“That’s not who I am,” he says. “And it’s not who I’ll ever be.”
“What about what your cousin said?” I ask. “About you wanting to get a piece?”
“She’s an idiot.” His hands hook at his hips and his head is tilted and my lips burn at the thought of what his mouth might taste like. “She’s my cousin and I love her, but she’s an idiot.”
A pause rests between us.
I don’t know what to say.
Honestly, I kind of just want to go home, lie in bed, and let his words replay in my head until I fall asleep. It’s like I need to digest them and let them sink in before I can determine how I feel about this.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“Lila, don’t apologize.” I love the way he says my name, like he’s taking his time and letting it linger on his tongue.
“Thanks for the movie. I should get going before my grandparents wake up and realize I’m gone.”
His nose wrinkles. “Would they be mad if they knew you hung out with us tonight?”
I bite my lower lip and contemplate my answer. I don’t want to get them in trouble.
“I didn’t exactly tell them I was going, and I left after they were in bed, so yeah,” I say. “I think they’d be kind of pissed if they woke up and I was gone.”
He studies me.
I wish I knew what he was thinking.
I wish I didn’t care what he was thinking …
“Goodnight, Thayer,” I say as my body begins to shiver from the cold. I couldn’t feel it before when he had my full attention and was rambling on about his sympathies for me, but damn, do I feel it now.
I head back to the house in the pitch dark, under a starless sky, the wind at my back, and I manage to make it inside unheard and unseen. Changing into pajamas and washing up, I climb into bed with un-kissed lips, flushed skin, and a heart that won’t stop hammering.
Every time I close my eyes, I see him.
And when I see him, I try and picture the two of us together, side by side.
In my mind’s eye, we look ridiculous together … him a blue-blooded American prince attending an Ivy League school with preppy good looks and intelligence to match.
And me … a California daughter who grew up with a working-class single mom. No college prospects. No idea what she’s doing with her future.
He’s sweet and kind and handsome and thoughtful, the kind of guy you read about in the engagement section of the New York Times, and I’m a broken, cynical nobody.
If anything comes of this, odds are he’ll break my heart—that is, if I don’t break his first.
I find Lila sitting at the end of the dock Sunday afternoon, her bare toes skimming the top of the water as she pages through a book in her lap.
She’s in a strappy tank top and white shorts that showcase her long legs, and she’s completely oblivious.
I didn’t see her at breakfast this morning, and when my grandfather asked Junie where Lila was, she said Lila wasn’t feeling well and she requested the morning off.
“Hey,” I take a seat beside her and she does a little jump, sucking in a quick breath. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
She dog-ears her chapter and closes the book.
“You okay?” I ask. “Your grandma said—”
“I’m fine. I just needed some time to myself.” She stares across the water, shoulders slouched, looking like she’s lost in thought for a moment.
“Good, good. I was worried after last night, maybe I said something that upset you.”
“Not everything’s about you, Thayer …” There’s the tiniest hint of a tease in her voice, but it’s not enough to cover up the fact that something’s bothering her.
“Obviously,” I say, nudging her.
She’s quiet. I’m quiet. And a boat motors by in the distance.
I almost ask if she’s ever been sailing before, but then I stop myself. I doubt Granddad would let me take her out on the boat because that’s the sort of thing you do with a girl you like and he’ll assume I’m being defiant, and there’s nothing that Granddad hates more than when someone goes against his orders.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with spending time with her in an innocent, platonic capacity—despite the fact that I might sneak glances at her every chance I get and daydream about what her skin would feel like beneath my hands, the softness of her mouth on mine, the way her body would feel beneath me, the heat of her breath in my ear …
“Any plans for the afternoon?” I ask.
She splays a palm across the book in her lap before peering across the sea. “You’re looking at it.”
I wish so badly that I could take her into town tomorrow. We could hitch a ride with the grocery boat and find some local to bring us back later. I could show her it’s not so bad in Rose Crossing, that it’s quaint and the people are nice and welcoming and there are shops and a library and cafes and a laidback sort of beachy vibe that might feel somewhat familiar to her since she’s from the West Coast.