Title: Not Looking for Love Serial
Author: Lena Bourne
Published by: By the Pond Pub.
Date published: Oct. 20, 2014
Genres: NA Contemporary
Book Length: 190 pages total
Steam Rating: Steamy
A no-strings fling is what she wants…but is that what she needs?
Sometimes, what you want is not really what you need.
Gail is only twenty-two years old and she is about to lose her mom, if the doctors are to be trusted. After a run in with Scott, the hot gardener from next door, Gail begins to see him as the perfect distraction from her unbearable life. She just wants to feel good with someone who makes her forget, if only for a little while, and Scott fits that description perfectly.
Scott just got back into town and he’s still trying to get his life back together. He already has more problems and regrets than he can ever hope to live with, and the last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who is clearly a little unsettled, if not downright insane. But the fact that Gail is very attractive and keeps throwing herself at him makes it impossible to send her away. Which he should, for Gail’s sake more than his own.
Lena Bourne is a young writer, but she has seen her fair share of the world, of love and loss, and all that happens in between. Now she’s here telling the stories you might otherwise have missed, which are made up, of course, but could very well be real and true.
Mom’s coughs, raspy and urgent, wake me. Her room is at the far end of the hall, five doors down, yet the sound rips through my chest like she’s lying right next to me. Leaving me, saying goodbye. The too many cocktails I drank at Kate’s party no longer make my thoughts fuzzy, instead they buzz around in my stomach, churning, making me sick. The coughing doesn’t stop, changes pitch until it sounds like she’s screaming. I bolt out of bed and run to the door, the sudden movement making the room spin around me. Dad’s footsteps pound down the hallway as he rushes to my mom’s room, so I sit on the chair by my makeup desk and turn on the sidelights, willing the room to stop spinning.
I’d only be in the way now, if I go to my mom. Then my dad will think he has to take care of us both: comfort my mom and keep me safe. Only he can’t, because my mom is dying, and there is no one who can change that. Twenty-two years old is too young to lose a mom. Cancer. Such a whimsical word for such a terrible disease. My birth sign. Bile rises in my throat as I struggle to chase the thought away, thinking of anything but that. That my birth sign is killing my mom, that I’m killing my mom. It’s childish, and it’s stupid to think it, but the idea still feels like I’ve swallowed broken glass.
I grab my wrist, hoping to clutch the charm bracelet she gave me on my 21st birthday just over a year ago. She gave me all of her jewelry for my birthday this year. Tiny charms dangle from the bracelet: a little princess, a colorful egg, and a golden coin. But all I feel is my racing pulse, a tiny ball bouncing in my vein that might break free at any moment, making me bleed out. The bracelet is gone.
I had worn it to Kate’s party, since I never take it off. I’d only gone to the party for a little distraction, and because Kate’s house is just next door, I could be back with my mom in a few minutes if she needed me. It was a total disaster. Brandon wouldn’t stop pestering me, and he ended up throwing me in the pool for a laugh. After that, I ran home, very nearly crying.
Digging through my makeup table, I send creams and blushes, hairpins and lipsticks toppling to the ground, searching frantically for the bracelet, even though I don’t remember taking it off. I run back to the bed, throwing the sheets, the pillows on the ground, checking the nightstand. The bracelet isn’t anywhere.
I’m outside on the patio before I can think.
Mornings are chilly this late in August, and dawn has hardly broken. All I’m wearing is a white tank top and the silk boxers I sleep in. I run across the lawn barefoot, not thinking of what I may be stepping on. I have to find the bracelet; I have no time to put on shoes.
I crawl through the hole in the fence that separates my garden from Kate’s. It’s a tight fit, now that I’m no longer five years old. Chairs and towels, empty glasses and discarded clothes are still strewn across the lawn, but, thankfully, no one is around. Likely, the cold dawn chased the last of the party away. I glance up at the house to make sure no one is watching. All the windows are dark. A light reflects in the first floor windows, and I drop into a crouch reflexively, but it’s just a passing car.
