Out of breath, p.39
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       Out of Breath, p.39

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
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Page 39

 

  ‘You gotta look away right now,’ Nate demanded in my ear. I jerked my head towards him.

  ‘What?’

  ‘Dude, he’s about to kick your ass,’ Nate warned quietly, his eyes flicking across the room. I looked over to find Cole glaring at me.

  ‘Shit,’ I muttered, turning away. ‘I couldn’t help it. I’ve never seen her move like that. ’

  ‘Maybe you should get behind the bar,’ Nate advised. I nodded and cut through to the far end of the room.

  ‘Hey, Evan!’ TJ greeted me. ‘You taking over for me?’

  ‘Yeah,’ I replied, trying to calm.

  ‘Wanna do a shot with me before I go? You look like you could use one. ’

  ‘Sure,’ I answered without hesitation. He poured us shots of tequila.

  TJ held up his glass before slinging it back, then shaking off the bite. ‘Emma looks frickin’ hot, by the way. ’

  ‘Yeah, thanks, TJ,’ I grumbled.

  TJ laughed. ‘That’s why you needed the shot, isn’t it? Fuck, man. If you’re going to try to avoid checking her out, then you definitely need a few more shots. I’ll do another with you just to help you out. ’

  I smiled. ‘Thanks for sacrificing yourself for me. ’ I poured us another shot and swallowed it down, breathing out the tequila through my teeth. ‘I’m not sure that’s going to help. ’

  ‘Well, it’ll take out some of the sting when she goes home with Cole tonight,’ TJ remarked, laughing.

  ‘Fuck you, TJ,’ I shot back, making him laugh harder. ‘You can leave the bar now. ’

  ‘No problem,’ he responded, slipping into the crowd.

  ‘Do you want another drink?’ Sara yelled to me over the noise of the crowd and the music.

  I paused to consider where I was in the spectrum of drunkenness. ‘Will you split one with me?’

  ‘Yeah,’ Sara said, taking my hand to lead me to the bar.

  Before we neared it, Cole caught my other hand and asked, ‘Dance with me?’

  I looked up at him in surprise and nodded, never having seen him dance before. He led me through the crowd to the middle of the dance floor and held me close. I draped my arms around his neck, and his breath tickled my skin. We slowly moved to the beat, our bodies pressed tight with his hands cradling my hips.

  ‘Are you still planning to find your friend in New York?’ he asked with his mouth close to my ear.

  ‘Honestly, I’m not even sure where to look for him,’ I responded, my eyes dipping towards the floor. ‘And I think I’m too late … again. ’

  Cole sensed my change in demeanour and pulled me closer, kissing my neck. ‘I’m sorry. ’

  His hips rocked against mine. I slid my hand down to rest on his chest and could feel his heart beating faster. That’s when I realized that mine wasn’t. My pulse was even, and my skin wasn’t tingling like it usually did when he touched me. I looked up in surprise. His clear blue eyes inspected mine. He knew it too.

  Cole stopped moving and dropped his hands. He kept his focus on me, waiting for me to say something. But I remained silent, still stunned with the realization that our connection was gone. And he heard every unspoken word.

  Cole shook his head in disbelief. ‘Really? That’s it?’ I reached for him, but he moved back a step. ‘Don’t bother. ’ He brushed past me and pushed his way through the crowd, leaving me standing motionless, looking after him.

  The dancing bodies filled in the empty space, moving around me as I remained perfectly still, shocked by what had just happened.

  ‘Hey,’ Sara hollered, parting the crowd with the drink held out in front of her. ‘Here. ’ She handed me the cup and I took a long sip. ‘Where’s Cole?’ She scanned the crowd in search of him.

  ‘He left,’ I told her.

  She drew her brows together. ‘Why? What happened?’

  ‘Nothing,’ I answered simply. ‘Nothing happened. ’ And that was the problem. I sighed guiltily.

  ‘Dance with me,’ Sara exclaimed, taking my hand and spinning me around to distract me, replacing the guilt with a subtle swirl in my head. Sara offered me the cup again, and I shook my head, not needing to add to it.

  I closed the bedroom door behind me, shutting out the laughter and music that was still going on upstairs. I’d pulled the liquor from the outside bar and let the guys take care of the one upstairs, since Brent and TJ were still ‘entertaining’. Nate and Ren had passed out a while ago. I couldn’t recall seeing Ren most of the night, but that’s how it usually was with him.

  I stripped off my shirt, threw it in the corner and emptied my shorts’ pockets, dumping the contents on the nightstand next to the bed, along with my phone. I kicked off my shoes and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.

  When I came back into the bedroom, my phone was lit up. I picked it up and found, Is it later yet? displayed across the screen. I paused, not recognizing the California number. I released a deep breath, wondering if one of the guys had handed out my number.

  Then I realized I had.

  It IS later. Where are you?

  I waited for her to respond. And my brows raised when my phone lit up again with, Outside your room.

  I walked over to the curtain, slid it back and grinned when Emma waved to me from the other side of the sliding glass door.

