Chapter 1

She watched as he took the necessary steps to approach her. There was only one word for his walk: saunter. His head tilted, his eyes locking gently on hers, and he smiled. Dimples creased his cheeks in the most appealing way. He had just shaved. All of these things and so many more added up to make one hell of a man. He walked and talked as though he knew it, but there was something behind his eyes that told her it was all a ruse, that he knew nothing of the sort, that all of his confidence was a well-built con. Deep down, he was scared, lonely, and trying to get by. Like her.

He sat down next to her at the picnic table, his leg barely brushing against hers as he did so. They watched the people around them but did not hear the swell of noise that the party had generated. He said quietly so that only she could hear, "I never thought there'd be dances in Dharmaville. Who would've guessed they liked to party down?"

She laughed softly, her crystal blue eyes sparkling as she looked into his. "They don't exactly have tv here to entertain them, James. They've got to find fun somewhere."

"You'd think with all the impending danger on this island, they'd never have time to be bored." His rough voice sounded cross, but the corner of his lips were turned upward. He felt no danger tonight.

Tucking a stray blonde strand of hair behind her ear, she said, "When I lived here before, we had a book club." They both laughed at the silliness of the idea. "I know it sounds strange in a place like this, but it's nice to think about something else sometimes."

They both grew quiet. No one came to sit with them at the table. They were in their own world. It felt comfortable to both of them. He looked out at the delicate lights twinkling around the dance area, bringing light to the darkness. He watched the features of her face as she stared down at the tabletop. "Do you want to dance, Juliet?"

Her head whipped around to face him, her eyebrow cocked. "Do you?"

Shrugging, he said, "I could ask one of the other nice Dharma ladies. I'm pretty sure Pamela over there would dance with me." He nodded to a woman across the lawn. "She's pushin' 60, but she's a good lookin' woman."

Smiling brightly, she put her head down, which signaled him to stand up and put out his hand. She took it and stood up. Following him hand-in-hand, he led her to the middle of the make-shift dance floor. The music had become slow and melodic. They moved awkwardly at first together, standing several inches apart. They looked down and away from each other as they swayed slightly to the music.

Finally, he let out a long breath, slid his hand down to the small of her back, and guided her closer to him, saying, "You know, maybe these Dharma guys have it right."

She tilted her head up to see his face. She could smell the clean smell of his recently taking a shower. It made her catch her breath. "What do you mean?"

"This is the most comfortable I've ever felt on this island." He subconsciously rubbed her wrist with the pad of his thumb.

Her heart flitted, a reaction it had not done in quite some time, wondering about the implications of what he was saying. She had seen the video. She knew how he had been with Kate, how in love he was with her. He had never felt more comfortable with Kate? She must admit that, in his arms, she felt the same way. She had felt the same way for a while now—every time she saw him each morning, each time he smiled at her and spoke in that southern draw, when he would tell her goodnight each night like he didn't really want to.

"What are you thinkin' about?" he asked in a soft rumble that stirred her from her thoughts.

Her facial features grew tight. It was time to say it. "It's been three months."

"Huh?" he asked, his brows furrowed.

Her hand clung to his shoulder and they kept dancing as she said, "I promised you that I would stay here for two weeks. It's been three months."

"Oh," he said in barely above a whisper, his face falling. All of the comfort that the party had generated was now gone. Putting his head down and shaking it slightly, he said, "If you want to take the sub, I'll try to—"

Her eyes closed and she said stiffly, "No," lifting her hand towards his mouth without touching him to make him stop. "That's not what I mean."

His eyes pleaded with her as they clouded with confusion. "Then what do you mean, Juliet?"

She looked earnestly into blue eyes that mirrored her own. "Have you ever wondered why I've stayed?"

His posture softened immediately, his shoulders slumping. He gave a small smile. "I figured you were waiting for Locke to get back." He gave her a questioning eye and an arched brow. "I sensed something was between you."

She frowned at him, but her eyes still glittered with humor. "He's not coming back, James. None of them are."

She watched as he looked down and nodded in agreement. "So why are you here?"

Her throat constricting with anxiousness, she jokingly said, "Someone's got to have your back, right?"

Guilt trickled down from his chest to his gut. "That's not a permanent position. You don't have to."

They were both so used to lying that telling this kind of truth was difficult. She flinched as she said, "Maybe I want it to be."

Cocking his head to the side, his touchable blonde hair fell over his shoulder. "Are you asking me out, blondie?" he asked around a smile.

She shook her head. "No."

His smile became wider. "I think you are."

She tried not to notice that he pulled her close. "I'm really not."

"You know, if you're about to give me your class ring, I'll take it," he said cockily.

Her eyes squinted into slits. "Maybe we should forget the whole—"

Before she could finish her sentence, he ducked his head down and kissed her solidly. She took a step back, surprised, but as he softened the kiss, she swayed back towards him. As their thighs came together, her hands slid up his strong neck and into his hair. His hands held her firmly in front of him, his fingers touching her ribcage. His tongue searched her mouth. They were gentle with each other, in no sense of hurry. They stood there for what felt like hours, exploring each other, taking comfort in being so close. They kissed, barely letting go in order to breathe, until they were hugging each other tightly.

When they finally pulled their lips away, he tucked his chin down, his cheek brushing against hers. Their hair mixed together as he rested his forehead on her shoulder. They laughed softly, breaking the tension between them. He turned his head and kissed her neck, causing her to run the tips of her fingers up his spine to the base of his neck.

"Juliet," he whispered into her ear.

"Hmm?" she nearly hummed, her eyes still closed.

She felt his arms tense around her. "I'm not good at this. I might hurt you," he said.

She pulled far enough back that she could look into his eyes. She saw the worry lines on his forehead. "I could hurt you too. It's still worth a try, isn't it?"

He smiled. "Yeah, it is." He kissed her again and then they began to dance. He looked up at the stars gleaming above them. Then he looked back at her. Thoughtfully, he said, "I think we're going to be okay here. Who knows? Maybe we'll be pillars of society."

She laughed freely. "Let's take it one step at a time."

They spent the rest of the night enjoying the party. And each other.