“That’s my plan.”
I spin in a circle, to take it all in again. “It’s so strange being in a warm place for the holidays. I think I’m going to miss the snow.”
I study the frown on his face. “Are you going to decorate?” I ask, even though it’s a question I already know the answer to. But maybe things have changed for him. Maybe he learned to love the holidays instead of running away from them.
“What about a tree?”
“What about it?”
I roll my eyes at him. “Are you going to put one up?”
“Why not?” He flattens both hands on the small table, and lifts his gaze to me. His eyes are dark, frighteningly intense as they meet mine. “I didn’t think Christmas was your thing either, Londyn,” he says, his voice a low controlled whisper that skitters through me.
“You’re right, it’s not.” I’m surprised that he remembers so much about me. What else does he have stored in that brilliant brain of his? I steal another glance out at the town in the distance. “Something about this place makes me feel a little festive inside.”
“Sorry about that.”
I laugh. “I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing. We’re far away from home and things just feel...different.”
“Things are different.”
“Maybe we could pretend this isn’t the real world for a while.”
“I don’t pretend, Londyn.”
“I’ve traveled to numerous places, but here, I don’t know, it’s so removed from the real world, it feels like...like...”
“What does it feel like?”
“A fairy tale.”
He laughs, and I get it. Life was anything but a fairy tale for him and his sister. Ironic really, considering in college he developed the Penn Pals app, and all the guys he hired became known as the Princes of Penn to the girls using the service.
“That’s why you called me an ogre?” he says. “You still believe in fairy tales?”
“I called you an ogre because you were acting like one.” He doesn’t say anything so I add, “And I guess I don’t really believe in fairy tales anymore.” His brow knits together, and I can’t tell whether he’s happy or sad by that admission. “Are you keeping me here through the holidays?”
“Do you want to stay that long?”
“I don’t really have any reason to rush back home. You know my mother, she always goes away, and my father buries himself in work. I actually told him I was in Florida visiting a friend. Not that he’d worry about me, but I just needed a break from...” I shift a little uneasily. I probably shouldn’t have brought up my father, judging by the way he’s suddenly glaring at me. “What about Peyton? What is she doing for the holidays?”
“Don’t you two—”
“We do what we can just to get through the holidays. Working helps us move on.”
Without thinking, I step closer and put my hand over his. I give it a squeeze and honest to God, I swear I can hear his heart crashing against his chest. I understand Christmas is a bad time for him. It’s when he lost his folks in a car accident. I’m just sad that he and Peyton haven’t found a way to make new memories for the holiday. Happier ones.
“We should eat,” he says and turns from me, but not before I catch that lost look in his eyes, the same one that haunted him in college. Cason Harrison might be a grown man, but deep inside he’s still sweet and vulnerable, a guy who cares about others, but had no one there for him. I cared about him—still do. But I wronged him, and lost the privilege of giving affection, as well as receiving it.
“Right,” I say, pushing those troubled thoughts to the back of my brain as I settle in next to him at the bistro table. Silence falls over us as we dig into our meal.