I find my dress near the pool where I took it off to take a dip. Right before Brandon tossed me in. I just left it lying there when I ran home. Everyone must think I’m completely mental now. I hope Brandon does too. Why won’t he just take a hint? Brandon is Kate’s brother, and since she’s like a sister to me, he’s like a brother to me. I can’t be dating my brother. Besides he’s the love ’em and leave ’em type, and all he can give me is a broken heart. Like he did with his last five girlfriends. As if my heart could take any more breaking.
I look around, tossing things aside, not caring where they land, hoping to find the bracelet. It’s not anywhere. The sun’s not up yet, but birds are chirping something awful all around me, and the sky is more white than grey now. Dawn is my favorite time of day. I love watching the colors of the sky change from inky black to grey to lilac blue and finally yellow, the new day being born, bringing new hope. Today, I just wish the sun would come up.
If the bracelet is not in the grass, it might be in the pool. The thought of going back in the water makes me shiver, but my desperation to get the bracelet back right away is stronger.
I ease myself off the side of the pool in roughly the spot where I went in before, feet first, trying not to make any sound that could wake Kate’s family. It’s like slow torture to do it that way, and my whole body cramps up, but the last thing I need is to cause a panic. I could just go back home and come back once the sun is up, but I can’t. I need that bracelet, or else I won’t sleep.
The cold water grips my body like a vice and I take shallow breaths until the worst of the pain passes. The lights in the pool are off already, they’re connected to the porch lights, and someone thoughtfully turned them all off after the party ended. Too thoughtfully. I could really use those lights right now.
After a final deep breath, I submerge my head, fighting the overwhelming urge to gasp as the cold water goes straight to my brain, which is what it feels like. I can almost see the steam coming off, but at least my heart is no longer pounding. I let myself float on the surface, scanning the floor of the pool. Lucky really, that Kate’s pool is saltwater. I can float, eliminating the need to tread water to keep myself on the surface.
Shadows play upon the mosaic floor of the pool, all blues, whites, yellows, and pinks. I turn slightly to adjust my angle of view. No silver gleams against the tiles anywhere. I only come up for air once my lungs start burning and dip my face back in immediately. Grey is giving way to white in the sky now, so the visibility should soon improve. I’m enjoying the silence, the serenity of floating in the water, with my long hair plastered down my ears, blocking out the chirping birds.
The eerie silence is almost like diving, only without the crushing weight of the water pressing against me. But I can’t see my bracelet anywhere, and no doubt the servants will be out cleaning up soon. I adjust my angle again and am just about to come up for more air when something grabs my waist and flips me over in the water.
I scream and flail, gulp water instead of air, with visions of a shark attacking vivid in my mind. Beating and kicking, I paddle hard to get out of the water, my hair obscuring my vision.
Whatever grabbed me is no longer touching me, but I kick back to the side of the pool frantically anyway, still coughing, still seeing nothing. My knuckles collide with the wall of the pool, but I ignore the pain, scraping my knees as I struggle out of the water. My arms are shaking so badly I can’t lift myself up to get out of the pool.
“Calm the fuck down!” a man yells behind me. “You’ll hurt yourself. It’s alright.”
He places his hands on my hips and lifts me from the water.
I’m panting now, but at least I’m not swallowing water anymore. I brush my hair from my eyes and stand up, though my legs are shaking so hard I’ll probably just topple back down even if I succeed.
The guy is still in the water, eyeing me like I’m insane. “Are you alright?”
I nod as I finally manage to stand.
He hoists himself from the water in one fluid motion. His white t-shirt is plastered against his chest, and his grey pants hug his legs tightly. He’s all muscle, from his biceps, to his shoulders, chest, and stomach that ripples in a neat six-pack. And not those chiseled for-show muscles that otherwise thin guys have. He’s bulky, twice as wide as any guy I know. Even his legs. No wonder he had no problem tossing me out of the pool.
“Are you alright?” he asks again, standing right in front of me now.
