Are you ready for another Sergei POV scene? If you haven't read LIFE ON THE EDGE and don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now! :)
This was a very special moment for Emily and Sergei - their first visit to the cliffs on Martha's Vineyard and their first kiss. I hope you enjoy it!
Tucking my jacket under my arm, I maneuvered through the dark living room to the kitchen and poured a glass of water from the sink. I wasn’t surprised I was the first one downstairs. I had some kind of internal alarm that woke me up before dawn even on weekends.
I leaned against the island and downed the water in long gulps. Emily had sounded so enthusiastic about the sunrise at the cliffs that I had to check it out. With Chris and Marley there, I wouldn’t be stepping into any dangerous territory. I hadn’t trusted myself alone with Emily since the dinner party. Of course, I’d continued to spend afternoons with her at Starbucks… and it wasn’t the coffee I was addicted to.
I put the glass in the dishwasher and went into the living room, and Emily appeared on the stairs.
“Morning,” I said.
“Morning. Marley and Chris bailed, so it’s just us.”
The jolt of excitement that hit my gut was far stronger than the voice telling me I should bail, too. It would look suspicious if I backed out now, anyway.
I pulled my fleece over my head. “I guess we’d better get going.”
“Yeah, I didn’t wake up this early just to miss it.”
As she drove us away from the house, I took my camera from my pocket and wiped the LCD screen on my sleeve. Taking pictures of the scenery would be a good distraction. If I was looking at the camera, I wouldn’t be looking at Emily. I couldn’t look at her without wanting to touch her. Like the night before when we’d played Pictionary, I’d found every excuse to make physical contact with her, whether it was high-fiving or giving her reassuring pats on the knee, the arm, the shoulder… I’d wondered if she noticed how frequently I was doing it, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Emily turned onto a side road and parked not far up the hill, and she went around to the trunk while I stood beside the car, fiddling with the settings on my camera. When she returned, her arms hugged her chest as she rubbed the thin sleeves of her shirt. I couldn’t let her freeze while I had on two layers.
I tugged my fleece over my head. “Here, take my jacket.”
“Then you’ll be cold.”
I smiled. “I’ll survive.”
She slipped it on and laughed as the sleeves stretched long past her hands and the hem fell all the way down to her thighs. The jacket was five times too big for her, but she looked perfect in it. She looked like she was mine.
It made me want her in my arms even more.
I put my head down and followed her through the brush until she stopped at a clearing of grass and sand. The beach below us was barely visible in the faint morning light.
“Here’s the spot,” she said, sitting on the grass.
I sat beside her, closer than I probably should. I stretched out my legs over the cool ground, and she did the same.
She peered at her watch. “It shouldn’t be too long from now.”
Everything around us was so still and quiet. Only a few birds had woken up so far. The silence made it seem like Emily and I were the only two people in the world.
If only that were true.
It was so quiet I thought she might hear my heart thumping hard in my chest. I had to think about something, anything other than the nearness of her. I turned on my camera and scrolled through the last photos I’d taken. They were shots from the medal ceremony at Skate America. Emily’s smile glowed as she held her silver medal next to her cheek. I imagined tracing my thumb over her pink, glossy lips… feeling that gorgeous smile under my touch…
My heart rate jumped up to another gear, and I quickly clicked until I reached a safe photo of the Rocky Mountains.
“I forgot to take a picture of all of us with the kids yesterday,” I said.
“They were so much fun,” Emily said. “I loved being back at that rink. I used to train there whenever I came here for vacation.”
“Training while on vacation–that’s dedication.”
“It usually wasn’t hard-core training. I just hate being off the ice for more than a day. It’s like I need that rush… that feeling of gliding and total freedom.”
“I know exactly what you mean. It’s how I knew I had to coach. I have to be on the ice every day or I feel lost.”
“Yes!” Her face lit up, and I couldn’t imagine the impending sunrise being any brighter. “People ask me how I can stand to be in a cold rink most of the day, but they don’t understand it’s home to me and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
She didn’t have to tell me how much skating meant to her because I saw it every time she took the ice. She gave it her whole heart, and it was mesmerizing to watch.
“That’s why you’re so good,” I said. “You have that passion that can’t be taught.”
“You have it, too.”
Her gaze stayed on mine, and all the air left my lungs. I was on the edge of the cliffs, about to leap forward and dive into the ocean. The gleaming ocean-blue of Emily’s eyes.
