She in turn handed him a marshmallow for his stick. Look at them, all companionable and domestic. They roasted in silence for a few minutes, Amy staring speculatively into the fire. “Being out here makes me want to draw,” she said quietly.
He looked at her. “Wait—Did you just offer a piece of personal information?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not a complete social moron. I can do the casual conversation thing.”
“But your drawing isn’t casual to you,” he said.
She held his gaze. “No. It’s not.”
Forget her great laugh. Now he felt like he’d just won the lottery.
“Do you draw?” she asked him.
Was she looking for common ground? He’d like to give it to her, but this wasn’t going to be it. “Stick figures,” he said, blowing on his marshmallow before eating it. “I’m good at stick figures when I have to be for a report, but that’s about it. Doesn’t mean I can’t get how inspiring it is out here though. What do you draw?”
“Landscapes, mostly.” She glanced around at the dark night. “I’d love to do the trees silhouetted against the dark sky. Or the waterfalls that I saw on the way up here. I can still hear them.”
“Yeah, there’s more than sixty glaciers melting out here,” he said. “Along with all the heavy rains we got this year. All that water’s rushing 24-7 to the sea.”
She handed him another marshmallow from the bag, and their fingers brushed. Her breath caught, and the sound went straight through him. She busied herself with her toasted marshmallow, popping it into her mouth, sucking some of it off her finger. He tried not to stare and thereby prove that she was right with guys only think about one thing, but Christ. She was sucking on her finger. A completely involuntary sound escaped him, and she stopped.
He met her gaze, and though he couldn’t quite read her expression, she didn’t look disgusted or pissed off. She nibbled on her lower lip for a beat, and suddenly it seemed like all the cool air got sucked out of the night, leaving only heat.
Lots of heat. But hell if he’d do one damn thing about it. Beautiful as she was sitting there by the fire’s glow, he knew making a move on her would be fatal to any friendship they might have.
But she kept looking at him like she’d never really seen him before, and then suddenly they were a lot closer, their thighs touching. His hands itched to reach for her but he forced himself to stay perfectly still. Perfectly. Still. Which was how he knew that she leaned in first. Oh, yeah, but just as her mouth got to his, a coyote howled—a bone-chilling, hair-raising cry that was immediately answered by another, longer, louder howl that echoed off the mountain caverns.
Amy jerked, straightening up with a startled gasp.
“They’re not as close as they sound,” he said.
She nodded and leaned over to fiddle with her boot, using the ruse to scoot close again. He’d have teased her about it but he didn’t want to scare her further off.
Another coyote howled, and then more joined in. Amy went rigid and set her hand on his thigh.
Matt silently willed the coyotes to come closer, but they didn’t. Instead, when Amy realized where her hand was, she snatched it away. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. You can hold on to me anytime.” He threaded a row of marshmallows onto her stick for her, and then did the same for himself, watching Amy keep an eye on the shadows of the woods around them as though maybe, if only she concentrated hard enough, she’d be able to see through the dark.
“Not a big camper, huh?” he asked sympathetically.
“I’m more of a city girl.”
“New York. Miami. Dallas…”
“All of them?”
“Chicago, too,” she said. “I moved around a lot.”
He pulled his stick from the fire and wished he had chocolate and graham crackers to go with the perfectly toasted marshmallows. “I’m from Chicago,” he said. “Born and bred in the rat race.” Which he didn’t miss. Not the weather, not the job, not the ex… Although he did miss his family. “When were you there?”
“Ten years ago.” She shrugged. “Just for a little while.”
He knew she was twenty-eight, so that meant she’d been eighteen when she’d been there. “You went to high school in Chicago?”
“No. I took the GED and got out early. Before Chicago.”
“Ten years ago, I was just out of the Navy,” he said. “Working as a cop. Maybe our paths crossed when you were in town.”
“Yeah, not likely,” she told him. “You were SWAT, not a beat cop running homeless teens off the corners.”
He wasn’t surprised that she knew he’d been SWAT. Everyone in Lucky Harbor knew everyone’s business. He just wished he knew hers, but she’d been good at keeping a low profile. “You were a homeless teen?”
She let out a single syllable hum that could have been agreement or just a vague “don’t want to talk about it.”
Too bad that he did want to talk about it. “What happened to your parents?”
