But I haven’t. It just pisses me off, how she treats me like a kid. They both do this. I hate it. They treat Sydney the same way but hell, at least she still lives at home. Poor thing has an extra year too considering she has to go to community college for two semesters. I feel sorry for her.
I feel sorry for the both of us.
“You disappeared with her and when I find you, you’re not with her anymore! What happened, did you lose her? How do you even know she’s safe? What sort of gentleman are you?”
Her constant questions make my head hurt. Like she gives a shit about Audrey. More like she’s afraid Audrey’s going to tell her parents what a shit I am and that’ll reflect badly on them. “I saw her in the bar before we left the country club, Mother.” I lift my head to look at her but thank God, she’s staring straight ahead and not at me. “So don’t try and make me feel bad for ditching her. She’s fine.”
“Hmm.” Mom’s silent for a moment and the quiet is like a blessing. I close my eyes, enjoying the sound of nothing but my dad hitting the gas or pressing the brake when she speaks once more. “Audrey’s not the one for you.”
I don’t bother arguing with her. None of them are for me. None of them will ever be for me. I’d rather live alone and never give my mom grandkids than go along with her choices. She wants to map out my entire future, right down to the woman I marry.
I won’t let her. I refuse. And she hates it. What would she do if I brought home a girl she would totally disapprove of? Mom would flip the fuck out, that’s what.
A thought occurs to me. Lucy would make her flip out. Yeah, she’s a rich girl like all the rest of the people who live in that community we’re staying in, but she’s what Mom would label as new money. AKA trashy. What with the extra modern house (so nontraditional), the absent father who divorced her poor mother (the word divorce makes Mom shudder) and her nonwhite heritage (Mom wishes I would marry a direct descendent of the Mayflower I swear), my parents would hate Lucy on sight. Not that I’m ever going to see her again. Not like that. I probably blew it.
And I would never subject her to that sort of treatment either, even if I did continue seeing her like…that. No way. I’m an asshole but I’m not mean. I wouldn’t use Lucy.
“You holding up okay short stuff?” Gabe ruffles my hair and I send him a mock glare, which only makes him grin in response.
My heart skips a beat. Okay, maybe it skips five beats and I should be collapsed on the sand, having a near death experience. But somehow I keep it together. I act like his smiles and excessive good looks don’t matter to me. He’s out here on the beach with Sydney and I because he’s running us through some exercises.
And now¸ supposedly, we’re just friends.
Turned out Sydney’s big brother is a soccer player who’s gone through excessive, intense drills when practicing. He caught us one day jogging on the beach. Sydney barely breaking a sweat and me tailing behind her with ragged breaths like I’m going to pass out. He of course, looked like a golden god with no shirt on, basketball shorts riding low on his hips, his chest glistening with the finest sheen of sweat.
I wanted to rub my body all over his damp chest.
How sick am I?
Pretty damn sick.
He started questioning us. Next thing I knew he took over, putting together a genuine exercise program that didn’t make me feel like I was torturing myself while I was in the throes of it all. Yet at the end of the day, I had achy muscles that told me I was actually using them.
It was sort of awesome.
Even more awesome? Seeing him day in and day out, every morning bright and early usually—which blew Sydney’s mind, I guess he likes to sleep in—always shirtless, his jaw covered in golden tinted stubble, his blue eyes seeming to see right into the very depths of me every time I caught him staring at my ass.
And I caught him staring at my ass a lot.
He approached me after that first day and asked if it was cool that we would spend time together. Did it bother me? Because he would back off I wanted him to.
No way did I want him to. I don’t want to turn away another chance to revel in his presence. So I tried my best to act nonchalant as I said I had no problem spending time with him.
Nope, no problem whatsoever.
We never brought up our last night together. It was better left unsaid, though I secretly wished for an explanation. An apology. Once I realized that was never going to happen, I accepted our new friendship and allowed him to call me short stuff. Though I freaking despised it because oh my God, it’s a lame nickname. I worked past it though. Just soaked up our time together as much as possible.
Even though he tortured me. And called me by a stupid nickname. And looked so damn good I wanted to lick him.
“We’re almost done,” he yells, reminding me that he’s having Syd and I do three sets of twenty sit-ups before we’re finished for the morning. I hate sit-ups. So does Sydney. But I love the way my stomach muscles feel afterward and I swear I see a difference even though it’s only been six days.
I’m most likely delusional. But that’s okay.
Sydney flops onto the ground beside me like she’s a dying fish. “He’s such a drill sergeant,” she whispers.
“I heard that,” Gabe calls and we both start laughing.
I really like Sydney. We’ve become close in a matter of days, spending a lot of time together. She hangs out by the pool with me and we’ve watched movies together at night. Her mother doesn’t really approve but she also doesn’t say no, so Sydney’s doing whatever she wants. I think she hates being at home so I’m her escape. I think I was Gabe’s escape as well. Until he realized he didn’t want to hang out with a virgin. At least I can drive.
Please tell me you get that reference.
“Okay, let’s do this.” Gabe claps his hands together as if he relishes our torture and with loud groans, Sydney and I start. He counts us through each rep, his deep, strong voice carrying over us, urging me on. He never once looks at his sister. His eyes are on me, only for me. I can feel his hot gaze as if he’s actually touching me and I want to prove to him that I’ve got what it takes. That I can do these stupid sit-ups even if they almost kill me.
“Good job, Luce,” he says as he stops right at my feet. He kneels down, his hands resting lightly on my knees, his gaze never leaving mine as I rise and fall, rise and fall. I pretend he doesn’t affect me, try my best to keep my breathing even and controlled. “Keep it up.”
I feel the burn of his touch as if he literally sets me on fire. He’s not counting anymore, neither am I but Sydney is. And the second she yells out twenty I lay back on the sand, staring up at the bright blue sky, blinking against the sun. Gabe’s still touching my knees, still crouched right in front of me and I suddenly worry that my shorts are gaping at my thighs. What if he can see right up them, see my panties? I don’t want him to see my boring pale blue cotton panties.
Ooh, maybe I do.
“You did good,” he murmurs, his voice low as he squeezes my knees. I feel that touch like a pulse deep in my core and I slam my thighs together, wondering if he can read my mind. Read my body’s reaction to his closeness. He still hasn’t let go of me and I have the sudden image of him skimming those hands up my thighs, to the spot between my legs where I burn for him.