It was unheard of for me . . . but it was fucking blissful.

So when my eyes opened early Sunday morning and the sky was still dark, I tried to go back to sleep. In only a matter of hours we would be leaving the sanctuary of the cabin and the bubble that kept the world locked safely outside. I wanted to stay here, mentally, as long as I could. I didn’t want life to come back just yet. Pippa was warm and naked beside me. Her hair was a jumbled mess across my neck, my pillow, her pillow; her lips slightly parted in sleep. But I felt the telltale buzzing in my thoughts—the list making, the mental tallying, the snapping into place of our schedule to return to Boston.

No doubt I would be grateful for it tomorrow, but I cursed my internal clock and its prompt return just as my vacation ended.

Wide awake against my own will, I lifted my head, careful not to dislodge Pippa from where she slept on my chest, and tried to make out the time on the bedside clock.

Just after five. Fuck.

I’d grown used to sharing a bed with someone again, and even though I knew I should stay and savor every last moment I could get—who knew when it would happen again—my brain was wired. At home I’d get up and work or go for a run, maybe catch up on some TV. But this wasn’t home. It was too early to go banging around the house and risk waking everyone up on their last morning to sleep in, but as I waited, listening to the soft sounds of Pippa’s breath against my neck, I knew I couldn’t just lie there and think, either.

I shifted, careful to climb out without jostling her. My suitcase was in the other room, and I padded down the hall, pulling on my clothes and running shoes before slipping quietly out the door.

I came back from my run to find Pippa sitting up in bed, reading.

“Well, hello there,” she said, abandoning her book with a grin.

I felt mildly guilty for sneaking out on our last morning together, but managed to tuck the feeling away. I pulled my shirt over my head and used it to wipe down my chest and the back of my neck. When I turned, I found her watching me.

“I went for a run,” I said. “I tried not to wake you.”

She kicked off the blankets and lay back, arms folded behind her head. Her legs were crossed, toes pointed as she wiggled them in my direction. “Hmm, I sort of wish you would have.”

She was naked, skin creamy against the dark flannel sheets. My eyes trailed down her body, and despite knowing we were going home today and should probably have some sort of conversation—I’d been avoiding it up until this point—I couldn’t look away.

“I need to shower first, but . . .” I said, trying to organize my thoughts but unable to keep my gaze off her breasts. Her nipples were pink, pebbled into tight little points in the cool morning air. Goose bumps covered her skin, and she stretched, arching her back.

“A shower.” She sat up, swinging her legs to the floor. “Now, that is a brilliant idea.”

I blinked up to her eyes again, catching the mischievous glint there.

Maybe I wasn’t the only one avoiding conversation.

Pippa stood and walked over, stopping just in front of me. With a faux-concerned pout, she reached up and traced the frown lines in my forehead.

“Remember our deal?” Pushing up onto her toes, she pressed a kiss to my lips, making a smooching sound. “Fun.”

Her naked body was only an inch away from my partially clothed one, and I felt myself harden in my sweats. She smelled warm, like honey and vanilla and something so distinctly Pippa I wanted to taste it again, remind myself of how she felt against my tongue.

With a final kiss, Pippa headed into the adjoining bathroom. My gaze slipped down along the curve of her spine, to the roundness of her ass and down, down the length of her legs. She slipped out of sight and I heard the water start, followed by the closing of the shower door.

I looked to the window. The logical part of my brain did its best to reason out why I shouldn’t just strip off the rest of my clothes and follow her in there, forget about everything else, and fuck her against the shower wall. We were leaving in a few hours—back to Boston and the inevitable mess I knew would be waiting for me. Pippa would head to her grandfather’s house and, eventually, back to London. Didn’t that mean I should stop playing house and start thinking about real life?

I snapped back to the sound of her humming in the shower and stepped around the corner, catching sight of her naked silhouette on the other side of the frosted glass door. There was no way I wasn’t joining her.

Since we needed to empty the fridge before we left, our last breakfast was big enough to feed an army. Will poured pancakes onto a griddle while Niall cooked what was left of the sausage and bacon. Ruby and Pippa sliced melon, strawberries, bananas, and anything else they could find in the produce drawers for fruit salad; I must have squeezed enough oranges to make at least a gallon of fresh juice.

We stuffed ourselves while a Tom Petty record spun on a turntable in the living room, and if there was a more perfect way to end this entire trip, I couldn’t think of it.

Dishes were washed and bags carried to the car. Pippa and I smiled as we passed one another in the hallway. Only a day ago, I would have reached for her without question, pressed her to the wall, suggested we sneak off into the woods or lock ourselves in the bedroom.

But it was like an alarm had gone off somewhere and we didn’t have time for that anymore. Our sell-by date had arrived. Hands were kept to themselves and mouths turned up into happy smiles, but there was no touching, no teasing kisses or last-minute fumbles in the hall. We were friends again, intimate acquaintances, maybe. And that would have to be enough.