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skimmin' the surface

Chapter Text

Killing me slow, out the window
I'm always waiting for you to be waiting below
Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes
What doesn't kill me makes me want you more
And it's new, the shape of your body
It's blue, the feeling I've got
And it's ooh, whoa oh
It's a cruel summer
It's cool, that's what I tell 'em
No rules in breakable heaven
But ooh, whoa oh
It's a cruel summer
With you

("Cruel Summer" by Taylor Swift)


“I owe you. I owe you, okay?” Ali begged, leaning up to rest her hands on Christen’s passenger seat and Crystal’s driver’s seat. “I’ll buy you tacos tomorrow or something.” 

“Sushi. From the expensive place,” Crystal countered, tapping Ali’s hand. 

Christen nodded her head in agreement, tugging at the hem of the very small crop top Crystal had found at the back of her closet. 

“Two rolls. Each,” Christen added, sharing a quick smile with Crystal. Crystal was behind the wheel of her VW, maneuvering them along the beachside roads, the sun just starting to dip below the horizon in the distance.

“Deal,” Ali said, squeezing their shoulders. 

“Jeez, she must be hot,” Crystal laughed. 

“She is...and she has friends,” Ali sing-songed, waggling her brows as she looked between Christen and Crystal. “Attractive friends,” she added, emphasizing the word attractive. 

“Any guys?” Crystal asked, raising her eyebrows skeptically. 

“Any girls?” Christen asked with a blush at the same time, making Ali laugh.

“Press, you’re gonna love this one friend she has. Total babe, totally your type. You just worked your ass off for four years, ignoring us when we asked you to go out, so I say this summer is the time to let loose a little. Actually date, actually get laid. You’re a catch, and it’s time you realize that and let it work in your favor.” 

Maybe it was the two shots of tequila she’d let Crystal and Ali convince her to take before they left her house, but Christen was finding herself nodding along. 

“You’re right!” she agreed, her voice a little too loud. “I’m moderately attractive and-”

“You’re gorgeous,” Crystal corrected. 

“Whatever,” Christen rolled her eyes. “I’m moderately attractive, and I have a somewhat good personality, and I won’t let my complete lack of game affect me any longer,” she added with a semi-confident nod.

“Press, it’s like dancing. You let the other person lead. And from what I’ve heard from Ashlyn, her friend has no trouble leading,” Ali grinned, sending a wink toward Christen. 

Christen blushed and clung to the liquid courage the tequila afforded her. “I can totally let her lead. I can be led. Four years of staying in and not going after the people I crushed on ends tonight.”

“ Fantastic!” Ali cheered. “And...Crystal, you’re out of luck with Ashlyn’s friends, but maybe there’ll be guys at the party?” Ali shrugged.

“I hope so. Would be such a shame to waste an outfit like this,” Crystal chuckled, leaning forward to turn the volume up on The Aces song on the radio.

“She’s a total babe,” Ali repeated, squeezing Christen’s shoulder again before settling back in her seat.

As she sang along to the song with her two best friends, Christen felt a flicker of excitement within her as they headed toward Sunset Beach.

After having just wrapped up her final semester at Stanford, graduating with Honors and with dozens of awards from the Stanford Soccer Team, Christen was ready for a break. She was ready to relax and spend the summer with her friends before they all went off to opposite ends of the country to start their adult lives.

She was ready to not be the girl behind the chunky-framed glasses who didn’t know her way around flirtations and talking to girls. She was ready to be the girl other girls noticed. Even if right now she still felt a little like she was pretending to be someone she wasn’t, with the tiny crop top and the amount of make-up she’d let Ali put on her, she was ready to let loose tonight and have fun. To make up for her entire college career of not having fun. This was going to be a night, and maybe even a summer, to remember. Christen could feel it.

A few minutes and a few Aces songs later, Crystal pulled the VW into the parking lot. All three of them got out and climbed down the stairs that led to the beach, following the sounds of music and laughter across the sand.

