Reese dressed simply for the beach party, picking out a pair of denim cutoffs and a tank top along with a light wrap for after sunset, when it grew cooler. She let her hair air dry, its curls slightly tighter than normal and wore some light makeup. No reason to pile it on because she wasn't looking to impress anyone.
Certainly not Dallas who had said he'd be there. Okay, then she would just pretend that he didn't exist and maybe she would hang out with the guys that Clover had said would be there. Not that she planned anything by it, because she wasn't looking to hook up with anyone, Life was already complicated enough.
She locked up her cottage and got in her car to head down the highway out of the village a couple miles down to the beach. Farmland dominated the landscaping on the drive and she finally turned into a clearing that served as a parking lot. Others had arrived and parked already and she saw the activity out on the sand. Barbecues were cooking burgers and hot links and she saw some ice chests filled with beer and sodas. A group of guys had brought guitars and some hand held drums to play music. Couples walked together down the beach or sat on blankets on the firmly packed sand.
Reese looked around and saw Clover who smiled and walked up to greet her. They walked by an ice chest and Clover called for a guy to toss them some cold beers and he did. Reese caught hers and popped the tab before taking a drink.
"Hits the spot doesn't it," Clover asked.
"You checked out the guys yet?"
It seemed that Clover had men on the brain. Reese just sipped her beer thoughtfully, looking out across the beach towards the ocean.
"I'm just here because Adela forced me to come."
Clover made a face.
"Yeah well, she thinks because she's found a guy to make her happy that she'll do whatever it takes to help the rest of us out but I don't need her help."
"I don't want it."
Clover looked her over.
"Do you even like guys?"
Reese just threw her a look.
"Of course I do, just not right now," she said, "I'm living to make myself happy not someone else."
Clover looked puzzled.
"Why can't you do both, I mean doing a guy can make you really happy."
Reese knew that well enough but that kind of happiness she could do without because it caused a lot of pain as well.
"I haven't given up on men, I'm just taking a break from them."
Clover didn't really look like she understood that any better but she nodded.
"Okay then that leaves more for me."
"Go knock yourself out…I'll just take get something to eat and then maybe take a walk down the beach."
Clover's brows rose.
Reese sipped her beer again.
"Well yeah. That's how I like it."
Clover just shrugged and sauntered off with her beer. More people arrived at the party as the sun sunk lower in the sky, coloring it with a blend of soft orange and red hues. She hadn't seen Dallas and didn't think he'd show as she went to grab herself a hamburger off the grill before sitting down to eat it. Adela and Rick were talking to another couple by the makeshift band which wafted the air with rhythm and blues, intermixed with classic rock.
The food was delicious and as she finished her burger, she looked up and saw Dallas dressed in faded jeans and a jersey shirt talking with Clover. A shard of pain sliced through her but she looked away from them and out into the ocean. A couple guys approached her and she talked with them a little bit.
But after she finished eating, she grabbed another beer and after wrapping her jacket around her waist, she took off walking down the beach, before it got dark and the bonfire started.
The tide had started to come in a bit and the water wrapped itself around her bare feet delighting them with some chill before receding back out. The sound of waves breaking on a beach had always been one of her favorites so she focused on that as she walked past the sand dunes.
It reminded her of the beach many miles away near Rodrigo's compound on the island She had walked along the strands of sand in the evenings eager to get out of his mansion and decompress after another tense day playing her dual role. Eager to put this case behind her and anxious that she would somehow tip him off that she was an operative. Even on the nights that Dallas had been away on an errand, she had walked by his empty bungalow, missing him but secure in the knowledge that he'd return soon.
Now months later, she walked on another beach but not far away from him, at least not in distance.
But she couldn't stop thinking about him even though she tried to put him out of her mind…they had been friends for so long but that's what made what he did all the more painful…if he couldn't forgive her for what he thought she did, how could she forgive him?
The waves curled into shore and she enjoyed how the water rushed over her feet, massaging them with grains of sand and then pulling the tide back out again. She flashed back to a time when she had been with Dallas on beach someplace and he had been chasing her into the surf, the water a brighter shade of blue, with the sunlight causing the tips of the waves to sparkle like diamonds. It had felt pleasantly warm but when the hot breezes brushed against her body, she had felt the coolness. And when he had caught up with her and pulled her to his bare chest and kissed her on the mouth as the water surrounded them, giving them a gentle tug until he grabbed her hand and pulled her to the shore.
Oh, how it had felt back then, so carefree and the rush of desire tearing through her faster than they could give into their passion…but now it just caused her sadness and she pushed it away as she continued walking toward the rocky jetty extending out into the ocean.
"Hey wait up…"
She turned around to see him heading towards her, his feet bared just like hers and the bottom of his jeans a brighter blue from having waded in the incoming tide. She just folded her arms and stood there staring at him.
