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Beatrice adjusted her sunglasses and looked up as the waiter delivered their drinks. She and Maude were spending the morning lounging around the pool at the hotel´s pool and spa area. Ostensibly, they were supposed to be going through revisions or adding any changes to their novel. However, while Beatrice flipped through her draft copy and made little notes and comments, Maude seemed more content to flip through a magazine she had bought in the foyer.
Taking a sip of her drink, Beatrice noticed the young waiter made a more concerted flourish as he set Maude´s drink down beside her.
Is there anything else you require, Mrs. Carlisle? he asked suggestively, flickering his gaze across her admiringly.
Impatiently the magazine lowered. No thank you, came a curt reply and the magazine was raised again.
Beatrice watched him walk away and settled her own gaze on Maude. The older woman looked stunning in her Gucci swimwear and with her flawless skin looked nowhere near her age.
He was hitting on you, Beatrice teased.
The magazine lowered again and an elegant eyebrow raised. I don´t have time for boys, Maude replied with a smile.
You´ve never been tempted by a younger man, then? Beatrice pushed.
Not recently, Maude replied enigmatically. And you? she asked, smiling knowingly.
Beatrice´s laugh tinkled around them. One or two, she replied coyly.
Modestly does not become you, my dear, Maude laughed.
Why thank you, Beatrice giggled.
They both raised their drinks to one another and sipped quietly.
How is the revising going? Maude asked.
It would go faster if you helped, Beatrice chided.
Oh I would, you know I would, Maude said emphatically. I just feel that I´ve read it so much over and over that I cannot contribute anything helpful. It reads perfectly to me. You´re the expert, my dear. And you know I trust your judgment implicitly, she continued in her gracious southern accent.
Beatrice frowned slightly at her subtle evasion, however, Maude smiled back at her sweetly. Beatrice shook her head and returned to her editing. Collaborating with Maude Standish on a novel based loosely on her life as a business broker before she married Robert Carlisle III, had been the most fascinating and also frustrating project Beatrice had ever undertaken. And yet whilst they were completely different personalities, they were drawn to each other and Beatrice had begun to believe they had the basis for a close friendship. Although Maude´s unpredictable ways still surprised the younger woman almost daily.
Like the main character of their book, Melissa Charlemagne´, Maude had swiftly worked her way up a business brokerage firm that specialized in mergers and acquisitions. With a natural gift for negotiating and influencing others, Maude came into prominence when she went outside the perimeters of her junior position and successfully negotiated a merger worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Her daring and enterprising move brought her to the attention of not only her own boss but also his adversary and main competitor, both of whom fell in love with her.
Unlike the novel, however, where Beatrice introduced a third rival and a true love for their character´s happy ever after ending, Maude had chosen to marry her boss´s competitor, Robert Carlisle III.
So why did you marry Robert? Beatrice asked aloud, repeating her question of yesterday. Although she didn´t receive an answer yesterday, Beatrice had learned a new day brought a new mood, or moods, with her friend and today she could get lucky.
The silence was so long Beatrice thought the other woman wouldn´t answer, but then the magazine was tossed aside and beautiful manicured hands fidgeted unusually.
He was charming and persuasive. He promised me my own business opportunities which never eventuated and he offered me a lifestyle and security I thought was everything I wanted, not only for myself but for Ezra, she replied.
And now? Beatrice asked gently.
I want the freedom and independence to choose my own path whatever that may be.
You´re going to leave him, aren´t you? Beatrice asked but her tone was not in the least condemning. She had met Robert on several occasions now and each time she despised him more.
Yes, Maude replied. But not immediately. I want to plan it carefully and it will be later in the year. I promised Ezra I would not take him out of Regents this year and I have sworn to him that is one promise I will keep.
Beatrice nodded sagely and Maude continued speaking. I am also hoping by then the book will have been published and I can expect some financial windfall.
I am sure that can be arranged, Beatrice replied and Maude smiled gratefully.
Their collaboration had been kept a secret from Robert and Maude had chosen the pseudonym of Erin Scarlett. Beatrice had quickly noted the name had the same initials and number of letters as Ezra´s name but she wisely didn´t point that out to Maude.
