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We pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway and drove into the small parking lot of a private entrance near Topanga Beach. It was a smaller surfing spot than our peers would normally venture to, with a slim chance of being seen by anyone we knew. Still, I couldn’t help the anxiety that flitted around my insides as I hopped out of the truck.
Tobias grabbed our boards, and I stripped down to my light-blue two-piece, leaving my white board shorts on. He’d already pulled his shirt off and stood there in his black-and-white-striped suit, grinning at me. “Why do you always wear those things?”
I looked at my short-shorts and shrugged. Heat rose in my neck and up my cheeks as I ran a hand down my sides. Would it be awful to admit that while I love my stomach and all my curves, I hate my thighs?
He eyed me for a second then leaned our boards against the side of his truck. After stepping forward, he placed his hands on my waist and pulled me close, so my chest was flush under his. “You don’t have to hide your body from me, Amelia.” He tipped my chin, his gaze burning into mine. “I’ve seen you naked.” My face caught fire at his words. Then the hand at my waist slid over my navel and down to where my shorts were tied. They unknotted with one pull. “And I love every sexy inch.”
My eyes held his as I swallowed and took a step back. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone swimming without the comfort of cloth wrapping my thighs, but I knew I had nothing to worry about with Tobias. He’d only ever appreciated my body—with his hands, with his mouth, with his words.
Like ripping off a bandage, I pushed down my shorts and tossed them in the bed of the truck.
“That’s my girl.” He held my board out to me with a grin. When I grabbed it, he dipped his head low, touching his lips to mine.
Despite the warmth of the sun, chills broke out over my skin. He pulled back, winking and taking my hand in his. “Let’s go catch some waves.”
By the time we reached the shoreline, my nerves had dissolved completely. I was thankful that he’d taken me to a spot private enough that we were the only two in the area. We swam out to the break, lifted ourselves onto our boards, and sat side by side in opposite directions, in no hurry to rush for a swell. The sun had started to dip in the horizon, painting the sky with a yellow to orange to blue gradient. And while there was a flurry of action around us, I focused on Tobias’s silence that spoke volumes.
“You were quiet on the way here.” My voice was so soft against the beating waves, I worried he didn’t hear me. But after a moment, he nodded, then his eyes flickered to me.
“I called social services.”
My chest squeezed at the frustration in his tone. I hated that he was getting doors slammed from everyone he approached for help. No wonder he felt like his life had been a lie. Without knowing where he came from, he would always feel there was a piece of himself missing. To Tobias, that piece was massive. “Did they tell you anything new?”
He shook his head. “Of course not. Except that another letter went out requesting consent from my biological parents. I just want to find them, you know. I have so many questions, and my parents refuse to tell me anything more than what they already have.”
“They refuse? Seriously?”
He shrugged. “They say they don’t know anything more. That it was a closed, private adoption through an agency in LA and there’s nothing they can do.”
Frustration brewed inside me as I thought about his parents. I’d lived next door to them most of my life, but I hadn’t realized how selfish they were until Tobias told me about their reaction to him finding the adoption papers. That they cared more about carrying on with the lie than they did about the son they swore they were only trying to protect. Tobias was certain the lie was more to protect their appearance of being the perfect family, and that killed me inside. “I’m sorry.”
“It is what it is.” He reached a hand out to play with a strand of wet hair that had fallen over my shoulders. “I don’t want to think about any of that when I’m with you, though.”
I tilted my head and smiled softly. Something about having the attention of Malibu’s once-golden boy all to myself lit my insides. I’d always been so focused on dance that I rarely dated in high school. And when I did, no one could hold my attention the same way that Tobias did. I loved being with him. I loved the way he made me feel. I hated that it wouldn’t last.
“C’mere,” he said with a tilt of his lips.
We leaned into each other, but the reach was too far, causing our boards to sway. I giggled as he growled and slapped the water. “Fuck it.”
Before I knew it, Tobias was slipping off his board and onto mine. He shook his head, sending water droplets all around us. Then he leaned forward again, this time with a glint of mischief in his gorgeous blue eyes. “Much better.”
He kissed me with saltwater lips, drinking me in like a starved man lost at sea. I wanted to be his life raft, to save him from his suffering and bring him safely ashore. But the tide was coming. The winds were unpredictable. And the eye of the storm was quickly approaching.
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