Maryanne held Lucas’ face gently and kissed him, alternating between his upper and lower lips. His stubble rubbed against her, stimulating her tongue to explore. He was not aggressive, not jockeying for dominance. She pressed in, unable to get enough of him.
He massaged her shoulders and the back of her neck. He had to be feeling something—the passionate way he held her, his hand appreciative, yet never venturing to more sensitive zones. She broke off the kiss before he had a chance to disengage first.
He inhaled through his nostrils. “I love the sea breeze. Cleared my nose.”
Nice way to avoid the obvious. She tapped his upper arm, making a motion of depressing a syringe. “You’re not going to give me any credit?”
“Umm… of course, you deserve all the credit.” His eyes claimed her attention. Deep and lustrous.
A purple glow emanated from the dark water, and the evening breeze chilled her. She couldn’t figure out what Lucas wanted. He said friends, but that kiss said more. She rubbed her arms and hugged herself. “What happens now?”
“We eat.” He looked at his backpack and moved to stand. “I bought sandwiches and veggies from the store. No open fires allowed.”
She reluctantly eased off his lap. “Too bad. I can imagine a big bonfire and us snuggling under a blanket.”
Lucas took the food out of his pack. “Bonfires aren’t all that healthy. Once I was on the Jersey Shore sitting around a bonfire, and the next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room.”
“You must have been allergic to the wood they threw in.”
“Possibly. My throat was swollen, and I had hives all over. I was on steroids the rest of the week. Stayed in the cabin and missed the fun.”
“I would have stayed in the cabin with you.” And had all the fun. She wouldn’t have wanted to miss anything with this fascinating man. After dinner, he popped out a bag of marshmallows, and they pretended to roast them until the fog rolled in.
When it was time to go to sleep, Lucas set up the two man tent and let Maryanne crawl in first. The sleeping bag was unrolled and unzipped with a pillow at the head. She tucked herself in. The soft sand held the lingering warmth of the day, but the fog had definitely dampened the surroundings outside.
“You decent in there?” Lucas called, shining a flashlight at her.
She shot her flashlight back at him. “What if I wasn’t?”
“Aw shucks, I was hoping to find you in the bikini.” He crept into the tent and sat on the tarp next to her.
“Where’s your sleeping bag?”
A wide grin cracked his face. “You’re in it.”
“Guess you’re out of luck.”
“Then I’ll freeze. I always sleep naked.” He clutched his arms and shivered exaggeratedly.
“Too bad, so sad.” Maryanne tucked herself further into the bag. The thought of him getting into the bag with her made every nerve sing with excitement.
He started to pull his shirt off. “Close your eyes. Wouldn’t want to offend you, but it’s my tent.”
“If you’re offering a free show, go right ahead.”
He flicked off the flashlights. “No show, missy.”
Aww, shucks! He was such a square. Most guys would flaunt their assets. Darkness enveloped her, so dense she could almost touch it. A warm, make that hot, body moved not two feet from her. His breathing was shallow with sounds of disrobing. A delightful thrill skittered over her. He was so close. The air fluttered with the motion of another blanket, and his bulk was at her side, but not touching.
Maryanne held her breath and waited. Nothing. He exhaled, as if making himself comfortable or saying his prayers. How could he ignore her after that hot kiss? Maybe he was the right type of man, the one she’d been waiting for.
She touched him. “Good night, Lucas.”
“Mmm… good night.” His voice was muffled, raspy.
“I had a wonderful time.” She felt safe and respected. “Do you come here a lot?”
“Sometimes, to get away. It’s quiet here, lonely. All you hear is the surf, and the sky’s so dark.”
“Hard to believe seven million people live right over the hills. Do you like being alone?”
“I like having you with me.”
“I like being with you too.” She feathered her fingers over his shoulders.
He caught her hand. “Better stop that or I won’t be able to control myself.”
“I affect you?” She pressed against him and nudged his forehead with hers.
“You make it very difficult not to.” His minty breath fanned her face, his voice deep and husky.
“Why are we only friends?” She shouldn’t push and risk breaking her vow.
“I’m attracted to you, but I can’t handle the drama that comes with being more. I have to focus on my goals.”
The wind moaned and the surf crashed. Maryanne couldn’t find any words. He’d been honest. And she should be satisfied with his friendship and the special place she had, coming to this private hideaway with him and sharing his love of nature. A part of her heart ripped, but the other part pulsed and swelled. In many ways, he was too good for her, kind and pure, sweet and undemanding. He was right. Life with her was a sad and oftentimes traumatic rollercoaster. Her track record was the pits. She refused to think about John, and Tim, and Al, and Vincent, and Terence, going all the way back to Barry. She squeezed her eyes. Her first one had devastated her, ruined her, and left her a worthless shell—Barry who thought law school was more important than her feelings.
“What are you thinking?” A hand brushed her cheek.
“That you probably think I’m a slut, pushing myself on you.”
“No, no, no. You’re not like that at all. I respect you.”
“Most men don’t.” A lump rose in her throat. “They always looked at what they could get out of me, and when they’re tired of me, they toss me aside.”
“They’re stupid. You deserve someone who cares about you no matter what happens.”
“You mean that?”
“Yes, someone who loves you whether you’re sad, glad, or have a bad hair day.”
How did he know? Maybe that’s what he wanted. To be accepted unconditionally.
She sighed. “I always figured if I gave more than I took in a relationship, they’d love me more. But I end up feeling used.”
He moved his hand down her shoulder and found her hand. “Working with special children, you see them as worth loving because they are—not what they can do for you.”
“That’s why you’re different. I wish we could be more than friends.”
“Me too.” He snuggled up to her and rolled her, sleeping bag and all, into his arms. “Get some sleep.”
The rhythmic pounding of the surf echoed her wishful heartbeat, wild and lonely as the weeping tree of Andorra.