“C’mon, let’s go back downstairs. I want to dance.” Evie grabbed my hand and dragged me down the steps and back into the bar. She signaled Jason for another round and we headed to the dance floor.
We danced and drank and danced some more. Later, when I reflect back on that night, I think I knew then that my world would change monumentally. All the events of my life had been so simple, so predictable. This summer had been a shift in my, and my parents, best laid plans, and I felt like I was going off-script.
I could see heads turning and heard, “Welcome home,” and, “How are you doing?” The air around me thickened, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Somehow, I knew Nick had arrived, and my reaction to his presence was visceral. I hadn’t even seen him, and yet I knew something intense was about to happen.
When I finally turned and saw him for the first time, my chest constricted and I couldn’t get a breath. Something in me shifted, and it was almost as if it was pre-ordained that my life would never be the same. Even if I had known the outcome of that summer, I couldn’t say for certain I was mature enough to have made different decisions.
Staring at him, I tried to process my sudden, overwhelming emotions. Feeling like a weight just landed on me, I put my hand to my collar bone and took a deep breath. This was insane. He was beautiful. He looked like Jason, but taller, sexier and more masculine.
His faded jeans, gray T-shirt, and Eddie Bauer vest gave him that “Seattle look,” and he would have been clean shaven if it wasn’t almost midnight. I couldn’t look away from his face, with his short, blond-tipped hair and kissable mouth—I was simply mesmerized.
His face was perfectly symmetrical, with a straight nose and a mischievous grin. His teeth were perfectly straight and white, and I noticed a dimple in his cheek. Everything about him was calm and strong. He appeared confident, but not arrogant.
If I hadn’t already known he was studying law, I would have taken him for just another pretty, island summer boy. Guys were slapping him on the back, and the girls were working their way towards him, like moths to a flame. His eyes were sensuous and carnal, and he was looking at the girls as if they amused him. I could understand why they were hovering around him, waiting their turn for a hug and a greeting.
I was lounging on a couch with my back to the front door, and Julie and Shaye were across from me. “I think Ethan owes us dinner for all of this work we did today,” I announced as I dangled a diet Coke from my hand. I had one leg thrown over the arm of the couch.
“I’m sure he wouldn’t be opposed to that,” Shaye said. “I could go for a burger from the pub.”
“UGH! A burger after a pizza lunch? Gross!” Julie protested. “I need a salad. Maybe we can get him to take us to the Bay Café.”
I had closed my eyes, and spoke without opening them. “I don’t feel like getting cleaned up to go to dinner. I’m with Shaye.”
“Maybe Ethan likes a dirty girl,” Julie said archly.
“Oh, please, Julie, if I remember correctly, you didn’t even give him a second look.” I opened my eyes and saw the glint in hers.
“I wasn’t talking about me.”
“He works for my brother, Julie. It would be inappropriate. From what I remember, he was a very nice guy.” I had more heat in my voice than I intended, and Julie, sensing weakness, continued goading me.
“And from what I remember, he was a hunky, yummy man. You should totally try and climb that.”
Julie was starting to piss me off; I was tired of her innuendoes.
Doing my best to shock her, I said, “Oh, yes, I should totally climb that. I might sneak over one night and seduce him. Maybe I’ll put on a tiny black lace thong and a push-up bra, climb in bed with him, and whisper, ‘Ethan, you big hunk of a love-man, I’m gonna ride you like a quarter horse, and fuck you ‘til you can’t see straight.’ Then I’ll wait until he nods off, and do it all over again. Is that what you would do, Julie? Is that how it’s done?”
Both Shaye and Julie sat speechless on the couch in front of me.
“You could start with that, but at least let me take you to dinner first,” Ethan said.
I jumped up off the couch and almost spilled my soda all over me. Shaye and Julie both snickered behind me.
Shaye spoke first. “Hey, Ethan. You made it.” She was smiling at him.
I turned to run up the dock as best I could in my wedges, trying to catch Riley before he made it to us.
Fortunately, Shaye had already stepped up into the plane, so I avoided a scene in front of her. Riley had a backpack over his shoulder, and a scowl on his face.
“Riley, I am so sorry.”
He was pissed. “I know you had a really important breakfast with your investor this morning, but at least answer your fucking phone.”
“I felt bad because I was already late. I thought it would be rude to interrupt our conversation.”
Hitching his backpack higher up on his shoulder, he glared at me. He ran his eyes down my body, resting on my feet and my blue painted toes.
When he brought his eyes back to mine, he said, “It was rude to take my truck and leave me stranded.”
His voice had softened, and I felt my insides warm. “I…I didn’t know you were going anywhere.”
“I need to go to Friday Harbor. I was going to drive, but now I’ll take my boat. I’ll be back in a few days and I’ll fix your truck then. You can use mine.”
Turning away from me, he continued his trek down the dock to his boat. My heels made it difficult to keep up with his long stride, so I waited until we reached his boat to continue the conversation.
“When are you coming back?”
He stepped into a forty-foot fishing boat and answered, “In a few days. My sister needs me to help her with the customer. They changed the scope of the project but not the budget. I think they thought that since we left her in charge, they could bulldoze her and take advantage. I just need to give her some support.”
Riley’s boat was so beautiful I found myself stepping in after him. It swayed and I grabbed his arm for support.
He laughed. “Are you coming with me?”
“This boat is gorgeous. What is it?”
He paused, as if he was gauging my motives, and then he said, “It’s a Scout 420.”
I wandered along the sides of the deck, admiring the caramel, faux leather seats.
“Does it have a cabin?”
He tilted his head to an entry way. I stepped carefully down into a cozy galley, with a sleeping berth and small dining area.
Following me down, he ducked his head and scooted past me to toss his backpack on the bed. It was difficult to maneuver around him, and I regretted my decision to step in.
Riley took a seat at the tiny table, his legs stretched out in front of him, watching me with amusement, and I had to step around him to leave.
He reached out a hand to steady me, and I inhaled sharply at the feel of his palm on my leg.
“I…I should get going.”
His voice was husky when he spoke. “You could come with me if you want. The lumber won’t be delivered until later this week. Not much is going to happen on site.”
He hadn’t shaved and I briefly imagined him kissing my inner thighs, the soft hairs tickling me. His eyes sparkled with humor, as if he knew what he was doing to me.
Abruptly, I pushed his leg to the side. “I really need to get back. Thank you for letting me use your truck. I’ll make sure I put gas in it. And text me when you get back, I’ll come get you.”
I’d scrambled to the boat deck and then out onto the dock before he reappeared from the cabin.
He shouted after me, “Don’t crash it Juliette!”
I gave him my middle finger.