When my phone rang, I knew it was Daddy who’s calling me. I’ve left home because I wanted to be free. I wanted to explore. I wanted to travel an escape from all of the problems and heartaches. I believe that it’s my only choice. I don’t have any other options left. If I wanted to escape and avoid all the troubles, I should leave.
And now, I’m here.
The smell of the beach is so soothing. It gives off that different feeling from the city. It makes me think better. It gives me peace of mind.
I walked towards the hotel entrance while my eyes roamed around the people playing on the sand. They’re playing beach volleyball. One woman got caught up with the sand and fell on her butt flat. I smiled as she got up with difficulty but with a smile on her face. It’s a good thing my aviators are on. No one can see what I am smiling about.
It feels good being in a different surrounding. It feels better to be unknown to everyone else. I can only start again because I’m just a normal person in this place. No one will judge me or the decisions I made.
In this place, I’m just me. I’m just Kinsella Sloane. Not the Kinsella Sloane I am back home.
“Good morning, Ma’am! Welcome to Beach House Hotel Hermosa! Did you have reservations?” A smiling receptionist greeted me. Her skin is bronze and her hair is blonde. She looked like a normal person living near the beach all her life. She also looks very accommodating. Maybe the reason why she’s in the front desk.
I smiled back and nodded. “I believe I reserved one ocean front suite.” I showed her my ID which she gladly took. She was still smiling and that’s the only time I saw her nameplate. She’s Heart. Cute name.
She typed something into their server while momentarily glancing at my ID then at the screen. She nodded and typed some information before giving me back my ID.
“Yes, Ma’am. You’ve booked a suite ocean front room for the next two months.” She smiled in confirmation. She took something in the drawer and handed it to me. Apparently, it’s the key to my room. She looked over and smiled at someone behind me. “Nero! Can you please help Ms. Sloane take her things to her room?” She asked sweetly.
I looked behind me and was so thankful I’m wearing my aviators. I’ve thought about hot beach guys but I’ve never really seen one. I’ve only been in Illinois all my life because my father never let me leave the state.
But this…this human in front of me…is a real human. Alright. What am I even thinking?
I’m wishing my mouth isn’t opened and my saliva isn’t flowing out of it. This would be a very bad embarrassment.
“Do you have any other baggage, Miss Sloane?” This man, Nero, asked me. His thick brows are furrowed. Maybe he’s weirded out of my reaction.
It took me seconds to regain my consciousness. I bit my lip and shook my head. At least I paid attention on his question.
He gave me a small smile and his expression relaxed. “Alright then. I’ll lead the way to your suite.” He said courteously and started walking towards the elevator.
I couldn’t help but look at him when we’re waiting for the elevator. He’s wearing a white shirt and board shorts. He’s only wearing slippers but he looked so good. Alright, maybe because it’s my first time seeing a guy from the beach that I would react like this. If I stayed longer, everything would be normal for me.
I’m used to seeing men in suits. My Dad owns a construction companies and I’m used to facing engineers and architects in suits every day. I’m used to that. I just need time to get used to these people in the beach.
When the elevator opened, we walked in. There were other two men—men from this hotel, I think—who came in with us. They are both wearing the hotel’s blue button-down shirt and black slacks attire, the uniform of the staffs from outside.
One of the two looked at me and smiled before looking at Nero. “Hey, man! Let’s play ball after the shift.” He said in an excited boy’s tone. This looks thinner than Nero but he sure as hell has a good body built too. I had the chance to read his name plate. Harvey, it says.
“I can’t. I have to teach the Paul kids to surf.” Nero replied in his tone.
Harvey frowned but then he nodded. “It’s hard being the exclusive surf trainer, I guess.” He chuckled then nudged the other man. “Jules, one-on-one, then?” He asked.
I bit my lip and tried to keep myself invisible. I needed to blend in with these people but I guess I can blend in some time. I need to find my room first.
The elevator opened and the two went out. They both waved at Nero before the elevator closed.
I heard Nero cough beside me. “I’m sorry for Harvey. He’s just really talkative.” He tried to explain.
I looked at him and smiled. “It’s okay. It’s refreshing to see someone as bright as the people here.” I told him.
His brow creased as he looked at me. And now, his perfectly chiseled jaw is clenching.
I looked away and just stared at the door. He didn’t speak right after but I can’t explain the tension all over.
When we’ve reached the right floor, he led me towards the room. He glanced at me but he didn’t smile. Rude. Aren’t hotel staffs supposed to be kind and accommodating?
I was frowning as I was walking after him. I stopped when I saw him stop in front of a door. He looked at me with his expressionless eyes.
