fishingThe wind blew strongly against her face and she took in the sweet smell of ocean mixed in with Neve’s musky scent before she pushed away from him. Face firing, Genevieve strode over to the banister and frowned out onto the foamy waves below. When Neve leaned against the banister beside her, she threw a glare over her shoulder at him. “Was that really necessary?”

“You’re welcome…”

She rolled her eyes, lifting the cup of juice to her lips. “I could’ve handled him myself.”

“Yeah, you were sure doing a great job so far.”

“What’s it to you? Weren’t you catching up with Ameya anyway?” She frowned, hating the acridity in her voice. It was obviously too early for her to be out socializing. She needed time to come to terms with how alone she was. Standing in a room full of people laughing and celebrating wasn’t helping.

“Wasn’t in the mood…” Neve sighed, peering over at her. “Did you send her over?”

Genevieve scoffed, swallowing the rest of the juice before setting the cup on the railing. “I’m neither you nor Ameya’s mediator. Whatever you two need to work on has nothing to do with me.”

His face hardened as her words mingled with what he’d said earlier that week when his father mentioned Mr. Boudain and he clenched his jaw. “Really? Is that true?”

“Of course it is,” Genevieve laughed sardonically, glaring up at him. “Why should it matter to me if you still have strong feelings for her?” She shrugged her shoulders and looked away. “It’s not my problem whether or not you want to keep harboring them while she moves on with her life.”

He narrowed his eyes at her before looking over the waves. “Yeah, it definitely sounds like you don’t care.”

The two of them resorted to a stony silence as the waves crashed noisily against the rocks below, both annoyed with themselves with the regretful feelings they held within.

Genevieve caved in first, sighing softly against the crashing waves. She pushed at the stray hairs that blew with the wind. “Look, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do with Ameya… It wasn’t my place to say anything.” She turned toward the entrance door.

Neve grabbed hold of her arm, stilling her. “Don’t go back in there.”

She frowned down at his hand on her arm before looking up at him, his face shrouded by shadows caused by the moonlight slanted at an angle behind him. Genevieve forced out a shaky breath. “Why not?”

“Because you don’t want to be here.”

Genevieve blinked at the tears invoked by his pointed words and jerked lightly against his grip on her arm. “I’m fine. For goodness’ sake, can you two just stop it already?” Her eyes blurred and she scowled, lifting her free hand to swipe at the offending tears gathering at her eyelids.

Without a word, Neve stepped toward her. She shook her head and took a step back. “Nu-uh,” she mumbled against the sobs bubbling at her throat, ducking her head. “Don’t…” Neve’s arms gathered her into the steady warmth of his embrace and she came undone.

Her fingers curled around his dress shirt, the tears subsiding only after she’d become completely spent. “I hate this…” she muttered, feeling his insistent palm rubbing at her back.

“I know.”

“I mean I really hate feeling like this…” Genevieve didn’t move from his arms. How come she’d never noticed how strong and firm his chest was, or that his strong arms didn’t have to strain to wrap around her? She felt a shiver skitter up her spine and stiffened against him.

His palm paused on the small of her back. “You cold?”

“Uh-hmm,” she muttered, holding back a sigh as he pulled her in closer. “This is… nice.”

His rumbling chuckle coursed through her body and she bit her bottom lip, closing her eyes. “First you say you hate this, now you like it?”

Genevieve wrinkled her nose, starting to push away from him. A smile spread her lips as he kept a firm hold around her, and she settled back against him. “Don’t worry about it.”

“If you insist,” he replied, a smile in his voice.

She sighed as his hand continued rubbing against her back, promising peace and security with each stroke. For a moment, she allowed herself to relax, believing that everything would be alright.

“When will you talk with Ameya?” Genevieve asked as Neve pulled the car to a stop. She turned her head to peer up at the darkened home she’d shared with her mother. Biting her lip, Genevieve hesitated unbuckling her seatbelt. Days prior to this one, she’d been too fatigued to notice how quiet and eerily empty it was in the house, falling to sleep before the sun fell over the mountains and waking after it was burning hot in the midday. Now, still buzzing from the party and Neve’s warm company, she wasn’t ready to face the loneliness.

