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Love Takes a Swim Part 25 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallOn their date, Kai and Paisley go to the park and play on the swings. Soon, it turns into a seductive make-out session, until they get interrupted.

They looked up to see a female police officer. She held a flashlight, pointing it at them.

“Sherri? My God, girl. Is that you?” Kai let the swing down slowly, helping Paisley stand as he spoke to the woman.

She was medium height with a compact, athletic build. Her skin was a rich mocha, her eyes dark and her lips full. Kai hugged her, kissing her cheek.

“I want to introduce you to my girlfriend, Paisley. Baby, this is my friend, Sherri. I didn’t know you were a police officer now. When did that happen?”

“It’s been a few months. He neglected to tell you we used to date.” Sherri shook Paisley’s hand. “I’m engaged to Patrick now,” she told Kai.

“McMurtry? No shit? Still a geek?”

“Patrick’s not a geek!” She punched his shoulder.

“Hey! Police brutality. There’s nothing wrong with being a geek. He’s the smartest guy I know. I wish I had half his brains.”

“You do,” Sherri said, walking them to Kai’s Jeep. “Have half as many brains. Nicer build, though. I’m trying to convince him to workout more. But nobody has as tight an ass as you. I have to admit, it’s a thing of beauty. Don’t you think?” she appealed to Paisley.

“She’s not had the pleasure of seeing it up close and personal, yet, Sherri.”

“Oh, sorry. I assumed by the level of groping I saw going on, you’d progressed at your usual, dexterous speed.”

Kai opened the door for Paisley. “One second.” He walked Sherri a few feet away. “Look,” he said softly. “I really like this girl. I don’t want to spook her, so could you not?”

“Spook her? What are you talking about?”

He looked around furtively. “She’s never been with a guy. I’d rather not make her nervous.”

“You’re not behaving yourself very well, under the circumstances.”

“Could have been worse.”

“Oh, you mean like the way you behaved on our first date?”

“Be fair, I’d known you nearly four years by that time. And you weren’t protesting.”

Sherri punched him again. “I’ll be nice, if you’ll forget that night ever happened.”

“I’ll never forget—it was incredible. But I won’t bring it up.”

“It was pretty good. Deal.” Sherri held out her hand.

Kai took it, kissing her fingers. “You be happy, Sherri. Pat’s a good guy. Little goofy…. But he’s been one of my best friends forever. He better take good care of you, or I’ll kick his ass.”

“Oh, you won’t need to. Trust me, I can do that myself.”

Laughing, they hugged and Kai walked Sherri to her squad car. He joined Paisley a moment later.

“Have you had a lot of girlfriends?”

“A few. Not that many. Why?”

Paisley shrugged, shaking her head. She wouldn’t look at him.

“Five,” he said quietly. “Five serious girlfriends, and a handful of friends who happen to be girls. We hang out, have a few drinks….”

“Have you had sex with them? The friends, I mean.”

“A couple of them, yeah. Okay, more than a couple. But it didn’t mean anything. Just friends with benefits. But never when I’m in a serious relationship. Ask Officer Sherri. She’ll vouch for me.”

“And if one of these beneficial friends called you tonight?”

“I’d say, Hi, how ya doing? I’m in a relationship. Nothing would happen.”

His phone rang. Kai looked at the ID, laughing. He turned it to show her, continuing to laugh. It was, predictably, one of the beneficial friends.

“Yeah, Toni. Hi. Sup?” He listened with the phone pressed to his ear.

Paisley could hear a woman’s voice, but not what she was saying. Kai blushed, clearing his throat uncomfortably. Toni was being very explicit about the reason for her call. He hoped that Paisley couldn’t hear her words. Since she hadn’t killed him yet, he had to assume she couldn’t.

“Whoa, Toni—hold up. No can do.”

“Why not?” she screeched. “You always have before!”

“Cause I’m in the Jeep with my new lady. You know I’m a one woman guy.”

“Bastard,” she said loudly. “Why do you have to be so damn honorable? I need your lovin’ touch! Nobody does it for me like you.”