We still need a title, Beatrice said, changing the subject slightly.
You don´t like A Merger of Hearts´, Maude replied referring to the name that they had discussed prior.
Beatrice crinkled her nose. It´s missing some pizazz, she replied.
Maude´s face fell in concern. You´re not seriously considering that Vixen title again are you?
I like the Vixen title, Beatrice protested. ´A Vixen in the Boardroom´, she pronounced with hand flourish.
Maude pursed her lips in disapproval and paused for effect. I am NOT a Vixen! she declared emphatically.
Beatrice laughed happily and the sound was too infectious and Maude began smiling.
Where´s that waiter? Maude sighed as she picked up her magazine again. I need another drink.
Nathan was enjoying himself at his aunt´s house. It was just such a livelier household than the one he lived in. Sometimes he even thought it was livelier than at Regents. That made him realize that he did miss his friends quite a bit. He wondered how they were all getting along on their Spring Breaks, especially how Josiah was doing with Hannah. He had tried to call him at one point but no one had answered.
Nathan had been told by Andre that tonight was the night that they would go out and party. He got dressed with a little trepidation. He had no idea what exactly his cousin meant by partying. Nathan had his own ideas but he was sure Andre´s were a bit wilder than that. But the junior was determined to go out and do something that he probably would not do when he was home. Andre kept trying to pump him up and tell him that he needed to cut loose, that he could save being an old man for when he really was one.
Believing himself to be ready to go out, Nathan walked into the living room to find his cousin. Andre looked up from where he was watching television. Where are you going?
I thought we were going out? Nathan responded in confusion.
Andre laughed, Naw, man. Not yet! It´s only 8 o´clock. The clubs won´t start really jumping until about 10. That´s when we´ll go. And you ain´t going dressed like that!
Nathan looked down at the jeans and shirt that he wore. What´s wrong with my clothes?
Nate, you look more like a preppie than a player. And when you go out with me and my friends, my brother, you´re gonna be a player! I got something you can wear. He eyed his cousin for a moment, then a broad smile crossed his face. Oh yeah, I got just the thing!
Nathan was not sure if he liked the gleam in his cousin´s eyes. But he reminded himself that he was going to try something different this week and a different style of clothes would probably be a good place to start. He just hoped he was not making a mistake. And he would have to make sure that there were no cameras anywhere in case he did not want anyone else to see whatever his cousin picked out for him to wear.
Chris ended his phone call and wandered back out onto the back porch. Vin was still tossing the ball to his dad´s dog and the German Shepherd wasn´t tiring of retrieving the ball and dropping it at Vin´s feet.
Vin looked puzzled at the dismayed look on his friend´s face. He threw the ball one more time and jogged up the few steps.
What´s up, cowboy? he asked.
That was Dad. He has to stay another night in the city, he reported.
Oh, Vin replied disappointedly. No Clint getting home tonight meant he and Chris couldn´t borrow his car to go dirtbiking tomorrow.
The two young men dropped into silence briefly but their minds both came to a solution almost simultaneously. Chris looked over to Vin and the Texan smiled knowingly.
I do have a spare set of keys, Chris voiced aloud.
He probably wouldn´t mind, right? Vin urged.
Probably, Chris smiled.
We should check though, Vin suggested, cocking his head.
They both nodded but then looked at each other conspiratorially.
Nah! they both agreed in unison.
Standing, Chris looked at his watch. We could still catch the 4 o´clock bus into town, then one out to Buck´s place.
Ok then, Vin replied eagerly.
An hour or so later, Chris keyed in the correct combination for the front gate of the Wilmington abode and they crunched up the gravel driveway to the front door. Letting themselves in, Chris turned off the security alarm and the two boys made their way to the garage and turned on the light.
The red Mustang Saleen convertible sat gleaming next to Beatrice´s Mercedes. Chris smiled fully when the Texan let out a whoop and in one jump, slid into the driver´s seat of the Mustang.
I don´t think so, Chris informed him as he moved over to the switch and opened the garage door.
Awwww come on, Chris, the younger boy whined. I got my license!
Tomorrow, Chris told him.
Only slightly mollified, Vin moved over to the passenger seat.
