Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Revised Chapters 7-9
Hello my friends! I'm a day late I know. Tomorrow my letter to my teen self is up on Dear Teen Me, and I was gone all weekend at the super, fantastic, wonderful ANWA (Association of American Night Writers) conference, so I spent my creative time and energy polishing up that letter, finding the right pictures, and tweaking my bio. Please, please, please stop in at Dear Teen Me tomorrow, read it and leave lots of comments!
Chapter Seven and Eight were such a mess. They needed lots and lots of stage direction beats added to the dialogue. If you're wondering how I do this, check out my Dialogue 101 post on my website's liv2writ blog. Nine chapters revised. Twenty-six more to go. Thanks for your patience.
Tune in tomorrow for at least a couple more.
MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME #10
Dive Buddy: Alex
Dive #: 6
Location: East End, Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Cinderella’s Castle
Weather Condition: perfect
Water Condition: perfect
Water Temp: perfect
Bottom Time: perfect
“Hey, babe.” I close the door to her room and take up my station standing beside her bed. “Ba-abe. I’m back.” She made me go diving. Saturday, too. She knows I’m dying to get out there in the sun and saltwater—knows I wouldn’t leave her for a second unless she insisted. I feel guilty about that first trip I took. Guilty for diving the North Coast on Saturday. But, today, I don’t feel guilty at all.
Leesie’s been docile—sleeps a lot in the day. Nights are hell. But in the day she makes me go to my hotel to get some decent sleep. Then Saturday she started in on diving. “You need to get out of here. I don’t want you to get sick of me.”
At first I was hurt she thought I could ever get sick of her. But I didn’t resist long. I mean—it’s diving. Sorry. Hate me. I deserve it.
She seemed happier Saturday when I got back. Slept better that night. Sunday I freaked her out by asking if she’d like me to try to find her a Mormon church to go to. Sugar said she could leave for a couple hours—no problem. Leesie wouldn’t talk to me the whole rest of the day. Had nightmares again that night. At least that’s what Sugar told me. Leesie wouldn’t let me stay.
So when she was docile and sweet again on Monday, I wasn’t going to argue when she brought up me going diving.
“I’ll take you over to the beach again when I get back.” I plastered a grin on my face.
She didn’t smile back. That rarely happens. Her face just looked less sad for a moment. “I’d love that.”
I left her sleeping soundly, and when I phoned from my hotel early this morning, Sugar said she stayed that way all night. I didn’t feel too bad hopping into the burnt orange RAV4 I rented last Friday and practiced driving on the left-hand side of the road like they do here in Cayman all the way around to the East End.
And now, zero guilt. I’m glad I went.
“Leese.” I press my lips on her forehead. Her scalp is stubbly—like kissing sandpaper, so I don’t do that.
Her eyes open. “Hey.” She purses her lips together until I kiss them. “Scratch my head, okay?” She closes her eyes.
I don’t know if it really itches—she’s numbed up. If she’s drugged enough not to feel her broken collarbone or her ribs smart when she inhales deeply, would she be able to feel an itchy head? I think she just likes me touching it. I scratch her head, lightly. She presses into my fingers.
I avoid the gash. She’s supposed to get the stitches out tomorrow. “I have news.”
Here eyes tighten—ready for a blow. “Did you talk to Stan? Are they going to charge me with vehicular manslaughter? Reckless endangerment?”
I move from scratching to rubbing her head. It feels freaky, but I keep stroking it. “Bad guess. Relax. It’s good news. Us news.”
Her eyes open wide. “We’re going to get married this afternoon instead of going to the beach?”
“Better guess.” I laugh. She never gives up. “But not that good.”
She doesn’t respond.
I draw my hand away from her head. “I found a job, and it comes with a place to stay.” The grin I’ve been holding back breaks out on my face.
Her face falls. “How far away will you be?”
I put my hand on her arm. “The room next door.”
“Here?” Her eyebrows squinch up.
“No, babe.” I lean over and stroke her cheek. “I got a job with our—my—favorite dive guys out at the East End. Two of their dive masters took off. They are way shorthanded and can get an emergency work VISA pushed through for me.” She’s not smiling, not excited. I try again. “They are a great bunch of divers. You’re going to love them.”