The camera beeped, and I jerked my eyes toward it, taking deep breaths. I pressed the power button to turn it back on and then looked up at the sky, forcing myself to focus anywhere but on Emily. My willpower was fading faster than the night sky.
“Looks like the sun’s starting to come up,” I said.
I held the camera high and steadied it between my sweaty palms. As the sunlight stretched across the sky, I snapped at a continuous pace, keeping my eyes on the screen and the landscape in front of the lens. The cliffs slowly emerged from the darkness, and the colors Emily had mentioned came into view. Vibrant shades of red and orange appeared in the clay, taking the scene from impressive to awe-inspiring.
I shook my head. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?”
I clicked to view the photos on the camera and was pleased to see I’d actually captured the colors clearly. “These came out great. Look at this one.”
I showed Emily the screen, and she angled toward me and pointed to the image. “The clay is so red there.”
Her hair fell against my sleeve, and the sweet smell of lavender surrounded me. The camera slipped in my hand, and I tightened my shaky grip.
“It’s really beautiful,” I said quietly.
She turned her head slightly to me, and I knew I had no chance. My eyes strayed upward to her face, taking in every inch of her perfection. The splendor of the sunrise was nothing compared to her.
Her lips parted with a soft breath, and everything around us disappeared. There was nothing but Emily and the anticipation in her eyes. So close, so beautiful…
I brushed a whisper of a kiss on her mouth, barely touching, foolishly thinking that brief taste would be enough. It only heightened the desire burning through me. I abandoned thought and gave in to it, pressing my mouth flush to hers.
She leaned into me, returning my slow, soft caress with her own. I was now free-falling over the cliffs and ready to drown in her. I skimmed my tongue along the seam of her lips, and she opened them, drawing me inside. My entire body responded as I gently explored the warmth of her mouth. She sighed with a tiny moan, and reality punched me in the stomach.
What the hell am I doing?
I pulled back, gasping for air. “We can’t… I shouldn’t have…”
My head spun as conflicting urges battled inside me. I had to get away from her, so I rushed to my feet.
“Em, we can’t do this.”
She stared at me with confusion and hurt, and I wanted to hurl myself over the edge of the cliffs for real. She stood and turned away from me, facing the horizon.
“I know,” she whispered.
“I’m so sorry. I really screwed up.” It was such a lame apology, but nothing I said would capture the level of my self-disgust.
“It wasn’t just you,” she said.
No, she should not blame herself for this. I should’ve had more self-control. I was supposed to be the role model, supposed to set the example, and I’d given in to reckless emotion. It could never happen again.
I turned toward the road. “We should go.”
Emily gripped the steering wheel so tight during the drive that I thought her knuckles would break through her delicate skin. I couldn’t think of anything to say that would make the situation better, so I stayed quiet, as did she. She probably hated me, and I deserved it. What a fine coach I was… toying with my student’s feelings, letting her think it was okay for us to get closer, then making the biggest mistake of all.
Mistake. I knew that’s what it was, but it hadn’t felt like one. It had been the most amazing kiss of my life. If I had to spend the rest of my days in complete solitude, I could live off the memory of that kiss. Her soft, silky lips, the magnetic energy between us... I glanced at Emily’s profile and then quickly faced the window.
You’d better forget it. You’ve done enough damage.
When we reached the house, Emily practically ran from the car and through the front door. By the time I got inside, she’d made it up the stairs and had left my jacket on the bannister. I picked it up on my way to the second floor and squeezed it in my fist.
I closed the door to my room and flung the jacket onto the bed. Our friendship had been ruined, that was certain. How badly I’d messed up our working relationship was another matter. All because I hadn’t been strong enough to keep my distance from her.
I sat on the bed and bent forward, holding my head in my hands. Why hadn’t I learned my lesson years ago? Once again I’d let my feelings overpower good sense, and I’d hurt someone I cared about. If Emily only knew how much I cared about her, how much I wished our situation wasn’t so damn complicated.
My hands slid over my face, and I breathed long and hard.
She could never know.
I couldn’t tell her how she made me feel things I’d never felt before. How she inspired me and excited me and made me want to be everything for her.
My jaw tightened, and I swallowed the lump in my throat. I had to get Emily out of my head.
And out of my heart.
How I think Sergei looked right before he kissed Emily :)
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