The barista called my name and I signed my name on the credit slip that would be charged to Hailana—her version of a salary for me—then rounded up my tea and an ice pack or three before making my way out to where he was sitting. He glanced up when I slid into the seat next to him, did a double take. And then smiled the crazy, lopsided grin of his that had been making my heart flutter since the first time I saw it.
Tonight it was a little more lopsided than usual, thanks to Sabyn’s fists.
Looking good, I told him, pressing one of the icepacks against his bruised jaw.
Yeah, well, you should see the other guy.
I laughed, because I knew that was what he wanted. I can imagine.
His hand covered mine, where I was still holding the ice against his face. Neither of us said anything for a while, probably because we didn’t know what to say. Where to start. Finally, figuring I might as well jump in, I said, I was at—
He spoke at the exact same time. I’m sorry.
We both paused, smiled some more. Ducked our heads. Who knew making up from a fight could be so awkward? Usually Kona just swooped me into his arms for the mother of all make-out sessions. Then again, I guess this fight was too serious to just be swept away in the current …
I was a jerk. I’m sorry, he told me. I knew you were upset, but I was too furious to care. It won’t happen again.
I shouldn’t have gotten so angry, I answered. I know Sabyn is a hot button for you and if I’d just told you we weren’t together you would have calmed down and we could have talked.
He closed his eyes, breathed in a long draw of water, then sighed it back out. I’m glad you weren’t with him.
And I’m glad you kicked his ass. He totally deserved it.
He really did. He pulled my hand from his cheek, brought it to his lips instead and kissed the center of my palm in the way he knew drove me insane. I’m sorry I grabbed on to you like that. You should have kicked my ass.
I almost did.
He continued to press kisses up my palm to my wrist. He paused there, gave a long, lingering lick that had me shivering and clutching at his shoulders.
I love you, I murmured, pressing my own lips to the spot behind his ear, the one I knew made him crazy.
His arms came around me, lifted me onto his lap. I love you, too.
I straddled him then, grateful that I was in human form. He rubbed against me a little and I saw stars. Judging from his suddenly choppy breathing, I think Kona did as well. And then he kissed me, really kissed me, and it was just like it had always been.
A dazzling sunrise sweeping across the beach at dawn.
Cherry Garcia ice cream dribbling down my fingers on a hot summer day.
Catching that amazing, perfect wave and riding it all the way in.
I wanted to stay here forever, pressed against Kona so tightly that it was hard to tell where I left off and he began. Everything was good here, better than good. I didn’t have to think about Hailana or my mother, didn’t have to worry about Tiamat or my family back home.
I could bury my hands in Kona’s hair, wrap my arms and legs around his body and just sink into him and all the emotions that rocketed through me when we touched.
He pulled away too soon. So, you want to tell me what was wrong this afternoon? I know I was a dick earlier, but I’d like to listen now.
Did I want to tell him? I wondered. Originally, I’d held the cave close to me, hadn’t wanted to share this new look at my mother with anyone. But after this morning, after what I saw, everything felt tainted. Wrong.
It would probably be easier if I showed you. I glanced at his poor, beat-up face. But it’s about two hours from here. Do you think you’re up for it?
I’m fine. Sabyn punches like a little girl.
I snorted. No, he doesn’t. I had the bruises to prove it.
Still. I’m fine.
Okay. Drink your beer and we’ll go. I picked up my tea, drained it in three long gulps. Kona beat me anyway.