Read Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2) Online
Authors: Dani Matthews
“What are we doing?” I ask as he locks up the Hummer and leads me through the sand and down to the water.
“Swimming in the ocean,” he tells me.
“In the dark?” I ask doubtfully as I gaze out at the darkened water. A shiver of apprehension slithers through me. There are things in there. Like sharks and fish.
“But I don’t have a swimsuit.”
“Your bra and underwear will work just fine,” I hear him say as I hear the sound of rustling fabric.
I turn my head and stare. He’s pulled off his shirt, and in the moonlight I can see his sculpted chest. He has his jeans off before I can comprehend he’s stripping. Oh my… He stands there in just a pair of tight briefs, and I feel my panties dampen. Ace is…he’s… If I were a confident woman—especially where my body is concerned—I’d be launching myself at him and demanding he take me now.
The fact that he’s got me
to take the initiative has me shocked. I’ve never felt this way before. Is this what sexual attraction is?
Ace walks up to me, and even in the shadowy moonlight, I can tell he’s amused by my reaction. “Off with your clothes,” he says playfully, reaching out to tug on the hem of my shirt.
His nipple piercings are eye level now, and my body hums with an alertness I’ve never experienced. The fact that he’s standing in front of me almost naked has me pushing aside my fears and doing as he asks. How do you tell a guy like him no? My halter top is tight as I tug at it, and Ace grabs the bottom and helps me pull it over my head.
At first I am self-conscious of the simple, white strapless bra, but then I shrug it off when I realize he can’t see me all that clearly. If I can’t see Ace, with the exception of the shadowy outline of his body and the glinting of his nipple piercings, then he can’t see the fine details of my body, either. He stands back, and I shimmy out of my shorts. The panties I have on today are also white, but they are at least lacy rather than plain. I know I’m not much to look at, but since we’re in the dark, I try to let go of my insecurities.
“We're going swimming so you can mark it off your list, Angel,” Ace tells me as his hand wraps around mine. He tries to tug me towards the water, but my feet won’t budge. He peers at me with puzzlement. “What’s wrong?”
“There could be sharks out there,” I say nervously as I look out at the water.
“They don’t come this close to shore.”
I so don't believe him. “Close enough. There are shark attacks every year, Ace.”
“I promise you, a shark is not going to get you tonight,” he assures while I can tell he's holding back a laugh.
“But we wouldn’t see one coming if there was one!”
He chuckles and his warm hands are on my waist, then I’m lifted up against him, my legs immediately wrapping around his hips as I instinctively cling to him. “Ace!” Our lower bodies connect for a brief second, and a zing of pleasure down south has me freezing up. Ace adjusts me, lifting me higher up so that my hips are now cradling his stomach rather than his pelvic region.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” he mutters as he begins to walk towards the water.
At this point, I don’t care about the water. I’m more focused on the fact that my arms are wrapped around his broad shoulders and that my bra-covered breasts are pressed against his impressive chest. He’s warm, his skin smooth. I can feel the strength within him, and I feel absolutely feminine and safe. His head is close to mine as he carries me out into the water. As it flows up over my ankles, and then up my knees, I barely feel the coldness of it. The fear from before has left me. By the time the water is gently lapping around my bra, I’ve relaxed in his arms.
Ace adjusts his grip, and one of his hands cups my behind to keep me from slipping. His head turns, and his face is mere inches from my own. “So, what do you think?”
It’s a struggle to pull my mind away from the warmth of his hand on my bottom. I turn my head away from his and look around at the water. It’s dark and cold, but I feel beyond safe with him. A smile curves my lips, then it widens. “I love it.”
“You’ll have to come back during the day sometime. You’ll like it better in daylight.”
No, this is perfect. If he’s not with me in the daylight, it won’t even come close to this moment. “I like this just fine,” I reply as I turn my head and look at him. “Thanks, Ace,” I say softly.
I’ve just made sure Faith is safe and secure in her apartment, and I’m walking toward my own when a sharp voice has me pausing. “Wait up!” Caleb calls from down the hall behind me, his voice full of barely contained anger.
