He rubs his hand over his wet hair and says. “My life is complicated. It’s not as easy as it was when we were little. We can’t just pinky swear and then live happily ever after.”

His words hurt so much I flinch. I can’t tell if I believe them, but they must be right. Because I hear them all the time. My parents always tell me I’m a dreamer. Leila says I’m too romantic. I’ve always taken the comments as playful jabs. But hearing it from him, for some reason that hurts. Maybe it’s time I finally accept it. I wipe away a tear and take in a shaky breath, nodding. “Yeah. I know. It’s not a fairytale; it’s real life. You two have been together for a long time.” I step back and wave him off, blotting my eyes with my towel.

“Lunch,” Tatianna shouts from around the corner.

Collins eyes lock on mine. “Sorry,” he mouths.

I want to tell him it’s okay, that I’ll be all right. But I can’t find the words, because it feels like someone just punched me in the stomach.

So instead, I just nod and follow him around to the bow where a table has been set for our lunch. Thankfully, Collins pulls his shirt back on before he sits down. My ego is hurt, and still I’m going to have a hard enough time keeping my eyes from visually molesting him—even without him being half naked.

“My agent set up a few shoots for me this week. We don’t have anything going on, right?” Tatianna asks Collins.

He glances at me before answering her. “Uh, no. We’re clear.”

“I figured it was fine,” she smiles at me then at Collins. “I mean you two have all your catching up to do or whatever. It’s not like you guys want me around for that. You can spend some time together. You know, show Mia a good time.”

My face flushes, and I look down at my sandwich. She has no idea how close her words bring me to a nervous laughing fit. She also, apparently, has no idea what just happened between Collins and me. Her face shows not a hint of being jealous or worried that I might pose a threat to her relationship with Collins. And now that I look at her, with her perfect hair and beautiful face—not to mention her beyond elegant body—I have no idea why someone who was dating her would want to kiss me, let alone dump her for me.

Maybe Collins is right. I’m living in a fairytale, and it is time to grow up.


Besides, Collins and I had been best friends before, there is no reason we can’t continue that now. I’d applied for several jobs last night online. If I can land one, I’ll be able to move out of his house, soon, and we can totally do the friend thing.

I think.

Having cleared her schedule with Collins, Tatianna tunes out once more, getting lost in her phone as she nibbles on her plate of lettuce. Leaving Collins and me to silently look at one another. Leaving me to wonder why I’d been so bold as to kiss this woman’s boyfriend. I’m not that type of person. I don’t go after guys who are already taken, but then there is no other guy like Collins Drake. And I’d claimed him years ago.

Laying guilt on top of the humiliation I already feel, I’m surprised I can eat at all, but when I take a bite of my sandwich, I discover how hungry the morning’s activities have made me. It’s not bad at all for chicken salad. In fact, I manage to inhale it. Something Collins appears to enjoy watching.

Being ravenous and distracted is a poor combination, and I manage to bite my tongue. “Ouch,” I say.

Collins bursts out laughing. “Slow down, Mia. We wouldn’t want you to choke on your tongue.”

I give him a snarky smirk. But I notice that Collins isn’t eating. Darn Tatianna and her chicken fetish.

He sips his beer, quietly, and I forget about Tatianna.

I can’t help watching his lips on the beer bottle. It reminds me of how smooth his lips were as they brushed against mine, and how commanding his kiss was. His mouth was so demanding, and I loved the way he held me firmly as he took what he wanted from me. And he had wanted me at that moment, in the water. I felt it, rock hard and even bigger, so much bigger than I remembered. I get wet just thinking of how big he was, pushed up against me. At the moment I realized how hard he was for me, I wanted to slip my hand inside his swimsuit and feel him in my hands. The only thing stopping me was the fear of letting go of my iron grip around him. The only thing that was saving me from falling into the depths of the Pacific.

Collins choses that exact moment to look up and meet my eyes. His look smolders as his gaze drops from my eyes to my mouth. He’s thinking about the kiss too.

“I had fun with you in the water, Mia,” Collins says pulling me back into the present. His voice is slow and sensuous. “I haven’t done anything like that in a long time.” His eyes sparkle, and he smiles unevenly. My stomach flips as my body reacts to his words.

I lean forward on my elbows and the desire for him, for all of this, rears its head. His eyes flash on mine, and for a second, he’s wondering if I’m going to out him, and our water activities. “I don’t know how you could spend every Sunday out here and not go swimming,” I say, sweetly.

His eyes soften and I can tell he’s relieved. It feels so good to see him happy.

After lunch, Collins tells me to make myself at home before he takes his leave to go get a bit of work done.

I barely consider tanning with Tatianna. I don’t want to be the other woman, but I don’t really want to be her bestie either. Besides, I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well last night, strange bed and all, and since he told me to make myself at home, I will find a nice place to take a nap.