"Do it! I triple-dog-dare you, Ember!" The girl tossed her river-soaked copper hair over her shoulder as she laughingly shook her head at her twin brother. "Aww, wimp! You just ain't got the balls to do it!" Her green-blue eyes, flecked with hazel, blazed with indignation as she took the bait.
"Bet!" She cast a sideways glance at the guy in the kayak that was about to unknowingly become her victim. She hauled herself out of the muddy water and tied back her hair. "Watch and learn, Eric." She took a running start and leaped off the dock. She surfaced about halfway across the river, her blonde highlights shining in the southern sun. She eyed the distance between her and the kayak, took a deep breath, and swam over. About five feet from the kayak, she stopped, resurfaced, and went back under.
I'm going to die! Half of her mind was completely against doing this at all. But this could be the best summer of your life if you pull this off! Come on! You go to college in the fall! The other part of her mind willed her forward, under the murky waters. Or the worst! What is he drowns? Her mind warred with itself as she swam under the boat. With a burst of strength, she pushed upwards, tipping the sit-on kayak with the hundred-fifty pound man inside of it. She heard a yell of surprise as she felt the kayak tipping above her. Come on, Girlie, push! She heaved and heard a splash as the weight came off of her. Resurfacing, she gave a whoop and stuck her tongue out at her friend. Before she could swim around, she felt a hand grab her leg, and down she went.
I told you you were going to die! She struggled against the grip for a moment, before he let go. She broke the surface only to come face-to-face with a laughing Nicholas. She helped him flip his kayak right side up, then swam back to the dock before she could do anything else that might make her look stupid.
"Pay up! I told you she'd do it!" She glared at her friend and brother as Miranda handed over the twenty.
"Damn y'all!" Her brother's green eyes laughed at her as she hauled herself up. She stalked past her blonde soul-sister and her brunette brother, heading towards the other side of the parking lot.
She sent a flirtatious smile towards Nicholas and made her way to the mile-long rocky path that led up to the top of the tracks, about forty feet above the water. Out of sight, out of mind. She made her way to the top and walked to the center of the trestle. "If I die, I'm hauntin' y'all's asses!" She knew they didn't hear a word she said, but it felt better yelling it than keeping it in. With that, she jumped, performing a few summersaults on the way, straight into the deep water below. When she broke the surface, she found a kayak right by her head.
"Grab onto the back. That's a mile swim and not one you're making alone." She smiled and hauled herself to the back. "But first..." He stopped and smiled at her.
"You already got me back for that!" He laughed at her protests and began to paddle his way to the closest shore. "Nicholas?" He hopped out, pulled it up, and tied it to a tree. "Nicholas?"
"Shhhh." He pressed a finger to his lips, then helped her out of the water. "You've got spunk, Ember, I'll give you that." She found her gaze locked on his brown eyes that were framed by his wavy southern clay-red hair. "Your dad is going to kill me. Probably fire me." He played with a lock of her soaked hair that tried to cling to her sun-kissed skin. Cupping her face with both hands, he leaned in, pressing the lightest of kisses against her pink lips. She sighed and leaned into him. Going to be the best summer ever! Her mind screamed in her head as she responded to his touch.
"I know a place," she breathed in between kisses. He looked at her in surprise. "Come on." He let her lead the way through the woods. "I come here a lot." She stopped in front of a small cabin. "Mama gave it to me." She looked back at him, a smile on her face. He smiled and let her lead the way into the cabin. Shutting the door, he pinned her arms above her head and kissed her like there was no tomorrow.
"My friend and brother are going to be extremely worried." She laid in his arms an hour later, curled against his muscled chest. "We should be getting back." Neither made any attempt to get dressed and head back. "Where does this leave us now?" She peered up into his eyes, feeling the lines on her forehead crinkle.
"Where do you want it to leave us, Ember?" Her heart fluttered in her chest as hope blossomed in her soul. "You're eighteen now. Your parents can't control you like they did." He held her, praying for her to follow her heart. He watched as her white teeth chewed her bottom lip.
"I like you..." She trailed off as her mind went back to a scene from three years before.
"That was...wow!" She looked into the grey eyes of her first love. "But, where does this leave us now?"
"Wherever you want us to be, Baby." He took her hand in his. "Just know that I'll always be here for you."
"I like you, maybe even love you. I want more than whatever..." She motioned to the room around her. "Than whatever this is that we have."
"And what do we have?"
"I don't know. We've been friends for years." She chewed her lip. "I.." She trailed off and kissed him as hard as she could.
"Ember, look at me, Sweetheart." His voice was so soft, so compelling. Her eyes met his melted caramel ones and looked away at the sincerity she saw. "This is your choice. You're not going to hurt me if you say that this is a one-time thing. I'm not going to shoot you down if you say you want to be something more to me because I'd love that too."
"I don't know where we'll go after this, but..." She stopped and looked at him again, an internal debate throwing itself back and for between her heart and mind.. "I want to be more." He smiled and kissed her slow.
"We need to get back, Ember." Reluctantly, they got dressed and went back outside. He took her hand and led her back to the kayak, which he untied and dragged back to the water. "You coming?" The side of her lips quirked up in a smirk as he sat down.
"Of course. What's the weight limit?"
"Four-hundred." He shot her a quizzical look. She climbed up and sat on his lap.
"Okay. Let's go." He laughed, shook his head, and pushed his way out of the inlet. About half a mile later, she plunged into the chilly water, dangerously tipping the kayak again.
"What was that for?" She laughed and took off swimming. Shaking his head, he paddled behind her until they got to the dock once more.
"Ember?" She turned her head at her friend's voice. "Thank God you're okay! I was worried sick that you'd done gone and drowned or something!" Her eyes flickered to Nicholas behind her. Her eyebrows raised as she looked back at Ember, who nodded. "No way! You're kidding me!" She shook her head as Eric lumbered up to them.
"I'm going to kill him if he laid a hand on you, Ember!"
"I guess you'll have to live with it." She smiled back at Nicholas. "He's my boyfriend now. Besides, we all know you're hot for Miranda." She laughed as he turned on his heel and walked away.
"Go get'em, Mir."
She turned as she felt Nicholas' strong arms encircling her waist. "I think today was amazing."
"It takes somebody who dares to love each day, Sweetheart. Dare to love and you'll make it somewhere."
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A/N: I did flip a guy's kayak last summer (Jun 2020) at the trestle. I fully blame his friend because his friend told me he didn't think I had the balls to do it to a nice guy, who mere days earlier was ready to jump in when he thought I was drowning (I wasn't drowning). I flirted with the guy all last summer, but nothing came of it.