I quickly look up into his face, hoping he didn’t notice me checking him out before. He can’t be much older than me, I see now. His short blond hair looks black near his scalp, but stands up in light colored spikes all over his head. His eyes are either blue or grey—the kind of eyes that change color according to the light. And deep. I could stare at his eyes all day long just to see what I could see.
“Are you high?” he asks. I shake my head a little too sharply and feel my boobs bounce around under my tank. My wet white tank, which isn’t covering me up at all right now if the state of his shirt is anything to go by. A thought to cover myself up flitters through my mind, but it’s distant and sounds ridiculous.
His eyes leave my face and travel down, taking me in. He likes what he sees, and I can feel it. It’s like his gaze is fire, and whatever he’s thinking is bringing my blood to a boil, warming me.
His eyes return to my face, my parted lips. His are slightly parted too, like he’s breathing hard, but I don’t hear it.
“What were you doing in the pool? You scared me to death,” he says, his eyes soft now, and his lips curl into a sheepish grin. “I thought you were dead.”
I shake my head again, this time catching my boobs under my arm. “I thought I lost something in the pool. My bracelet… but I can’t find it.”
He turns back to the pool. The ripples from my flight have still not died down completely, and the surface is an opaque white now, reflecting the sky.
“I doubt you’ll find it in there, not now at least. Wait ’til the sun comes up, maybe,” he says and shrugs like he doesn’t think I’ll ever find it.
“I have to find the bracelet,” I say too loudly, too shrilly.
He holds his hands up like he’s wading me off. “Alright, alright, I’m just saying, wait ’til the sun comes up.”
I look up at the sky, checking to see if the sun is anywhere near up. “Everyone will be up by then.”
He smiles at me again. “I can help you look, I guess.”
I let my arms fall to my sides and turn to the pool. My boobs bounce and that hungry look is back in his eyes. They look brown now, almost black. It’s like he’s touching me with his look, and my nipples, erect and clearly visible through my tank prickle like he’d just run his fingers over them. A ball of heat erupts between my legs, heavy and urgent. Somehow, all I can think of are his arms around my hips, and his cock, so plainly outlined by his wet pants, pressing into me. I really want to go for another dip in the pool with him. I can’t remember any other guy ever turning me on so fast, so hard.
“Gail!” Brandon’s whiny voice rips through my fantasy of me and this pool boy entwined in the water. “What’s happening? Is he harassing you?”
Brandon’s footsteps thump through the grass toward us, and the pool boy takes a step away from me, crossing his arms over his chest. I mimic his motion, and face away from Brandon. Likely, his yells have awoken the whole house. A dark shadow passes over the pool boy’s eyes, and he’s staring at Brandon, but he stays quiet.
“I’m fine,” I say and turn to Brandon. He picks up a towel and wraps it around my shoulders, keeping his arm there too like he owns me.
“Your girlfriend lost something,” the pool boy says. “You should keep a better eye on her.”
I shake off Brandon’s arm. “I’m not his girlfriend.”
Somehow, it’s very important that the pool boy knows this. Softness flashes across his eyes but is gone again in an instant.
He turns and walks toward the gardening tools he tossed on the ground by the pool when he thought he had to save me.
I take a step after him, my arm stretched out like I want to pull him back. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I was warm before, when he was looking at me, and now I’m cold.
I cover the gesture by wrapping the towel tighter around myself. “Do you need some dry clothes? I can bring you something.”
He bends over and picks up a hoe off the ground. “Don’t worry about me. I have a change of clothes in my truck.”
Brandon’s next to me, trying to place his arm around me again. I step to the side, and his arm flails through the air. I could swear pool boy chuckles a little seeing it, but I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just what I want to see. I want him to want me.
The sun finally peeks over the fence, and something glimmers a few steps away from me in the grass.
I lunge for it, making both Brandon and the pool boy start.
“My bracelet!” I ‘m clutching it so tightly the charms dig painfully into my palm. I know my face is a mask of deranged glee, but I can’t help it.
