3 Months Later - Tuesday
I ran across the hot sand to my usual spot and quickly spread out my towel before my feet burned. I wasn't sure my soles would ever adjust to the scalding temperatures of the sand in the afternoon. But even that was a welcome sensation. I had felt numb when I left Santa Monica. Being back at the beach I had gone to when I was a kid was exactly what I needed. This was my fresh start. Or was I actually just reverting back to an old version of myself that no longer really existed? Searching for somewhere to call home because I was lost? Stop overthinking everything. All that mattered was that SMU and my ex were almost 3,000 glorious miles away.
A whistle blew and I looked up at the lifeguard, whose stand was only a few feet away from me. He was part of the reason I always picked this same spot. He was dreamy. His skin was tan and he had shaggy brown hair. He had six pack abs that made it hard for me to look away. The fact that he looked nothing like Aiden was a plus too.
The aviators he wore made it impossible to tell where he was looking, but I was almost certain it wasn't at me. I had sat here every Tuesday and Thursday for the past three weeks and he never glanced in my direction. And that made his presence even more comforting. It was nice that he was always there. I liked the idea of him. That was it. I didn't want to date anyone for a long time. Besides, this summer was about me. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I only had one year left of college. I had changed my major five times, but I was still no closer to figuring it out.
After a few minutes, I realized I had been awkwardly staring at the lifeguard. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Listening to the waves crashing and the seagulls cawing was my new favorite thing. I hadn't felt this relaxed in a long time. The thought of going back to school in a few months completely ruined my vibe. Maybe I'd just stay here forever. I sighed and snuck another peek at the lifeguard.
The heat from the sun was already getting to me, because for just a second I thought he was staring back at me. But clearly I was hallucinating from mild heatstroke. I quickly turned away from my daydreams, pulled off my tank top, and unbuttoned my jean shorts. I swapped my clothes for a book out of my bag and lay down on my stomach. There had been so many books I had been wanting to read recently, and now I finally had time. I opened up my copy of Twisted Love. Just because my own love life had recently blown up in flames, it didn't mean I didn't still love a good romance. And this one had great reviews. Well, minus all those one stars voted up to the top because it apparently ends in a cliffy. But I had recently fallen from a figurative cliff, and I wasn’t bitching about it. I’d give myself five stars every time for my notorious comeback. Well, soon to be comeback. I was sure I’d be fine eventually.
The sound of high-pitched laughter woke me from my nap. I yawned and sat up, brushing a few specks of sand off the side of my face. There were a few girls standing next to the lifeguard's stand chatting with him. He must have been funny, because the girls couldn't seem to stop laughing. I rolled my eyes and pulled my phone out of my bag to check the time.
It was almost five o'clock. I clicked on the lone text message from my friend, Kristen. I almost didn't look at it, because I had a feeling I knew what it said. She had texted me the same thing every day after that margarita night where I confessed that I partially came to the beach on my days off in order to watch the hot lifeguard. But maybe today was different. Maybe Kristen finally forgot my confession and decided to be nice. I clicked on the message.
"How's stalking the hot lifeguard? Come home soon, I'm hungry."
I never should have told her about the lifeguard. Margarita night was now officially banned from my weekly activities. Maybe I should also cancel my phone plan. I had recently only been using it as a clock and for receiving the same repetitive texts from Kristen. I could just buy a watch and save myself some money. Or I could pick up a few more shifts at Sweet Cravings, the ice cream shop I worked at. The owners, Rory and Keira, were freaking amazing and I knew they’d give me extra hours if I asked. But then when would I have time to sit here and stare at the hot lifeguard? I sighed. Maybe Kristen was right. Maybe I was a stalker.
"Stop complaining, I'll be home in a few minutes," I typed and pressed send.
My phone dinged almost immediately.
"Stop staring at his abs and feed me!"
I laughed and shoved my phone back into my bag. I wasn't staring at his abs. Stupid margaritas.
Since it was almost five o'clock, it was time to go into the ocean and cool off. It gave me just enough time to come out right before the lifeguards would leave for the day. I told myself I didn't want him to notice me. But maybe I did. I shook away the thought and made my way down to the water.
