And now they were frozen in time, stuck forever as an example of the tragedy that took place here.

I could identify with that. Despite being able to move and breathe and talk, I’d felt stuck for a long time, leaving a past I wanted to forget and headed toward a future I didn’t want. Until Hunt.

He made me feel like I didn’t have to keep heading in the same direction. I’d thought I needed this trip to give me a story, one that I could take with me through the rest of my miserable life for comfort or consolation. But he made me think I could have a bigger story, one that didn’t end when this trip was over.

Maybe being a teacher wasn’t such a bad idea after all. My father would scoff at the idea, and think I could do so much better. But history was filled with stories, some good and some bad, and I loved the way those stories made history about more than just dates and names and places. History was filled with people just like me, who just so happened to make a choice that impacted the way the time unfolded. I was so eager to leave my own mark on the world, but maybe I was meant to study the mark of others.

“What are you thinking about?” Hunt asked.


“Yours or the ancient kind?”


He laid a hand across my shoulder and asked, “And what have you come up with?”

“Just that history matters. Mine, and yours, and the world’s. The past is frozen. Written in stone. But the future isn’t.”

As we explored more history over the next few days, I thought a lot about the future. Jackson and I went scuba diving to look at another ancient city just off the coast of Naples that had sunk into the sea hundreds of years ago.


I watched him swimming past coral and fish and Roman statues that had been claimed by the sea, and knew that I wanted him to be a part of my life. But I didn’t know how to tell him that.

Sure, we’d said things that implied what we meant to each other, hints at how we felt. But actually talking about the future and how the two of us fit together in it? That was uncharted territory.

Even at just a few weeks, this relationship felt more serious than any of the others I’d had in my life. I’d never felt this way. I was used to the kind of relationship where the guy was more interested than I was. I spent my time worrying about when the guy would say he loved me, and how that would ruin the delicate balance of our relationship. I’d never been on the other side, wanting to say those words, but terrified that I was just feeling caught up in the moment. Terrified that I was wrong or that he wouldn’t say them back.

But I could feel our trip drawing to a close.

And I needed to know that I would see him again.

We took a boat to the island of Capri the next day. If ever there was a perfect place to broach the topic of a future between us, it was Capri. The crystal waters, high cliffs, and green landscape made the island look like paradise.

Indeed, it was so much of a paradise that it took us nearly an hour to find a place to stay.

Every place we found was already fully booked. Tired of lugging our packs around, we stopped at a small coffee place with an Internet café attached. Jackson searched for a place to stay while I caught up on my e-mail.

I sent a Facebook message to Bliss telling her about my adventures, but I left out any mention of Hunt. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to know about him. With the way I felt, I wanted the whole world to know we were together. But . . . I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure that this would last.

With a degree of unease, I opened my e-mail just to check and make sure there wasn’t anything super important that I’d been neglecting.

As expected, I had over twenty unread messages from my father’s secretary. I didn’t have the patience to read them all. Except for the last one.

That one was from my father. Or at least my father’s e-mail.

I hesitated. Then opened the message.


Your mother and I are very disappointed that you’ve neglected to answer our e-mails during the last few weeks. We expected you home for the charity event, and you caused your mother and me both great embarrassments with your absence.

You might also think of your mother. It’s not good for her to worry about you.

If you’re going to waste your life and spend all my money, you could at least have the decency to let us know you’re okay. If I don’t hear from you, I’m hiring a private investigator, and he will bring you home.


Richard N. Summers

That was my dad. Good ole Richard N. Summers. Gotta love being treated like an employee by your own father. I almost hit reply. I had so many things I wanted to say to him, “I’m alive, douche-bag” being just the first.

But I believed him when he said he’d hire a private investigator. We’d gotten in the habit of paying in cash because they hadn’t really taken cards in Cinque Terre. I don’t think I’d used my card since Florence. He’d have a hell of a time finding us. His patience had run out, and if I told him where I was now, the odds were he’d have someone here tomorrow to drag me home.

Or I could keep going, and maybe it would take him another week or two to find me. I’d stopped using my card to pay for things after that last e-mail in Prague. I only withdrew cash from an ATM when we were leaving a city and moving on. So, other than the occasional ATM transaction, he wouldn’t have much to go on.

Tomorrow, I told myself. I’d take care of it tomorrow. I didn’t want him dragging me home, but I was also tired of running. If I had learned anything on this trip, it was that running from something didn’t mean it stopped chasing you. And I was tired of living life with all my problems nipping at my heels.

Today, I would talk to Hunt and find out where this was going. And then depending on how that went, I’d e-mail my father tomorrow. Either to tell him I was coming home . . . or to tell him something, anything that would let me hang on to this paradise a little longer.

“You ready?” Hunt asked over my shoulder. “What are you reading?”

I closed the window and logged off the computer.

“Just an e-mail from my father. Still trying to control me even with an entire ocean between us.”

He frowned, and I linked my arm with his. “It’s fine. I’m done letting him interfere with my life.”

