Chapter Ten

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The bruising beat of waves breaking against his back as he wiped out again weren't powerful enough to chase away the anger Oliver felt toward Jed for his actions the previous evening. Try as he might, he couldn't shake off the image of Cassidy in that alley, or the dread of what might have happened had he and Finn not been there to intervene. Although her mother had expressed gratitude for their actions and offered to replace his ruined clothes, he couldn't help but sense some bitterness in Meghan's tone and was at a loss to explain it. The last time he'd met with her, their parents had all become great friends thanks to their acquaintance through their children which had endured for sixteen years. Somehow, in his absence, Oliver had done something to greatly offend the woman and he had no idea what it might be.

'Wake up,' Finn shouted over the cacophony of the ocean as he paddled up alongside Oliver. 'You've got not chance in the contest if you keep this up.'

'I'm only entering for a laugh,' Oliver retorted.

It didn't feel like a laugh; it felt like torture. He might have entered any surfing competition in the country – there were enough of them throughout the summer – but he'd put his name down for this one before he'd left just so he and Finn could compete against one another in one final boyish contest before they headed off on a new adventure. It'd seemed like a promising idea before he'd left London, as had the entire trip, but now he couldn't help wishing he'd stayed behind and spent the months in front of his laptop checking on the value of his stocks and eating takeaways.

In the few days he'd been in Whitstone Bay, Oliver hadn't seen Cassidy enter the water. Her love of paddling, swimming, and surfing was what had drawn him to her in the first place, but her routine as an adult appeared to revolve around work and home with no space for anything in between, apart from drinking, which she'd proven she was hardly adept at. Every year they'd suit up at dawn and only leave when their parents forced them to go home at night; it was as though she lived in the sea, a mermaid who only surfaced to romance him for a few months of the year before she descended into the depths again. It wasn't natural for her to avoid it as she did.

There was a chance that she was merely avoiding him and knew that the best way to do that was to stay on dry land. If that was the case, then he was sorry to impose on such a great surf day, because she was missing out on some excellent waves. Oliver couldn't remember the last time he'd been challenged in England by such momentous peaks.

This was ridiculous.

He had to talk to her. Cassidy needed to understand that he had no intention of scaring her into hiding from him all summer, and that they were both perfectly capable of being adults about their pasts. It ought to have been ancient history – ready to be forgotten – so they could both move on without worrying what the other might say or think about them.

'Where are you going?' Finn shouted after him as Oliver paddled back to shore. 'We need to practice!'

'Just taking a break!' Oliver shouted back.

'Ollie, don't –' Finn's voice was lost to a tumultuous wave which buried any warnings he might have been about to yell.

Good.

Oliver didn't want to over-analyse his decision to act like an adult at last, otherwise he'd lose his nerve and go right back to dodging Cassidy like a frightened teenager. His gut told him that now was the moment to act. The previous night, he'd seen her at her worst; clammy, delirious with alcohol, and babbling like a lunatic. The image of the perfect girl he'd held in such high esteem in his memory was shattered and replaced with this messy, flawed woman he no longer knew. Finally, she was human again in his estimation.

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