I tense, knowing this conversation is going to test our friendship in ways it’s never been tested before. I shouldn’t have taken off with Faith tonight, but I hadn’t been able to resist. Looks like I’m going to pay for it. That's the thing that bothers me the most about this situation between me and Caleb. I feel like he's going overboard with his big brother protectiveness where Faith is concerned. Where the hell did it come from? He's not even that way with Zoey. Hell, she'd threaten to castrate him if he ever pulled this shit on her.
I turn around and see that Caleb and Zoey have just exited the elevator and are walking towards me. Zoey’s face is resigned and wary while Caleb looks like he's just barely controlling his temper. That in itself is a very bad sign. Caleb
loses his temper. He's probably the most patient and understanding guy I know.
Without a word, Caleb unlocks his apartment door and motions me inside. I step into the apartment with them right on my heels. Zoey flips on the light and Caleb turns on me. “What the hell were you thinking? Do you have any idea what went through my mind when Faith didn’t answer her phone? You’re lucky someone saw you leaving with her or the police would be involved!”
It all suddenly becomes crystal clear.
fuck up tonight. With Faith’s past, it would be natural for Caleb to assume the worst even if her ex is rotting in prison. I hadn't realized that Caleb would think something terrible had happened to her.
Before I can say anything, Caleb is speaking again in a coolly, calm voice—which in my opinion isn't any better than his anger. “Where’d you take off to? I told you she’s off limits.”
“I’m not going to fuck her. I’m trying to be her friend,” I say levelly as I try to contain my own temper. Mine is a lot easier to rile up than Caleb's. Right now, he's pushing all my buttons.
“You screw your friends, Ace. You've had Bev, and you’ve had Zoey,” Caleb points out tightly.
Zoey sighs, touching Caleb’s shoulder. “Let’s not go there.”
I glare at Caleb. Screw any sort of apology that would have eventually found its way out of my mouth. “Faith isn’t a meaningless fuck.”
“Thanks,” Zoey says dryly as she shoots me a look. We’d hooked up once back before she’d met Caleb.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I say, trying to backtrack. The last thing I need is Zoey pissed off at me. Caleb is bad enough as it is. “I just meant that she’s not the type to do casual. She’s not
type. I’m not going to touch her, Caleb,” I say firmly while I feel like a fucking asshat for lying through my teeth. I had my hand on her little ass tonight, and I’d felt her pussy against my dick for one agonizingly sweet second—and all I'd wanted to do is do it again, over and over. I still don’t plan on acting on my attraction, and it’s hard as hell fighting it, but I will continue to do so even if my balls turn blue. Faith needs a friend more than she needs someone to screw.
Caleb's eyes turn wary and unconvinced. “I’ve seen the way you look at her. You want her.”
“And there’s a fine line between wanting and doing,” I point out.
“Just stay away from her. You draw women to your bed like moths to a flame, and I'm telling you Faith isn't going to be oblivious to the sexual vibes you put out there.”
“Are you telling me I can’t even be friends with her, because you think I'm going to seduce her without even meaning to?” I ask as anger begins to boil within my gut at the realization that my own friend thinks I can't control myself. Unbelievable. I control
when it comes to sex.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Caleb says quietly as he rubs his temple. He's gazing at me with an expression that confirms he's not enjoying this conversation any more than I am.
No fucking way.
I’m done trying to stay away. I step forward, my expression turning dangerous as Zoey inhales sharply. I don’t plan on getting in a physical altercation with one of my best friends, but I’m also not going to back down like a little pussy. “Then you’ll be hurting her more than you’ll be hurting me,” I warn him calmly. “You treat her like she’s weak, and she hates it. She didn’t even want to be at that party tonight, but she didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You know what we did tonight? We went to the beach. That’s where
wanted to go. I
her what she wanted. I forced
to make the decisions. You need to figure out what she wants instead of deciding for her.”
Caleb's eyes narrow. “How are you suddenly an expert on Faith?”
“She asked me to dinner last week, and before you get all up in my shit, I can assure you it was strictly platonic,” I tell Caleb as I see his face darken. “You know what I see in Faith?” I ask as I continue on without waiting for an answer. “I see a woman desperate to find her place in this world. She’s struggling between who she once was and who she wants to be. She’s stronger than you think. I have a feeling she’s holding back with you two, but she’s not with me. She snapped at me last week at dinner because she felt like I was being too careful around her. For some reason, she feels comfortable around me, and I’m glad. When I was with her tonight, we talked a bit about her ex, and she told me some of the things she wants to do. Has she been honest with either one of you about what
wants? Or have you pushed her in the direction that
think she should be going?”
