Part of me wants to think positive. Maybe the reason he wants to talk is because he’s decided he wants me in his life. My pulse races with excitement at the idea¸ and I pull off the sheets, and I head for the shower.
The water is nice and hot, and I take my time, scrubbing myself from head to toe. If he does want to be with me, will he kiss me again? Will it have all the heat and passion of our stolen kiss in the ocean? I shave my underarms, my legs, and my bikini area. If we shared such a kiss, would it lead to more? Another night alone with him on a boat. Being alone with him—anywhere. My pulse races.
Of course, it will never be as easy as that. He will have to settle things with Tatianna first. So maybe we won’t be able to be together right away, maybe he’ll ask me to give him time to break things off with Tatianna. They’ve been together long enough, and she deserves to be let down first. And it’s the right thing to do.
I step out of the shower and dry myself off with an overly fluffy towel.
As I finish running my flat iron through my hair, putting the finishing touches on my carefully crafted, ready to have a serious talk with the man of my dreams look, the other possibility rears its evil head, filling my stomach with a cold and twisty dread. It’s the more realistic option.
Damn reality. I hate it.
But I know it’s the more likely outcome of our talk. He’s said it already: his life is complicated now. “We can’t just pinky swear and then live happily ever after.” I feel my shoulders slump, and I stare at my sad reflection in the bathroom mirror.
He’ll tell me he’s sorry, but that it can’t work between us. Collins will be nice about it, because he has always been good to me. But he’ll ask that—because it’s awkward and all—I find a job and move out as soon as I can.
He’ll ask me if I’m okay.
Somehow, I’ll force a nod. I’ll manage to get away from him before I curl up in a ball and cry. Collins will come and find me, and I’ll convince him that everything is fine. Just like all of our little fights and misunderstandings over the years.
I take a deep breath and check myself one last time in the mirror and fix a stray hair—not exactly sure why I bother—before heading out to find Collins. As I take the stairs, I wonder if it really has to be that way. Because after all this time—after the insanity of me flying across the country to make good on this silly promise—he could have laughed it off. He could have just pretended the whole thing was some stupid joke. And frankly, I’m so embarrassed by it that I would probably have gone along with it.
But he didn’t laugh it off. He asked to talk about it. So now, here I am, half trembling, half giddy, and all messed up. I head down the hall to the kitchen, where I know he takes his breakfast. Either he’s about to crush me, or give me hope this isn’t over yet.
Option C. None of the above.
I enter the kitchen to find Tatianna home early from her shoot. She sits next to Collins at the breakfast table filing her nails while he works at his computer. I struggle to hide my disappointment.
She sits so straight in her chair, it’s as if she’s got an iron rod shoved up her hooha. When did she get back? My jaw tenses, but when my eyes move from her to Collins my anger fades, and is replaced with concern. Collins looks exhausted. His eyes narrow and his shoulders hunch up as if the very act of being awake is painful. He also looks angry, but about what, I have no idea. Neither of them hear me enter, and are both still lost in their tasks.
“Collins,” I say.
He looks up and tries to smile, but his brow wrinkles. His gaze roams over my body, and he freezes. I wonder if he’s angry about something, or maybe appreciating the extra time and care I took getting ready. I help myself to a cup of coffee and take a seat across from them.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
He leans his chin heavily on his hand and says, “I had one, maybe two, too many scotches last night.”
My face heats as I remember our texts last night. Had he been so drunk he didn’t know what he was saying? My heart sinks. He probably doesn’t even remember. It’s all there in your text history, I want to say. We’re supposed to have our talk today.
Tatianna looks up. “Morning, Mia. Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah,” I lie and force a smile. “You’re back.”
She pokes at an empty bowl in front of her. “We got everything done early. For once.” She looks around. “Is there anymore cut fruit?” She must be asking one of the staff, but figures out there isn’t anyone here to serve her, and gets up, heading to the fridge.
“I didn’t forget,” Collins whispers once she’s out of earshot.
His words fill me with hope, and I search for any clue on his face of what he’s thinking. But I can’t read him.
“Meet me out back by the row of palm trees in one hour,” he adds, looking into my eyes with such intensity I feel it deep in my gut. The tension is so thick between us, I think it would be so obvious, but Tatianna is oblivious.
He takes a sip of his coffee, then in a relaxed voice says. “Any big plans for today?”
“More job hunting.” I shrug.
Tatianna comes back to the table with a peeled banana. “Maybe Collins will have something for you.”
Collins looks at me and some of his tense mood falls away. “Sure. I’ll check with Suzanna in HR and see what we have open for someone as talented as you.” He’s looking at my lips in a way that makes me feel dirty as he says this.
I take a deep breath and it shudders out. “That would be great, but I don’t expect a job just handed to me.” I bite my lip.
Tatianna turns to Collins. “You know, babe, I have some pretty great talents too.” She opens her mouth and shoves the entire banana in. It’s meant to be sexy, but it’s too big for her mouth and she struggles to chew it down without choking on it.
I take a sip of my coffee in an effort to hide my smile. But Collins watches her thoughtfully, then looks at me and smiles, planting both his hands on the table as if he’s about to stand. “Well, sorry to leave you to eat alone, but Tatianna and I have some things to take care of before I head out.”
“Oh. Sure,” I say. Things? What things? And what about our talk?
But Collins’ expression is blank and tells me nothing. Damn his poker face.
Tatianna’s face is talking enough for both of them, though. Her screw-me eyes are drilling a hole all the way through Collins’ head and into the wall behind him. She slips her arm up his chest, hooking her hand around his neck. I try to turn away, but find my eyes glued to them in some sort of sick envious gape.