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Excerpt of Chapter 2 (still in draft phase; it feels like everything is still in draft phase, these days). This is as close to “writing with abandon” as you get, from my pen.

2 (Wave Walkers)

After leaving the Harvest Fete dance amid hushed comments and uneasy stares (about which he didn’t give a toss; that was a lower class of mammal who had wondered curiously about how he could possibly be so grinning and gleeful after having Samantha Hoggett’s considerable wrath directed toward him, lesser humans who lived on the hard ground alone, with hearts and wills like clotted cream, who couldn’t conceive of any greater synchronicity between opportunity and payback than what their tiny minds had been shown by the cinema or telly), and downing three heady draughts of St. Austell’s at the Crest and Claw (after which Neville had muttered to him that it might be better to take a break, amid concerned looks and pressing questions that had gone mostly unanswered in favour of inward snickers and planning), Ross had gone home and had himself one of the hottest showers, one of the most fulfilling wanks, and one of the best night’s sleep he’d had in a long, long time.

On the following morning, after a pulse-pounding run on the beach with Scott (who was often the only one of the crew up before sunrise, these days, since he could only surf in the mornings now that Venus had an hour long commute from Truro in the evenings, and four-year-old Emma needed someone to be at home for her), and an early cut into the dawn-breaking waves, Ross was still flush with anticipation, over both Sam and Amber.

Rather than cooling his ire, being given the time to think it over had made him even more eager to get back at Sam for all of those useless nights spent lying on his board or in his bed, alone, staring up at the sky or the ceiling and wondering where he’d made the wrong turn. The answer – he knew now, shown to him in the pretty and just-seductive-enough smile of a younger girl – was that Sam was full of shit and that he hadn’t made any wrong turn. He’d just had to wait to get his sweet, sweet revenge on the woman who’d dangled him by his heartstrings (not to mention the blood vessels in his cock) and then made a fool of him after getting him hard over her. Sam hadn’t been the first woman to do that, of course, to use him and then toss him away like yesterday’s rubbish; she wasn’t even the most memorable. But he saw her with such annoying regularity – at the pub, at the lifeboat station, on the street – and that almost daily reminder of her presence (not to mention her very existence) grated on his nerves.

More than anything at that moment, he wanted Sam to feel the same ache of rejection and self-doubt that she’d made him feel for the last two years.

And he really, really wanted to fuck Amber.

If he could figure out a way to do both at the same time – get his revenge on Sam and get with Amber – he could at least put that ugly part of his life behind him. (And, he’d be vindicated for all of the dispirited spunk stains he’d had to clean up over the years.)

Unfortunately, he hadn’t yet figured out a way to do that. He hadn’t even figured out a way to find where Amber lived.

But then, as he was walking up from the beach in his wetsuit, carrying his orange-and-white Lost Keahana beneath his arm, it occurred to him that perhaps he didn’t need to. Because sitting in front of the surf shop, waiting beside the door in the path of the rising sun, with a little brown rucksack tucked beside her legs, was Amber herself.

She stood up as he came close, and smiled. “Good morning,” she said simply. She shifted the rucksack in front of her, and with her blonde hair tied back in a pony tail and in her dark green skirt and rust-coloured jumper and low black shoes, she looked a bit like a coy schoolgirl waiting for teacher.

It wasn’t an altogether unwelcome association.

“Good morning,” he replied, coming to a slow stop in front of her. He propped his board up beside him, shielding her from the bright sun; it didn’t make her any less pretty. Feigning blasé non-involvement, he squinted down at her. “Ah…Amber, yeah?” he said.

She nodded. “And you’re…” She thought a moment. “Fearless?”

He snorted. “Close enough,” he told her. “Ross.”

“Right,” she replied, though he guessed that she hadn’t needed the reminder, either.

“You need help with something?” he asked.

“You said I should stop by,” she reminded him, and she glanced up at the sign of the shop. Then she turned back to him, and smiled again. “So, here I am.”

“Here you are,” he echoed, as he felt himself break into a smile, too. Then: “Been waiting long?”

She shook her head, her pony tail swaying back and forth. “Not long,” she said. She peered at him with curious interest. “Do you always go out to surf so early in the morning?”

He nodded. “Most days, yeah.” He snickered then, and leaned down close to her to ask, “Do you always sit outside a strange bloke’s shop so early in the morning?”

She kept smiling. “Only the pretty ones,” she answered, causing him to laugh.