Caleb and Zoey are silent as they stare back at me, and I can see that I’m getting through to them.
That means my work here is done. “Let me know when you’ve decided what’s best for Faith,” I say dryly as I turn and open up the apartment door, leaving.
I never thought there’d ever be a day that I would get in an argument with my closet friends over a woman I barely know. I should walk away now and avoid Faith permanently, but I won’t. When have I ever taken the easy way out?
“Did you buy a car yet?” my father asks in my ear as I talk with him on the phone while I pour myself a bowl of cereal.
“Dad, I don't need a car,” I say with exasperation.
“Every girl needs a car in a new place. You can't keep walking to your job or relying on city transportation.”
“Faith,” he says sternly. “We gave you that money for a reason.”
I push my bowl aside and move around the counter to slump on to one of the stools. “I'm not ready to drive yet,” I say quietly. It's the truth. I'm not ready to get behind the wheel,
I don't want to spend their money.
“Honey, nothing's going to happen. You're safe,” he assures gruffly.
Feeling wary, I rub my temple with my free hand. I'm still haunted by memories from when I'd been run off the road in my car. Luckily, I'd managed to avoid hitting the trees on the side of the road, and I'd escaped the accident without injury. Still...it was enough of a close call to have me feeling uncertain when it comes to getting back in the driver's seat.
“Take your time, Faith. I won't push anymore,” my father finally says when I don't reply. “Just know that the money is there when you feel like driving again.”
“Have you checked out classes at the university?”
My eyes close, and I'm tempted to pound my head on the counter top. I love my dad, but he's a bit overbearing when he wants to be. I know that he's doing it out of love. He wants me to move on with my life instead of living as if I'm afraid of my own shadow. But he's pushing for things that I'm not quite ready for. It's not exactly like I have the finances to do these things anyway. When I get back on my feet and can support myself, I'll send the money back so they can pay off the loan that I know they took out.
“I want to get used to Long Beach before I start looking into anything at the university,” I say lightly.
I hear my mom's voice in the background, and my father sighs. “Your mom wants to talk to you. Take care, Faith. Call us if you need anything.”
“I will. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
“Faith?” my mom asks into the phone, her voice hopeful. I think my absence has been harder on her than anyone else.
“How are you doing, sweetie?”
“How are things going with Caleb? What is his fiancée like?” she asks curiously.
“Zoey's...unique. I really like her. And Caleb's been great, too.”
We chat for a bit, and when our call is finished, I set the phone on the counter top and rise to my feet to grab milk from the refrigerator. My eyes halt on the piece of paper I taped to the glossy surface of the door. It's the list I'd made last night at the pizzeria. I'd crossed off number six now that I've been in the ocean. My body warms as I think of Ace and the way he'd held me in the water.
A knock on my apartment door startles me. I tear my eyes away from the list and walk across the room to the door. It dawns on me that I am hoping it's Ace, and it sinks in that I'm crushing on him. I tell myself it's normal—he's gorgeous. I'd have to be blind to not be attracted to him, but I really do need to learn how to ignore it. Ace might be attracted to me, but even I know when I've been put in the 'friend' category.
I peek out the peephole and see that it's Zoey. What is she doing here so early? I swing the door open and smile. “Morning, Zoey.”
“Morning. I figured you'd be up,” she says as she strolls in.
I close the door and study her. Her hair is pulled back in a sloppy knot, and she's not wearing a trace of makeup. In fact, she's wearing a tank and a pair of lounge pants. Why is she visiting me so early when it's obvious she'd just gotten out of bed?
Zoey walks over to my bowl of cereal on the counter and sticks a finger in it, evidently testing it to see if there's milk in the bowl. “Can I have this? I haven't eaten yet.”
“Now that you've stuck your finger in it, go for it,” I say as I wrinkle my nose.
She shoots me a cheeky grin and walks over to the refrigerator. “Hey, what's this?” she asks as she peers at the list.
I put it up for my eyes only, but I forgot I might have visitors.
“Cool. It's a bucket list. Why do you have sex on there?” she asks with her usual bluntness as she turns and looks at me expectantly.
