Sunsets at Seaside(10)

By: Addison Cole



She couldn’t shake the look in his eyes as they rolled down her body, drinking her in as if he were dying of thirst. He probably thought she hadn’t noticed, but that quick look had sent an unfamiliar, and surprisingly welcome, shudder through her. He had an easy smile, and when she’d lost her mind and snapped at him, he hadn’t gotten angry or taken it as a personal affront. He’d simply offered to help her understand how to use eBay.

She’d put off thinking about how she’d lost that bid, too. She’d wanted so badly to win that auction that even now, thinking about it, made her throat swell. The music stopped, and she inhaled deeply, rose to her feet, and gazed across the street to where the string quartet was playing. The white tent rippled in the breeze as she made her way across the cool sand to the parking lot.

The music started up again, and she crossed the parking lot, her eyes on Vera, sitting proudly, playing her violin. She looked regal in a long black cotton skirt and blouse. Jessica had no hope of stifling the smile on her lips as she lowered herself to one of the metal chairs in the front row. Vera was right; there were only a handful of people in the audience.

A breeze picked up the hem of her dress, and she settled the bouquet she’d brought for Vera over it. She probably should have worn something longer to ward off the chill, but she loved the summery feel of the dress, and she felt more her age in it. She was so used to dressing conservatively for the symphony and social events surrounding her career that when she’d gone shopping for her vacation, she’d had to ask the salesgirl what women her age were wearing these days. She hadn’t realized how out of sync she was with other twenty-seven-year-olds.

“Hey there.”

She turned at the sound of Jamie’s deep voice. She was so caught up in the music that she didn’t realize he’d slid into the seat beside her, and now she couldn’t take her eyes off of him in his slate-blue long-sleeved shirt, which looked so soft and worn that she wanted to cuddle up to him, and a pair of jeans that had the faded marks of an old favorite where his muscular thighs tested the strength of the denim.

“Hi,” she whispered. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“My grandmother is playing.” He nodded at Vera. “Vera Reed, on the violin.”

“She’s the one who invited me here. I met her at the pool.” She glanced at Vera, who was watching them with a smile. “She plays beautifully.”

“She does. I love to listen to her.”

“Shh.”

They turned, and a white-haired man sitting behind them pointed to the stage.

“Sorry,” they said in unison.

Jessica knew better than to speak during performances, but she could barely restrain herself from talking with Jamie. Jamie lifted one shoulder in an easy shrug.

They listened in silence to the rest of the concert. Jessica felt the heat of his gaze as he stole glances at her, and it took all of her efforts not to shift her eyes to him. She held on to the bouquet to keep herself grounded. When the music ended, she finally allowed herself a good look at Jamie. His dark hair was rustling from the breeze, and his warm, contagious smile reached his eyes as he applauded and lifted his chin in Vera’s direction. He glanced down at Jessica, and she didn’t know if it was her newfound sense of freedom, the lingering loveliness of the music, or the way his lips turned up at the end and slipped into something more flirtatious, but butterflies took flight in her stomach.

She felt herself grinning like a sixth grader crushing on a boy when she spotted Bella, Amy, Jenna, and a beautiful, tall brunette coming toward them. She dropped her eyes, hoping they wouldn’t notice the way she was swooning over him.

“Hey, handsome.” The tall brunette embraced him. She, like the others, had on jeans and a hoodie.

“Sky, this is Jessica.” Jamie touched Jessica’s arm. “She’s renting at Seaside. Jessica, this is Sky.”

She wished she could pretend that Jamie touching her arm had meant something, but his other hand was on Sky’s lower back, and she realized they must be dating.

“Nice to meet you.” Jessica shifted her eyes away from Jamie’s hand connecting him with Sky and hoped the disappointment in her voice wasn’t as evident to them as it was to her.

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