“How far away from here is it?” She presses her lips together to still the trembling.
“Don’t worry.” I kiss her forehead. “I’ll drive you back down for physio and check-ups.”
She clutches at my arm. “Where am I going?”
I pat her hand—notice her fingers are no longer swollen. “They are going to try switching you to less industrial-strength pain meds on Thursday. If that goes well, you don’t have to stay here anymore.”
She inhales, holds it and blows it out. “It will go well. It has to.”
Am I pushing this too soon? “How do you feel about leaving?”
She musters a smile. “You’ve got a condo for the two of us?”
“Yeah. Well—not just us.”
The smile slips off her face.
I cradle her hand in both of mine. “There’s not a lot of decent apartments near the resort, and their units aren’t exactly booked up these days, so they rent out one of their condos to all the foreign dive masters and instructors. There’s like eight of them crammed into one two-bedroom condo. Or there was. And there will be again when we move in.”
Her eyebrows shoot up. “I’m moving in with seven guys?”
I don’t like how that sounds. “No. Alex needs a roommate.”
“Who is Alex?”
“The girl running things on the boat today.”
Incredulous. That’s the only way to describe the face she turns away from me. “Not another old girlfriend.”
I nudge Leesie’s chin back in my direction. “Nope.” I kiss her. “Relax, babe. It’s all good. Alex is new here. She’s cool. She told me about the job—set the whole thing up for us.”
I try to kiss her again but she tilts her head to the side to avoid me. “I bet she did.”
I thought we were beyond jealousy by now. I nuzzle the side of her face and whisper in her ear. “I talked about you—my fiancé—the whole freaking time.”
She relents and lets me kiss her.
“You, my coddled princess”—I kiss her again—“get to share the master ensuite with Alex, and I’m stuck on a cot in the living room with three other guys.”
She kisses me back and goes for the jugular. “So I’m only moving in with six hot dive instructors?”
I tickle her for that.
“Don’t, it hurts to laugh.” She bats at my hand.
I sit on the bed’s edge and gather her up in my arms. “Just remember who you’re with, babe.” I suck on her lower lip to remind her.
We make out for awhile, and then she snuggles her face into my neck.
I rub her back. “So we’re good?”
“It’s seems weird to move in with a bunch of strangers.”
“They aren’t strangers. They’re divers. I met them today.”
“My mom would—” She stops, struggles a moment. “Okay.” Her voice wavers. “If that’s what you want to do.”
I hold her closer. “I know it’s not ideal—kind of a zoo.”
Leesie shifts so she can see my face.
I smile encouragement. “Alex is great. She’s got advanced rescue and some EMT training. She said she’d be happy to help you if you need it.”
She manages to smile back. “I should be able to take care of myself.”
“Cool.” I seal the deal with a kiss on her forehead.
She pulls her eyebrows down, accusing. “Aren’t we going to the beach?”
LEESIE HUNT / CHATSPOT LOG / 05/06 2:58 AM
Kimbo69 says: Leesie living with six guys? That’s a picture I can’t process.
Leesie327 says: Ick. You make it sound like they’ll be passing me around.
Kimbo69 says: You don’t have a “Thou shalt not share an apartment with guys” commandment?
Leesie327 says: That’s an old Leesie rule. It doesn’t matter now.
Kimbo69 says: And Michael doesn’t have a problem with it?
Leesie327 says: I’m sharing a room with Alex.
Kimbo69 says: Right. She sounds fishy to me.
Leesie327 says: Michael says she’s like one of the guys.
Kimbo69 says: But she jumped to get him hired.
Leesie327 says: When they are down two dive masters it puts all of them at risk—too much diving. They could get bent. It’s dangerous.
Kimbo69 says: She went after him for her health?
Leesie327 says: She didn’t go after him.
Kimbo69 says: She convinced him to move in with her.
Leesie327 says: I’m moving in with her.
Kimbo69 says: Yeah. That’s a nice touch.
Leesie327 says: Michael and I are way beyond that petty stuff.
Kimbo69 says: And I’m not? Mark and I aren’t? We’ve been together way longer than you have.
Leesie327 says: Our situation is different. No one else exists for either of us.
