“Let’s go have some fun."
"Fun?" I smile, not expecting that. “Really?”
"Sure. There isn't a movie theater or mini golf course, but I’ve got an idea of something we can do to entertain ourselves.”
"Really?" I grin. "You mean it?"
He turns to leave the dank cave. "Anything to keep you happy."
"You scared I'm going to run away again?"
"You didn't run away before, you hardly stepped out of the cave."
I smile, following him. "So where are you going to take me?" I ask. "I bet you know all the good spots."
He laughs. "Skylar, you act like this is some..."
"What?" I ask, cutting him off.
I reach for his hand as we exit the cave. “I think maybe it is.”
Back at the cave, he tells me to pack my swimsuit if I have one, which I do from my camping trip. We prepare a lunch of cold meat and papaya. After loading it in my backpack, I offer to carry it, wanting to do my part.
"You take the water in the canteen, I'll take the food," I tell him.
Stone smiles, clearly appreciating the chance to share the load. "All right. Can I also take your hand?" He looks at me cautiously. "So you don't slip and fall on the rocks. It's slippery where we're going."
"Right," I say, my stomach flip-flopping, feeling like a fool. For a moment I thought maybe he'd want to take my hand for another reason. You know, like to hold onto, but no. I am clearly in the friend zone. He could have kissed me in the cave, but he didn’t.
Not wanting to slip and twist my ankle, realizing how detrimental it would be to lose my footing out here without a doctor to look at me, I let him take my hand once more.
When he pulls back vines, revealing the place to me, I gasp.
"Stone, why haven't we been here before?" I ask, looking at a majestic waterfall with a beautiful, clear blue lake.
He shrugs. "There's no meat out here."
"There's probably fish," I say.
"I hate fish."
I laugh. “To be honest, I’m not a huge fish fan either.” I look around, taking in the majestic waterfall. “This place is beautiful."
When I turn to him though, he's not looking at the waterfall, he's looking at me.
"You are beautiful," he says, letting go of my hand.
My whole body lights up at his words, at his gaze, and I want to know if he means it, like really, really means it. I don't have time to ask though, because he's dragging me toward the waterfall, dropping the canteen of water and sliding off his shoes.
"Come on," he says. He's got hardly anything on, just his little Tarzan outfit, which is actually pretty damn cute now that I'm used to it. Me, though, I’ve kept dressed in my hiking clothes, but for this adventure, I packed a bikini as he requested.
"Turn around," I say, "let me change."
He snorts as if modesty is ridiculous out here, but I'm still a lady so I wait until he spins around and then I take off my shorts and underwear, my bra and my T-shirt, and I pull on the bikini I packed for my vacation to Mexico.
"Okay," I tell him, "I'm decent."
When he turns back around, his eyes are filled with something I wasn't anticipating – wanting maybe, dreaming about probably, but not expecting.
"You don't look decent," he tells me, "you look fucking incredible."
My whole body warms at those words. Maybe it's jungle fever. Maybe I'm just delirious over the fact I haven't had a dairy product in so many days, but I bite my bottom lip, liking the way he's looking at me, liking it very, very much.
"I didn't know you'd even noticed me like that," I say. "It must be the two-piece."
He shakes his head, looking at me as if I'm a fool. "It's not the two-piece," he tells me, "it's you, Skylar. You’re..." He runs a hand over his beard. "Fuck."
"You're just thinking that because you haven't seen another piece of ass in a long time."
"No," he says, "I haven't seen a piece of ass like you in my whole damn life."
I laugh, refusing to believe him. He may have been here for five years, but I've only been here three weeks and I don't trust my dick detector. Even if he does seem like a good guy, like the best guy, like the only guy I've ever actually wanted because he hasn't been fawning over me or judging me or trash talking me.
Stone hasn't put me down or tried to put me in my place. He talks to me as his equal while we're out hunting and gathering. He knows I'm strong enough to carry the firewood. That I'm smart enough to calculate how much meat to cook. He doesn’t think I am weak – he knows I am strong.