A Taste of Summer(3)

By: Beverly Preston

“And you know I don’t need pick-up lines to impress a woman.”

He stood a mere twelve inches from her, filling her breath with traces of clean heated male skin. A scent that was all too familiar. The thumping of her heart impeded the movement of her feet. Another bolt of awareness struck low in the pit of her stomach watching his grin turn full detecting her discomfiture.

The cocky smirk spreading over his face was damn near like striking a match to kindling doused in gasoline. Dangerous. Especially if you stood too close.

“Yeah, I remember. All you had to do was flash a football jersey at women to get them into bed. I’m sure you get much further with an Oscar.” She dished out another jab before rationalization kicked in. It took less than five minutes for her ex to burrow under her skin like a sliver. Why the hell do I let him get to me like this?

The smile chased away from his face. Replaced with sort of deep contemplative sadness. His gaze drifted to her ponytail. As if in a trance, Ryan reached out and looped a piece of her silky dark hair through his fingers. “Your hair’s getting long. You growing it out?”

It was getting awkward.

It always did.

Every time they bumped into each other she felt like he wanted to pick up the pieces of their relationship right where they left off.

“Yep, I’m growing it out. Women do that occasionally. I should get going. Good luck finding a date, Drew.” Hiking the strap of her gym bag over her shoulder, she forced a subtle smile looking at Ryan. “And please, for the sake of all women in LA, teach him some better material. Maybe even go the extra mile and teach him the proper way to ask a girl out. You know…flowers, movies, maybe even go as far as making sure the woman is born in the same decade.”

“I’ll be sure and do that.” His smile warmed, heating the color of his eyes to smooth cognac beneath the thick rim of dark lashes.

Carrie Ann didn’t bother wasting time changing out of her cycling shoes or stopping at the ladies locker room. The sound of her hurried steps drowned out the pounding of her heart as she made a beeline past the front door toward the parking lot.

Slipping into the solitude of her car, she gripped the steering wheel with both hands. Attempting to rid herself of the onslaught of emotions rising to the surface, Carrie Ann closed her eyes and drew a breath of air through her nose. Slowly, she filled her lungs to full capacity, and held, before letting it go between pursed lips.

Her head fell back against the beige, leather headrest. Every time she saw him, their goodbyes always seemed unfinished, the air always felt heavier, and the pain in her heart always tore a little deeper.

Carrie Ann and Summer met her third year of college at a party following a football game. Sparks flew the first time they laid eyes on each other. He was smart, gorgeous, funny and cocky as hell. None of which could be measured on a small scope. Summer wasn’t the egotistical, narcissistic, big-headed kind of cocky that came strapped to the majority of football players she knew. Summer bore the kind of cockiness a man possesses when he holds enough self-assurance for that of a dozen men. Nothing was out of his reach. Not even Carrie Ann Lowell.

Carrie Ann grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, or as she liked to refer to it as the silver shovel crammed down her throat. Her father was a renowned LA attorney. He cut his teeth and his sheets defending the rich and famous. Her mother died of a rare heart condition when she was only eight years old. After surviving three stepmothers from hell, or gold diggers as she preferred to call them, Carrie Ann vowed never to settle down until after college. More specifically, she swore she’d never step into a serious relationship until she was at least thirty years old.

Thirty was the golden number. The line she drew in the sand. That was, until she met football star, Ryan Summer.

Summer was USC’s most beloved quarterback. A football hero and rumored to be the overwhelming favorite for the Heisman Trophy, until a knee injury crippled his career. They dated for nearly two years. He was the love of her life…until he broke her fucking heart.

After their break up, Carrie Ann turned to charity work, directing her focus to the Have a Heart Foundation in honor of her mother. Fate interceded late one afternoon when she and her best friend, Shayla, were chilling out on the terrace of Shayla’s uncle, legendary actor Tommy Clemmins’ cliff side mansion. They were enjoying a bottle of wine, brainstorming new ways to bring awareness to the foundation, while watching the rare site of whales breaching off the Malibu coastline. After two glasses of cabernet, she became easily distracted by the surfers coming in from their afternoon set. Her binoculars zoomed in on the towel-clad hard bodies as they undressed on the beach. Her feet were propped up on the wrought iron table waggling back and forth taking in the show when she scoffed sardonically, “Maybe I should just have some hotties pose naked for a calendar. That would raise money for the HAH Foundation.”