Authors: Mindy Hayes
I shrug self-consciously and slide further under the covers without looking at her. Harper might be my best friend, but I can’t even confess to her how Brodee is slowly inching his way into my thoughts. If I say it out loud, then it becomes real, and nothing can ever happen between us.
“You know how weird that would be?” I deflect.
“I don’t think it would be as weird as you think,” she says. “But what do I know? I just watch you guys together all the time.”
“What’s your point?” I ask, finally turning to my side to look at her.
“You’re perfect together. Duh.”
I laugh like it’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. Because it is. Sure, we get along, and we can tell each other anything, and I know he’d never do anything to hurt me. We have tons in common, and I trust him more than anyone else in this world, but no. I don’t know why I’m even contemplating the thought.
“Oh stop. He’s gorgeous. You’re gorgeous. You both love surfing. You love spending time together. You make each other laugh. I don’t see a downside here.”
“Aside from the fact that we don’t feel that way about each other,” I say dryly. Nothing has been defined. I’m not technically lying.
“And it’s a dang shame,” she says, clicking her tongue and shaking her head as I turn out the light. “Such a waste.”
“Goodnight, Harper,” I say as a way of shutting down the subject.
“Nighty night, Peyton-Parker.”
AFTER I CHECK
the surf report when I get up at seven, I throw on a swimsuit, leaving Harper in bed. We were up until one last night, so I’m not messing with that bear. For a second I stop outside of Brodee’s bedroom door and think of asking him if he wants to go with, but I decide better of it. I grab my surfboard from the deck and head for the front door. As I’m opening it, Tyler has his fist raised, mid-knock.
“Hey.” A slow smile curves his lips. “I thought you might be up. Glad I took my chances.”
I smile back. “Hey, I was just heading to Salvo.”
He’s in a light green tank top that looks like it came straight out of the ‘80s and gray board shorts. Brodee always says only tools wear tank tops. I laugh to myself and feel a little guilty. Tyler isn’t a tool. Not to me at least.
“Care for some company?” I look over his shoulder at his red jeep parked in our driveway with his surfboard strapped to the top.
“Yeah, okay.” I smile.
Tyler drives with the top down and his radio turned up. The wind whips my wavy strands around. I stretch my hand out the window and let the salty air sail through my spread fingertips. Tyler reaches over and squeezes my hand resting in my lap. I shift my gaze to see him grinning widely at me. His teeth really are perfect, but I guess that’s inevitable with a dentist for a dad.
With Tyler’s aviators, chiseled jaw, and the wind blowing back his caramel locks, it’s hard to deny how good it feels to be liked by someone as good looking as him. I know how shallow that sounds, and I kind of hate myself for thinking it, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Maybe it’s because of the kiss Brodee and I shared, the encouragement I feel knowing someone wants to kiss me.
Tyler takes his hand off mine and turns down the music. “How have you been since Rylie’s house?”
Aside from the uncomfortable tension that’s built up between Brodee and me?
“Been doing good. Just been surfing and hanging out with Harper and Brodee. We went to the lighthouse a couple days back. I forgot how exhausting it is to climb that thing.”
He laughs. “Oh man. I haven’t been to the lighthouse since you and I went.”
For a split second I don’t remember. And then my stomach flips.
How could I have forgotten?
The first time Tyler kissed me. I was so caught off-guard I hardly kissed him back, but if Tyler is anything, he’s determined. I wasn’t saying no, so he kept kissing me in the stairwell. I finally caught on and it turned into one of the best kisses I’ve ever had.
Until Rylie’s house.
I shake away the unexpected thought bomb. I’m getting really tired of those.
WHEN TYLER AND
I paddle out, I can’t help but feel like I’m cheating on Brodee. I never go surfing alone with any other guys. It kind of feels weird. Brodee and I have a groove. We know how to surf together—our techniques and limitations. I stop thinking and just paddle.
Tyler didn’t bother putting on a wetsuit, not that he really needs one. The water’s warm, but it’s distracting. Without a shirt, my suspicions are solidified. He must do nothing but work out because his muscles are ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean huge. Not body builder huge, but he’s got one of those bodies found in gym selfies.
You know the ones.
The kind where the sweaty hot guy poses in the mirror in all his pumped up glory with his backward baseball cap and earbuds.
When we reach a good distance out and straddle our boards, Tyler shifts his gaze and catches me staring.
He smiles like he knows, but doesn’t mention it.
“Did you hit Kitty Hawk the other day? I heard it was pretty awesome.”
“Yeah,” I reply after clearing my throat. “The three of us made it out there pretty early. Got in a few good hours before the storm hit. You didn’t go?”
