She glanced up at him briefly. He was waiting patiently on her, reclined across the blanket, propped up on his elbow. A shadow from the cabana bent across his bare shoulder, and it pulsed a rush of energy through her. It reminded her. Things couldn't ever be the same after this, after the things she felt, after the things she had fantasized about doing with him. "I don't want to go back."
"Triple platinum." She said confidently.
"Hmmm…" Humming, in response as she looked down at his hand, opened in hers, holding it steady on her thigh. "That's a thing, right? Did it already happen?"
The way she giggled when she said it made him feel a hundred things. "Do you actually know what you're looking at or no?" He asked, his voice light and playful.
"No, of course not."
He sighed, "You said you were gonna read my future."
"I mean, I was joking." She laughed, "Pretty sure there is some hocus pocus to that anyway, even if I did know what I was looking for." She folded his fingers back into his palm and held his fist between her hands momentarily...
"How can your palm lines really predict the future or reveal some secret truth? Plus, if I could read the future off your hand, I would have mentioned it before."
"I have no idea… you said Melanie told you."
Coll rolled her eyes. She released his hand from hers before leaning back into her elbows on the blanket beneath them. "I said she researched it once. For a project. I don't think there's anything your palm can tell me that I don't already know. Your future looks very bright. And secrets are secrets til you tell them, aren't they?"
He narrowed his eyes at her. The water had nearly all evaporated from her hair, leaving it with a salty sheen, her white bathing suit clung to her body in a way that he enjoyed too much and her skin was glistening in the sun.
Becka had ordered the bathing suit and sent it along for Maggie to collect with the other things she was picking up from stores and deliveries. He wasn't sure why, but white felt like a surprising but also appropriate choice. And the way she looked in it made him want her even more than he already did.
More. "Well, what were you looking for then?" His tone was flirtatious and interested, and it heated her up even more.
It made her think of her list of unresolveds…
"There might be one thing you could tell me." Her head tilted in anticipation of his answer, and she mindlessly adjusted her sunglasses.
She sat up straight, pulling one of her knees into her body, resting her chin on it. "I just think about this sometimes, and I guess I'm curious…" There was a brief silence. Really want to know. "What really happened with Mandy?"
He brushed his palms together, keeping his eyes on her as he did so.
Intrigued, she couldn't help but inquire. "Knew what?"
Hanging his head, he shifted uncomfortably. "She said it was obvious what was going on, and she wanted me to have what I should have." Interested in her reaction, he eyed her as he continued, "She said she could tell I was in love with you."
Coll's jaw locked into place, and she was taken aback. "What?" The memory of Mandy at her door rushed back to her. It felt like years had passed since then. "If things work out…" “She-”
"I was going to break up with her, but she beat me to it."
"I was an idiot…" he began.
Quietly, he processed more thoughts.
"I didn't know… I've never felt like that. The way I felt - the way I feel about you. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know what to do with that…even once I knew I didn't know."
"You didn't want to do anything you weren't sure about." She reminded him.
"When did you know?"
"That I was in love with you?"
"When you got locked out." He said, The surprise was evident on her face, but he continued. "When did you know?"
"I left the building that night to call Becka…" She began, "to tell her I was in love with you."
"That's where you were?"
"Yeah… you were singing Back to Your Heart, and I couldn't stand it anymore." Her smile widened. "And then I cried about it. And fell asleep on the sidewalk." she laughed. "Actually, though…" She paused, pursing her lips. "I knew before that. That was the first time I admitted it to anyone, though".
"That night in London… I don't know, I was all jumbled up, trying to convince myself it was something else. You were still with Mandy. And doing … whatever you were doing."
"Being an idiot." He offered.
"It was complicated… or at least it seemed like it was."
"I really wanted to do something, but also I didn't. I didn't even know what I wanted. That was such a great night…"
Tucking some hair behind her ear, she looked away briefly. Returning her hand to her face, she hid from him momentarily. She knew she was blushing as the feelings he left her with that night resurfaced.
