Summer had returned to the coastal town of Sea Breeze, Alabama. The nightlife lit up with scantily clad sun-kissed bodies, live music, the smell of freshly cooked seafood.
Taking it all in he wondered if coming back had been the best thing. He wasn’t the same man who had driven out of town a year ago on the motorcycle he’d spontaneously bought after his best friend’s wedding. From the messy blond curls he’d let grow out to the tattoos now covering his arms, part of his chest and even the side of his neck, it all represented a part of his journey.
Eli Hardy was back, but he didn’t plan on staying for long.
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I managed a bright smile that was so fake it was ridiculous to the other three standing there then turned on my heels and made my way to the French doors overlooking the gulf. Before I reached the exit, Eli moved in front of me and opened a door then stood back so I could go outside. There was the guy I remembered. The gentleman everyone loved. But as quickly as he appeared with the opening of the door, it was gone. No smile. No thank you for the rescue. Not even silent eye contact.
I slid off my heels and left them at the top of the stairs then headed down toward the sand below barefoot. The breeze was warm, so my arms weren’t chilled. Summer wasn’t officially here until the solstice, but in South Alabama, it had most definitely arrived.
The moon was full and walking beside Eli in the silence felt nice. There was no need to talk if he didn’t want to. We’d done that already. I hadn’t gotten him out here to talk anyway. I was tired of talking today. I’d done more than I usually did. Besides, Eli had little to say. No need to force him to speak.
The house was just a light in the distance when he finally spoke.
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
I lifted a shoulder to give a half shrug. Still no thank you. Not even the sound of gratitude. “You looked like you needed an escape.”
“I did,” he agreed.
“I was headed upstairs to escape myself. But I couldn’t ignore my hero mentality and let a poor guy get eaten alive by angry females.”
“Hmmm,” was his only response. What did that mean? And why did it have to sound so raspy and sexy? I should be annoyed by his lack of response. Not turned on by a deep husky rumble.
Back off Ophelia. Don’t go there. You already discussed this with yourself. He is off limits. Girl code unscripted or some shit. “I owe you one.” His voice and words surprising me. That was as close to a thank you I was going to get, but I’d take it. Besides if he was gushing over me and appreciative would I be as attracted to him? I knew that answer and I was going to pretend I didn’t. It made me sound shallow. I hated shallow. Needing to get out of my own head, I decided I’d do the small talk thing. Or attempt it with him.
“No, I think we are even now. I owed you one,” I told him. I felt his gaze on me then. Meeting that gaze was a stupid idea.
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Abbi Glines is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, Field Party and Existence series. She never cooks unless baking during the Christmas holiday counts. She believes in ghosts and has a habit of asking people if their house is haunted before she goes in it. She drinks afternoon tea because she wants to be British but alas she was born in Alabama. When asked how many books she has written she has to stop and count on her fingers. When she’s not locked away writing, she is reading, shopping (major shoe and purse addiction), sneaking off to the movies alone, and listening to the drama in her teenagers lives while making mental notes on the good stuff to use later. Don’t judge.
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