I woke up later than usual to the howling and whistling of the torrential winds outside. The wind hadn’t let up during the night and the house was freezing. I’d been woken up several times throughout the night and I was beyond exhausted this morning. The sun shone brilliantly and the scattered clouds flew quickly across the powder blue sky.
“Ughh” I groaned throwing my arm across my tired face. I tossed my sheets back and shivered as the cold clung to my exposed skin. I padded to the bathroom and grimaced at the woman who stared back. My hair was a muddle of tangles from endless tossing and turning and shadows dug deep around my eyes giving me a hollow skeletal look. Although still tanned from daily visits to the beach, my skin lacked its normal glow and instead looked pale.
“You look horrible” I murmured to my reflection before taking care of business.
I sighed when I realised I had nothing to eat for breakfast and mentally set a reminder to go grocery shopping. My stomach grumbled and I knew I wasn’t being the healthy personal trainer I ought to be. The number one rule to being healthy and looking good was to eat nutritious foods. I sighed, I really should listen to myself.
Ignoring my grumbling stomach I quickly changed into a black bikini and threw on a pair of bleached denim short shorts and a white tank top before carefully packing Sandy’s clothes into my bag. I grabbed a clean towel on the way out before locking the door and walked down to my favourite place in the world – the beach.
Since I woke up later than usual it was a bit strange to see the odd person walking or jogging across the wet sand when I was so used to the beach being void of anyone. I dumped my towel and bag on the soft sand before stripping off my clothes and running into the cold, glittering ocean.
As soon as it was deep enough I dived under and ignored the goosebumps that were plastered over every inch of my skin. Now this was a way to way up! The coldness of the water woke me up instantly erasing any trace of tiredness and fatigue and I continued to kick my way under the water further out.
When I could no longer hold my breath I kicked up and burst through the glassy surface of the water sucking in much needed oxygen. The wind prickled at my face and I smiled as I bobbed with the waves. I looked back at the shore and realised I was much further out than I thought and silently congratulated myself for having a better lung capacity than I realised.
“Jesus! I thought you were knocked unconscious again!” A deep male voice sounded from directly behind me.
I gasped and quickly turned to come chest to chest with Ray. “Ray! Christ! You scared the crap out of me!”
Ray ran a hand through his growing hair and chuckled lightly. “Sorry about that Beauty. When I saw you dived under the water and then not come back up I thought it was the surfing incident all over again” he shrugged looking a little embarrassed.
I smiled at his concern yet felt embarrassed that he kept bringing that up and lightly splashed him. “I’m a big girl Beast” I emphasised on his nick name, “I’ve been swimming and surfing since before I could walk. There’s no need to worry”
We fell silent and once again I found myself gazing over his naked torso and lingering over his many, many scars. He was so broad up close (not that it wasn’t obvious from far away) and I had the strange need to run my hands over his shoulders just to feel how strong they were.
I always did have a thing for broad shoulders.
“So... you come to the beach every morning then? I don’t see you swimming when I’m out surfing” I commented paddling back a little when the waves pushed me closer to him.
He eyes wouldn’t meet mine when he answered, “Uh... yeah I come here every morning. I’m used to waking up early, but this is only the second time I’ve been swimming since coming back”
I frowned, “So you go for walks?”
“Sometimes” he answered vaguely.
I laughed and splashed him, my hand coming into contact with his chest. Ooh that’s solid. “Don’t be so elusive, I’m trying to make conversation in the middle of the water here”
He cracked a bright smile and my heart skipped a beat when his famous dimples made an appearance. “I usually... people watch”
“Sounds reasonable” I granted him, though decided to change the topic since he was so vague about just being at the beach every morning. “You a good swimmer?”
He smiled and winked, “I’d give myself a nine out of ten”
I laughed and kicked farther away from him. “Come on then. See my house over there? First one to swim parallel to my house then over to... that crooked palm tree over there” I pointed to an amusingly tall and zigzagged palm tree in the distance, “and then back to my house before swimming to the shore... wins”
He threw me a wry smile, “Okay... so, your house, crooked palm tree, your house then shore?”
“Yep” I nodded with excitement as the challenge became clear. He nodded slowly following the distance with his eyes before splashing me and swimming towards my house. I coughed and laughed hysterically, “Hey! That’s not fair!”
I dove under the bobbing waves and stayed under for as long as I could before resurfacing again and stroking the smooth water towards the spot parallel to my house. Ray was barely ahead of me and I paced myself and controlled my breathing.
Once he was parallel he ducked under and disappeared. I felt a rough hand tug on my ankle and I laughed knowing it was the gentle giant. I ducked and flipped turning around in the opposite direction to swim to the crooked palm tree and as I swam was once again distracted by Ray’s powerful shoulders and arms stroking and moving above the surface of the water.
Geez, he is powerful.
I was hypnotized by the tattooed dragon his back bobbing above the salt water then returning back under with every one of his strokes and I wondered how long it would take if I traced my finger over every tattooed line of it.
In a matter of minutes we were both swimming back to my house and I decided to end this competition already. I sucked in a deep breath and dove under the water and rolled my body to continue swimming as I kicked. I dipped under Ray’s huge body and had to give him props for swimming fast for such a large man.
