Sign Your Name on My Heart

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Chapter 2

“Everywhere I go, there you are.”

I saw his long feet submerging in the water first, his pale skin rendered ghostly white by the incandescent pool lighting. I was perched on the steps beside the handrail, and I had to lean back and stretch my neck to see the rest of him. The clock was ticking closer to midnight, and the sky was black, its stars obliterated by big city light pollution. But the pool lights made his chestnut eyes shine as he scowled at me.

“I think you have that backwards,” I said, and then added with another round of my best faux awe: “Or can you not get enough of my attention, Evan?”

“Yes, it’s a tremendous boost to my ego, thanks,” he retorted sarcastically, settling on the steps next to me. Then he gave me a once over and barely restrained a snort.

“Excuse me,” I began, “Are you judging my swimsuit?”

Smirking, he answered with a deadpan “Maybe.”

My lips parted and I wrinkled my nose, nodding at him. “That’s ironic coming from the man with the floaty swim boxers.”

He looked down at his boxers. The fabric was extremely loose around his skinny sticks of legs, floating in the water up to his thighs. He tried to press them down, but the effort was useless, so he gave up, and lifted his nose slightly as he stared into the distance, sucking in his cheeks, nodding in resignation.

“Fair point,” he finally said before turning his face to mine and adding, “But you still look like you’re about to go surfing. Except the waves here are really tiny.”

I set my jaw. “For your information, some of us don’t want to swim in our underwear.”

He shifted in the water. “Oh, look,” he said, grabbing my blue kickboard sitting on the wall behind me. “You even have a tiny surfboard. Is this so you can catch the tiny pool waves?”

Pressing the foam board into the water, he pretended to make it surf as I watched helplessly. Then he pulled it under the water and let go. The board jettisoned into the air, smacking back down into the water several feet from us. We stared at it for a moment before scowling at each other again.

“It’s called a kickboard,” I informed him.

His eyebrows shot up, wrinkling his forehead. “A kickb—” he burst out in a wheezing laugh. “Do you not know how to swim?”

I glared at him. “I know how to swim just fine.”

He shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”

“They’re excellent for working leg muscles in the water,” I insisted.

“I think my nephew uses one of these. He’s like three years old.” He paused and gave me a face that suggested I was pathetic.

“I know how to swim!” I had no idea why he was getting under my skin.

He scrunched up his lips, shaking his head. “No, I don’t believe you. I’ll bet you can’t even swim a single lap to the other end of the pool without your tiny surfboard.”

My hands went to my hips. “I could if I wanted to. But I don’t have to prove myself to you.”

“Do you doggie paddle across the water?” he asked, curving his hands like paws, and patting them into the water.

“I know how to do strokes,” I told him, my voice flat. “But, again, I don’t have to prove myself to you.”

“Or you can’t because you don’t know how to swim without your little board,” he pressed me.

I pursed my lips together and shook my head. “You probably can’t even do a single stroke yourself. You’re probably one of those guys who just sits on the steps and wades through the shallow end every now and again with his floaty boxers just to dip his head back in the water and get his hair wet because he thinks it makes him look coooool.”

He stuck his tongue in his cheek. “Unlike you, I didn’t come here with a tiny surfboard. I can swim just fine.” I noted his evasion of my theory and that the pitch of his voice was rising.

“Maybe you like to float on your back, daydreaming about the next film opportunity that will launch you into even bigger stardom with big, fat checks,” I goaded him.

“And what is it that you do again?” His voice was even higher now.

“I never said. But I certainly don’t chase celebrities for their signatures and photographs. I’m just a working girl winding the day down with a swim,” I told him.

“Yet we still haven’t established whether you can, in fact, swim. Without your little floaty, of course,” he nodded at the blue board drifting across the pool.

Scoffing, I said, “I’m perfectly capable of swimming laps without assistance.”

“Fine. Let’s see it, then! I’ll race you!”

“I didn’t come here to compete in the pool with you,” I said, shaking my head.

“Oh, so you’re a chicken,” he said, folding his arms like wings and flapping them slowly.

“No, I’m simply trying to have a bit of exercise and relax,” I argued, and then observed him. “Besides, you’re taller than I am. It’s hardly fair.”

“Oh, well, your legs will get quite the workout then. Isn’t that what the floaty is for?” He leaned forward into the water, positioning his body as if he were about to dive in for a swim competition. “Come on! Let’s see your workout then! Let’s go on 3.”

Tutting, I rolled my eyes, and reluctantly sank down in the water with a compulsion to defend myself. “Fine, whatever.”

“1-2-3!” he said very quickly and took off in a freestyle stroke, kicking water on me.

“Hey!” I called out, wiping my face.

Growling, I thrust myself out, slamming my hands into the water and furiously kicking my little legs as I tried to catch up to him. He laughed at me as I arrived breathless at the other end just as he rotated back toward the shallow end. I growled again, pressing my feet against the wall to give myself a boost, but I still lagged behind him.

As I was in the process of forming a stitch in my side to keep up with him, he suddenly turned around, whirling his hands below the surface, sending a huge wall of water right into my face. Blinded, I had to come to a stop, kicking furiously to buoy myself in the deep end as I wiped my eyes. I weakly smacked water back at him while he laughed.

“What are you? Ten?” I exclaimed angrily.

He laughed again, moving closer to me. “Yes, I am.”

“You’re a freaking child,” I said, trying to keep from sinking. It was only the 5’ section but if I’d put my feet on the ground, the water would have been up to my forehead.

He watched me with a stupid grin on his stupid face. He was standing with his feet firm on the floor of the pool, a good foot above the waterline. “You really have to work at that, don’t you?”

“I can’t help it if I’m short,” I snapped.

“No wonder you have a tiny surfboard,” he remarked. “Do you want to hold on to my arm? I don’t want you to drown.”

“Shut up. I’m not going to drown,” I protested. “You’d probably just yank your arm away anyway because you’re a freaking juvenile.”

“No! I wouldn’t do that,” he said, pretending to be offended. “Here, go on.”

He moved his arm toward me, laying it flat in the water. I didn’t trust him for one second but reached out for it because my legs were growing tired. Just as I put my hands out, though, he jerked his arm away.

“Oh, that was totally unexpected!” I cried sarcastically, smacking water at his face.

His wheezy laughter returned as he wiped away the water. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Here…” He stretched his arm back toward me again, but I refused. “Come on, I was just teasing you. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

“I think I’ll go sit by myself,” I said, shifting away from him in the water.

“No, no, stay. I’ll behave, I swear.” He touched my arm as if to reassure me.

That was the second time he’d put his gentle grip on me. I hated the fact I was so attention starved that I really liked the feel of his palms against my skin. I wanted to run away and yet I found my hand curling over his forearm.

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