I like the way the world looks from the rooftop of the pool house behind our weekend rental on the shore of Shelter Island. The sun streaks bright pinks and oranges across the horizon, the tide pulls footprints in the sand along with it into the sea, and the way Oliver Warren’s swim trunks cling to his ass and thighs as he climbs out of the pool is an amazing view indeed.
He reaches for a towel and rubs his messy hair, like he knows the way it makes his muscles flex is my own personal weakness. My unrequited love for him might be easier to deal with if he were even a little bit less beautiful.
“Felicity?” he yells. There’s an amused grin on his face that makes me think this isn’t the first time he’s tried to get my attention.
“You gonna do it or did you chicken out?” He says it like he’s already decided I’m gonna chicken out.
I’m not dumb enough to pretend like I’m not a little terrified. I’ve never jumped off of a roof before, but the owner of the house says it’s fine and something tells me he wouldn’t play fast and loose with his insurance if it wasn’t. That’s what I’m hoping, at least.
Oliver has his doubts. I want to tell him to climb up and hold my hand while we jump, but I don’t.
“I’m gonna do it,” I yell. “I didn’t chicken out.”
His disbelieving smirk is the thing that propels my feet forward, giving me a running start. No way is he going to get the satisfaction of me not following through.
If I yell a little as I take flight who can blame me?
I break the surface with a little bit of pool water up my nose and my bikini top floating a good six feet away.
“That’s what you get for jumping off the roof,” Oliver says, laughing. He ducks his head and turns his back toward me, giving me some privacy to get decent again.
I scowl at his broad, tanned shoulders. I gotta admit: this isn’t exactly the reaction I had in mind all the times I’ve thought about him seeing me topless.
“Shut up,” I mutter as I swim over and get my suit. I grab it with a splash, then retie it tightly behind my neck and back, making sure it won’t slip off again. “Okay, all covered up now. No reason to keep averting thine eyes.” Maybe there’s a hint of bitterness in my voice.
Oliver rubs the back of his neck the way he usually does when he’s uncomfortable. He turns toward me again, but keeps his gaze firmly planted on the pool deck, doing everything he can not to look at me.
A word of advice? Don’t fall in love with your brother’s tall, gorgeous, sandy blonde-haired, blue-eyed best friend. If they’re inseparable like Ben and Oliver are, you’ll go on a lifetime’s worth of trips being thisclose to someone you want desperately but can’t have.
Story of my life.
I push myself out of the water, contemplating another jump before dinner’s ready.
“Thinking of going again?” Oliver asks, handing me a towel. “I know you were scared.”
I shrug it off. “I just wanted to see what it was like.”
He grins. “I know. I admire that about you.”
“Which part? My recklessness where my own safety is concerned, or my swanlike grace while flying through the air?”
He laughs. “That you aren’t scared of doing things. That when there’s something you want, you go out and get it.”
He gives me a long, intense look that makes a ribbon of heat curl around my belly.
Oliver’s a gazillionaire who’s never met a person he couldn’t finesse, never come across a deal he couldn’t close. If there’s someone who has issues getting what they want, it certainly isn’t him.
“Want to go for a walk with me later? There’s something I want to show you,” he says, cutting me off before I can ask him what he meant just a second ago.
My stupid heart skips a beat when he asks. “Yeah,” I reply a little too quickly, like a lovesick moron.
He perks up. “Yeah?”
I smile. “Definitely.”
“Okay, good.” He reaches out and takes my towel, then throws both of ours into a pile on the ground beside the clean ones. “Great.”
“You two ready to eat?” My brother Ben shows up out of nowhere from behind the hedge that separates the pool area from the outdoor kitchen.
He’s wearing a puffy white chef’s hat and an apron that reads The Grillfather because he lost a bet with his wife. The tongs he’s brandishing in his right hand really cap off the whole look.
“Nice outfit,” Oliver says, unsuccessfully trying to hide a grin as he glances in my direction.
My brother narrows his eyes. “Shut up or I’ll toss your dinner into the ocean.”
Oliver throws up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. Lead the way, Grillfather.”
* * *
Ben’s only been married to Marisa for a few months, but they have their kitchen routine down pat. Ben slices up the steak while Marisa puts the finishing touches on the sides and the salad. Even though this kitchen is huge, they’re both occupying the same three feet. They dance around each other, anticipating each others’ needs. Ben hands Marisa a plate right as she needs it, Marisa hands Ben a long sheet of foil to tent the meat before he asks for it.