Yes, Dad´, he pouted.
Chris shook his head with a grin and opened the car door and started the engine before closing the door and driving the Mustang out of the garage. After locking up and resetting the alarm they left and headed back to the Larabee residence.
Josiah checked the clock on the wall one more time and felt his impatience rise another notch. It was almost noon and still Hannah was asleep in her room. He knew she was there because he had been unable to sleep until he had heard her return to the house sometime between three and four in the morning. The past couple of days she had continued to avoid him while he was on Spring Break and Josiah was still at a loss on how to handle it. A big part of him wanted to wake her up, but the more rational part of him knew that would be a big mistake and he would then really have to deal with her surly disposition. And then he worried that he would respond in kind and harsh words that couldn´t be taken back would be said and feelings irrevocably wounded.
He wanted to confront her but just did not know how. It seemed to him that it had only been a short time ago that they had been so close. Now he felt like he did not know her at all. He wanted to understand her, but she just was not letting him into her world. Josiah came to a decision then. If she would not spend time with him here, he would just have to spend some time with her out wherever it was that she went with her friends. He knew that she would be mad at him one way or the other and at least this way he would get a chance to learn more about how she spent her evenings.
After paying for the gas and picking up some snacks and drinks, Chris exited the store and made for the parked car. He grinned as he watched the Texan lean up against the Mustang, his long legs filling out the handed down jeans he had given him for this trip away. Vin had grown several inches taller over the past few months. Amazingly he was still lean despite the massive amounts of food he put away and no doubt offset by his daily running.
As Chris got closer he tossed the long haired boy a small packet without warning. Easily the Texan caught it with a grin and dropped his gaze to examine what had been thrown to him.
Figured you´d like them, Chris smirked as he reached him. Chris looked confused when his friend´s smile faded and an expression he didn´t recognize filled his still boyish features.
What´s wrong? Chris asked as he faced Vin.
Nothing, Vin replied automatically but never looked up.
Chris waited patiently for a second or two then getting no further response, moved around the car, opened the door and slid into the driver´s seat. He started the Mustang while Vin sat in the passenger seat and reached for the seat belt. Chris did likewise then smoothly put the sports car through the gears until they were cruising along the highway again.
Vin held the box of Red Hots still lost in the memory and emotions a simple box of candy had stirred in him. His mother used to buy him this brand of candy to satisfy his then budding desire for hot food. And those memories had him remembering with affection and a tinge of sadness, a road trip he had taken with her when he was six. He had lost her not long after that so that particular journey with her had become significant to him. He couldn´t remember where they were traveling to or why. He just remembered the truly happy time they had together. Driving along, playing music, talking and laughing and eating anything he liked or wanted, especially Red Hots.
You gonna open those or just look at them? Chris asked with bemusement after several moments of silence.
Why? You don´t think I´m sharing them do you? Vin teased back.
I knew Ezra´s influence would rub off on you eventually, Chris replied with a
Vin didn´t reply except to shoot Chris a cheeky look. Slowly he opened the packet and threw several of the round candy into his mouth.
You couldn´t handle them anyway, the Texan replied with his mouth full.
Chris muttered something under his breath then surprised the Texan by slowing down and pulling the car to the side of the road.
Why we stoppin´? Vin asked. Chris released his seat belt and turned toward him.
I thought you might like to drive the rest of the way? he replied with a crooked smile.
Vin´s jaw dropped. You mean it? he responded in awe.
Chris grinned at the astonishment on the younger boy´s face before he opened the door and stepped out.
Yeah, he replied simply. Let´s just keep it between ourselves ok? he added already imagining his father´s disapproval.
You bet, Vin replied excitedly as he scrambled into the driver´s seat.
After a moment of altering the seat position slightly, belting, and checking for traffic, Vin took the Mustang up to the speed limit, letting out a holler as the car cruised along with an effortless purr.
Chris felt himself caught up in Vin´s joy even as he protectively watched to ensure the younger boy didn´t get overconfident or cocky. Neither happened and Chris relaxed as the miles flew by and the usually quietly spoken Texan talked continuously and happily.
