Amy got out of bed ten minutes late. But the strange part was that she didn’t seem as stressed as she should have been. Her alarm went off on time, but she couldn’t get out of bed. There was a damp smell in the air, hinting that it must have rained sometime after she fell asleep. She opened the window next to her bed and laid down again, staring at the ceiling and replaying last night in her head.
Colin came over, which was really embarrassing since she had been caught watching his show. Then he watched an entire season and a half with her, and she realized that she actually liked his company. Then, there was that time that he almost—
No, she told herself, shaking her head. That part was definitely in my head.
He had leaned in close to her, but that was just because they were both looking at the same book. It wasn’t like he was going to kiss her or anything. As he had pointed out before, he was a star and a pretty big deal. She was not.
Amy rolled out of bed, trying to shake the thoughts from her head. If anything, he was probably just bored and looking for anyone. He had said before that he was a playboy. Maybe he just wanted a hookup or something. And she was definitely not that.
Amy got dressed, absentmindedly looking for a nice shirt. Which was impossible since almost all of her shirts were tees. She settled for the least wrinkled shirt.
She couldn’t help but feel like maybe there was a connection. Maybe Colin wasn’t just looking for a hookup. Maybe he actually liked her.
But that was ridiculous, she thought. He was just being friendly with her, which was the opposite of his original behavior. That’s why it felt so different. It didn’t mean he was into her.
Amy brushed her hair into a ponytail and checked her reflection in the mirror. He always looked like he could be on the cover of some fashion magazine. She looked like she should be reading that magazine for some fashion advice.
He just wants to be friends, she told herself. Stop acting so dumb.
She headed outside. She’ll just be friendly with Colin, she told herself.
The high volume of customers made it easy for her to not interact much with Colin that day. Even Sophie seemed surprised at the amount of tourists who stumbled by the bed and breakfast, asking if there were any openings for the night. Since they were all booked up, Amy had to give suggestions for lunch or kayak rentals and directions to campsite rentals on the island or hotels in Oban instead. And because there were so many people wandering around until the last ferry, Colin was stuck in the kitchen while Amy had to set up all the rooms, hang the laundry, and dump the food trash.
“Is there an event going on here?” she asked at the end of the day.
The floor was mopped, and Colin and Sophie were both sitting on the counter with cups of tea. Amy hopped up and helped herself to a leftover scone.
“It’s a sunny day,” Sophie noted. “Maybe the nice weather brought some locals here.”
“They didn’t look like the usual vacationers,” Amy said.
“There’s a cultural festival this weekend in Oban,” Colin supplied. “I saw a sign near the train station before.”
“That could be why,” Sophie agreed. “Either way, thanks for all the help, Amy. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”
Amy felt her cheeks warm at the compliment.
“It was nothing,” she said. “But now, I just want to relax a bit. Is it ok if I steal some ciders and snacks and go down to the beach?”
“Of course!” Sophie replied. “I’ve got some cheese and meat that you can pack.”
She hopped from the counter and began emptying the fridge. Amy glanced over at Colin. He was staring at her. Amy’s flush deepened. Should she invite him? Would that be weird?
“All the tourists should be gone now, except the guests,” Sophie began slowly, like she was in the middle of a thought. “Colin, why don’t you go relax at the beach? You were up to your ears in work too.” She looked over at Amy. “I made him reorganize all the cabinets.”
Amy drained her tea.
“Well, I should change clothes,” she said. “I guess I’ll meet you in the garden in ten?”
Colin nodded and smiled at her. Amy left the house quickly. It wasn’t a date, she told herself. She was just going to have a relaxing picnic after a long day of work.
Oh god, he’s gonna see me in a swimsuit.
Amy slammed the door to her cabin a little louder than she meant to. She just wouldn’t go swimming, she reasoned. Or she’d keep her t-shirt on.
He’s going to be in a swimsuit too.
Amy almost slapped herself. Why was she acting like this all of a sudden? Was it because of last night? They got along for, like, a whole day or two and suddenly she’s going to start swooning? She shook her head.