“This is your room, Miss Sloane. You do have your key with you, right?” He asked me.
I nodded and handed the key out. He took it from me and opened the door for me. He switched on the lights and the air conditioning.
I looked around and was awed at the room. The walls are all white. There’s a living room, a queen-size bed, kitchen and a terrace that overlooks the ocean and most of the activities of the hotel.
I walked towards the terrace and inhaled the smell of the beach. I was smiling as I looked at the people doing different activities near the beach. Some are swimming, playing volleyball, playing basketball and biking.
I only stopped when I felt a presence beside me. I was shocked to see Nero beside me, overlooking all these people as well. Like me, he’s leaning on the railings of the terrace.
He raised his brow at me. “Is this your first time in a beach?” He asked as if mocking me.
I frowned but I nodded. I haven’t experienced being in a beach all my life. Like I said, I was jailed in my Dad’s office and mansion. He would go hysterical when I got out. And right now, he must have been so worried. But I wanted this. And he promised to give me this freedom when I reach twenty-two.
Nero looked at me as if I’d shock him with my response. “You’ve never been in a beach?” he asked again. This time, curiosity is sinking in.
I shook my head. “This is my first time in a beach.” I finally said.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “And you’re alone.” He stated.
I raised my brow at him. “Do I need to be with someone when I visit a beach?” I asked.
He bit his lip and looked away. He fiddled with his fingers. I stared at him and got amazed at how perfect his side profile is. His side view is so perfect. I wouldn’t mind looking at him forever.
He bit his lip and sighed before looking at me. “How old are you?” he asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Do hotel staffs get this curious? But even with the hesitation I answered, “Twenty-two.”
He bit his lip and nodded. I might have heard him curse under his breath before letting out another deep breath.
He stood properly and looked at me. “Nice to meet you, Miss Sloane. If you have any requests, you have a line here. You can call the front desk directly.” He was suddenly so formal. “I hope you enjoy your stay here in Hermosa beach.” He even bowed before leaving me alone in my room. Weird.
From: Kino Sloane
Subject: WHERE ARE YOU COUSIN
Hey, you’ve been out for the whole week. Where are you?
I frowned when I read my cousin’s email. Kino is my only cousin who’s my age. The rest of my cousins are all younger than me for at least three years. Also, Kino is the person my dad trusts the most. He even let him hold one department in his company. My cousin is business minded like Dad. I wonder what’s so good about business.
I like travelling and places more than staying in the office and drowning myself in projects and all.
I put my phone on airplane mode and only used it as a music player when I was riding in the plane. Even in my room, I only used it for music and other applications. I don’t want my Dad to know where I am. He’d come get me in a blink if he knew where I was.
I was the only daughter he had. My mother died giving birth to me, the reason why Daddy has been very protective of me since I was born. I was home-schooled until I reached college. I only saw the world when I was in college. It’s actually one of the best gifts my dad has given me.
I turned my MacBook off. I don’t intend on answering my cousin’s emails. He’s been sending me one every day. He’s been updating me about Daddy and the company even though I don’t really care about the company. If not for Daddy working nonstop for the company, I would not care about it entirely. But it’s important to my Dad.
I got up and prepared to walk around the area again. I’ve been here for a week but I’m thinking of staying here forever. The scenery is nice. The ambience is very good. The staff members are nice. The foods are delicious. Oh! I could stay here for all eternity if I could.
I put on my yellow overall and wore white shorts. I also slipped into my white cover ups. My hair is tied in a messy bun as I put on my aviators. I took my GoPro and my wallet before going out of my room.
I walked to the elevator and was surprised to see Nero standing in front of it. I haven’t seen him for the whole week since he helped my find my suite. The only thing I know about him is he is a surfing instructor. And he’s handsome. Well, anyone can see how fine he is.
He’s wearing casual clothes—a sky blue button-down shirt, khaki shorts and a pair of topsiders. He isn’t wearing the staff’s uniform. I wonder if surf instructors can wear whatever they can wear.
I frowned and walked closer to him. He looked so serious as his brows are furrowed as he read something on his phone. I pursed my lips and silently walked beside him. I don’t really know why I’m uncomfortable around him. I’m good with other staffs but something about him makes me really wonder and curious. And that thought makes me uncomfortable.
I didn’t give him another look when I was beside him, waiting for the elevator. I bit my lip because I couldn’t deny the forming feeling inside my system. Alright, he’s handsome and I haven’t seen him in a week. It is not a reason for me to feel uneasy around him.
The elevator door opened and I immediately went inside, trying my hardest to not be so obvious on the nervous note. I looked way when he went inside.