Kimbo69 says: Liar. You are insanely jealous.
Leesie327 says: Shut up.
Kimbo69 says: Be honest.
Leesie327 says: Okay. I’m scared. I’m scared to leave here. I’m scared to unplug the hospital strength pain killer. I’m scared she’s pretty.
Kimbo69 says: You’re pretty.
Leesie327 says: I’m hideous.
Kimbo69 says: Michael doesn’t think so.
Leesie327 says: He has eyes.
Kimbo69 says: That are glued on you 24/7.
Leesie327 says: But what if she has long hair?
LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM #80, I’VE GOT YOU
First day off morphine starts
sore—even after I swallow
their pills. “You’re job, young lady”—
the doctor hands me a full bottle
of pain-a-cide—“is to take these pills
only for pain—not comfort, not anxiety.”
His golden Cayman tones echo off the
sunny walls. “Don’t skimp at first.
Taper off as soon as you can.”
I hurt too bad to eat breakfast—or even drink
my smoothie. I manage not to puke
my guts up but just barely.
The sore gets worse and worse,
when I breathe, when I move, when I think
but no way I’m telling because
he’s moving in tomorrow, and I’m
going with him.
Michael gets excited when they
unwind the figure eight bandage
that’s trussed my collarbone in place.
“Keep your right arm in the sling.”
Sugar moves it gently back in place.
“But you can move it to dress and bathe.”
Michael rushes over to the tourist trap
across the street, comes back with
a bulging, plastic bag. “Let’s REALLY go
to the beach.” The dressing on my nose
now is more of a brace than a cast.
He tosses the bag on my lap.
I pull out a hottest pink, tropical print
bikini. “You’ve got to be kidding?”
My ribs are unwrapped, but still
black and blue.
Doesn’t he remember my rules?
Bikinis are contraband.
Is this a hint? Does he recognize
I’m lost? Or is he as clueless
over bikinis as he was me
moving into an apartment full of guys?
He digs in the bag and pulls out a t-shirt.
“I got this to keep you decent—
My day’s been too long already. If only
I could lie in bed with the shades pulled down
counting the waves of pain. But
I’m fine. Remember. Nothing wrong
today or tomorrow.
Sugar helps me change, wraps my hand cast
in a bread bag. “Don’t get your face wet
or sand in your boots.” She just washed them.
They stunk. She sprays my head with
sunscreen and ties a scarf around the stubble.
I limp half way, a crutch under my
Michael gets impatient, parks
the crutch under a bush and
carries me the rest of the way.
He sets me on the sand, spreads
out a straw beach mat, trimmed
in hot pink to match my t-shirt
draped bikini. (Feels like sin to wear
it—even hidden away like this.)
We lie together in the sun.
His thigh touches mine. I squint
my eyes against the bright light.
“I forgot.” His hand goes
into his pocket. “One more present.”
He puts sunglasses over my eyes that
have faded from purple to greenish black.
We laze until sweat coats me.
“This t-shirt’s too hot.” He took
his off—why can’t I?
His hand reaches down and unvelcroes
the straps on my boots.
“What are you doing?”
He pushes off my scarf. “We’re going
“No we’re not.”
“No waves today. Come on, babe.
I’ve got you.”
He picks me up, still wearing the shirt,
carries me into cool, silky
water deep as his chest.
His arms loosen. I clutch him.
“Take it easy. This will feel good.”
He makes me lie flat on my back
one arm in my sling, my good hand
holding my broken one on top of
“Fill your chest with air.”
I’m beautifully buoyant in the
salt and sun and Michael’s arms.
“Relax. Put your head back.”
I obey—cool ocean blueness
laps around my body, easing
away heat and a measure of ache,
calming me as I lie embraced
by it’s subtle rhythm.
“Saltwater therapy.” His lips
find a patch of my stubbly head.
“You need more of this.”
“I could lie like this forever.”
“That can be arranged.”
MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME #10
Dive Buddy: Leesie
Dive #: last one at this site
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Rehab Center
Weather Condition: stormier than I knew
Water Condition: choppy
Depth: I can’t tell exactly
Water Temp: chilly
Bottom Time: 20 minutes
I drop by the rehab center on my way to pick up my bags from the airport. Claude finally sent them. I got his email last night. He’s been busy. Shorthanded. I’m not easy to replace. French bull.
