“Don’t get too excited. You may want to reserve judgment until you see my version of Odysseus. Maybe I’ll give him green skin and blue hair.”
Tony’s smile flashed, boyish and white. “Like yours, you mean?”
“Works for me.”
He glanced up at the top of her head, where her purple swim cap was currently roasting her head like a baked potato in the oven, and her heart sank. Another pulse of self-consciousness hit her, and she smoothed the edges of the cap over her nape. Funny, wasn’t it? Other women wore bathing suits to the beach and spent the whole time worrying about how their butts looked from behind.
With her, it was all about the hair.
To her relief, though, Tony didn’t mention it.
“Okay,” he said. “I have another question for you.”
“No fair,” she complained around a bite of cookie. “You’re double-dipping.”
He ignored this. “You said you wanted to travel more, right? Why’s that?”
Startled, she paused to grab a napkin and dab at her mouth. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, apparently. She shrugged, trying not to make a big deal out of a simple question.
“The usual reasons, I suppose. Life’s short. I work too hard. I should make more time for fun things.”
He raised a brow and shot her another one of those skeptical sidelong glances. “I had the feeling there was more to it than that. You sounded like you were really making it a priority.”
She studied her plate, ignoring the increasing burn in her cheeks. “Well, how do things ever get done if you don’t make them a priority?”
“Anyway, you should travel, too.”
His mouth twisted with so much bitterness it was a wonder she couldn’t taste it. “I’ve spent enough time away for a while. I need to be home. Actually, I need to figure out how to be home. That would be a good start.”
“Give it time,” she said gently. “You’re not Superman.”
He looked back at the waves, his jaw hardening. “I got that lesson beat into me by the Taliban, thanks.”
This was the first time he’d mentioned the suffering he must have endured, and she wasn’t ready for it. Fear congealed in her chest, weighing her down. Was she pathetic or what? He’d been the POW, and she was too terrified to even hear about what he’d gone through.
She reached for his arm, meaning to comfort him, but his skin was hot to the touch. She jerked her hand away, burned by the thrumming urgency in his tight muscles, and then he looked at her again, right in the eyes.
“You have to help me out here, Talia.” His voice was a low rasp that connected more to her heart than it did to her ears. “Am I supposed to pretend you never wrote to me? Or that I don’t remember what you said? Is that what you want?”
She’d never been much of a liar, but now would’ve been a great time to start.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t manage it. “No.”
His breath eased a little. “When you told me ‘not today, Death’—that helped. It really helped.”
Now, suddenly, she couldn’t breathe—again—and it had nothing to do with overdoing it, not sleeping last night, or anything other than Tony’s extraordinary effect on her.
“More than you know.”
“More than you know.”
They stared at each other, their gazes locked in place, and the magnitude of her mistake hit Talia all at once: she should never have come here to his home, where he was.
It seemed unlikely that she could spend any time with him—any time at all—without falling desperately in love.
The sudden tension, which was pregnant and heavy, prickled across Talia’s arms and up her nape, into her scalp. A breaking point hit them both simultaneously, and they blinked, turning away from each other. God knew what he was thinking; she couldn’t think at all. She had another one of those painful moments of wondering why her fidgeting body couldn’t sit still and what to do with her twitchy hands.
Tony, on the other hand, didn’t move.