Page 42 of Before (After 5)

Does she even like swimming? I probably should have asked her.

I stay quiet and let her take in her surroundings before asking her anything. Now that we’re alone together, I can’t think of shit to talk about. Maybe I should just get into the water? Tessa’s standing in the same spot she was the last time I looked at her. She’s pushing the dirt around with her shoe to avoid looking at me.

Fuck this awkward shit. I’m getting into the water.

I pull my T-shirt over my head and listen for the inevitable whimpering sound to come from Tessa. She doesn’t say much, but she’s very animated when it comes to matching a sound track to her expressions. With a smile usually comes a sigh, with annoyance comes huffing, and with arousal comes her panting.

“Wait, why are you undressing?” she inquires. I don’t think she’s aware of just how hard she’s staring at my bare chest. She clears her throat and asks, “You’re going to swim? In that?”

She points to the water with a look of disgust. Of course Little Miss Priss doesn’t want to get her clothes and hair wet.


“Yeah, and you are, too. I do it all the time.” I pop open the button on my jeans, and Tessa continues to complain.

Still, she watches me undress while doing so.

“I am not swimming in that.”

This water is clearer than most lakes I’ve ever seen, actually. Which is exactly why I can’t stand stuck-up, snobby girls who are afraid to get dirt under their manicured nails.

“And why is that? It’s clean enough that you can see the bottom.” I point toward the sparkling water. I thought she would be more impressed than she is. The idea that I never know what she’s thinking unnerves me.

“So . . . there are probably fish and God knows what in there!” she shrieks.

Fish? Really? That’s what this strange girl is worried about?

“Besides, you didn’t tell me we were going swimming, so I have nothing to swim in.”

“You’re telling me you’re the kind of girl who doesn’t wear underwear?” I smile at her, desperate to see her in such attire. “Yeah, so go in your bra and panties.” There’s no way in hell she’s going for that. I can see the anger building behind those gray eyes, and I can’t wait to hear her reply.

“I am not swimming in my underwear, you creep.” Tessa sits down on the grass a few feet above the bank. “I’ll just watch.”

She smiles and crosses her legs.

She’s staring at my body again. This time she’s looking at the outline of my cock in my boxers. Her cheeks are flushed, and she’s trying hard to look away, pretending to be focused on the bundle of grass blades in her hand.

“You’re no fun. And you’re missing out,” I call to her as I jump into the cold water.

Fuucckk, this water is colder than I thought. I swim out toward the opposite bank, where the sun hits the water all day and the temperature changes drastically.

“The water is warm, Tess!” I call to her.

She looks up from the pile of grass blades she’s building to distract herself. She’s bored out of her fucking mind, and I don’t have the first idea how to change that. She won’t even get into the water with me—what am I supposed to do?

“This is one beyond-boring friendship so far . . .”

Tessa rolls her eyes and lifts her head back to the sun.

“At least take your shoes off and put your feet in. It feels amazing, and pretty soon it will be too cold to swim in.”

Tessa agrees and pulls off her shoes, placing them neatly beside her. Those shoes she wears are odd—they look like scraps of cloth taped to a piece of floppy cardboard. They can’t possibly be comfortable. She rolls her jeans up her legs and pulls her bottom lip between her teeth as she pushes her feet into the water.

I wait for her to complain, but a wide smile fills her face. “It’s nice, isn’t it?” I ask her.

She looks away, tilting her head farther into the sun.

“So just come in.” I dip my head back into the water and soak my hair, trying to convince her.

When I lift back up, Tessa is shaking her head. She still won’t get into the water. Christ, this woman is difficult. I splash water at her, and she shrieks, scooting back up the grass. I’ve never been at this place with someone else; it’s a little weird having company out here.

How can I get her to come in? The entire day will be a huge waste of time if she doesn’t get into the water. I need to negotiate with her. But what would she want in return?

She doesn’t seem like the compromising type . . .

“If you come into the water, I’ll answer one of your always-intrusive questions. Any question that you want, but only one.” I say my idea out loud the moment it comes into my mind. She’s so nosy, this will thrill her.

“This offer expires in one minute.” I have to give her a time limit or she’ll surely take all damn day. I dip under the water and hold my breath as I swim about twenty feet. Tessa is probably scowling above the surface. The thought makes me laugh, and I nearly choke on the water.

“Tessa”—I wish she would just stop thinking so damn much—“stop overthinking everything, and just jump in.”

She looks down at her outfit. “I don’t have anything to wear. If I jump in in my clothes, I’ll have to walk back to the car and ride back soaked.”

“Wear my shirt.” With my offer, she frowns and looks at the piece of clothing in question lying close by on the grass. “Go on, just wear my shirt. It will be long enough for you to wear in the water and you can keep your bra and panties on . . . if you wish,” I add. I would very much enjoy it if she didn’t wear her bra or panties, but it’s up to her, of course.

Tessa looks around again, taking in the water and my half-naked body before she reaches down and plucks my shirt from the ground. I win.

“Fine.” She’s such a bratty little thing. She rests her hand on her hip and continues her negotiation. “But turn around and don’t look at me while I’m changing—I mean it!”

The little roaring kitten is back. I laugh, and she does this weird little thing with her hips, moving them back and forth as she pushes my black shirt between her thighs to hold while she lifts her shirt up over her head. I quickly turn around. I’m a gentleman—really, I am.

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