I never gracefully walked into the ocean. The water was freezing in June and if I didn't run, I could never force myself to go all the way in. I ran through the waves, held back the stupidly shrill scream that wanted to escape my throat, and dove into the water before the waves could knock me over. There was no better feeling than saltwater on my skin. And the sun reflecting off the top of the water, somehow warming me despite the frigid temperature. Complete and utter bliss. Screw Aiden. Screw SMU. Screw the whole freaking west coast. This was living.
A few minutes later whistles began to blow. The lifeguards up and down the shore signaled people to come out of the water. It was a rather silly game. They made everyone get out while they left. And as soon as they were out of sight, everyone always just went back in the water. I guess it gave the lifeguards peace of mind if something were to happen after their watch had ended. Which of course happened occasionally. After all, sharks came out at night. As well as skanks named Rebecca. Stop thinking about Aiden. He’s a life-sized dick hat. I awkwardly laughed out loud at my own thought. What the heck is a life-sized dick hat? Regardless, Aiden was absolutely one.
I held my breath and went under water once more. Saltwater was my new favorite hair product. And it was currently the only one I could afford. I wrung out my hair as I made my way out of the ocean.
The other lifeguards that I could see were all pushing their stands up to dryer sand. But my lifeguard was staring at me. My lifeguard. I laughed at myself. Well, it seemed like he was staring at me. He was looking in my general direction, but I couldn't see his eyes behind his aviators. He was probably just annoyed that I hadn't gotten out of the water yet.
While I was staring awkwardly at him, I felt something brush against my leg. Before I could move, a sharp pain seared the inside of my thigh. "Ow," I said way too loudly. What the hell was that? It burned way worse than my feet in the hot sand. And it seemed like it got worse every second. I looked around but the water was too cloudy to see anything. "Ow!" I almost yelled as I felt another sharp pain right below my ass. I tried to run out of the water, but the pain from the stings made it more of an adorable hobble. And by adorable I mean a hideous ogre hobble. When I finally made it to the shore, I looked down at the inside of my right thigh. There was already a red line. I turned my head to look at the matching red line right below my bathing suit bottom. Couldn't they have been in less awkward places?
I tried not to grimace as I ungracefully walked back to my towel. If the lifeguard hadn't been watching me before, he definitely was now. And now I was I certain that I had never wanted him to notice me in the first place. Especially not at this moment. I'd go home and google what to do. I silently willed him to just go home and ignore me.
As I walked toward my towel, he approached my towel from where he was. He knows where I sit? I quickly realized that my towel was one of the only ones left on the beach. Of course he doesn't know where I sit.
"Hey, are you okay?" he asked.
"Umm...yes," I said through a clenched jaw. I sat down on my towel and pressed my thighs together. Ow, that makes it hurt more.
"You don't seem okay. What happened?"
"I don't know. I felt something sting me. But it's fine. Really."
"Well let me see it. I can tell you what it was."
I laughed awkwardly. "Nope. That's okay. I don't need to know."
"Don't be ridiculous. I have stuff to help whatever it is. Where did it get you?"
"It's, well..." I sighed and looked down at my legs.
"Oh." He gave me a small smile. "You don't have to be embarrassed, it's my job." He shrugged his shoulders.
Right. I was making this so much more awkward than it needed to be. He was just trying to do his job. He probably had to deal with stuff like this all the time.
He knelt down in the sand in front of me. He put his hand on my right knee and pushed my thigh out to the side. He leaned forward and traced his index finger right underneath the sting. Holy shit. I suddenly forgot about the pain. I swallowed hard.
"It was a jellyfish. I actually have just the thing for that." He let go of my leg and stood up.
No. God, no. "Oh please don't. I can't..." I let my voice trail off. I knew what he was about to do.
"It'll just take a minute."
"No. I...please, I can't ask you to pee on me."
He laughed. "Um, golden showers aren't really my thing..."
"That's what it's called when you pee on...you know what, never mind." He scratched the back of his neck and laughed. "I have a spray bottle of stuff. It's not my pee, I swear. I'll be right back."
