Home > Out in the Surf (Out in College #9)

Out in the Surf (Out in College #9)
Author: Lane Hayes





“As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” —Rumi


* * *



Eight a.m. was way too early for this nonsense. Whose idea was it to transfer to the West Coast and learn how to surf?

Oh, yeah…mine.

It might have been helpful if someone had mentioned that this endeavor required waking up at the crack of dawn and squeezing my booty into a borrowed skintight wetsuit. Those little details could have been game changers. Too late now. Surf lessons were courtesy of my parents. I had to show up for lesson number one or figure out how to lie to my mom when she asked if the hobby I’d hoped might replace hockey was keeping me out of trouble in Lala Land.

The jury was still out on that. I’d been in Southern California for two months so far, having the time of my life with my new roommates and a few fellow transfer students I’d met at orientation. The partying had escalated lately, too. I’d woken up with a hangover every day for a week straight…and a naked dude in my bed. I don’t recommend either. The hangovers sucked, and waking up with crusty jizz on my stomach next to a snoring stranger who’d stolen the covers in the middle of the night wasn’t so glamorous.

I’d had more awkward morning-after conversations with guys whose names I didn’t know in the last sixty days than I’d had since, well…ever. It was time to get my act together and settle into a scholastically responsible routine. I could do this.

With classes starting at Long Beach State in a week, I didn’t want to be the guy who slept through my alarm and was late every other day. I knew from experience that it was damn easy to get stuck in bad habits. I’d given myself a long leash to have all the fun my heart desired this summer, but slipping into loser gear was not an option.

That was where surfing lessons came in. I’d always wanted to learn how, but Ann Arbor wasn’t exactly known for its surf scene. I’d grown up playing hockey like every other kid on my block. And loving it. But those days were over. I had a new life on a new coast at a new school. So why not try a new sport too? One that I could do with a friend who would make sure I got my sorry ass of bed before noon.

“Help me out, Luca.” Zoe lifted her ponytail out of the way and turned.

I zipped her up and requested she return the favor as we waited for the owner to pull a couple of boards off the rack. Jay…or maybe his name was Ray—was small and wiry with a shock of white hair and skin so tan it looked partially leathered. He’d instructed us to put our belongings in a locker at the surf shop, change into wetsuits, and head outside to meet some guy named…

“Who’s our instructor?” I asked.

The older man propped a medium-sized board against the stucco wall and tilted his scruffy chin. “Well, you two lucked out. Cal is gonna take care of you. And mind you, he’s the best there is.”

I squinted at the figure walking toward us on the sand. I couldn’t see much at that distance, but I could tell he was tall and fit with a swimmer’s lean physique under his wetsuit. And his longish dark-blond hair curled around his ears enticingly. There was something purposeful yet cocky in his stride. I didn’t know jack about this guy, but I could tell he wore confidence like a second skin. And let’s be real, confidence is sexy.

Zoe nudged my elbow. “Mmhmm. I’m suddenly very happy I let you talk me into this,” she hummed in a low voice.

I chuckled as Zoe’s smile lit her face. She was a petite Latina who did everything big. Her dark hair was super long, her brown eyes were huge, her lips were always painted red, and if she could have rocked her giant hoop earrings and a pair of stilettos on a surfboard, you bet your ass she’d have done it. The girl had a style all her own.

We’d met at orientation last spring when I’d first decided to transfer during my senior year of college. I didn’t know anyone in California, but I wasn’t worried about making friends. I wasn’t exactly shy. And Zoe wasn’t either. We’d bonded in the food court over an intense conversation about the proper condiments for corn dogs, both agreeing that spicy mustard was the way to go.

Okay, so she’d shamelessly flirted with me. When it got awkward, I’d gently let her know that although she seemed cool, I played for the other team. I’d braced myself for disgust or disappointment, and a round of “Are you sure?”…as if I might change my sexual orientation if the right girl came along.

That wasn’t how it had gone down. After a surprised silence, she gave me a curious once-over, shrugged, and asked what I thought about adding hot sauce to ketchup. Boom…insta-buddies.

Zoe was a great girl and the kind of friend who was willing to sign up for last-minute surf lessons on a whim. Her motivation wasn’t completely altruistic, though. This morning’s excursion gave her an excuse to make a twenty-minute drive to Seal Beach to buy her latte at the coffee shop on Main Street where her crush du jour worked as a barista. Although she might have a new crush now, I mused, as our surf instructor approached.

And okay…wow. He was damn hot. Square jaw, full lips, high cheekbones, gorgeous hazel eyes, and a deep sexy voice.

“Hey, there. I’m Cal.”

He extended his hand in greeting to Zoe, who shook it and hooked her thumb toward me.

“I’m Zoe and this is my friend, Luca.”

I waved lamely and almost swallowed my tongue before finally blurting, “Hi.”

Zoe frowned, casting a WTF glance my way. I couldn’t blame her. I mentioned that I wasn’t shy, right? I was normally pretty gregarious and friendly. Not so much now.

I felt oddly self-conscious for no apparent reason. Sure, Cal was handsome, but I’d met plenty of good-looking guys—and slept with them too. That wasn’t an option here. Not only was Cal my instructor and someone I wasn’t destined to know after my three one-hour lessons were complete, he was probably straight.

Snap out of it, Luca.

Thankfully, Cal moved on quickly. He conferred with the owner, double-checking to ensure we’d signed all the waivers and were ready to roll.

“They’re all set,” the older man confirmed. “Have fun out there.”

Cal saluted him, then set his hands on his hips and turned to us with a broad grin. “Have either of you been on any kind of board? Paddleboard, surfboard, skim board?”

“I’ve never been erect in the ocean,” someone who sounded like me said.

“For fuck’s sake, Luca,” Zoe sputtered. “Sorry about him. He’s prone to weird outbursts when under-caffeinated. We’re newbies. Show us everything, maestro.”

Cal snorted. “All righty, then. Here’s the plan…we’re gonna head out to the sand. I’ll give you a brief intro and show you how to balance before we hop in the water. Grab your boards and follow me.”

I passed Zoe her board and tucked mine under my arm.

“Thanks. Hey, are you okay?” Zoe whispered. “You’re kind of jumpy.”

I shrugged. “I guess I’m nervous.”

That was the honest truth, but I wasn’t sure why.

I trudged through the sand, thinking it might have been a combination of sleep deprivation, the early hour, and even hunger. I’d snap out of it once we were in the water.

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