Unfiltered & Undressed (The Unfiltered Series)
wasn’t sure if I was in love with the idea of being a lifeguard as much as I’d been in love with the idea of doing something my parents had been so adamantly opposed to. Maybe a little of both.
    But now, I think I knew it was one of those childish dreams I needed to let go of. I wasn’t a swimmer, and admitting it now was strange. I’d been hiding that fact my entire life, making excuses and outright lying. Saying it now was sort of…freeing.
    Zane laughed, which wasn’t exactly the reaction I’d hoped for. “That’s not a big deal.” Also, not what I’d expected. He looked at me eagerly. “I can show you how.”
    “To swim or to surf?” I laughed, because the idea of him trying to teach me either was absurd.
    “Either? Both? You choose.”
    I scoffed. “You’re pretty confident, but I think you might’a met your match. I think I’m unteachable .”
    He jumped up and sand flew everywhere. He held his hand out to help me up. “I accept your challenge. We’ll start with swimming, and work our way up.”
    I had my hand in his, trying to decide. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
    He shrugged. “Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?” He tugged and I was up then.
    “Um, I could die. Like, literally, I could drown.”
    He laughed as he started dragging me in the direction of the ocean, and I did my best to push down the panic I felt after my last, which just so happened to be my first, experience in the formidable waves. “No way. We’re friends now, and friends don’t let friends die.”
    ‡
    As a teacher, Zane wasn’t half bad.
    I mean, he wasn’t half good, either, so I supposed one sorta balanced out the other. As a swimmer, I wasn’t any better or worse than when we’d started, but my confidence had skyrocketed, and I’d ended up having a blast with Zane.
    Way more fun than plowing my way through a large pepperoni with extra cheese all by myself.
    By the time he was chasing me back toward the beach, I was stumbling from exhaustion, and laughing about my lack of skills, and dripping with itchy seawater. I collapsed in the sand before we reached our towels, where Emerson and Lucas were going at it like no one could see the two of them making out in plain sight.
    “Ugh,” I complained, “Seriously, I never realized there was so much sand. It’s everywhere.” I tried wiping the grains from my legs, only to have them cling to my hands.
    “Yep, that’s kinda how it works here…at the beach.” He enunciated the last three words as he wrapped his elbows around his knees and studied the surf. “It’s beautiful, though. Nowhere else I’d rather be.”
    I followed his gaze, watching the waves crest and break as the water came rushing in over the sand. “Have you lived here all your life?” I asked.
    “Nah. I’m a Midwest boy. Newton, Iowa, to be exact. Tiny little town in the middle’a nowhere.” All of a sudden there was a twang to his voice, and I wondered if he was exaggerating it for my benefit.
    “Never heard of it.”
    He gave me a sidelong glance. “No one ever has.
    I tried to decide what to make of him. A few nights ago, I’d wanted to write him off. But today…today, I was having second thoughts. Maybe my initial impression hadn’t been the best one. Maybe he’d been right and we really could be friends.
    “Crap,” I muttered, dropping low so I was concealed behind Zane’s shoulder. The move wasn’t subtle, and Zane immediately twisted to see what—or who, rather—I was hiding from.
    It was the surfboard I’d recognized first. Its green and yellow design on a stark white background stood out glaringly, even in the distance. Maybe I’d been tuned in to it, watching for it. Probably I had been. So when it appeared, even way down the beach, I couldn’t help noticing.
    Zane didn’t have a problem helping me hide out. “What’s the deal with you two, anyway?” he asked, shielding me the best he could.
    I peeked around him. Will still hadn’t spotted

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