“Nah. I had to work. College won’t pay for itself, though I wish it did.” There’s a legit twinkle in his eye, I kid you not.
When I first met Tyler I assumed he was just another entitled, rich kid who had everything handed to him—as most of the Hatteras gang does—but then I got to know him. His parents make him work every summer out here. I have a feeling they’d help him out with college expenses if he couldn’t pay for it all, but they don’t give him a whole lot of slack. It’s one thing I like about him. He’s never complained once. It’s just the way of life for him. Work hard, play hard, and it will pay off.
“Where are you working this summer?”
“At Lee Robinson General Store. I tried getting a job at Kitty Hawk Kites again, but they weren’t hiring.”
“Well, one job is better than no job, yeah?”
“Yup.” He continues to smile, and I have to keep my blush in check. I hate that he makes me so flustered.
We’re out on the water for a couple hours. There’s not much conversation, but it’s nice to be out here with him. Tyler’s the kind of surfer that obviously only surfs in the summer time. He’s okay, but he’s not as good as Brodee. Like me, Brodee lives and breathes the ocean.
Oh my gosh. Can you hear yourself, Peyton?
I need to stop thinking about him, comparing him.
If I don’t let him go now, it’s only going to get harder.
No more, Peyton.
“DANG, PEYTON.” TYLER
nudges my shoulder as we’re walking back up the shore. “You’ve gotta stop making me look so bad out there.”
“What. You can’t handle being shown up by a girl?” I tease.
He laughs and shakes the wet strands from his eyes. “It’s not that at all. I was just trying to pay you a compliment in a roundabout way. I remember you being good, but I think you’re even better than you were last year.”
I shrug. “I guess it’s one of the perks of not living far from the beach. I go probably two or three times a week. Most of the time I go before school.” What I don’t say is that half of the time I don’t surf. I sit on my surfboard and let the waves crash around me. I’d rather be on the water than on land, whether I’m surfing or not. When all I have are my thoughts, I breathe in the ocean.
“Must be nice. I don’t normally go unless I’m here. The downside of living inland.”
When we get to Tyler’s jeep, he checks the time on his phone. “It’s only ten o’clock. You wanna grab some breakfast?”
I check my phone. No texts. No missed calls. Guess they aren’t missing me. Or maybe Harper isn’t even awake yet, which is most likely the answer.
“Yes. I’m starving.”
WHEN TYLER DROPS
me off, he waits until I’m inside before he waves and takes off.
As I walk through the kitchen, Harper is perched on a barstool at the counter. “Hey.” She smiles above her bagel and cream cheese. “Where were you?”
“I went surfing with Tyler.” I make my way to the back door with my board. “And then we got some breakfast.”
“Ooo,” Harper croons. “How’s Mr. Right doing?”
I snort, but don’t correct her. “He’s good. We just talked about his job and USC and stuff. It’ll be fun having him at school with us.” As I shut the back door, I ask, “Where’s Brodee?”
“I told him it was a Harper-Peyton day. No boys allowed. I mean…if you’re cool with that. I just want to spend some time with you before Skylar gets here.”
I pause. That shouldn’t bother me as much as it does.
It’s one day out of sixty, Peyton.
I’ll have plenty more days with him before the summer ends.
And how easily you forget your promise to distance yourself.
“Sounds good to me.”
“I practically had to kick him out. He was kind of offended.” She rests her head on her propped up hands, elbows on the counter.
Can’t say I blame him. I would’ve been too. “He’ll get over it.”
“So, what do you want to do today?” Harper bounces on the barstool. “We should go on an adventure. Search for buried treasure or some really cool seashells.”
I laugh lightly. “Buried treasure for sure.”
“And then we can do makeovers. I can curl your hair and make it all pretty.”
My nose scrunches up. “What’s wrong with my hair?”
“Nothing. You just
do anything with it. It’ll be fun. I brought some of my wig collection. Oh! Oh! We should dye it!” She gets really excited about that prospect.
“No dyeing,” I say flatly.
“Your virgin hair will need to be deflowered someday.”
“Today is not that day.”
“Fine,” she pouts. “Then we can do a fashion show, make a runway out of the boardwalk in the back.”
I chuckle. “Like we used to do on your back deck? And your mom would video tape us pretending like we were supermodels.”
“Yes! Let’s play dress up. I already have the perfect wig in mind for you.”
“Did you seriously bring your wig collection to the beach?”
“Hey.” Harper stops. “You never know when a good wig opportunity will present itself. I’m like a boy scout. Always prepared.” She salutes me with three fingers.