Chris knew the upcoming graduation would be bittersweet for him. He looked forward to starting the career he had always wanted. However, he knew he was going to miss his friends a great deal. Especially the close friendship he had struck up with the loyal yet often mischievous Texan. He hoped reliving moments like these would be a welcome distraction until they could all get back together again.
J.D. felt an almost dizzying rush as he stood and let Jessica do yet another check of his harness and equipment and ask if he was alright. Reassuring her again he mentally went through the procedures he had been taught, taking deep breaths to control the adrenalin that coursed through him.
Twenty seconds! Aaron yelled to him, his voice barely heard over the engine of the light aircraft. J.D. nodded and gave a thumbs up.
Then he, Aaron and Jessica got themselves into position. A red light went on in the cabin interior and Aaron grabbed and kissed Jessica and tossed a smug wink to J.D. before he threw himself out of the plane.
Ready? Jessica yelled.
Yes, he yelled back and moved the one step to the open door of the plane. The wind buffeted around him and he gripped the sides of the plane firmly.
He took one look back at Jessica who stood poised ready to follow him. He grinned at her before he turned and pushing with his feet fell into the vast void.
Nathan slowly blinked awake even though his head protested at the amount of light in the room. He squinted his eyes as a soft moan escaped him as his still sleep dulled mind registered a headache. His mouth felt so very dry but that was instantly overwhelmed by the urgent need for a bathroom. He tried to move into a sitting position but a weight on his chest restricted him. Frowning he glanced down as his hand moved to the cause of his immobility. Momentary alarm seized him as he touched a female head of hair. Rolling slightly to his side he gently moved the figure that slept half on him and sat up.
Relief washed through him as he noted immediately they were both fully clothed. A quick scan of the room he had slept in revealed it to be a generous sized lounge room with many other sleeping forms distributed over the floor, chairs and couches. Finally his addled brain brought forth the memories of the previous night.
He and Andre had hit the clubs restricted to those 21 and over after Andre had presented him with a fake ID and one for himself. At first the junior had been content to watch and not drink in one of the more popular and packed clubs where hundreds of young people gathered to dance and have a good time. However, as Andre and his friends quickly hooked up with members of the opposite sex, Nathan found himself alone and feeling somewhat awkward. So when he was asked if he would like to dance by an attractive girl a short time later he didn´t hesitate to say yes. And after several warming numbers on the dance floor he accepted the drink a smug Andre had waiting for him with a new what the hell´ attitude.
Now, he carefully negotiated his way around and over other sleeping young people, some he recognized and some he didn´t, as he searched for the bathroom, finding it at the end of the hall. His immediate need answered he made his way to the kitchen and a glass of water. Several gulps later he looked around the unfamiliar kitchen and glanced outside trying to ascertain who´s house he was at. He frowned, a friend of Andre´s? Or perhaps a friend of Andre´s friend? He couldn´t exactly remember. All he did remember was after going to two more clubs after the first one, a large group of them had bundled into cars and ended up at this house. From there they had been more drinks, more loud music and even DVD´s playing in competition with the music.
He had surprised himself by relaxing and just going along with the overall playful and fun mood of the night. As dawn got closer the music and dancing had died to be replaced by watching horror movies, talking, laughing and cuddling up close with the girls at the party. He guessed that´s how he must have finally gave in like the others and slept. Rubbing his eyes he checked his watch and noted that it was almost midday. A stab of panic hit him at the thought of his aunt being angry they had not returned home after being out all night and now practically half the day.
He returned to the lounge and searched the sleeping bodies. He didn´t find his cousin, Andre but he found his best friend, Jay. After rigorous shaking Nathan woke the young man and finally discovered his cousin´s whereabouts. A few minutes later he tentatively knocked on one of the bedroom doors calling out Andre´s name in insistent yet hushed tones. Finally Nathan heard the sound of movement and a minute later the door opened to reveal Andre´s disheveled form as he rubbed his face sleepily.
Hey Nate, he greeted.
It´s almost noon. Your mom Nathan rushed.
Don´t worry, Andre replied easily as he pushed his cousin back into the hall and closed the door behind him. I spoke to Mom hours ago. She knows we´re fine. I told her we´d be crashing at a friend´s place.
