Amy could feel a storm coming. Literally and figuratively. The clouds were rolling in slowly over the hills when she woke up. By the time they had opened up the dining room, the downpour began. Amy returned to the kitchen with a tray full of dirty dishes.
“Sophie, the Dutch couple asked if they could delay checkout for a couple hours until the storm passes,” she said, setting the tray next to Colin.
“They’ll be waiting for a couple days then,” Sophie replied with a shake of her head.
Sophie wiped her hands on her apron and motioned for Amy to take over supervising the bacon.
“I’ll go talk to them,” Sophie said. “Back in a moment.”
Amy flipped the bacon and cast a glance at Colin. He had been rather quiet since yesterday, she noted. After she pointed out the man with the camera, he had packed up the picnic basket with a speed she’d never seen in him before and taken her back to her cabin. She flushed, remembering he kissed her again outside of her cabin and said he had to call his manager to sort things out.
“Am I washing the dishes incorrectly?” Colin asked, glancing over at Amy and flashing a smile. “Or do I just look really good in this light?”
Amy shook her head and returned her attention to the stove.
“I wondered if the sea witch stole your voice,” she said. “I think this is the first you’ve spoken to me all morning.”
Colin cleared his throat. She saw him take off his pink rubber gloves from the corner of her eye.
“I… wasn’t sure what to say to you,” he replied slowly. “And if you wanted to talk to me or not after yesterday.”
“Do the girls you kiss usually ghost you after?” Amy joked.
She plated the bacon and leaned against the counter to face him. He moved over to stand next to her.
“Have you looked online?” Colin asked, his cheeks turning pink.
“Is there something I should see?”
Colin pulled out his phone. He hesitated a moment before he handed it to her. It was a results page from searching his name. She was tempted to make a joke about him looking up his own name in the news. Then she saw them.
Of her and Colin on the beach. In the water. Splashing each other. Him carrying her.
The titles weren’t exactly kind either.
“Colin’s secret girlfriend?” she read aloud. “Arthur star hooks up with mystery woman on small Scottish island?”
“The media is never nice,” Colin said quickly, running a hand through his hair and messing up the blond waves. “I already called Rob, and he says he’ll take care of it.” He smiled at Amy, but it didn’t seem to reach his worried eyes. “He’s always good at finding a twist to get me—us—out of a tight spot.”
Amy handed back his phone and tried to erase the images from her mind. She took a deep breath and looked up at him. He was giving her a searching, almost anxious look.
“Well, it’s not like you can really see my face in that,” she said with a shrug. “They didn’t even mention my name.”
“You’re not upset?” he asked.
His hand wrapped around hers. There was a certain fear behind his eyes. Or maybe he thought that she was about to yell at him or tell him she didn’t want to see him again.
“I’m upset that someone basically stalked you and took pictures of me without my consent,” she said. “But I’m not blaming you.” She smiled. “It’s not like it’s you calling me a, what, secret hookup or whatever.”
Colin smiled and inched closer to her.
“What should I call you?” he asked.
He leaned in closer as the door opened. Amy ducked away quickly and grabbed the plate of bacon from the counter.
“I can take over the dining room,” Sophie offered from the doorway, a sly smile on her face. “If you’re too busy in here.”
“No, it’s okay,” Amy replied quickly, feeling her cheeks go warm. “I should put out the bacon before it gets cold.”
She rushed out of the dining room. She greeted Mark, who stood up so quickly that he almost knocked his teacup over.
“Y-you look happy today,” he said with a smile. “D-do you like the rain?”
Amy looked out of the window and shrugged.
“It’s a good day to stay inside,” she replied. “Are you heading out today?”
“I was supposed to gather samples,” he said with a sigh. “But I might just take today to update my journals and stay dry.”
“Good plan,” she said. “You couldn’t pay me enough to walk around in this kind of weather.”
“Looks like there is a price, though,” Mark replied, peering out the window. “Nature photographers, you think?”
Amy looked outside. There were three men in ponchos and plastic-covered cameras aimed at the house. She closed the curtain quickly.
Sophie ended up chasing the photographers away by telling them they were intruding on private property. The fact that Ava chose that moment to ride by in her motorbike and almost knocked them off the road probably helped. Either way, Colin was sent upstairs immediately to call his manager, and Amy took over all of the cleaning. Again.
