“Thomas James,” I said. “Clever. Is the other girl an ex, too?”

He chuckled. “No. She was Camille’s roommate.”


Thomas anchored his foot on the sand and then pushed off, rocking us a bit.

“This is incredible. I could definitely retire here. It feels so…I can’t even describe it.”

He kissed my temple. “This feels a lot like falling in love.”

The rain clouds had snuffed out the moon, making the sky pitch-black. The muffled music still playing at Sails sounded a mile away, and hotel guests were running to get out of the rain. We might as well have been on a secluded island, away from everyone else, lying together in our small but quiet section of the beach.

“Splat?” I asked.

“Obliteration,” he said.

I squeezed him, and he took in a deep breath through his nose.

“I hate myself for saying this, but we should probably turn in. We’ve got an early morning.”

I looked up at him. “It’s going to be okay, you know. Travis will be fine. We’ll get rid of Grove. It’s all going to work out.”

“I just want to think about you tonight. Tomorrow is going to be tough.”

“I’ll do my best to keep your attention.” I wiggled out of the hammock and got to my feet. I helped him out, and I pulled his lips down to meet mine, sucking his bottom lip as I drew back.

He hummed. “I have no doubt. You’ve been an impeccable distraction.”

My heart sank.

“What?” he asked, seeing the hurt in my eyes.

“Why don’t you just admit it? Just say it out loud. You’re using me to stop thinking about her. That’s not closure. It’s stalling.”

His face fell. “That’s not what I meant.”

“This isn’t falling in love, Thomas. You said it perfectly. I’m running interference.”

Above us, motion caught my eyes, and Thomas looked up, too. Trenton was twirling Camille on the balcony of Sails, and then he brought her into his arms. She squealed in delight, they both laughed, and then they disappeared from our view.

Thomas looked down and rubbed the back of his neck. His eyebrows pulled in. “Being with her was a mistake. Trenton has loved her since they were kids, but I didn’t think he was serious enough about her. I was wrong.”

“Then, why can’t you just let her go?”

“I’m trying.”

“Using me to do it doesn’t count.”

He breathed out a laugh. “I’m running out of ways to explain this to you.”

“Then, stop. I need a different answer, and you don’t have one.”

“You act as is loving someone can just be flipped off like a light switch. We’ve had this conversation a dozen times. I want you. I’m with you.”

“While you’re missing her, wishing you were with her. And you want me to change everything I trust for that?”

He shook his head in disbelief. “This is an impossible situation. I thought we were perfect because we’re the same, but maybe we’re too alike. Maybe you’re my payback instead of my redemption.”

“Your payback? You’ve made me believe all weekend that you were falling for me!”

“I am! I have! Jesus Christ, Camille, how can I get that through your head?”

I froze, and once Thomas realized his mistake, he did, too.

“Goddamn it. I am so sorry,” he said, reaching out for me.

I shook my head, and my eyes burned. “I am so…stupid.”

Thomas let his hands fall to his thighs. “No, you’re not. That’s why you’ve held back. Even from the first night, you knew to keep your distance. You’re right. I can’t love you the way you need me to. I don’t even love myself.” His voice broke on the last sentence.

My lips pressed into a hard line. “I can’t redeem you, Thomas. You’ll have to come to terms with what you did to Trent on your own.”

Thomas nodded and then turned toward the sidewalk. I stayed behind, watching the dark ocean roll onto the sand, with the sky crying on my shoulders.

Chapter Twenty

“YOU LOOK NERVOUS,” I SAID. “He’s going to smell you from a mile away if you don’t man up.”

Thomas glanced at me, but instead of shooting me the dirty look I had expected, he used amazing restraint, simply looking away.

A knock on the door jolted us both to the matter at hand, and I went to the door, opening it.

“Good morning, Liis,” Travis said, a euphoric glow on his face.

“Come on in, Travis.” I stepped to the side, letting him pass, as I tried to keep the heavy guilt I felt from weighing down my Oscar-worthy smile. “How was your night? I don’t need details. I’m just being polite.”

Travis chuckled and then noticed the folded sheets, blanket, and pillow on the couch. “Oh,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Better than your night, brother. Should I, uh…should I come back? The front desk left me a note, saying you needed me to come here at six.”

“Yeah,” Thomas said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Have a seat, Trav.”

Travis walked over to the couch and sat down, looking up at us with wary eyes. “What’s going on?”

I sat down on the corner of the bed, keeping my shoulders relaxed and trying to seem generally nonthreatening. “Travis, we need to talk to you about your involvement in the March nineteenth ESU fire.”

Travis furrowed his brow, and then he laughed once without humor. “What?”

I continued, “The FBI has been investigating the case, and Thomas has been able to strike a deal in your favor.”

Travis clasped his hands together. “The FBI? But he’s an ad exec.” He gestured to his brother. “Tell her, Tommy.” When Thomas didn’t respond, Travis’s eyes narrowed. “What is this?”

Thomas looked down and then back at his brother. “I’m not in advertising, Trav. I’m a Special Agent of the FBI.”

Travis stared at his brother for a full ten seconds and then cackled. “Oh my God, dude! You were beginning to freak me out. Don’t do that to me! What do you really need to talk to me about?” His laughter faded when Thomas didn’t crack a smile. “Tommy, knock it off.”