The equations are simple.
Piper Ashby + Brad Ashby = Twin Siblings
Brad Ashby + Tanner McCain = Best Friends
Piper Ashby + Tanner McCain = Off limits
Tanner and I abided by the rules. We stayed on our designated sides of the relationship circle.
Ignoring swarming butterflies.
Brushing off skipped heartbeats.
Settling on lingering stares.
Here’s the secret … a hand extended over that invisible line once, exponentially changing the equation. I was convinced we could make our relationship work until Tanner broke the trust he embedded in me from the age of seven.
One deceit of mega proportions and the relationship we built for that short month vanished. I swore never to speak to him again and it’s worked. Until now—two years later, when my brother’s wedding places me face-to-face with the best man—Tanner McCain.
Leaving one equation to be solved. Can love surface twice?
Soon, I’m unable to focus, and I have no choice but to take a break to recoup some energy. Gripping the side of the pool, I toss my goggles on the cement and lay my head on top of my hands, leaning over the edge of the pool. Mentally tormenting myself on my recent obsession with Tanner McCain, I’m surprised when the echo of someone else in the pool alerts me.
There goes my therapy for today, I think to myself.
I hastily grab my goggles and rest them on my head. My eyes glance up to see if the person is one of my teammates, but what I find halts my breathing. Tanner snakes into the water, gracefully picking up each plastic rope and ducking underneath, until he reaches the lane right next to me. I gulp down the last of my saliva when he casually swings back and forth on the lane separator closest to me.
He’s breathtaking with his goggles resting on the top of his head and his strong biceps holding his body up in the water. “I thought I’d find you here.” His classic smirk from last night is back in place.
“You did?” Immediately, I hate my timid and unsure voice. Even worse, the hopefulness it’s laced with.
“Want to race? Loser chooses Truth or Dare?” He doesn’t make eye contact with me. Rather, he peers across the empty pool.
“So I can lose?”
Every swimmer from here to California beats themselves up on their workouts, imagining their fingertips on that tile wall before Tanner’s.
He chuckles. “You know I only use half of my energy when I go against you.”
I cup my hand and drag it across the pool, splashing his face. He shakes his head, water droplets spraying off his divine features.
“Jackass,” I say, my back against the tile wall. I purposely don’t allow my body to win the fight to break the distance between us.
“I’m kidding. Come on.” His head nods toward the other end of the pool. “One lap.”
Then, out of nowhere, a confident creature rises within me. I want to pick his brain and dig through the layers to discover exactly why he sought me out in this pool so early in the morning and why his hands roamed places on my body they never ventured before last night. Most of all, I want to know how he left me without even a good-bye.
“What do I get if I win?” I raise my eyebrows at him a few times for competition.
Michelle moved around the Midwest most of her life, transferring from school to school before settling down in the outskirts of Chicago ten years ago, where she now resides with her husband and two kids. She developed a love of reading at a young age, which helped lay the foundation for her passion to write. With the encouragement of her family, she finally sat down and wrote one of the many stories that have been floating around in her head. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found playing with her kids, talking to her mom on the phone, or hanging out with her family and friends. But after chasing around twin preschoolers all day, she always cherishes her relaxation time after putting the kids to bed.