  ‘Hi,’ I said when he opened the door, my heart beating a million miles a minute. I’d told myself this was a bad idea for the past half hour, but still found my way from the beach back up to this patio, staring at his room – and eventually texting him when I saw his light turn on. I was convinced I’d die if he was in there with another girl.

  ‘Hi,’ Evan responded, his breathtaking grin greeting me. ‘What are you doing out here?’

  ‘Umm … nothing. ’

  Evan laughed. ‘Are you lost?’

  ‘Most likely,’ I answered, shuffling my bare feet.

  ‘Would you like to come in?’ he offered. I lifted my eyes, having a hard time looking at him without his shirt on. My heart skipped several beats and my entire face lit on fire. ‘You don’t have to. ’

  ‘Sure,’ I finally muttered, averting my eyes to avoid getting lost in the deep curves of his chest and intricate lines of his stomach. I took a breath and forced myself forward into his room while he held back the curtain for me.

  Evan slid the door closed and replaced the curtain. I looked around the room nervously, trying to find the courage to say what I’d been saying over in my head for the past hour and a half as I roamed the beach.

  She was nervous. Adorably nervous. I had no idea why she was in my room, but I wasn’t about to turn her away. The flower was gone and the curls tossed loosely around her head. I glanced at her bare feet and noticed the sand on them. Emma’s eyes scanned every inch of the room, avoiding looking at me.

  ‘Emma?’

  She turned towards me, darting her eyes from the floor up to my face and back down. I tried not to laugh, but it was quite amusing. ‘Are you drunk?’

  ‘A little,’ she admitted shyly. ‘Are you?’

  ‘A little,’ I repeated. The shots having done their job.

  ‘That’s kinda good,’ she said, biting at her full lower lip, which was making it really difficult not to look at it.

  ‘Why’s that?’

  ‘It’ll make it easier,’ she responded cryptically. She was going to make me pull it out of her, I could tell. I took a shallow breath, recognizing I needed to draw on my patience.

  ‘Make what easier?’ I asked gently.

  ‘Can we, umm, shut off the lights?’ she asked suddenly, taking me by surprise.

  ‘I suppose,’ I said in confusion, ‘but then we’ll be standing in the dark. ’

  I frowned at my patheticness. How was I supposed to talk to him without looking at him? And I couldn’t look at him if he didn’t put a shirt on.

  Before I changed my mind or asked if he’d put a shirt on, which I knew was going to
sound even more ridiculous, Evan offered, ‘We could sit on the bed … in the dark … if you want, so then, well … what did you come here for, Emma?’

  I couldn’t breathe. I nodded and moved towards the bed, not answering his question. My mind was swirling with panic, and I couldn’t form a cohesive sentence. I was going to pass out before I even uttered a single word, and then all the courage I’d mustered to walk up here would be for nothing.

  I plopped down on the bed and waited for Evan to shut off the light.

  I clicked the light off and noticed she was lying on the bed instead of sitting. I scooted onto the bed beside her. She was perfectly still, with her head on the pillow across from me. It was too dark to see her face, but I could hear her quick breaths, like she was getting all worked up. I knew her brain must be in overdrive, figuring out what to do next.

  ‘Better?’ I asked in a whisper.

  ‘Yeah,’ Emma answered quickly. After a moment, my eyes adjusted to the dark. The glow seeping through the curtain provided enough light for me to see her silhouette.

  Emma shifted on her back and began playing with her hands like she did when she was nervous. I waited. She remained silent. Eventually, she turned back on her side to face me, a little closer than she was before. I could feel her breath on my lips.

  ‘Are you still kinda drunk?’ she asked softly, making me laugh.

  ‘Kinda,’ I replied. She was silent again. ‘Why?’

  ‘Are you more honest when you’re kinda drunk?’

  ‘Umm … I suppose,’ I answered, intrigued by where this was headed.

  ‘Me too,’ she spouted nervously. ‘Will you tell me one thing that you normally wouldn’t say to me if you weren’t kinda drunk, so that I know that you are?’

  I smiled at her request. ‘Okay,’ I could feel my body respond to her closeness, and drew in a breath. ‘I’d really like to kiss you,’ I whispered, my heart thumping louder.

  Her breathing faltered as I reached over and ran my hand along her cheek.

  I closed my eyes to his touch, unable to breathe properly. I actually wasn’t convinced I was breathing at all. ‘I don’t want you to kiss me,’ I said in a whisper, my heart contradicting my words with its frantic fluttering.

  ‘Okay,’ he responded, pulling his hand away.

  I almost regretted saying it as the warmth of his touch disappeared, but I forced myself to focus, and said, ‘Because … I came here … to tell you something. ’

  He was quiet. Almost too quiet. I was about to lose my nerve when he murmured, ‘I’m listening. ’

  I took a breath of courage and said, ‘I left to protect you. ’

  Evan was quiet again. I could see his outline in the dark, watching his shoulder rise and fall as he breathed evenly. ‘From what?’

  ‘Me,’ I said, my voice catching. I had convinced myself I could tell him, to give him the answer he wanted most, and do it without breaking down. But I knew now that wasn’t going to be possible.

  ‘I don’t understand,’ he responded, his voice cautious.

 
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