Dio wasn’t sure when he’d ever been more ... not content, he was far more than content. He was ... optimistic. It was the best way he could describe it. He loved Lina’s fire and the fierce independent streak, the way she went after whatever she decided she wanted. Currently, she wanted him, but that kind of independence made him wary, as well. She hadn’t answered his question about what other kind of job she’d have any interest in, but he was glad to know she didn’t plan to make DanceOtica a career as some of the girls did. She had gumption to spare. She was smart, outgoing. She could easily do anything else. He also loved that she was concerned about the horse’s welfare. That said something about her nature he needed to know.
Lina sipped at the wine he brought to go with the raspberries as Dio pointed out a few landmarks.
“Okay.” She grasped his hand. “Admission time. I know Charleston well. I’ve been here often. So, I appreciate the information, but...”
“No.” She looked out over the Atlantic from Waterfront Park. “I was raised nearby, close enough to hop on the bus and come into the city whenever I decided.”
His head tilted. “You don’t sound local.”
“Voice training. I moved north for several years and didn’t want to sound like an outsider.”
“Several years? Three? Four?”
She swallowed more wine, obviously enjoying its deep fruity semi-sweet flavor. “Nine years. Never planned to come back, but sometimes, you have to ... restart from the beginning. Right?” She shrugged. “I needed comfortable, familiar, but different.”
“Why did you leave?”
Silent, she looked out over the lit-up pier along the dark ocean.
Dio asked Cyril to find somewhere to park for a bit so the horse could rest. He got out and helped Lina down and she stumbled slightly. A good time to walk, he assumed, if the wine was affecting her. Giving Degas another apple, and leaving her watering to Cyril, Dio offered Lina his arm and headed to the pier.
She walked slowly and he looked at her a couple of times, asked if she was okay, and got a slight nod in return. He took her all the way to the end of the jutting part where there was little interference with the view, where lights weren’t shining on them. Lina leaned against the wood railing and looked back at the water fountain glowing softly.
The girl was far too beautiful with barely a trace of light accenting her soft, pale skin. She was pale for a local beach girl, reflecting her years up north, he supposed. Nine years. He guessed she’d left home at eighteen, which would make her twenty-seven. He would have guessed a bit younger. He hoped she’d been at least eighteen. That was plenty young enough for kids to take off on their own, in his opinion. Not that he’d ever done it.
Dio touched her face and brought her eyes to his and she gave him a soft smile before moving into his lips. A short, sweet kiss. She was distracted.
“What are you thinking, Lina?”
“That you’re not what I was expecting when I saw you on that boat.”
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