Chapter 19 - Hard-earned
"The beach, huh?"
Beau asked as he set a bag full of groceries on the counter. I had just asked him if he wanted to tag along tomorrow.
"Yeah. Come on, it'll be fun."
I opened a bag of chips and slid onto the barstool while I watched him put the items away.
"And. . ."
"Oh, here it comes."
He huffed as he pushed his beer around in the fridge.
"You could bring your grilling skills. I swear Taylor is a pyro."
"There it is. Is that all I'm good for?"
He tilted his head away from the fridge so I could see him raise his eyebrow.
Oh no, he was bound to be good for much much more than just that.
I could feel the heat creep up my neck and cover my cheeks. I hung my head, hoping he wouldn't notice.
I had been entertaining a lot of new thoughts in the last month since Beau and I had been in this living situation.
Our dynamic had changed, I wasn't holding any expectations toward him and he wasn't switching from hot to cold on me at a moment's notice.
But the thoughts. . . Those were out of my control.
He would emerge shirtless from the guest bathroom after his shower and walk the three-steps it took his long legs to get to his room and it would leave me feeling hot. As if someone had turned the heater on full blast.
Then I started noticing things about him that I really liked. Things that I never thought of as being attractive before. Like the way the veins in his hands corded up his forearms and on more than one occasion I had to stop myself from reaching out, running my fingertips across them.
But the worst of the worst were the few times I found him looking at me too. He always averted his eyes immediately, distracting himself with something and pretending nothing had happened.
But that still didn't stop my mind from wandering.
"Of course not. But you do excel at it."
I smiled and Beau stood up.
I jumped off the stool and rounded the bar before I wrapped my arms around his middle. He froze as he always did when I initiated any sort of physical contact. I breathed in his scent, I could identify it in my sleep at this point. It was a clean, woodsy scent that did something weird to my insides. He let his right arm fall against my back, in the exact spot where my tank top had slipped up, and when his fingers touched the skin above my shorts, chill bumps spread over my body.
"Are you cold?"
I breathed deeply one last time and I swear I felt his fingers press further into my skin before he released me, looking down, waiting for an answer.
"Uh- I guess a little."
It was 90 degrees outside, although we did keep it cool in the house. But Beau was in the room so I was anything but cold.
"Why don't you go change into something warmer, I'll order a pizza."
He let his eyes linger on my legs, another one of those moments he didn't want me to notice, I was sure.
He grabbed his phone and dialed the number to the pizza place down the road and I walked to my room.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and tried to think of anything else except how attracted to him I was.
It never worked, but I still felt like I should try.
I pulled off my jean shorts and tank top and slipped on one of my brother's t-shirts that I snagged before he left along with some joggers. I rummaged through my sock drawer before pulling out a hideous pair of bright orange fuzzy socks.
I knew they would make Beau laugh and I was anxious to hear the sound. Everything about him was beautiful but his laugh was the best. It was deep and infectious and when I was close enough I could see the creases in the skin next to his eyes. I dreamed about the day that I could kiss them. They meant he was happy, that he had laughed a lot.
Even if they were hard-earned, his laughs were worth it.
With the ugly orange socks on my feet, I got a running start before I slid down the hallway. I stopped right in Beau's line of sight.
He was sitting on the couch, with the remote in his hand.
I walked over and plopped down on the couch next to him.
"River, you know I hate it when you slide down the hallway like that. What are those things on your feet?"
He scrunched his nose.
"Oh, you mean these?"
I pulled my knees up and rested my feet on the couch while wiggling my toes.
I watched as the corners of his mouth tipped up.
"Do you have an obsession with ugly socks?"
He laughed. It was quick but it was genuine so I counted it as a win.
"Maybe I do."
He jerked his head toward me and it was only then that I noticed how weird my voice sounded when the words left me. I didn't mean for them to come out anyway except for normal but it was obvious that they didn't. They came out in a husky tone and I wanted to hide in the corner.
The doorbell rang and Beau stood up, taking the opportunity to remove himself from the awkwardness.
What was wrong with me?
I cleared my throat, hoping that would help before Beau came back with the food. He set the boxes down on the coffee table and went to the kitchen, bringing back two glasses of water.
"Wanna guess what kind I bought you?"
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing he was in a playful mood still.
"Nope, open it up."
I did as he said and stared down at the pie. It looked different, but smelled amazing.
"It's white pizza. You said last time that you didn't like the sauce this place used. This one has a white sauce and a lot of different cheese."
"I said that? About the sauce?"
He nodded while chewing a massive bite of his pepperoni and Canadian bacon.
"Yeah, you said it was too sweet."
I had forgotten about that.
But Beau didn't.
I took a slice out and bit into it.
"Oh my God. This is good."
I nodded as I chewed and Beau smiled over at me. He was almost finished with his second slice.
I ate two more slices before I decided it was time to stop.
Beau looked away from the tv and over at me as I settled into the back of the couch.
"You've got some grease on your cheek."
He didn't hesitate to swipe the pad of his thumb across my face and I held my breath, fighting against the urge to close my eyes.
My head leaned further into his hand on its own accord when I felt his fingers span to the back of my neck.
"River. . ."
I waited a few seconds for him to respond.
He dropped his hand a shot to his feet as if something snapped him back into the reality of the situation.
"Turn the tv off before you go to sleep."
He stalked off down the hallway and into his room.
The sound of his bedroom door locking was a lot louder in my ears than it normally was.
It echoed for too long until I realized it was my heartbeat and that Beau was locking me out of a lot more than just his room.