"Why did you follow me?"
"You know why Reese."
She tilted her head.
"No I don't Dallas, why don't you enlighten me?"
He just looked at her standing there, a stubborn line above her beautiful green eyes, and her full mouth turned up slightly at the corners. A part of him wanted to rub her lips gently with a finger before stroking them with his mouth. She kissed better than any woman that he had ever been with and she sure knew what to do with her hands, with those slender but surprisingly strong fingers.
He wouldn't be surprised if she started wagging a couple of them at him right now.
"You really shouldn't be going off by yourself, not with Rodrigo out on bail."
She pursed her lips.
"Oh why are worried, according to you the two of us are long lost lovers…"
"This isn't funny Reese, the guy's out there somewhere and probably gunning for you."
She sobered, rubbing her forehead.
"Look I know…but running scared just plays into his hands by making it clear he's got the power and he's really into control."
His brow arched.
"You saying you know from experience?"
She just sighed in exasperation.
"I don't want to talk about it with you so just drop it."
He shook his head.
"I can't…not if he's aiming for you because if anything happened to you…"
She put up her hand.
"Don't tell me that you'd feel responsible because I told you that you don't have to worry about that. I'm a grown woman."
"Hard not to see that Reese…but that's not what I'm talking about."
She felt her face prickle. Damn him for trying to tip the balance between them that had become precarious enough.
"I know...but really I didn't leave L.A. to run away from Rodrigo…I did it to get away from you."
She could tell he didn't like that statement but tough for him because he had earned it and if he proceeded like this, she wasn't pulling any punches. No way, would she ever give him that satisfaction.
Now if he'd stop looking at her like that, because she could imagine what it'd be like to slip her hands underneath his jersey and feel his muscles twitch beneath her more than capable touch. She loved his tight abs, which tapered up into a chest with enough dark hair to make things interesting for him when she tugged gently on it, with her fingers, while she kissed his mouth.
Damn she really had to stop thinking like this, she had to be strong and remember what he had done to her, all those things he had said.
Why was it so damn difficult right now?
He approached her and she just stood there and let him. And when he got near enough so she could almost feel him, he reached out to stroke her face. She thought about flinching for a millisecond but her body said no.
And then his lips met her own mouth and her body nearly jumped at first but then she recovered soon enough as he brushed them against her. Barely touching her at first but then a second later, he kissed her leaving her no doubt what he was doing. She responded by opening her lips a bit to deepen it. Then he placed his hands on her shoulders and drew her closer to him and damn it, she let him. She felt his tongue probe her lips, around the edges…in a way that sent shivers through her. She sighed and then her arms went around his waist and soon their bodies touched.
She felt him hard against her and she broke the kiss and just looked at him suddenly.
"Dallas…what the hell are you doing?"
He brushed her hair off of her face, looking at her.
"You know what I'm doing…and you want me to do it."
She shifted her balance feeling totally off balance.
"I don't want anything with you…"
He still held onto her, not feeling like letting her go.
"What if I don't want to stop?"
She just looked at him, shaking her head.
His lips descended on her mouth again, and sent those delicious sensations racing through her. His hands slipped underneath her shirt, stroking the silky smooth skin of her back. She flinched when she felt his hands there. He looked at her reproachfully.
"Come on…you're not a virgin after all…"
She pulled away from him then and just glared at him, and he watched her not knowing which emotion that he saw predominated the rest. But he saw anger and hurt, mixed with indignation and…desire.
But then she'd always been a complicated woman in and out of bed.
"Is it because you miss him?"
She shook her head then.
"No…It's because I don't want anyone…I don't want to be hurt by you or him…"
She started to walk further down the beach and he knew then if he grabbed her arm, she might slug him. But she had known that he wanted her…she had felt that proof against that part of her that wanted him too. Only a few layers of clothing separated them and he knew that she knew that too.
"I'm less lethal than he is, I hope you know that much."
She didn't flinch looking back at him.
"Yes I do but that doesn't make you less dangerous in other ways."
She turned around and started to walk back to the party. He stood there watching her go wondering how he was going to keep her safe if she withdrew from him like she did now. Sure he wanted her, a part of him wanted nothing less than to show her that now but he didn't think she'd be receptive.
And although he tried damn hard he kept thinking of her with Rodrigo, the night of that party before the big bust when he had been by the bar, keeping an eye on a couple of Rodrigo's guys, he had noticed that both Rodrigo and Reese had disappeared for a while.
And when she had returned…he knew what she'd been doing with him.
He just shook his head, watching her grow smaller in the distance, her curly hair blowing softly against her back before heading back to the party.
Wondering what the hell he was going to do next.