It took several long moments for his eyes to clear, but then he smiled at me.

I asked, “Did you find a place for us to stay?”

“I did. It’s kind of a trek from here, so we should get whatever we need for our stay now so we don’t have to come back to the city center unless we want to. But the good news is it’s not far from a harbor where you and I have a reservation for a boat tour around the island.”

“Sounds perfect.”

We gathered our things, did a bit of shopping (including a new swimsuit for me), and found a taxi to take us to the bed-and-breakfast where we were staying.

I closed myself in the bathroom to change into my bathing suit, a simple black bikini top to go with the old black bottoms that I hadn’t lost in Cinque Terre.

I looked in the mirror, trying to gather my courage. Instead, I marveled at the way I had changed in the last few weeks.

In that bathroom in Heidelberg, I’d looked in the mirror and been disgusted with myself. I had looked sad and small and pathetic and ragged. Now . . . I looked happy. I mean, sure, I was tired from all the traveling and lugging my backpack around. My brow was lined with sweat from the non-air-conditioned taxi that had brought us here. And I was wearing just a dash of mascara, and nothing more. I had definitely looked prettier. But happier? Never.

That was all the pep talk I needed.

I pulled on another sundress, opened the bathroom door, and located Jackson sitting on the bed. I took a running leap, and threw myself at him.

His reflexes were too fast for me to surprise him, so instead he caught me, and rolled me underneath him.

I laughed, and he looked at me with such tenderness in his eyes. He propped himself up on one elbow, and ran his fingers through my hair splayed across a pillow.

“Someone is happy,” he said.

I nodded, and pulled him down for a kiss. I wrapped my legs around his waist, and he lowered himself down on top of me.

I hummed into his kiss and said, “It appears someone else is happy, too.”


We were five minutes late for our boat reservation. Totally worth it.

We rented a boat and hired a man named Gianni to captain it for us. Gianni was a plump, older man with a near-permanent frown and white eyebrows so bushy they looked more like a patch of whiskers. But even his grouchy, broken English couldn’t ruin this moment.

Gianni set off in silence, leaving Hunt and me toward the back of the boat just to enjoy the ride.

We rode straight out of the harbor first, the small inlet filled with boats disappearing quickly behind us. Then when we were far enough out that we could only see a few boats like ours out on the water, he turned and began circling the island.

I leaned back against the seat cushions and placed my feet in Hunt’s lap with a quick smile. His returned smile was devastatingly handsome. He glanced at an oblivious Gianni, and lifted up my foot, placing a sensuous kiss on the inside of my ankle the same way he’d done the night we first slept together. A shiver snaked down my spine, coiling low in my belly.

After a while, we settled into a comfortable silence. The boat’s motor was too loud to allow for much conversation anyway. So, I leaned back against the cushions to watch the land rise and fall around us, and Hunt pulled out his notebook, scratching away at another sketch.

Once we’d seen a good portion of the island at a distance, Gianni brought us close to the land again, this time a section devoid of a harbor and seaside buildings. He began to slow. The water below us was a vivid turquoise, but as we came into shallower water, we could see straight through to the fish and coral that lined the ocean bottom.

There were numerous other boats ahead of us gathered around one outcropping of rock. Gianni slowed to a stop and lowered a tiny rowboat into the water off the edge of our larger boat.

Gesturing toward an opening in the rock, he said, “Grotta Azzurra.” I took a wild guess, and assumed that Azzurra was related to the word azure.

“Blue?” I asked.

“Sì, Blue Grotto.”

He motioned for Hunt and me to climb down the ladder on the side of the boat, and into the canoe/small boat/thingamajig. Jackson went first, and I followed, and then Gianni came down last. It was a seriously small boat. I was a little worried about how it was going to handle the three of us. But I wasn’t going to argue with Gianni’s very serious eyebrows.

He pointed toward the mouth of the cave again, and said, “Grotto.”

I moved closer to Hunt to make a little room, and he pulled me into the V of his legs.

Gianni rowed us toward the grotto, where we waited in line as other small boats like ours entered and exited the cave. We had to duck our heads just to fit under the overhanging rock, but as soon as we got inside, I knew how it got its name.

The waters inside the dark cave glowed a florescent blue. At first, I thought it was just a reflection from the light coming from the mouth of the cave, but the light seemed to be shining up from underneath the water. I dipped a hand under the surface, and it too glowed blue.

“Wow.” My voice echoed around the cave, bouncing back at us from craggy walls.

Then our surly guide began to sing, and my jaw dropped in shock.

His voice was low and rich as he sang a song in Italian, slow and mesmerizing. The sound echoed around us, filling the chamber, and making my breath catch in my throat.

Jackson’s arm tightened around my waist and he rested his lips against my shoulder.

Too quickly, Gianni was maneuvering the boat around and we were heading back for the bright light of the opening. I wanted to slow time down, to freeze us in this moment for just a few seconds longer.

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