“Gwen hustled me out of there.”
I shrug. “Still. It sucked. I felt like you ditched me again.”
He winces at this, and then bends, pressing his mouth to mine for two perfect seconds. “I don’t like that.”
“I didn’t, either.”
“I assumed they’d tell you that I was worried about you. That they’d sent me home to get away from the madness and not make things worse, I suspect.”
“Only a few crew members were left on the farm when we got back. I had no idea whether you were worried or not.”
“I realize,” he says, and his gaze is level, totally calm, “how easy it was for me to disappear last time. No one knew I was involved. I made you take all the heat. This time, it was my name dragged through mud, and I had to reckon with that.” He looks down, kicking a stick away, onto the lawn. “I figured if you called or wanted to talk, I’d be up for that. But if you didn’t, I’d understand.” He looks at me and grins. “Then I got impatient, but you wouldn’t return my call.”
“You took a long time to call me that first time,” I reply. The truth was always so easy when it was just us like this. “And I let it get in my head.”
He wipes his mouth, laughing. “This is some mess we made.”
“This is some mess my dad made.”
Sam’s eyes go wide. “No shit?”
“He’s eating it up, I bet.”
“You haven’t talked to him?”
I shake my head. “I still can’t believe he sold me out like that. Marco has us—me, Mom, Nana—sequestered away in South Carolina.”
“You all’re pretty good at hiding.”
I can’t read his tone. It doesn’t sound chastising exactly, but it worms under my skin, making me uncomfortable anyway.
“I don’t want to hide,” I admit. “I don’t want this story to die out because we’ve disappeared. I want to face it head on.”
He tilts his chin up, grinning. “Do you, now?”
“I mean, me and you.” I swallow past a lump in my throat. “I want to take over the narrative. If you want that.”
Sam takes a small step closer and it brings his body right up against mine. “I want that.”
“I found your emails.”
His brow rises. “Yeah?”
“And I want that,” I tell him, adding at his small, confused frown, “I want free-range, bottomless love.”
His grin sneaks in from the side. “You know what they say about this farm?”
He bends, and inhales just behind my ear, smelling my hair. “That anyone who walks down that road in search of love finds it.”
“Is that right?”
Sam’s mouth is on my neck now, gently biting his way up. He hums in confirmation.
I stretch against him; he’s so warm. “Well, that’s pretty handy.”
“I was just wandering down the road, hoping to find it and—lucky me—you stepped out. You’ll do just fine.”
With a laugh, Sam picks me up, hauling me over his shoulder, and carries me toward the farmhouse. The sky had settled into a deep starlit canvas overhead.
“Have you ever seen the stars from this exact spot on earth?” he asks me.
My heart squeezes and then stretches into a thunder. “No, sir.”
He sets me down on a thick patch of lawn and then lowers himself down, patting the grass beside his hip.
“Come on,” he whispers, patting the ground again. The moon is high and full, the sky is an explosion of stars. I settle down next to him, drugged by the heat of his body curved around mine.
“Come right on down here with me, honey,” he says, “and let’s look at the sky.”