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“Are you ever going to say anything?”
Her familiar voice electrified Luke, startling him as he squatted in the dark beside her parents’ porch.
The peal of laughter that followed her question reminded him of the happiest time in his life, when she’d laughed at all his corny jokes, before she’d gone away to college and met someone she liked better.
He stood slowly, not sure if he was more relieved or mortified to have been caught watching her. “How long have you known?”
“Since the first time you came last summer.”
Okay, mortified. Definitely mortified. Luke released an unsteady laugh. “And here I thought I was being so sly.”
“As if I could ever forget the sound of your boat scraping against the beach. I used to listen for it every night.”
The reminder of those unforgettable summer nights made his heart race. When he’d heard through the island grapevine that she’d arrived on a ferry earlier in the day, he’d told himself to stay home, to leave her alone. But knowing she was here, knowing she was just across the pond… Like the summer before, he’d been unable to stay away.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You must think I’m some sort of creep. I swear I’m not. It’s just when I heard about what happened… to your family… I had to come. To make sure you were okay. Well, of course you weren’t okay…” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Jesus, I’m screwing this all up.”
She smiled, and he was relieved to see it reach her expressive eyes the way it used to, back when she smiled at him every day. He took it as a sign that she’d recovered, somewhatas much as anyone ever couldsince he last “visited” her a year ago.
“Do you want to come up?” she asked.
“Oh, I don’t want to bother you or your parents”
“They’re off-island for a few weeks. Family reunion in Wisconsin.”
“You didn’t want to go?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I’d rather be here in the summer than anywhere else.”
Somehow he worked up the fortitude to climb the five steps to the porch, his heart pounding so hard he wondered if it would burst through his chest. Keeping his hands in his pockets so she wouldn’t see them tremble, he was unable to remember the last time he’d been so nervous. Speaking with the love of his life for the first time in seventeen years would make any man nervous, he supposed. “You always did love it here.”