The air freight plane landed at 6 AM. The airport’s on our route to our new digs in East End, but I don’t want Leesie to have to tough it out waiting if there’s problems at customs.
Sugar’s serving Leesie breakfast. Tea and toast. Guess her stomach’s not up to her usual fruity smoothie. Shoot. She usually let me finish it off.
Tea? Yuck. She can’t have that. One of her rules. You can’t get a decent can of Coke on the entire BYU campus. She said caffeinated pop is a gray area. It’s not officially part of the rule—commandment. Lots of Mormons drink it, but my Leesie was a purist.
She starts to say something to Sugar. Stops herself. Picks up the spoon and stirs the cup.
“Leese.” I nod to Sugar as she leaves. “Don’t drink that.”
She takes a spoonful, sips. “Damn.” She drops the spoon onto the table that swings over her bed and touches her lips. “It’s hot.”
I point at the cup in her hands. “What are you doing?”
“Sugar said it would settle my stomach.” Her tongue makes “bleck” motions. “How do you drink this stuff? Even with honey it’s nasty.”
I cross the room. “What’s wrong with your stomach?”
“Just a bit queasy.” She focuses her eyes on the teacup. “I’m fine.”
I fill her in on the morning’s agenda. “I’ll be back soon. Are you excited?”
She plasters a fake smile on her face. “Of course.” She picks ice out of her water pitcher and plunks it into her tea.
“What’s wrong?” I need her to be pumped about this.
“Nothing.” She concentrates on stirring the cup. “Can you hold this up for me? I’m afraid I’m going to spill it.”
“No. I told you.” I take the teacup. “You’re not breaking the rules with me around.”
She scowls. “Who made you my judge?”
“You did.” I take the tea into her bathroom and dump it down the sink.
“I was supposed to drink that,” shrill and tense follows me into the bathroom.
“Don’t be like this, Leesie,” I call and turn the water on to to rinse out the sink. “It freaks me out.”
“Do you even care what freaks me out?” She’s shouting by the end of the sentence.
I shut the water off and stare into the mirror. “Of course I do. That’s all I care about.”
“You and Alex,” she shouts, “that freaks me out.”
“What?” I stand in the doorway of the bathroom, shocked. That came out of no where. Alex?
Leesie has her knees pulled up to her chest. She huddles there hanging onto them like a broken butterfly. I walk towards her.
“Don’t send me home.” She blinks fast. Her eyes have gone pink. “I’ll be good. I won’t drink tea.”
I stop halfway to her bed. “Why would I send you home?”
She drops her face to her knees and mumbles.
I take another step closer. “What?”
She lifts her face, squeezes her eyes shut. “You’ve got her now?”
“Who?” I take another step closer.
“That hurts, Leesie.” I pound on my chest like some kind of stupid ape. “Really hurts.”
Leesie raises her head. Tears stream down her face. For the first time since the accident, I see the girl she sees in the mirror. Bruised eyes. Shaved head. Ugly scar. Tear stains. Two long strides close the distance that separates us. I sit on her bed and surround the Leesie bundle perched on it with my arms and whisper, “How can you even begin to think that?”
“Is she pretty?”
“No.” I hand her a tissue and kiss her temple.
Leesie blows her nose. “Is she stacked?”
“She’s all muscle. You’re stacked compared to her.”
“Doe she have long hair?”
I shrug my shoulders. “I couldn’t tell you. I think it’s short. I didn’t notice.”
“Really?” She sits straighter and looks pleased.
“Really.” I kiss her moist cheek. “Are you going to be okay now? No more crazy ideas about Alex?”
“Why are we moving in there?”
“Because I got a job and,”—I hug her—“I think you could use a friend.”
She relaxes against me. “I’m sorry. I’m stupid.”
“Idiotic.” My lips find hers. “Better?”
She nods her head and kisses me again.
LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM #81, MOVING WITH MICHAEL
The clothes I wore here are clean,
folded on a chair. Sugar coaches
me getting the bra on by
myself. I wince and she sees it.
