Jack Harper has been showing Kat Murphy that sometimes the best way to relax is to seek out a thrill. But Kat’s already decided that the thrill she wants is him.
They approached the edge of the cliff at the golden hour—the hour before the sun set and cast everything with a luminous glow. It was one of Jack’s favorite spots in all Hawaii: a stretch of coastline on the island’s north shore. This part of the shoreline was made of high cliffs, with deep water below. It was an ideal spot for cliff jumping, if Kat decided she wanted to go through with it.
Being so close to the shoreline awed Jack, as it always did. And as he looked at Kat he could tell that she was just as taken by the island’s beauty as he was.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “I’ve never seen water this shade of blue before. It’s like looking at liquid lapis lazuli.”
Jack realized he’d never really taken in the islands through someone else’s eyes. Kat’s response to the wild beauty of Oahu made him feel as though he were seeing it all again for the first time.
“You love this place,” he said.
“I think I do,” she replied. “Even though I haven’t spent much time here. From the moment I got off the plane I felt like I was home. Chicago is a great city, but it’s very…flat. I’ve never seen a place that radiates so much natural beauty as Hawaii.”
Speaking of radiating beauty, Jack thought, she should see how her face softens and her eyes shine when she looks out over the cliffs.
Somewhere along their hike to the cliffs she’d plucked a plumeria flower and placed it in her hair. The effect was breathtaking now, as Kat looked out over the coast, framed by the sea and sky, her tangled red hair waving in the wind. She turned toward him and somehow, before he knew what had taken hold of him, he’d reached out and she was in his arms, her face tilted up toward his.
He felt as though she’d always belonged there—as though he’d reached out for some lost piece of himself that he hadn’t known was missing. But to have her so close was confusing. He couldn’t think clearly with her pulled into his arms, pressed against his chest, her hair smelling of flowers.
He found himself saying, “There’s no reason to be scared,” and he couldn’t be sure if he was saying it to her, or to himself.
“Scared?” she said. She looked up at him, confused. “Why would I be scared?”
A fair enough question. She rested securely in his arms and he would damn well never let any harm come to her if he could help it. She was in the safest place she could possibly be, even if she didn’t know it. So why should either of them be scared?
He searched his mind for an explanation of what he’d said—something that would make sense. “I was talking about the cliff-jumping, if you decide you want to try it,” he said. “It’s always scary the first time, but there’s nothing to be afraid of here. The water’s deep, but we’re close enough to shore that we can swim back safely, and the current isn’t overpowering.”
She looked up at him, still folded in his arms, her eyes filled with emotion. “Jumping off a cliff doesn’t scare me,” she said. “I know that might sound strange. But you were right, Jack! I was never going to learn to relax from a book. I need to try new things, and I need a thrill. I’m the kind of person who relaxes by finding excitement—not by sitting in a quiet room meditating. But before coming to Hawaii I never realized that about myself because my whole life has been about studying. I never even had a chance to experience an adrenaline rush until I started working in the ER. I don’t think I ever realized that that’s what I love about medicine: the excitement, the unpredictability, having to think quickly. At least, I didn’t realize it until I met you.”
Jack wondered if Kat could feel his heart beating underneath his shirt. He’d pulled her to him and she hadn’t pulled away. She was still resting in his arms, her head against his chest, as though she belonged there. As though she wanted to be there. As though whatever was between the two of them wasn’t about being friends, or having a physical relationship with no emotions.
She held him as though she wanted him.
She held him the same way he was holding her.
“I’m not scared of jumping off a cliff, Jack,” she continued. “Why would I be? I trust you. But I’ll tell you what I really am scared of.” She locked her eyes with his. “I’m scared of the two of us hiding from how we really feel about each other.”
And then she was kissing him, her lips seeking his with ardent desire, and he found himself kissing her back just as passionately, his tongue desperate to explore every last corner of her mouth and his arms pressing her against his body, right where she belonged.
Some time later their kisses became shorter and softer, until they simply held each other close, their foreheads pressed together.
“What do you think?” he said. “Should we take the leap?”
She looked over the cliff. “The relationship leap or the actual leap?”
“Both,” he said.
“I want to, but I’m not sure I know how,” she said.
He held her close. “I think there’s only one way to do it,” he said. “Take a running start, hold hands, and jump together.”