When the door closed, it was the only time that I was reminded of his manly scent. It’s different from what Kino or daddy uses. This one’s gentler than theirs.
I looked at myself standing beside him from the reflection from the door. He’s tall. Maybe he could pass as an NBA player. He could play one on one with Curry or whoever it is my cousin was cheering on. But then, he’ll also pass as a GQ model. He could stand side by side with Sean O’Pry and I would choose to look at him.
Hell. What am I even thinking?
This beach is clouding my mind, really. I came here to unwind and not find another reason to leave.
He’s still looking at his phone, typing something so furiously.
I chose to look away. I don’t want him to catch me looking at him because that would embarrass me more.
I counted to twenty until the elevator reached the ground. I immediately walked out and straight to the Strand Café where I’ve been spending most of my breakfast for the whole week. The food here is great and I think I would never get tired of it.
Blue, the man who happily serves me every day, came to me as I walked at the empty seat that overlooks the whole area. “Hey, Miss Kinsella! Same breakfast?” He asked with a smile on his face.
I smiled back and nodded. “Thank you, Blue.” I told him. I’ve been eating their chocolate pancakes all week coupled with their sweet milkshake. I’m getting a little diabetic the more I eat here but sweet is my weakness.
I looked around and took pictures of the sceneries from where I am at this point. Everything about this place is good. I could just sit here and take great photos of whatever it is.
I opened my phone to check the pictures I got from my GoPro and smiled to myself. I’m thinking of printing something when I came back home. If I go back home…
“It’s better if you took pictures of the beach from there.”
I was startled when I heard someone speaking from behind me. I looked to where the voice was and was shocked when I saw Nero looking down at me. His serious face is now gone and he’s finally smiling at me.
I frowned at him. He’s only noticing me now when we were even together in the elevator earlier.
“I’ll take some when I walk there later.” I replied and started to shrug him off.
I heard the chair in front of my move. I looked up and saw Nero sitting right across me. He’s looking at me intensely.
I narrowed my eyes at him, curious of what he’s doing right here. “Don’t you have other things to do?” I asked him.
He smirked and shook his head. “I don’t have someone to teach surfing right now.” He said.
I nodded and shrugged. “Then, you’re free the whole day?” I asked while looking at my pictures.
“Hmm… You can say that.” He replied. I still didn’t look at him. I couldn’t look at him easily alright. There are some unknown emotions spiraling inside me that I needed to calm first.
“You? What are you up to today?” He asked.
I shrugged. “Just walk around. Try some new stuff I guess.” I shrugged, still not looking at him.
“How are you finding your stay in the hotel so far?” He asked.
Alright. Maybe he’s just sitting across me because he’s asked to get feedbacks from the customers. Don’t think too much, Kinsella.
I looked at him and smiled. “The hotel’s nice. I’m having fun. It’s only been a week that I stayed. I have seven weeks left.” I told him.
He suddenly frowned.
Is there something I said wrong? I believe I praised the hotel with my statement. Why is he frowning?
He bit his lip before smiling. But this time, his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “That’s good.” He said.
I smiled and nodded before looking back at my photos again.
“Are you interested in surfing?” He asked me again.
I slowly looked at me and thought for a moment. “I think I’ll pass.” I smiled politely.
“Why?” He asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t want to drown.” I told him.
That’s true. I don’t know how to swim that well. We have a pool at home but I don’t get to swim in it all the time because I’ve spent my childhood swimming in it. I’ve gotten used to it that it made me lose its interest in me.
“You don’t know how to swim.” It was a statement and not a question.
“I know how to swim. I’m just not good at it.” I replied.
“Hmmm…” He mummed as if teasing me and I looked at him.
“I can swim, Nero!” I don’t know why I had to emphasize that.
His eyes widened at my statement. I stared at him and then it dawned on me. It’s the first time I called him by his name. Even when he led me to my room on my first day, I haven’t called his name. Well, it’s not like we really even talked that time. But this…I called him by his first name. I should have called him with a little more respect.
I looked away and pretended that it’s normal for me when in reality, my heart is about to leap out of my chest. What is happening to me?
It took him a while to calm down. “Alright…you can swim, Miss Sloane.” He said in a soft voice.
I bit my lip. He called me Miss Sloane. He can just call me Kinsella but I can’t tell him that. My ego is telling me not to. I don’t even know why.
Silence enveloped our table. Suddenly, I’m wishing he’d excuse himself and leave me alone. Just thinking about eating in front of him brings me horror. I can’t have someone looking at me as I ate.