“You made it!” a tall, blonde woman with tattoos running up and down her arm yelled. She lifted her beer in welcome and started walking up the beach toward them, flanked by two other women, one with short pink hair and one with deep, brown eyes. 

Christen felt those brown eyes look right through her, look within her and see parts of herself she had no business letting a stranger see. Those brown eyes recklessly stole the breath from her lungs and coaxed a slow-burning flame into a raging fire within her stomach. Those brown eyes unsettled her and grounded her, all at once. 

That singular moment of eye contact left her a little shaky on her feet and beyond curious about the owner of those eyes, a devastatingly attractive woman who looked to be a dizzying combination of effortless and purposeful. Whoever this was, she looked like a riddle Christen would never be able to solve, and that intrigued Christen to no end.

“Ashlyn!” Ali greeted, leading Crystal and Christen over. She embraced the blonde woman, Ashlyn, warmly and then stepped back to Crystal and Christen’s sides, her eyes holding Ashlyn’s.

“Guys, this is Ali. We met at the dive shop this morning. Ali and company, this is Toby and Megan, but we all call pinky here Pinoe,” Ashlyn said pointing at her friends but staring only at Ali. 

Christen registered the new information, putting a name to the face, a name to the warm brown eyes that hadn’t fallen from hers.

“It’s Tobin,” the brunette said with an eye roll. 

Christen cracked a smile, letting her eyes trail over the loose-fitting white t-shirt and patterned yellow shorts, over the tanned skin and toned muscles and bare feet.

Feeling Tobin’s eyes marking a similar path across her, Christen felt a blush heat her cheeks and she fought off the urge to cover her exposed midriff. She forced herself to meet Tobin’s eyes and not run. She forced herself to look, to not duck her head, to be as confident as the lingering buzz from the tequila helped make her.

“This is Press, and this is Crystal,” Ali introduced, similarly glued to Ashlyn. 

“It’s Christen. Or Chris or Pressy or- well, it depends on who you ask,” Christen corrected quickly, her eyes still holding Tobin’s. She took a deep breath and fixed a smile on her face, trying to come off as put together as she could manage.

Tobin couldn’t deny the draw. She couldn’t deny that Christen, or Chris, or Pressy, was undeniably beautiful. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman Tobin had ever seen with tanned skin and luscious curls and bright green eyes. It wasn’t a fake beautiful either. Christen was naturally and undeniably striking, and Tobin couldn’t stop the way her eyes were drawn to her. 

She was someone Tobin would love to see more of. Much more of. 

But she was also someone who would completely destroy her. One look at Christen and Tobin knew that Christen was not like the other girls she spent time with. She was not a one-night kind of girl, and that’s all that Tobin could do. That’s all she was good at. That’s all she could handle. 

Crystal elbowed Christen lightly, whispering “Dude, relax and let her lead,” in Christen’s ear.

With another deep breath, Christen decided to let Tobin do just that. She offered Tobin as flirty of a look as she could, hoping Tobin would extend the invite and lead.

“Anybody else dying to get a drink?” Tobin asked, staring only at Christen as she asked. 

Christen mentally counted to three and then let herself respond, not wanting to come off too eager.

“I wouldn’t be opposed,” Christen replied, surprising herself when her voice didn’t shake. 

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Tobin said, showing Christen one of her many smiles. Just because Christen was overwhelmingly beautiful, just because she wasn’t someone Tobin could fall for, didn’t mean she couldn’t flirt a little. She was good at flirting. Flirting was something she could handle.

“Allow me,” Tobin smirked, nodding in the direction of the fire pit and the coolers nearby and waiting for Christen to match her stride. 

Christen gave her friends an excited smile and did a little shoulder shimmy that she desperately hoped Tobin didn’t see, and fell into step next to Tobin, walking a little closer than entirely necessary to her. If their shoulders accidentally brushed, it was because it was hard to find footing in the sand. Not because Christen purposefully drifted closer to Tobin, almost like she was drawn in and couldn’t stay away.

“That’s quite the spread,” Christen hummed, taking in the dozens of coolers packed full of sodas, beers, seltzers, and every other drink imaginable.

