On a night like this, Oliver would have walked along the shore’s edge where calm waters met earth. The island would have been quiet then, lit only by the waning moon, and in that moment, Oliver could believe he was the only man alive. That the blood and fear that had brought him to the island in the first place mattered no more. Guilt can only exist where we are one of and not one alone.
But here, where the darkness of night searched in vain for a home, he stood at the edge of different waters. A sea of excess, undulating bodies and deadening noise. Starling City was already full of darkness and it had a pulse.
He could sense it watching him, and he scanned the crowd for the source.
“What’s up with the grim face? I thought you and Laurel made up tonight.”
Oliver forced himself to relax at his friend’s voice, a small smile at the ready as he turned to face Tommy. “Laurel and I never saw eye-to-eye, even when we were dating. She never accepted my bullshit. That’s what I loved—well, that’s what made it work.”
“You do have options, my friend. Other fish in the sea and all that,” Tommy said as he waved his hand at the crowded dance floor, before slapping it over his mouth. “Did I really just say that? I did, didn’t I? I’m an insensitive dick. You can say it. Insensitive. Dick.”
Oliver sighed. “No, no, it’s fine. You’re one of the few people treating me like I am not made of glass. I appreciate that. I just need time to get reacquainted…with the scene and everything.”
This perked Tommy up and he threw an arm around Oliver. “That I can do, buddy.”
Oliver nodded, drawn into the web of Tommy’s manic energy as he pulled him through the room to introduce him to every politician’s daughter and executive’s son present.
“…and there is Angela. You would die if you heard what she was up to at her family reunion, and that’s—oh my God, that’s Daniel’s fiancée.” Tommy pointed to a blonde standing near the bar, a hint of a wolf’s smile tugging at his lips. “We should go say hello.”
“Grayson’s engaged?” Oliver shook his head in disbelief. It would take more than five years for that asshole to change.
Tommy smirked. “Well, you know, ex-fiancée.”
A deep voice answered from behind Oliver. “What else? A summer in the Hamptons. All that skin, money, and booze out in the open, and everyone thinks they have found true love for a season.”
That voice. In his earliest days on the island, when the pain from the lash of the wind sent Oliver to his knees, ready to give himself up to the cold, he would hear that voice. Rich like molten earth, its memory alone would warm him to his core. He felt his cheeks flush even now with heat.
Oliver turned around slowly, saw fair hair and a clever mouth, and he could not help but whisper the man’s name like a prayer.