Twice in a Blue Moon

Page 20

And here I was, asking to walk around London alone—as far as she knew, that is. “You’re sure you’ll be fine?”

I nodded quickly, working to speak past the sun rising in my chest. “Totally fine.”


“YOU ARE A MASTER manipulator.” Sam handed a few pound notes to the man at the Bluebird Boats rental kiosk and looked over his shoulder at me. “I thought for sure she’d say no. How did you get Jude to go for it?”

“I told her I wanted to be independent and ride a boat. I knew she didn’t want to go on the lake, so . . .”

He reached out for a high five, and we followed the man along the dock to where our blue paddleboat was tethered to a wide metal hook. The mechanics of powering the boat with our feet seemed pretty straightforward, but the man explained it anyway: how the pedals worked, how to steer, what to do if we got stuck far out and the wind picked up across the lake. Had he not looked up and seen the freight engine that is Sam, standing right in front of him?

“If we get stuck,” I said, hooking my thumb toward the mountain of a man beside me, “I’ll just make him climb out and tow me back to the dock.”

The man sized him up with a raised brow. “Well, off then. Stay on this side of the bridge, all right?”

Sam steadied me with his hand on my arm as I climbed into my seat, before following me in. The boat dipped noticeably under his weight. “We’re going to be paddling in circles,” I joked. “Maybe you should only use one foot.”

He looked at me, eyes glimmering. “You’re in an especially good mood.”

I liked that he saw it. He was right, too. I was nearly light-headed I was so giddy to be out on my own, especially with Sam. We had only six days left together, and I was already dreading having to say goodbye.

We backed up and play-fought over who got to steer, finally agreeing that I’d go first, then he’d get a turn.

“Girls usually like to be driven around,” he said when he conceded control of the simple lever.

“Careful,” I growled darkly, but playfully, over at him. “You wouldn’t want to sound sexist.”

With a sweet smile, he held a hand to his heart. “I sure wouldn’t.”

It was windier on the lake than it was on the paved trail, and steering proved harder than I’d expected. Paddling was comical. I was pushing with every bit of strength I had and still barely managed to keep us moving in a straight line.

“Canoing is way easier,” I whined. “Mental note to request they stock canoes when we return.”

“Or kayaks.”

“We have these huge lines of canoes at the beach in town,” I told him, already breathless. “They used to be metal and would get hot as hell in the sun. Now they’re these thick, inflatable ones. Yellow rubber. You’ll see tourists all over the river, tipping over where it gets gnarled just before Jenner.”

“You get a lot of tourists?”

“In the summer, yeah.” I stopped, working to catch my breath. “Wine country. The river. I get it—it’s a nice place to stay . . . for a few days.”

He laughed at this and again, we veered left because he was pedaling so much more forcefully than I could.

“Lend me one of your legs,” I said.

He reached over, tickling my side, and then shifted his hand behind me, letting it rest around my shoulders. “This okay?”

I had to swallow past a thick swell of YES in my throat, and managed a garbled, “Of course.”

“Sorry we cut out of breakfast so early.”

For once this morning, Sam and Luther were downstairs before we arrived, and they left only a few minutes after we’d returned with our plates of food. “Is Luther okay?”

“Not sure. He hasn’t been eating much.”

Now that he mentioned it, I’d noticed it, too.

His hand curled around the back of my neck, warm and firm. Changing the subject, he asked, “Is it weird to be on your own in a big city?”

“A little. Mom and Nana don’t really let me go anywhere alone.”

“Were they worried about something happening related to your dad?” He squeezed my neck gently. “Or are they just overprotective?”

“I don’t think they were worried about Dad. More the media, I guess. Or . . . it just became habit to worry. Every day, up until I graduated, one of them would drop me off and pick me up from school.”

He looked floored. “Seriously?”

I nodded. “I have a driver’s license, but I’ve driven alone only a handful of times, and only ever around town. I’ve been to movies with friends without Nana or Mom, but am required to check in immediately after the show ends.”

“But now they’re letting you move to Sonoma? How far is that?”

“Fifty miles. It’s about as close as I could be.” Regret pulsed like a twin heartbeat inside me. “I also got in to Santa Cruz, University of Oregon, and UC Santa Barbara—but it just felt too far.”

He hummed and slid his fingers into the hair at the nape of my neck, sending an electric pulse from my scalp to the base of my spine. I could feel his fingertips, the way his hand flexed. He made tiny circles with the tip of his index finger, and the sensation traveled down my body; an anticipatory thrum settled low in my navel.

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