I shrug and fight back my embarrassment.
Zoey's eyebrows arch. “Faith?”
“It's private,” I say lightly, hoping she'll let it go.
“Nuh-uh,” she says, crossing her arms over her breasts. “Spill or I'll harass you until you do,” she threatens.
These people have a way of getting under my skin, and once again, I walk over to the stool to sit down. I give in to her threat and confess, “I don't think sex with Justin was as great as it could have been. I think I'm missing out on something,”
Zoey tilts her head slightly and studies me. “You mean it was boring, and you want to experience something better?”
“Something like that.”
“Hmm. Well, be careful,” she warns as she turns and opens my refrigerator. She pulls out the milk and shuts the door, her eyes sliding back to me. “Guys can be total assholes, so make sure you pick a good one if you're looking for casual sex. I could probably point you in the direction of a few guys that would treat you good, but be warned, they won't want anything serious. A lot of guys I know aren't ready to settle down if you know what I mean.”
I nod. “I'm not looking for anything, not after Justin,” I say with a slight shudder.
Zoey walks over and pours the milk in her cereal. After she puts the milk back, she settles on the other stool. “Why do you have a car on the list? You've got money, why wait if you want one so bad?” she asks as she dips the spoon in the cereal and takes a huge bite, her eyes focused on me as she chews.
“Like I said before, I don't want to use my parents’ money. I'll eventually want a car, but right now I'm content walking.”
Zoey nods. “And the tattoos?”
I fidget on my stool. “I want to cover up the scars on my back.”
Her brown eyes widen with realization. “Oh!
Is that why you were reluctant to wear the halter top? God, I'm such an insensitive ass. I didn't realize... I'm sorry, Faith,” she tells me sincerely.
“It's okay. You didn't know, and I didn't speak up. I just don't want to see them anymore when I look in the mirror, and I don't want to have to hide or be restricted when it comes to clothing.”
She suddenly sets her jaw and gives me a purposeful stare. “Speaking of you
speaking up, you gotta work on that. If you don't agree with me on something, say it. I'm not going to get mad. I swear.”
“I'm working on being more assertive, and I'll try harder,” I assure. I'm feeling more confident than I had when I first arrived. I still have a ways to go, but I can feel myself slowly letting go of the old Faith.
“Good. Now, for the real reason I dropped over at the ass crack of dawn,” Zoey announces as she sets her spoon down.
I glance at the clock on the microwave. “It's nine in the morning.”
Zoey nods seriously. “Nine is the ass crack of dawn if it's the weekend.”
I fight back a laugh. I'm sure Caleb has his hands full with her on a daily basis. “Okay. So why did you drag yourself out of bed to see me?”
“You ran off with Ace last night.”
“I did,” I agree cautiously.
Concern flickers in her gaze. “Faith, I really need you to listen to me. Ace is hard to resist, I get it. He's a very sexy man, and he's easy to be around. But
fall for him. I don't think he'll ever settle down, and his tastes are quite a bit different than yours. He'll hurt you if open yourself up to him, and I'd hate to see that happen.”
“We're just friends.”
Zoey gives me a pointed look. “And if he'd be your 'casual fuck buddy' you'd be throwing yourself on his bed, wouldn't you?”
My cheeks warm up.
She points a finger at me. “Ah-ha! I knew it, and I get it,” she says knowingly. “I don't blame you for being attracted to him. A girl would have to be blind not to be. Just be careful around him.”
“I see him strictly as a friend. Besides, I'm not his type,” I feel the need to point out. I'm very much aware that I can't compete with the usual women he has in his bed. I'm sure they are gorgeous, curvaceous and busty.
“Well, I'm glad we got that out of the way.” Zoey rises to her feet with the now empty bowl. She walks over to the sink and sets it down. “Thanks for breakfast. Oh, and be ready by nine. Dress in something cute and sexy,” she announces as she strolls towards my apartment door.
“What are you talking about?”
Her hand pauses on the door knob, and she looks back at me. “I'm taking you out. Just you and me. I have a surprise for you.”
“But it's Sunday...”
“What's that got to do with anything? Be ready,” she says simply before she opens the door and leaves.
“But...” My voice trails off in the silence of my apartment, and I scowl at the now closed door. I need to work
harder on my assertiveness.