“Toni, can I put you on speaker a second, and have you assure Paisley that I didn’t, in any way, coerce you to make this call?”

“Oh, sure!”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 24 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai and Brad are having a conversation about his relationship with Paisley.

“Cause I can’t promise that. I swear, it would kill me to end this relationship.”

The older man continued to smoke silently.

“If someone had told you to stop pursuing my mother, could you have done it?”

Brad smiled, shaking his head. “Sure. Then I would have walked into the ocean and drowned myself. A man can’t live without his heart.”

Kai held out his hands, acknowledging the comment. He gave a that’s what I’m talking about motion, nodding emphatically.

“I wasn’t any older than you when I started dating Nina. She wasn’t even Paisley’s age. God, that girl could make me do back flips to please her. She had me so tied up in knots, I couldn’t stand it! Every day, it was something else, some other reason she’d refuse. It took me a month just to get a kiss. Two before she let me go any further than that. And it was nearly three before we first made love. That was just about the best day of my life. Only our wedding and the birth of your brother and sister were better.”

Kai waited, wondering why Brad was telling him all this.

“Take it slow, son. Don’t rush into anything. Going off fully loaded is a good way to end up pregnant. Use what’s between your ears, not your legs, and pay attention. You will have to tread very lightly with Paisley. You don’t want to make a major mistake, and lose her forever—a man can’t live without his heart.”

It took a moment for Kai to process what Brad was telling him.

“So you aren’t telling me to end it?”

“I’d only do that if I thought it was a destructive relationship. I want you to be careful.”

“I’m always careful, Brad….”

“Not that kinda careful, though that’s important. I mean careful so neither of you ends up hurt.”

“I’ll do my best. I won’t ever hurt her on purpose.”

“I know. But you need to be careful not to hurt yourself.”

“How am I gonna get hurt?”

Brad shook his head, stubbing out his cigarette. “We’d better get back inside, so the ladies don’t think we’ve run off to get drunk.”

Kai chuckled. He and Brad rarely drank.

They walked back in the house and Nina ran to Kai, throwing her arms around him.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She took his face in her hands, looking him in the eye. “Can you forgive me? I promised I wouldn’t bring that up—and I did.”

“Sure, Mom. It’s okay.” He kissed her on top of the head. “It’s okay,” he repeated, holding her close.

Before leaving for Paisley’s apartment, Kai changed into a royal blue Polo shirt, khaki pants and boat shoes. His mother pronounced him acceptable, and they headed to Paisley’s. She changed from her workout gear to jeans, a pink Polo and sandals.

Once she was ready, they headed to Manatee Park on Riverside Drive. The place was virtually deserted. The occasional adult walked by on the boardwalk, but they had the park to themselves.

“How about we sit on the swings,” Kai invited.

Paisley sat on the swing. He pushed her gently until she got going well, then he joined her. Laughing and giggling, Paisley tried to outdistance him. Although she had a head start, he soon caught up. His powerful legs pumped harder and faster until he passed her.

“So not fair!”

“I was King of the Swing at my elementary school. I can’t tell you how many times I got sent to the office.”

“Why?”

“For doing this.” He leaped off the swing when it was at its apex, landing on the ground several feet away.

“Oh, my God!” She dragged her feet to slow down. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“You jumped like ten feet in the air and landed. Oh, my God!”

Laughing, Kai grabbed the chain of her swing, halting her. Standing in front of her, he walked her swing back until her face was level with his. With his hands on the chain, he fluttered kisses across her nose, mouth and cheeks.

Paisley wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him between her legs, as his kisses got more interesting. She could feel his tall, lean body pressed seductively against hers, his excitement obvious. Kai sighed contentedly, snuggling closer. His body fit perfectly, conforming to her curves. Her scent changed as she got more excited, making him crazy with lust. Rubbing against her, he felt himself thicken, wanting to fill her.

“You kids need to move along now,” someone said from a few feet away. “It’s dusk and the park’s closing.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 23 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai goes home for a nap, waking when the family comes in. He and Cody put up groceries while Nina tells Paisley about the steamy romance novels she bought.

