The best viewpoint would be near the judges, so I made my way over to their stand. As I approached, I spotted my friend Kendric climbing up to the stand, but when he spotted me, he waved and met me at the bottom.
“How’s it going, Wilder?” he greeted as we gave each other a back-slapping man hug. We hadn’t seen each other since I competed in Australia a couple of months ago. We lived fairly close, but after he stopped competing and became a judge, we only saw each other if he was working a competition I was in.
“Same as usual. Touring and kicking ass,” I replied with a grin.
“Oh, really? Because it seems like surfing isn’t your only interest these days.”
I raised a brow and crossed my arms over my chest. “What makes you think that?”
He copied my stance and expression before answering. “Because I’ve seen you out on the beach with a woman more in the past two weeks than I have in the ten years I’ve known you. I also spotted you with her at Fancy Cone the other night. And before you ask, no I’m not stalking you. It was just a coincidence that I saw you.”
I glanced out at the beach and immediately homed in on Chloe as she padded through the sand to wait for her signal to get in the water.
“I wouldn’t say my focus is split, but she has definitely become as integral to me as surfing.”
“That’s her?” he clarified, lifting his chin toward Chloe.
“Yeah, Chloe Bannister.”
“She’s competing in the finals today,” he stated, and I nodded even though it hadn’t really been a question.
After a minute, I turned back to face him. “Listen, I need you to be completely objective, if not a smidge harder on her, just like you are with me. If Chloe thinks for even one second that I had the slightest bit to do with her win, she’ll hand the trophy right back, and I’ll be up shit creek without a paddle.”
Kendric slapped me on the back again and smiled. “You got it.”
We shook hands, and he climbed the ladder to take his place.
Just a few minutes after seven thirty, the female competitors paddled out to catch a wave. I felt nervous for Chloe until I saw her in the water, looking confident and at home, and I remembered how fucking awesome she was at her job.
I loved watching Chloe surf. The only thing sexier was when she was writhing with pleasure beneath—or on top of or any position we fucked in—me. It was challenging to keep myself from dragging her somewhere to get her naked whenever she came out of the water. Several mornings when we’d gone surfing together, that was exactly what I did.
Today, I was at the beach to support Chloe. So when she exited the ocean with a giant smile—because she had made those waves her bitch—her eyes searched the beach. I waved and she ran across the sand, dropping her board and throwing herself into my arms.
“That was fucking spectacular, baby!” I exclaimed.
“It was amazing!” she cried happily. “I can’t even breathe right now.”
“Well, how about a bubble tea to help calm your nerves?”
“Sounds perfect,” she sighed before going up on her tiptoes to give me a soft kiss. When she pulled back, she smirked. “I guess that salt really did the trick.”
I laughed heartily before picking up her board and tucking her into my side. “That was all you, Chloe.”
While Wilder was busy grabbing me a bubble tea, my dad found me in the crowd. “Great job, kiddo. The waves you picked were the best of your heat. I think you’ll get a fifteen for sure, as long as the judges were paying attention.”
His expression was open and joyous, so I figured it was safe to assume that he’d missed me throwing myself into Wilder’s arms. And the kiss I’d given him before he walked away.
“You really think so?”
“Yeah, I do.” He pulled me in for a hug. “You snagged a killer wave right at the start before your competitor had the chance to get a good look at it. Then she was too impatient when she had priority. She blew it on a sub-par swell, and her score will suffer for it.”
I’d been surprised that the other finalist I’d gone up against hadn’t waited for a better wave for her first attempt, but it had turned out to be great for me because the other swells I’d paddled after had been almost as good as the first. She’d tried to make up for it by surfing a couple more waves than me, but it was the quality that mattered, not quantity.
“I think I won,” I whispered, almost afraid to say the words because I didn’t want to jinx myself.
“I know you did, kiddo.” He clapped me on the back before stepping away. “I’m going to love seeing you accept your prize.”