Callie put a hand on my chest and my heart raced. Our gazes met and I held my breath, on the edge of that cliff again. "I know of a nice private place close by. Want to come with me?"
Did I want to? Did seagulls steal food? Yes, but . . . I couldn't. I knew Penny had talked about seeing other people, but going off with Callie just didn't seem right. Penny and I weren't done, and being with Callie would feel like cheating, at least to me.
"That sounds fantastic, but I'm going to have to take a rain check." Part of me couldn't believe I said it. I could imagine a little devil on my shoulder foaming at the mouth due to my decision.
The corners of Callie's mouth turned down and I hastened to reassure her. "Look, you are the most beautiful woman here, and there's nothing I'd like better than to be alone with you. But I'm really beat, and I don't think I'd be much good to you tonight." I smiled and ran a finger along her jaw. "Let's just stay here for a bit, what do you say? It's nice just to be with you."
Cripes, I sounded like a Hallmark card. Or a Lifetime movie. From what I've heard.
Callie smiled. "All right. This time."
As a compromise I got my sweatshirt but came back to the rock. We resumed our position, her in front of me, my arms around her, my cock hard against her back. She'd shift every so often and I knew she was getting a little revenge for my negative response to her invitation.
Gentleman that I was, I decided to grin and bear it.
The weekend was over too soon and we headed back to Manny's. I took a couple of days to explore at a more leisurely pace. I walked around to see what there was close by, used my bike to go farther away, and went to another beach or two.
As beautiful as the California scenery was, I missed Ithaca. It was all just so different. Different trees, different terrain, even different smells.
With Ithaca on my mind, I called Penny and wished I hadn't. From the second she answered, she was on the offensive. I remembered why I hadn't called her more often and why time apart had seemed like such a good idea.
I couldn't do or say anything right and she threw my vacation back at me at every opportunity as though I was a slacker. That pissed me off. It wasn't like I'd just quit and left. I'd been fired and had taken the time to make some plans and talk about it with her. Nor was I mooching off Manny. Despite his protests, I gave him some money for rent and utilities. Penny ignored me when I pointed all of that out.
"I saw Lee the other day," she said by way of changing the subject.
"Yeah? How is he?" Lee and I had worked for the same company but he'd survived the last round of layoffs.
"He's good. He asked me out, actually."
"What'd you say?" I was curious; after all, seeing other people had been her idea.
"No, of course. God, Diz." She huffed out an indignant breath. "I also saw Pat Troklas a few days ago and he asked me if you and I were still together. I said yes, and he said that was too bad, because he'd always wanted to ask me out."
I could hear the threat under the words, that if I didn't want her there were other guys that did. I wasn't going to play that game. "Penny, if you want to go out with somebody, go ahead. It's pretty clear that you and I aren't working and you said we should see other people anyway."
"You heard me, Pen."
"Diz, are you breaking up with me? Over the fucking phone?" She was incredulous.
"I'm sorry it's over the phone, but yes, and we should have done it a long time ago." As I said the words, I knew I was doing the right thing.
"Jesus, I can't believe you!"
What could I say to that? She ranted at me for a few minutes and then disconnected. I tossed the phone on the couch next to me. I guessed I should have been upset, but instead I was relieved, and I was ready to give Callie my full attention.
The weekend came and not a moment too soon. The weather looked iffy, but I was determined to go to King's Bay. I was tempted to drive out Friday night, and mentioned it to Manny, but he shook his head.
"Don't bother, man. Traffic will be hellish, and it'll be dark and cold by the time you get there. Seriously, if you want more time, just leave early Saturday morning."
"Okay." I nodded. I wanted to get back there as soon as I could, but Manny was right. I needed to calm down. King's Bay would be there in the morning.
"Why are you so anxious to get out there, anyway?" Manny asked. He'd come home late from work and Helena was at her mom's or her sister's or whatever, so it was just us. We bonded over beers and nachos.
"I need to clear my head, and the best surfing is there." So was Callie, but I didn't say that.
"You want to see Callie." Manny saw through me.
"Yeah, I do."
"What about Penny?"
"We're done." I told him about our last conversation. He'd been working a night shift all week so I hadn't had a chance to tell him Penny and I had broken up.
