The subway is crowded, and the usual sights, sounds, and scents do an admirable job of taking the bloom right off my rose—or maybe it’s the anxiety of our upcoming athletic endeavor. I know how to swim, but I’m not particularly good at it. The downside of being with the perfect man, of course, is that my own flaws are ever so glaring. Not that Dane seems to mind. What I’ve always viewed as weakness, he somehow finds endearing—even hot.
“This is us,” he says, pulling me from my thoughts as the 7 train screeches to a halt.
Queens Boulevard. Dane’s stomping grounds. Dane’s home.
He threads his fingers around mine as the train comes to a stop, and I follow his confident lead up the staircase and out into the cold street. As if sensing passivity might be difficult for me, Dane fills me in on our route. I marvel once again at Dane’s humility and his uncanny ability to “bottom from above.” Any power he might hold over me because of his superior familiarity with our setting is freely relinquished in the most graciously humble way. My head plays a little game of connect-the-dots, taking me back to Dane’s deference while I was blindfolded, his generosity in all my “compromised” moments, where words have spilled from my lips or emotions have escaped me.
At the front desk of the Y, Dane reaches for his wallet. Let it be.
“I need a guest pass, please,” he says to the young Asian girl behind the counter.
“Sure, that’s ten dollars, and here’s a registration card for your guest to fill out.” Dane quickly slides a twenty to her and hands me the pen attached to the counter with a short, silver-beaded chain.
“Thank you, Dane,” I respond, quelling any fears he might have had about my putting up a fight.
“Yes, please. And lockers,” he answers her.
He gathers his change, our towels, and the keys, leading me to the locker room and our side-by-side lockers. With our suits already on, there’s none of the pre-karate awkwardness as we undress and stow away our gear; in minutes, we’re up the steps and standing in the highly chlorinated, sub-tropical climate with only our skimpy suits, the goggles we picked up before boarding the subway, keys dangling from wrists, and towels draped over one shoulder. I hear footsteps overhead, and much to my chagrin, I look up to discover there’s a track encircling the perimeter of the pool one flight up, and all those people can look right down and see us.
“Oh god.” I grip my towel in front of me and pray for someone to pull the fire alarm. I’m not above a minor infraction of the law if the situation calls for it.
Dane chuckles and places a hand on my shoulder. “Come on, you’ll feel better once we’re in the pool.”
“I seriously doubt it,” I grumble.
Dane tosses his towel and key onto a bench and gives me a sly wink while I ogle him. Without any warning—and frankly, a damn warning would have been quite nice—he bends forward and presses his palms to the floor. Fuck me, I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t turn his back to me first! He pulls up and grins at me, reaching hands above head and displaying every finely-tuned muscle. I have the sense that I’m standing there with my jaw dropped open like a teenager at a peep show, but I can’t move. He’s got me frozen in his tractor beam of hotness, and there’s no escape for me until he puts an end to this torturous routine.
But no, he anchors his feet a bit wider, and he’s twisting that torso, abs flexing and popping as he warms his muscles for action. The tantalizing bulge inside the flash of blue material is a tease as he spins side to side, hiding . . . Wait! There it is! . . . Now, it’s gone again!
“Aren’t you going to stretch?” he asks me. He’s onto the shoulders now, rolling one back, lifting, releasing.
“No, I don’t need to.”
Dane smiles without condescension. “All righty, then. Shall we?” He tips his chin to a free lane and walks his sweet, blue tush to the edge. “We can share the lane. Just stay to the right when we pass?”
“What happens when you lap me?” The misery is apparent in my voice, and I know I need to stop being a whiny bitch, but with the moment of truth upon me and only this tiny excuse of a suit as armor, I am a big, pale fish out of water.
Dane leans in, eyes shimmering with mischief. “Aren’t I always gentle when I lap you?”
That earns him a solid eye roll, but he responds by giving me a fearless once-over. With a shake of his head, he says, “You’re putting me way off my game with that suit, you know.”
With great regret, I toss my towel to the side and scowl at my unruly submissive while fixing the goggles over my eyes. “Let’s go, Dane, before I change my mind.”
His grin is a mile wide as he mouths, “Yes, Master.” Turning to the water, he sets his goggles in place, shakes out his hands, and steps to the edge of the pool. Right before my eyes, Dane visibly enters his zone, not unlike slipping into sub space or into his character on stage. Tensed and fully engaged, he extends his arms, hollows out his stomach, and pushes off using the powerful muscles in his legs. There’s barely a ripple in the water as he slices through the surface. I can’t look away as his legs propel him forward with a restrained but mighty flutter kick. An arm arcs out of the water, dives back in, and drags him forward. His body tips ever so slightly to accommodate the other arm’s rise and pull, and soon I’m mesmerized by the fluidity of his motion. Just before reaching the far wall, Dane manages an effortless flip, emerges about one-quarter of the way down the lane, tips his head to one side, and draws his first breath. As he swims back toward me, I have a chance to fully appreciate the front view, the majesty of his shoulders, his aerodynamic form, and the perfection of his rhythm.