“You missing the morphine?”
I grit my teeth and pick up my jeans.
She puts her hand on mine, hands me
a package from her and the girls.
“Too hot here for denim.”
I unwrap the gift. I’m getting
dang good with my broken hand.
Can do almost anything if I enlist
my teeth. I shimmy into a short,
soft T-shirt dress that hits me
mid-thigh. Yellow as the sunshine.
The top is striped with turquoise
to match the jeweled water.
No zippers, no buttons, no snaps.
I hug her and cry.
“Hush now, we’ll see you on
Wednesday to take out those
stitches. Don’t forget your
physio.” She watches me
get my sling back on by myself,
hands me a cute yellow baseball hat
to match the dress. She winks.
“Make him take you shopping.”
I lift my eyebrows. “Good idea.”
I wait in the garden, breathing
in gardenias and wondering if
his mom knows my brother yet.
Michael arrives, red-faced and muttering
about customs tearing his bags apart
hunting for drugs. “You should have
shaved.” I’m jealous that the hair
on his face is already longer than
the itchy emergent growth
that shadows my head.
“I like your hat.” He helps me to my
feet, hands me the crutch. “And the dress
is way hot.” He strokes the few inches of bare
thigh exposed between cast and hem.
His fingers send pulses up my legs.
I inch the skirt higher and will
his hand to follow. The fingers retreat.
He shakes one at me like I’m three
and naughty. “Let’s go.”
We drive along Seven-Mile Beach,
through the honking, packed
downtown core onto a wild
highway that hugs the coast.
All the way the water’s too turquoise
to be real. Looks painted, fake—until
a wave rolls up and crashes
into the coral coast, spurting
white spray high in the air
through funnels that amplify
the power. I want to stop and watch,
but Michael’s late. Working
the PM boat.
We pull into the resort parking lot.
Rectangular buildings built
to deflect storms. Three stories.
Colored a dark echo of the water.
Not much after Seven-Mile swank.
He grabs my bags. “Most of my
stuff is gear. I’ve got a locker down
by the dock.” He totes my duffel bags
up all three flights of stairs
and bursts in through a door at the top.
I’m dizzy and hurting by the time
I catch up.
“Hey, Leese. This is Alex.”
He disappears into a room.
An over-tanned girl
with uber-short hair
gives me a hug.
“Welcome to the hovel.”
I feel the muscles in her
arms. She wears a rash
guard over a bikini.
Her legs are solid muscle—
like a skinny weight lifter.
She lets me go.
“You’re late,” she yells
at Michael like a boss.
“Our boat leaves in fifteen minutes.”
I find Michael in my new room.
It’s dominated by a giant
Alex hollers on her way
out the door, “They’re bringing
our new beds in an hour.
Can you let the guys in?”
Alex and her last roomie shared?
That makes me kind of nervous.
What did Michael leave out?
“Is she gay?” I need to know.
What if I said the wrong thing?
Michael shakes his head. “Broken-
hearted. Her boyfriend took off.”
“One of the defectors?”
He nods. “Gabriel says she sleeps
on the floor. Can’t stand
to get back in that bed.”
“And the other girl was here, too?”
“She was with Seth.”
“Yeah. You’ll be good for her.”
He kisses me good-bye.
“Unpack. You get half
the closet and these drawers.”
I wave with the last
tidbit of endurance I posses
as he evaporates from the room,
collapse on the forbidden bed,
close my eyes, drift
on the pain that radiates
out from my collarbone,
dwarfing every other malady.
The buzzer ringing and a loud
hammering knock shaking the door
startle me awake.
I can’t find my crutch,
hobble fast as I can to open it.
Two guys. Two mattresses.
“Where do you want these?”
I lead them to the room.
They shift bedding off the big
mattress and pick it up.
I retreat into the kitchen
to get out of their way.
A major ripped guy bursts from
the other bedroom, clothed
only in boxers—glares at me.
“What the eff’s going on?”
I manage to squeak,
“Just moving in,” around
the nervous shock that clogs
my thought process with,
Flight, flight, flight, flight.
He looks at me like I’m
circus freak meat.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Leesie.” More squeaking.