“I love when she reads them,” Brad said, putting his arms around her from behind as he kissed her neck. “Cause then I score.” He nibbled her neck more, concentrating on the curve of her shoulder.

“Dad! Jeez, get a room!” Cody yelled, throwing a roll of paper towels at his parents. “Old people—sheesh!”

Kai laughed, pulling Paisley close in front of him, imitating Brad’s movements.

“Dammit!” Cody threw another roll at his brother, and stormed from the room.

“What’s wrong with him?” Nina asked the room in general.

The men exchanged a look, saying nothing.

“Well?”

“Guy stuff, Mom. He’ll be okay after a long shower.” Kai winked at Brad, and finished putting the groceries away as his step-father laughed.

“Guy stuff,” Nina sniffed primly. “I don’t want to know, I’m sure.”

“No, baby, you don’t,” Brad assured her, kissing her neck again. “So, how was work?” He asked Kai over Nina’s shoulder.

“It was okay. First day was rough, but it got easier. Thad was talking about firing Greg, but now that Randi’s pregnant….”

“She’s what?” His mother interrupted. “God, I just had one leave for that. They usually come in threes. You two—no fooling around. I’m serious. I can’t lose anymore personnel.”

“Mom, we haven’t even been out on a date yet. Would you not panic.”

“I know how the men are in this family.”

“Oh? And how are we?” Brad asked, trying not to laugh.

“I believe she’s insinuating that we’re naughty, Brad. I think I’m offended.”

“You set the precedent,” his mother said angrily, shaking the roll of paper towels at him. “With what’s her name—the lunatic.”

Kai blushed, looking at his feet. He swallowed hard, unable to meet her irritated gaze.

“There’s no way of knowing if that kid was even mine,” he said quietly. “For your information, I’m always very careful. To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any little mistakes out there with my genetic code.”

He rushed out of the room, hitting the deck at a dead run. His mother tried to apologize, but he slammed the door to her words. Hands on his knees, he gasped for breath. The sliding door opened and shut behind him. He didn’t turn around. If it was his mother, he didn’t want to talk, and he didn’t think he could face Paisley.

“She didn’t mean to upset you,” Brad said quietly, lighting a cigarette as he sat at the table. “That was a tough time for your mother.”

Kai started to protest, but Brad held up his hand.

“I didn’t say it was easy for you, either. She didn’t want to see you make a mistake like she did. Not that you’re not a great kid, Kai. And she doesn’t regret having you. She regrets how it changed her life, having a child so young. It hurt, losing her grandchild. It hurt more, nearly losing you. She didn’t deal with those emotions any better than you did. I reiterate my opinion that you both should talk to somebody about it.”

“I talked to counselors, Brad. You know I talked until I was blue. All they said was I shouldn’t have had sex so early. None of them offered any real advice on how to cope. All they wanted to do was tell me how to run my life. I was hurt physically and emotionally. I didn’t need a lecture.” He sat across the table from his step-father.

Brad nodded, taking a drag of his cigarette. “So, Paisley…. She said you’re planning to go out tonight?”

“Yeah. So?”

“And afterward?”

“Afterward I’ll take her home. This isn’t gonna turn into a lecture on my behavior, is it?”

“I’d hate for it to. I think at your age you know everything I’m gonna say, anyway. Can you promise me you’re not going to go too far?”

“How can any man promise that? I promise to show restraint. If she gives me the proper encouragement, I’m not backing down.” Kai’s anger was rising. It irritated him that everyone was making comments about his ability to control himself. He’d shown restraint plenty of times.

Brad heaved a heavy sigh. Shaking his head, he rubbed out his cigarette. “Son, we’re men. As such….”

“I know, okay? You never bothered to give me this lecture before. Why now?”

“You never dated a girl like Paisley before. She’s—delicate.”

Kai gulped down a sob, running his fingers through his hair. “What do you want from me, Brad? Do you want me not to date her?”

His step-father said nothing, merely lit another cigarette.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 22 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallPaisley’s class makes everyone happy, even the ones who usually complain.

