After a while, Jacob lithely jumped from his board to the shore and gestured for her to do the same. Knowing she could never do it with the same grace, she instead crawled off hers while he held the board steady, making him grin.
“There’s a path up to that cliff,” he said, pointing up about fifty feet above them, to a rocky overhang. “Want to jump off into the water?”
“Sure,” she said, eyeing the drop-off skeptically. “The day I’m given a terminal diagnosis, that’ll be the first thing I do.”
He cocked his head. “What are you afraid of?”
Um…everything? “The water’s cold.”
“You’re already wet,” he pointed out.
Yes, and just his words seemed to make her wetter. And as she sucked on her lower lip, he laughed low in his throat. “I can’t help it!” she said. “You have a dirty mind.”
“Babe, that’s all you,” he said, still smiling. “But I love it. Come on.”
“We don’t have shoes.”
“The path is smooth. It’ll be fine.”
Oh, dear God. They climbed the steep trail, Jacob urging her on. At the top, she stopped to catch her breath, losing it entirely when Jacob hauled her sweaty, sticky body in close to his. Palming her ass, he squeezed, smiled, and kissed her. “You’re beautiful,” he said, then flashed a quick smile, took her hand, and…ran with her right off the cliff.
She screamed all the way down and into the water, but was laughing when they surfaced, grinning at each other like loons.
After, they sat on the boards in the water side by side and watched the sun start its descent, making the water shimmer like a blanket of diamonds.
“Tell me a story,” he said quietly.
She glanced over at him in surprise. “Why?”
“Because you owe me a story.”
“How do you figure?” she asked.
“I’ve told you lots of stories.”
She sighed. “That’s not why.”
“Fine. Lucas upset you today, and I guess I want to know why you let a guy who you don’t love anymore get to you.”
Her gaze flew to his, but there was no judgment there, nothing but genuine curiosity. “I didn’t know we were at the discussing-our-past stage of the relationship,” she said. “Especially since we’re not having a relationship beyond checking each other for ticks.”
He laughed, the sound low and sexy. In nothing but those board shorts and a whole bunch of really great muscle definition, he made her body come alive and ache, damn him.
“You want to check me for ticks right now, don’t you?” he asked.
“No.” Crap. “Okay, yes, fine, I want to check you for ticks.”
“Too late,” he said. “I want a story.”
“The Lucas story.”
She sighed. “I told you already.”
“Fill in the blanks.”
She shrugged. “We met my freshman year of college. He was in law school, so a few years older, wiser, blah, blah. I was a…pleaser. I’d do anything for a kind word. I’m not exactly proud of that.”
Jacob shifted and started to speak, but she shook her head. “No, it’s true. I’d spent my entire life trying to please my dad and that hadn’t worked out, but I was determined to make someone love me.” She winced at how that sounded. “Lucas came along and paid me attention, and I was in hook, line, and sinker.”
“Not your fault,” Jacob said.
“Of course it was my fault,” Sophie said. “I don’t believe in being a product of my environment. And yet I played right into that. Poor little neglected Sophie, desperately seeking attention. And I found it too. Lucas was out of my league and I knew it, but he had this really great car…”
Jacob let out a low laugh. “So I wouldn’t have had a shot at you.”
“Which is kinda my point,” she said. “I was that shallow girl, which means I got what I deserved.”
His smile faded. “Maybe you should tell me the rest, because I don’t believe that for a second.”
She closed her eyes and remembered. “Lucas would see me walking to class and give me a ride. He knew money was a problem for me and he’d buy me things. A pretty dress. A fancy meal. I was young and stupid and I let his charisma turn my head even though I knew he was a player. I wasn’t the only one attracted to his showy ways. But I believed him when he told me I was the one.”