Oh, how I adore this book! <3
He’d changed for the better.
Vin was taller, and bulkier. He looked like a man who didn’t necessarily put in time at the gym, but rather, a man who kept his physique with good, hard manual labor. He was wearing the same t-shirt he’d been wearing on the evening of the magical kiss, but this time it was cleaner, and worn with a pair of dark jeans. Vin appeared collected, tidy, and even professional, if a carny could look that way.
His hair was longer. So much longer than the half grown out haircut he sported before. It fell to the bottoms of his shoulder blades in a neat, shiny black braid. Never in my life had I been attracted to a man with hair almost as long as mine, but boy oh boy. There’s a first for everything. I’d read once that Native Americans consider their hair a source of strength, and if that was the case, Vin was as strong as an ox. Because his hair was long, clean, and strikingly beautiful.
I covered my open mouth with one of my hands. He looked casually amused by my utter shock, whereas I was ready to fall over onto the grass like a cow that’d been tipped. Figures.
“Hi.” It was all I could think of to say, and it barely came out above a whisper. My vocal cords had apparently shriveled up inside my throat, leaving me speechless.
“It’s been a long time.” He gave me an honest smile, and it made my insides twist. “How long has it been?”
“Ten years,” I blurted, my voice only returning enough to sound strangled.
He raised a dark eyebrow. “That long?”
“I was eighteen.” I bit my lip and shuffled my feet nervously. “I’m twenty eight now.”
His lips pulled back and revealed a white sliver of teeth. “That so? I hit thirty three months ago.”
“My condolences.” Where had I come up with such wit under the current circumstance? I could barely stand upright, yet I was making jokes?
He laughed, and my heart tugged. It sounded excitingly new and familiar all at once. “Naw. I’m okay with it. Thirty didn’t scare me.”
My cheeks cooled back to their normal shade of ivory. There was a familiarity about Vin I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He was one of those people who put everyone around them at ease. I wasn’t like that. I tend to make everyone around me as keyed up as I am.
My hair blew all around in a gust of wind, and I scrambled to keep it under control. It was swarming around my head like Medusa’s snakes. “Dammit.”
Vin reached out and touched my hand as I scrambled to tie it into a makeshift bun. “No, leave it down. It’s beautiful. You look as pretty as you did when you were eighteen.”
Flattery? Oh, this was amazing. Vin had not only materialized out of thin air, but he came bearing compliments. “I…um…thank you.” I looked up at his eyes, and was instantly sucked into those pools of shining black. “So…uh…how are you?”
“Great. Glad to be back.” He looked around joyfully and took a deep breath of the salt-and-pine-tree scented air. “I’ve missed this place.”
Okay, be cool. Don’t let him know that you’ve been stalking him for over a decade. Stalking is not sexy. I repeat, stalking is not sexy.
“Do you come to town often?” I wanted to appear casual, and had to remind myself not to fiddle with my hair, despite the fact it was still dancing on the breeze like I was underwater. All I needed was a shell bra and a fin.
“This is my first time back in years. My dad lives near Tillamook, but I…” He grappled with himself for a split second before continuing. “I’ve been very busy with school and work.”
So being a carny wasn’t Vin’s primary vocation? Interesting. I watched as he gestured for a few young employees to get back to work. They skulked off at the mere jerk of Vin’s chin, and I felt inexplicably proud of my fantasy boyfriend. I needed a life.
“Are you…” Pausing, I searched for the words. “Still running the tilt-a-whirl?”
Vin looked at me quizzically before his face split into another grin. “Well, yes. Amongst other things.”