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By:Amanda Lance

“Well,” I wiggled just a little further back into him, “maybe I like the tan.”

“I should have known.” I didn’t suppress my giggle while he invaded my neck with kisses, closing my eyes and giving in, as I was beginning to learn wasn’t so bad after all.

We were both still laughing when he pulled away. “Where have you been, anyway?”

He sighed against me. “Yuri was on the line. Wanted to brag ‘bout some big win in Monte Carlo.”

I rolled my eyes. “Figures.” I folded the letter back on itself and under the clipboard so the wind wouldn’t take it. “Any sign of Reid?”

Not long after arriving, Reid had taken off from Marseilles, disappearing without a word. Whether or not he intended to come back had been left as an open ended question; one that honestly, no one was going out of their way to answer.

“Nope.” He shook his head. “Good riddance.”

I stretched long, sinking my toes back under the sand and my hands around Charlie’s neck. “You don’t mean that.”

“Maybe not. But I’m sure as hell not goin’ to look for him.”

“I think it’ll be okay. Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Charlie’s laugh bounced on the breeze. “In that case we might forget what he looks like before we start missing him.”

I looked at him from the corner of my eye. There wasn’t the slightest bit of the rage there while he spoke. And while I knew it was there, and would probably always be there, it was a relief to see him harbor some control over his emotions instead of the other way around. “Hey.” I nudged him. “I’m really proud of you.”

His eyebrow arched.

“I’m serious.” I laughed. I didn’t emphasize it further, but we both knew what I was referring to.

Charlie stretched his arms overhead, then forward. “I’ve always been amazing, Vicious. It’s just a shame it took you so long to see it.”

His false humility made both of us laugh. “It must be the sun.”

He turned his attention back to me then but I had gone back to staring at the waves, the way they overlapped here made it difficult to tell if they were coming or going. “I’m thinkin’ it was something else.”

We kissed again, both of our feet tangling in the sand. Though I was hardly coherent beyond that. His hand meshed into my hair, his nose pressed against mine.

“Can’t we stay here forever?” he asked when we parted.

I groaned, “We could, but I promised Elise we’d be back before the baby came.”

Charlie shook his head. “Not even here yet and that kid is a pain.”

I laughed. “We should return to the real world at some point. Now that my student visa went through, I can finish school—”

“Until then, my pretty wife—” He smiled his Charlie smile, and just as I thought he would kiss the slope of my collarbone, he planted his lips on my ear instead. “Did you know I can outswim you?”

“Not on your life, Charlie Hays!” I wiggled out of his grasp and made a run for the waves, laughing while he launched himself after me.