Taking a deep, fortifying breath, I charge straight into the water, despite the freezing temperature. There's nothing like charging into the ocean fully clothed to make you feel reckless and spontaneous. 

As soon as I hit the waves, I begin to understand what Becca has wanted for me all along. The crunch of sand in between my toes, the cold water rushing over my skin, and Colton's bright smile as he watches me fight my way into the surf makes everything crystal clear. I feel carefree. Alive. With a flash of clarity I get everything she's been trying to tell me. It feels so good and freeing that I almost cry. But instead, I laugh, a raw, primal sound bursting from my lips. God, I don’t remember the last time I laughed. Actually laughed out loud. It feels fucking amazing.

Colton's gaze snaps to mine at the sound and a slow smile uncurls on his mouth. He can feel it too. I'm back. I've got this. I'm going to be okay. I'm not merely going to survive. I'm going to thrive. I'm going to ensure Becca doesn't go quietly. Her message will ring out loud and clear if I have anything to say about it.

A sense of euphoria washes over me and I throw my arms out to my sides, turning in a circle and looking straight up at the dark sky as the cold water washes over me. Then I swim deeper, needing more of this feeling.

Colton chases after me until I'm chest deep. Goosebumps break out over my skin as the cool water envelopes me, my wet clothes clinging to my body. The water laps at his waist and we stand there, watching each other, breathing hard. The moon is covered by a haze of low clouds, painting the night sky in a dark, luminous hue.

Colton moves confidently toward me. He is so at ease with his body, so controlled in all that he does, it's hard not to feel small and feminine in his presence. His strong stature commands attention. And he has mine – full and undivided.

He's unbuttoned his dress shirt and I watch the waves lick against his toned belly and chest, wondering if he'd taste salty from the ocean spray if I decided to lean down and lick him like my brain is demanding I do. A current of sexual awareness buzzes between us.

He finds my hand beneath the water and tugs me closer.

I reach for him and wrap my legs around his waist, relishing the feel of his hot skin against mine. With my legs tangled around his hips, my center is angled at just the right spot to feel the stirrings of his erection.

"Hmm, and here I would have thought I excited you a bit more than that," I say, feeling cheeky.

"The water's a bit cold, sweetness. Give me a minute."


I shrug. "We'll see, Mr. Drake."

"Trust me, you won't be disappointed," he says, his tone sure and authoritative.

"Good. Because I was looking forward to exploring something more tonight."

"More?" He raises one brow, watching me expectantly.

"More," I confirm.

His lazy smile is back and his eyes latch on to mine. "What's gotten in to you tonight? Not that I'm complaining," he quickly adds.

"Life," I say. "I lost sight of it for a little bit there."

"Understandable." With one hand still resting under my bottom, he uses the other to cup my cheek and sweep the hair back from my face. "You're my everything. You know that, right?"

I nod, letting the deep feeling of his love cascade over me. I've been afraid to feel these last few weeks, but now I'm letting every emotion pour over me and it's overwhelming – but in the best possible way.

"I can't lose you, Sophie," he murmurs. I can see in his eyes that he's been scared, even if he never said it, my behavior has caused him worry.

"I'm here. I promise."

Like a perfect sign from above, it begins raining. Completely pouring. Giant raindrops cascade down on us and turn the ocean into a tumultuous force, alive with its own brand of wild energy. It looks like a giant pot of boiling water.

I untangle myself from him and swim toward shore. "Come on!" I yell when I notice he's still standing where I left him, watching me curiously.

When I reach the beach my clothes are twisted and hanging heavily on my body and my wet hair whips wildly around my face.

I grab Colton's hand – it's freezing – and pull him along, jogging toward the house while the hot rain pelts us from above.

Once inside, I sprint up the stairs, racing away from Colton's freezing, grabby hands against a bubble of laughter that I can't contain.

Colton's low chuckle rumbles from behind me as he gives chase. The house has been devoid of laughter for so long, the sound is like music. Beautiful and full of life.

As soon as I reach the bedroom I dive onto the bed. Needing to get warm, I roll myself up in the fluffy comforter like a burrito. In an attempt to not get the bed soaking wet, I whip off my clothes and only emerge from the covers to fling them off – dropping the articles onto the carpeting with a dull, wet thud.

Colton's laughter dies on his lips as his hot gaze slides over my curves, heating me up from the inside out. After making their way up my body, his eyes land on mine. "You're so fucking beautiful," he says.

Somehow I know that he's not talking about how I look on the outside, he's talking about what's on the inside. The life he can see burning brightly within me. And I feel beautiful, with his dark blue stare eating me up and the deep love and acceptance I feel radiating out from his gaze.

"Come here." He holds out his hand and I rise onto my knees, crossing the bed until I'm kneeling before him. Colton swallows heavily and watches me while he undresses himself, shrugging off the wet shirt and letting his pants and boxers fall to the floor.