TOXIC by KIM KARR
Phoebe St. Claire
Feeling a bit drunk and overwhelmed with so many and so few choices at the same time, I needed some time alone and snuck off toward the beach path.
I ran toward the ocean and twirled in the sand as the wind blew around me. Once I started to feel dizzy from twirling, I still wasn’t ready to head back to the party, so I took the path that would lead me to the large Olympic-sized pool. I tugged my sandals off with thoughts of putting my feet in the water to rinse the mud and sand away. As I approached the pool, I noticed how it glowed like it was lit by small pale fires. Lost in the enchantment of it, the sudden movement beneath the surface startled me.
A fair-haired boy emerged from the water. He pulled himself up and out so quickly that I was momentarily stunned. And then when he drank me in with his eyes, I shuddered.
I couldn’t help it, the way he looked at me just made me shiver. No one had ever looked at me like that before and I found myself gazing back into his intense eyes.
He was utterly beautiful. His bare chest was sculpted but not overly bulky like Danny or Jamie. They worked out every day pumping obnoxious amounts of iron to look the way they did. In contrast, the boy standing before me had a swimmer’s build.
He stood stoic and a cautious look crossed his face. He was long and lean in a pair of bright green neon swim trunks.
Right away I could tell he didn’t care what anyone thought about him.
I loved the idea of that.
So I smiled at him.
He shook his head and his hair fell into his eyes.
I wanted to reach out and push it away. It wasn’t long, but it wasn’t short. It was perfect.
“Hey,” he said, grabbing a towel off the ground.
It didn’t belong to the club. It was small, beige, and a bit worn—not the large hunter-green fluffy ones monogrammed in white I’d always gotten when I used to come here to swim as a kid.
“Hey,” I said back, swinging my sandals nervously.
He grabbed a pair of jeans that lay next to where the towel had been and walked right by me.
I turned to watch him as he strode into one of the cabanas and dropped his trunks. I froze and squeezed my eyes shut, thinking I shouldn’t be watching him but then opened them quickly when I couldn’t resist maybe catching a glimpse.
“Didn’t your parents ever tell you it isn’t polite to stare?” His voice was low and sexy, and it tugged me out of my own head.
I put my hands on my hips. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to undress in mixed company?”
He pulled his jeans on and laughed. “My mother might have mentioned that once or twice but I’ve never been good at following the rules.”
And it didn’t escape my notice that he didn’t put any underwear on first.
Hot. Totally and completely hot.
I didn’t see anything I shouldn’t have seen, it was too dark, but something inside me electrified at the thought of seeing him naked and I stepped closer. That’s when I noticed the scuffed-up black work boots on one of the lounges with a T-shirt thrown next to them.
I raised a brow. “Is this your changing room?”
He laughed again but this time added a smile and put his hands up. “Okay you caught me. I better get out of here before anyone else does.”
He was adorable and charming and my heart skipped a beat or two.
Then I stepped even closer and entered the cabana entrance, effectively blocking his way. “Why? You’re not doing anything wrong.”
He shrugged but he didn’t try to move around me. “I usually swim in the ocean but when the water is too rough, like tonight, I come here.”
I bit my lip in contemplation before speaking. “Does it really matter if you get caught?”
He crossed his arms over his bare chest. “Let’s just say it’s not just the swimming. It’s more that I’ve been caught doing a few too many things that I shouldn’t have been doing in the past.”
A bad boy.
The thought made my pulse thunder. “So you’re not a member at this club?”
He cleared his throat and shifted from foot to foot. “No,” he laughed but his laugh was anything but genuine. “Are you?”
I hesitated as I considered my answer. “No, I was just walking the beach and wanted to rinse my feet. I’m Phoebe,” I said extending my hand. Technically, I wasn’t lying. I wasn’t a member, my parents were. I hadn’t even been here in years. And I was out for a walk.
Amusement danced in his blue eyes. “Jeremy,” he said back.
When I chewed on my lower lip, I noticed how his eyes focused on it.
Mine focused on the entirety of his mouth—his strong, firm jaw, his sensuous lips, and his tongue that had snuck out to lick his lips.
It was almost too much.
Excerpt. ©Kim Karr. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.