Too sweet. Tyler was already looking at the guy with a mild case of hero worship that was only going to get worse.
“It was no problem at all, really. I had the hotel doctor come up. He said you probably have a mild case of heat exhaustion. He gave you some fluids and a little something to help sleep it off. You should be feeling much better in a few hours, but he suggested taking it easy and said to make sure you drink lots of water. Oh, speaking of which…”
Elliot hurried to the small fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. “Here you go. Drink up. Doctor’s orders.”
His light brown eyes had such a lighthearted twinkle in them Lena couldn’t help but give him a grudging smile.
“Yes, sir,” she said, cracking the lid off the bottle and taking a sip.
“Tyler was telling me you don’t really like the water. Pools and things, I mean.”
Lena’s cheeks grew warm. “Yeah, that’s a bit of an understatement.”
“Hmm. And you’re about to spend an entire week at a beachside resort, surrounded by them.”
Lena’s mouth went dry. “Yeah,” she managed to squeak out. She cleared her throat and tried again. “My best friend was supposed to be here to help with Tyler. Take him to the pool and the beach and basically wrangle him while I’m busy with wedding stuff.”
She repressed a shudder, barely. “But when I called her this morning, her flight had been delayed due to weather, so I’m not sure when, or if, she’ll make it. And Tyler wanted to swim so badly. There’s a view of the pools from our room, and it looked so fun. And I don’t want him growing up with the same issues I have, so I thought it would be okay if I took him down for a few minutes. But then he wouldn’t get out…”
Elliot took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “No worries. I’m glad I was there to help.”
Lena tore her gaze from Elliot and focused on Tyler. Who was still playing video games and had been for who knew how long. It was past time for them to leave.
“Well, Elliot, thanks again. Really. We’d… We’d better be going. Tyler, clean up your mess, please.”
“Ahhh,” he grumbled.
“It’s not tragic, make it magic,” she said, using the little prompt she’d made up for him to get him to clean up. “Mary Poppins it.”
“Okay!” Tyler popped up and started snapping his fingers and running around like a loon while he picked things up and ran to put them away.
Elliot’s mouth dropped open a little, and Lena laughed.
“It looks crazy but it works,” she said. “I can’t make stuff magically clean itself up like Mary Poppins does, but he snaps and pretends it’s happening magically.”
They watched as Tyler snapped over an empty bag of chips and then scooped it up and shoved it into the trash as fast as he could. He was done cleaning up his mess in two minutes flat.
Elliot leaned against the couch with his arms crossed over his chest, watching the action. He turned to her and nodded. “Impressive.”
“Thanks.” Lena held out her hand to her son. “Tyler, let’s go, bud.”
“Okay, Mommy,” he said, sighing the sigh of a child being made to do something he didn’t want to do but knowing it was no use arguing. Good thing, too. He’d already gotten away with a lion’s share of mischief.
“Can I come play again?”
“Sur—” Elliot stopped and looked at Lena, eyebrows raised in question.
“We’ll see,” she said again, with a slight frown.
Tyler sighed. “That means no.”
“No. It means we’ll see.”
Though he was right. It meant no. At least in this case. She’d always hated it when her mother had used that phrase. But it was handy when she didn’t want to say no outright. It got her off the hook long enough that she didn’t have to be the bad guy. At the moment, at least.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you soon,” Elliot said, walking them to the door. “I think Oz and Cherice have a family dinner planned.”
“Yeah. We’ll see you there.”
“Looking forward to it,” he said, his eyes locking on to hers.
Lena’s heart clenched again. She’d never be able to resist a whole week of that. Was it bad form to hook up with the groomsman at your brother’s wedding? She’d have to Google some wedding etiquette.
Elliot closed the door behind Lena and Tyler, his head completely in an uproar. What the hell had just happened? Crazy coincidence that hot-as-hell Panic Attack Lady had ended up being Oz’s sister. He’d never have guessed they were siblings, though he supposed they looked enough alike. Aside from the height thing. Oz was an inch or two taller than Elliot, at six-foot-one. Lena definitely got the short end of the stick in the height department. She probably wasn’t more than five-foot-six at the most, with curly, blond hair and sparkling blue eyes that lit up every time she looked at her son. Not his usual type, by a long stretch. He liked his women exotic, mysterious, and uninterested in anything more than a fling. No single mothers. Ever.
Not that he didn’t like kids. He did. He just had no direct experience with them. Like at all.
But to his surprise, he’d enjoyed hanging out with Tyler while they’d waited for Lena to wake up. The kid was a riot. And a hell of a lot smarter than he’d assumed an almost seven-year-old would be. He wouldn’t mind hanging with him again. And he really wouldn’t mind seeing Lena again. A thought that should scare the hell out of him. She was a single mom. Mad respect to her. But Elliot could barely run his own life. The last thing he wanted to do was mess with anyone with a kid. Lena should be firmly on his off-limits list.
But he couldn’t stop thinking about the look on her face in the pool. The only thing he’d wanted to do was help her, protect her. And the feel of her in his arms when he’d laid her in his bed…small and soft and utterly his, for that moment at least. That was something he’d like to feel again.
But he had zero business getting involved with someone like her. Elliot was no good for either of them, and he knew it. But the fact that their siblings were getting married, and they were stuck together on an island with all the pre-wedding festivities, was going to make avoiding her damn near impossible. Especially since he couldn’t pretend, even to himself, that he really wanted to avoid her.
By the time dinner rolled around, he’d definitely decided that pursuing Lena would not be in either of their best interests. However, five seconds after Lena walked in, he regretted that decision. Big time. She looked incredible in a blue, sleeveless sundress that almost exactly matched the shade of her eyes. Her hair was pulled into a haphazard bun that left little tendrils escaping down her neck. His fingers itched to wrap those locks around his fingers, see if they were really as silky as they looked.
Well, he didn’t have to pursue her, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to be friendly. They were going to be family, sort of, after all.
It only took about two minutes of the meal for him to realize Lena had avoidance plans of her own. She entered the room, and although there were two seats right next to him, she headed to the opposite side of the table. Tyler, however, spotted him and refused to move once he planted himself next to Elliot, so Lena reluctantly followed.
Elliot had his reasons for avoiding her, but the thought that she wanted to keep her distance made the perverse anti-authority side of him want to redouble his efforts at getting her attention. Reverse psychology at its best. Of course, the fact that he wanted her to want him confused the hell out of him. Her disinterest should have been a good thing. So why did his gut twist in a knot every time she looked away or avoided his attempts at conversation?