Out of breath, p.59
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       Out of Breath, p.59

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 60


  She reached for my boxers, and that’s when I knew this wasn’t that moment. We were raw and hurt, and this wasn’t going to heal us. I gently moved her hands away and whispered in her ear, ‘I want you so bad, but we need to stop. ’

  I sank into the bed. ‘I know,’ I breathed, trying to recover. I was so caught up in the need for him, wanting him, that I couldn’t stop even when the resounding voice told me, Not yet.

  I leaned over to see his face, to run my hand over his cheek and caress his lip with my thumb. I stared into the depths of his eyes, and my entire world steadied as I lay there in his arms – exactly where I belonged.


  All About Tomorrow

  ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TOMORROW?’ Sara asked from the hammock.

  ‘Evan went to go pick up my surfboard, so I’d like to go surfing,’ I answered, leaning back on the stool to scrutinize the painting in front of me. I picked up the fine-bristled brush and tapped it into the dark blue paint.

  ‘Didn’t you buy that last week?’

  ‘Yeah, but they had to get it from another shop. We were supposed to pick it up yesterday, but something got screwed up with the delivery. Evan was beyond disappointed when it wasn’t in. ’ I smiled, remembering the crushed look on his face when the guy at the surf shop told him he’d have to come back this afternoon. You would have thought he’d just been told there wasn’t a Santa Claus.

  ‘I’d love to watch you surf,’ Sara said, a magazine shading her face.

  ‘Sure. ’

  ‘Then want to go out to dinner after? Just the four of us?’

  ‘That’s fine,’ I agreed, not really wanting to think about tomorrow. It wasn’t a day I ever wanted to think about.

  ‘I have it!’ Evan bellowed through the house, his voice full of excitement.

  He came out to find us, his eyes lit up with a gorgeous smile. ‘You officially have your first surfboard. ’

  ‘Great. ’ I laughed lightly. ‘We’ll go tomorrow. ’

  ‘Tomorrow?’ His shoulders slumped in disappointment.

  I smiled wider, adoring his fixation with seeing me on a board. ‘It’s already late. We’ll go first thing in the morning. I promise. ’

  ‘Tomorrow,’ Evan repeated in defeat, coming up behind me and placing his hands on my waist, sending a tingling along my skin. He leaned over and kissed my bare shoulder before setting his chin on it to examine the painting. I leaned back against him as he encircled me with his arms.

  ‘It’s not done yet,’ I rushed to explain, my cheeks as red as the hues on the canvas. I could feel him interpreting every stroke.

  ‘It’s intense. ’

  It was a powerful piece, but unsettling at the same time. I wasn’t going to say that to her, but I’m sure she knew. The desperation she released with her brush was impossible to miss. A swirl of colour and textures, abstract images of hands reaching out through turbulent seas, blending with the motion of the waves. It fed the disturbing sense I had that there was some deep-seated desire in her to give up on this life. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this fear.

  ‘I was hoping to talk to you about something,’ I murmured into her neck before pressing my lips against her warm pulse.

  ‘What’s that?’ she asked in a breathy voice that made me want to push her up against the railing of the deck and make her entire body flush the way it did when she got excited. Then I noticed Sara reading on the hammock and eased away, needing to tame those thoughts.

  ‘When you’re done, we’ll go for a walk,’ I said.

  ‘How about a run? Soccer conditioning starts in a few weeks, and I need to be ready. ’

  ‘That’s fine,’ I agreed. ‘But you have to run with me so we can talk. ’

  She laughed. ‘I’ll slow down for you. ’

  I crouched down to tie my shoe when Evan came out wearing shorts and sneakers.

  ‘Evan,’ I scolded, the sight of him sending heart palpitating flutters through my body. ‘You have to put a shirt on. ’

  ‘We’re still doing that?’ he argued. ‘Really?’

  ‘I’m going to fall on my face if I have to run next to you looking like that. ’

  ‘I don’t look any different than most guys on the beach,’ he tried to persuade me.

  ‘It’s you,’ I stressed. ‘Any other guy could look exactly like that shirtless, but it’s you shirtless that makes my brain go all stupid. ’

  He laughed.

  ‘What? I’m just being honest,’ I shot back, my confession drawing colour to my face.

  I stood up, and Evan pulled me in by my hips. ‘Then if we’re just being honest,’ his words tickling my lips, ‘I’d rather –’

  ‘Really don’t need to see that,’ Jared announced, walking out of the kitchen.

  ‘Let’s go,’ Evan said, grabbing a shirt he had lying on the back of the couch.

  We eased into a run along the surf. I waited until we were at a comfortable pace before I started talking, wanting to make sure I could have a conversation and keep up with her at the same time.

  ‘So, I was thinking about going to see someone about my nightmares. ’ I watched for her reaction out of the corner of my eye. ‘I was hoping it was something we could do together. ’

  I’d been going over how to present this to her since I’d made the phone calls yesterday, knowing how much she despised talking about her feelings, especially to strangers. It was hard enough getting her to open up to me and Sara.