“Well, then,” he said, reaching up behind his neck with his free hand, to grab his collar wrap. He pulled it open with a ripping rustle of velcro, then dipped his fingers beneath the neoprene, to grab the slender chain tucked beneath the suit. Winding it around his fingers, he drew the dangling key from between his shoulder blades and pulled it around to the front. “I shouldn’t keep you waiting any longer.” He stepped toward the door of the shop and settled his board against the wall, then slipped the key inside the lock. “Just let me get out of this suit,” he said, “and we can start that tour-”

“Actually,” Amber said, as she moved closer a step, laying one hand upon his forearm. “I was hoping we could do something else?”

Ross stopped, his hand still on the key left unturned. He looked at her, feeling his smile falter at this new audacity. “Just what did you have in mind?” he muttered, and then he did a speedy mental calculation about how quickly he could get out of his wetsuit. (About twenty-four seconds was his best time, yet…but that had been when he’d been ill and desperate not to make a mess inside of the suit.) Of course, depending how strident she was about a shag, he didn’t have to get all the way out of the suit; just enough to get his end away. (Less than fifteen seconds, that; easy.)

Her answer, though, wasn’t quite the one he was expecting:

“Surfing!” she suggested brightly.

He blinked at her in somewhat delighted surprise. “You surf?”

She shook her head again. “No,” she told him. Then that smile of hers turned sparkling. “But I can do anything I set my mind to.” And she looked off to the sky, as though mentally ticking on her fingers: “I’m fluent in four different languages; I’ve danced at the National Theatre in Prague; I’ve medalled in Eventing at the Junior European Equestrian Championships, two years in a row. I have a brown belt in taekwon do; I can-”

“All right, I get it,” Ross said, raising his hand for silence. He blinked at her again, quietly mesmerised. What was she, trained by MI5 or something?

Amber swung forward a little, onto the balls of her feet. “So, will you teach me?” she asked him now, the pitch of her voice turned sweetly tentative.

He looked at her, confounded by the seeming ease with which she could make him switch gears in his head. (What kind of game was she playing?) Still, the water was his domain, and if she was willing to come wading in to that domain without him even needing to lift a finger, so much the better.

“If you’re really serious about this,” he said, “there are a few very important questions you have to answer.” He dropped his voice, too, and leaned over her to ask, “First off, can you swim?”

She scoffed, as though offended. “Of course I can swim!”

He shook his head. “I’m not talking about those posers who splash around in a leisure centre pool, here,” he told her, softly scolding. “I mean really swim. Breakers can wipe you out quick if you’re not strong.”

“I’m not a poser,” she replied, and she furrowed her brow, a delightfully delicate and darling change in expression that made her chin pucker and her lips pout. “I’ve swum in an ocean before, I’ll have you know,” she told him firmly. “When we lived in Greece.”

Suitably corrected, he took another moment to give her a measured up and down look, then nodded. “All right,” he said. Then: “Do you have a steamer?”

She narrowed her eyes dubiously. “What’s a steamer?”

“A wetsuit,” he informed her knowingly, and he plucked gently at his neoprene sleeve. “Like this one.”

“What do I need a wetsuit for?” she asked. “Can’t I just wear what I’ve got?” And she lifted the rucksack in her hands between them.

He grinned a little to himself, trying to imagine her in a clingy one-piece or – even better – a bikini. It wasn’t difficult to do, certainly…but he also knew he wouldn’t be doing her any favours if he made her quit before she even started. Plus, the prospect of helping her get into (or out of) a wetsuit was too good to pass up.

“This is Cornwall,” he told her now with a chuckle, “not Crete. You need to be protected out there!”

Her pout deepened. “You sound like Sam,” she mumbled, dropping her chin. “It’s not like I can’t take care of myself.”

Looking down at her, Ross clicked his tongue against his teeth; she definitely had a bit of a chip on her shoulder. It was a cute chip (and a cute shoulder), but a chip nonetheless.

He put his own shoulder against the door, reaching out with his opposite hand to chuck her under her chin. “No one’s saying that, doll,” he murmured. “Just want to make sure we keep all that pretty skin perfect, that’s all.”

She peered up at him through her curling fringe, her frown relaxing as she met his gaze once more. Then she pursed her lips to one side, as though trying to keep herself from smiling again. “All right,” she said at last. “What else?”

He leaned over her more closely, his nose almost touching her forehead. “What are you doing for the rest of the day?” he said, and then he grinned.

An eager and happy grin formed on her face, too, and quickly; he rather liked the way it did that. (And he didn’t know why he hadn’t noticed it before, but she had the most adorable dimples.) “Surfing?” she guessed.

