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´ Alex looked up from the video game he was engrossed in with an expression that made me feel like I¶d grown an extra head.
³Yeah, swimming. You need to get out of the house, Alex.´ I sat in the chair next to him, on the edge of the cushion in an attempt to keep him from luring me into something more interesting than video games or swimming, and a lot more dangerous.
³I am out of the house. I left Clark¶s house and I came to your house.´ Alex bit his lip studying me intently. ³You do remember people swim mostly naked right?´
I remembered, but after analyzing it from every angle I had decided the drive there and back was doable and the public pool part would pose a problem at all. Public displays of affection weren¶t on my to do list anywhere, half-naked or not. ³It¶ll be fine. You can borrow one of my suits, that way we won¶t have to drive all the way to Clark¶s,´ or much worse, ³stop by your house. What do you say?´
Alex dropped the controller to the end table and clicked the game and TV off with their respective remotes. He looked at me with a flash of a grin guaranteed to fog my brain. ³Spend the day with you, wet and half-naked? Pretty sure the only sane answer to that question is yes.´
Put that way I wasn¶t sure the invitation was all that smart after all. There was no backing out now, not with him lit up like a Christmas tree all thought of his mother driven completely from his mind for the first time since they¶d argued. Besides I had little doubt Frank¶s final decision was going to involve an early trip back to school. I might as well torture myself as much as I could, while I could.
We made it to the pool with my sanity relatively intact, but t-shirts with swim-trunks was just another version of shirt and shorts, and no big deal, not even when Alex clutched my hand, his head resting against my arm all the way there. His hand always felt so small in mine. He was fine boned, almost delicate in comparison to my own rugged build. I knew he was far from fragile, but my need to shelter him was so strong he might as well have been made from the finest
porcelain. It was difficult to let him grow, to take the knocks life had for him and be there as a support and not a shield.
The mess with Alex¶s mother made me want to keep him beside me all the time. I wanted to protect him and I battled continually with the feeling no one could keep him safe as well as I could. I didn¶t want him to go to Clark¶s or to school I never wanted him to have to look at his mother again. Feeling like that was irrational. The only person who could really be there all the time to keep Alex safe was Alex himself. Sheltering him wouldn¶t help him learn to do that, keeping him away from his mother wouldn¶t give them a chance to heal. I didn¶t know if such a thing was even possible but it wasn¶t my decision to make. Knowing that didn¶t make it easier. Watching my boy grow from an innocent fifteen year old into a young man, who at 16 had already taken more than his share of hits, made me wonder what possessed people to become parents.
³Dude, you need to lighten up, seriously.´ Alex poked my arm and I realized I¶d been sitting staring through the windshield of the van at nothing. Lost in thought instead of doing my job keeping Alex occupied.
³Sorry, I have a lot on my mind. Work stuff.´ I grabbed our towels from behind the seat and tossed his over his head. The green stripes covered his face, but not before I saw his eyes roll his gaze towards the roof of the truck.
³Yeah, I¶m sure.´ He muttered. I draped my blue towel over my shoulders and we headed for fun.
Yep, this was fun. I sat sideways on one of the loungers we claimed for our own, though I doubted Alex had any intentions of sunbathing. He sat on the chair beside mine, his back to me waiting. I stared at the expanse of bare skin in front of me, sunscreen in hand. He¶d already slathered himself all over with the stuff, head-to-toe, everywhere he could reach. The catch being the part he couldn¶t reach, and it wasn¶t even a ploy. If he didn¶t use sunscreen on his pale skin he was going to burn like crazy. Which made my choices sunscreen now in public, or aloe later
alone in my house. Mouth dry I decided public to be the better part of valor and squirted the sunscreen into my palm.
³I¶m not getting any younger.´
Thank God for that at least.
He shut up when my hands touched his back. I had every intention of rubbing in his sunscreen and sending him off to the pool. It took a lot longer to accomplish than I anticipated. My hands were sun dark against his fair skin, the contrast startling. I don¶t know why it seemed more pronounced than when I held his hand, and he tangled his elegant pale fingers with my work roughened ones. The slick oily feel of the sunscreen masked the texture of his skin. It didn¶t matter. Touching Alex was first on my things not to do list and the wisdom in that decision currently underscored by the small desperate sound he made in the back of his throat and the way his hands white knuckled the edge of the lounger. I could feel his struggle to keep his breathing even.
When I finally took my hands away Alex turned to face me, and our gazes locked. His pupils dialated into huge pools of lust, a drop of blood beaded on his lip where he¶d bitten it. I came so close to leaning forward to lick it away that he read my intent in my body language and froze eyes wide with surprise. I stopped myself, barely. Unfortunately that didn¶t translate into a full outburst of selfcontrol. Alex retrieved the sunscreen from where I¶d dropped it beside me.
³Turn around.´ His hoarse voice gave no support to the pretense that he thought I needed sunscreen. I didn¶t. I work in the sun every day. I wore shirts or sunscreen, I freckled and tanned but, despite my red hair, rarely burned. A few hours at the pool weren¶t going to hurt me. Twenty seconds of Alex¶s hands on my back might kill me. I turned around. Slender fingers wide-spread, palms flat against my skin, his thumbs traced up my spine. He rubbed circles over my shoulder blades and I felt his breath stir the hair on the back of my neck.
³Done.´ he sounded choked, his hands still touched me.
³Get in the pool.´ was my voice harsher than it needed to be, I had no idea. I didn¶t turn around. I knew he was gone when the sunscreen hit the ground behind me and I heard a fresh splash in the pool. I stared at the concrete wall in front of me and wrestled my control. Whatever had possessed me to let him touch me like that had fled, leaving only regret in its wake. I knew he wasn¶t ready and I couldn¶t handle it.
I debated whether I should get in the water at all when a huge splash from the pool soaked my back and then Alex was there behind me, his cheek pressed against mine the only place he touched me. He turned and breathed into my ear. Heat rushed through me but I didn¶t protest, ears were fair game.
³It¶s just sunscreen dude. I told you, lighten up.´ His laugh was contagious and I laughed with him.
Brow raised I turned to meet his eyes. ³Oh yeah?´ He'd gotten really good at interpreting my body language and took off at a dead run in time to evade my grab. I ran after him, his peals of delighted laughter made it worth ignoring the shrill whistles and annoyed shouts of the lifeguards. I took him into the pool with a full body tackle much to the delight of half a dozen squealing kids. We bobbed to the surface sputtering and laughing.
³Jared.´ I turned to look at him. Alex met my eyes, his smile bright the shadow of the past few days lessened by the fun he was having. ³Don¶t worry so much, I¶m going to be okay. This was a good idea.´ He splashed me in the face and took off with me right behind him. That boy had a dunking in his future. I had no doubt he was going to be just fine and if I survived him growing up, I would be too.
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