As she wiped down the counters, she wondered if she should go upstairs and check on him. Sophie was still “cleaning the dining room” with Ava, and taking over a half hour to get the tablecloths off the tables. Amy grabbed a mug from the dish rack (white with yellow flowers) and fixed a cup of tea. After a pause, she grabbed another (blue with an orange sun painted on) and fixed a second cup of tea. She remembered Colin liked an unhealthy amount of sugar and the smallest drop of milk.
He answered the door on the first knock. Amy noticed his hair was ruffled, like he had been running his hands through it.
“I figured you could use some tea,” she said.
He smiled and took the mug from her. He opened the door wider and motioned for her to come inside.
“Wow, and you commented on my room,” Amy said, stepping in. “Is there a floor here somewhere?”
His floor was covered in laundry. She wasn’t even sure if they were clean or dirty, but it looked like he had enough shirts and pants on the floor to clothe himself for an entire month without repeating outfits.
“I have a reputation to uphold,” he replied, clearing space on the bed. “You know, I’ve been on the best dressed list of at least ten magazines.”
“What about your reputation as a slob?” Amy asked, sitting next to him. “I hope you’re not waiting for Sophie to clean up after you.”
“I’m pretty sure pigs would have to fly for that to happen,” Colin remarked. “I’ll clean it up later. I was just… looking for something and made a bit of a mess.”
Amy nodded and took a sip of her tea. She glanced at Colin from the brim of her cup. He was watching her, but his eyes seemed tired.
“Speaking of messes,” she said slowly. “How’s Rob doing at cleaning up this mess?”
“He says he’s got a handle on it,” Colin replied with a nod. “And he says this might actually turn into a good thing.”
“He never tells me specifics,” Colin said with a shrug. “But… if I had to guess, I’d say it’ll probably be about how I’ve been reformed from my playboy ways thanks to this great girl who loaned me ferry fare and has been obsessed with me since.”
“Wow,” Amy said, trying to fight back a smile. “I didn’t realize you wrote fanfiction, sir. Because that definitely never happened.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m pretty sure you never paid me back for that ferry, too,” Amy added. “I’m starting to think you’re actually one of those broke actors.”
“I’m just saving my money,” he replied. “You know… so you have to keep talking to me.”
Amy chuckled. He smiled at her, and she felt her heart skip a beat.
“I’m sure you can find other ways to keep me interested,” she said.
He looked at her and raised a brow. Amy felt her cheeks warm under his gaze and cleared her throat.
“You still have Uno with you?” she asked quickly.
He chuckled and glanced around.
“I mean, yeah, but I don’t like playing with cheaters,” he countered.
“I thought you wanted to keep me talking to you?” she asked with an innocent expression. “I’m very talkative when I’m kicking your butt in card games.”
He offered only feeble protests before he fetched some cards, suggesting different card games instead. And she was proud to say that she beat him in every one.
Amy returned to her cabin as the sun was starting to set. She opened her laptop and saw a dozen emails waiting for her.
All from reporters.
How did they get my contact information? she thought, reaching for her phone.
It was still on silent from when she was working. There were missed calls from numbers she didn’t recognize and twenty text messages. She opened up her internet browser and typed in Colin’s name.
Arthur star saves American tourist from drowning.
She clicked the link and began skimming the article.
“The tourist, identified as Amy Gang,” Amy read aloud, flinching at her misspelled name, “apparently suffered a muscle cramp from swimming in the cold waters when Colin jumped in to save her… When asked about the incident, representatives of Mr. Thompson reported that Ms. Gang would be staying at a local accommodation until fully healed.”
Amy sighed and tossed her phone on the bed. He told everyone her name. After she told him she was relieved that no one knew who she was.
“Colin is staying at the island with his sickly aunt, whose recent accident left her unable to maintain the upkeep of her quaint island bed and breakfast. He is expected to return to filming Arthur as soon as she has recovered.”
So he’s a hero in more ways than one, Amy thought, her throat constricting. She wondered if that was the reason he had come to Kera in the first place: for a story about him helping his sickly aunt. He had said he’d been getting bad press before coming to the island. She felt like such an idiot. He was using her and Sophie… or at least he was more than willing to use them to get good press when the opportunity presented itself. It should have been obvious all along. She had been too starstruck to see it.