“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I just got ordained online.”
“To marry Finn and Pru,” he said. “Now I’m writing the ceremony. Or trying.” He ran a hand down his face, making her take a closer look at him.
He looked . . . exhausted. And tense with stress.
She carefully slid out of the bed, keeping the sheet wrapped around her as she did. Moving to stand behind him, she leaned over his shoulder to look at his screen, but he cleared it.
“You’re embarrassed,” she said in surprise.
He grimaced. “Let’s just say talking about love and commitment is new for me. Very new.” Reaching back, he hooked an arm around her hips to keep her close.
“You’re having regrets,” she murmured, and utterly unable to help herself, slid her hands to his broad, bare shoulders.
He moaned and leaned into her fingers as they dug into his tense muscles. “Regrets, yes. Lots of them, actually,” he said.
This had her freezing. She went to remove her hands from him, but he reached up and entwined their fingers, giving a little tug so that she leaned over him. Turning his head, he looked into her eyes as he lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips across her palm. “Not about last night, Lotti. I have no regrets there. Not a single one.”
She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She didn’t have regrets either. What had happened between them had been . . . amazing. And it’d also told her something she’d already known about herself but hadn’t accepted.
Regardless of how much time had gone by, regardless of her cocky talk of being emotionally unavailable, she was still greatly, deeply emotionally invested in Sean O’Riley. “If it’s not me, what are you regretting?” she asked.
He gently squeezed her fingers. “How I handled things with you all those years ago. What a shithead I was in general.” He pushed his tablet away. “That I can’t pay my brother back for all he’s done for me.”
She shouldn’t have felt surprised. Even after what had happened between her and Sean that long-ago night, she’d still known he was a good guy. But now, seeing the man he’d turned into, how he’d shed the anger and resentment and his adolescence and had gotten himself a life, a good one, warmed her. “It sounds to me as if you’ve been doing just that,” she said, “paying him back, and have been for a few years now. You work with him running the pub. In fact, it sounds like you take care of him every bit as much as he ever took care of you.”
He started to shake his head, and she leaned in and gave him a soft kiss. “Sean, I’m watching you work your ass off to give him the wedding he deserves. You’re doing everything in your power to give it to him because you love him. It’s . . .”
“Moving,” she said.
He turned around to face her and pulled her into his lap, running a hand through her hair, tucking it all back behind her ear. His knuckles slid along the outer shell and she suppressed a shiver of desire that slid slowly down her spine.
Brushing a soft kiss against her temple, he wrapped his arms around her and pressed his face into her throat. “I thought coming to Napa was such a mistake,” he said. “I wanted to take everyone to Vegas for the weekend. Looking back, I can’t believe how close I came to never running into you again.”
She was quiet a moment, thinking about that. “I’m glad you came here,” she finally admitted.
He squeezed her tight. “Me too.”
They sat there together quietly, and she relaxed into him. “Show me?” she murmured, gesturing to the tablet.
He hesitated and then brought his screen up.
She stared at it in confusion. “It’s . . .”
“Blank?” he asked. “Yeah.” He huffed out a sigh. “I keep deleting everything I come up with.”
“Because when it comes right down to it, I don’t know shit about everlasting love.”
“I’ve seen you with your friends, Sean. I’ve seen you with Finn. You’re a very tight-knit group and you seem to be an important part of it. They all love you, especially your brother.”
He didn’t say anything to this but he did meet her gaze, his own revealing a vulnerability that reminded her of the younger Sean. “Tell me some of the things you’ve written and deleted,” she said.
He looked away from her, facing the blank screen. “They’re two of the strongest people I’ve ever met. They had to be. They each suffered some pretty big losses early on, which left them no choice but to pick themselves up and carry on.” He paused. “That they found each other is a miracle. Neither of them were exactly open to the idea of love.” He paused again and still she didn’t speak, not wanting to interrupt him, but also unbearably moved.
“It wasn’t love at first sight,” Sean said quietly. “But I think that’s the point. First, they had to learn to like each other. And then trust each other.” His voice was a little thick. Gruff. “Love born of that, trust, is an everlasting kind of love.”
Lotti’s throat was tight with emotion. She still didn’t speak because now she literally couldn’t.
Sean sighed and nuzzled his jaw to hers. “You can see why I’m having trouble.”
“No.” Cupping his face, she lifted it and looked into his eyes, letting him see the emotion in hers. “It’s incredible, Sean. You’re incredible.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head so she whispered it again against his stubble-roughened jaw. And then yet again against his mouth.
His arms came around her hard. “Careful,” he murmured huskily, eyes still closed. “Our positions are reversed this time. After last night and this morning—and though the sex was amazing, that’s not what I’m referring to—you’re going to leave me with the broken heart.” He opened his eyes and unerringly leveled her with his stark gaze.
She stared at him right back. “Don’t tease me,” she whispered.
“I’m not teasing.”
And indeed, there was no light of joviality in his expression, not a drop, and she swallowed hard. “I didn’t sleep with you to get back at you, Sean.”
“No, you slept with me because you wanted a one-night stand with a surfer.” A ghost of a smile crossed his lips. “Mission accomplished.”
“Okay, so we know why I slept with you,” she said. “But why did you sleep with me?”
He held her gaze. “Maybe I thought you might fall for me again and I’d get it right this time.”
Her heart squeezed. “Sean—”
He put a finger to her lips. “Don’t burst my bubble yet,” he said and slowly fisted his hands in her hair, carefully pulling her in so that they shared their next breath of air. “Not until I’m finished giving you everything I’ve got.”
“How much more could you possibly have?” she asked, shifting in his lap, humming in pleasure at what she found. “Wait. You don’t need to tell me, I think I’ve just found out for myself.”
With a snort, he rose from the chair in one easy movement, her still in his arms. He turned to the bed and tossed her onto it, retaining his grip on the sheet wrapped around her.
This meant she landed butt naked in the middle of the mattress. She bounced and let out a squeak, trying to roll over and grab the covers.