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Shortly before dawn, Luke opened his eyes.
The bed was empty, a written note resting in the place where Aris’s head should have been.
Tossing the note, sheet and blanket aside, he grabbed a pair of cargo pants and a shirt from his suitcase before entering the bathroom to freshen up. After leaving the suite, he caught the elevator, rushed through the lobby and out to the patio and gardens that led to the beach where he spotted a lone figure standing in the distance near the water’s edge.
Luke quietly entered Aris’s space and sat in the sand a few feet away from her, watching as she took a step forward, the tide kissing her toes as it ebbed and flowed. He dropped his head and curbed his urge to chide her about leaving him early morning notes on pillows and wandering out onto the beach in the dark by herself, knowing that the danger of her decision wasn’t lost on her…just like she’d already known that he would read her message when he woke and eventually join her so she wouldn’t be alone.
He looked up to see her glancing over her shoulder at him, aware of his presence before he could say one word. Her grin revealed that he hadn’t startled her at all, that she had expected to turn and see him there.
That made him smile.
When she shifted her eyes back to the water, his chest tightened as he realized how much he wanted to always be there for her, wherever and whenever she needed him.
Minutes later, the sun peered over the water. He watched as she wrapped her arms around her body, taking in the magnificent blends of red, orange and yellow as the sun rose and cast its beauty over the ocean. Glancing over her shoulder again, she blessed him with a bright smile that reached her eyes. He nodded, acknowledging the beauty of the moment and how fortunate he felt to share it with her, to see the pure delight on her face as she lifted her gaze and looked at the sky.
Luke continued to stare, the melodic sound of Aris’s laughter lifting the weight of his worry. When she began to kick her feet and dance in the waves, he smiled again, relieved to know that—despite the fear and confusion he’d seen in her eyes as they further blurred the lines of their friendship just hours ago—at least for now, in this moment, she seemed…happy.
“I love this,” she finally said, looking out over the ocean to the horizon. “So beautiful.”
He nodded again, still watching her.
Marveling at how beautiful and fragile she truly was.
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Aris Collier is chasing her dreams…at a snail’s pace. With little money and big talent, she works tirelessly to perfect her craft…even at the expense of her relationships. When Aris walks away from yet another dead-end entanglement with the hopes of finally getting her life on track, the last thing she expects is a fast friendship with her neighbor, Luke. They couldn’t be more different but soon the two become an inseparable pair, leaving Aris both surprised and disturbed that Luke understands her better than anyone else ever has…
Luke Donovan has it all—looks, career, money and status. Most importantly, he has the bold, brave and beautiful Jessica Knox, a woman he’s been building his impeccable life with since college. But as Luke continues his corporate climb, he soon realizes that the view from the top isn’t so great and the future laid out in front of him is very far from his true definition of happiness. For the first time in his life, Luke is unsure…until he meets his quirky neighbor, Aris, who just may help him discover what love and life are really all about…