Chapter Eleven

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"I read what you wrote about the pub."

They'd jumped back into the lake to swim naked in the summer waters, their movements sending ripples out around them.

"That was the last paper I wrote," she told Beckett. "I brought it to give to you. Wanted you to have it."

"I didn't know you felt that way, that you saw the pub that way."

Danielle dunked down below the surface, gathering courage in the quiet world. When she popped back up, she wiped the wet from her eyes and looked at the man in front of her. "I realized that I'd kept my heart from you because that's what we'd agreed to, in a way. But in doing so, I also kept my feelings and thoughts about you to myself. Given the circumstances, I thought it was time to share. At least share with you what I've shared with others." She paused, took a deep breath. "And I've been thinking."

"You're kidding."

"Shocking, I know. But I think that... I'm still processing this so be patient with me. I'm not usually very good at extemporaneous speaking."

"Thank God that was last Wednesday's word-of-the-day on the calendar so I know what that means."

She let out a chuckle. He was good at this, she realized. Making things easier and at the same time making them ten times more difficult. It would almost be easier if Beckett offered resistance to what she said, how she felt. Then her words might have a stronger conviction to them. "I do better to think things through, to consider and let the various pieces come together."

"We came together," he told her, the smile on his face lifting as his hand reached through the water to grab her butt.

Despite herself, she let out a full laugh. "Yes, we did. We're very good at that."

"We should come together again, just to be sure," he made another quick move for her and she held him back, shooed him away.

"Just stay there," she told him, treading water, glad for the physical effort that balanced the emotional effort it took to gather and get out her feelings. "I've never told a man that I love him. Romantically, that is. I've never had a man tell me that he loves me. Until this morning. And..." She left his gaze and studied the rigid line of treetops that pierced the soft blue of the sky. "And, deep inside—hold the jokes," she told him with a narrowed glance back to him, "I wished to hear those words from you, to feel what it would feel like to be loved by you. But it was a wish that was unattainable. No," she shook her head, "unattainable is the wrong word. It was simply a frivolous wish. A wish that I was safe to dream of because I knew it would never come true."

The slopes and lines of his face hardened. And with his shorter hair wet and away from his face, the man looked damn near dangerous, she thought. Not a mean kind of dangerous, but like a man on the edge of making decisions that would affect both of their lives.

"Please don't misunderstand. Beckett, I watched women parade in and out of the pub to see you. For years I watched you leave after closing with those women. It wasn't reasonable for me to think that your heart was involved once we started sleeping together. I mean, you told me no promises, no strings, remember?"

"I remember." His voice was low, rough. "So you're saying it was all just a challenge for you? To see if you could sleep with me?"

"God no. That's not what I'm saying at all. See, this...you're actually making my point." She shook her head again and began shivering in the water—either from nerves or the wet chill.

"I used to think you were the one afraid of promises and strings and saying things like I love you to a person. I thought you were the one afraid of expressing your heart and making a commitment to someone. But, I think that's only partly true."

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