"You didn't dump her to go after Callie, did you?"
"Oh, hell no. No, it was going to happen anyway. Penny wanted me to be the bad guy and so I finally did it. I should have done it a while ago, I guess. I was sick of the passive-aggressive crap."
"I'm with you, man. That sucks." Manny nodded in agreement and drank some more beer.
"Yeah, well, it's for the best. Even if I go back, it wouldn't fix anything."
Manny looked at me in surprise. "You're not going back?"
I started to answer, then stopped and frowned. I was going back to Ithaca, wasn't I? I'd never considered staying in California. Until now, apparently.
"I don't know. Doesn't matter." I waved a hand to dismiss the idea. "I don't need to make a decision yet. Besides, I'm enjoying the beach too much." I grinned. "Ithaca's fantastic, but you can't surf there."
And, I thought later as I lay in bed, Callie wasn't in Ithaca.
I didn't sleep well and woke up early Saturday morning. At six I told Manny I was leaving, and he stared at me as though I was insane. "Jesus, Diz, even the fish aren't awake yet." He shook his head, yawned, and went back to sleep.
I threw my stuff into the car and took off. The morning was dazzling despite the forecast. Pastel pinks and oranges colored the sky as I headed to King's Bay. I rolled the windows down to enjoy the California breeze. It rushed through me, sparking feelings that you just don't get from Freon-cooled air.
I tried to relax and enjoy the ride, but my thoughts were a jumble of Ithaca, California and Callie. In an effort to distract myself, I turned on the radio. Commercial. I made a mental note to bring my iPod next time and tapped the station buttons. On the fourth I at last found a song, something by the Beach Boys. Couldn't get away from them during the summer in California, I supposed.
When I saw the turnoff for King's Bay, I drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. I was relieved to be there, so much so I was surprised. I hadn't realized how much the place had gotten under my skin and how much I'd missed it. I thought I might even like it better than Cayuga Lake.
The scenery soothed me. It was as incredible as it had been the first time, maybe more so in the early morning light. Since the sun was behind me, I could look out over the water without worrying about a glare.
I checked my watch, saw it was going on seven and found a place to park. I stepped out of the car to stretch. Some gulls screeched and flew over the water, and I thought I saw a dolphin farther out.
Mesmerized by the waves, I thought of Callie and had visions of her rising up out of the water, her long wet hair clinging to her body and water streaming off her skin. My eyes snapped open as I realized I had no idea where Callie lived, or even if she'd be around this weekend.
I took a deep breath to calm down. I smelled the salt water, closed my eyes against the breeze and swore I felt the spray of the waves on my face. I was too far from the water for that, but there was something about this place that made me feel I could anyway. I let out a long breath; all of that was great, but I was still sitting by an empty beach, alone.
"What the fuck am I doing?" I smacked my hand on the top of the car.
What was wrong with me? I had left the house at some god-forsaken hour of the morning—on a Saturday—to go to the beach and hopefully see some woman that I barely knew. I didn't know where she lived, how to contact her, or even her goddamned last name.
I leaned against the car for a few more minutes and was quiet, letting the sounds and smells wash over me. After a while, I calmed down and decided not to worry about it. I hoped I'd see Callie but even if I didn't, I'd take advantage of a day to myself at the beach where I could think without anyone distracting me.
I opened the car and reached in for my stuff. Despite my eagerness, I'd packed plenty of food and drink for the day. I took my cooler, my surf board, and a bag containing a towel and a change of clothes. I walked down to the beach and staked out a spot beyond the high-tide line on the sand.
I'd worn a sweatshirt which I stripped off and dropped onto the towel. At this hour the temperature was on the cool side, but it would warm up fast and the chilly air felt good. I wadded up the sweatshirt and used it for a pillow. With the adrenaline rush gone, my poor sleep and early morning caught up with me and I zonked out.
Something smooth glided along my skin and I heard a voice. "You're going to burn lying here in the sun. You should be more careful."
I smiled before I opened my eyes. "Hello, gorgeous."
Her laugh was low and throaty. "How would you know if I'm gorgeous or not? Your eyes are closed."
I looked up to find Callie sitting next to me, dragging her fingers in circles along my upper arms. "I could tell by your voice. Like a siren, beautiful and dangerous."
