“Good,” she said as she grabbed the bottle of Grey Goose and turned back to me. “Come on.” It sounded a lot like a command. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I followed her out the door and down to the beach. She kept walking once we hit the sand. My longer strides caught up to her.

“Walking until we’re out of the view of the house,” was her response. The vodka bottle still in her hand.

“Okay,” that wasn’t exactly an explanation, but I kept walking with her. Another quarter of a mile and we reached a large log that had long since washed up. It was sitting up high and away from the water.

She went to sit down, and I took the spot beside her. She opened the vodka and then took a long swig before handing it to me. “Here you need it more than I do,” she said.

I took it and drank because she was right. I did. But she didn’t know why.

“How long you been in love with her? Your whole life? Since you were kids or once you got older?”

She shrugged. “No and yes. You look at her the way a man in love looks at a woman. But you don’t do it all the time. You’re careful. I just paid attention.”

I handed the bottle back to her. She took it and sighed. “That’s why I left,” she said as took another drink. I was impressed. I didn’t imagine Lila could drink straight vodka from the bottle. That didn’t fit her at all. But she wasn’t even wincing. I wondered if she would have been able to do the same with tequila. I realized what she said then. “You left because someone asked you to be in their wedding or because you love someone that doesn’t feel the same?”

“I grew up with him. Been thrown together since we were kids. I always thought he was exciting and fun. He always made me laugh. And then one day he kissed me. I knew I was in love with him. But he didn’t feel the same way.”

Shit. “Nate?” I asked thinking I might just hate him after all.

She jerked her head to look at me, and then let out a loud laugh. “God no! That’d be like incest. I mean we aren’t actually related, but it feels like it. Always has. Our dads were step brothers when they were younger. Their parents didn’t work out because Nate’s grandmother is a psycho. Anyway, they remained best friends even after their parents divorced.”

She handed the vodka back to me. “I get the unrequited love thing. I’m not in love with him anymore, though. What fragile feelings I had left after years of hardly speaking to him, he decided to stomp on by saying hurtful things when he was drunk. They were true though. At least some of them were.”

I couldn’t imagine anything that could be said about her that would be negative. “He’s a dick,” I replied without even hearing what he’d said about her. Then I took a drink.

We sat there a few minutes passing the vodka back and forth in silence. Thinking. Finally, I answered her question. “I think I realized I loved her when we were six. She had made a crown out of daisy’s and put it on her head then danced around the yard. I watched her a long time wondering if anyone was as pretty as her. She finally saw me, stopped twirling, gave me a big smile and then held out her hand to me. She said she was the queen of the fairies and I could be her king. It’s a silly memory, but it stuck with me.”

I took a drink then. “Thanks for the vodka. It’s helping.” I passed it back to her.

“Yeah. We may not be able to walk back to the house, but you won’t be hurting, and I won’t be terrified of my adventure.”

She shrugged. “I wanted to be someone else. Do something completely unlike me. To get away. The reality of it scares me though.”

A sad smile touched her face. “I have to. I need to.”

“No,” she shook her head. “Because of Lila. I need to do this for Lila. And I’ve had too much to drink on an empty stomach. I’m talking about myself in third person.”

I laughed, and she joined me. It felt right sitting out here laughing being completely honest with each other.

LIVE BAY WASN’T a long walk from Nate and Bliss’s house. Which was a good thing because neither of us needed to be driving. The walk helped sober us up somewhat but not completely. It was a nice relaxed feeling. By the time we finished eating at the restaurant in front of Live Bay’s bar, my head was much clearer. My concerns and fears were returning.

“I don’t know if I’m up for dancing tonight,” I told him.

“I don’t think I’m up for the crowd there,” he agreed.

At least he wasn’t going to try and talk me into staying. But returning to Nate’s where I would just sit and worry alone didn’t seem appealing either.

“Let’s get my truck and then go to my apartment. We can watch a movie. I have vodka. I also have some peanut butter ice cream in my freezer that needs to be eaten. It’ll be quiet there.”

That was better. “Okay. Yes, that sounds good. Especially the ice cream.”

He smirked. “And I thought it would be my perfect personality that would win you over.”

“That is just a plus. The ice cream definitely is the ultimate draw.”

The server came, and Eli took the bill for our dinner and paid for it. This had been a date. A real one. Even after our drunken admissions on the beach. We talked about Sea Breeze and his childhood there on our way back to the truck. He had good memories of the place and a lot of friends who sounded a lot more colorful than the ones I had back home.

We didn’t go inside or say anything to Bliss and Nate. Instead, we got in his truck and headed to his apartment which was more of a condo on the beach. Bliss had lived there with him before she got together with Nate. I wondered if he had bought a two bedroom just for that reason—for her.

But I didn’t want to talk about that anymore, so I didn’t ask.

“This is it. Movies are in that cabinet if you want to look through what I have. Or we can rent something from iTunes. Your choice.”

It was a nice. You could tell a female had lived here once. There was a feminine touch that most guys didn’t know how to pull off when they decorated. Or they didn’t care to.

“I’ll see what selection you have first,” I told him walking over to the cabinet.

He left me in there. I opened the cabinet and saw the DVDs were in alphabetical order. He had a great selection. I found Top Gun toward the end and picked it up. I had seen this once when I was younger. It was a classic even back then.

Eli walked back into the room carrying a bottle of vodka, two glasses, and some cranberry juice. “I assume you don’t always drink vodka straight out of the bottle,” he said with a mischievous grin.

“You’d be correct. That was actually a first for me.”

I handed him the DVD, and he nodded. “Nice choice,” he agreed then set the glasses on the coffee table and the vodka and cranberry juice behind them. “Help yourself. Want me to get the ice cream now? Or later?”

I wasn’t hungry yet. I was still full from the fried crab claws and fries I had eaten. “I’m good with the vodka right now.”