“I’m the product of what happens when teenagers don’t listen in sex ed class. Nothing you haven’t seen before on 16 and Pregnant.”
“That bad huh?”
She shrugged and stuffed the marshmallow into her mouth.
Conversation over, apparently. Which was okay. He’d get another chance. He enjoyed watching her savor each marshmallow like it was a special prize. He especially enjoyed how she licked the remnants off her fingers with a suction sound…
“You give good marshmallow,” she said.
He gave good other things, too, but he kept that to himself.
When they were high on sugar, they balanced it out with the beef jerky. Amy unzipped her backpack, and he unabashedly peered inside, catching her drawing pad, colored pencils, a hiking guide, lip gloss, and a pocketknife before she pulled out an apple and zipped the pack closed.
She was a puzzle, he thought. All tough girl on the outside, girlie-girl on the inside, and a whole bunch of other things he couldn’t quite put a finger on yet.
She handed him the apple. He took a bite, then handed it back. They shared it down to the core, drank their waters, and then Amy yawned wide.
“I’m sorry,” she said, and yawned again. “I had the morning shift at the diner. I’m exhausted.”
“Bedtime then.” He stoked the fire, then rose and pulled her up as well, turning her toward the tent.
She stared inside at the still rolled-up sleeping bag. “This is yours. I can sleep in your truck.”
“The bucket seats suck, and the truck bed’s ridged and cold as hell. You’ve had a long day and need some sleep. Take the tent.”
She bit her lower lip, her eyes suspicious again. “And you?”
“I’ll be by the fire. I have an emergency blanket, I’ll be fine.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t let you do that. You’ll get cold.”
“Are you offering to share the tent?”
Her gaze dropped down to his chest, and she chewed on her lower lip again—which was driving him insane. He wanted to chew on that lower lip and then soothe the ache with his tongue.
“Sharing is a bad idea,” she finally said. “A really, really bad idea.” But she gave him another slow sweep. His chest, his abs, lower… Her pupils dilated, giving her away.
Either she had a head injury he didn’t know about or looking him over had aroused her. “Sometimes,” he said, “bad ideas become good ideas.”
“No, they don’t.”
He didn’t like to disagree with a woman, especially a pretty, sexy woman whom he’d been dreaming about getting naked and licking every inch of her body. But he absolutely disagreed on this.
Instead of voicing that, he gave her a nudge into the tent. “Zip up behind you.”
When she did, he let out a long breath and stood there in the dark between the fire and the tent for a long beat. You’re an idiot, he told himself, and shaking his head, he moved closer to the flames. Leaning back, getting comfortable, or as comfortable as he could without a sweatshirt or his sleeping bag, he stared at the sky. Normally, this never failed to relax him, but tonight it took a long time.
A very long time.
It was his body’s fault, he decided. He definitely had a few parts at odds with each other, but in the end, it was his brain that reminded him of the bottom line. He’d come here to Lucky Harbor for some peace and quiet, to be alone.
To forget the hell his life in Chicago had turned into.
And it had been complete hell, having to turn in his own partner for being on the take, then facing the censure of his fellow cops.
And then there’d been his marriage.
Shelly had never liked his hours or the danger he’d faced every day. In return, he’d never liked that she hadn’t taken her own safety seriously enough. And when it had all gone bad and she’d gotten hurt… well, that had been another sort of hell entirely.
And his fault. He 100 percent blamed himself.
That had made two of them. Shelly had told him in her parting shot that he was better off alone, and he honestly believed that to be true. All this time he’d thought it…
At some point during this annoying inner reflection, he must have finally fallen asleep because he woke up instantly at the sound of Amy’s scream.
A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine.
Breathless, heart pounding, Amy lay flat on her back in the pitch dark. Shit. Okay, so that was the last time she ever tiptoed into the woods by herself to find a nice, big tree to pee behind. Her downfall had been the walk back to camp. It’d been so dark, and her flashlight had given enough light for exactly nothing.
And she’d slipped on something and slid.
She’d lost her flashlight on the descent, and now she couldn’t see much except the vague black outline of the canopy of trees far above her. Or at least she hoped those were trees. Claustrophobic from the all-encompassing blackness, and more than a little worried about creepy crawlies, she sat up and winced. Her left wrist was on fire. So was her butt. Great, she’d broken her butt. She could see the headline on Facebook now—Amy Michaels cracks her crack during a potty break on the mountain.