Her gaze fell to a note on the bedside table, scrawled in his familiar bold handwriting.
I’m in room 211 if you need me. Call me when you get up and we’ll have breakfast & plan our next move.—J
She studied the note, looking for hidden meanings, some signal about what they’d done on the plane. Any regret? Any declarations of love? Did “plan our next move” refer to something relationship-wise or was she reading too much into it? Violet didn’t know. It seemed . . . awfully casual.
She showered and dressed, opting for jeans and a blousy, off-the-shoulder top with a tank underneath. The time for her schoolteacher armor was past, she supposed. Tucking her hair behind her ears in a nervous habit, Violet dialed Jonathan’s room.
“This is Jonathan,” he answered.
“Hey, it’s me.”
A pause. “Good. You up for breakfast?”
For some reason, his nonchalant tone bothered her. This was Jonathan, Mr. Born-and-Bred-Intensity. Wasn’t he supposed to be reciting poetry to her beauty and vowing that he loved her above all others? That was his normal MO. To have him so casual after the mind-blowing incident on the plane rattled her. She cleared her throat, settling her thoughts. “Breakfast is fine.”
“Downstairs, then? I can be there in ten.”
“See you then,” she said, and hung up, vaguely disgruntled and not sure why. She got up, slicked on a bit more lip gloss, and added a touch of mascara so her eyes would seem bolder, and headed down to the hotel lobby.
The Kallista Hotel hadn’t changed much in the last ten years, and as she walked through the lobby, the Greek columns and tiled floor reminded her of times past. She crossed her arms, feeling vulnerable, and waited for Jonathan in the lobby.
He arrived a few minutes later in his usual casual blazer, T-shirt, and jeans. He was unshaven and his hair was a bit tousled, as if he hadn’t bothered to fix it since it was just Violet he was meeting. She wasn’t sure if that irritated her or if she wanted to run her fingers through his hair and smooth it into place.
“Shall we eat?” Jonathan asked, gesturing at the doorway to the hotel restaurant.
She nodded and let him open the door for her, lost in thought.
They got a table and sat down, ordering a pair of coffees. Jonathan glanced at the menu and set it down, then pulled a small tablet out of an interior pocket of his jacket. “I had scans made of our newest letters while we were flying,” he told her, tapping the screen. “Now that we’re here at the hotel, maybe we can figure out our next move.”
“Sure,” she said lamely, and fought a swell of irritation. Was he just going to ignore what happened between them last night? She couldn’t. Every time she looked at him, her gaze went to his mouth, and she remembered how he’d teased her cl*t with his tongue for what felt like hours. When he reached for his silverware, she gaped at his hands, remembering how those fingers had found just the right spot inside her to drive her mad with need.
“Do you have any ideas?” Jonathan asked, spreading his napkin on his lap.
Oh, she had ideas, all right. Violet watched his strong, blunt hands move to the table surface again. Those were distracting her. He said something else that she didn’t catch. “Hmm?”
“Violet? Any ideas on where we go next? I’ll follow your lead.”
She blinked. “Follow my lead?”
He tilted his head, eyes narrowing at her. “You seem distracted this morning.”
Why wouldn’t she be distracted? Irritation flared and she grabbed her own napkin-rolled silverware and tore the bundle apart. “Of course I’m distracted.”
“Thinking about the clue?”
Fuck the clue. “No,” she bit out. “About what happened on the plane last night.”
His gaze was steady, his face unreadable. “What about it?”
Her jaw dropped a little. “Well, it shouldn’t have happened, for starters.”
A shrug? That was all she got? Violet fought back her temper as she patted her napkin in her lap. The waitress came by and brought coffee, and they were momentarily distracted with ordering breakfast. “Just toast,” Violet said, hating the snappish tone in her voice. God, she sounded like a bitch. When the waitress left, Violet wrapped her hands around her coffee cup—so she’d resist lobbing it at Jonathan’s oh-so-casual head—and frowned at him. “I feel like we need to talk about what happened.”
Again, he shrugged. “I’m listening.”
She ground her teeth at his casualness. “I just . . . I feel like friends with benefits is not the direction we want to head.”
“All right.” He picked up his cup and took a sip, then set it down and picked up his tablet again, studying the screen.
That was it? Violet clenched her fists. What about protests? Utterances of undying love for her? Didn’t he say he’d always loved her and wouldn’t stop? Hadn’t he vowed it just yesterday when he was between her damn legs? And now he just didn’t give a shit?
What the ever-loving f**k?
A horrible thought occurred to Violet. What if . . . what if he was disappointed in her? What if that was why he was so cool now? She tugged at the low neckline of her loose top, suddenly feeling self-conscious and dowdy. She wasn’t as thin and athletic as she’d been ten years ago. A few extra pounds—okay, twenty—had settled on her already hourglass figure and made her a little curvier than most. He’d picked up some damn impressive tricks in the last ten years and made her come like wild. But what if he had built her up in his imagination and now he found her performance lacking?
For some reason, that was like a stab in the heart.
