“Just to the bay.”
“I should’ve known.” He grinned. “Your nightly swim?”
“It’s not nightly,” Gemma said, though he wasn’t too far off base.
“Come on.” Alex walked over to the Cougar and opened his door. “Hop in.”
“All right, if you insist.”
Gemma didn’t like imposing on people, but she didn’t want to pass up a chance at swimming. A car ride alone with Alex wouldn’t hurt, either. Usually she only got to spend time with him when he was hanging out with her sister.
“So what is it about these swims that you find so entrancing?” Alex asked after she’d gotten in the car.
“I don’t think I’d ever describe them as entrancing.” She buckled her seat belt, then leaned back. “I don’t know what it is exactly. There’s just … nothing else like it.”
“What do you mean?” Alex asked. He’d started the car but stayed parked in the driveway, watching her as she tried to explain.
“During the day there are so many people at the bay, especially during the summer, but at night … it’s just you and the water and the stars. And it’s dark, so it all feels like one thing, and you’re part of it all.” She furrowed her brow, but her smile was wistful. “I guess it is kind of entrancing,” she admitted. She shook her head, clearing it of the thought. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a freak who likes swimming at night.”
That was when Gemma realized Alex was staring at her, and she glanced over at him. He had a strange expression on his face, almost like he was dumbfounded.
“What?” Gemma asked, beginning to feel embarrassed at the way he looked at her. She fidgeted with her hair, tucking it behind her ears, and shifted in her seat.
“Nothing. Sorry.” Alex shook his head and put the car in drive. “You probably want to get out to the water.”
“I’m not in a huge rush or anything,” Gemma said, but that was sort of a lie. She wanted to get as much time in the water as she could before her curfew.
“Are you still training?” Alex asked. “Or did you stop for summer vacation?”
“Nope, I still train.” She rolled down the car window, letting the salty air blow in. “I swim every day at the pool with the coach. He says my times are getting really good.”
“At the pool you swim all day, and then you want to sneak out and swim all night?” Alex smirked. “How does that work?”
“It’s different.” She stuck her arm out the open window, holding it straight like the wing of a plane. “Swimming at the pool, it’s all laps and time. It’s work. Out in the bay, it’s just floating and splashing around.”
“But don’t you ever get sick of being wet?” Alex asked.
“Nope. That’s like asking you, Don’t you ever get sick of breathing air?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Sometimes I think, Wouldn’t it be grand if I didn’t need to breathe?”
“Why?” Gemma laughed. “Why would that ever be grand?”
“I don’t know.” He looked self-conscious for a minute, his smile twisting nervously. “I guess I mostly thought it when I was in gym class and they’d make me run or something. I was always so out of breath.”
Alex glanced over at her, as if checking to see if she thought he was a complete loser for that admission. But she only smiled at him in response.
“You should’ve spent more time swimming with me,” Gemma said. “Then you wouldn’t have been so out of shape.”
“I know, but I’m a geek.” He sighed. “At least I’m done with all that gym stuff now that I’ve graduated.”
“Soon you’ll be so busy at college, you won’t even remember the horrors of high school,” Gemma said, her tone turning curiously despondent.
“Yeah, I guess.” Alex furrowed his brow.
Gemma leaned closer to the window, hanging her elbow down the side and resting her chin on her hand as she stared out at houses and trees passing by. In their neighborhood, the houses were all cheap and run-down, but as soon as they passed Capri Lane, everything was clean and modern.
Since it was tourist season, all the buildings and trees were lit up brightly. Music from the bars and the sounds of people talking and laughing wafted through the air.
“Are you excited to get away from all this?” Gemma asked with a wry smile and pointed to a drunken couple arguing on the boulevard.
“There is some stuff I’ll be glad to get away from,” he admitted, but when he looked over at her, his expression softened. “But there will definitely be some things that I miss.”
The beach was mostly deserted, other than a few teenagers having a bonfire, and Gemma directed Alex to drive a little farther. The soft sand gave way to more jagged rocks lining the shore, and the paved parking lots were replaced by a forest of bald cypress trees. He parked on a dirt road as close to the water as he could get.
This far away from the tourist attractions, there were no people or trails leading to the water. When Alex cut the lights on the Cougar, they were submerged in darkness. The only light came from the moon above them, and from some light pollution cast off by the town.
“Is this really where you swim?” Alex asked.
“Yeah. It’s the best place to do it.” She shrugged and opened the door.
“But it’s all rocky.” Alex got out of the car and scanned the mossy stones that covered the ground. “It seems dangerous.”
“That’s the point.” Gemma grinned. “Nobody else would swim here.”
As soon as she got out of the car, she slipped off her sundress, revealing the bathing suit she wore underneath. Her dark hair had been in a ponytail, but she pulled it down and shook it loose. She kicked off her flip-flops and tossed them in the car, along with her dress.
Alex stood next to the car, shoving his hands deep in his pockets, and tried not to look at her. He knew she was wearing a bathing suit, one he’d seen her in a hundred times before. Gemma practically lived in swimwear. But alone with her like this, he felt acutely aware of how she looked in the bikini.
Of the two Fisher sisters, Gemma was definitely the prettier. She had a lithe swimmer’s body, petite and slender, but curved in all the right places. Her skin was bronze from the sun, and her dark hair had golden highlights running through it from all the chlorine and sunlight. Her eyes were honey, not that he could really see the color in the dim light, but they sparkled when she smiled at him.