“Yeah, well, it’s not like my life has lent itself to many relationships,” he admitted. “And the ones I’ve had have all gone bad over time.”

She looked at him for a minute and then gave a small smile. “Good thing that time is the one thing we don’t have,” she said. “So no one can read too much into this, right?”

He stilled and met her gaze. “You heard me say that to Eddie. Listen, I didn’t mean—”

“No, I get it. And you’re right.” Her stomach growled and she pressed her hands to it, changing the subject. “The beast is hungry, apparently.”


“Didn’t you say something about dinner?” she asked.

“Yes, but—”

“I’m starving, Spence.”

He looked at her for a second, trying to ascertain if she really wanted to change the subject. She did, so he nodded. “I’ve got you.” And once again he reached for his old duffle bag.

“Did you really cook?” she asked.

“Sort of,” he said.

“Did you burn water?”

“Funny.” Relieved to hear the laughter in her voice, he took her hand in his, brought it up to his mouth, and playfully nipped at her fingers. “I put together a picnic.”

“Ingenious,” she said. “Also cheating.”

He had to laugh. He’d totally cheated, even more than she knew because he’d had Trudy put it all together for him. “We’ve got wine, cheddar cheese, salami, crackers, grapes, and chocolate chip cookies,” he said, citing the list he’d given Trudy. “Because everything goes better with chocolate chip cookies.” He pulled out the goods and Colbie stared down at it all and laughed. She laughed so hard she tipped over.

“Can’t wait to hear how you explain this,” she finally managed, swiping a tear of mirth from her cheek.

He’d unloaded Gouda cheese, a beef stick, red apples, a still warm foil-wrapped loaf of garlic bread, and sugar cookies. He shook his head.

“You did get the drink right,” she said, nudging the bottle of wine. “So, who did this for you?”

“Trudy, my housekeeper.” He gestured at the garlic bread. “Why would she add garlic bread?”

“Because it’s delicious?”

“Yeah, but . . .” He scratched his jaw, thinking it might hinder any further kissing action, and he’d definitely planned on more kissing action.

Colbie grinned. “I think it’s okay if we both eat it.”

He locked eyes with her, liking the look on her face, the one that said she was remembering exactly what it felt like when they kissed, and that she liked the memory very much. “Maybe we should test that theory,” he said, and leaning over her, he brushed his lips along her jawline.

And then the side of her neck.

She moaned and tilted her head in invitation, which he took, rolling with her, pushing her to her back, his hands pressed on the canvas on either side of her head.

She sucked in a breath, and it assured him that she liked the move. As did the way her legs shifted, making room for him between them.

Her hair was spread out over his hands and forearms like a halo as she whispered his name.

Another invitation that he gladly took, along with her mouth. She kissed him back eagerly, the kind of kiss that pretty much guaranteed a guy was about to get laid and it was going to rock his world.

Except they were still on the boat. With Pru, who probably couldn’t see them from where she was controlling the boat but knew they were there. With regret, he broke the kiss and lifted his head.

Colbie’s eyes were filled with straight-up lust and she was breathing just as hard as he was. She smoothed out the nail marks from where she’d been clutching his jacket. “I think we’re supposed to actually eat the bread first,” she said on a rough laugh as Spence’s phone went off.

Looking pained, he pulled the phone from his pocket.


Coming up on Alcatraz, under a full moon. Rare sight. If you’re lip-locked, might want to lift your head. And if you’re not lip-locked, do you need pointers?

Spence shook his head and put the phone away.

“Emergency?” Colbie asked.

“Nope. No arterial bleeds,” he said, and together they took in the sight of Alcatraz lit by the full moon. It was both spooky and stunning, and Colbie seemed transfixed by the sight.

“Wow,” she whispered, breathlessly. “Tonight’s the best night ever.”

Spence thought so too.

Chapter 13


After they docked and helped Pru lock things up for the night, Spence took Colbie on a long walk along the Embarcadero. The pylons, the benches, the streetlights . . . everything had been decorated for the holiday and she loved the look of it. It’d rained earlier for long enough that everything felt clean and shimmered with condensation. For the first time in years she was excited for the season, even though she knew she’d be gone by Christmas Day.

She hoped to bring the holiday cheer home with her. “It’s so beautiful here with all the decorations,” she said, her breath crystalizing in front of her face. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“New York doesn’t do it up for the holidays?”

“Yes, but I mean . . .” She broke off, not sure what she meant at all. “It just seems . . . nice. Really nice. And like it could all be true. Santa Claus and all that.”

He smiled. “You don’t believe in Santa?”

“Well . . . let’s just say I have mixed feelings about the holiday.”

“A cynic in a sweet package.”

She rolled her eyes, but he reached for her hand and pulled her into him. “Talk to me,” he said.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been Santa.”

He looked at her in surprise.

“I told you my dad left us when I was little,” she said and then paused. “It was on Christmas Eve.”

“Seriously?” Spence tightened his arm around her. “What the hell’s wrong with him?”

She shrugged. She didn’t know. “He wasn’t made for being a family man. And actually, he was right. My mom said we were better off and I have to believe that.”

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “That’s a shitty memory to carry around.”

Colbie didn’t like to talk about this. Correction: she never talked about this. So why she was suddenly opening up, and to a man who lived three thousand miles away from her, was a big unsolved mystery.

Or maybe it wasn’t. There was still something about this place and Spence that made her want to be something she’d never been.

Open and carefree.

But maybe . . . maybe to be those things, she had to let go of her past. “Not everyone’s cut out to be a parent.”

“I agree.” He paused. “I got lucky with my parents. My dad didn’t have it easy. My grandpa was a hard-ass but a brilliant inventor, a tough act to follow.” He smiled a little wryly. “So to the everlasting frustration of Grandpa, my dad didn’t even try. He was a family man to the end.”

The tone of his voice had her heart squeezing. “You lost him,” she said softly.

He nodded. “A few years ago. Cancer.”

“It must’ve been hard on your mom.”

“Very,” Spence said. “But she’s taken up something she couldn’t do when my dad was alive. Traveling.”

“Why couldn’t she travel with your dad?”

“They didn’t have the means, but even if they had, he hated flying.” Spence shook his head. “Always said that if people were meant to fly, we’d have been born with wings.”

She laughed and he smiled at her, bringing their joined hands up to his mouth, where he brushed a kiss to her fingers before taking a look around them. “You’re right. It is pretty amazing out here. I guess I forgot to see it anymore.”

“How long have you been here?” she asked.

“All my life.” He was still looking around as if trying to see the city from her eyes. “I grew up not too far from here, actually.”

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