It was like . . . when she knew Jonathan was still in love with her, she could hold him at arm’s length, until she was ready to let go of the past and accept him again. If she held on to her bitterness and anger for another year or two, she knew he wouldn’t give up on her. She’d been comfortable to hold him away. It was safe, and Violet liked safe.
But this new, casual Jonathan, who didn’t give a shit if they had sex or not?
This man was a stranger, and she didn’t know what to do. And she wasn’t sure she liked it. “All right?” she echoed. “That’s all you have to say?”
He looked up at her again. “What do you want me to say? I told you that you could call the shots. I said it was about you. If you don’t want to do it again, that’s fine.”
That was fine? He’d given her the best orgasm of her life and taken nothing for himself and that was fine?
“Okay then,” she said, feeling a bit lost. “Let’s go back to just friends.”
“Just friends,” he agreed.
Why did she feel like she was the one losing this battle?
“So . . .” Violet said after taking a steadying sip of her coffee. “We’re here at the hotel. We have a poem that talks about nothing in particular. What do we do?”
Jonathan shrugged again—a gesture she was beginning to hate. “I’m sure something will come to us. Maybe we need to explore the city. The poem mentioned wheels. Maybe we need to look for wheels of some kind.”
It was as good a lead as any. “Just looking for wheels seems rather vague to me. And if we don’t find the wheel my father referred to?”
“Then we wait here for a while and see what hits us. Something will pop up.”
He seemed so very casual about the entire thing. “So we just lounge around on a Greek island and enjoy the sun and sand? Is that what you’re saying?”
He grinned, a flicker of the old Jonathan rising to the surface. “Is that such a bad thing?”
It wasn’t, not really. Santorini was lovely from what she remembered, and the weather seemed to be nice today. “Do you think we should check out the ruins?”
“We’re not part of any sort of archaeological dig, so I don’t know if they’d just let us out there unless we pulled strings. We can, but if it wasn’t one of your father’s digs, it would seem strange for him to send us out there.”
That was true. She knew that he’d been heavily involved in the Akrotiri ruins for about five years, and then had abruptly changed his mind, heading for Spain instead. Why Spain, she hadn’t known and hadn’t cared. “So . . . we’re basically stranded at the moment.”
“I guess we are. Want to go sightseeing?”
She blinked at his suggestion. “Shouldn’t we work on this?”
“We should. And we will. But for now, why don’t we just enjoy the day? Take some time off? You seem tired.”
If she was tired, it was because she was still a puddle of jelly after last night’s interlude. It was an interlude which had rattled her to her core and hadn’t seemed to affect him at all. Sheesh. “I’m not tired.”
“Good. Then shall we go exploring?”
“Can’t I eat breakfast first?”
“I never said we’d skip out on the eating,” Jonathan said in a low murmur.
And that made her blush, thinking again of the plane ride over. Damn it, she was pretty sure he’d said that just to bug her. And that made her all confused again.
Which Jonathan was he? Jonathan of all shrugs and not caring if they ever touched each other again? Or suggestive, madly in love with her after ten years Jonathan?
She was so confused.
They spent the day in the warm sun. Santorini was just as idyllic as she remembered it. The island itself was formed from the remnants of a volcano, the city hugging the edges of the caldera. It had been one of the oldest civilizations in existence thirty-six hundred years ago when the volcano had erupted and destroyed Akrotiri. In the present day, Fira town was its own little white cluster of buildings crawling over the rocky soil, surrounded by the impossibly beautiful ocean and jagged cliffs. It was utterly lovely, and the sky overhead was a sea of endless blue.
She’d loved this place when she’d snuck away here with Jonathan so many years ago. They’d left the Akrotiri dig behind for a weekend of passionate lovemaking in the Kallista Hotel back when they were teenagers, and walking the streets ten years later, she couldn’t stop thinking about that weekend.
Back then, Jonathan had held her hand as they’d explored the narrow streets.
Today, he walked at her side. As a friend. The thought left a sour note in her mind.
Fira’s shops lined the streets, colorful fabrics and beach souvenirs catching the eye. Delicious smells lingered in the marketplace, and she couldn’t resist stopping for a bite of baklava, or a delicious gyro. She bought a colorful linen wrap intended for the beach, and took her time browsing as they shopped. It was pleasant . . . and infuriating at the same time.
They went sightseeing and talked about nothing in particular. They read the poem repeatedly, scanned the streets for wheels or things that might have matched up with their clues, and came away empty-handed. By the end of the evening, Violet’s feet ached from walking, her nose was sunburned, and she was a good, achy tired again. They’d eaten all day as they’d walked, so there was no need for dinner. Still, when it came time to part, Violet hesitated. Did Jonathan want to spend time with her? Maybe come up to her room? Have a little more “friends with benefits” time?
Not that she wanted to, she assured herself. But if he wanted to, then at least she’d know he was still interested.
But Jonathan seemingly didn’t care. He gave her a quick smile, told her he’d call her in the morning when he woke up, and headed down the hall to his own room.
And for some reason, that bugged Violet. It seemed like the more mixed-up she became emotionally, the more he retreated.
She hated that. She wanted him to be just as torn and confused as she was. She wanted him to think about their interlude on the plane when he laid down to sleep that night, because lord knew she was.