” she said. “And while this is very good, mine will be better.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.” He took another long pull of wine, and she realized something. His eyes were shadowed, and lines of exhaustion were etched in his beautiful face.
She thought of what she’d seen at the resort, him with his siblings and the unease she’d sensed in him. “You’ve been hanging out with your family,” she said casually. “How’s it going?”
He lifted a shoulder.
She smiled. “Maybe you could use some words?”
He gave her an impressive eye roll. “Could be smoother,” he admitted.
She hesitated but couldn’t help butting in where she wasn’t wanted. “They love you, you know. Your family.”
Another oh-so-expressive shoulder lift.
She set down the bottle. “You know, it’s okay to give yourself a break. Sometimes you have to get things wrong before you can get them right, and that’s okay.”
He slid her a look. “Is that what you do?”
“Hello,” she said, spreading out her arms. “Look at me. I’m a temp worker in a temp job because I excel at getting things wrong. But I’m trying.”
“You think I’m not?”
“I think you need to learn to let things go,” she said gently. “You came back, Jacob. You get points for that, no matter how it goes. Stop looking in the rearview mirror and start looking out in front of you. Earlier today, Hud couldn’t take his eyes off you. I think he wants you to be at home here. He just doesn’t know any better than you do how to deal.”