The pool boy picks up the rest of his tools and shakes his head, muttering something that could be ‘crazy rich chick,’ but I may be wrong.
“Do you want to go inside? Get warmed up?” Brandon asks. He’s hovering next to me again, standing between the pool boy and me. Going in with him is the last thing I want to do. Pool boy is already at the far side of the garden.
I shake my head and run toward the hole in the fence, wishing Brandon never showed up and I was dipping in the pool with, well, pool boy. I need to find out his name. Pool boy is a dumb nickname. Especially since he’s obviously the gardener.
Dad is standing on the patio and sipping his coffee, his eyes glazed. I’m not even sure he sees me approach.
“How’s Mom?” I ask, forestalling any questions from him and making sure he knows I’m sober and ready for bed.
“She’s asleep now. Try not to wake her.”
I slip past him, not wanting to share his grief. It multiplies when we’re together, breeds, grows, and expands until it’s all there is, and I can’t breathe. A week or so is all Mommy has left. All the doctors agree. I hope they’re wrong. Every second of every minute, I hope they’re wrong. And right now, I’d rather loose myself in the fantasy of pool boy and me in the pool than hope for anything at all.
I fell asleep before I could get any kind of fantasy going, and by the time I wake up it’s almost one in the afternoon. Since, I ended up sleeping in my sweats, I just pull my damp hair into a messy bun and go in search of some coffee.
I stop by my mom’s room, cracking the door open just a little bit to see if she’s awake. All I hear is her raspy, shallow breathing. One of her hands is hanging off the side of the bed, and her cover and sheets are all crumbled up like she just woke from a nightmare. Only she’s still sleeping, each breath like stone grating against sandpaper.
I slip into the room and tiptoe to her bed. My heart is in my throat, beating against the hot, jagged ball of burning tears that’s always there when I see her. I can’t let her see me cry because I’m not a little girl anymore, even though that’s exactly how I feel most of the time now. Like I’m ten and my mommy is dying. She can’t know any of that; it would just make it all harder on her. But she’s asleep now, and a hot tear trickles down my cheek. Only I don’t whimper, don’t let any sound escape my clenched throat. She might wake up. I take her hand, tears rushing from my eyes now, and place it on the bed next to her. She doesn’t stir. The nurse is giving her the maximum amount of morphine she can now. It’s not always enough to dull the pain. And she’s sleeping now. I mustn’t wake her. Yet all I want to do is climb in bed with her. Like I did when I was little. Wake her, talk to her. Laugh. Instead, I’m crying, inching back out of the room silently because I can’t wake her.
I wipe my tears away as I walk down to the kitchen, concentrating hard on the cup of coffee I’m about to have, until it’s all I know and all I think about. I lean against the counter, waiting for the coffee to brew. The window has a partial view of Kate’s service driveway and the red pick-up parked there. A magnolia tree by the fence near it is shaking like someone’s cutting it. Pool boy or gardener. The memory of him, in his wet clothes this morning sends, tingles through my stomach. He’d be a better distraction than a cup of coffee and much better than one of Kate’s wild parties.
I run back up the stairs, untangling my hair as I go. I slip on a sundress with a deep v-cut that I’d normally only wear if it was really hot out. Back in the kitchen, I pour two cups of coffee and walk across the lawn to the fence, hoping pool boy is indeed trimming the magnolia tree.
I climb through the hole in the fence, sloshing hot coffee over my bare leg, but at least I don’t spill it all over my dress. Kate’s high-pitched laugh echoes from the pool, but the hedge from here to the magnolia tree is so thick she shouldn’t be able to see me.
The shrubbery hides me from the pool boy too. He’s wearing a pair of faded jeans now and no shirt. The sunlight makes his skin glisten, and all I really want to do is run my hand down his back, feeling those hard muscles. That desire surprises me. I’m not usually very forward with guys and definitely prefer them to take the lead. He’s got one of those electric cutters going, so he doesn’t hear me approach.
