Chapter 3, Part 1

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The first rays of the rising morning sun brighten the room, and I peel open my eyes. It's early-the sun is still climbing-but I'm brimming with energy. This is the first time in months I've woken up looking forward to the day. I feel energized, despite getting just five hours of sleep, at best.

I decide to start the day, even though I could probably sleep till noon and no one would care. Getting out of bed, I take in my ocean view then head straight for the balcony. The horizon line looks stunning through the floor-to-ceiling windows, but outside, it's simply breathtaking.

The beach seems deserted and there aren't many cars on the streets yet. I ignore the fact that I'm dressed only in a white, see-through camisole that barely reaches my thighs and step out onto the balcony. The salty ocean breeze gently caresses my bare skin, and I feel the sun's warm rays kissing my arms, shoulders, and face. Long curls graze my cheeks, and I lift them up and away from my face and neck. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I can hear the waves breaking against the sand, and I feel lightweight, almost ready to fly. This is heaven! I open my eyes and take it all in: the beach, the ocean, the breeze. I inhale deeply, and the briny scent of seaweed reaches my nostrils; the morning tide brought slick green clumps of it ashore.

I look around. My condo is on the twentieth floor-not too high, by Miami high-rise standards, but high enough for a good view. On my right are the ocean and the beach, and on my left is Collins Avenue, the artery spanning the peninsula from South Beach all the way north, to Hollywood. In front of me is a tall building with amazing glass walls that serve as floor-to-ceiling windows. It's so early, I don't see a single person on the balconies. The city is still asleep.

The wind blows a little harder and the hem of my camisole flies up and bares my butt. I instinctively grab it and pull down. I feel the pink creeping into my cheeks, but I remind myself there's no reason to be shy. I'm all alone here. And then I decide on a bold move. In a single, swift motion, I raise the hem over my head and take off the cami. I'm a grown woman, after all, and I can tan topless if I want to... Even if I do feel a bit self-conscious about it. I would probably never dare to do this on an actual beach, but here, twenty stories high, in the privacy of my own balcony and with no one around, I try to leave my inhibitions behind. I lower down onto a chaise lounge covered in the softest pillows and cotton towels, and stretch myself out to tan my skin. Closing my eyes, I relax and let the sun caress my body. The breeze covers my skin in goosebumps and my nipples become hard. I feel aroused without even being touched. I try to remember the last time I had sex, but it only stirs up the painful memories.

I try to think of something tranquil, like the seagulls flying above the water, or the palm trees lining the beach-whatever it takes to calm down and avoid touching myself. I feel my skin getting warm under the sun and realize I probably need some sunblock. I take the bottle of lotion from the cocktail table by my side and squirt some into my palm, rubbing my hands together to spread it. I lift my right leg in the air and begin at my ankle, going up to the knee and then back, making sure to cover the front and back, then repeating the same procedure on the left leg. Then I get a little more lotion and start working from my knees up to my lacy bikini. The trick is to stay on my legs and not wander off. I feel the lace getting wet from my arousal. I'm moving to my stomach now, and it's also time to cover my breasts in their protective layer of sunblock. I squirt a good amount into my hand and start working circles around my hips and ribs, up to the swell of my chest. I am aching so badly at my core, it feels almost too dangerous to touch my nipples. I cup my breasts with my hands and lather lotion all around them, reaching to my collar bone and shoulders. I only have to finish my arms and whatever I can reach of my back, and I'm good to go. I wrap things up and relax back on the chaise.

I can't concentrate on anything, so I decide to focus on my breathing. I start thinking of the yoga classes I used to take in Chicago and inhale deep breaths in and out. I lose my senses of time and place, and feel like I'm floating in the ocean breeze. At some point, I realize the real world around me is waking up, as cars trickle onto the streets, and the hum of life below grows louder.

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