The Mermaid

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Ring Around Rosie: Chapter Four

Sweat drenched the t-shirt he had slept in even as it clung to his sheets. The stench of fear permeated the air of his bedroom. Erik was suffocating. He sat up, ran his hands through his hair, and moved to the French doors. Swinging them open, he sucked in deep gulps of fresh air. The salt-water breeze cooled his overheated skin and relaxed him.

He was away from his old life, far from the boy he'd once been. His mistakes were behind him and he'd moved on. Hell, he'd moved clear across the country to escape the memories. He'd fucked up but would he pay the price of his mistakes for the rest of his life?

Erik just wanted these damn nightmares to end. Pushing off from the doorjamb, he made his way to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and clear his head. What he didn't expect was for Brandon to be sitting at the breakfast bar.

"You look like shit."

"Good morning to you too."

Brandon grunted, raised his coffee mug, and grinned. "So last night went well."


"We ready on the front end to open full time?"

"Yep. On schedule."

"What about production?"

"Stocked up and ready. I even talked with the local grocer last night. He's interested in selling bottles at the store. It'll be another avenue to drive business."

"Sounds good," Erik agreed.

A few minutes of silence reigned as they both drank their coffee. Erik should've known it was too good to be true.

"I guess it's pointless for me to tell you that you should stay away from the jeweler." Brandon didn't even look my way when he spoke.

"Rosie," Erik offered.

"Right, Rosie, the jeweler who is also a woman, the breed of humans you're supposed to be taking a break from." Brandon pinned Erik with a look only an older brother could pull off.

Erik shook his head.

"Don't shake this off, Erik. You cannot slip into your old wild-child ways. Remember that we moved away to start fresh. No partying. No women in and out. We are focusing on the business."

Sighing, Erik replied, "I know. And I know I agreed to one year with no entanglements. And I know if I say something stupid like she's different, you'll just roll your eyes at me. But I don't just want to get in this girl's pants."

As if on cue, Brandon rolled his eyes. Neither of us was asexual after all. Men couldn't overlook how hot Rosie was.

"Right. I didn't say I didn't want to do that too but it's more than that. I like her. There's something about Rosie that's fun. She's refreshing."

"She's certainly not like the little socialites you partied with back home," Brandon agreed.

"And I promise not to treat her that way."

"You better not. This is a small island community. You won't be able to hide from a mistake here."

"I get it, Brandon. I will not screw this up for us. I know you moved here for me. I know this is my new start and I won't do anything to screw that up." Really, Erik could do nothing to prove this to his brother but live it.

"I know, little brother. Sorry I got on you. Just give it some time before you pursue her." Brandon patted me on the shoulder on his way by to place his mug in the sink. "I'm heading over to the brewery. Looks like the guys we hired in production prefer earlier shifts."

"I'll be in later this morning." Erik spoke to Brandon's back as he was already heading into his bedroom.

He contemplated a run but the waves were calling to him. He'd run on the beach and jump in the ocean for a swim. What was the point of living surrounded by water if you didn't dive in once in awhile?

A quick change into swim trunks, Erik jogged down the beach in the direction of town. Thoughts of Rosie thwarted his attempt to clear his mind. Maybe she could help him leave the playboy lifestyle in his past, maybe she could be more to him. They could start out as friends. He'd never done that before with a woman. It might be nice. Fuck, it might be frustrating too.

Splashing in the waves caught his attention and his eyes were drawn to a woman walking out of the water. Long dark hair dripped down her well-shaped backside as she took long strides onto the sand. Turning towards him, he recognized her immediately.

"Rosie," Erik called above the sounds of the crashing waves.

Her bright-eyed smile kicked up the beat of his heart. Standing there gloriously wet in a sweet little purple bikini, Rosie gave off the appearance of a mermaid rising from the ocean. His feet moved towards her of their own accord. He couldn't possibly keep away.

Rosie waved at him and called out words that were lost in the wind. He couldn't look away as he drew nearer. She was innocence and temptation wrapped into one. If he hadn't been hooked before, he was now. Reminding himself it was more than her body –she was more than her body- Erik reeled himself in and took a few calming breaths before reaching her.

"Good morning."

"Morning. Out for a run on the beach?"

"Changing up the routine. I've always run the inland lanes but the water was calling my name this morning."

"It is a beautiful morning." Rosie looked out over the ocean. "I don't get to come out very often but I love it when I can."

"Well, I'm glad I did change my routine. It meant I ran into you."

Rosie smiled at Erik as her cheeks turned pink. How something so simple could cause her to blush fascinated him. Did she not realize how alluring she was? He reached out and tucked the hair blowing into her face behind her ear. If he wasn't mistaken, her blush deepened.

She was definitely different from the women he hooked up with back in Michigan. He couldn't imagine any of them blushing at a compliment. Rosie was more self-possessed, and there was something to be said for a woman who doesn't throw herself at a man. And the fact that she had her own business meant there was more to her than the lithe body he was currently admiring.

"Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?" Erik asked.

"I... You and me?" Rosie stuttered out.

"You and me." Erik nodded.

"Yes," She replied with exuberance before settling her voice. "I mean, yes, I'd like that."

He'd nearly forgotten how her flustered answers were downright adorable. Was it him? Or was she always this off-kilter around men? Erik wanted to believe it was him. If he were being truthful, she made him feel just slightly off his game as well.

"Good," he nodded. Then he inwardly cursed himself for not thinking this through. "Oh, it needs to be at the brewery though. Is that all right?"

"Sure. That's perfect."

"We can sit outside. I just have to be on-site until the staff gets more experience."

"That's fine," Rosie agreed quickly. "I can meet you out there."

"Seven o'clock?"

"That works." Rosie hitched her thumb over her shoulder. "I have to go now. It's almost time to open the shop."

When Rosie reached down to get her towel, Erik reached down at the same time. Their foreheads collided and both stood back up while rubbing their heads. Neither had picked up the towel. Laughing, Erik grabbed it and handed it to her.

"Sorry about that," Erik apologized.

"No worries. My dad always said I had a hard head." Rosie shrugged, "See you tonight." Then she wrapped the towel around herself and headed in the opposite direction from Erik's house. He wondered where she lived and if he'd run by her house without knowing.

He wondered many things about Rosie. Tonight, he'd start to find out all about her. He wanted to know everything.

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