I popped up in front of him and kicked extra hard splashing him with endless amount of water before turning and ducking back underwater and swimming as fast as I could to the shore. My hearing was muted as I swam back and I couldn’t help the smile that was plastered to my face.
I hadn’t had this much fun in years!
The sand of the bank was shallowing and I stood up to run up. Water poured down my body and I collapsed onto my back on the wet sand laughing and gasping for air. I laid out like a starfish and waited a close to twenty seconds before Ray’s heavy flopping onto the sand next to me was heard.
“Holy-sh*t!” he panted. A smile curved onto my lips again and I giggled. Giggled! “You’re fast!”
“You’re not too bad yourself Lieutenant” I winked turning my head to the face him. He was lying down like me, on his back with his arms and legs spread out. Every gasping pant he took his chest would rise up and down and I scolded myself for liking the sound of him being breathless. What is wrong with me?! “That was fun”
“Definitely” he agreed. Our gasping was slowing down and soon I was shivering while the winds blew against my skin. “Cold?” I nodded and looked over to my towel lying dry and scrunched on top of my bag a few metres away and moaned at having to move. “I got it” I heard him say.
He rolled up and jogged away coming back with my towel and handing it to me. “Thank you!” I gushed and wrapped the warm fluffy towel around my shoulders. I noticed Ray was only in a pair of gym shorts and he sat contently beside me. His skin was covered in goosebumps as well but he didn’t show any indication that he was cold.
I threw the other side of my towel around him so it wrapped around us both and he looked over at me in surprise. “Don’t even try to pretend you’re not cold” I rolled my eyes with a smile on my lips.
He thanked me and we sat together under my towel just ‘people watching’ as he put it earlier. We’d point out different couples and people making up stories for them and ended up laughing at how ridiculous it was for a particular man to be wearing a clear rain coat with the hood clasped around his head in the now cloudless sky.
“So no work today?” Ray asked as he flicked sand at my feet.
“Nope, no appointments today as far as I’m concerned. So I’m free unless I head into the gym” in the corner of my eye I saw him rubbing at his thigh again and I felt guilt swirling inside of me. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have challenged you to a swim when your leg needs to be getting better”
He snorted and stretched upwards resulting in little clicking sounds from his stiff joints, “Don’t be. I needed to challenge myself. I need to get back into shape as soon as I can for my physical exam before I find out if I can go back to the Air Force.”
“Do you miss it?”
He answered without missing a beat, “Of course I do. It’s all that I know. Of course I missed my mom the whole time I was away but... but the Air Force is my dream life. Most people don’t understand. But...” he shrugged. “It just always was”
I closed my eyes and savoured the wind in my face now, “I think it’s wonderful. It’s your dream to help and defend people. That’s the best dream I could think of”
He smiled but stayed silent but the silence was disturbed by his rumbling stomach. “Would you like to have breakfast at my place Beauty?” he paused and blushed, “My mom’s been raving on about you...”
I chuckled softly, “Actually I was going to drop by after my swim this morning anyway. I needed to give back your mom’s clothes she let me borrow” I pointed my thumb at my bag behind us.
“Sounds like a plan then” Ray stood up and wrapped the towel that was around him over me and I revelled in the warmth that lingered. He was so warm. He held out a scarred hand and I popped my much smaller one inside.
With one swift pull he pulled me up and I gasped as I flew straight against his hard, oh so very hard, chest. I splayed my hands against his chest to stop my head from thumping against him and pushed away clearing my throat a little. “Oh jeez, sorry Beauty” Ray stepped back and scratched his head making his biceps bulge at the movement. “I really need to realise my strength”
Laughing, I smacked his arm “Well that was a rush! Come on Beast, let’s go”
He leaned down and picked up my bag before we both headed down in the opposite direction of my house. We were walking down the soft sand when he suddenly turned towards the trees at the back and turned his head to look at me, “This is my little secret”
It was then I noticed a break in the trees and the narrow path that seemed to cut straight through to the other side. Huh, handy. We began to walk down and I realised this was how he managed to carry me unconscious back to his house. Thank God for that! It cut down my guilt a little more knowing he didn’t have to walk all the way around.
Within a few minutes the trees began to cluster closer together and when we pushed through his mom’s adorable peach house was just down the path. The smell of baking wafted through the air and I instantly felt fuzzy inside. Compared to my breaking down shack that usually lacked in food and whistled and howled when the wind was too strong, Ray’s home was warm and inviting.
I loved it!
We walked inside and I noticed the front door was unlocked and the smell magnified ten-fold the further inside we walked. I could feel myself drooling, what was that amazing smell?! I could hear Sandy’s sweet laughter ring through the hall as a deep voice murmured something, apparently, amusing.
As Ray and I walked into the kitchen Sandy looked up and squealed when she saw me. “Shell! How lovely to see you, this was such a wonderful surprise. Sit down, have you eaten? I’ve just baked some muffins and there’s some freshly baked croissants from earlier this morning”
Oh yeah, I loved it here! I returned Sandy’s infectious smile and my heart clenched at the motherly love that she exuded. Motherly love was something that had been absent in my life for a long time and I found myself becoming addicted to it.
Not edited. Solely because I can’t find my laptop charger and it’s about to die =S
Yay! I was hit with this chapter this morning and wrote it all out within a few hours. Hope it’s alright!