after high tide.

“Thanks,” I said, sitting as I brushed the bottom of my dress against my legs.

Michael lifted my chair off the ground, tucking my legs under the table before taking a seat across from me.

A man dressed in a tuxedo poured champagne and smiled at us both.

Michael looked at me, raising his glass. “A toast,” he said, tilting his head.

I grabbed my glass, holding it up to his.

“To new beginnings,” he said as he clinked his glass against mine.

That was the second time he used that phrase. A warm gooey feeling oozed through my body as I sipped the champagne, letting the tiny bubbles pop on my tongue. We ran into each other less than forty-eight hours ago, but I felt comfortable with him – content.

I placed the glass on the table. “Tell me more about you,” I said, rubbing my fingertips across the crystal stem.

“What would you like to know?” he asked as he motioned to the gentleman.

“Are you a piercer or a fighter?”

Two dishes were placed in front of us. Each contained a mouth-watering steak with asparagus and a baked potato. The man grabbed my napkin off the table and placed it on my lap.

Looking at him I smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

“My pleasure,” he said before walking away and making himself busy.

“I’m part owner in the tattoo shop. I don’t have the artistic ability that the rest of my siblings have so I learned everything I could about piercing. I’ve been doing it for years. I couldn’t tattoo even if I wanted to. My hands get pretty messed up sometimes after a fight.”

“I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that you let someone hit you.”

“Only if they’re fast enough,” he said, as he laughed.

“Why?” I cut into my steak, averting his gaze.

“It’s a rush, Mia. I can’t explain it, but it’s the greatest high ever.”

“I still think it’s barbaric.”

“Street fighting is barbaric, not MMA matches. We both know what’s going to happen. It’s sport.”

“Softball is a sport and much safer,” I said placing the mouthwatering steak on my tongue.

He laughed and it was so genuine that it warmed my body from the inside out. “It’s a sport for girls. No offense to you.”

“None taken,” I said as I waved my fork in the air. “Sexist, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.” I laughed, covering my mouth with the back of my hand.

“Hey, now. My sister would kick my ass if she thought I was sexist.”

“Oh? Tell me about her. She sounds like my type of girl.” I giggled.

“Yeah, you and Izzy would get along very well. She’s the baby in the family, but we’re all scared of her. She’s an in your face kind of girl. She takes no shit, but I guess that happens when you grow up with four brothers.”

“She’s lucky. Sounds like a great way to grow up.”

“She’d see it differently.”

“Why?” I asked with a frown. “I’m an only child and I always wanted someone to play with as a kid.”

“She didn’t get many dates as a teenager.” He laughed. “We scared most of them away.”

“I could only imagine, but she was lucky to have brothers that cared.”

“You’ll have to tell her that.”

“So, there are three more of you walking around?”

“Yeah. We’re all very different. My brother, Thomas, is an undercover cop, Anthony likes to call himself a musician, and Joseph is just a tattooist.”

“Your poor mother.” I shook my head and sipped the champagne.

“She kept trying for a girl, which she got after four boys. Now she wants grandchildren.” He smirked at me.

“Oh.” My stomach flipped from the look on his face.

He’s so drop dead gorgeous, I’d almost be willing to drop my panties and start working on making her dream a reality.

“Enough about kids. Tell me about your family, Mia.” He wiped his mouth and set his napkin on the table.

“My parents are snowbirds and right now they’re back in Minnesota. It’s just me here, but I would never move back to the freezing cold.”

“Cold has some good points.” He rested his head on his hands and watched me as I cut the last piece of steak on my plate.

“Like what?”

“Laying by a fire and being snowed in together.”

“Those are the only positives. I think more of scraping my car windows, shoveling snow, frostbite, and other crappy things that go with Minnesota life.”

We stared at each other as I chewed the last morsel and finished off the champagne in the glass. The sun hovered over the ocean, the sky blazed with the most beautiful shades of red and orange.

He stood, holding out his hand. “Come on, Mia, let’s go watch the sunset.”

“I thought we were,” I said placing my hand in his, feeling the electricity that sizzled between us.

“I want to be a little more comfortable for the show. I have a blanket that’s calling our name.”

Walking hand in hand, we snuck glances at each other as we approached the blanket. Suddenly I felt shy and my stomach flipped as I sat down and he moved to sit behind me.

“Come here,” he said placing his legs on either side of me and grabbing my hips.