He nodded. “Soon as we get you fitted for a suit and a board,” he told her, and then he stood up from the door and finally turned the key in its lock. Pushing it open, he ushered her inside and then grabbed his own board, swinging it through the doorway in front of him.

“Should I get undressed, then?” she asked in a semi-hushed voice, turning about to face him with another coquettish smile that rounded her cheeks.

He snickered. “And I thought I moved fast.”

She giggled in reply. “I meant, should I change into my costume?” she explained…though if he’d been asked, he would have said that that was very much not what she’d meant, and that she’d been perfectly aware of that fact, as well.

He still smiled at her, though, and then nodded toward the dark curtain near the rear of the shop, where the counter and pass-through to the back room and stairs were. “I’ll find you a wetsuit in your size,” he told her with a chuckle.

She giggled again, then turned on her heel and fairly bounced over to the fitting room, drawing the curtain open and then closed again behind her, the steel curtain clip rings making that familiar metallic swish! sound across their bar once and again.

While she changed, Ross set himself to the task of looking for a small-sized women’s wetsuit among the rental stock. But with every passing second, he kept glancing over his shoulder toward the gently rustling curtain, behind which he couldn’t stop reminding himself that Amber was getting progressively more naked.

He could see her feet move beneath the curtain’s edge, stepping free one at a time of first her shoes and then her ankle socks. A pause, and then there was the shift of her feet as he imagined her shimmying from her skirt; he saw her step free from the olive green clothes a moment later. And then he actually stopped and stared as she did that same little shift of her feet again, followed by a fall of light yellow pants that looked far more precious than any he’d ever seen before.

“Jesus, mate, put that thing away before someone calls the constable on us!”

At the sound of Neville’s voice, Ross spun his head around to face the open front door again, and then just as quickly looked down at himself: in the last minute, he’d managed to grow from normal flaccidity to a near-full erection.

“Fuck-!” Ross muttered, covering himself with his hands as he turned his back on Neville.

True to form, Neville just snickered audibly at his reaction. “Must have been some gorgeous waves today,” he joked, “to get that reaction out of you!”

“Shut it!” Ross hissed at him.

“Did you say something?” Amber called from the fitting room.

Ross shot a glare at Neville, who returned him an amused grin and one of his witting oh, I see! expressions. Then he stammered, “Uh, ah, no, just-” he started, but it was too late:

The curtain clips made their running sound again, and then Amber padded out in just her bare feet and a quite fetching midriff-baring two-piece, with a fitted halterneck top done in blue with white trim, that made Ross supremely thankful that he was already covering himself.

She smiled at him, her gaze flicking from his eyes to his torso and back again in a way that both embarrassed and impressed him. But then she seemed to notice Neville for the first time, and she stopped of a sudden, as though taken off-guard. “Oh. Hello.” She glanced at Ross again, then back to Neville, finally frowning and even blushing a bit at the same time. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I was…I only wanted to try on a suit-”

“No need to apologise,” Neville assured her, stepping forward with his usual casual poise. “Obviously, you’ve already met Finchy, here, but I’m Neville. Neville Hereford.” He extended his hand toward her. “And you are…?”

“Amber,” Ross offered for her, and then he stopped, as he stupidly realised that he didn’t even know her surname. “Uh-”

“Baelin,” Amber finished for him, reaching out to take Neville’s hand, now. She pumped it (just once, and then let go), and then she looked back at Ross again. “Finchy?” she repeated quizzically.

Neville grinned. “That’s what we call the Baltic bulge over here,” he said, jerking his head in Ross’s direction. And even though Neville meant it only to be jesting (and even though Amber giggled for a second), Ross wanted just a bit to give his friend a very firm punch in the face for drawing such cheeky attention to his wetsuit woody.

“It’s just Finch, actually,” Ross muttered from out one side of his mouth. His earlier excitement had faded enough beneath this scrutiny so as no longer to be totally conspicuous, but it was still a long second before he was able to lift his gaze to Amber’s again.

She was still smiling, but where he was expecting her to be teasing or chagrined, she seemed almost…pleased? “I’ll remember that,” she said softly. Then she raised her delicate brows and looked at him with a different kind of avid interest. “So! When do we start that lesson?” she asked brightly.

Neville turned to him with a look of perplexed inquiry, but Ross mostly ignored him. He was more fascinated by this delightfully delicious girl who seemed to be just full of continued and unexpected surprises.

Putting Ross and Amber in the same room (if not quite “together”) really helped ramp up my excitement for this story. Hopefully, it will do the same for readers, as well. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.