Page 48 of We Were Once

She puts on a good show but even the thought of getting caught didn’t keep those clothes on. “Then why are you nervous? Have you ever been skinny dipping before?”

“It’s almost October and cold, but besides that, you act like you have me all figured out, Evans.”

The curve of her waist reminds me of a crescent moon. As much as I want to hold her close to feel the heat we create together, I’m not going to force her to go deeper. “I’m pretty confident I do.”

Every step I take, she follows, the water lapping her hips and causing her to shiver. “It’s cold.”

“You’ll get used to it. If not, I’ll warm you up.”

Taking baby steps as she goes deeper, she releases my hand. “The bottom of the lake is muck and gross.”

“Doesn’t bother me. I grew up swimming in this lake.”

Getting waist deep, she asks, “Tell me what you’ve figured out about me.”

I smirk. “You’re my sweet and innocent girl.”

“You always say that.” My gaze skims over her curves and lands on her eyes, the low light glistening in them. My gorgeous girlfriend. The Goddess Aphrodite.

Once she eases in, she swims a bit until she reaches me. Moonbeams dance across her skin, nipples firm from the cool water, making me want to touch her. “You’re not that guilty either. You could have traveled the world for all I know, but you’re entertained by me, my run-down truck. Fascinated by the lake and sex.”

Shock spikes her expression. “I am . . .” She seems to catch herself, her eyes lifting to the sky in thought. When they return to mine, a mischievous smile lies across that sexy mouth of hers. “Fine. I enjoy sex,” she says pointedly. “It’s more fun than I thought it would be.” Climbing into my arms with her legs wrapped around my middle, she laughs. “I can even go as far as to blame you for that fascination.”

“I’ll take the credit, but it’s good because it’s us together.” Holding her by the ass, I say, “This is where trust comes in.”

“I trust you to keep me safe from the lake sharks.”

I chuckle. “Of course, but I was referring to the fact that I’m the reason sex is so good.”

I’m whacked, and she pushes off me. Going underwater, she swings her feet up like a mermaid fin before her head breaks the surface again. “You’re ridiculous, you know that, Evans?”

“I do.” I swim closer as she teases me by swimming backward. “You’re a natural. What were you afraid of?”

“Life.” Treading water, she lets me catch up to her. Our knees, feet, and hands occasionally bump under the water, but we keep a small distance between us, our heads the only part exposed.

Blaming the moon and some romantic notion that’s snuck in, I confess, “I love you, Chloe.” I don’t say it lightly, and I’ve never said it to a woman I’m dating. I’ve fallen for her as if I were her anchor, so putting myself on the line doesn’t feel so risky.

That is, until a tear slides down her cheek, and she sniffles, making me worry it was too soon. I swim to her, capturing her in my arms again. “What’s wrong?”

“You just . . . you said it without warning.” She sounds mad.

“Because I felt it.”

She leans into my embrace, holding me tight. The air cool, but her body hot. “I love you, too, Joshua,” she whispers with her cheek pressed to mine.

Comfort isn’t just found in her arms, but in her words, allowing me to breathe easier. I could swim an ocean on this adrenaline. “You mean that?”

“So much.” Although her eyes are more striking when she cries, I never want to see that shade of green if pain is the cause. “Then why are you crying?”

“I’ve never said those words to anyone with the same meaning behind them, but they don’t feel like they’re enough to explain how I feel for you.”

“They’re enough,” I reassure, kissing the trail the tears left behind. I spin in the water, holding her tight. “You’re all I need, Chloe.”

Am I insane for confessing so much? Doesn’t seem I’m alone, which is reassuring. Instead of sharing the thoughts rushing through my veins, I just want to feel them quietly for a while. This desire to give her everything she could ever want, or need, is something new for me.

With a good grasp on her, enough that she lies back spreading her arms wide, floating on the surface. Breasts free for the air to kiss and the stars to view.

I turn, swaying her through the water in front of me, droplets rolling across her creamy skin in the moonlight. When I pull her upright, I kiss the soft mounds, then take a nipple between my teeth. My body aches for her, to be inside her, to see her fall apart under the stars, but that might have to wait until we’re warm inside the truck again.

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