“Fine. And when you collapse, I’ll know what to tell the EMTs, won’t I? I’ll be sure to tell them I tried to get you checked out.”
“Nice.” The beginnings of a grin curled her lips. “Throw me under the bus, why don’t you?”
“What’re you doing out here, anyway?”
“Well, I was jogging. I’m allowed to jog on my own beach, aren’t I?”
Her lips thinned with obvious suspicion.
“But, as it happens, I ran into Mickey heading out with the picnic basket. So I thought I’d save him a trip and bring it instead. But since you’re being so snippy, I think I’ll take it back inside and eat it by myself.”
Deciding to make it look good, he grabbed the basket and started for the boardwalk. That was all it took.
“Wait!” she called. “Let’s not be too hasty. What’s in the basket?”
“Do we have an agreement that you’re going to be nicer to me in the future?”
“That depends on what’s in the basket.”
“Let’s see.” Coming back, he sat in the second chair and dug into the basket. “We’ve got your basic cheeses… I saw potato salad… Chocolate chip cookies… Oh, and—” He hesitated, not wanting to throw them back into uncomfortable territory. “It’s, ah—”
“Let me see that.” She snatched the bag in question from him and studied it, a flush rising up over her cheeks as she read the label. “Wasabi-covered peanuts.”
She stilled, refusing to meet his gaze.
Yeah, Tony thought. This was what you called an awkward silence.
“Don’t worry,” he said quickly. “I won’t force you to eat any.”
To his overwhelming relief, she blinked and smiled up at him. It was one of those glorious smiles, bracketed by dimples and that sexy little mole at the corner of her mouth, the smile that he’d been living for these last months.
“You know—a good friend of mine loves these things,” she told him. “I think I’ll give them a try.”
So, okay…lunch. Lunch would probably make sense. Yes. They should eat. Lunch.
If only she weren’t so freaking flustered.
Talia fumbled through the picnic basket, arranging plates and cutlery and trying to pretend that Tony didn’t exist. Failing that, she tried to pretend that he wasn’t so…there.
Unfortunately, he seemed to be everywhere.
There was no safe place for her to look, at least none that she’d found so far. Another reach into the basket brushed her arm up against the sinewy warmth of his forearm.
“Sorry,” she muttered, drawing back and concentrating on slicing a block of cheese instead. Although, given her general clumsiness and her current jitteriness, maybe she should leave the sharp objects alone. With her luck, she’d end up thumbless by the end of the meal.
She couldn’t look him in the face, either, because connecting with that brown-eyed gaze was like plugging into a generator humming along at full power. A single second’s contact was enough to heat her face to the melting point and make her brain liquefy.
The probability of making it through the entire lunch in some sort of dignified manner was, therefore, negligible at best.
Their chairs were way too close. They were arm to arm, and if she stretched her right leg out by a scant half inch, they’d be thigh to thigh, as well, and wouldn’t that be more than her overwrought nerves could handle?
Still, it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. Just a quick one.
Under cover of swiping sand off her ankle, she bent and cast his legs a sidelong look, thoroughly checking him out.
Wow. That was all she could think. Just—wow.
He was sprawled in his chair with the relaxed posture that big men always used, as though it was their divine right to take up all the available space because their body mass was greater than anyone else’s.
His nearest thigh, which was smoothly brown and sprinkled with a fine layer of black hair, was so sculpted and proportional it could have been snatched from a med student’s anatomy book. His thigh was longer than hers, of course, and she didn’t need to touch it to know that it was probably ten times as powerful. He had the toned calves usually seen on tennis players, swimmers or ballet dancers. Down at the end of all this lengthy perfection, his strong toes burrowed into the sifting sand, flexing and digging…flexing and digging.