“It’s kind of like a liquid potluck,” Tobin grinned. 

Christen angled her head to look over at Tobin. “Would you mind grabbing something for me?” she asked.

“Of course. What’s your preference?” Tobin asked, taking a step back toward the coolers but keeping her eyes on Christen. 

“Umm,” Christen paused, racking her brain for something even remotely interesting she could say, something to make Tobin smile at her again. “If you guess right, I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” Christen replied with a small, shy smile.

“I’m pretty sure I can read everything I need to know in your eyes,” Tobin hummed, sending Christen a wink. “But I love a challenge.” 

With another blush, Christen watched Tobin dig around in some of the coolers, internally cringing whenever Tobin’s touch skirted over a spiked seltzer or an insanely sugary drink.

“Okay, for a second I thought you might be a seltzer person, but that’s not you, is it?” Tobin hummed, keeping whatever drink she’d finally chosen behind her back and smirking at Christen with insane confidence. 

Christen shook her head. “Not at all,” she chuckled. She stepped closer to Tobin and tried to peek around her back to see what drink Tobin had picked. 

“And you don’t strike me as someone who’s into super sugary things, so I didn’t pick up the canned piña colada,” Tobin added, dancing out of Christen’s way when she tried to reach for her. 

Christen gave up and settled her arms over her chest, wrinkling her nose at the drink Tobin had just listed. “They make those? That’s abhorrent.”

Tobin let her eyes travel slowly over Christen’s body, appreciating every curve and every strong muscle. 

“And you look way too fit to drink beers regularly,” Tobin added, wetting her bottom lip subconsciously. 

Christen felt her cheeks grow warm but she kept her gaze locked with Tobin’s, her smile coming easier now as a rapport was slowly built between them. 

“Beer is definitely not part of the athlete diet,” Christen agreed.

“I’m gonna circle back to that athlete comment, but I think you like tequila on the rare occasions that you do party, and this margarita is very tequila forward,” Tobin said, holding out the can. 

Christen felt her eyebrows rise high on her forehead, more than a little impressed at Tobin’s selection. She erased the small bit of space between them and took the offered can, mentally reminding herself not to step away once she had possession of it.

“So...what would you like to know, Tobin?” Christen asked, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth.

“You played soccer,” Tobin said without question, eyeing the long legs that were on display thanks to Christen’s short jean shorts. 

“Okay, the margarita I can write off as a lucky guess. But how the hell did you guess soccer?” Christen asked with a breathless laugh.

“Your legs,” Tobin smirked. “I’d know a soccer player’s legs anywhere.” 

“It sounds like there’s a story there,” Christen hummed, feeling a small thrill run down her spine at the way Tobin was smirking at her, at the way Tobin was looking at her. 

It was a way no one had ever looked at her before. Nobody looked at her like this when she was hidden beneath her baggy sweaters and glasses. It was a pleasant change and one Christen wouldn’t mind getting used to, especially if it was Tobin doing the looking. 

“A few stories, yeah. But I’d rather think about your legs tonight,” Tobin replied, her voice getting a little raspy and low, just like it always did when she flirted. 

Christen felt a surprised breath leave her parted lips. She hadn’t been expecting something that forward to leave Tobin’s mouth. After striking out and flying under the radar and overall just sucking at this whole ‘flirting with girls’ thing for her entire college career, for her entire life really, Christen hadn’t expected this so soon. You didn’t go from zero to hero in ten minutes flat. 

But maybe tonight she did.

“You- I mean, you- wow, you don’t waste any time, do you?” Christen stuttered with a pretty blush in her cheeks, her stomach tightening in anticipation and her mouth getting a little dry.

“Well, when-” Tobin started, trying to think about the next thing she could say, the next thing that might make Christen blush, the next thing she could say to make the woman in front of her a little tongue-tied. She’d do anything to hear the adorable stuttering again. 

She’d never seen anyone as beautiful and captivating as the woman in front of her. And even if she knew this wouldn’t lead to anything more than flirting, she was certain she’d do whatever it took to get a reaction out of Christen. 