I closed my eyes, inhaling sharply from the feel of his fingers digging into my flesh. I shimmied my body backward until our upper bodies connected. The warmth that permeated off him felt hotter than the setting sun hanging just above the horizon.

“Lean back, Mia,” he whispered in my ear, sending a chill across my skin.

Placing my hands against his knees, I rested my head on his shoulder and stared at the sky. Peace overcame me as I sat straddled between his legs; our bodies connected, and watched the changing colors over the water. His fingers traced a path around my ear to my neck and brushed the hair off my shoulder.

“It’s so beautiful,” I said as tears formed in my eyes.

“Not as beautiful as you. Are you crying?” he asked with knitted brows.

“I don’t know,” I said, laughing and wiping at the corners.

“Do you want me to take you home?” His lips brushed against my temple as he watched me.

“No,” I said quickly.

“Then what’s wrong, Doc?” He wrapped his arm around my chest and gripped my shoulder.

“I’m going to sound crazy.”

Damn it. How could I explain the peace and happiness I felt without sounding like a total whack job?

“I rather know than sit here and wonder why I’ve made you cry,” he said, stroking my collarbone with his thumb.

I shook my head and sighed, relaxing against his body. “I’m stressed out after work and sometimes it takes me days to shake off what I’ve seen at the hospital. It’s been a long time since I felt truly at peace, but being here, in your arms and watching the sunset with the sound of the waves. I feel it – serenity that I haven’t been able to find in so long.”

“I can’t imagine the things you’ve seen.” He pulled my body closer, wrapping his arms around me, making me feel safe and secure enveloped by his warmth and muscle.

“You don’t want to, Michael. The people I’ve lost haunt me at night. I can’t remember the last time I slept without a nightmare or sleeping pills.” I placed my hand on his arm and squeezed. “So to have this brief moment where I’m reminded of the world’s beauty and feel like only the two of us exist brings tears to my eyes. You chased away the demons, if only for a little while.” I stared across the water watching the sky turn purple as the sun kissed the edge of the world.

“Stay in the here and now. Nothing else matters but the two of us, on this beach, in each other’s arms. I’m not going anywhere, are you?”

“We can’t stay like this forever,” I said turning my face toward him.

“I’ll stay as long as you need to help chase away your nightmares


, Mia.” Grabbing my chin, he pulled my mouth to his.

Staring at each other, I searched his eyes. They were soft and kind and made my heart feel funny. Michael Gallo did not fit the mold of fighter bad boy; He was a romantic and made me feel like the only person that mattered in the world.

My body ignited as his lips pressed against mine. His hand glided across my shoulder until he rested his hand against my throat. My heart danced under his fingertips as he kissed me softly.

Our eyes remained open as I turned in his arms and straddled him. Our breathy moans and the lapping of the waves on shore were the only sounds, as his kiss became more demanding and I opened to him.

I never wanted to kiss someone as much as I wanted Michael to ravage my mouth and put his hands all over my body. The power of his grip on my back as I kissed him had me wanting more. Pushing him back against the blanket I sat up and stared down at him as his hands slid up my legs and caressed my hips.

As I leaned forward my hair sheltered us from the world as it cascaded around his head. “Make me forget, Michael,” I whispered.

His hand stilled, squeezing my thighs he leaned forward and nipped at my lips. I collapsed against his chest, my nipples hardening with the contact. His cock grew hard and I gasped in his mouth.

“Sorry, Doc. Some things I can’t control,” he mumbled against my lips.

His hands roamed my body as our lips and tongue stayed entwined. Fisting his hair in my hands I demanded to be kissed harder. My body ached for his touch. I wanted to be filled and feel alive as I grinded myself against him to relieve the throb I hadn’t felt in so long.

A small moan escaped his lips, as he grabbed my hips, his fingers digging into my flesh.

“Not here, Michael. Not like this,” I whispered, leaning over him.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it, Mia.” He looked in my eyes as he pulled my face closer to his. “You want to stay or do you want me to take you home?”

I wanted to stay on the beach in his arms all night, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready to give myself to him and I knew the longer I kissed him the more I’d want to.

“Take me home,” I whispered against his lips, still feeling his hardness against me. A lump formed in my throat as I questioned my decision.

Sitting up, he adjusted my body, breaking the contact that had almost driven us over the edge. “Just promise me that you’ll see me again.”

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