My trance is broken when he touches the wall and stops, looking up to see what the hell I’m still doing there. I have no excuse for my behavior other than the fact that Dane’s majesty has hijacked all my brain cells, and I’m not sure that will get me off the hook.
“Sorry, go again. I’m right behind you.”
Not quite sure if I’m to be trusted, Dane gives me an obliging you’re-the-boss smile before pushing off the wall again. Screwing up all my courage, I line up my toes with the edge, take three deep breaths, and dive in.
The initial shock steals all my carefully hoarded oxygen. So distracted by the unforeseen audience above and the utter perfection of Dane, I failed to prepare myself for the cool water that slapped me everywhere all at once. Rookie mistake.
I gasp for a clean breath with my very first opportunity., My crawl stroke feels just that—clumsy and mechanical, nothing like the dolphin-like grace I was just ogling. The joggers above are surely gawking and thinking how nice it is of that young boy to bring his dear old dad out for a little swim.
My kick is uneven, tangling me in the plastic lane dividers like rubbish snagged on a fishing line. When I strike out again, concentrating on my legs, the arms get out of whack. For a coordinated guy, I’m kind of a freak right now. And here comes Dane.
Coming toward me from the other direction, his form is beyond admirable; it’s textbook. Hold your shit together, Marcus, at least until he passes. I tighten, straighten, realign, and meet his eyes goggle to goggle underwater and feast on the close-up view of perfection as it swims past me from tip to tail.
Seems like forever, but I finally reach the wall. No fancy flippy turns for this guy—a La Perla suit does not a swimmer make. I know my limitations. I push off hard with my legs and glide until I’m at a near standstill. And here comes Dane again—far sooner than I would have liked. He swims past, and I resist the urge to grab his tiny little bathing suit and drag him backwards.
Dane’s fluttering feet clear my head, and I kick it into high gear. At least, if I make it back to the wall before he passes me, maybe I can retain a shred of dignity. Faster, arms! Harder, legs! Here comes Dane. Fucking hell, I’m about to be lapped, and I need to take it like a man—or at least, a manly fish.
His fingertips appear in my peripheral vision, soon followed by every gorgeous inch of him. As I watch helplessly, he overtakes me with his head, torso, thighs, and finally, his toes. My eyes crawl back along his body—if I’m going to be shown up, I might as well enjoy the view—when suddenly, he breaks form and curls his body in front of me and bam!
Disoriented and confused, I sputter to the surface where Dane has ripped away his goggles and is regarding me with great concern. “Are you okay? Do I need to break out the CPR?”
“What happened to ‘being gentle with me’? Why would you go and—” Shit, that happened. I pull off my goggles, for all the good they did me. “Crap, Dane, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have—”
“It was my fault. I was being a hot dog, and you almost whacked your head. God, I would never have forgiven myself.”
“You? I’m the one who practically rammed you right through the wall!”
As if it’s just sinking in that he’s been head-butted, Dane absently runs a hand over his chest. “I’ll live—” Enter the sparkle—“though that head of yours is pretty hard.”
We’re toe-to-toe with Dane backed up against the tile wall. For the first time since we left the hotel this morning, I find myself in the superior position. I know my grin matches his as I reach out and ghost the point of impact with my palm. “Tell me about it. I’ve had way softer pillows.”
Dane lifts both eyebrows in surprise and measures me with a long stare, not quite sure how far he can take the teasing without earning his Master’s revenge, however playful. “You think that was hard? Good thing you didn’t hit me a little bit lower!”
His feistiness thrills me; it’s a reflection of how comfortable he feels expressing his sense of humor without fear of an outsized response.
“No kidding! I could’ve broken my nose on that thing!” We both burst into relieved laughter. “It’s no wonder you’re excited, Dane. I’m sure I got you all hot and bothered with my awesome form.”
He grips the wall behind him with his outstretched arms, but his gaze does a fine job of fondling me but good as it sinks beneath the water line. “Yes, Master,” he murmurs for my ears only, “starting in the dressing room.”
I shake my head at his audacity. “Maybe I should stick to dry land.” I move to the side and place my palms on the coping.
Aw shit. Puppy dog eyes? Seriously?
“I thought this might be a good time to commence the watching phase.”
Dane clasps my wrist, stopping me dead in my tracks. “What if I give you more space in the lane?”
“Dane, I’d need the whole damn lane.”
“Deal!” He grins, Monty Hall having just sold the biggest zonk to any contestant ever to grace his show.
“Excuse me, but how are you going to swim with me if I’m hogging the whole thing?”
Dane shrugs. “I’ll just go under.”
“You’re planning to swim under me?”
“Sure. Whatever it takes to keep you here.”
Yeah, you go ahead and try to refuse that. I sigh; Dane grins. “You win, Dane. Why do I even bother?”
“I have no idea.” He pulls on his goggles and slides his foot up the wall. “Ready?”
“No.” Not even a little.
Ugh, poor Marcus! I picture him in full wet suit, head spinning every which way as he watches the gorgeous sea life pass him from behind, below, above...LOL. Pretty pictures in the Patch. Enjoy! XXX