  ‘Couples counselling?’ she teased.

  ‘Uh, no, but that may not be a bad idea for us. ’ I chuckled. She shoved my shoulder. ‘It’s a therapist who works with people who’ve experienced trauma. I thought it might be easier if we did it together for a few sessions. ’

  She was quiet, keeping her eyes on the sand.

  Just the thought of a therapist made my stomach twist into knots. I’d seen a couple in my lifetime and hadn’t found the process useful at all. Granted, the first time I was young and it was right after my father died, but talking about it didn’t bring him back. So I told the woman with the big front teeth who smelled like cherries exactly what she wanted to hear until she told my mother that I was adjusting.

  Looking back, it surprised me that my mother had sent me. I couldn’t imagine her caring for anyone else’s feelings other than her own. Maybe there were brief moments in my life when she was actually a mother, or perhaps the school counsellor had recommended it. That seemed more likely.

  The second therapist I’d visited after being discharged from the hospital, during my junior year, when my world was upside down and inside out. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her anything. It was like my mind shut down and wouldn’t let me divulge any emotion or recollect a single traumatic moment – except in my nightmares. I went through the motions, fulfilling the court-mandated visits, and left her office just as defective as when I’d entered. So I was sceptical, to say the least.

  ‘Will you consider it?’ Evan asked when I was silent too long. ‘You’ll be helping me too. ’

  I glanced over at him, my anxiety swarming. But I couldn’t dismiss his request after he’d said that. ‘I’ll think about it. ’

  ‘Thank you. ’

  ‘Was that The Talk?’ I asked with a small grin.

  ‘It was. ’

  ‘Then I’m going to run faster now,’ I told him with a quick raise of my eyebrows. ‘Keep up if you can. ’ I pushed into the sand and propelled forward, needing to be filled with the rush of adrenaline that calmed me and made everything clearer.

  ‘Thanks for running with me!’ I bellowed as the distance lengthened between us. Her ‘think about it’ response was better than what I’d expected. I watched her push herself down the beach, knowing our conversation had probably fuelled her strides.

  She waited impatiently for me in front of the house, her hands on her hips. I shook my head with a laugh.

  ‘Am I too slow for you, Em

  ‘It’s not your fault you can’t keep up,’ she taunted.

  ‘I may not be able to keep up with you, but I can still catch you,’ I said, not slowing down as I lowered my shoulder and lifted her off the ground.

  ‘Evan, put me down,’ she hollered, her voice broken in laughter.

  I held on to her thighs, which were slippery with sweat. My steps faltered as I ran into the water, not getting very far before a wave knocked us over.

  Emma emerged with her mouth agape, wiping water from her face. ‘I can’t believe you did that!’ She splashed me, unable to keep from smiling.

  I stood up to reach for her as she tried to escape towards shore with a laughing squeal. The knee-deep water slowed her down.

  ‘Not so fast now. ’ I flung my arms around her waist. Her forward momentum dumped us on the sand at the water’s edge.

  I rolled her over, her hair splayed across the sand. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled up at me.

  ‘You’ve got a little sand …’ I brushed my hand along her cheek. Her breath faltered. Gripping her waist, I drew her closer. She closed her eyes as I bent to taste the salt water on her lips. I could spend the rest of my life kissing her and never get enough. The heat from her breath parted my mouth, and I caressed her lip with my tongue, pulling her against me.

  Evan held me to him and I wrapped my leg around his, the water running under us as we lay on the coarse sand. His hand slid along the back of my thigh. I let out a small moan, tilting my head back – looking directly into a pair of big brown eyes. I pushed Evan away, and he pulled his head up, instantly letting me go as a small boy holding a yellow bucket continued to stare at us from a foot away.

  I sat up, smoothing my hair back, my entire face on fire.

  ‘We’re, uh, pretty sandy. ’ Evan looked down at the sand clinging to his wet clothes and skin. ‘Maybe we should get back in the water. ’

  My pulse still erratic from his kiss, I turned to him with a grin. ‘Outdoor shower?’

  His lips parted to reveal a vibrant smile. I scrambled up to race towards the house. He grabbed my ankle, causing me to sprawl on the sand. Evan let out a chuckle as he sprinted past me.

  ‘Hey!’ I hollered, pushing myself back up and racing after him.

  I could hear her coming up behind me, and dug in a little faster with a low laugh. She could outrun me in distance, but I could take her in a sprint. I leapt up the steps towards the gate to the patio. I had enough time to kick off my sneakers and socks before Emma slammed the gate behind her.

  She stood before the fence, panting. A sexy smile crept across her face. I turned on the water to let it warm up as she deliberately flipped off her sneakers and peeled her socks from her feet without a word. I watched her move towards me, still with that seductive grin on her face, pulling her wet, sandy shirt over her head.

  She reached for her waistband and stopped – looking at me, questioning. I shook my head, knowing that if she removed her shorts, my restraint would go with them. Emma stood before me, her eyes not leaving mine as she slipped her hand under my shirt, the brush of her fingers on my skin making the muscles along my stomach constrict.

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