Kai was pleased at their response. Paisley beamed proudly as she accepted their compliments. He walked her inside where she was teaching the Zumba class again.

“Do you think they really liked it?”

“I’ve never heard so many good things from that bunch. They’re hard to please. You’ve scored major points, babe. Congratz.”

“Thanks.” She blushed, pleased that she was doing well. “I want to make you proud of me.”

“I couldn’t be anything else. You’re fantastic. Beautiful, witty, talented—you put up with my sorry ass schedule without a complaint, and you get along great with my family. What more could I ask for?”

His arms circled her, pulling her close. Kai’s kiss lit a fire in her belly. Paisley wondered how he could have that effect on her without really trying. Her ex had never filled her with such desire. His kisses didn’t excite as much as they disgusted. She’d never been sexually attracted to Ralph at all. Kai was all kinds of exciting.

He stopped suddenly, yawning. “I need to go get some sleep, babe. Mom will bring you to the house. I’ll take you home to change before we go out.”

“Sounds good. Sleep well.”

“I’ll dream of you.”

“Good. Be sure to tell me what I’m wearing in your dream.”

“Nothing but a satisfied smile,” he replied, nipping her lip. “Bye.”

He let go reluctantly, backing toward the door as the ladies started coming in. Unable to pull himself away, he walked back toward her, kissing her once more.

“Hello, Kai,” they all said.

Some saw the kiss and raised an eyebrow. Others fanned themselves, smirking at Kai behind his back. He continued to kiss Paisley, raising a thumb to the assembled ladies, all of whom clapped and cheered, getting progressively louder as the kiss continued. He prolonged it as long as he dared. Dizzy and aroused, he gave Paisley one last, short kiss before departing.

Not sure who that buzzed more, me or her. But he was pretty sure it was him. He knew what they were missing out on, she didn’t.

Kai got home to a quiet house. It was weird to be there with it so empty and silent, like it was waiting to come alive with the presence of his family. He got a shower and shaved before heading to bed. Glad of heavy drapes, he closed them before lying down. He unplugged the phone by his bed, rolled over, falling almost instantly asleep.

The sounds of his family coming in, woke him from a deep sleep. He looked at the clock and saw that it was almost 7:00. He took another shower and brushed his teeth before pulling on his jeans. Tossing a shirt over his shoulder, he padded out to the dining room barefoot. He came up so quietly behind Paisley, she didn’t hear him right away. Spinning around, she greeted him with a surprised smile.

“I didn’t hear you come in!” Her arms went around his neck as she stood on tiptoe to give him a kiss. “I smelled your cologne.”

“Must be soap,” he said quietly, his forehead on hers. “Not wearing any.”

“It smells great,” she said, smiling.

Cody cleared his throat as he brought groceries to the refrigerator. “You could help bring food in, brother mine.”

“I could,” Kai mused, focused on Paisley. “Or I could stand her with the most beautiful woman in the world, in my arms.”

Cody thumped him in the back with a gallon of milk. “Or—you could go grab groceries and help out, bro.”

“Chill, would ya?” He kissed Paisley on the nose. “Be right back. Kick him in the ass, if he gets mouthy, huh?”

“Sure thing.” She took a fighting stance, hands clenched. “I’ve studied kick boxing for ten years, Cody. Make one wrong move, I’ll kick your sorry ass to Nebraska.”

“Could you make it Colorado instead? There’s mountains there, and I can go skiing,” the young man said as he put the groceries away.

“Nope, Nebraska. Cause it’s boring.”

Kai chuckled as he went out to his mother’s car. He loaded up a bunch of bags and carried them inside, thumping them on the counter. He and Cody tossed things back and forth, putting groceries away quickly and efficiently. Their mother came in a few minutes later, smiling, a pile of mail in her arms.

“Yea, the books I ordered came in from Amazon. Now I’ve got something to read.”

“What did you order, Nina?” Paisley asked her.

“Mom only reads romance novels,” Cody intoned solemnly. “The more sordid the better.”