He heads into the bathroom—
doesn’t close the door.
I decide it’s time to enjoy
the view from the balcony.
The moving guys finished fast,
I’m chicken to go
back inside. I’m alone
in this dump apartment
with a total stranger.
But Michael knows him.
Maybe? Trusts him.
It would serve Michael right
if this boxer jerk attacks me.
He stuck me here with the creep.
I hobble back in the apartment
prepared for the worst.
No sign of the guy.
His door’s closed again.
I trip over cots, towels, blankets,
and a pulled out hide-a-bed
hurrying to make it back to my room.
Pull the door tight. Lock it.
Go in the ensuite bathroom.
Lock that door, too.
Slip my right hand free
of it’s sling, splash water on my
burning neck and cheeks,
pull the chain with my ring
over my head, fumble to get
it unlocked, slide the ring off
and jam it onto my left hand,
third finger so I can wave
it in that guys face if he
comes near me, wishing
Michael was here
to take me floating again.
I sit on the toilet and gather
strength to face my afternoon’s labors.
I move at last—unlock the door,
unzip my first duffel bag
scared of what I’ll find inside—
muddy damp refuse from
the side of the mountain?
No. The clothes are fresh laundered,
folded sloppy-sweet like a guy did it.
Jeans and sweatshirts. Useless here.
Two pairs of capris, my old swimsuit,
ugly work-out shorts, socks, panties,
a couple of embarrassing worn out
double A bras that have always been
too big. Lots of T-shirts.
As I put the T’s in the second drawer down,
I pick up a shirt that’s not mine.
Navy. Guy cut. BYU logo across the front.
I see it on Phil the day before we left.
I kneel down,
stare at it,
willing it to move.
MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME #10
Dive Buddy: Guide
Dive #: 7
Location: East End, Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Barrel Sponge Wall
Weather Condition: sunny
Water Condition: 3’ surge
Water Temp: 82
Bottom Time: 49 minutes
Felt bad dumping Leesie in that trashed apartment and bolting, but boats don’t wait. Maybe this isn’t going to work. She didn’t look happy when I left. Not that I expect her to look happy. Lost. Scared. Wiped out.
I thought about buying us our own condo down here or even a house, but we can’t stay there alone if we’re not married. We could get married, but I’m convinced she’s so eager to tie the knot because I’m off limits. Marrying me is as taboo as shacking up with me. It wouldn’t be “major sin,” but when I asked her before Christmas, she insisted I believe all her Mormon stuff and join up before she’d even consider putting on my ring. She’s so screwed up right now. She’s got to be thinking a lot straighter before we get married. What if she comes out of it in a year and hates me forever because I took advantage of her when she was desperate?
I don’t think she’ll ever be a hundred percent like she was before. I’ll take fifty—twenty-five. I’m crazy to think she’ll be close to that by the end of summer. But we’re waiting. It doesn’t feel right. Whenever I think of getting married “tomorrow” like she wants, I get this dark, foreboding feeling. I’m not going to be the evil infidel who carries off the virgin. I’m not going to let her do drugs or smoke. Freak. I won’t even let her drink a stupid cup of tea. So what do we do? I had no idea.
And then all of a sudden these guys need me and Alex needs a roommate. Perfect answer. Almost. Me dumping her there and running off to dive—even if it’s work—is so not perfect.
I grab my bag of gear out of the back of the RAV, tote it down to the dock, and hand it into the boat to Alex.
“Have you got everything you need?” She shades her eyes with her hand and squints.
“I have no idea.” I step down into the dive boat, take my bag, check it to make sure Claude actually sent all my gear. It looks good. I give Brock, an Aussie dude who’s captain today, a thumbs up, and Ethan and Gabriel, who will leave later on the other boat with Cooper, cast off the ropes. I catch one. Alex gets the other. Brock motors towards the break in the reef and the wild three foot swells beyond it.
He guns the boat through the cut and we’re into the pulsing ocean. Our divers hang on tight. “This is calm for East End,” Brock yells down to them.
Alex and I get our divers geared up and thrown overboard. She gave me all the jocks. Nice. We go deep first dive.