Damn it. If I hadn't just seen that episode of Friends where they had to pee on Monica at the beach, I never would have said that. I could feel my face turning red. What is wrong with me?
When he came back he was smiling. "I can't believe you thought I was going to pee on you. I can only imagine if that was the protocol. I'm not sure I would have agreed to be a lifeguard if I had to go around peeing on people."
"I know, I'm sorry. I was watching this rerun of Friends last night and..."
"Oh, yeah." He laughed. "I've seen that episode." He knelt down in front of me. "Here, this is going to make it feel a lot better."
I moved my thigh to the side for him this time. He sprayed the solution on the sting. It started to feel better right away.
"Actually, if you blow on it, it feels even more soothing."
I looked down at my thigh. "Thanks, but I can't really bend that way."
"Here, let me." He put his hand on my knee again and leaned forward. He lightly blew on the sting. It felt amazing, in more ways than one. This was the most physical contact I had experienced in months. I had to remind myself that he was just doing his job.
He leaned back on his heels. "Did it get you anywhere else?"
"Yes, well, my...tush." Why the hell did I just say tush?
He laughed. "Pretty sure you got stung in the most awkward places ever. That jellyfish must have liked you."
"I wish he hadn't."
"So...did you want to roll over so I can spray you?" He innocently held up the bottle.
I bit my lip. He's just doing his job. This is just a normal day for him. Stop being weird! I lay down on my blanket. "It's right..."
"I can see it," he said, cutting me off. "Spread your legs a bit for me. It kind of laces between your thighs again."
Oh my God. I followed his instructions. He put his hand on the back of my upper thigh and in a second I felt the soothing liquid.
"That feels so much better, thank you." I rested my head against my forearm. He was good at his job. My body tensed when I felt him blowing on the sting right below my ass. I couldn't help the sigh that escaped my lips. I tried to cover it up with a cough. I quickly rolled over and looked up at him. His hands were on either side of my legs and he was leaning over me slightly. He was definitely being flirtatious. He couldn't possibly act this way every time he did his job. Or maybe he does. I was so out of experience that I couldn't tell anymore.
He moved so that he was sitting on my blanket next to me.
Yes, he's flirting with me. Wouldn't he just leave otherwise? Or maybe I was wrong. Maybe he’s terrible at his job. The absolute worst. Totally unprofessional.
"So do you live around here?” he asked. “Or are you just here for the summer?"
He knows I'm not just on vacation. He must have noticed me here before. Or maybe he just assumes people don't vacation alone. He didn't realize how weird I was. "I grew up like an hour from here. But I go to school in Santa Monica. I came back for the summer. I just needed a change."
"Well if you needed a break from constant sunshine, you shouldn't have come to the beach." He smiled at me. "What year are you?"
"I just finished my junior year."
"What are you studying?"
"Ugh. I don't know. I've changed my major so many times. It's hard to decide what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I wish I could just stay here forever."
"Yeah, tell me about it." He looked out toward the water.
I was suddenly even more curious about him. What was he escaping from by being here? "What about you? Are you in school?"
"Yo!" someone called from behind us. I turned my head. There were a group of lifeguards standing by the small shack where they sold popsicles and drinks. "Let's go!" the same guy yelled.
"Sorry, I have to go." He stood up.
"Of course. Don't let me hold you up. And thanks for your help. You're a lifesaver." I laughed at my own joke. What the hell is wrong with me?
He laughed too. I wasn't sure if it was with me or at me. But I liked his laugh. "I guess I'll see you on Thursday, Jellyfish Girl."
He does know my schedule.
He smiled at me and walked over to his lifeguard stand. I watched him push it away from the water so it wouldn't be swept away in high tide. He joined his friends. A girl ran up to him and grabbed his arm, pulling him toward the others. She had long brunette hair and perfectly tanned skin. She was basically a female equivalent of him. I instantly disliked her.
He turned his head and looked back in my direction. I quickly looked away and out toward the ocean. My heart was racing. I had let myself get excited for a second. Not that I wanted to date anyone. Besides, guys like that were never available. That was probably his girlfriend. I shook my head and lay back down on my blanket. So much for that. I still wished I had asked him his name, though.
END OF CHAPTER 1
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