Authors: Kate Ashton
Second Chances Series
Every Little Piece
Every Little Secret
Every Little Dream (Coming soon!)
Text copyright © 2013 by Kate Ashton
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I remember when I first met Chad: the day, the moment, the second he entered my life. He rushed in like a hot summer breeze, the kind that makes you want to strip your clothes and dip into the ocean or take a long cold shower, the kind that teases your skin with promises of what’s to come, the kind that drives a girl to make foolish choices to escape the heat.
And that’s what I did. Within hours of meeting, our bare skin crushed together in mind-blowing, passionate, don’t-tell-your-grandma-about-it kind of sex. At first, he was sweet and wild, a contradiction of sorts, everything a girl—everything I—could hope for. Later? I’m not so sure it was him that changed, but me. But it’s those early times, the sweet spot in our relationship, dancing on the fringes of my memories that keep me with him.
My fourth shot—or maybe my fifth—splashes onto my arm as I throw it back. It burns my throat, trailing heat down through my chest. It feels good as the memories from today slowly numb and the smell of sweat and booze, and the loud, raucous laughter takes their place.
Chad jokes with his friend on the other side of the room. His lean, muscular body looks good enough to eat, his jeans falling just below his waist. His black hair hangs at the edges of his face, hiding his eyes and the smile that can charm the pants off any girl with two legs.
The music pounds so loud it seeps into my skin and bones. My head throbs. The Salty Dog is more packed than usual, filled with the usual beach crowds, a mix of tourists and regulars. It was a night like this that Chad asked me to dance. I said yes and never looked back.
Jimmy nudges him and points over to me. Shit. No more hiding in the shadows. I push the shot glass aside, ready to pretend I’m still in the throes of perpetual lust that our relationship had from the first time he asked me to dance. Maybe tonight I can remember enough to go back to that place.
He smiles that lazy smile that used to send my toes curling and lower regions throbbing. He crooks a finger, asking me to come to him. When I hesitate, he moves across the floor. I breathe deep, gripping the wood of the bar, feeling the tiny dents under my fingertips. I close my eyes and sway to the deep bass of the music, letting it penetrate my body and heart, hoping for a small twinge of lust or something.
The touch of his hand skims the bare skin on my arm. It used to send shivers through my body and weaken my knees. He nips at my earlobe then whispers, “Dance with me?”
I’m lucky to have him, lucky he wants to be with me, lucky that any man wants me. Dad said this afternoon that I’d be lucky to land a husband some day. Every day I’m with Chad, I prove my dad wrong, that I can be loved…that I am lovable.
I follow Chad to the dance floor, accompanied by the hoots and hollers of his friends.
“Just ignore those assholes.” He traces kisses along my neck.
Tentatively, I place my arms around his neck and let my fingers play with the ends of his hair, pulling, teasing. He pushes the limit, his fingers finding the bare skin on my leg underneath my skirt. They gently trace up and down getting closer and closer to the edges of my panties.
He leans over. His lips whisper against my shoulder so gently. The music swirls around us, the frenzied passion in the song going straight to Chad’s groin. He presses against me. His cologne imprints on my body and entangles with my hair. It clashes with the sweaty musky smell of the working class of this town.
I try and pull away ever so slightly, give him the hint, but our hips grind and sway to the beat. I know where this is going and at one point, I didn’t care. For the most part darkness shrouds our indecent behavior but a flush creeps up my neck. Most couples don’t dance like this here, like they might as well be having sex. Not in The Salty Dog, a small-town beach bar.
He murmurs against my neck, not picking up on my cues. How can guys be like that? Once they start thinking with their other brain, forget it. All rationale and ability to reason disappears.
I’m sure the old fogies are getting off. Our dance is the closest they’ll get to the real thing, at least with a young girl. Well, I’m not exactly young. I’m past legal at twenty-one and in my second year at the local college until I figure my life out. Dad’s orders. Hopefully, I can transfer out at the end of the year, far, far away.
Dad wasn’t about to pay for an Ivy League school if I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. Deep down, I know it’s not about me. Dad wants my cheap labor in his office. Someone to keep his indiscretions and secrets. Someone to look the other way when he screws the secretary in the copy room after hours. I’d leave but in no uncertain terms it would mean my funding would be cut off and my chances at getting out of here significantly reduced.
Chad kisses my cheek, then whispers. “I can ditch the guys tonight.”
“Really,” I say in a huff. “That’s okay. Hang with your friends.” The words slipped out before I could stop them. I was too caught up thinking about my dad. “I mean I wouldn’t want to take you away from your friends.”
He pulls back, his eyes darkening. His messy black hair contrasts with the perfect pale coloring of his face. He bites on his lip ring, a sure sign I’ve said too much. In the past few weeks, I’ve had a harder time hiding my lack of enthusiasm.
Quickly, I try and recover. I snake my hands out and place them against his firm abs, teasing his skin and dipping lower in a provocative gesture. “Maybe tomorrow night?”