“YO, TOBY!” Megan called out, interrupting the moment.

“What?” Tobin grumbled, turning around to face Megan. 

“King’s cup, come on!” Megan grinned, waving Tobin over. “You can get your flirt on later!”

“I promised her I’d play,” Tobin sighed, shrugging her shoulders. 

It was probably for the best that she’d been interrupted. She wasn’t sure what would come from her mouth next. And as much as she knew taking Christen home would be a bad idea, she couldn’t responsibly reason that she’d actually be able to resist that urge. 

Christen took a small step back, fiddling with the margarita can. “No worries. You’re popular. A woman in high demand, it seems,” she replied, her cheeks still holding that blush.

“I’ll see you later?” Tobin grinned, slowly stepping back in the direction of King’s cup. 

“Looking forward to it,” Christen offered with a smile of her own.

Tobin hurried across the sand, silently chastising herself for flirting so shamelessly with a woman who she couldn’t be with. There was no way she could sleep with Christen. Because Christen would make her want to break her rule, and breaking that rule would break her. 

Christen craned her neck, doing another sweep of the party on the beach, on the hunt for those brown eyes and that lopsided grin that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about.

“You looking for your brown-eyed girl?” Crystal teased, sipping on her bottle of water. 

“What? No,” Christen replied quickly, too quickly. She quickly drained her second can of margarita, feeling the happy warmth that came from plenty of tequila. 

“You don’t need to be shy about it. She’s cute, and she seems totally smitten with you,” Crystal winked. 

Christen gave another quick look around, and not seeing Tobin or her friends close by, she turned to face Crystal, scooting closer to her in the sand. 

“I don’t know what it was, but we were flirting and it was just- it was easy? It just seemed to flow,” Christen admitted with a blush. “I’ve never been able to talk to someone that easily before. And she- she actually seemed to like me. It was...bizarre.” 

“She’d have to be insane not to like you. You two looked really cute and really into whatever you were talking about,” Crystal said with a smile. 

Christen’s blush deepened. “She was...forward, and I was kind of really into it,” Christen replied, running a hand through her curls and pushing them away from her face.

“Hey, didn’t you say you liked people who could speak their minds? It makes it easier when someone leads the way through flirting, right?” Crystal hummed, knocking her shoulder into Christen’s. 

“I would follow her anywhere, I think,” Christen replied shyly, digging her heels in the sand.

Crystal let out a soft laugh, wrapping her arm around Christen’s shoulders. “She’s that good after one conversation?” 

“People don’t usually see me, and maybe it’s just the outfit and the make-up, but it felt like she saw me,” Christen murmured with a shrug.

“Sweetie, people see you. You’ve never seen them see you, but they see you,” Crystal hummed, pressing a kiss to the side of Christen’s head. 

“As my best friend, you’re required to say that,” Christen said with a smile, leaning into Crystal’s side.

“As the girl who sat next to you in the library cramming for exams and watching guys and girls drool over you, I can say that,” Crystal huffed. 

Christen rolled her eyes. “They wouldn’t keep looking if I opened my mouth and showed off my awkward, bumbling self.”

“Tobin kept looking, even after you opened your mouth,” Crystal pointed out gently. 

Christen blushed for the millionth time that night. “I had liquid courage tonight. I don’t usually have that. Without it, I don’t think I could have put two words together in front of a girl like her.”

“I guess you’ll have to hang out with her without the liquid courage and test that theory. You could ask her to lunch or coffee or something,” Crystal suggested. 

“You think she’ll like me when the make-up and crop tops are gone?” Christen countered, worrying her lip nervously.

“She’d be an idiot not to,” Crystal murmured. “All you have to do is ask her. Didn’t you say she was with the pink-haired friend? Maybe you’re in luck,” Crystal said, nodding at Megan who was grabbing another drink and yelling about someone who’d screwed her over in the game. 

Christen’s head whipped around and her stomach fluttered. She kept her eyes on Megan, hoping that Tobin would pop up too.

