Chapter 48

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Eli was kissing her cheek. She could feel the soft warmth of his lips on her skin. His hand cupped her face. She was frozen in the spot. She could feel her skin grow hotter by the second and she was thankful for the dim light. He pulled back but not far enough for her to dare to try to breathe.

"Not everything that is broken is lost forever. The watch can be fixed. Believe me when I say that a broken watch is the furthest thing from my mind at this moment," he said. His breath tickled her face in a way that was not unpleasant. If he was waiting for her reaction, he wasn't going to get one anytime soon. She couldn't get a straight thought to go through her mind.

Eli's hand left her face a thousand years too soon and he went over to pick up the bag that he'd dropped on the floor. Some of the gems had spilled out. He was slowly putting them back into the bag. How could he do that and be so calm about it? Or... or was he not facing her because he wasn't as calm as he would like for her to see?

The smile that had been threatening to make its appearance slowly spread across her face. Hailie turned her attention to the wall in front of her but her hands were shaking so much that she just rested her forehead against the cool rock and let it fall to her side. It hadn't even been a real kiss and she felt weak in the knees and her heart was racing as if she'd run a mile at top speed. What was happening to her?

She did manage to get her hands to start back working. They didn't say any words to each other. Eli didn't mention her name. He didn't ask any questions. She was a little more relieved than she would care to admit.

"My bag is full," Hailie said.

Eli had filled his a few minutes before. He had left the spot where they were, and had gone to the opposite side of the cave. His eyes were trained on the ground and he would kick a stone every now and again. He bent down and picked up one up. He threw it in the air and caught it in his hand.

"Found it," he said. He walked over to her, the smile still on his face. "You said you weren't going to take any for yourself and I thought it was a shame." He held out the stone. "This one is my favorite," he said.

Hailie took it from his hand and held it up to the light. It was round and smooth and fit neatly in the palm of her hand, but the color was a dull brown and she could see nothing special about it.

"I do not understand why," she said. "It is just a normal rock."

He took it from her hand and hit it against the rock wall. He stuck his fingernail into the crack and pried it open.

"This is why it is my favorite."

The outside may have been a dull brown but the inside... the inside was like the whole cave was shrunken to fit inside a small ball. There wasn't just one color. It was a whole rainbow, and when she tilted it to the side, the colors changed. She could see why he said it was his favorite. Nothing she'd ever seen, nothing even in the cave, could compare to the sight contained in the stone.

"We'll keep this one a secret between us. I haven't shown it to anyone else and people might get jealous," Eli said. She wasn't sure who there was to get jealous but she nodded anyway. He put the pieces back together. "It's time we leave. Maybe I'll take you to another cave. Of course, this was just a taste. I will need payment for the next trip. Something other than your name," he said, his eyes twinkling. Hailie wasn't sure she wanted to know what he had in mind.

Eli stepped into the water and when it reached his waist he held out his hand. This time she took it without thinking.

The swim through the tunnel wasn't as bad the second time (though that could be because she had other things on her mind) but when they exited Eli didn't let go as she thought he would. Instead, he pulled her up towards the ship, swimming far stronger than she had the energy to while carrying a bag of stones. He didn't let go until she had her hand on the rope ladder.

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