Lily hadn’t expected, when she’d set out for a morning walk along the beach, to spot a swimmer struggling with the riptide in the distance. But that’s nothing compared to the surprise she feels when she swims out to help - lifeguard training dies hard - and finds Dr. Keeton trying to swim against the current. He’s a strong swimmer, she knows, but the current is stronger and he’s doing exactly the wrong thing by fighting it. “Just hold still,” Lily barks at him, thinking she might have to punch her mentor in the face. Thinking she might enjoy it, teaching him something for once. Miraculously, he stops fighting. She wedges her arm under his and across as much of his chest as she can reach, securing the rescue hold before beginning to scissor kick them parallel to the shore. After a few minutes, she feels the riptide start to lessen and begins angling them back to the beach.
“I think I can get it from here,” Keeton says once she’s steered them back into calmer waters. Lily eyes him warily but nods, and they swim side-by-side until their toes touch the sandbar. Once they reach the beach Lily collapses on her back with her arms stretched out, breathing heavily. She hasn’t had to rescue anybody since undergrad, and Keeton’s a lot heavier than the drunken freshman girl she’d had to fish out of the university pool.
Keeton sits back on one hand, catching his breath. “You are full of surprises, Brenner,” he says. “I’d only just realized I was in a spot of trouble and there you were, my hero.”
“That riptide’s a bitch, could have happened to anyone,” Lily gasps, wondering if she gets a day off for saving the boss.
“Let me guess, Baywatch?” He smirks, looking her up and down, and she realizes what she must look like, her tank top plastered to her and her shorts tossed to parts unknown.
“University lifeguard,” she replies nonchalantly, trying to ignore what his gaze is doing to her nervous system. It feels not unlike the undertow they just swam against, rushing, deafening in its inevitability.
“At any rate, thanks,” he says, holding his hand out for her to take. “I owe you one.”
Lily takes his hand and pulls herself up to a sitting position, expecting them both to rise and go on with the day. Instead, Keeton’s hand encases hers, his grip shifting so that their forearms are pressed together, their hands palm to palm in some bizarre homage to an arm-wrestling match.
His eyes, hooded and unreadable, scan her face; she finds herself nodding in answer to a question he hasn’t asked.
“Not exactly what I had in mind,” he mutters before vising his other arm around her waist, hauling her into his lap, and kissing her thoroughly.
He tastes like sand and salt and heat. Lily clings to their still-joined hands like a lifeline.
Keeton - Ben, she tells herself firmly; if she’s going to do this she can’t think of him as her mentor - leans back a fraction of an inch, lets his mouth trail over her jaw. “At the risk of being presumptuous,” he rumbles lightly against her skin, “sex on the beach is really not what it’s cracked up to be.”
Lily laughs nervously. “I imagine not. All that sand.”
“Exactly,” he says, his free hand working its way under the wet, clingy fabric of her tank. “Very unsanitary.”
“Are you proposing a cease and desist or a change of venue?” she asks to clarify, not sure which answer she’s hoping for more. She feels like the man in front of her has the capability to turn her inside out, and she might not be prepared for that.
“I guess that depends on you,” Ben says, releasing her and leaning back on his hands.
Lily takes a shaky breath - follow the fan, she thinks, stifling a laugh - and picks up where he left off with her wet, useless tank, peeling it off and over her head. “Loan me your shirt for the walk back?” she nods toward his pile of clothing down the beach.
He nods, obviously taking that as the end of the discussion. “Sure.”
Lily leans into him, kissing him tentatively but just as completely as he’d done to her. His hands come up to her bare sides, fingers spanning her ribcage and thumbs brushing the undersides of her breasts. Lily mmphs in the back of her throat, her fingers gripping his shoulders for purchase when one hand comes up to cover her breast. She nips at his bottom lip before breaking apart, gasping. “Then I’m thinking we’d better go with your room, mine has a chicken and Mina and I really don’t want to deal with either.”
Ben grins, slow and full of heat. “Like I said, Brenner - full of surprises.”
She’d been right - he effectively turns her inside out, leaving her gasping, gripping the sheets.
But, ready or not, she enjoys every minute of it, which she thinks is really the point.