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Olivia glanced at him as they strolled along the riverbank past rows of historic homes. “Tell me about it.”
They walked in silence for a moment. “I had some pretty good friends there, especially in middle school and high school.” Her mouth turned slightly upwards, thinking about the girls she used to hang around with. “We used to get in so much trouble together.”
Alexander listened as she recalled her younger years, wishing he had known her during that time in her life. Maybe both of their lives would have turned out differently. Then again, if she hadn’t been taken from him, maybe they would have eventually grown apart, as childhood friends often do. He shuddered at the thought of not having her in his life.
“As the years went on, I spent more and more time at the school,” Olivia said, bringing him back from his thoughts. “My uncle was hesitant at first. He could be overbearing at times.” She tilted her head to look at Alexander with a playful expression. “You probably would have gotten along wonderfully. You remind me of him a little bit.”
His breath caught and his eyes met hers, silently questioning her.
“You know. You’re both rather protective of me,” she explained. “It’s cute and all, but you do realize that I’m an adult, right, Alex?”
“Of course I do,” he responded, bringing her hand to his mouth and placing a gentle kiss on her knuckles. “But I just have this deep-seeded need to look out for you and keep you safe.”
She opened her mouth to say something and then closed it, not wanting to argue after they were getting along so well. “Anyway, my uncle finally relented and allowed me to stay at school during the holidays so I could participate in sports and theater and other stuff. Of course, before he agreed to that, he made sure the security in place during regular sessions was exactly the same. He was just as paranoid as you.” She winked.
There was more silence as they turned onto Main Street. Olivia took in the narrow street with the drawbridge, everything seeming eerily familiar to her. “There’s an oyster place over the bridge, isn’t there?”
Alexander stopped in his tracks, causing several tourists to almost bump into him before they maneuvered around him, cursing underneath their breath. “How do you know that?” He met her gaze, his heart racing in his chest.
“I have no idea,” she blanched. “That seems to be happening a lot lately…as if I had been to certain places before, you know, the accident.”
He continued walking with Olivia by his side, hoping her surroundings didn’t stir any more memories. “Do you recall anything about your life before the accident?”
“Not really. I guess my brain just forgot everything. My uncle told me that I couldn’t even remember my name due to the head injury I had suffered. The doctors hoped that I would get my memory back once I returned to my regular life and went home, but I guess Charleston didn’t hold any memories for me because nothing ever came back.”
“That’s kind of depressing.”
“Well, I’ve got the cure for that,” Olivia said, eyeing the ice cream shop adjacent to the drawbridge. “Ice cream!”
Alexander laughed. “Okay. You got it, love.” He pulled her along, skirting by tourists exploring the shops in downtown Mystic.
They walked through the front door of the relatively empty shop, making their way to the counter to order. “What’ll it be, Olivia?” Alexander asked.
She took in her surroundings. The store looked familiar, just like the rest of the town. “Scoop of strawberry, scoop of rocky road with pineapples on top,” she replied without even thinking about it.
“Are you serious?” Alexander asked with a blank expression.
Olivia laughed. “Yeah. I don’t know why I’m ordering that. I don’t think I’ve ever had it, but something about this place makes it seem like the right decision.”
“Okay. You got it.” He placed their order and handed her the bowl full of ice cream.
“Is that a park across the street?” she asked, sticking a spoon in her frozen treat.
“Yes. Do you want to go sit over there?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes, please,” she responded excitedly. “We can watch the boats come by.”
Alexander stilled again, thinking that bringing Olivia to Mystic was probably the worst idea his mother had ever come up with. He remembered doing the same exact thing with her when they were growing up. It didn’t help that he had ordered what he always did when he and Olivia were kids – vanilla with cherries on top.
“Are you coming?” Olivia asked, holding the door open for him.
He snapped out of it. “Yes. Sorry. I’m coming.” He walked behind her, checking out her tall, slender body from behind as they made their way across the drawbridge.
She glimpsed over her shoulder and shivered from the primal stare Alexander gave her. “See something you like, Mr. Burnham?” She winked.
“I see something I love, Miss Adler.” He slinked his arm around her waist and planted an affectionate kiss on her temple as they walked across the street to the park and sat down on a bench, looking out over the river.
“It’s so peaceful here,” Olivia remarked, enjoying the feeling of the light breeze on her skin. “I think I would have enjoyed living here as a child. There must have been so much to do.”
“It was a good place to grow up.” Alexander recalled spending nearly every day with Olivia. He remembered how she cried when he got to start school, but she was still too young. He smiled, thinking how her eyes lit up when he stopped by her house after that first day and told her all about it.
She had been coloring with her mother and she excitedly ran into her playroom, handing him a piece of construction paper with a drawing on it. It was supposed to be of the two of them sitting on a bench at the park eating ice cream. He wondered if he still had that somewhere at his house.
“And, I mean, what kid wouldn’t love living right down the street from an ice cream shop!” Olivia brought him back from his memories as she took another bite, moaning with pleasure.
Alexander glanced at her, leaning into her neck. “You better stop with that or I’m going to throw you on the ground and have my way with you, and I don’t care who’s around to watch,” he growled, his voice husky.