I push my group to the edge to get down to my favorite swim through at this site. We wind through the coral cave that narrows into a tube. One of the divers gets hung up. I send the others ahead—fin back and help his useless buddy untangle the dude’s hoses. The group misses the turn that takes them up to the top of the reef. I get their attention banging on my tank with a heavy metal d-ring I keep hanging on my B.C. just for that purpose. I motion them to return and follow me. They maneuver around in the tight space, eventually we’re one by one carefully rising through a chute forty feet to the top of the reef.
We finish off the dive, toss around in the boat until we motor back inside the reef where it’s calm enough to wait out the interval without all the divers puking their guts up. So far no one’s blown chunks. Good day in East End.
I change over all the gear while Alex cuts up fresh fruit and passes out bottles of water. I figure I owe her. I don’t mind doing the heavy work.
Second dive is shallow, strong surge, and too short. A couple of my divers suck through their tanks too fast. I let the rest explore this easy site on their own, get the goons topside and safe on the rocking boat, and when I go back the rest are surfacing, too.
As the boat makes the dash through the break in the reef, I notice somebody lying on the beach. Nobody much uses this beach. It’s kind of there for show. Everybody who comes here dives all day long. We get closer, and I recognize Leesie.
I hustle heaving up gear bins and empty tanks. The other boat got in before us so there are lots of hands to help. Alex is strong as a guy. She hands up tanks and gear almost as fast as I do.
I climb out of the boat, pick up my gear bag, and dump it in the soak tank. I’ll deal with it after I check in with Leese. She hasn’t moved since I first saw her.
“Hey, mate.” Brock calls after me. “When do we get to meet your fiancé?”
I stop, turn back. “Now’s good. She’s down on the beach.”
“I’ll gather the mates, and we’ll present ourselves to your lady. See you in ten.”
“Cool.” I hustle down to the beach to warn her.
She’s sleeping in the sand wearing only that ugly T-shirt I bought her and the bikini bottoms. She looks way too sexy like that to meet her new apartment-mates.
“Hey, babe.” I nudge her with my toe.
She doesn’t stir.
I drop onto the sand on all fours hanging over her. “Babe.”
She opens one eye. “Hey.”
I sit next to her and speak low. “What’s with the wet T-shirt contest?”
She yawns and opens both eyes. “I couldn’t tie those stupid strings.”
“You could have left your bra on.”
“My sling covers everything.”
“Not everything. Here.” I hold out my towel. “Use this. The guys will be here in a few minutes. They want to meet you.”
“You don’t want them”—she glances down at what’s showing through her damp T-shirt—“to see that?”
“You’re jealous?” She sits up and takes the towel.
“Protective. These guys seem nice—divers and all—but did you see the bathroom? Animals.”
“I can clean it up for you.”
“Don’t go near it. It’s toxic. You’ll end up back in the hospital.”
“I’ve cleaned up after guys back—” She closes her eyes tight and puts her hand over her mouth to hide her trembling lips.
I sit next to her, wrap my towel around both of us, loop my arms around her shoulders and pull her in tight.
She shivers and puts her head on my shoulder. “I found his T-shirt mixed in with my stuff.” Her whisper is so quiet I can barely hear her.
I chafe her shoulders. “That’s why you’re down here half-naked?”
“I guess.” Her voice quivers. “I dropped it. Couldn’t pick it up. Isn’t that stupid? It’s still on the floor.”
I squeeze her. “Not stupid at all. I’ll go up and take care of it.”
A shudder runs through her body.
“Do you want to meet these guys later?”
“I already met one. Why didn’t you tell me there was a guy asleep in the other bedroom?”
“I had no idea. Was he nice?”
“Must be Seth. I guess he has a right to be grumpy. I heard Ethan and Cooper had to pull him out of some bar late last night. He must have been sleeping it off.” I start to get up. “I’ll go tell the others you’ll meet them later.”
She holds me next to her. “Too late. They’re here.”
I stand up, leave Leesie the towel. “Hey guys—this is Leesie.”
She stays sitting in the sand, waves and even manages a smile. “Sorry I can’t get up. Both ankles are sprained.” She tips her head towards her blue post-op boots cast off beside her.
