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“I think I—hic—love you.”
The words tumbled eagerly over Jake’s lips and spilled into the air like offbeat tap dancers, a graceful quintet momentarily tripped by an unexpected step. Jake grinned sheepishly and dipped his head, sending sandstorm blond locks tumbling across the deep hollow of his angled cheekbones. A second hiccup followed the first, and his head bobbed in tandem with the sound. Even with his face downcast, Claire could see the upturned curve of his lips pinched in his profile. He was grinning again.
Claire and Jake had finished their picnic of fresh fruits and cheese nearly an hour before. Afterward, when the wine was empty, they lounged together comfortably under the brilliant kaleidoscope colors of the changing fall leaves. Together, they watched the sky turn from robin’s egg blue to cornhusk yellow. Jake had fallen quiet, as he often did—his back propped lightly against the crackled white bark and his long, nimble fingers plucking at the blades of sun-warmed grass that brushed against his knee, as familiar as if they were the strings of his guitar. Claire lay on her back inside Jake’s shadow, staring past his grinning profile to the sky. It was a spectacularly beautiful day in the simplest of ways—the kind that seems to want for daydreaming. The kind of day that was made of the stuff of dreams itself.