“Later,” Neve promised, shifting his attention to her hands fiddling the latch of the car door. “Need help?”

“I’m fine,” she insisted sternly, hesitating for just a moment before jerking the latch in. The door swung open and Genevieve heaved a sigh before shifting her legs to hang out of the car.

His brow furrowed as she took her time exiting the car. Now that he’d taken time to realize it, he should’ve let Ameya and Jonathan escort Genevieve home. Something inside his head nagged him to lead her to the front door before driving away but he had a feeling that Genevieve might scold him for treating her like a child. He gripped the steering wheel and watched as she slowly closed the door before trudging up the hill to her dark and empty house. He glanced through the side mirror at the shadowed house down the street, Ameya’s old home. She and her husband had not yet returned.

He looked back at Genevieve’s house, noting how quickly the lights snapped on and with a dismissive grunt, he started to put the car in drive.

Genevieve swallowed hard as she stared at the empty stairwell and the absence of family photos that used to hang on the wall leading up the stairs. She’d wanted to leave them there but knew that seeing pictures of her late mother would only invoke more tears. Later she’d put them up, once she was ready. Now, she couldn’t bear to remember what she’d lost. Except sitting in the empty house was a cruel reminder for her.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Genevieve turned away toward the door. She couldn’t stay here. The mere thought of sleeping in the house without hearing her mother’s light footsteps or her gentle humming during the night before bed was suffocating. She jerked open the door, almost stumbling into Neve’s open arms.

The tears came easily as Neve wrapped his arms around her yet again, steadying her balance. “It’s okay,” he said against her ear as she choked amid sobs, burying her face against his chest. With a foot he nudged the door to close before entering the lobby. His eyes took note of the empty stairwell and frowned lightly, one hand moving to rub Genevieve’s back.

To think that she might never see her mother’s brown eyes teasing or berating her was sheer pain that coursed through her entire body and Genevieve groaned against Neve’s chest, clutching his shirt tighter. Her mother’s laughter was a fading echo in her heart and the sobs racked painfully at Genevieve’s body. Guilt and anger mixed with helplessness as she recalled the last agonizing moments of her mother’s life, remembering the flash of pain in her weary brown eyes before she closed them for one last time. Genevieve stiffened as pain clenched her stomach and she gripped Neve tighter all the while biting at her bottom lip.

Then she felt it. A deep resident warmth welled up inside her, pushing against the biting cold in her body and wrapping around her like a comforting fleece blanket. The last sob caught in her throat and Genevieve blinked against her sore eyes at Neve’s sturdy chest. Her fingers loosened around his wrinkled shirt and she peered up at him.

He looked down at her, surprised that she’d stopped crying, expecting to stay all night if she wanted to sob even to the wee hours of the morning. His eyes searched her weary brown gaze before lifting a finger to wipe the last tear hanging in her right eye. Then his gaze lowered. His heart stopped.

Genevieve couldn’t breathe, noting a change in his dark eyes. Her heart started to beat fast as his eyes lowered and she felt her cheeks warm under his intent gaze. Inadvertently she drew in her lips, choking a gasp as his eyes flickered with something she hadn’t seen before.

Neve knew he shouldn’t do this, that he was crossing the line. Still he couldn’t stop his head from lowering slowly toward hers. He ignored the screaming in his head as his head slanted over hers, his heart picking up speed when her eyes closed and she tilted her head toward his own. Then his lips met hers and a warm shiver skittered up his spine.

Swallowing a sigh, Genevieve pushed her head up as she felt his lips soften over hers. Cheeks and shoulders warm from his gentle but firm embrace, she leaned into him.

They didn’t have time to revel in each other’s warmth when a sharp rap sounded on the door. Neve reluctantly released Genevieve, watching as she ducked under his arm and scuttled to open the door, groaning as Ameya and Jonathan stood on the other side, equal concerned looks on their faces.

He and Genevieve exchanged a glance before they both turned to face the couple standing on the other side of the door, pushing the comforting yet mind-stirring kiss from their minds. It was time to face the truth and no time was better than the present.

<<Part 4 ||

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