“What are you working on?”
Mari glanced up from the notebook where she was planning out the tour schedule at her dining room table. Reese stood with his hands in his pockets a few feet away, just outside of the hall. “Schedule for next week,” she murmured as she looked back down.
“Schedule yourself off.”
“And why would I be doing that?”
“I talked to Blake.”
Mari lost all interest in the schedule then.
“We had to adjust the timeline to account for some other things,” Reese continued. “He’ll be able to get out here in another two to three days.”
“Really?” she asked, unable to hide her excitement and not trying to. “How long is he going to be able to stay?”
“We don’t know that yet. A couple of days maybe.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t need to be off the whole week then.”
“You want to be on the schedule if it happens he can stay longer?”
“Okay, maybe you have a point. The whole week it is.”
She balled up the paper she’d been working on and tossed it to the side. She drew lines on a new sheet and started reworking her plans. A few moments later she registered Reese hadn’t moved from his spot and was still watching her.
“Did you still want to walk the beach today?” he asked
“Yes,” she returned immediately without looking up.
“You need to come now then. I don’t want you out once it starts to get darker.”
“Seriously? First, you completely wreck my scheduling and now you’re rushing me?”
“So you don’t want to walk?”
She glared at him.
“I’ll meet you at the door,” he said simply and turned away.
Muttering to herself, Mari pushed back from the table to go in search of her shoes. He was at the door as promised when she walked into the living room with her sandals. As usual, he walked out first. She waited obediently for his all-clear before she joined him outside. Only once the door was locked did they start walking. Neither of them spoke until they started down the path to the beach.
“Do you think he bought it?” she finally asked.
She’d wanted Reese to remove the bugs immediately once he told her about them, but he warned it would tip their hand and he could use them to his advantage if he left them in place. Given their plan now, she could admit he was right.
“He wants Blake and he asked you more than once about his plans to come back,” Reese answered.
She blew out a hard breath. “I still haven’t worked out whether that’s good or bad.”
“It’s not for you to worry about.”
She snorted at the easily delivered words but didn’t waste her time arguing with him about it. They continued on in silence as sand slowly replaced gravel and the sea breeze danced over their skin.
For once Mari’s focus wasn’t on the water or how good it felt to be walking on the shore. She kicked at the sand.
“Are you going to be mad at me forever?” she asked her feet.
Silence. It stretched out for a moment. Two. Hesitantly she peeked at him from the corner of her eye.
“I’m not mad at you,” he said what felt like an hour later.
“If this is you not mad, I’d hate to piss you off,” she mumbled.
His soft huff of amusement sent hope flooding through her. “I have a job to do. Two jobs. Protect you and protect Blake. I’m trying to protect Blake from a distance and I’m behind the curve on a threat. I have to focus right now.”
She thought that over and admitted to herself he wasn’t wrong.
“I’m not happy you kept that from me, but Blake and I were strangers to you. I understand why you did it.”
Mari’s feet brought her closer to him even as she bowed her head in relief. Her arm brushed against his as they kept walking. Nibbling at her bottom lip, she forced herself to look up at him.
“Thank you. Your friendship means something to me,” she confessed quietly. “And maybe that’s me assuming we’re friends, but I feel like we are after spending all this time together and I don’t want to lose that.”
“It’s not you assuming. I-“
The sound of her ringtone cut through his words. She clenched her teeth to bite back the groan wanting to rip free. What had he been about to say?
He was looking at her expectantly now though so she pulled the phone from her pocket. They both looked down at the screen.
Reese nodded in encouragement and she swiped her thumb over the screen to answer.
“Hey, sweetheart. How are things going?”
“They’re good. Reese and I are just walking the beach.”
“I should’ve known,” he teased. “I was just calling to let you know I’m wrapping things up here. I’ll be home in a couple of days.”
“That’s great! I can’t wait to see you.”
“I can’t wait to see you either. I miss you. I’ll let you know as soon as I have my ticket.” He paused for a moment. “Dad’s calling so I gotta run. Just wanted to let you know. See you soon.”
“See you soon,” she echoed before ending the call.
“When’s he coming?”
Reese nodded. It was what they wanted. Almost more than that, she wanted to know what he would have said if Tyler hadn’t chosen that moment to call. The moment was lost now though. Reese was already pulling out his own phone to confirm the rest of their plans. He was focused. She needed to be too.