I clear my throat once I reach him. “Excuse me.”
The saw sputters, and the noise dies out. He turns toward me, surprise evident in the way his face hovers between a smile and a frown. I wouldn’t mind touching his lips either.
“I thought you might like some coffee,” I say, holding one of the cups toward him, sloshing more of it across my arm in the process.
He just stares at me like he can’t figure out what I’m doing there.
“Thank you for saving me,” I explain, belatedly adding, “or, you know, trying to.”
He puts the saw down, wipes sweat off his face with the back of his hand, and finally takes the coffee.
“I put milk and sugar in. I don’t know how you like it,” I say rather stupidly.
His eyes, the color of a cloudless blue sky now with just a hint of sunlight dip down to the v of my dress. With the push-up I’m wearing, the dress reveals more than it hides.
“Thanks. I like milk and sugar just fine.”
His gaze warms me again, heat shooting through my stomach. Somehow, I don’t think he’s really talking about the milk and sugar.
What I’m feeling must be showing on my face because he chuckles a little and gulps down the coffee.
“Thank you, Miss…?” he says, holding the empty cup toward me.
“Gail,” I manage.
“Miss Gail,” he says and chuckles again.
“No, just Gail,” I explain too seriously. His eyes are still taking me in, sizing me up, and sending tingles across all the places I wish he’d touch. “And what’s your name?”
“Scott,” he says and shakes the empty cup at me. “And you’re welcome. Anytime. I’m just glad you’re not dead.”
Dead, I hate that word. That word used to be scary, now it’s terrifying. Dead is what my mom will be. Her two-month sentence will be done in one week. An image of her laughing face flashes through my mind, as she bought me the bracelet in Rome, and as she listened to me telling her of that boy I was so helplessly in love with back in sixth grade. She doesn’t laugh like that anymore. Soon she never will. Because she will be dead.
Scott’s eyes narrow and pull together. He bends down and places the cup on the ground. “I should get back to work. Thanks for the coffee. Have a nice day.”
“I’d like to thank you properly,” I hear myself saying, with no idea where the words are coming from or where they’re going. “Do you have time for a proper drink later, after work?”
I’ve never asked a guy out so pointedly before. Never had the nerve. Not in sixth grade, not at any time since. So, I don’t know why I’m doing it now. I must be crazy.
He lifts his eyes up to mine again, stopping just a little too long at my boobs.
My mouth is hanging open, and my eyes must be too wide. I know all this, but can’t stop it. I wish I had Kate’s easygoing manner with guys, but I don’t. And now he’ll say no, thinking I’m just a crazy rich chick, and this is the second time I’m making a total fool of myself in front of him.
He gives me a lopsided grin, and locks his eyes on mine. “I’d love to; I really would, but…”
I hate that ‘but’. At least he’s being nice about it.
I want to wipe the expectant look off my face, but it’s stuck there.
“… that guy, Brandon… he likes you. He’s my boss, sort of, and I need this job, kind of, but I’d love to.”
I know I’m wearing a confused, unattractive grimace on my face right now.
“So is it a yes or a no?” I ask.
A cloud of annoyance covers his eyes, and I look away, down to his chest at his dark red nipples. I wonder what they’d feel like between my teeth. Oh my God, I’ve never ever wanted to suck a guy’s nipples before. What’s wrong with me?
“It’s a no,” he says. It feels more like a slap.
I’m going insane; it’s the only explanation. I’m asking a gardener out on a date. And he said no.
“Fine, fine, whatever,” I mutter, pick up his empty cup, and twirl around, sloshing my own, untouched coffee all over my dress this time.
It’s too much. My mom is dying, I’ve barely slept, I’m not acting like myself at all, and now this guy is rejecting me. Tears blind me.
“I’m sorry.” I think I hear him yell after me, but I’m already climbing back through the fence, sloshing more coffee all over myself. What was I thinking? I’m a mess. I should be with my mom, not chasing guys and wondering what their nipples taste like. Not asking gardeners out on dates.