“Pinky!” Crystal called, waving her hand to bring the pink-haired woman over. 

“Crystal, my new favorite human, and Christen, also my new favorite human. How are we, ladies?” Megan asked, dropping into the sand on Crystal’s other side, smelling slightly like beer with a toothy grin on her face.

“We’re doing great! How was your drinking game?” Crystal asked with a mischievous smile. 

“Toby kind of screwed me over by making me match her drink for drink last round, but that’s just kind of the point of the game. She’s a little shit,” Megan laughed. 

“Is she still playing?” Christen asked, feigning nonchalance.

“Nah, we stopped after the last round. She’s around here somewhere. As far as I know, Kenna has her talons in her still,” Megan groaned, falling back onto her elbows. 

Christen shared a confused look with Crystal. She was about to ask who Kenna was when a chorus of hoots and hollers interrupted them. 

Christen looked over and saw a group of partygoers cheering and fist-pumping. Her confusion was quickly alleviated when the crowd parted, but her confusion was replaced by a harsh flash of disappointment that left her happy she was sitting down.

The crowd parted, giving her an unobstructed view of Tobin, sitting on a large piece of driftwood, a blonde woman in her lap, their lips locked in a very...enthusiastic kiss.

Christen’s shoulders slumped and she forced herself to look away, not needing to see anymore.

“Yep, see it's Kenna,” Megan sighed, averting her eyes. 

“Tobin’s girlfriend?” Crystal asked, tightening her arm around Christen’s shoulders.  

Megan snorted. “Toby doesn’t do girlfriends. She does them, and that’s about it, if you pick up what I’m putting down?”

“Got it,” Crystal murmured, squeezing Christen impossibly closer. 

Christen got it too. Loud and clear. 

With a long sigh, Christen shook her head and then leaned into Crystal’s side. While she was disappointed and a little surprised and very thrown off, she realized there wasn’t really a loss here.

Sure, it felt like there was some kind of connection between them. Sure, it had been so easy to talk to Tobin, easier than it ever had been with anyone else. Sure, her heart had raced and her stomach had flipped and her palms had started to get a little clammy. Sure, she’d felt seen in a way she never had been before.

But Tobin was preoccupied with someone else. And from the sounds of it, she kept herself pretty preoccupied with different people all the time. 

So with a final sigh, Christen let it go. 

She could put tonight behind her. The crop-top and make-up-wearing flirtatious girl could go away. She didn’t have to pretend to be her anymore. She didn’t have to worry about Tobin liking her without those things because she wouldn’t ever have to see Tobin again. Even if Ali and Ashlyn really hit it off, she wouldn’t be expected to fraternize with the friends. She could still have a summer to remember. 

And she could have one without Tobin in it. 

“I only do this once,” Tobin said, breaking away from the kiss and making sure that Kenna was paying attention. 

“Whatever you say,” Kenna replied with a smile, leaning back in for another kiss.

And who was Tobin to deny? She was good at this too. 

Tobin kissed Kenna like she kissed everyone else. She was talented. She knew that, but kissing just kind of felt unnecessary. She thought about kissing scientifically, making sure to suck on Kenna’s bottom lip long enough and hard enough to make Kenna sigh. She used just the right amount of tongue and just the right amount of teeth. 

But there weren’t sparks. There were never sparks. 

Her skin didn’t blaze as she pulled Kenna’s clothes off, and her heart didn’t race as she settled on top of Kenna in Kenna’s bed. 

“You’re so hot,” Kenna husked, tangling her fingers in Tobin’s hair. 

Tobin wanted to move Kenna’s hand. She didn’t like the way Kenna was grabbing at her, the way Kenna’s leg was wrapped around the back of her thighs. 

“Thanks,” she murmured, sinking her fingers between Kenna’s legs and making the woman beneath her start to moan. 

This she could do. This she was good at. 

She worked Kenna up just like she did every other woman she slept with, quickly, almost mechanically. It only took a few minutes for Kenna to fall apart, calling Tobin ‘baby’ and ‘honey’ as she came. 