She laughed again and pushed at my shoulder. "You are so full of it."
"I can't help it. I've been thinking about you a lot."
Her hand stopped moving. "Really?" She sounded surprised.
I propped myself up on my elbows. "Really. It's hard not to think about someone as beautiful as you."
For a minute she didn't say anything, then gave me a soft smile. "That's sweet."
I guessed I'd honestly surprised her. She had none of the cocky, flirty attitude that she'd had even a minute ago. It made no sense. Callie was beautiful, and she didn't strike me as the type who wasn't aware of it. Surely other guys had told her she was pretty. So why would my flirting make her go all mushy? Before I could ask, she pushed her hair away from her face and recovered herself.
"So what brought you out here so early?" She stretched out beside me.
"I had a lot of stuff on my mind and needed a place to think. Plus I was hoping I'd find you." I was conscious of her next to me, and glad I'd opted for sweatpants to start the day, since my body couldn't help but react to hers. I rolled over to face her. "And lucky me, I did."
"Lucky you, I was up early myself." She drew circles on my arm again. I shivered as goose bumps ran up my skin in the wake of her touch. "And no one else is here yet," she said.
"So I have you and the beach all to myself?"
"For as long as you like."
My mind raced with the implications of that, but I tried to sound nonchalant. "I bet you say that to all the guys."
She went silent; her body went still. Her fingers stopped moving and I felt the tension radiate in waves.
"Look at me, Diz."
I rose up on my elbow and met her eyes. They were dark and I couldn't have looked away for anything. I wanted to apologize but it was like I was paralyzed. I couldn't wiggle my big toe, let alone talk.
"Diz, I'm only going to say this once. I don't say that to all the guys. I said it to you." Her voice was hypnotic and powerful. I was lost in that and in her eyes. "I only say it when I want to, when it's right."
My mouth was dry as I tried to swallow. "So is it right?"
The tension fell away and her eyes lit up. "We could find out."
I grinned, although I felt some residual uneasiness from whatever had transpired between us. I ignored it. "What do we do first?"
She laughed and stood, then held a hand out a hand to me. "We swim."
We swam. We surfed, we rested on the beach and we swam some more. I'd never seen anyone as at home in the water as Callie. She was one of those people that made you think if mermaids were real, she'd be one. If she'd grown a tail and headed out to the horizon, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised.
I noticed after a while that the beach wasn't as crowded as I had expected. That struck me as odd. Summer was in full swing. I remembered Manny telling me that King's Bay was like a little secret; that some people knew about it, but it was never as packed as a lot of other beaches. Even so, it seemed like there should be more people around.
"Is it always like this?" I asked Callie.
"What do you mean?" She tipped her head back as she drank from a bottle of water. I watched a drop of water fall onto her neck and trail down. It was all I could do not to lean over and lick the water off of her skin.
"Hmm? What?" I shook my head before another drop could distract me. "Oh, I just meant the beach. I thought there would be more people." It was hard to ignore the image of me running my tongue along her shoulder, finding the pulse point at the bend in her neck and then . . . . Christ, I had to stop thinking about that.
She gave me a little smile and a shrug. "Sometimes there are. Sometimes not."
I raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? Do you have a spell or something to keep them away?"
Callie leaned in close; I thought of the sea as I caught her scent. "Do you want me to keep them away?"
At that moment, it seemed completely possible that she did have some kind of power to keep people away if she wanted to. I smiled at her. "I like having you to myself, but it doesn't seem fair not to share the beach."
She smiled back, her white teeth nibbling at her full bottom lip as though she was uncertain of something, but her body language belied it. God, she was tempting. You read about temptresses and femme fatales, but Callie was all of that and more. She knew what she was doing.
I wished I knew what she was doing. Her mouth was inches, maybe centimeters, from mine. I wanted to kiss her. I had a feeling it would be like nothing I'd experienced before. A fleeting thought of Penny crossed my mind at that, I guess because she was my most recent "experience." As I pushed the thought out of my head, Callie pulled back with a frown.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"You're thinking about someone else?" It was less a question than a statement, and she sounded hurt.
