Motion (Page 39)
Abram made a huffing sound, which morphed into a low growl. “You can’t wait until I’m finished?”
“You don’t need the whole pool.” I glanced at him from behind my goggles. And then I stared at him from behind my goggles. And then I ogled him from behind my goggles, which felt most appropriate because goggles were probably designed for ogles, hence the name.
“I’m almost done.” He said this through his teeth, his dark glare continuing to blatantly travel over my body. He needed goggles.
“No. You’re not.” I set my hand on my waist. “Yesterday you were in here for an hour or more.”
His eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”
Stiffening, my hand dropped from my waist. I took a deep breath as a stalling tactic, perversely pleased when his eyes dropped to my chest—as though compelled—before he closed them. The muscle at his jaw jumped. His nostrils flared. He looked pissed. Or frustrated. Or both.
“I wanted to go swimming yesterday,” I finally admitted, seeing nothing wrong with telling the truth. “I waited for you to finish. It took forever. I’m not waiting today.”
Now he gathered a deep breath and my eyes dropped to his chest and stomach, the sparse smattering of hair and definition of his muscles were hypnotic. Once again, I had that urge to lick . . . something.
Shaking his head, he opened his eyes. They were focused on a spot behind me and to the right, giving me the impression he was purposefully averting his attention.
“Fine. I’ll leave.” Abram began wading through the water, aiming for the pool steps.
“Fine.” I frowned, not liking this development and tearing my ogling eyes from his body. Focusing on the far end of the pool, I muttered childishly, “Good idea. I don’t want to embarrass you.”
That stopped him. “What?”
“I mean, when I lap you,” I said matter-of-factly. “I don’t want to embarrass you by how much faster of a swimmer I am. Than you.”
Abram’s eyelids lowered, a spark of irritation—but also something else—seemed to change them, turn the typically light brown irises the color of smoldering embers. Even in the pale, cyan illumination of the pool light, and from behind the lenses of my goggles, I saw the transformation.
“You think so?” His jaw worked and his words sounded like a dare. Both made my skin erupt in goose bumps of anticipation.
If I thought his glare had been sexy, this look paired with his bare chest and ticking-time-bomb jaw was cosmically erotic. Another nice memory.
“I know so,” I said, just as darkly, lying. I wasn’t certain I could beat him, but I was certainly up for giving it a try.
“Fine.” He spat the word, moving his big body through the water and to the edge of the pool. Placing himself three feet from where I stood, he didn’t glance at me as he barked, “Here’s the deal: two laps—there and back two times—winner stays, loser leaves.”
Oh jeez. Okay. Hmm . . .
I’d previously promised myself never to enter into a bet with Abram. You promised the universe. You promised—
“Five laps. There and back five times,” I said, ignoring the recollection of my promise even though doing so gave me a niggle of discomfort.
I’d suggested five laps partially to be contrary. But also, partially because five laps were more than two. If he won, at least I’d get some exercise. And also, partially because I wanted to see him wet, angry, and breathing hard up close again.
“Okay.” He drew out the word, still not looking at me. “Five.”
“Good. Ready?” I lifted my hands to the edge behind me, gripping it and bracing my feet against the wall.
He did likewise. “On the count of three.”
“One,” I said.
I felt him glance at me, but all he said was, “Two.”
He pushed forward, BEFORE I’D FINISHED SAYING THREE!! UGH!!!!
Furious and, yes, turned on, I launched forward, pumping my arms and legs as though my life depended on winning, which it kind of did.
Since I’d promised I wouldn’t make a bet with Abram, I decided to change it into a bet with the universe, in my heart, a secret bet. If I won, I would tell him the truth, about Lisa, about me, about how I felt—even though I didn’t have complete clarity on that subject—but if I lost, I’d keep my mouth shut.
Lactic acid burned my muscles, my quads ached, my lungs felt like they might explode, but I made it to the far side of the pool and back in record time, narrowing Abram’s cheating lead. After the second lap we were neck and neck, after the third I was slightly ahead.