“I don’t read sordid romance novels,” Nina said pompously. “Though they do get steamy,” she told Paisley with a delighted shiver.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 21 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai manages to get a little bit more sleep, but the morning alarm is unwelcome. He doesn’t want Paisley to ride the bus. Besides, he has to stay for his shift anyway.

Greg showed up early for his weekend shift, grinning and cocky. Apparently he and Randi had been quite busy on their days off.

“We got married!” He told them all excitedly. “I know it was kinda sudden, but we just found out a little Greg’s on the way, so we decided to tie the knot.”

Kai wasn’t sure he felt very enthusiastic about it. It meant that in a few months time, they’d be short at the club, as well as the station.

“I can’t fire the guy now,” Thad said to Kai later. “Not with a baby on the way. They’ll need the insurance.”

“It’s just as well, Thad. That schedule would’ve half killed me. I’d like a little time to spend with my new lady. Except for driving her to work, I’ve hardly seen her. And the good morning kisses aren’t doing it for me, ya know?”

Thad laughed, thumping him on the back. “Go home, get some rest.”

“Gotta do pool duty, then I can.”

“I promise to give Greg the most wretched jobs I can think of. He’s gonna have to scrub Sparky’s kennel with a toothbrush.” Sparky was the station’s Dalmatian.

“Make him lick it.”

“Ouch! You need to get laid, kid.”

“Don’t remind me. See you later.” Kai trudged across the street to the pool and changed into his baggies.

With his T-shit over one shoulder, he grabbed the noodle container, rolling it onto the deck. Paisley, who’d ridden that morning with Cody, had her back to him when he walked up. She hadn’t seen him since his arrival, because Cody was helping her set up.

“Thanks, Cody. Could you get me a bottle of water? I forgot mine.”

Kai said nothing, just got her a water and walked back with it, putting it on her shoulder. Checking her class notes, she still didn’t turn around, so he decided to get her attention. He set the bottle on the chair next to the speaker and slid a hand around her waist. Once his other hand was free of the bottle, it joined the first, circling her body, pulling her close to his bare chest. His lips descended on her shoulder, kissing her lightly.

Paisley screamed, jumping away. She turned with her clipboard raised, but burst into laughter when she saw who it was. “Oh, you brat! I was wondering what the hell Cody thought he was doing!”

“He’d better not ever touch you like that. I’d hate to kill my own brother.”

Paisley laughed, walking into the circle of his arms. “You wouldn’t kill him.”

“No, but I’d rough him up, so only his mama would love him. I sure missed you.”

She raised her face to his, lips parted expectantly. Always one to oblige, he kissed her long and deep. He didn’t care that they had an audience. There were people swimming laps as well as those coming in for class.

“So, we going out tonight?” Kai asked hopefully.

“If you’re not too tired.”

“I won’t be. I’m doing my couple hours here, then going home to bed.”

“Good.”

“Wish you could go with me….”

She pinched his ribs. “Behave!”

“I’m behaving like a perfect gentleman. Well, maybe not so perfect, but a gentleman.”

“You’re perfect for me,” Paisley said quietly. “Get your tight ass up on the tower. It’s time to start class.”

He kissed her again, lips lingering near her ear. “Thanks for noticing.”

“Put your shirt on, you’re distracting my little old ladies.”

He looked around, leaning closer. “You sure it’s not you that I’m distracting?”

“Not at all, I’m a professional. I’ve seen men’s broad chests, finely sculpted abs and—chiseled muscles before….” She turned away, puttering around with something unimportant. “Just not all put together quite as well as yours,” she mumbled.

Chuckling, Kai pulled his shirt over his head and climbed his tower. Paisley’s class went well. For the first time, he was really able to observe her during the class. She moved like a dancer, with ease and grace unmatched by any woman he knew. He was sure she must have a dance background, because she gave the little flourishes and hand positions he’d only ever seen dancers like Ginger Rogers use. His mom was an old movie buff, who she loved Fred and Ginger. Kai had seen all of their movies dozens of times.

The applause after class was loud and enthusiastic. People who usually complained about everything, came up to him and Paisley, complimenting her class.