"No, I mean, yes, but not like you think." I took the initiative and reached out to her, rubbed my hand over her shoulder. "I told you I had a girlfriend, back in Ithaca. I don't anymore."
"You broke up?"
"Yes. In fact—" I ran my eyes over her body, drinking in all the details I could, then met her gaze again. "I was hoping I could cash in that rain check today."
Callie laughed. "I think something could be arranged." She trailed her finger down the middle of my chest; my cock jumped in response. "I can't believe she let you go. I wouldn't have."
I cleared my throat. "You might decide she did the right thing."
Her lips curved and she laughed low in her throat as she drew her finger upwards. I bit back a groan.
"Now, Dizzy, why would I ever let you go?"
"Maybe I'm a bad kisser," I offered. I was dizzy, all right, and she was making me so.
"Let's find out."
She leaned across the little bit of space between us and pressed her lips to mine. I was conscious of the two points of contact: our lips and her finger on my chest. It felt like we were fused together at those points. Her tongue flicked against my lips and we both snapped.
I wrapped my hand around the back of her neck and opened my mouth, anxious to taste her. Her tongue met mine in a teasing but urgent duel and she hooked her arm around my shoulders. She pressed her breasts against my chest and her hips against mine. I couldn't hide my erection and didn't even try.
Callie pulled her lips away and ran the tip of her tongue along my jaw. I groaned and felt her smile. She rolled her hips against me and I responded in kind. I had no idea if anyone could see us and I didn't care.
I found her lips again and plunged my tongue in her mouth while I pressed her down on the towel. She was aggressive in her response, slung one leg over mine so that I could feel the heat between her legs. I think we would have fucked right there, but the screech of a seagull about three feet away startled us both.
Laughing, I rested my arms on either side of her shoulders. "I guess we were offending him."
Underneath me, Callie wiggled her hips against mine and my laugh ended on a groan. The chuckle that ran through her made her body shake and I narrowed my eyes. "You're going to get us in trouble."
"No one's paying attention."
I found that hard to believe, but I glanced up to find it was true. There were a few people surfing, a few swimming, a few lying on the beach, but none looking at us.
"You're right, but I'd still rather do this somewhere a little more, ah, secluded," I told her.
"You don't want to take me here on the beach? Here on the soft sand with the sound of the waves in the background?" Callie undulated and I started to wonder just how much we could get away with. We were farther back from the shoreline, in the shadow of some trees. I couldn't believe I was considering it.
"I would love it." I pressed my cock against her to prove my point and got that wicked grin in response. "I just don't necessarily want everyone else to see it."
"Do you want me to make them go away?"
"Sure." I grinned and kissed her. "The sooner we can be alone, the better."
"Sooner, then," she said. She dragged her nails down my back, making me groan. With a laugh, she pushed at me so I'd get up. She jumped to her feet and held out her hand. "Come on. Let's swim one more time before it's too late."
I reached out but just before taking her hand, I turned and ran towards the water. I heard her cry of indignation and kept running. I went into the water and spun in time to catch her, but lost my balance and we both fell into the shallow waves. We laughed and Callie rolled off me to lounge in the water.
Waves crashed and got smaller and rolled over us, covering Callie's legs with white bubbles before retreating again. I reached over and popped one bubble high up on her thigh, just shy of her suit bottom. She watched as I moved my hand towards another one on her stomach. When I touched her skin, I felt her tense and then tremble.
I looked up, wondering what the next move was, and whose.
"They're gone." Her voice was low but I could hear it over the waves.
I blinked and looked around. The beach was empty. How had that happened? I looked up at the sky saw some clouds, and guessed the threat of rain had made people skittish. That made more sense than thinking that Callie could empty the beach at her whim. She ran a finger over my lips and I lost that thought.
"Where shall we go?" I asked.
Callie stood and walked away from the water; I followed. She grabbed my towel from near the trees, strode over to a pile of large rocks and spread the towel on the sand in front of the rocks. I watched, barely breathing.
She came back over to me and put her arms around my neck. Her tongue flicked out to wet her lips and her eyes raked over my body just as they had the day we'd met. The sun was still high over the water and it reflected in her dark eyes. I looked down at her breasts, full and trapped in her bathing suit top. My mouth watered at the idea of removing it.