"I'm glad nothing really happened… physically. Because Mandy was still a factor."
The discomfort in remembering the things that happened in the days, weeks, and years before he had kissed her was acute. He moved into a sitting position next to her, and she instinctively leaned into his bare shoulder, "Where have you been my whole life?" he asked as his hand crept behind her neck, bringing her face closer to his.
Their eyes met, and she responded quietly, "Waiting patiently."
He kissed her quickly, dragging his thumb over her cheek before continuing.
"I was such an idiot. I was so stupid." He groaned, "About everything."
She shook her head, "With me, you were careful. I appreciated it. I knew I was in love with you, for a while I wasn't admitting it to myself. I figured it was mutual… I could feel it."
The annoyance he felt with himself was evident. "I should have told you sooner, though."
She shrugged, "You told me at exactly the right time." Her hand crept into his, "I didn't want to say anything… because I didn't want you to feel responsible or obligated." She began, "and also because I was having fun. I didn't want to mess that up." Her emotions were bubbling up, and she took a deep breath to calm them. "When you asked me if I trusted you, I knew for sure you meant because of all this history you have with women, and because of the particular history I don't have. Then I started thinking it must be bigger than that like maybe you didn't trust that you could be what I wanted - or that you could love me the way you knew I wanted."
"That's exactly how I felt."
"I know how much it sucks to feel rushed or pressured to do something you aren't ready to do, and I didn't want that for you. Or with you. I don't want something fleeting with you. I wanted you to have whatever time you needed to feel okay about that. You had to feel it for yourself that I trusted you that way. I hope you do… now." She sighed, "Either way, I knew you didn't want to tell me you were in love with me until you knew for sure you could back it up. Because you care about me so deeply. I wasn't in any rush." She paused, swallowing back some anxiety. I might be now though.
What she was saying was heavy and full of things he wanted to hear, but at the same time, it made him feel lighter.
"How do you understand everything?"
"I don't understand everything, I understand you." She rolled her thumb over his knuckles, calculating if she could work in something else. Can’t mess it up. "Even still, for as sure as I was about being patient, I almost did say something. That night I knocked on your door; I went there to tell you I was in love with you but … it didn't happen."
Her cheeks blushed, and she took a deep breath. "Sometimes when I'm with you, things get a little hazy… in a really, really good way." Her mouth twisted into a grin, "you make me feel a lot of things, it's overwhelming. You were kissing me…" even just remembering it made her feel hazy and tingly, "and I just wanted to enjoy that. Honestly, all summer, I felt pulled between moving to the next thing and wanting to enjoy what was happening. But that night, by the time I could think straight again, I knew, or… I remembered… I had to be patient. Or at least that there was no rush."
His eyes scanned her face, and he dropped his head, kissing her shoulder gently.
They were both quiet for a moment before he spoke again.
"Did he pressure you?"
Oh. “No. Not really.” She said.
"I hate that he loves you. I hate that he has gotten close enough to you to know how amazing you are."
She rolled her eyes. "He doesn't even know me practically. Please don't worry about him. I've never been with anyone the way I've been with you. And I never wanted to be." She explained, "Physically or emotionally."
His hand moved to her thigh and instantly she was back at bunny's, absolutely smitten and falling fast for him, but she wasn't intimidated this time "There is no part of me that John or anyone else has had or knows or understands that you haven't or don't or won't or can't." She smiled. "And I'm going in the water now because it's so freaking hot."
Suddenly she was on her feet and walking quickly to the water and directly into it. Without hesitation, she surrendered to a small wave that crashed against her, and he got to his feet too, still reeling from what she had just told him. "there is no part of me that anyone else has had that you haven't… or won't." It made his skin crawl. in a really, really good way.
"Look at me, enjoying Florida!" She yelled back to him as another wave crashed against her, making her laugh.
He made his way to her, and as his hand reached for her hip, one of the smoldering embers inside of her ignited, her entire body simmered in the heat he activated. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and she leaned into him.
"I feel really lucky right now." He said.