He sat down on the sofa then and waved his arm out beside him. “Then let’s drink. I’ve sobered up, and I prefer the numbness that came with the vodka earlier.”

“It definitely makes you brave. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing,” I said thinking about myself.

He handed me a glass with ice. “Fix it the way you like it. I have club soda too if you prefer that.”

I poured what I thought was a shot of vodka then filled the rest of the glass with the juice. “We aren’t very good influences on each other, are we?” I asked.

He chuckled. “Why? Because we keep drinking?”

“It’s just the timing isn’t that great for either of us.”

I leaned back and crossed my legs to get comfortable before taking a drink. “No, I guess it’s not.”

He poured at least half a glass of the vodka and added just a splash of juice. Then he stood up and went over to the DVD player to put in the movie. Again, this was comfortable. It was easy to trust Eli.

The movie started, and we drank as we watched it. An hour into the movie, he stood up and went to get the ice cream. I still wasn’t hungry, but I ate it. Another drink appeared in my hand and with it came the smooth, easy feeling. I enjoyed it and let him refill me again.

I thought for a moment then figured there was no reason not to be honest with him. “We had sex on the beach. You used a condom.”

He sat up straight and I let out a giggle. It was funny now. Or the vodka made me think it was.

“Was . . . was I any good?” he asked and that made me laugh harder. Of all the things for him to be worried about that wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Yes. You do fine under intoxication. But then I don’t know what you’re like sober.”

His smile was dark and sexy. “We could find out.”

He sighed and leaned back against the sofa. “Damn.”

I fell asleep before the movie ended, but my night had been fun. The alcohol relaxed me, and I didn’t dream, I just slept.

The sun was just beginning to rise when I opened my eyes. I was asleep on the sofa alone. A blanket was covering me and a pillow was under my head. I stretched, got up, folded the blanket and ran a hand through my hair. I needed to leave. Bliss and Nate were going to assume things that hadn’t happened. Not that I should care. But a part of me did. And it had happened before, just not last night.

I found an old receipt and a pen in my purse.

Thanks for last night. It was fun. I hope it helped.

I placed the note on the table in front of me and then left. I liked Eli Hardy, and in different circumstances he’d be harder to leave. But his heart was taken even if he didn’t want it to be.

My walk back to Nate and Bliss’s was peaceful. The seagulls were out, and the smell of the salt in the air calmed me. The sun wasn’t boiling yet, and I enjoyed just being alone. My thoughts were all over the place as I walked. So much so that I almost missed the motorcycle parked outside Nate’s house.

When I did see it, I paused. I knew that bike. I also knew the guy straddling it. He turned his head and looked at me. Even though I hated it. Even though I would do anything for it not to affect me to see him there, my heart picked up just a little.

I took a deep breath then resumed walking toward the front door and Cruz Kerrington.

“What are you doing here?” I snapped when I was close enough for him to hear me.

He gave me his cocky grin. “I heard you were taking a road trip.”

I didn’t want to answer him. But he was here. He had never come here. “Why are you here?” I demanded.

“Why did you take off?” Cruz countered.

I was the new Lila. I wasn’t the same girl that I had left behind in Rosemary. “Because I don’t want to be that girl anymore. The one you described.”

“So you thought leaving town alone would change that?” He sounded amused.

I hated that. I hated his smug grin and self-confidence. “Yes. This is my . . . adventure. Now leave. Let me enjoy it.”

Cruz didn’t move. He studied me a moment. I started to walk past him toward the front door. “Get on, Lila,” he said and I glanced back at him. He was holding out a helmet.

“Get on the back of my bike,” Cruz repeated.

He shrugged. “Yeah. But you know that already. Now get on the bike.”

“I’m not getting on that bike.”

He cocked one eyebrow at me. It was a sexy talent. “You said you wanted an adventure. What is more adventurous than climbing on my bike and just leaving?”

“Where would we go?” I heard myself ask.

I shook my head again. “My bag is upstairs. My car is here.”

“Yeah . . . but you want change. That’s the old you. Climb on, and we’ll find the new Lila Kate Carter.”

I stood there. My head was telling me how ridiculous this was and that I needed to march inside and slam the door in his face, but my feet began moving toward him. I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing and the purse on my shoulder. I stopped beside his bike and he put the helmet on my head. Then his hand closed around mine. “Get on.”

SOMETIMES YOU DO shit and you don’t think it through. That’s what got me here. I had just reacted. Now I had Lila Kate on my bike headed west to New Orleans. Once her daddy found out, I was damn sure I’d need to be put in protective custody. Grant Carter was going to kill me. But until then, I was going to be there while Lila Kate liberated her sweet little uptight ass.

At least she’d loosen up. I didn’t want her to start dancing on bars topless or anything, but this was a step in the right direction. Just leaving all her shit. No explanation. Just driving out of there. I didn’t think she’d do it. I hadn’t been able to sleep. I’d gotten up at three and went outside with a backpack that held a change of clothes and a toothbrush then climbed on and drove off.

But dammit they’d just let her take off on her own. I didn’t give one fuck that she was a grown woman. She was so sheltered that it didn’t matter how old she was. I loved the fact she wanted to spread her wings some. She just needed a little guidance. That’s why I was here. Grant should be thanking me. He wouldn’t. He’d likely try to kill me.

We’d be in New Orleans by the time everyone woke up and realized she was gone. I’d have her call her momma, and I’d call Nate and tell him. I wasn’t going to let everyone worry.

I pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot and drove her up to the door before cutting the engine. “This is the best we’ll find this early. Get some jeans and closed toed shoes. Change and come on back out.”

She didn’t move. “You want me to go in there and buy jeans and shoes?”

I turned around and pulled her helmet off. “You want to ride all the way to New Orleans dressed in those shorts and a pair of sandals?”

She looked down at her bare legs then lifted her eyes back to me. “I guess that’s a bad idea?” It sounded like a question.