Out of breath, p.38
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       Out of Breath, p.38

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
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Page 38


  ‘I’m not sulking. And I want to go. ’ Oddly enough, I did. I twisted my fingers nervously in my lap, anxious about seeing the guys … about seeing Evan again.

  ‘Something happened, and you’re not telling me. I know –’

  ‘The two weeks are over,’ I blurted, watching her reaction in the mirror, hating the fact that I was so transparent to her.

  ‘Uh, no they’re not,’ Sara responded in confusion. ‘You have like ten days left. ’

  ‘He said he didn’t want to do it any more,’ I replied quietly. ‘So … it’s over. ’

  Sara stood still, the curling iron in her hand, examining me in the mirror. ‘And why does that make you so upset? I would figure you’d be relieved not to have to confess everything you should have told him the first time around. ’

  I made a face and opened my mouth to deny that it bothered me, but I knew she wouldn’t believe me. I connected with her blue eyes in the mirror and shrugged. And that’s all she needed. She smiled consolingly. ‘It’s not over, Emma. ’

  ‘Hey,’ Cole hollered from the living room, causing us both to jump. ‘What time are we heading over there?’

  ‘Uh, we’ll be out in a few minutes,’ I yelled back, flashing my eyes guiltily at Sara.

  ‘You’re not dating,’ she stated.


  ‘What? They’re your words,’ she said innocently.

  I sighed. This was about to get even more complicated. ‘You officially look gorgeous,’ Sara announced, admiring me through the mirror. ‘Now let’s go and have a ridiculously good time. We haven’t laughed nearly enough this summer. ’

  I smiled, inspecting her work. ‘Thank you, Sara. ’ I turned towards her on the stool we’d taken from the kitchen. ‘For everything. ’

  Sara smiled back. I jumped down and slid on a pair of wedged sandals. ‘Let’s go. ’

  ‘Evan, can you grab me more Coronas?’ Nate hollered from across the pool. I nodded and excused myself through the bare shoulders and surf shorts towards the downstairs entrance. The crowd parted for me again when I returned a few minutes later with a couple of cases stacked in my arms.

  ‘I always love your parties,’ a girl beside the bar sighed to Nate as I shoved bottles into tubs of ice.

  ‘We like it when you show up, Reese,’ Nate returned genuinely, not boldly flirtatious. A moment later I heard, ‘Shit, Evan. ’

  ‘What?’ I stood up, expecting to have to intervene in a fight or something. Nate was staring up at the deck, so I followed his eyes … and lost my breath.

  ‘Dude, you’re in trouble,’ he muttered, still staring.

  I couldn’t deny it when I saw her walking behind Sara down the stairs. The pink and orange floral sarong hung low on her hips, splitting open to mid-thigh with each step to reveal a sculpted tan leg. The strapless orange top clung to her body, revealing just a hint of bronze skin around her waist. Her usually straight hair was tossed in curls, with one side pinned up by a pink flower. I stared way too long as they made their way towards us – until I felt Nate’s elbow in my ribs, jolting me out of my ogling.

  My eyes connected with Emma’s, and I grinned. ‘Hi, Em. You look great. ’

  ‘Thanks,’ she responded, dipping her eyes while a flush of red flooded her cheeks.

  ‘Hey, Evan,’ Sara greeted me, a question looming in her eyes. It confused me.

  She made me feel like I’d done something wrong. I held my hands up and mouthed, What?

  Sara answered with a withering glance. Emma looked towards Sara and back to me, catching the end of our exchange.

  ‘What can I get you to drink, Emma?’ Nate finally asked, breaking the awkward tension.

  ‘Umm …’ I examined Sara for a second longer, as she tried to hide whatever had just happened between her and Evan. ‘What’s that?’ I asked, pointing to a girl behind Sara carrying a pink drink.

  ‘That’s a pink lemonade drink we came up with for today,’ Nate said.

  ‘I’ll have one of those,’ I requested – and saw Evan’s eyebrows rise.

  My cheeks flared up recollecting the last time he’d seen me drink. ‘We talked about it,’ Sara said, intervening. Sara and I’d made a pact before we left, and I assured her that I could drink responsibly. Now was my chance to prove it.

  Nate made Sara and I each a pink drink with a neon green straw and a tiny umbrella. ‘Thanks, Nate. ’ I couldn’t look at Evan for more than a second. My cheeks were about to catch fire when I saw him behind the bar without his shirt on. I was warned this was a pool party, but I wasn’t prepared for that. It was the first time I’d seen him shirtless since I’d arrived in California, and he’d put on some … muscle in two years. I took a breath to cool my cheeks and scanned the pool. ‘Wow, there’s a lot of girls here. And they’re practically naked. ’

  Sara laughed and pulled me after her to find a spot in the shade. We sat on two chairs under an umbrella, sipping our drinks among the oiled bodies splayed around the pool and floating on rafts atop the water. I hadn’t realized they made swimsuits that small. My eyes widened at the sight of a girl with a string covering only the parts that mattered. Then she turned around, and I realized it didn’t cover all of them.

  ‘Does a string up your butt qualify as a bathing suit?’

  ‘Well, she can wear whatever she wants with a body like that,’ Sara said, unfazed.

