“Aren’t you going swimming?” Gemma asked.
“Uh, no.” He shook his head and deliberately stared off at the bay to avoid looking at her. “I’m good. I’ll wait in the car until you’re done.”
“No, you drove me all the way down here. You can’t just wait in the car. You have to come swimming with me.”
“Nah, I think I’m okay.” He scratched his arm and lowered his eyes. “You go have fun.”
“Alex, come on.” Gemma pretended to pout. “I bet you’ve never even gone for a swim in the moonlight. And you’re leaving for college at the end of the summer. You have to do this at least once, or you haven’t really lived.”
“I don’t have swim trunks,” Alex said, but his resistance was already waning.
“Just wear your boxers.”
He thought about protesting further, but Gemma had a point. She was always doing stuff like this, but he’d spent most of his high school career in his bedroom.
Besides, swimming would be better than waiting. And when he thought about it, it was much less creepy joining her swimming than watching her from the shore.
“Fine, but I better not cut my feet on any of the rocks,” Alex said as he slipped off his shoes.
“I promise to keep you safe and sound.” She crossed her hand over her heart to prove it.
“I’ll hold you to that.”
He pulled his shirt up over his head, and it was exactly as Gemma had imagined. His gangly frame had filled out with toned muscles that she didn’t completely understand, since he was a self-professed geek.
When he started to undo his pants, Gemma turned away to be polite. Even though she would see him in his boxers in a few seconds, it felt strange watching him take off his jeans. As if it were dirty.
“So how do we get down to the water?” Alex asked.
She went first, stepping delicately onto the rocks, and he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance of copying her grace. She moved like a ballerina, stepping on the balls of her feet from one smooth rock to the next until she reached the water.
“There are a few sharp stones when you step in the water,” Gemma warned him.
“Thanks for the heads-up,” he mumbled and moved with as much caution as he could. Following her path, which she’d made look so easy, proved to be rather treacherous, and he stumbled several times.
“Don’t rush it! You’ll be fine if you go slow.”
To his own surprise, he managed to make it to the water without slicing open his foot. Gemma smiled proudly at him as she waded out deeper into the bay.
“Aren’t you scared?” Alex asked.
“Of what?” She’d gone far enough into the water to lean back and swim, kicking her legs out in front of her.
“I don’t know. Sea monsters or something. The water is so dark. You can’t see anything.” Alex was now in a little over waist-deep, and truthfully, he didn’t want to go any farther.
“There’s no sea monsters.” Gemma laughed and splashed water at him. To encourage him to have fun, she decided to challenge him. “I’ll race you to the rock over there.”
“That one.” She pointed to a giant gray spike of a rock that stuck out of the water a few yards from where they swam.
“You’ll beat me to it,” he said.
“I’ll give you a head start,” Gemma offered.
“Um … five seconds.”
“Five seconds?” Alex seemed to weigh this. “I guess maybe I could—” Instead of finishing his thought, he dove into the water, swimming fast.
“I’m already giving you a head start!” Gemma called after him, laughing. “You don’t need to cheat!”
Alex swam as furiously as he could, but it wasn’t long before Gemma was flying past him. She was unstoppable in the water, and he’d honestly never seen anything faster than her. In the past, he’d gone with Harper to swim meets at the school, and there had rarely been one where Gemma didn’t win.
“I won!” Gemma declared when she reached the rock.
“As if there was ever any doubt.” Alex swam up next to her and hung on to the rock to support himself. His breath was still short, and he wiped the salty water from his eyes. “That was hardly a fair fight.”
“Sorry.” She smiled. Gemma wasn’t anywhere near as winded as Alex was, but she leaned onto the rock next to him.
“For some reason, I don’t think you really mean that,” Alex said in mock offense.
His hand slipped off the rock, and when he reached out to steady himself again, he accidentally put his hand over Gemma’s. His first instinct was to pull it back in some kind of hasty embarrassment, but the second before he did, he changed his mind.
Alex let his hand linger over hers, both of them cool and wet. Her smile had changed, turning into something fonder, and for a moment neither of them said anything. They hung on to the rock like that for a moment longer, the only sound the water lapping around them.
Gemma would’ve been content to sit with Alex like that, but light exploded in the cove behind him, distracting her. The small cove was at the mouth of the bay, just before it met the ocean, about a quarter mile from where Gemma and Alex floated.
Alex followed her gaze. A moment later, laughter sounded over the water and he pulled his hand away from hers.
A fire flared inside the cove, the light flickering across the three dancing figures that fanned it. From this far away, it was difficult to get a clear view of what they were doing, but it was obvious who they were by the way they moved. Everyone in town knew of them, even if nobody really seemed to know them personally.
“It’s those girls,” Alex said—softly, as if the girls would overhear him from the cove.
The three girls were dancing with elegance and grace. Even their shadows, looming on the rock walls around them, seemed sensual in their movements.
“What are they doing out here?” Alex asked.
“I don’t know.” Gemma shrugged, continuing to stare at them, unabashed. “They’ve been coming out here more and more. They seem to like hanging out in that cove.”
“Huh,” Alex said. She looked back at him and saw his brow furrowed in thought.
“I don’t even know what they’re doing in town.”
“Me neither.” He looked over his shoulder to watch them again. “Somebody told me they were Canadian movie stars.”