It’s nice knowing my brother found someone who knows him so well. The downside is that watching the two of them together pricks at the occasional loneliness I feel and desperately try to ignore. Maybe it does the same to Oliver, because he busies himself with setting the table, then uses his downtime to fold my napkin into a bunny, long ears and all.
He presents it to me with a stupid crooked grin that I very much want to kiss off his face.
“Where did you learn how to do this?” I ask, smiling as I admire his handiwork.
He stands and reaches for the wine bottle, then leans down close to my ear. “A guy’s gotta keep a few secrets.” He playfully winks at me as he pours everyone a glass of red.
Our dinner is phenomenal.
I gave Ben some cooking classes as a joke wedding gift, never in a million years expecting that he’d actually take them. But he did, and to our surprise he’s blossoming into quite the chef. He spends most of his day hunched up behind a computer while he runs his software company. He says it’s nice having a new way of being creative.
I’m perfectly happy to reap the rewards.
When we’re finished eating, I wash the dishes and Oliver dries. Ben and Marisa enjoy the rest of their wine as we clean up.
“Have you heard from Corinne lately?” Marisa asks.
Corinne is her younger sister and one of my best friends. Marisa and Ben introduced the two of us years ago when they first started dating, while Corinne and I were still in high school. We hit it off immediately and we’ve been friends ever since, even though time zones have tested that friendship. First, while I was in New York and Corinne was finishing up college in California. Now she’s in London, five hours away.
“We’ve just been texting,” I tell her, placing a plate into Oliver’s towel-covered hands. “She’s usually in meetings by the time I wake up, she’s eating dinner during my afternoon break, and she’s asleep when I get home from work.”
“Yeah,” she sighs. “It’s been a while since I’ve talked to her too. She seems to love it there.”
The wistfulness in Marisa’s voice makes me think her attempts to recruit Corinne stateside aren’t working very well. She loves London. A time difference is easy to get over when everything else in your life is just how you want it.
Speaking of London, “Not to talk shop, but did you see that email from Jackson? I booked him for the Friday shoot, he just needs a ride from the airport.”
Marisa hums. “I’ll hire a driver tomorrow.”
“The site’s still going well?” Oliver asks.
“Oh yeah,” I reply. Well is an understatement. Marisa’s fashion and lifestyle blog is an internet juggernaut. She asked me to style some shoots for her last year, which was a nice break from the personal shopping and styling I’d been doing. Business picked up around the same time, and our occasional partnership became a full-fledged one. Together, we’ve grown the site from a niche thing into nearly a household name. Marisa and I have hosted a few red carpet events for some pre-awards show broadcasts, and we’ve even been working on our own brand of household accessories.
It’s not something I envision doing forever, and sure, it doesn’t afford me a whole lot of time to work on my own designs, but for now it’s enough.
Ben, who knows all about my long-standing passion for making my own clothes asks, “You working on anything?”
I consider telling him the truth for about a second. Instead, I say, “No.”
Once Oliver’s finished drying, I take the towel and wipe my hands on it. Ben drains the dregs of his wine, then slings his arm around Marisa’s shoulder.
“I was thinking we could watch a movie later? That Elise MacGregor thriller’s on On Demand, and Marisa’s been dying to see it.”
Marisa playfully pokes Ben in the ribs. “And you’ve been dying to see Malin Evans,” she teases.
I gently thread the towel through the handle on the oven, sparing a glance at Oliver. He’s looking at the ground, cheeks red. Clearly he’s thinking of the same thing I am–that morning I caught him walking out of his apartment with Malin a couple of years ago.
I’d brought coffee and scones, his birthday tradition. It was barely 8 AM, and I ran smack into Hollywood’s newest It Girl with my crush, clearly doing the walk of shame.
Oliver never brought it up again.
Neither did I.
It doesn’t hurt to think about or anything, but I’d rather not sit next to Oliver for a couple of hours watching a movie with her in it.
“What do you guys think?” Ben asks, breaking the silence.
“I was actually thinking about going for a walk,” Oliver says, shoving his hands in his pocket. He turns toward me. “Feel like going with me?”
“Yeah,” I reply. “You guys enjoy the movie. We’ll be back later.”
Marisa smiles at me as I follow Oliver out the door.
“So where are we going?”
Oliver grins at me. “You’ll see.”