  Cole joined us after stopping to talk to a few people he knew. He hung his shirt off the back of a chair and pulled it up next to me, but out from under the shade of the umbrella. He was drawing some attention of his own, and the girls weren’t exactly being subtle about it.

  ‘Have you been to these parties before?’ I asked him, shocked at how obvious the girls around us were being.

  ‘It’s California,’ he replied, unaffected.

  ‘Seriously?’ I questioned, making an effort to close my mouth.

  Cole chuckled. ‘This is your first pool party?’ I nodded. ‘Yeah, this is pretty typical around here. ’

  ‘How can you not stare?’ I asked him, having a hard time not staring myself.

  ‘I’d rather not have it blatantly flaunted in front of me, especially when I’ve seen –’ His eyes ran the length of my body.

  ‘Okay, I got it,’ I interrupted him, adjusting my wrap to cover my exposed leg as Sara just about choked on her drink. Cole laughed, and he leaned over and kissed me gently. Peeking out of the corner of my eye to make sure Evan wasn’t watching, I barely moved my lips to return his kiss. Cole pulled back with a confused expression.

  I darted my eyes around with a rise of my eyebrows, trying to make it appear I was uncomfortable with the PDA.

  ‘Yeah, sorry,’ he said, leaning back in the chair.

  Sara took a sip of her drink concealing her slight grin, but not before I saw it.

  I couldn’t help but look for her. No matter who I was talking to, or where I was, I’d keep glancing around the room, or the deck, or the patio, seeking her out. Cole caught me more than once, which made it more than awkward.

  ‘You’re Evan, right?’ I turned my head away from Emma, who was leaning against the railing, sipping the drink in her hand, and focused on the tall blonde in front of me.

  ‘Uh, yeah. Can I get you a drink?’ I asked, wondering when TJ was returning to take over for me behind the bar.

  ‘Will you do a shot with me?’ she asked, leaning over and setting her elbows on the bar so that I’d get of view of …everything.

  I kept my eyes on hers, not tempted to look anywhere else.

  ‘It’s still too early for me to do a shot, sorry,’ I told her, causing her to pout, which was anything but attractive. ‘Do you want one anyway?’

  ‘I suppose,’ she sulked. ‘Tequila. ’ I poured the clear liquid in a plastic shot glass and set it in front of her with a lime. ‘My name is Kendra, by the way. ’

  ‘Nice to meet you, Kendra,’ I responded with a false smile.

  ‘You have amazing eyes,’ she flirted, slowly licking the back of her hand and pouring salt on it.

  ‘Thanks,’ I replied, looking past her to find Emma waiting behind her, her eyes darting around uneasily. I grinned.

  ‘Hey, Em,’ he called to me, despite the fact that the girl was still lingering in front of him. I was convinced she was a model, with her towering lean height and taut body. ‘Do you need another drink?’

  I poked my head around the bony shoulder and nodded. ‘Please. And a water too. ’

  The leggy blonde leaned over and said, ‘For later, when you are ready. ’ She set a napkin in front of Evan and walked away, moving her hips to accentuate the curves she didn’t have.

  ‘Uh …’ I fumbled, noticing the phone number she’d set in front of him.

  Evan used the napkin to pick up the lime she’d left on the bar and stuffed it in the empty shot glass before throwing it away.

  ‘Having fun?’ he asked, not appearing affected by what had just happened. I stood in front of him, beyond uncomfortable. I could only nod, awaiting my drink.

  Evan noticed my inability to speak and smiled in that amused way he did. ‘You saw that, huh?’

  I pressed my lips together and nodded again. It was all I could seem to do.

  ‘Not interested. ’ Evan raised a shoulder, grinning at me again. He turned to pull a bottle of water from the tub behind him and prepared my drink. I glanced around to keep from watching him, while I waited. He handed me a cup with an umbrella in it, wrapped in a napkin.

  ‘Thanks,’ I uttered barely audibly, and walked away.

  When I returned to the chair, I peeled off the napkin, which was already getting wet, about to crumple it up when I noticed the blue ink. A phone number was smeared across it, along with FOR LATER, EVAN. I let out a laugh, drawing Sara’s attention.

  ‘What’s so funny?’ she demanded, studying me carefully.

  I couldn’t keep the smile from my face as I shook my head dismissively. I folded the napkin in half and concealed it beneath the edge of my strapless top. It occurred to me that I didn’t have his phone number saved in my phone, and I should hold on to it. Besides, it was funny.

  ‘You don’t want to tell me, do you?’ Sara snapped, feigning offence. I glanced at Cole, who was in a surfing conversation with the guy standing in front of him. Sara noticed and nodded in understanding. ‘Later. ’ I nodded in return.

  After a day of drinks and sun, night fell and the party escalated to a new level. Many of the girls opted to change, while others continued to flaunt their bikini-clad bodies. The guys who’d spent the day surfing arrived to provide a little more gender balance, much to Brent’s disappointment.

  The inside became the dance floor, as intended. I leaned against the wall, taking a look around, and was about to take a sip, when I stopped with the bottle pressed against my lips. Emma twirled under Sara’s arm, laughing. My breath faltered at the sight of her body moving to the rhythm, rocking her hips in a pair of low-riding white shorts. She revealed more of her flat stomach, her arms swaying in the air.

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