Spence just smiled at her expression and walked up to a locked gate. He produced a key, let them both in, and locked the gate behind them. They walked down the dock and stopped at a slip in front of a sleek-looking ship.
“Other than the Long Island ferry, I’ve never been on a boat,” Colbie said, still staring at it. “Until now, I’ve never even been away or on vacation.” She’d never been anything but in over her head, both at home raising her brothers and her mom and also at work in the crazy surprising career that demanded so much of her time.
Spence cupped her jaw and turned her face to his. He brushed a soft but potent kiss across her lips. “I’m sorry for that,” he said, “for all you’ve gone through, but I’m also glad I get to be the one to share this with you.”
A woman stood on board, looking at her watch. “I’m impressed,” she called down. “You’re not only on the right day but on time too.”
Spence laughed as he led Colbie on board. “Pru, meet Colbie. Colbie, this is Pru, Finn’s soon-to-be better half. She’s going to be our pilot and captain tonight. And she’s not going to stick her nose in our business at all.”
Pru grinned. “Wanna bet?” She gave Spence a hug and kiss, and then Colbie as well. Next was a quick tour of what looked like an amazingly well-kept and well-loved ship.
“It’s beautiful,” Colbie said. “Is it yours?”
Pru laughed. “No. I couldn’t even buy the fuel for this lovely. It belongs to my boss’s family. He let me rent it out for tonight.” She eyed Spence. “Somebody I know wanted a sunset/moonlight tour of the bay.”
Colbie could hardly contain herself and turned and gave Spence a huge hug.
He was quick to gather her in closer, wrapping his arms around her. “Might wait to reserve judgment until you see the dinner picnic I made for us,” he murmured, his mouth at her ear, his breath warm, giving her a full set of goose bumps and all sorts of other reactions that she was pretty sure shouldn’t be happening in public. “I’m not as good a conjurer as you are.” Then he lifted her off her feet just enough that their bodies lined up perfect. Face-to-face, chest-to-chest, thigh-to-thigh, and . . . everything in between.
Colbie sucked in a breath.
And so did he.
“Alrighty, then,” Pru murmured to herself. “Going to work now. I’d say relax and enjoy, but I think you’ve got those two things covered.”
Ten minutes later, they were out on the bay and Colbie had her gaze glued to the horizon and a huge smile on her face. Watching her, Spence felt some of the pressures of his day fade away. It was hard to remain stressed when he was with Colbie, as he’d already discovered. She was like a warm spiked drink on a hot day.
A balm to the soul.
As for their view, it was that magical time between day and night. The bay was smooth and still beneath them, small swells slapping against the ship, the wind in their faces, the last of the light slanting sharply across the water, illuminating it with a soft blue glow. In the distance, they could see the Bay Bridge, which was also lit with thousands of small white lights, making it stand out against the night sky.
The two of them sat at the bow of the boat on a huge almost trampoline-like lounger that fit them both. Spence had packed the duffle bag for the weather and pulled out two down jackets and a wool blanket, then bundled Colbie in one of the jackets and covered them both with the blanket. They leaned back, the gentle jostling of the swells having nudged them up against one another so that they rocked together with each smooth rise and fall of the ocean tide.
Next to him, Colbie felt soft and warm, and he couldn’t think of another place he’d rather be.
“It feels like we’re birds,” she said, tilting her face close to his. “We’re flying low, skimming over the water. It’s amazing. I feel like my heart’s soaring as fast as the boat.” She sighed in pleasure and he felt his body react. He wrapped an arm around her to keep her close, liking the way she snuggled into him way too much.
Pru took them out of the bay, where they caught sight of whales moving out in the distance, five of them swimming together, enormous and massive and gorgeous.
“Holy golf balls,” Colbie said and clutched Spence tight. “Do you see?”
He never took his eyes off her. “Yeah. I see.”
Turning to him, she laughed. “The whales, Spence! Don’t look at me—look at the whales!” She went back to reverently watching them, so moved her eyes filled with unshed tears.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Better than okay.” She blinked the moisture away and laughed a little at herself. “It’s just that I realized that here, my life doesn’t revolve around me getting everything handled and done on my own. Here, life revolves on its own axis. I’m just along for the ride.”
He was getting that her growing-up years had been more than a little rough. Something they had in common. And that she’d clawed her way out of the gutter by her fingernails.
Something else they had in common.
She must have felt her phone vibrate because she pulled it from her pocket with a grimace of apology and accessed a text.
“Problem?” he asked.
“Kent. He says the emergency-only credit card I left him isn’t working at the pizza joint.” She rolled her eyes and thumbed in a response and shoved her phone away.
“What did you tell him?” he asked.
“That an emergency involves blood. And not just any blood either, but an arterial bleed.”
When he laughed, she sighed and smiled. “You know what I love?” she asked, her eyes back on the last of the sun as it sank below the horizon. “That I’m not important here.”
“You’re important anywhere,” he said.
She shook her head. “I didn’t mean it like that—I’m not having an existential crisis. It’s just that here, away from home and work, I’m not the glue, you know? I’m not the one having to hold it all together.”
He stared into her green eyes and felt himself lean into her, wanting to drown in them. “So the trick is to run away from home,” he said. “Got it.”
She smiled. “You need to run away?”
“Actually, this, here with you, is working wonders. I’m starting to feel like I’m not the glue right now either.” Still holding her against him, he slid his hand into her hair. “You should know something, Colbie.”
She licked her lips and nearly made him groan. “What?” she whispered.
“I want to kiss you again.”
Now she dragged her teeth over her lower lip. “Why?”
No one had ever asked him that question before, but she’d tilted her head, waiting on his answer, and he had to laugh. “I want to kiss you again because you’re a smartass. Because you’re a little demanding too, and those things somehow really turn me on.”
“Hmm,” she said and he laughed.
“I also want to kiss you again because you’re smart as hell. And also funny as hell. Not to mention sexy as hell.”
Her breath caught. “You think so?”
“I know so. And you roll with life’s punches and give it all you’ve got.” He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head and lowered his head so that their mouths were only inches apart. “And you’re so pretty you make me ache.”
“Can you see me without your glasses?”
“No, but I have a good memory.”
With a laugh, she gripped the front of his jacket and tugged his mouth to hers. The aggressive move had him groaning and when she broke from the kiss, he had to take a long, unsteady breath and grapple for control. The only thing stopping him from letting her have her merry way with him was that they weren’t alone. Plus it was fucking cold and when he had her, he wanted her naked against him. Not in a down jacket. “Colbie—”
She shut him up with her mouth in another kiss so hot he was surprised smoke wasn’t curling from their bodies.
“You’re a good kisser,” she whispered against his lips. “Which you probably already know from previous relationships.”