And just as I thought, Blue came to my table and brought down the food I ordered. He nodded at Nero who just nodded back.
I looked at him. “Aren’t you going to eat, too?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I already ate in my room.” He replied.
I shrugged and nodded. So, if he already ate in his room, what the hell is he doing here in front of me? I don’t want to be watched as I eat! Damn it!
“Your food here is great.” I complimented just to bring something out in this dead atmosphere.
He nodded and smiled. “Yes. We have the best chefs in the state.” He said as he looked at me.
I gulped as I saw him looking at my face. He’s staring at me intently that it gives my whole system a world-shattering earthquake. This is the only time that I’ve noticed how his eyes reflects the color of the ocean. Blue. His blue eyes are so gorgeous.
“Fuck…” He cursed silently as he looked away.
I bit my lip and watched him as he tried to mess his hair. Despite of the stigma of the skin tone of the people near the beach, Nero has fair skin. Not too dark, not too white. He’s just the right color that would make women of all ages swoon. His hair isn’t bleached. It’s brown and is really hot even when he messes it.
I bit my lip and looked at my food. I should stop looking at the masterpiece in front of me right now before everything goes out of hand. I’m not going to stay here. In two months, I’m going to leave.
I tried my hardest to stay away from Nero for the next few days. Every morning, we would bump into each other while waiting for the elevator to come but we don’t share anything but a courteous nod. I would see him creasing his forehead after looking at me but I shrugged it off.
Less than seven weeks and I’ll be gone. I don’t need to have any ties stronger than camaraderie and friendship with anyone else. I can’t let my feelings grow for one person. Not when I know that I will leave soon. I won’t stay here. This is temporary.
Today, I decided to paint the whole view from my balcony. I’m glad I brought all of my painting materials and my canvas. I studies architecture in college because I thought it would help my dad’s company in the future. I could have just pursued fine arts.
I wanted to do free art. Not the one with inhibitions.
I looked out at all of the tourists having fun in playing volleyball. They are laughing as they played with one another. One was on the ground and everyone is laughing at her. She’s also laughing. I guess, they are all enjoying.
I turned my gaze towards the sea and saw people surfing over the waves. I wonder if Nero is there or if he’s their teacher. What kind of teacher does he make? Is he strict or is he someone so approachable?
I shook my head. I shouldn’t think about that now. I need to paint.
I started painting the ocean. The blue color of the water sparkles with the sun. I could be blinded at how beautiful it is. One day, I’m going to build a house near the beach, too.
I concentrated too much on the painting that I didn’t even notice that I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. I was only startled when I heard someone knocking on my door.
I looked at my door before looking down at my dirty hands. I sighed and placed my painting board down. I walked towards the door while wiping my dirty hands on my apron.
“Who’s there?” I asked. I don’t want to open my door if I don’t know what the knock is about.
It was a hard and stern voice that sent me all these unknown emotions again. I bit my lip and covered my hand with my apron before turning the knob. I don’t want the paint in my hands to mess the door handle.
I opened the door and saw Nero standing in front of my door, wearing a white V-neck shirt and board shorts while holding a tray of food. Pasta and seafood are all in the tray with a pitcher of orange juice.
I looked at him in confusion. He stared back at me while biting his lower lip. He looked at me from head to foot and his forehead creased when he saw what I am wearing. I’m wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts under this apron. It seemed to offend him.
“What…” My voice trailed when he motioned to come inside my room.
He went inside my room and my eyes widened when he looked so home in here. He placed the tray of food on top of my bed and I was silently relieved that I fixed my bed and all of my mess last night.
He looked around and then back at me. “You’re painting?” He asked.
I stared at back at him and nodded.
“So, you paint.” He stated.
“It’s obvious.” I told him sarcastically.
He raised his brow and walked towards the balcony. He eyed my painting critically. It’s as if he’s examining it if it could pass his standard or not.
Then he directed his gaze at me. “It’s good.” He nodded.
I rolled my eyes and walked towards my balcony as well. “Why are you here?” I asked.
He bit his lip before looking at me again. “I haven’t seen you all morning. I thought you’re sick so I chose to be the good man and brought you food.”
There’s something in my heart that leaped upon hearing his words. Was he looking for me? Did he worry for me? Oh, Kinsella. Stop thinking!
“My skin hurt from the sun so I decided to just stay inside my room for today.” I told him as I fixed my paint brush into the container.
“You’re done?” He asked.
I looked at the painting and nodded. “I’m only going to polish some areas but I’m done.” I replied.
“Good. Now, can we eat?” He asked.
I looked at him with my mouth in agape. “We’ll eat?” I almost laughed at his statement. Did he just barge into my room to eat with me?
