Never Too Hot
- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
She blushed at his compliment. “Thanks. Now what?”
“Now we start a fire.”
He'd been building campfires his whole life and liked the pyramid technique best. Minutes later, the fire was blazing. He quickly grabbed a stick of his own.
“Pretty much the most important part of a s'more is how you cook the marshmallow. It should be crispy and golden brown on the outside, but completely gooey and melted on the inside. That way the chocolate melts on contact. The worst thing is to accidentally light your marshmallow on fire because it only chars the outside, but the rest is still raw.” He made a face. “Little kids tend to do it like that a lot.”
“Wow,” she said, “this sounds sort of complicated. Maybe you should just make me one.”
“Nah,” he said with a shrug, “it's pretty easy. Once you get a feel for the fire, you'll be a total pro.”
Popping a marshmallow on the end of each of their sticks, he squatted down on the outside of the large bonfire.
“It's best to slow roast it by the coals. Takes a little longer, but it's worth it.”
As Hannah knelt down beside him, he felt his stomach unclench. They roasted in silence until their marshmallows had hit that perfect brown, bubbly look on the outside.
“I think we're good to go,” he said. They walked back over to the tray of graham crackers and chocolate.
Breaking a cracker in half, he put a block of chocolate on it and said, “Here's how you put it all together. Hold out your stick.”
Using the graham cracker halves, he slowly pulled her marshmallow off her stick, being careful not to drop the chocolate. “Go ahead, try it.”
He watched carefully as she took a bite. Her eyes closed and she had a look of complete ecstasy on her face.
He'd never felt this way about a girl before. Never wanted to see the pleasure on her face as she did something totally boring like eat a s'more. But he could have sat there and watched Hannah forever.
“How is it?” he asked, his words coming out a little scratchy.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Totally amazing.”
And then, just as he was trying to figure out if he should try to kiss her, she said, “I can't believe you've always grown up here. You're so lucky. And it's great that your mom owns the diner. You must know everyone.”
“Ugh. That's what I like about the city. Total anonymity. Not like here, when every time I go to the post office Mrs. Hendricks asks me if I've grown some more.”
Hannah giggled. “Have you?”
“A couple of inches maybe.” She laughed again. “But seriously, it's so boring here.”
She stopped laughing and he quickly said, “I mean, not with you or anything. It's just I've done the lake thing for so long. And my mom is constantly on me.”
“Me and my parents ate at the diner when we were looking at buying a camp here and your mom came out and talked to us for a while about what it's like to live here. She was really cool. Really nice to us.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, she's all right, I guess.”
“Does she have a boyfriend?”
“Really? But she's really pretty. Does she date at least?”
He thought about it, tried to see his mom in any other light than as his mother. “Nope. She doesn't date.”
Maybe that was the problem. His mom had no life of her own. No wonder she had to get all up in his business and was always asking him to go out in the rowboat or for a hike.
The fire was starting to go out when Hannah's mom called to her from their porch. “I've got to go,” she said.
“Thanks for the s'mores lesson.”
As he walked down the beach back to where he'd left his bike that afternoon, he walked past a couple of shady looking guys. “Got fireworks?”
He almost kept walking and ignored them, but then he stopped. Hannah would be seriously impressed if he invited her over on the Fourth and he had his own personal stash of fireworks. Pulling out his wallet, he handed over a wad of the money his father had given him.
AFTER GRABBING his bag from the Inn and leaving a short note for Stu, Connor headed back to Poplar Cove. A part of him felt bad about letting Ginger think he was going to have to ship all the way off to Piseco when Stu's couch was his for the taking. But he quickly quashed that.
Poplar Cove was his. He belonged here, not crammed onto a couch at the Inn.
He stood on the porch looking out at the dark water for several minutes. After twelve years in Lake Tahoe he hadn't expected Poplar Cove to feel so much like home. Maybe it was that he could feel his grandparents' presence all around him.
The chair covers his grandmother had made, the way she'd freak if he or Sam got mud on them. The bookshelves he'd built with his grandfather when he was ten, the same year his grandfather had finally let him use the electric table saw. Somehow he'd managed to keep all of his fingers.
His gaze moved to Ginger's painting, half-finished on the easel on the far end of the porch. He'd never been a museum kind of guy, never had the urge to capture a scene for posterity, not when he'd rather be out in trees and dirt and water. And yet, something in the painting resonated within him.
Heading up to the second floor, he automatically turned into the first door on the left, the room that had always been his.
Her scent hit him first, the faint hint of vanilla mixed with something earthy, sexy. Color barreled into him next. Bright clothes were hanging from the pegs on the wall and vivid canvases were crowding each other for space on all four walls. The top of the antique pine dresser was covered with bottles and jewelry and postcards propped up against the mirror.
His old bedroom had been transformed into a vibrant rainbow and the energy was palpable. The bed, now covered with a bright printed quilt rather than the serviceable blue denim he'd had forever, was unmade. Just looking at the rumpled sheets stirred him as if she were there in the room with him, naked and beckoning.
His grandparents' old bedroom was the farthest away, at the end of the hall. But he didn't feel right taking their room. Instead he moved to the guest room, which shared a wall with Ginger's.
He needed to get outside, grab a kayak, get out on the lake and paddle hard against the driving wind. Running his body into the ground would be his only chance for sleep… and the only way to up the odds that he'd sleep hard enough to hold back his nightmares while he and Ginger shared the same roof.