“The music is just amazing!” One old lady remarked to anyone who would listen. She was one of the ones most likely to complain. She went off humming one of the tunes.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 20 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai and his team responded to a house fire before heading back to the station. Too keyed up to sleep, they decide they’re hungry.

Cherise and Kai made pizza and they sat around eating and drinking root beer.

“So, a new woman,” Davis said out of the clear blue.

Davis was next to youngest, a man in his mid twenties. Also single, he had a new woman nearly every week. Kai’s love life wasn’t nearly as active, so for him to have a new woman was big news.

“Yeah,” Kai said around a mouthful of pizza. He chewed and swallowed quickly. “Her name’s Paisley. She’s an instructor at the club. Just started Monday.”

“So, good figure?” Davis asked.

“Of course. She’s hot, too. You come onto her, I’ll break you in two,” Kai said with quiet menace.

“Dude, chill! You have my word I won’t hit on your woman. Never stole another man’s woman in my life.”

“Good. I’d hate to have to kill you,” Cherise added coldly.

“You too? What’s up? I’m a nice guy!”

“You’re a predator,” Cherise replied, her eyes flashing.

“Me? I’m a pussy cat!”

“You’re a pussy hound,” she replied angrily. “I’ve seen how you operate.”

“I’m just a guy, Cherise. Not a man here can deny he’s used his edge to get laid.”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean by your edge, but if you mean you’ve coerced a woman into having sex with you….”

Davis looked away, ducking his head.

“Okay, be fair,” Tommy, an EMT said. “We’re men. It’s kinda in the genetic code to be persistent. It’s not something to be proud of, Cherise, but I’ve coerced a woman or two.”

“Me too,” Kai admitted shyly. “Couple times.”

Cherise sniffed, nose in the air, her arms crossed over her chest. “Bunch of leches.”

Kai laughed, tipping his chair. “I don’t deny that! Hell, that’s part of being male! Don’t hate us. Pity us.”

“And why would I do that?” Her dark eyes flashed.

“Cause how would you like it going through life perpetually horny? I mean, seriously. I see a hot woman, I’m gonna get sprung. It’s a fact of life. Not like I can control it, you know?”

Schwing!” Tommy said, chuckling.

“Do I even want to know what that means?” Cherise asked with a frown.

“Nope,” the men answered in chorus.

“Without man’s persistence, the human race would die out,” Tommy intoned solemnly.

Cherise shook her head, trying not to giggle. “You guys are so damn full of shit. Why do women put up with you?”

The men exchanged a look, tipping their chairs in unison. “Orgasms,” they said as if they’d rehearsed it.

Laughing loudly, Cherise bid good night, and went back to bed. Tom and Davis cleaned up, following Kai to the dorm, where they all went back to bed. Kai found sleep easy.

However hearing his alarm go off the next morning, was hard. He got a quick breakfast for himself while the others slept. The day workers, like Thad, came in and got coffee from the pot Kai had fixed.

“You’re up early,” Thad commented as he poured his coffee.

“Got to pick up Paisley and do my morning shift at the pool.” He yawned loudly. “Sorry, that two o’clock fire really messed me up. I slept, but not well.”

“Do you think you can handle this? I know it’s a lot to expect from you.”

“Needs doing. I’ll try to train one of the others to do my job. Paisley could, but she’s got the whole class to look out for. Might miss something.”

“How about your mom?”

“Panics too easy. She could do it, but I’d be worried about her judgment.”

Thad nodded. “Too bad Cody’s so young. He’s a sharp kid, very capable. I wish I had two more just like you boys. I’d have the perfect team.”

Kai chuckled, sipping his coffee. “Thanks. I’d better get going. Gotta pick up Paisley.”

“That’s somewhat out of your way.”

“I don’t want her riding the bus, Thad. That’s not safe.”

“Agreed. Okay. See you later.”

Kai picked up Paisley, and stayed for the two water aerobics classes. Afterward, he gave her a quick kiss and headed across the street.

