Between the Lines (Paradise Bay Sweet Romance Book 1)(14)

By: Ella Linden

Olivia nodded. They finished up and walked out together, and Olivia waited while Lauren locked and double-checked the door. Though many of the shops were closed now, downtown Paradise Bay was still jumping. All of the little restaurants and bars were doing brisk business, and the parking spots on each side of the street were full.

Olivia and Lauren walked together down the street to where there was a large municipal lot. Holly had told Olivia to start parking there because you could get a day pass rather than having to continually feed the meter, which was the only parking option right near their shop. The night was warm, and when Olivia took a deep breath, she could smell the lake. She told Lauren goodnight, and then, rather than turning her car toward the road that would lead to her cottage, she turned in the opposite direction. Her little lake was great, but she was on the shores of Lake Michigan. A walk on the beach seemed like a great idea.

She pulled into the little parking lot at one of the many roadside parks along the beach and got out, kicking off the high-heeled Mary Janes she’d been wearing at work. She was glad she’d worn a knee-length skirt now; she could dip her toes into the water without having to watch her clothes.

After shoving her car keys into her skirt pocket, she crossed the small wooden boardwalk that divided the beach from the parking lot and stepped onto the warm, soft sand, her feet sinking in immediately. Olivia smiled and walked toward the water’s edge. There were a few other people on the beach. Most of them were couples, sitting, eating ice cream and enjoying the warm night. When Olivia reached the water’s edge, she stepped in and let the waves crash against her legs. She closed her eyes and reveled in the moment: her feet sinking into wet sand, cool waves washing over her legs, a gentle breeze blowing across the water. She stood there and took a few deep breaths. The only sounds were the waves crashing and the traffic from the street behind her, the occasional laugh from the others on the beach with her.

Olivia couldn’t help grinning to herself as she started walking along the beach. This was what she’d been missing in Detroit. This freedom, the clean air, the wildness of the water, the friendliness of people who’d known her since she pronounced her name “Owibia” as a preschooler. Feeling like she was part of something, not just a bystander.

With that thought, her mind turned to the proposals she’d been looking over at work. As she walked, an idea started to come together. She’d sketch out some ideas when she got home and see if it was more what Holly and Lauren were looking for. From there, her mind drifted to the storyline she was working on in her webcomic, and she let her mind try to untangle the corner she’d written herself into as she walked. When she saw a figure walking toward her, she had a moment of concern but noticed that there were a few couples sitting nearby, on blankets and beach chairs. She wasn’t alone here. She relaxed a little and let her mind start wandering again.

“Well, that hair is impossible to miss,” a now-familiar sardonic voice said. Olivia glanced up and saw that Andrew was walking toward her. Like her, he was barefoot, though where she was sporting her current favorite vintage preppy outfit, he wore jeans and a white t-shirt.

“It’s hard to lose me in a crowd,” she said with a smile.

“As if anyone would want to lose you in the first place,” he said, the corner of his mouth quirked up a bit.

“Oh. Well, maybe sometimes I want to get lost.”

“Hm. Don’t we all?” He was looking at her, and in the dim light from the nearby lamppost, his eyes looked even darker. With her heels off, he stood a good six inches or so taller than she did. He had a lean, strong look that she’d always admired. Not bulky, like he spent all of his time at the gym, but healthy. They stood in awkward silence for a few seconds, until he shook his head. “So, you’re Jack’s cousin?”

Olivia nodded. “Yeah. I spent summers here as a kid. We probably ran across one another here and there. You’ve known those guys for a long time, right”

“Yeah. I didn’t hang out with Jack much until I got back, though.” A shadow seemed to cross his features, and Olivia studied him.