He pulls my face close, pressing his mouth to mine, his tongue darting between my lips. For just a moment, I try and let go, hoping something inside me will stir, that the desire will spark. Then he has to end it with squeezing my butt.
The last of my patience wears through. I push him away. “Why do you have to do that?” I say it louder than I mean to, but this has been building for the last week.
As usual, he’s the last one to figure out that something’s not right between us. “What do you mean?” He glances around, his cheeks reddening as if I’ve embarrassed him.
“Why do you have to act like I’m cattle you have to brand?” He’s confused. “Grabbing my butt is not a way of saying goodbye. At least the last time I checked.” The words keep spilling out my mouth. “Like when you’re not around me, your hand imprint will still be on my ass so guys will know to leave me alone.”
He loses the confusion. “What’re you trying to say, Carly?” He broadens his shoulders, taking the defensive. “I’m not good enough for you?”
I blow air through my lips. “I don’t know, I guess, I wish our relationship wasn’t just about satisfying your sex drive.”
The song that was playing stopped so everyone close by heard my last sentence. There’s a collective pause until the next song starts and the customers go back to their drinking. Though now more eyes are on us, wondering if a fight is about to break out.
Chad bites his lips, his fingers trembling at his side. Shit. I’ve pushed him too far, but I don’t regret it.
“Get out!” he says all rough-like.
That just pisses me off more. “Why me? Why don’t you leave if you’re not happy?”
“Fuck, Carly. Why do you have to do this? Why ruin the good thing we got going?” Then as if he wants to get in the last insult, his eyes rake my body, before he flips around and returns to his friends.
On shaky legs, I walk back to the bar and pick up my purse that I left draped over the stool. I glance over at Chad slamming back a beer. A sigh escapes, and I quietly slip out the back.
My black boots catch on a stone and I stumble, the shots affecting me. The cracked cement of the parking lot rushes up at me but I find my balance before I face plant in front of the constant stream of customers still arriving.
An older man walks past, tsking at my apparent drunkenness. I’m feeling a little tipsy, but I can hold my own. Lately, that seems to be more than usual. I peer into the darkness across the street at the boardwalk. The smell of dead fish hits my nostrils. Most people love living near the ocean. Not me. Sure in a nostalgic moment I’ll go study the waves and lose myself in their rhythm, but for the most part I’m not a fan.
Instead of wanting to crawl back to the bar and reassure myself that Chad and I are okay with whispered words and kisses, a new feeling emerges. Maybe it’s been a long day. I’m tired. Do I have to want to have sex all the time? Can’t I just want to hang out? Have fun?
The feeling grows, rushing through me. I try to stop the thoughts that flash back to Seth. The boy I crushed on for years. The boy I wanted but could never have. Seems like every time I doubt my relationship with Chad or think about my dad, I think of Seth and the years I spent convincing myself that if I had him, my life would be fine. He’d take care of me. Not anymore. He’d left with Haley months ago.
Tonight, in this moment, I want to do something for me. The weariness of always pleasing others weighs on me. I head toward the ocean. Gravel crunches under my boots, then the smooth pavement of the road, the cement of the boardwalk, and then the soft, shifting sand.
The crashing waves either greet me or shout their warning to head back, that I shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t allow myself to think too much. I lose myself in the dark swirling around me like an evening cloak.
My boots slip off easily, and I dig my feet into the cold sand. The moonlight peeps out from the clouds, dancing on the curling, spitting water. The ocean is calm but as soon as it nears the shore something makes it mad because then it froths at the mouth and becomes dangerous. I’ve never liked the contradiction.
But it’s this contradiction that turns my lingering feelings of regret to a desire to live for myself and not let others control what I do. I want to be like the waves crashing against the beach, then slipping quietly away, in control.
I unzip the back of my skirt and let it drop to the sand. Hesitantly, I step out, my body coursing with the adrenaline of what I’m about to do. In a quick moment of fear, I glance around the beach. I’m alone.
My shirt is made of stretchy material and I pull my arms out of the sleeves. Oh my God, am I really going to do this? With a squeal of fear or excitement—I’m not sure which—I throw my shirt to the side. I shiver as the cool ocean breeze hits my skin.
I step closer, the spray of a wave splashes against my legs. I skitter back, doubting. The water is rather cold. I’m either going to do this or I’m not. I can’t stand half-naked, waiting for the right moment. With a deep breath, I let out a shout, then plunge into the waves.
The cold shocks my body as it covers me. I burst from the water, gasping, wiping the water away from my eyes. I give another shout, proud of myself for taking a chance.
My triumph is short-lived as a second wave crashes into me. I tumble forward, scraping against the sand, pushed under the water. I stand on wobbly legs when a third wave starts capping. I duck underneath, hoping to miss it. The tide pulls at my body, pulls my feet from under me, dragging me out.