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I don’t bother denying the obvious. But I do say, “You should be pleased. Most women wouldn’t have a clue how awesome it is that you own one of those babies.”

He narrows his eyes, contemplates my words. “Okay, you’ve convinced me.”

We enter the house, then walk down a short, winding hallway that leads to a huge, state-of-the-art kitchen. Now, I love cooking as much as the next girl—probably even more—but I think the fact that I am chomping at the bit to get back to the garage says everything you need to know about me.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really. The ice cream sundae you bought me at the zoo contained enough calories to keep me going for the next week.” Especially considering the fact that I ate an entire pint of Cherry Garcia by myself last night. When I finally start running again, my heart and my ass aren’t going to know what hit them.

“Don’t worry. You’ll work it off.” Ethan’s grin is wicked as he propels me through the kitchen and into a formal dining room with a table that will sit twenty-four comfortably. I don’t even know twenty-four people I’d want anywhere near me, and Ethan throws intimate dinner parties where he doesn’t even have to put a leaf in the table to entertain that many. It boggles the mind, and underscores just how different we are in so very, very many ways.

Ethan doesn’t seem to notice my discomfort at his friend and furniture situation. He’s too busy throwing open the huge double doors that make up a large portion of the dining room’s back wall. “Come on,” he tells me. “You can get changed out here.”

Relieved because his words don’t sound sexual in the slightest—not that I actually thought he would jump me or anything—I’m still a little wary as I walk out onto his mammoth patio. There’s a gigantic vanishing-edge swimming pool directly in front of me, and sixteen chaise longues in the exact same shade of blue-gray as his roof.

“We’re going swimming?” I ask cautiously. It doesn’t sound like that bad an idea, actually. I’m a little sticky from a sunny afternoon spent at the zoo, and the pool does look inviting.

Except Ethan has crossed to an outdoor closet at one end of the small pool house that graces the right side of the property. And he’s not pulling out swimsuits for me to try on. He’s pulling out wetsuits.

“Even better,” he tells me. “We’re going surfing.”

Chapter Seventeen

“But I don’t know how to surf.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.”

I glance out at the ocean, which I have a perfect view of from his patio, by the way. Not to mention from every room on this side of the house. It’s kicking up some pretty massive waves, actually, churning and spitting all over the place, and I feel more than a little bit of trepidation. My athletic prowess isn’t great at the best of times. Pitting it against a seething, pissed-off ocean seems like a really bad idea.

But Ethan looks so excited, so happy, that I can’t just say no. I am the one who asked how he handled the pressure, after all. And besides, I may not trust the ocean, but I do trust Ethan to keep me safe. He won’t let me drown.

Which is how I find myself in a dressing room a few minutes later, trying to figure out how the hell to put on a wetsuit over the new bikini I found in one of the drawers. It seems self-explanatory, but the truth is it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. The thing is tight and clingy, and no matter how hard I try, it doesn’t quite want to go where it’s supposed to. Instead, it sticks in the most unflattering places until I’m about to scream with frustration.

Ethan knocks on the door more than once, just to check if I need help, but there’s no way I’m going to open the door when the wetsuit is strangling my boobs and somehow riding up my ass all at the same time. There are some things no man needs to see. Especially when I can’t help wondering how many other women he’s loaned this wetsuit to—and how much better they must have looked in it than I do.

Finally I get it sorted out, or at least as sorted out as I can make it, and hope Ethan won’t laugh too hard when he sees me. I open the door to find him waiting on one of the loungers, two surfboards next to him as well as a small picnic basket. How long was I in there, anyway, if he had time to do all this and change into his wetsuit as well?

Deciding to chalk it up to the fact that he obviously has way more practice at this than I do, I stop myself from apologizing for keeping him waiting. He’s the one who wants to do this, after all. I’m the one who is about to risk death simply because I want to impress him. And I’m going to do it in an ill-fitting yellow wetsuit.

So not my finest hour.

Ethan doesn’t complain at the wait, however. He just smiles at me and gestures for me to come closer. Which I do, warily. I’m not sure I trust the look on his face.

But all he does is grab my wetsuit in the back and tug a little. Suddenly it seems to slide into place and everything—front and back—feels a lot better.

“Thanks,” I tell him, blushing a little.

I’m not looking him in the eye at this point, so he puts a finger under my chin and tips my head up until our gazes meet. “You’re welcome,” he says, right before he bends down and brushes his lips across mine.

Then, before I can even process the taste and feel of him, he’s pulling back. Handing me my surfboard. Leading the way to the very edge of his property.

I guess I thought we’d go through the front and back down to the beach that way, but here, on the edge of the cliff, Ethan has another surprise for me: a rocky set of stairs carved into the cliff itself that leads down to a small, private beach alcove.

Here, in some of the most prime, most expensive beachfront property in the world, Ethan has his own little slice of paradise. And it’s perfect.

Ethan drops his surfboard close to the water and I do the same. “Are you ready?” he asks, excitement gleaming in his eyes.

“Not even a little bit,” I answer.

He laughs, then positions my surfboard so that the tip is facing the water. “Okay, get on it,” he tells me.

“And here I thought surfing took place in the water.”

“Not until after you learn the proper form. Otherwise you’ll drown.” He gestures to the board. “Now get down there.”

He’s not playing around, so I do what he says, stretching out on my stomach on the board. But I can’t even do that right, because then he’s kneeling next to me, telling me to inch forward, than inch back.