But as we pushed off against the deep-side wall, marking the middle of the fourth lap, Abram surged forward. His hips were next to my face, which meant he was a half body length—a half Abram body length—ahead, and I was swimming as fast as I could. There was no way I would catch up. No way.
Despair and frustration gripped my throat and heart and lungs. I felt like crying. I think I did cry because I couldn’t see out of my goggles anymore. Heading into the fifth lap blind, I gritted my teeth, telling myself this was it. This last lap was it. Even though I didn’t believe in such things, I told myself, if I lost, it would be the universe communicating with me. I’d made a binding and irrevocable bet: I could never tell him the truth and there would always be lies between us.
I turned at the far wall just a second after he did. Head down, eyes closed, I put every joule of energy, every milligram of mass, every newton of force in my entire being into propelling myself to first.
Lungs on fire, my hand touched the wall and I immediately popped up, ripping off my goggles and looking to my right, to where Abram should have been. For a second, for a single, solitary moment in the eternity of time, my heart swelled with so much happiness and relief, I thought I might die. He was not there. He hadn’t yet finished. YES!
But then, after two more seconds and no Abram, I frowned. Glancing around, searching for him, I found him treading water in the middle of the pool.
I blinked. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. “What- why?” I didn’t know what I wanted to ask first, and I was still struggling to catch my breath.
He was also breathing hard, also working to catch his, watching me with veiled eyes, too far away for me to search his face for answers.
“What are you doing?” I asked, my voice pitched high and slightly hysterical.
He shook his head. “I forfeit.”
“You- you- you what?” Unthinkingly, I waded toward him, my dismayed stare transfixed on his extremely cool one.
“You win, I’ll leave.” Shrugging, he gave the water a languid stroke, bringing him closer, but only incidentally. I could see now that his destination was the pool steps, not me.
“No!” I darted to the side, putting myself in his path, forcing him to backtrack so as not to collide with me. “No, I don’t win! It’s not winning if you give up.”
“What’s the problem? You win.” His glare had returned, his dark eyebrows descending over equally dark eyes.
“You forfeit, that’s giving up. Not the same as me winning!” My voice was now a frantic, enraged whisper. I slammed the water with my hands, splashing it everywhere. I didn’t care, angry tears were making it impossible for me to see.
God, I just . . . I just . . . I couldn’t remember ever being so angry before.
“What the hell is your problem?” Once again, Abram was speaking through his teeth.
“You’re my problem.” I shoved my face into his. “You don’t forfeit—i.e. give up—in the last leg of the last lap. That’s a shitty thing to do.”
“Oh? Really? Was that shitty of me?” Likewise, he shoved his face forward, not that he had much room to move.
“Yes. Very shitty,” I whispered, but then swallowed the last word because the current of the water—waves caused by our race—pushed me forward. My front knocked into and then slid against his, the slippery friction like a KO punch to my good sense and a wake-up call to everything else.
Him. His eyes. His body. Just . . . yesssss. Yes. The texture, the warmth, the hard planes, the everything. My eyes fell to his lips, pink lusciousness framed by the black shadow of his scruff, a blushing rose among thorns, and I could not look away.
Abram sucked in a hissing breath, his hands immediately coming to my arms and separating us by gently—and firmly—moving me away. But he only moved me six or seven centimeters. We were still plenty close. But not close enough. But still plenty.
“What. Are. You. Doing?” he growled, sounding frustrated and furious. But the question also sounded like a plea.
Still transfixed by his mouth, I shook my head, blinking, breathing just as hard as I’d been when I’d finished the race.
Say one of your anytime-phrases.
These were all signposts on the logical path forward. But I didn’t do any of these. I couldn’t. I was caught in some unknown field, propelled and shredded by an unidentified force, not contact, neither gravitational, magnetic, nor electrical.
Struggling against it made it worse. Ignoring it made it stronger. The only thing I hadn’t tried was accepting it. But I can’t.