Frayed Page 97

A laugh bursts from her. ’’I think that has to be one of the most honest responses anyone has ever given me.’’

I shake my head at her and grab her hand.

’’It\s true.’’

I raise an eyebrow. ’’You haven\ answered my question.’’

’’I\m not interested in him.’’

’’I didn\ say you were.’’

’’No, but I can tell what you\ e thinking. You\ e not going to like this, but I was late for work and when I got there Josie pulled me into the break room. I set all my stuff down, including my phone, and to make a long story short, Tate and Romeo came looking for me and since we use the break room as a meeting room sometimes, I left Romeo in there while I grabbed something from my office. You texted me and he saw the text.’’

’’See, he\s a prick,’’ I mutter under my breath.

She leans over and kisses my lips. ’’I\m not interested in him.’’

’’So you\ve said.’’

Her hand runs up the leg of my jeans. ’’I am interested in you, though.’’

I flick her a glance and the honesty I see in her expression puts a smile on my face and her touch, well, it\s doing exactly what she intended. Trying to push se* out of my mind for a bit, I say, ’’Tell me something about you that I don\ know.’’

She picks up her phone, looks at the screen, then drops it in her bag before pulling her sunglasses down from atop her head and back onto her face. When I hop on the freeway she presses the button for the window and it slides down. She inhales as the wind blows her mass of red curls all around her face. Then she turns back to me. ’’I love the feel of the wind in my face. I love riding on the back of your bike. And I love the Santa Anas.’’

The sun is shining today and the winds have died down, but they\ e still stronger than on a typical day. She points out the window to the smoldering smoke in the distance. ’’But I hate the destruction they cause.’’

’’You know surfers think of them as heaven and hell mixed in one?’’

She cocks her head in my direction. ’’Do explain.’’

’’When they hit the surf head-on they hold up falling lips and hollow out pitching waves, making for an unbelievable ride. They turn reef breaks into emerald green tube-riding playgrounds. It\s f**king awesome. But at the same time they can knock a foot or so off any incoming swell and can actually flatten an otherwise small but rideable wave. That f**king sucks.’’

She smiles at me. ’’You really love surfing, don\ you?’’

’’Yeah, I do. I hated living in LA and not on the beach. It really made me miserable.’’

She seems to ponder this for a long time.

’’But I was asking about you. Tell me something else I don\ know about you.’’

My fingers caress circles on her leg and she glances down. ’’I used to think I had superpowers.’’

A huge grin crosses my face. ’’Oh yeah?’’

’’It\s stupid.’’

’’You tell me and then I\ll tell you how I used think I was Aquaman.’’

’’Aquaman?’’ she squeaks.

I shake my head and shift my eyes her way. ’’You first.’’

She inhales a deep breath. ’’Don\ laugh.’’

’’I can\ promise that. But, S\elle . . .’’

Her eyes cut to mine.

’’You . . .’’ I stop, not sure of what I want to say or how to say it. ’’You know what, never mind. I promise to try my damnedest not to laugh.’’

She narrows her eyes at me.

I pinch her leg. ’’I said I promise.’’

She jumps in her seat at my touch.

’’Ah . . . I think you might be ticklish.’’

She grabs my hand. ’’I\ll never tell.’’

’’You don\ have to.’’ I grin and pull her hand to my lips to kiss it.

’’Okay, so when I was little I noticed that I could mix words up or say things I knew didn\ make sense and people would give me what I wanted.’’

I nod, thinking about what\s she\s saying.

’’As I got older it worked even better. One time just after I got my license, I got pulled over for speeding. I honestly didn\ know I was speeding. The police officer asked if I knew how fast I was going. I answered that I was going sixty. He stared at me. I said, \Sir, my car won\ go any faster than that unless I really jam the gas down, so I\m sorry if I was going too slow.\ He looked at me flabbergasted but only gave me a warning and explained I had crossed into a residential area and three miles ahead the speed limit would increase again.’’

Clutching her hand on top of her leg, I roll my eyes at her. ’’He just thought you were cute.’’

’’No, really it was my silver tongue.’’

’’Your silver tongue?’’ I burst out laughing and drop her hand to cover my mouth.

She sits up straighter. ’’Yes, I used to believe my superpower was that I had a silver tongue.’’

My mind wanders back to se* at that comment, but she doesn\ seem to notice and continues with her anecdotes about her silver tongue. When it\s my turn I tell her my story about how I really believed I could grow gills and breathe underwater if I stayed in the ocean long enough. She laughs just as hard at me as I did at her.

CHAPTER 32

Burn

Bell

The glorious Pacific and the serene Catalina Island on the horizon are the only view from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room. A hand-forged copper-shingled roof engineered by a master shipbuilder to weather the worst of storms protects it. Ben\s house, built on the bluff and jetting out over the ocean, looks like a physical paean to light, sky, and sea. I can make out sweeping views of the city and the surf breaking on the coastline.


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