Colin was waiting for her in the garden. He had a picnic basket in hand, and he looked ready for the beach with swim trunks, a muscle shirt, and sunglasses.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
Amy nodded and led him from the garden. Ugh, why was she suddenly so awkward around him, she wondered. She felt like she should say something, but her brain was empty.
“So—” she began.
Her voice trailed off.
“So?” he said, giving her a questioning look.
“Is season three any better than the first two seasons?” Amy asked quickly. “Or can I just stop after two and say that it’s not my style?”
He chuckled. “It’s definitely my least favorite season,” he admitted. “Other than season four, but that one hasn’t been released yet.”
Colin followed her off the path towards the beach, and she could feel him just behind her. She tried to focus on not slipping on the grass. It was still a bit muddy from last night.
“Then I guess I can officially say I don’t get what the hype was all about,” she concluded.
“Honestly, I don’t either,” Colin said. “But it’s a paycheck, so I guess I can’t complain.”
Amy slipped, almost falling into a split. Colin grabbed her arm, holding her up before she fell on the ground. Amy became hyper-aware of his hand on her. She stood up quickly.
“Thanks,” she said, pulling her arm away. “It’s pretty slippery leading up to the beach.”
It wasn’t exactly what Amy would usually call a beach. The hills faded into a bunch of rocks that led into an ocean that was always colder than she wanted. But on hot days, it was better than nothing. With the castle ruins overlooking them from the top of the hill, it was very picturesque, at least.
Amy picked out a grassy spot just before the rocks. It would be more comfortable sitting there, she reasoned. As long as they avoided the sheep dung and muddier sections.
“No one cleans up, I take it,” Colin noted, wrinkling his nose as he maneuvered around the sheep droppings.
“They have free reign of the island,” Amy replied, giggling at his expression. “Do you really think someone is going to follow them to clean up?”
He shook his head and pulled a towel from the basket. Amy helped him weigh it down. The breeze was stronger near the water, and she didn’t want the towel flying away. She pulled out a couple of ciders and looked in the basket.
“I guess we’re camping here for days,” she said, pulling out container after container of food.
“I had no part in this,” Colin said, looking in the basket. “Aunt Sophie packed while I changed clothes.”
Amy pulled out a card game.
“Was this Sophie too?” she asked.
“I haven’t played this in ages,” Colin said with a grin, grabbing the cards from her. “I used to play this when I visited Aunt Sophie as a kid.”
“We played this a while ago,” Amy said with a shake of her head. “But Sophie said she wasn’t going to play with me again.”
Amy flushed and tried to take the cards back.
“I take card games very seriously,” she replied. “It’d be safer if we just didn’t play it.”
“Scared I’ll beat you?” Colin asked.
“You really don’t want to do this,” Amy warned.
Colin opened the cards.
“I’m pretty sure I do,” he said.
“You can’t do that!” Colin exclaimed not even five minutes later.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t counter my draw two with another draw two!”
“Yes, you can! It’s called stacking,” Amy replied. “So play another draw two or draw four and get on with your life.”
“That’s not part of the rules, though.”
“It’s the house rules.”
“I didn’t realize we were in your house,” Colin remarked.
“You might play king on a show, but that doesn’t give you any authority here,” she retorted.
Colin’s jaw dropped.
“Wow, you’re really gonna try to get away with this ridiculous rule,” he said incredulously with a shake of his head.
“Take the high road, Your Majesty,” Amy said. “And draw four.”
He slowly drew four cards, flinching each time like he was being stabbed or something. Amy rolled her eyes at him.
“So, do you always cheat in card games?” he asked, playing another red card.
“No, I win card games,” Amy replied, slapping another draw two card on the pile.
Not surprisingly, Colin only wanted to play one round before deciding he wasn’t in the mood for card games. Not that Amy minded much. She won the first game.
“Ready for a swim?” Colin asked, standing up and pulling off his shirt.
Amy nearly dropped the cards she was cleaning up. She looked away from him.
“Did you want to eat something first?” she asked. “We have a lot of food.”
“You really shouldn’t eat before swimming,” Colin said. “We can swim and then eat after.”
Amy nodded and stood up. Colin gave her a curious glance.
“Are you swimming in all your clothes?” he asked.