Oh, Nathan sighed with relief.
Andre gave him a slight shove. Man you worry too much, he chided with a shake of the head.
I don´t, Nathan protested too vehemently.
Andre gave him a crooked smile and affectionately draped an arm across his shoulder. Good. Because we´re going to an even bigger party tonight.
Tonight? Nathan replied worriedly. Are you sure we should
Didn´t you have a good time last night? Andre interrupted.
Nathan twisted and locked eyes with his cousin. Yeah, he admitted with a half smile and it was the truth. He had enjoyed cutting loose for a while and letting someone else take care of him.
Then we´re going to have an even better time tonight. You´ll see, Andre promised as his arm slipped into a neck hold squeeze around his younger cousin before he sauntered down the hall to the bathroom.
Nathan shook his head at the retreating half naked form before he made his way back to the lounge to find several more young people had awoken and were talking amongst themselves and a music TV channel had been turned on. One of those up and moving around was the girl he had woken up next to. She smiled brightly at him and came over to him.
Gina and me have to get going, she announced and Nathan nodded.
It was nice meeting you, Lisa Nathan replied sincerely.
How long are you are here? she asked, cocking her head at him.
´Til the end of the week, he smiled.
Grabbing a pen from her bag she wrote her name and number on his hand. Call me, she said encouragingly before she reluctantly grabbed her bag and her friend and left.
Nathan let out a long breath as he slid into a vacated chair. Then he grinned happily to himself.
"I've died and gone to heaven!"
Ezra glanced around at the scantily clad young women who were everywhere on the beach. "Now I will admit that it has been some time since I have perused the Bible, but I don't believe that there was any mention of thongs in heaven."
Buck rolled his eyes. "Well when we get back to the hotel room, you can look for that free Bible them people put in hotels and see just what it says. Me? I'll test out my own theory on what heaven on earth is right now." Any of Buck's apprehension about lying to their mothers regarding where they were going today had completely dissolved when he and Ezra walked onto the beach at Fort Lauderdale. "And let me tell you, this is better than watching it on TV!"
On a night when it was just him and Chris at the Larabee's home, the two teenagers had watched one of the "Girls Gone Wild" shows. Buck had teased that maybe they should record it for Clint when he got off duty. When that had not drawn any kind of response out of the younger Larabee, Buck had then asked, "Do you think your dad watches this kind of stuff?"
Chris had leveled a near lethal glare at his oldest friend. "I don't know and I don't care. Just 'cause you and your mom feel the need to know everything about each other, me and my dad don't feel the same way."
Buck had laughed in his good-natured way and let it go. He had not wanted to miss a moment of the program. And right now, he did not want to miss a minute of the action. He looked over at Ezra and sighed. "You know, it's a shame that you don't look a little bit older. You might have been able to score yourself a couple of college girls. If we had thought about it before you could've started growing a mustache. Maybe you'd've looked a little older." Buck reached out and grabbed Ezra's chin inspecting it and his cheeks closely even as the younger boy pushed at his hands trying to escape his grip. "Nah, doesn't look like you'd be able to manage much. You don't even shave yet, do you?"
The southerner finally pulled free of Buck and rubbed at his jaws, but the older boy ignored him since he knew he had not grabbed Ezra hard enough to hurt him no matter what kind of show he wanted to put on. "I would not want to grow a mustache!"
"You're just saying that, 'cause you can't!" Buck taunted, enjoying the sight of Ezra getting all riled up.
"I'm saying that because I do not wish to have an unsightly growth of hair over my upper lip! If you are so overly fond of mustaches, why don't you grow one yourself?
The junior considered Ezra's question for a moment. "That ain't a bad idea. Too bad the school don't allow facial hair. I bet the girls would love me even more with a mustache. Oh yeah, I'm gonna have to grow me one just as soon as I get out of school."
"You could always flunk out and start your mustache now. It should not be that hard for you to flunk. All you would have to do is stop cheating off Nathan," Ezra retorted.
"I don't cheat off Nathan!"
The southerner waved a dismissive hand in the air, "Well then you can stop cheating off whoever it is that you cheat off of."