Fortunately, the rest of Greg’s shift was quiet. Kai fell into a hectic routine between the pool and station, that by Friday, wasn’t too bad. He knew if he had too many nights like the first one, he was going to be exhausted. He hoped he could find someone to take the pool job, so he wouldn’t have to do both. He didn’t hold out much hope. None of the others had enough training. Only Paisley came close, and she couldn’t teach and act as emergency contact.

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Love Takes a Swim Part 19 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai tells his co-workers about Paisley. The guys give him kind of a hard time, but Cherise makes him feel better about himself.

Kai knew he’d died recently, after a lingering illness. He couldn’t remember, but he thought it was A.L.S.

“He was a cool guy, Cherise. I liked him a lot.”

“I learned more about courage from that man, than anyone else I know.” She blinked hard, fighting tears. “But enough about me. Don’t let them get to you. You keep being you, and let them be the barbarians they are. You’ll get the smokin’ hot chicks every time.”

“I only want one. We were gonna go out for our first official date tonight. Then this happened.” He looked disgusted.

“Well, there’s a reason for it. You may never know what it is, but rest assured, there is. So, where were you going to take her?”

“I was gonna do dinner and a movie. Not that exciting, I know, but I didn’t want to do something she’d misconstrue.”

“I’m real impressed you know that word. And you’re right. It’s a fine line. A first date doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun. You know what you could do? I know this is gonna sound silly, but take her to the park, and sit on the swings.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Might not sound like much to you, but I bet she’d have fun. There are some nice parks around. You could go before it got too dark and spooky. Afterwards, dinner someplace non-threatening, like a cozy family spot.”

“Good idea.”

“And keep that bad boy under control. I came in when you were sleeping. Got an anaconda trapped in there?” She nudged him again, bumping his shoulder with her head as she giggled.

“God, not you too. Thad already commented on my embarrassing moment. Did everyone see?” Kai whispered sharply.

“Just us, and we’re not telling. Girls got it easy. We can have that kind of dream without the whole world knowing. Were you not so uniquely blessed, you wouldn’t have such a tough time concealing it.”

“God, I’m embarrassed. I can’t begin to tell you how much.”

“It’s okay, baby. Go get yourself a shower and head to bed. You look beat.”

“I’m pretty tired. I think I will.”

“I’m headed that way myself. I can spend only so much time around them, then I start wanting to burp, scratch myself inappropriately, and fart in public.”

Kai laughed hard, muffling it when the other men jeered him from the TV room as they watched the end of Deadliest Warrior. Normally, Kai liked that show, but he was too tired to care. He had to pick up Paisley in the morning, as well as taking his morning shift at the pool.

The shower felt good on his tired back and shoulders. He would have liked to linger, but wanted to get to bed before the other men came into the dorm. He crawled into bed in his boxers, uniform neatly draped on the chair next to his bed. The lights were dim, but there was still enough illumination that the others could see to get ready for bed. Partitions between the beds gave them a modicum of privacy.

Cherise was lucky. With only two women on the payroll, she had the women’s dorm to herself. Kai liked his privacy, but didn’t have it when he was working. Fortunately, he was able to sleep without too much trouble, but only if he was asleep before the others came in. He rolled on his side, closing his eyes.

The blare of the alarm woke Kai and the others around 2:00.

“House fire,” Cherise told him as they headed to the truck.

Kai hated fires. They were too unpredictable. Every time the firefighters went in, there was a chance they’d get hurt. He’d seen fire related injuries, and his empathic spirit felt each one along with the victim.

The stricken family stood on the street watching their lives burn. Father, mother, three children, a cat, two dogs and a boa constrictor—all their lives uprooted.

Kai and Cherise checked the family for injuries. The father’s hands were burned, but not seriously.

“I did it getting Louie out,” he explained, pointing to the snake his 10 year old son held. “Couldn’t let the poor guy roast.”

Kai smiled as he treated the man’s hands.

“At least we’re all alive,” the wife said. Sooty tears streaked her cheeks. “It’s bad, but it could’ve been so much worse.” She and her husband hugged one another, weeping.

The firefighters stayed to make sure the fire was completely out. Kai and his team returned to the station. Although they really needed to try for more sleep, they were too keyed up to rest.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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