“Turn around,” she said.
“I’m not taking off my shorts with an audience.”
Colin chuckled, but he turned around. She quickly pulled off her shorts and tied her shirt so it wasn’t as loose.
“Okay,” she said.
“You’re wearing your shirt?”
“You’re telling me how to dress?”
“No,” Colin replied quickly. “Just… you’ll be pretty cold after swimming, won’t you?”
“I’ll be fine,” Amy said, walking towards the water.
The rocks were bumpy, but they didn’t hurt her feet. Amy hesitated for a moment before stepping into the water. Icy water engulfed her legs, and she shivered in spite of herself. Colin followed her.
“Oh, it’s cold,” he said.
Then he flopped his whole body into the waves with a splash. He laid on his back, slowly swimming deeper and further away. Amy slowly walked after him, until she was almost up to her waist in the water.
“The best way to get used to it is just jumping in,” Colin said.
His hair was wet and hanging around his eyes. Amy tried to not notice his abs. Or arm muscles. She had really hoped that his muscles were just edited on for the show. She cleared her throat.
“I’ll get in,” she said. “In my own time.”
He laughed and stood up. He shook his hair, splashing water on Amy’s face. She lifted her arms to shield herself.
“Rude,” she said with a laugh.
“What?” he asked innocently. “I was just getting water out of my ears.”
Amy splashed back at him. He gasped dramatically.
“Well, now we’re even,” she said, sticking out her tongue at him.
“I’m afraid not,” he replied, his expression turning serious. “My honor has been irreparably damaged.”
“I’m sure you’ll get over it,” Amy said, splashing him again.
Before Amy could react, Colin whisked her off her feet and over his shoulder. He started running further into the ocean.
“No!” Amy screamed, her voice rising in a strange combination of glee and panic.
He dunked her under. Amy sputtered as she tried to stand up. Her whole body was drenched, and the water level was almost to her chest. She pushed Colin, and he stumbled back with a splash. She splashed at him again, and he countered with a sputtering laugh, covering his face with one hand.
She didn’t even register if she felt cold or not, now that she was fully emerged and using all her energy in their water battle.
“Respite!” he finally called, holding his hands in the air.
Amy stopped and wiped her face, panting heavily. She met his grin with a smile of her own.
“Does this mean you give up?” she asked.
He walked over to her. Amy felt her heart racing. She could see the drops of water slowly roll down his face and chest as he came closer. Like really close. She looked at his eyes, but she couldn’t register the emotions behind them.
She could see the different hues in his blue eyes. She wasn’t sure what to do. She should look away, she thought. But his gaze seemed to be a magnet for hers. Before she could suggest heading back to the beach, he leaned in close. His lips pressed against hers softly.
His lips were warm and tasted like saltwater and cider. She felt one hand move under her chin and the other around her waist, and she melted into his embrace. He pulled away slowly, still holding onto her and searching her eyes.
Part of her wanted to ask him what that was for, what it meant… Was this an “I’m bored so why not?” kiss or an “I have legit feelings” kiss? There was a sort of softness in his gaze that seemed to dissolve her questions before she could even voice them.
She resisted the urge to touch her lips and glanced away.
“Um… should we… head back for some food?” Amy asked.
She looked up at him and felt her lips curve into a smile. Colin smiled back at her and leaned in. His lips met hers again. She could feel the warmth of his body as it pressed against her, and her heart seemed to jump into her throat. She wrapped her arms around him, wondering if it was the ocean waves that made her world seem to sway, even as Colin pulled away and studied her face.
“You’re cold,” he said.
“The water’s freezing,” Amy replied.
Colin grabbed Amy and lifted her out of the water. She felt a bit like a princess being carried, and she wrapped her hands around his neck.
“Let’s get you dried off,” he said.
Amy’s face was close to his. She tried not to stare as he carried her towards the shore with an undisguised smile. She couldn’t fight the smile off her face either. She glanced towards the horizon. The sun was starting to set, turning the sky pink.
There was a kayak in the distance. She squinted and recognized one of the tourists from earlier in the kayak. He was holding a large camera pointed at them.
“Colin,” she said slowly.