Tobin hated the pet names, but it was only one night. Who was she to complain? Especially when Kenna would likely return the favor quickly and she could get home before 1:00 AM. 

Christen loved the heat. She loved the way the sun felt on her skin, the warmth it brought. She especially loved the heat in L.A. when she got to spend these scorching summer days at her parent’s house. 

There was nothing like laying in the sunshine, on a lounge chair right by the pool, with The Aces coming through her AirPods and nobody around to disrupt her peaceful, perfectly planned day.

With her parents busy inside, it meant she got the huge backyard to herself. So, the lush green lawn, the gray stone patio, the plush lounge chairs, and the crystal clear pool were all hers for the rest of the day. Crystal and Ali were both off doing other things today, but they had promised to come join her later.

As she relaxed on a pool recliner, in her favorite red bikini beneath a cloudless blue sky, with the whole summer ahead of her before starting a Master’s of Business program in the fall, Christen felt her thoughts inadvertently skip to the woman she’d had trouble getting out of her mind.

Even if Tobin was a player and was definitely lip-locked with some other woman last night, Christen was finding it difficult to forget Tobin.

She was finding it hard to forget the way those brown eyes had seen her or the way Tobin had made her feel.

But she had to forget. Tobin was definitely not someone she needed to spend another moment thinking about. She was never going to see that lopsided grin again, so she might as well stop sulking about it.

After spending half an hour lying on her back and catching some rays, Christen flipped over on the lounge chair and set her sunglasses down before settling on her stomach. 

As she got comfortable, she felt herself start to doze, the warmth of the sunshine and the smooth music lulling her to sleep, all thoughts of Tobin leaving her mind. 

Tobin leaned back in her seat, ignoring the sound of equipment clanging against the inside of the van and the way Ashlyn and Megan were talking in the front. She was tired. No, she was exhausted. 

Kenna had taken a little longer than Tobin had hoped, and she’d ended up long-boarding back to the house closer to 2:00 AM after a kind of lackluster night. 

She’d showered and fallen into bed, only getting around four hours of sleep before her alarm went off, waking her up for work. To make matters worse, Megan and Ashlyn wouldn’t stop teasing her about the texts Kenna was already sending that morning. 

No matter how hard she tried, though, the thoughts that actually kept her up last night, the thoughts that were currently keeping her occupied in the back seat were of Christen and the way she’d looked at her. She couldn’t shake those green eyes from her mind, and she couldn’t forget the way they’d seen her, really seen her in the most genuine and terrifying way possible.  

“Toby’s tragic lack of a love life aside, that condom was totally of the flavored variety!” Megan argued, gesturing wildly like she was discussing something very important, and not the weird stuff they’d found in the filter of the pool they’d just cleaned. “The Fischer’s are fruity people and would definitely shell out for that sort of stuff.”

“My money’s on pink lemonade,” Ashlyn laughed, pulling the van into a cul-de-sac and parking it. “Or strawberry.”

“Could be something totally out there like pink piña colada,” Megan replied, unbuckling her seatbelt.

Tobin’s heart skipped a beat at the simple memory of talking about canned piña coladas with Christen. Her heart jumped in her chest, and she cringed because she couldn’t let her heart do that. She hadn’t let it do that for two years, and she couldn’t let it flutter for anyone else. 

“I’ll take the Bakers’, Pinoe you got the Laos’, and Toby we’ve got that last house on the right. I forget their last name, but they’re new,” Ashlyn offered, hopping out of the van.

“Goodie,” Tobin mumbled, pulling on her sneakers and pushing the door open. 

Ashlyn walked around the back and opened the trunk, pulling out three, identical tool belts full of everything a pool cleaner would need. She then passed out pool skimmers to Megan and Tobin, grabbing the last one for herself and closing the back door.

“Good luck team,” Tobin sighed, tightening the belt on her hips. 

