Steam rose from his body as if his outrageous hotness physically manifested and clashed with the frigid air. His gray sweatshirt was soaked, and it clung tightly to his chest, enough to see the outline of the wide shoulders and thick muscles underneath. I rubbed my eyes, figuring the contaminated water I swallowed was making me hallucinate. No way this was real. I looked again and realized it wasn’t an illusion.
A hint of a tattoo peeked out the side of his sweatshirt collar along his neck. I squinted but couldn’t make out what it was because it extended further down beneath his drenched clothing. It made me wonder what other tattoos he could be hiding. Finishing my assessment of his dazzling figure, my conclusion consisted of two words: Padded and tatted.
My face was becoming warm despite the cold, and my heart started beating faster. As an attempt to calm myself, I wracked my brain to pick a better-looking savior from any of the thousands of students I’d seen before on campus. But I couldn’t pick anyone. Who could rival him?
“What was that?” he shouted again but softer this time. His voice was rough and husky—though laced with concern.
As if almost drowning in Lake Peepee wasn’t embarrassing enough already, I had to be fished out by the hottest guy I’d seen in ages—maybe ever. If he hadn’t jumped in to save me, I might’ve been a goner.
My teeth chattered. “I-I-It’s the cat’s fault.”
He stared into the distance then furrowed his brows. “What are you talking about? What cat? There’s nothing there.”
I followed his gaze and spotted the bridge. The stupid black cat was still there watching us but it was motionless, blending in with the dark foliage behind it. It had an impassive expression as if it was smugly saying, “What a bunch of idiots.”
“It’s right there.” I pointed desperately with a wet finger. “Can’t you see it?”
He squinted. “I don’t see anything. There’s nothing there.”
God. This guy might have a stunning face and a great body but his eyesight is terrible.
Groaning in frustration, I shook my finger at the cat. “Look again. It’s right next to that bush.” As soon as I finished my sentence, the cat hopped into the bush and disappeared along with any evidence proving that I wasn’t a crazy person who saw imaginary cats. That little bastard.
“You’re crazy. You know that?” he yelled. “Crazy.” Those accusatory gray eyes pierced deep into mine, sending an unwelcome flutter through my belly.
“I’m not crazy,” I cried. “I know what I saw. I swear it was right there. And don’t call me crazy.”
He shook his head. “You almost got us both killed, flailing around like some kind of idiot. That was probably the least helpful thing you could’ve done. Did you want us to die?”
A wave of embarrassment and annoyance washed over me as I threw my hands up. “I was drowning, dude. What did you expect?”
Tattoos and Muscles sucked in a deep breath, his chest rising. The intensity in his eyes seemed to dissipate. “Do you know how dangerous it is to be out here alone? Do you know how cold the water is?” he asked, as if I was a two-year-old.
Yeah, we were both in it, remember? God, this guy’s an idiot. All brawn, no brain.
It took too much effort to be a smartass though and my sides hurt too much. “Yes I know how cold the water is,” I said, controlling the urge to be snarky toward the man who just saved my life. “I didn’t mean to go in. I fell.”
“No one’s around at this time, students haven’t arrived yet, the ground is slippery. You’ve gotta be some kind of special to be fooling around here by yourself. Ya know if I hadn’t been jogging past at that moment . . .” Mid-sentence, he narrowed his eyes at me, a startling look of realization crossing his face. “Wait. Was that . . . was that . . . Were you trying to commit suicide? Are you depressed or something?”
“No! I just—” I thought about mentioning the cat again, but decided that was a lost cause. “I just lost my balance, that’s all . . .”
He studied me a bit longer, as if considering if I was lying to him or not. I didn’t have the energy to pretend I was okay, so he would just have to take my word for it. “What were you doing on the bridge?”
Oh, you know. Just hanging out, playing with the fish, reading my dad’s suicide note. The usual.
“I was enjoying the view.” As I got to my feet, my wet clothes dripped onto the icy gravel. Tattoos and Muscles—T&M—eyed me up and down carefully. He was watching me like I was going to jump back into the lake at any second. “I’m not going to jump in again. Chill out.”
He straightened from the rock he was sitting on and approached me. I took a step back afraid he took offense to the unintentional pun I made about “chilling out”. He violently rubbed his hands together then grabbed a handful of my jacket.
“What are you doing?”
I tried to take another step back but he held firm. He was right in front of me and I looked up at him, heart pounding. My eyes flickered to his lips. I was suddenly aware of the acute fluttering effect he had on my nerves when in such close proximity.
He twisted the front of my jacket, wringing out a splash of water.
“We need to get ourselves somewhere warm, before we freeze to death,” he said, his tone softening. He continued to wring out my jacket, first the front, then the back and sleeves. Then he went to work on himself, squeezing the icy lake water from his sweatshirt and sweatpants.
I nodded in agreement then took a few steps towards the direction of campus. I couldn’t wait to get back to my room—to forget this day ever happened.
“Hey, where are you going?” he snapped.
A gust of wind blew across my face as I answered. “D-D-Dorm.”
“Fuck the dorms, you’ll be frozen stiff by the time you get there. My place is just past that trail.” He pointed to a jogging trail leading into the forest. “Let’s go there and get you warmed up first. Get us both warmed up.”
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. If I wanted to go back to my room, I’d have to walk halfway across campus. My clothes would probably become ice armor by the time I got there.
I thought a moment about how I knew nothing about this guy and was going over to his place. Ordinarily I’d be cautious, but these were unusual circumstances. This was a matter of life and death—literally. Besides, T&M didn’t seem dangerous; he’d just saved my life. If anything he probably thought I was the unstable one.