He grinned. “Yes. We’ll eat.” He said as he pushed me gently inside the room towards the bathroom. “Go and wash. I’ll prepare the food.” He ordered as he left me inside the bathroom.
I bit my lip and watched his back go back to the bedroom. I shut my eyes and calmed myself. Whatever is stirring inside me, it’s all temporary. Once I got used to this, nothing would matter. I’d leave anyway.
It took me so long to remove the pain in my hands and I was shocked to see him watching me from the door. He’s leaning on the door frame with his arms crossed against his chest.
God! He looked so hot with his position. I immediately looked away and focused on removing the stains on my hands. I even have some on my face and I need to remove it all. Damn! I looked so ugly in front of him. I only realized now!
I almost leaped when I felt his presence close to me. He leaned down and held my hands, started to rub his hands with mine.
“You’re taking too long cleaning up on your own.” He said in a husky voice.
I looked at his face and was shocked to see him so serious in cleaning my hands. His hands are delicate. It’s like he would break me if he went a little harder.
I pursed my lips in a thin line as he looked up and met my gaze. He looked at my cheek and gently wiped the paint stain on it. His hands on my face made me shiver. I don’t know how I could even hide it from him.
This is the first time I was this close to the opposite sex other than my cousin and my Dad. I’m sure as hell it felt normal with my family but with Nero…I can feel my breath get sucked out of my lungs. How can one touch make you feel so much?
His eyes are all focused on that one stain in my cheek. He was so concentrated that he doesn’t even see what my reaction is right now.
“There.” He said as he brushed his thumb on the area for one last time. “All clean.”
His eyes immediately found mine and he didn’t remove his hand from my cheek. He was staring back at me. He gulped one time before letting me go. He took one step back.
“Let’s go eat. The food’s a little cold now.” He said before turning back and walking towards the bedroom again.
I sighed and shut my eyes. His sudden change in the way he treats me was my answer. Maybe he was just too helpful. Yes, he’s a staff member so I think he’s just really helpful and hospitable. Maybe that’s being a part of his hospitality. All of this is a part of his hospitality!
There! Stop thinking now, Kinsella!
I removed my apron and placed it on the hanger before following Nero in the bedroom.
I saw him sitting on the couch as the food was prepared on the center table. My room doesn’t have a decent dining table so I think he placed the food there.
He looked at me when I came up to him.
“Shall we eat?” He asked me.
I nodded and looked at the food. There’s baked macaroni, pesto and buttered shells. Nero placed food on my plate before giving it to me.
I bit my lip and muttered and a thanks before eating.
We ate in silence. I don’t know if he has plans on talking or does he plan on just eating with me. I didn’t start a topic, though. I don’t really know where to start. And I don’t plan on showing him how I will stutter when I talk to him.
I continued to eat without talking to him. Now, does he realize how wrong he is when he chose to become the good person and bring me food? I wish he knew how wrong it is to eat with me because I am such a boring person.
There’ll probably be no next time for this. And I’m sure, he would never even look at me next time. Hah! I can only laugh at my thoughts.
If that happens, then everything will fall into place. I don’t have to be the only to avoid him because he’ll also be awkward with me. He’ll also avoid me and then, I won’t need to work harder. I won’t need to feel guilty either.
I heard him cough and I looked at him. He’s already eyeing me and that surprised me. Was he staring at me the whole time?
I also noticed that he finished eating. He’s just finished drinking his juice while I think I didn’t even ate a quarter of all the food he put on my plate.
He frowned when he glanced at my plate. “Don’t you like the food?” He asked me.
I bit my lip. “I love it. The food’s great.” I replied.
“Then why do you look like it’s so hard to swallow the food?”
I didn’t speak. I feel like he’s scolding me and I can’t talk back. He stared at me for a few more moments before letting out a heavy breath.
“You don’t want to eat with me.”
My heart fell when I heard him say that. No. I think I would love to eat with him but with all these mixed up emotions in my system, I don’t think I would be comfortable around him.
He bit his lip before looking at me again. “What did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong?” He asked me in a careful voice. It’s as if he’s scared of how I will answer his question but still asked anyway.
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
His gaze softened. He looked relieved for a moment but his stern look came back in a blink. “Then why do I feel like you’re avoiding me?”
I bit my lip and looked at my food. He’s right. I’m avoiding him. But will I have the guts to tell him the reason why I am doing that? I don’t want to feel close to him—or to anyone—because I know I will leave soon. Would he understand that? I, myself, can’t even comprehend all the surge of emotions I am feeling right now, how would he?