After my close encounter of the nearly naked kind with Dean, I figure I'm safest spending the rest of the day somewhere as far away as possible. I can't tell him to take a hike, so why don't I set off on one? The resort brochure boasted about the nature trails on its extensive grounds. Just a few hours in which I can't possibly stumble on him unprepared—that's all I needed.
I tug on my sneakers and stop by the front desk to ask for a recommendation. The chic woman I saw Dean chatting with yesterday is back there discussing something on a computer screen with one of the staff. She's on the payroll too? I guess they might have been talking about business. On the other hand, if she works here, he must see a lot of her. possibly in more ways than one. Has she seen as much of him as I did this morning?
Nope, not letting my mind head back over there. "Hi!" I say brightly to a younger woman who's standing by the Guest Relations sign. "I've got the whole afternoon free. What hiking trail is the best for the scenery? It's okay if it's a bit of a challenge." The better to keep my mind from wandering where I'd rather it didn't boldly go.
She brandishes a map. "If you're up for it, try this one," she says, pointing to a path marked with a purple line. "There are some steep parts, so a lot of people skip it, but that means you're more likely to see the local wildlife, and it takes you to a waterfall that is absolutely spectacular."
"Great!" I say, and shove the map into my shorts pocket.
I pass a couple other guests heading in when I set off, but as soon as the purple trail diverges from the others, it's just me and the natural splendor. Possibly striking out into the wilderness in the peak heat of mid-day wasn't' the smartest move ever. My skin is damp with sweat before I'm halfway to the waterfall. But it's definitely distracting.
I stop here and there to chug from my water bottle and take in the sights. There are flowers in colors I didn't know existed blooming amid the trees-some of my Instagrammer clients would kill to get their hands on those—and I spot a rainbow of a bird that might be a parrot. A little brown-and- white monkey chitters at me before swinging off farther into the trees, too fast for me to snap a picture with my camera phone. The air is hot and a tad humid, but somehow the lush green scents of the jungle make it feel refreshing too.
I definitely don't let the slick perspiration on my hands remind me of rubbing that massage oil into Dean's back. Or notice how that leaf matches the curve of his thigh when the sheet slid back, and that banana hanging beneath it—
Getting away into nature like this kind of does feel like exploring a new planet, even if Dean's teasing comment rankled me. I can't remember the last time I've been anyplace where I couldn't spot a high rise if I turned around. If only there was a colony of remarkably human-like, hedonistic aliens waiting at the end with exotic sweets and handsome men eager to feed them to me, my day would be complete.
Because I am not the female equivalent of Captain Kirk, I've got no such luck. But when I spot the waterfall, I can't say I care. My breath catches as I stare up at the glittering torrent, flowing over tan and pinkish stone from a cliff side far overhead. It cascades into a pond that's a near-perfect circle, bordered by gleaming rocks and shaded by those massive ferns. Now this is paradise, all right.
I walk up to the edge of the pond and sigh as the cool spray dabbles my skin. Ugh, my sweaty clothes are sticking to my skin now. I eye the sparkling water of the pool and the path I just walked up.
I haven't seen another soul since I headed up. Everyone in their right mind is probably lounging around for siesta hour now. No one will know or mind if I take a quick dip . . .
As soon as I've decided, I'm stripping off my clothes. I set them off to the side with a rock resting on them to hold them in place—I've watched enough movies to know you've got to be careful shedding clothes in unfamiliar terrain, if you ever want to wear those clothes again—and slip into the pool.
It's fucking perfect. The water washes off all the grit of the hike in an instant, warm enough to be comfortable but cool enough to wipe away all memory of that sticky heat. I paddle around, stretching new muscles and working the burn out of the ones that carried me up here. Then I duck under the waterfall and rinse out my hair. It patters over my head with a pleasant tickle. I'm laughing as I swim back out.
"Hello?" a voice calls out.
My heart stops and stays stopped for at least an extra second because that voice sounded way too familiar. I look to my clothes and consider making a dash for them, but before I have the chance, a just-as-familiar figure appears at the end of the path.