Ashlyn readjusted the collar of her issued polo shirt and popped it, trying to act like the prospect of being near a pool didn’t utterly terrify her. “Tuck in your shirt,” she said, nodding at the way Tobin’s polo was loose around her waist.

“Why?” Tobin whined, already hating the uniform enough as it was. 

Get Wet Pool Services maintains a professional attitude at all times,” Ashlyn recited. “Especially in how they dress.”

“You sound like your Mother,” Megan chuckled, pulling on a bucket hat over her pink hair. 

Tobin grumbled as she took her belt off, tucked in her shirt, and readjust the belt on her hips. “I’m so glad you’re getting into the spirit. Maybe you will actually take over the family business,” she added, knowing it would annoy Ashlyn. 

“Absolutely fucking not,” Ashlyn called over her shoulder, throwing her middle finger up as she waltzed over to the Bakers.

Tobin shuffled across the street, trying not to knock anything off of her tool belt. She’d only been working for Ashlyn’s parents’ company for two weeks, and she was definitely out of her depth...pun intended. She had no idea why she threw shock in the pool sometimes or what she was doing with some of the chemicals. The only thing that really made sense was the pool skimmer, and at least that was mindless. 

And she didn’t hate the job. It was a great opportunity that Ashlyn’s parents had given her. They had given her a summer job and were letting her stay in the guest house. It was the perfect setup for her to save money and get to travel once the summer ended.

So, she mindlessly worked, doing everything step-by-step, and that’s exactly how she approached this new house. They’d already been told to walk around back and get started, no need to ring the doorbell. So, as mindlessly as ever, she pushed through the back gate and got to work. 

In the short two weeks that she’d been doing this, Tobin had seen a lot of skin. Some clients liked to lay out and watch them work. Some people just let their kids swim while they worked. Everyone was clad in very little clothing. 

But this. This was possibly the most skin she’d seen. 

And Tobin decided that if she could fall for someone’s back it would be this woman’s. Her bikini was red and very small, showing off smooth, dark skin and strong muscles. Her legs were perfectly shaped with exceptionally strong thighs and thin calves. 

Maybe Tobin was a little more mindless today than usual because she had no idea what she was skimming, her eyes too focused on the goddess lying across the pool from her. 

The sound of humming startled Christen out of her nap. Her music had ended, so she could now hear a slightly throaty, deep humming coming from somewhere nearby. 

Blinking her eyes open, Christen lifted her head up and looked around the backyard, startling slightly when she saw she wasn’t alone anymore. She saw some woman in a gaudy yellow polo shirt and khaki shorts, a tool belt slung low around her waist, skimming the pool and getting the leaves off the surface. 

Knowing her parents definitely would have mentioned if they’d hired a pool cleaner, Christen took out her AirPods, lifted onto her elbows, and fixed this stranger with a hard look.

“Umm, what are you doing?” Christen called out.

“Skimming the pool,” Tobin answered, pausing her movements in the hopes of hearing the familiar voice again, a voice that sounded a lot like the voice that she’d dreamed about last night. 

Christen scoffed at the obvious answer and got to her feet. She approached the side of the pool, her hands falling to her hips as she looked at the woman across the pool from her. There was a tickle of recognition in the back of her mind, but behind the large sunglasses and the visor, it was hard to get a good look at whoever this was.

“I can see that. But what are you doing here ?” Christen shot back.

“I’m literally skimming your pool,” Tobin laughed, finally looking up at the woman. Her lips parted in surprise before morphing into a lopsided smile. “Well, well, well. Christen, you definitely played soccer,” Tobin smirked, eyeing the now extremely visible legs. 

Once that lopsided grin and that husky voice became clear, Christen knew exactly who this was and she really wished she didn’t. 

Christen’s mouth flopped open in shock, faltering a bit at the sight of Tobin standing across the pool from her. Unfortunately, her falter led to her stumbling into a small puddle of water, which then led to her slipping and tumbling head-first, straight into the pool.