"The only cheater round here is you!"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "I don't find my schoolwork challenging enough to warrant cheating."
"I wasn't talking about your schoolwork," Buck pressed. The rest of them all knew that Ezra was up to plenty of schemes and scams at the school. The problem was that when they put a stop to one or two of them, the southerner was already implementing three or four more.
You know, Buck, as fascinating as I find this conversation, I thought that you would be more interested in the parade of female flesh around us than on any defrauding that I may or may not be doing."
The junior's eyes immediately swung back over Ezra's head to the enticing sight of all the string bikinis. "You have a point," he breathed out as he started forward.
It surprised the younger boy when Buck whirled around to regard him once again. "So what are you going to be doing?"
"I'm touched that you would be concerned with my well being, Buck," he responded though his tone strongly suggested the complete opposite.
"Well you know we are supposed to stick together."
Pale green eyes were unimpressed. "Yes and we're also supposed to be back at Bal Harbour, but that's immaterial now, isn't it?" Ezra's stance softened ever so slightly as he realized that there was true concern for him in Buck's eyes. "I'll be fine, Buck. I can take care of myself."
"I don't doubt that, Ezra. It's just I'm not so sure we should split up." Buck could not deny that right now what he wanted most was to be out on the beach with the hordes of girls. But at the same time, as the older of the two, he felt responsible for looking out for Ezra and not just because it was what his mother would expect out of him, but what his other friends would expect as well.
"You just said yourself that I do not look old enough to be of any interest to the 'beach babes'." It pained Ezra a great deal to have to use that as a defense so he did his best to avoid having to admit that it was most likely true. He knew that it was often an advantage to look younger than he actually was, but in this case it just well and truly sucked. "I wouldn't want to be a hindrance to your activities. Besides, we both have cell phones if the need were to arise for one of us to get in contact with the other. You just have to make sure you keep yours on you, or at least in close proximity."
Buck grinned, understanding what Ezra was implying with that last and knowing that it was a valid direction. He sobered again, hoping to at least look a little stern as he again demanded, "But what will you be doing? Does it have anything to do with those friends of yours you mentioned before?"
The southerner shook his head. "No, it does not. That will be Friday night and I will be expecting you to return the favor of providing me with assistance just as I have assisted you in getting here." Ezra held up his hand to stop the flow of questions he could see building up in his friend. "As for what I shall be doing today? I actually haven't decided. Perhaps I'll find a library. Those should be quieter than normal today, don't you think?"
He did not buy the idea of Ezra going to the library for a second, but Buck knew that this was an argument that he could not hope to win, so he grudgingly nodded. "Alright, just remember we've got to leave here by five, so don't be late!"
"You are the one most likely to get caught up in your activities so as to forget the time," Ezra grinned. "But I will meet you at the bus stop at five."
"That's a deal, Ezra," Buck said, stressing the last syllable of the southerner's name to remind him of the other deal they had.
"It is indeed, Buck," the sophomore responded with the same emphasis on the junior's name. "Now don't drown out there," he said as he started to walk away from the beach.
"I don't intend to go swimming," the older boy laughed. "Although it might be fun to see if they got some 'Baywatch' worthy lifeguards out here. I could teach them a thing or two about CPR."
"With your luck? You would end up with a male lifeguard." Dimples flashed as Ezra added, "Come to think of it, I would pay to see that. I might have to stay close to the beach to see this."
The junior rolled his eyes, "Trust me, those female lifeguards out there would be racing to save me, to see which one gets to be the lucky girl to perform CPR on me."
Ezra waved off Buck´s boastful comments as he started away from the beach again. See you at five, Buck.
See ya then, Ezra! the older teen called as he focused his full attention on the beach and started the hard task of deciding just which group of girls he would approach first.
Ezra had not lied to Buck when he told him that he had no idea what he planned to do until five o´clock. The fifteen year old wandered around at first taking in the sights and sounds that Ft. Lauderdale, Florida had to offer at the height of its Spring Break festivities. He had to admit that it was absolutely thrilling as he spent some time on a beach away from where he had left Buck. But after a while of only watching he soon got bored and tired of the brilliant sunlight that hurt his pale green eyes even behind dark sunglasses. So he moved from the beach to the shops and attractions that lined the city´s streets.