Brock squats down in front of her. “I’m Brock. These goons are Gabriel, and my Commonwealth brothers, Ethan and Cooper.”
Gabriel acknowledges her with a nod and a flashy smile and trudges through the sand toward the condo building, but Ethan and Cooper sit down beside her. I take up a proprietary station behind her, slip a possessive arm around her waist.
She glances from side to side at Ethan and Cooper. “Where are you guys from?”
Cooper, who has bleached blonde hair and a perpetual burn, smiles and says, “Guess.”
Leesie squints her eyes. “You don’t have an accent.”
Ethan tips his head close to hers. “Aye, he does lass. Get him to say ‘eh.’”
Cooper’s face gets a little pinker. “Guilty. And Ethan’s a loud mouth Scot.”
He leans forward so he can glare at Cooper. “She was supposed to guess.”
Brock settles cross-legged in the wet sand in front of her. “That leaves me. I’ll give you a hint. I’m not here to get out of the gloom and cold like these other two blokes are.”
“Braggart.” Ethan flicks sand at him.
I lean forward and whisper in Leesie’s ear. “He called me ‘mate’ like a thousand times today on the boat.”
“That could be English? No. Australian.”
Brock laughs. “No fair, mate. You gave it away.”
“Sorry, dude.” My arms tighten around Leesie’s waist. “I don’t like to see my damsel in distress.”
Brock takes the hint. “Well,” he stands, “we’ll leave you two to it.” He drags Ethan and Cooper off their butts. “Let’s give the lovers some peace.
“See you upstairs, eh?” Cooper exaggerates his accent.
“Glad to have you aboard.” Ethan puts out his hand, and Leesie takes it. “Alex is that pleased to have another lass in the place.”
Leesie smiles and let’s go of his hand. “Thanks. We’ll be up soon.”
She watches them out of sight. I watch her. She plays with my fingers clasped around her waist.
I notice she put my ring on her finger. Cool, babe. That’s where it belongs. “What do you think?”
“I like the Commonwealth Brothers.”
I nod. “Divers.”
“What’s with Gabriel?”
“He’s a Latin playboy who will inherit half the known universe.”
“He is gorgeous.”
“I heard that.” I kiss the soft spot where her neck and shoulder meet.
She relaxes against me. “They are all a lot nicer than that guy upstairs.”
“All guys are gross after they’ve drunk themselves numb.”
She cranes her neck so she can see my face. “You’ll never do that will you?”
“I can only think of one thing that would make me do that.” I tip my forehead so it touches her head.
“What do you think?” I release her waist and rub her shoulders.
“Me?” She shifts so she lying in my arms across my lap. “In Thailand”—she touches my face and her voice drops low—“when I accused you”—she turns her head and stares at the ocean like she’s trying to see me on the other side of the world—“what happened?”
I follow her gaze. “I became a work-a-holic.”
“I’m glad you had that job.”
“I should have blown it off—come right home and set you straight.”
She turns her face back to mine. “I should have believed you.”
I should never have stormed off in the first place. But freak, girl, you should have taken my ring. I feel echoes of how angry I was even now.
She kisses my neck. “I’m sorry.” She finds my lips. “Things would be so different if I’d believed you.”
“What do you mean?” I murmur against her mouth.
“Nothing.” Her lips are on mine for a long time. “Why didn’t I trust you?”
“I don’t now, babe.” I scoop her closer so I can kiss her better. “It doesn’t matter now.”
I’m starving, and I’ve got all those tanks to fill, but I can’t let go of her. We make out with the ocean lapping at our feet and the sun setting behind us.
Alex interrupts us. “Sorry.” She holds out a paper plate with two sandwiches on it. “I’m not much of a cook.”
I grab a sandwich and take a big bite. “Leesie is.”
“Bonus.” Alex sits down by Leesie. “I knew I liked you.”
They start to jabber about clothes and stuff. I slip away, leaving the girls to get to know each other. I’ve got a date with about forty empty scuba tanks and big fat compressor.
As I walk down to the dock, I’m engulfed by a wave of intense emotion. It takes me a moment to figure out what it is. Freak, I’m happy. It’s tinged with ache for Leesie and her grief and pain. But we’re together. She’s mine.
And nothing can change that.