As she hit the water and dropped below the surface, Christen had never felt more embarrassed in her life. Last night, she’d been somewhat smooth and flirty thanks to tequila and Tobin leading the way, and then she’d realized it was all for naught. Tobin wasn’t into her and was more into random hook-ups. Which was fine when she never had to see Tobin again. 

But now, Tobin was here and she was a bumbling, awkward, soaking wet mess. 


Knowing she couldn’t hide underwater and avoid this forever, Christen quickly resurfaced, sputtering and wiping the water from her face. 

“What- how- you-” Christen choked out, her confused gaze still trained on Tobin.

“Damn, Chris,” Tobin gasped, hustling to the side of the pool and reaching out an arm. “Are you okay?” 

Feeling her cheeks blush at the familiarity in the nickname, Christen ignored Tobin’s offered hand and pulled herself out of the pool, dripping water all over the pool deck.

“Are you okay?” Tobin repeated, genuinely worried about the woman who’d slipped awfully close to the edge of the pool. 

“I’m fine. I’m great. I’m just wet. I mean- I’m fine,” Christen stuttered, her eyes looking everywhere except at Tobin, the complete opposite of how it was last night. She still had a blush in her cheeks, but this one was more out of embarrassment than anything else.

“You look nice in red,” Tobin said, trying to ease the tension in the woman in front of her, trying to recover what they’d had last night. 

“Uh, thanks,” Christen managed, offering Tobin a tight smile that looked more like a grimace. She quickly moved away from Tobin, away from her intoxicating presence, and grabbed her towel from the pool recliner.

“Blue’s good too,” Tobin winked, nodding at Christen’s blue towel. 

Christen turned back to face Tobin, feeling better with the multiple feet of space between them. She nodded and wrapped the towel tightly around herself. “Thanks,” Christen repeated.

“Your parents must have just hired us. It’s the first day we’re stopping by this house,” Tobin said, trying to quell the nerves she could see in Christen’s eyes. 

“Oh, cool. Great. I’ll just...go,” Christen replied, grabbing her stuff from the recliner as quickly as humanly possible, needing to get out of this backyard and away from Tobin like now.

“No need,” Tobin grinned. “This’ll just become my new favorite place to work.” 

Christen ignored the fluttering in her stomach and the way her heart pounded in her chest. She swallowed thickly and took a step toward the house. 

“I have somewhere to be,” Christen said, the lie coming to her easily. “I’m late, actually. Super late. So I can’t be here. Outside. With you. So,” she added, cringing a little at herself and how awkward she was being. But she couldn’t help it. 

Seeing Tobin and then literally tripping over herself because of seeing Tobin had left her beyond embarrassed. This was who she really was. Incapable of talking to pretty girls, stumbling over her words, and awkwardly shuffling through social situations. This was who she wasn’t last night, and she hated that she was being like this now. She hated that ‘ too cool and too not interested in her ’ Tobin was seeing her in all her un-glory.

“Next time,” Tobin hummed, allowing her eyes to trace up and down Christen’s body one last time. 

Christen felt the words she’d said last night, ‘Looking forward to it ’, bubble up within her. But she kept them in, taking another step away from Tobin. 

“Umm sure. Bye,” Christen replied, her voice tight. Offering Tobin another forced grimace, she spun on her heel and headed toward the house.

“Bye,” Tobin murmured, knowing Christen didn’t hear her, since the door had already slammed shut behind Christen. 

Tobin had a sudden, foreign urge to follow. She had the strange desire to run after Christen and make sure that she was okay, that the nerves that she’d seen had simply been there because Tobin had startled her. 

But she couldn’t. She couldn’t follow because following Christen would be dangerous. She couldn’t follow because she couldn’t care about Christen, and she was already feeling a little too close to caring. 

Christen wasn’t just beautiful. She was adorable and a little awkward and cute. She was this combination of devastatingly sexy and endearingly sweet, and Tobin knew that she could completely ruin her plans. If anyone were to break down the walls she’d built, stone by stone, it would be that woman. She couldn’t follow because she was certain if she had a moment alone with Christen, away from the pool and her work, she’d do something stupid like kiss her and actually mean it.