He had lunch first at a nice restaurant. When the waitress idly asked him why he was by himself he amused himself by creating an elaborate story of how his older brother had dumped him to chase after college girls. The older woman had been sympathetic which had Ezra realizing that with a few refinements the story could provide sufficient cover if he needed it not only later that day but later in the week as well.
The sophomore enjoyed his lunch taking the opportunity to do some people watching. He always found it fascinating and learned so much about the way people behaved. There were those who were constantly aware of the fact that they were in the public eye and attempted to act accordingly. Then there were those who thought that they were invisible and acted as if they were alone. Ezra watched them all and wondered what their stories were. Some he could easily guess as he had seen similar stories enacted in different restaurants in different cities.
After a while, though, Ezra became restless and leaving a generous tip left the restaurant to see what else he could find of interest. An internet café beckoned him only briefly once he spotted a pool hall next door. He had not played in a while but had confidence in his abilities. If anything it would be at least a place to kill time until he had to meet Buck. And at best he could win some extra cash to use later in the week.
As Ezra slunk into the pool hall, the self-confidence that he has been wearing earlier seemed to melt away from him. Instead he seemed to be a typical teenager trying to wear a veil of bravado to hide the insecurities that bubbled within. He walked over to an empty table, keeping his gaze averted as the regulars looked him over. But he pretended to ignore them as he fed his money into the pool table and then began to rack up the balls. Most of the other occupants lost interest in him, but that did not bother Ezra. After all, he had all afternoon to see if anyone took his bait.
Buck watched Ezra walk off with a twinge of guilt, which quickly evaporated as he turned back towards the beach and soaked in the pleasurable sights before him. The tall, robust teenager took his time savoring the dozens of bikini clad girls stretched out before him like delicious morsels at a sumptuous banquet. Before long his obvious and delighted scrutiny was observed by a group of sun baking blondes, who talked amongst themselves then giggled in his direction. However, one of them glanced up at Buck beckoningly and smiled. Buck grinned almost smugly. Oh yeah he knew that look. Trying not to look too eager he sauntered towards them.
Within minutes he engaged all three girls in a charming conversation whilst convincing one she needed more sunscreen. By the time he finished the other two decided they needed more lotion. Eagerly Buck complied enjoying the sighs and giggles as he massaged´ the sun protection into their backs. The hours flew by as Buck entertained his bevy of beauties. After a short swim he offered to go get them drinks. Returning via a shortcut through two buildings to avoid bustling through crowds, he paused in his step to admire a stunning brunette standing underneath an outdoor shower. His jaw dropped when she unexpectedly removed her bikini top and used the showering water to remove the sand from her bare breasts. A short almost whimpering cry of pleasure erupted from Buck´s lips as he drank in the sight, wanting to remember every detail of that moment so he could tell it to his friends upon his return to school.
Suddenly the brunette noticed him staring and turning off the water, she walked towards him. Buck snapped his mouth shut and swallowed. When she stood before him words escaped him. She smiled knowingly.
Excuse me, she said reaching behind him.
Flustered slightly Buck moved and she grabbed the t-shirt hanging on a bench and put it on before packing her belongings into a small bag and turning back to him. She flicked her gaze up and down him and with a cheeky smile bent down slightly and sucked the straw on one of the drinks he held.
Finally Buck found his voice had returned. Hi, he said warmly.
Hi, the brunette replied, licking her lips slightly. Bye, she added as she walked off, her hips sashaying softly.
Buck´s great disappointment was short lived. After some dozen steps she paused and turned back toward him raising one eyebrow. His hopes soared. He looked down and remembered the drinks. He glanced back at the beach. His bevy of blondes awaited his return. It was an excruciating dilemma for him. The brunette shrugged a little disappointedly at his indecision and walked away.
Wait, Buck called out as he almost ran to catch up to her.
Chris leant back on his stationary dirtbike crossing his long leathered legs at the ankles as he took several swigs from his water bottle. He had already taken off his helmet, goggles and gloves and tossed them on the ground relishing the slight breeze through his blond hair moist with sweat. Needing more cool relief he unzipped the top half of the leathers and peeled them back until they hung loosely around his waist. He poured some of the water into a cupped hand and splashed his face, using the excess to run through his hair.
