His hands move to the button of my jeans, and I suck in a breath. My mind was on sharks and freezing water, but now I’m thinking about roofies. I’m thinking about a girl who can’t protect herself. About Poseidon and Medusa.
“Christopher,” I whisper, though I’m not sure what I’m asking.
He glares at me, his eyes black with a strange heat. “You have two options. Either I call your dad here or I make sure you’re warm. You pick.”
You pick. In those two words he restores my faith in him—strange, because I wouldn’t have said I had faith at all. I know I need to get out of my wet clothes, and my body is too hurt by the freezing cold to be useful. “Don’t look.”
After a beat he nods, facing away from me. Then he turns off the dim bedside lamp, bathing us only in moonlight from the port window. He undresses me with clumsy efficiency, his fingers clearly numb and struggling against the waterlogged fabric. I feel somehow colder by the time he’s done, the damp clothes in a heap on the floor, my naked skin exposed to the room.
And then I watch while he undresses himself, faster and rougher with his body than he was with mine. His clothes land on top of mine, and then he pulls us both under the covers.
He’s naked. The thought is enough to make me blush, even when there shouldn’t be any energy in my body for such an act. But he holds me close, tight enough I can’t make out where his male parts meet my female parts. There are only two bodies here, clinging together for warmth, creating a little cocoon. Exhaustion makes my eyelids heavy.
“One of my mom’s husbands got into bed with me once.”
Every part of his body becomes stiff. “What the fuck?”
“It was bad. Not like this. This is nice.”
“I swear to God, Harper.”
“It’s okay,” I say, the words slurred together. “I told Mom the next day and we moved out of his mansion, even though it was really nice. He owned this big job website. Don’t tell Daddy. He would freak out even though it was a long time ago.”
He holds me tighter, his face pressed to my hair. “I’m not going to touch you. I’m only staying here until you don’t feel like an ice cube, and then I’m moving to the chair.”
“Thanks,” I say, the word coming out long and slow.
He sighs. “Go to sleep, Harper. And for the love of God, don’t die.”
A death wish, he’d called it. “Want to live,” I mumble before the dreams take me down. It’s only later that I think that everything changed that night. Not because I fell into the bay or because he pulled me out. Because I confessed that in my sleepy-shocked state. It set us on the course to ruin, what made him the white knight to my damsel in distress.
I wake up gasping for air, a nightmare of being submerged in water pressing against my consciousness. My muscles ache as I stretch in the bunk, looking up at familiar knots in the ceiling. What the hell did I dream about? There’s grit in my eyes as if I spent all evening at a bonfire, drinking cheap beer from a plastic cup and ignoring the frat boys on the beach.
My mind moves slow and careful. I’m not sure I want the memory that happens next, but it comes anyway. Not a nightmare. Not a dream. I fell overboard last night.
And Christopher Bardot saved me.
That would be shocking, but not as shocking as the memory of him naked in the moonlight, climbing into bed, his warm skin flush against mine. He’s gone now, enough that I would think it really could have been a dream. Except for the faint scent of him that remains, something woodsy and male that managed to survive a dip in the Atlantic.
My phone rings from the nightstand, my mother’s picture flashing on the screen. It’s a photo I took when she was laughing at the beach and didn’t think I was watching her. Completely different than the beauty queen smile she uses when looking at a camera. There’s a bittersweet sensation whenever I think about her when I’m with Daddy, a feeling of betrayal I can’t shake for loving him even though he hates her so much.
“You didn’t call to say you got there safely,” she says, a small pout in her voice.
“Shit. I’m sorry. I should have texted at least.”
“That’s okay. I’m sure you’re busy there.”
That’s my opening to tell her about Daddy’s new wife. She used to scoop every detail out of me like I was a melon, hollowed out and left dry. “Mostly I’ve been sleeping.”
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