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When Reece comes back in, the corner of his mouth is tilted slightly in the beginning of a smile. "Ben is going to Marine World tomorrow," he says, moving toward the hotel room table. "We'll know by ten AM if they're still there and if they are, we'll make a plan. For now, I'm going to order us some dinner."

He picks up the menu and beckons me over, so I scoot over to the space next to him and peer over his shoulder whilst he explains each dish to me in detail. I settle on ordering steak on Reece's suggestion, whilst Reece orders one hundred other things before finally hanging up and collapsing onto the bed beside me.

I study him for a moment as he closes his eyes, his chest rising and falling gently in a rhythm that feels almost soothing to me. It is in these small moments–when I finally get a chance to sit quietly and breathe–that I realize how much I've come to care for Reece.

Somewhere along the line my feelings have shifted, and I have gone from needing him around because he's the only way I'll survive to wanting him around and missing him when he's gone.

Carefully, so as not to wake him, I lay down beside him, leaving a three-inch gap between us as I watch him sleep, unable to stop my heart from pounding against my ribs at his proximity.

I study his features in a way I'm not able to do when he's awake, taking in the way his long lashes flutter against his cheeks, and the slightly raised cut on his lip from his fight with Jackson. I resist the urge to reach out and touch him, a strange feeling brewing in my chest at knowing he got those cuts because he was defending Muriel.

Three loud raps vibrate from the hotel room door and both Reece and I jerk at the sound, my eyes flitting from a disoriented Reece to the door with apprehension.

"Should be room service," Reece says groggily before making his way toward the door.

Once open, a man in a suit strolls in with a metal trolley packed full of all sorts of circular metal dishes. Reece hands him over some money before closing the door behind him.

We both move to the trolley and lift up the lids at the same time, my mouth already watering at the array of steaming plates before us. Reece orders me to sit down at the table and serves me my food before grabbing his own plate and sitting opposite. He glances at my sweet potato fries and, with a daring look, steals one before popping it into his mouth.

I smile before digging into my steak and fries, continuing to eat long after I'm full. Each new flavor I experience is as if I am getting closer to being a normal functioning human, and I grab another handful of fries, refusing to let Marine World's limitations on my body stop me.

After the meal, Reece slumps into the armchair whilst I hover before the window, staring down at the empty pool below. As usual, I am overcome with a strange need to be under the water and, with a soft sigh, I rest my forehead against the cool glass of the window.

It's not long before I feel Reece's warm body snake up behind me, causing my own to instantly tense.

"You feel like taking a walk?" he asks.

I turn to him, unable to keep the smile from my lips as I nod, letting him lead me out of the hotel room and into the elevator.

The pool area is empty now that the sky has darkened, bringing with it a slight chill to the air that forces my arms around myself. Still, it doesn't stop me from dangling my legs over the edge of the pool and peering in, lost in its shallow depths.

"I think the pool is technically closed," Reece says beside me, his eyes flickering over to the pool sign.

I glance up at him, giving him a small smile before lowering the rest of my body into the water. "Since when are you afraid to break the rules?"

He doesn't smile back, but his eyes shine with a strange mix of mischief and danger, a look that causes something in my stomach to flip. Slowly, he lowers himself onto the ledge of the pool, dangling his legs in the water as I hover before him, my clothes now soaked through.

Without a word, I turn and swim as fast as I can from one end of the pool to the other, knowing Reece is watching my every move. It feels nice being able to hold my breath for as long as I like, with no limitations or consequences. I can push the limits of my own accord, and it feels comforting–a freedom I had never known existed beyond the glass walls of my enclosure.


Who wants to see more of Raura??

I know I just posted but here's another update, anyway. 💝

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