Dean pauses and gazes down at me. I'm suddenly twice as aware of my lack of clothing, with a rush of embarrassed heat that the liquid around me can't cool. I scoot back toward the waterfall, dropping to my chin as I tread water and hoping it's not so clear he can see what's underneath the ripples.
"Are you following me or something?" I blurt out. Isn't there anywhere on this property I can get away from the guy?
"You know," Dean says, "you were the one who hijacked my massage. I do have to give you credit, though—it wasn't a bad start. Maybe I should have you give it another shot sometime."
He gives me that grin that makes me want to scream. Not a bad start, my ass. I remember those moans . . . Okay, probably better not to be remembering them at this exact moment, considering my level of exposure.
"What. Are. You. Doing. Here?" I grit out. I deserve a medal for not actually screaming, I'm pretty sure.
"I needed to stretch my legs," he says. "This is my favorite hiking route. Partly because I usually have it to myself."
Of course he does. "Well, I'd be happy to vacate the area if you step away for a few minutes."
"I don't know." He props himself against one of the trees closest to the pond and folds his arms over that well-muscled chest, still with the far-too-satisfied smile. "I'm thinking maybe the addition of a nude water nymph is an improvement."
Oh, God. Is he not even going to let me get out? I've got to maintain a little dignity here. Which means no, Megan, you should not let your eyes wander from that impressive chest to the other areas you now know are equally impressive in those fitted slacks down below.
I jerk my gaze back to his face, hoping he didn't catch that slip. "I needed to cool off," I say.
"There wasn't supposed to be an audience involved."
He shrugs. "And yet, here I am . . ."
I'd splash him if I didn't suspect that would require propelling more of me out of the water than I want to be putting on display. He deserves it, though. He doesn't even look swearty. Where does he get off, hiking all the way up here and still looking completely unaffected?
For a second I consider suggesting he join me. But even if that goes well, it is definitely a bad idea—did I learn nothing from last night?—and if it doesn't… I don't want to see him laugh as my attempt at propositioning falls flat on its face. I already know too well what that experience feels like.
I fish around with my foot toward the bottom of the pond. Maybe there's some convenient vegetation I can use as a temporary cover-up?
Nope. Dean cocks his head, looking increasingly amused. I glower at him. He offers a little wave, and all at once I don't give a flying fuck. Since when do I let Dean Ambrose or anyone else dictate what I do? I'm not that kind of weakling, and I'll be damned if I start cowering now.
"Do you remember that time back in college when I said I was hungry enough to eat one of the Endless Buckets at Fernando's Wings, and you dared me to actually do it?" I say, easing closer to the pond's rocky bank.
Dean's expression turns vaguely confused. He doesn't know where I'm going with this. "That was one big bucket of wings," he says.
"And I ate every last one of them, didn't I?" I ask. "That was the rule, to get the certificate and the gift card. It took me two hours, but I made it through."
"You did," Dean grins. "I got a stomachache just watching you."
And I'd had one for most of the next two days, but that wasn't the point. "Then you really should know by now," I say, testing my foot against the bottom and finding a spot where I can touch down, "that you're never going to win playing chicken with me."
I climb out careful and steady, resisting the urge to bolt for my clothes. I don't look at Dean—so what if he's here? It's nothing to me—but I see his jaw drop from the corner of my eye and have to smother a smile. A Sports Illustrated swimsuit model I am not, but running around keeping my clients in check has also handily kept me in shape. I pause to wring out my hair, standing there fully naked at the edge of the pond, and Dean is still completely speechless.
I do let myself smile as I turn away from him to retrieve my clothes.
Panties, bra, shorts, and T-shirt. I manage to keep up the same unhurried pace as I dress, even though I can feel Dean's eyes on me the entire time. Even though the thought of him watching me leaves me hot from head to toe. I step back into my sneakers and swivel toward the path, glancing at him for the first time since I got out of the water.
"Enjoy the view," I say, mentally high-fiving myself for that line, and saunter off down the path without looking back.