We do this three or four times as he tries to get me in the perfect position—a position I don’t even understand—before I throw my hands up in the air. “I’m not an imbecile. Tell me what I’m supposed to be doing here and I’ll do it. Don’t just give me these ridiculous directions with no explanation whatsoever. It doesn’t work for me.”

Ethan studies me for a second, as if trying to gauge my level of irritation—which, if I’m honest, is pretty much off the charts at this point. He comes to some decision, then says, “Fine,” and points at the front of my board.

“Do you see how that’s pointing up a little bit?”


“It’s because you’re too close to the back of the board. Scoot forward, but not so much that the tip digs into the sand or you’ll be too forward-heavy. Surfing is all about finding the balance.”

As if any idiot with eyes couldn’t figure that much out. I bite the retort back, however, and concentrate on finding the perfect spot on the board. The sweet spot, Ethan calls it, without a hint of innuendo. I try not to blush as my thoughts go down an entirely different path, one that has nothing to do with surfing and everything to do with the way I felt when Ethan was kneeling in front of me, his tongue stroking deep inside me.

Once I find the sweet spot, Ethan has me grab on to the side of the surfboard and lift my upper body off it, like I’m about to do a push-up. Which, I guess, in essence I am.

Only Ethan calls it a pop-up, and it involves me doing a lot more than just lifting and lowering my body off the ground.

“Okay,” he tells me when I’m in the right position, elbows bent and toes curled under. “You’re going to want to lift your body up, until your arms are completely straight.”

He watches, waiting, until I do exactly what he’s instructed. “Good. Do that a few times. Get used to what it feels like to take the brunt of your weight on your arms and shoulders.”

I start to make some crack about knowing how to do a push-up, but while it’s the same theory, it’s not quite the same thing. The positioning of the hands isn’t quite the same—this is harder—and neither is the way I’m supposed to hold my feet. Because the goal isn’t to go up and down, like in a set of push-ups. The goal is to build enough momentum to actually get my entire body into a standing position.

Once Ethan is pleased with my beginning form, he lies on his own board and shows me how I’m supposed to pop up, so that my feet come directly under me, the left one in front. He makes it look incredibly easy, but the first time I try I end up falling off the side of the board, arms flailing and legs doing everything but what they’re supposed to.

I brace myself to hit the sand, but Ethan catches me before I’m more than halfway down. “Good try,” he says, dropping a quick kiss on my nose. Suddenly I don’t feel nearly as ungainly or embarrassed. Which is why I agree when he continues, “Let’s try that again.”

Over and over, he has me pop up. Over and over, I lose my balance and fall off the side of the board or the back of the board, or miss the board completely. Ethan’s incredibly patient and sweet, but by the third time I land on the sand instead of the board, even he’s having a hard time hiding his laughter.

“That’s it!” I tell him, throwing myself down onto my back in the sand. “Some people are obviously not meant to surf, and I am one of them.”

“That’s not true. It takes everyone a while to get the hang of getting up on a board. You’re doing great.”

“Which is why it looks like it’s taking every ounce of concentration you have not to laugh your ass off.”

“Not every ounce of concentration. Just most of them.”

“Nice.” I roll over to my side, start to mock-punch him. He grabs my hand before it can connect with his shoulder, and uncurls my fist. Then he brings my hand to his mouth and places a long, lingering kiss right in the center of my palm.

From someone else, it probably would have been cheesy. But from Ethan, it’s sweet and sexy and emotionally devastating all at the same time. My fingers curl in of their own volition, like they, too, want to hold on to his kiss for as long as possible.

“What are we doing, Ethan?” I whisper the words into air that is suddenly charged with electricity. With need. And with something else I don’t even know how to define.

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m trying my damnedest to woo you.”

Woo. There’s that word again, the same one Tori used the other night with such a dreamy look in her eyes. The same one I’ve been afraid to even think in conjunction with Ethan Frost.

Seduce I can handle. Woo…it’s a whole different ball game. One I’m not sure I’m up for.

“Hey.” Ethan puts a finger under my chin, tilts my face up until I’m once again looking him in the eyes. “I wasn’t trying to scare you.”

“I know.” The fear is my problem, not his.

“So where’d you go, then?”

Someplace he can’t follow. Someplace I never thought I’d find myself again. But I can’t say that, not when he’s been nothing but sweet to me.

I reach up, and this time it’s my turn to touch his face. My turn to cup his cheeks in my hands and bring my mouth gently to his. Ethan resists at first, and I know he wants to ask more questions. To delve deeper into my damaged psyche and find out what it is that has screwed me up so badly.

But I don’t want him there, don’t want him to see just how ruined I am. Not now, when I’m desperate to feel his arms around me and his lips on mine. Not yet, when I’m so far from being ready to let him go.

“Please,” I whisper against his lips. Please don’t make me do this now. Please accept what I can give you. Please say that it’s enough, that I’m enough. “Please.”

His lips part at my first whisper, but it isn’t until I’ve said “please” a second time that he accepts my kiss. More, welcomes it.

Every other time we’ve kissed, he’s been the aggressor. The one who controls what happens while I control what doesn’t. This time we switch, and if we’re both a little uncertain about how the reversal is supposed to work, it doesn’t take long for us to figure it out.

I lick at his lips, slowly, carefully. He tastes so good, feels so good, that I want to stay here—right here in this moment—forever. I want to savor this gift he’s given me, to explore it as fully as I can before I have to give it back. Give him back. And I know, eventually, that I’ll have to do just that. The likes of Ethan Frost aren’t meant for me.