Leaning back against the bike again he took the time to look around at the hilled landscape with its trees, scrub and meandering creek from his high and shaded hilltop. Hearing the high scream of a two stroke engine below him his gaze once again rested on the similarly leather clad Texan as he pushed his bike to the limit to get up the dirt rutted track of the next hill. He exhaled softly as Vin made it two thirds of the way then did a controlled slide back to the bottom again. The younger teen had been determined to beat this hill from the time Chris had almost effortlessly made it up the same hill on their first day at his father´s friend´s ranch. The fact that Chris was experienced whereas Vin was a novice didn´t seem to matter to the Texan. He had to get up that particular hill. The mindset was resolved.
Vin had taken to dirtbike riding with incredible ease. So much so that Chris was convinced he had previous experience although the young Texan swore he hadn´t. Chris hadn´t argued. Some took to it naturally as he had when Clint first brought him here just before his twelfth birthday. Over the past days Vin had pushed his need to gain more and more expertise in the short time with an excessive and fearless drive. On their ride out that morning to obsession hill´ as Chris had begun to call the mountain of dirt Vin was determined to conquer, Vin had doggedly kept behind him despite the fact that Chris had often pushed his own skill. He never stayed ahead long though and that thought filled him with an unusual blend of pride and a determination to ensure his friend didn´t become too cocky or worse, manage to best him. He smiled to himself. There was no doubt he and Vin were having a great time. Their friendship, already deep and intricately connected, only strengthened over the past days. Both were very guarded and complicated, yet strangely both were at ease around each other. Whether it be in companiable silence, teasing one another or being comfortable discussing their past losses or fears for the future.
Chris didn´t like to think about he and Josiah´s upcoming graduation. He knew he´d miss all his friends, probably more than he ever thought possible. However, even more so the young Texan who he had come to care for like a little brother. His eyes narrowed suddenly and he stiffened slightly as Vin lost control and catapulted off his bike. The breath he was holding exhaled as the younger teen leapt to his feet, righted the bike and kick started the engine with more than necessary force. Chris relaxed into his lean once again. He was sure he had never met anyone as stubborn and pig-headed as Vin. His head lifted as his keen hearing detected another bike. A smile of genuine pleasure and elation lit his handsome face as he recognized the rider long before he pulled up next to him.
Dad, Chris greeted warmly after his father silenced the engine. I didn´t think you were gonna make it?
Clint smiled just as affectionately as he removed his helmet and safety goggles. I owe a lot of favors, he admitted. But it´s worth it to spend time with you, he added intently as he gave his son a meaningful nod.
Chris nodded back and one of their occasional awkward silences fell so Clint broke the unease by dismounting and engaging the stand on the rear of the bike. Soon he was also watching Vin as he began another attempt at the dirt hill.
He´s kinda wild there, Clint commented.
Yeah I know. I told him trying this hill as a beginner was crazy, Chris snorted.
He´s not ridden before? Clint asked with surprise.
No, Chris replied. And I keep telling him he ain´t gonna make this hill. He needs more experience.
Clint laughed aloud.
What´s so funny? Chris demanded, already smiling at what he guessed his father was going to reply.
Oh I just recall a similar conversation with you, the older man told him.
I wasn´t that bad, Chris protested good- naturedly.
Chris, you and Vin are so alike it scares me! Clint laughed.
Chris smirked. That suited him just fine.
Hey look at this, Clint said drawing Chris´ attention back to Vin.
The Texan had reached the point on the hill that always sent him sliding back down only this time he opened the throttle wide, spinning the back wheel and sending him upwards but out of control. Deftly, he put a foot down, pivoted the bike and kept going.
I don´t believe it! Chris muttered as he shook his head as the Texan reached the top and a loud, long exalted yell echoed back towards them.
Clint laughed with great pleasure, impulsively reaching out and taking Chris into a teasing neck hold followed by a back slap. Chris grinned happily then let out a mock sigh.
They´ll be no living with him now! he lamented.
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