A Ripple in the Water by Donna Small

rippleWhen widow and single mother, Katharine Penner, Spots a tall, gorgeous stranger on the other side of the local swimming pool, she is struck by her immediate and intense reaction to him. In an awkward and very uncomfortable turn of events, Kate learns that the stranger she was drawn to is non other than Riley Morgan, the new swim coach and college-aged son of one of her closest friends. Riley has long harbored feelings for Kate but kept them his most closely guarded secret, all to aware of the fact she was married and off limits. But now, one year after tragedy has left Kate alone, he has come home for the summer determined to win her affections.

As the summer progresses, these two find that their mutual attraction for each other blossoms into something much more serious than either of them ever thought possible. But can Kate’s second chance at love overcome the obstacles created by their thirteen year age difference and her friendship with Wendy, Riley’s incredibly overprotective mother?

Chapter One

Katharine Penner noticed him almost immediately—you’d have to be dead not to.  She had been sitting beside the pool, minding her own business and trying to read a magazine but once her eyes locked on the tall, gorgeous man on the other side of the pool, it was hopeless.

She blinked several times, certain she was delusional; no one was this good looking.  Maybe he was a mirage of some sort.  She smiled.  Maybe she was losing her mind.  She looked up again.  Nope.  He was most certainly standing there in the flesh, looking absolutely delicious . . . and completely ripped. 

From where she sat, she could clearly see the well-defined form of his broad shoulders, his perfectly sculpted abdominals and the long, taut legs that held him upright.  Her eyes were glued to him and she was powerless to look away.  All coherent thoughts had simply vanished from her mind save one— the fact that she’d long forgotten what it was like to have this stirring inside of her.  She bit her lower lip.  There was something so…primal about her reaction to this man—whoever he was—that had become altogether unfamiliar to her.

She felt her cheeks flush with warmth as she realized she had been staring at him for much longer than was appropriate.  Coming back to her senses, she furtively glanced around to see if anyone had noticed.  She breathed a sigh of relief as she realized her ogling had gone unnoticed by the other parents who were seated around the perimeter of the pool.  She was safe for the moment.

Of course, she knew it would only be a matter of seconds before her gaze was drawn back to this stranger.

What was the matter with her?  This behavior was so unlike her.  Normally she was for the most part oblivious to members of the opposite sex.   Sure, she’d seen good looking men before.  But she’d not reacted to any of them like this.   She’d notice, but not really give them another thought.  And they certainly wouldn’t drive her to distraction and prevent her from reading some stupid magazine article!  But for whatever reason, today she wasn’t able to push this man from her mind.  Once she’d noticed him, she wasn’t able to focus on anything else and found her gaze being pulled back to the other side of the pool as though he was a ham sandwich and she hadn’t seen food in a week.

Pretty soon, she thought, she was going to start salivating.

Kate quickly peaked over the top of her magazine and stole a look at him.  She felt herself inhale sharply, almost as though she was seeing him for the first time instead of the mere seconds ago when she first laid eyes on him.  There was no denying how extremely good looking he was.  She shook her head and forced herself to look back down.  Of course, after viewing this tall, blond stranger, she found her brain had turned to mush, save for the images of his lightly bronzed chest flashing through her mind each time she blinked.  The image of this man in a tiny swimsuit that left little to the imagination swiftly squelched any hope she had of getting any reading done– not that she held any desire to do so, what with eye candy a mere hundred feet or so away from her.

Ever so slowly, Kate once again lifted her eyes and peered over the top of the page, trying to steal another glance at him.  She felt her stomach turn a flip-flop as she once more took in his muscular form. Good Lord, he was gorgeous, she thought as she released a tiny sigh.  She forced herself to look down, yet again, at her magazine and tried to comprehend at least a picture or two.  That attempt, however, was just as futile as the others so she resigned herself to the fact that she was not going to get any reading done while that Greek god was standing anywhere in the vicinity of the pool.

She glanced around once again to make sure no one was watching her.  Once assured the other parents were engrossed in their own books, conversations or simply watching their children swim, she resumed her inspection of the man who was garnering all her attention.  Though she was seated in the shade, she put her sunglasses on in order to feel more confident that her inspection would be undetected by the others at the pool. She shifted her position slightly so she was facing him directly.  Conveniently, there were children in the water between where she was seated and he was standing.  She smiled, pleased with herself.  If anyone were to glance her way, they would think she was simply watching the kids in the water.

At least, that’s what she hoped.

Of course, at this point, she was so drawn to this man that a part of her didn’t care if anyone saw her ogling.  Surrendering to her internal desires, she tossed the magazine she’d been holding into her bag and resumed her inspection of the tall stranger.

Kate began to notice that he sparkled just a bit as he moved.  She squinted, convinced that her eyes were playing tricks on her.  She then realized that it was simply drops of water that glistened in the sunlight as he moved.  She smiled, realizing she was in full fantasy mode.  Sparkling?  Really?

She continued to watch the water drip down his chest and abdomen.  She couldn’t help but notice they had a very smooth ride since there was not an ounce of fat on him.   His arms were well-defined and his shoulders were broad and then narrowed into a slim waistline that held a clearly defined six pack.  Kate allowed her gaze to drift lower and saw the shadow of blond hair that led a path down to beneath his swimsuit.  His legs were long and lean and Kate thought if she were just a bit closer, she’d be able to see the outline of each muscle in his legs.

He was beautiful, she thought.  Now where did that come from?  Since when did she use the term beautiful to describe a man?   But without even looking back, she knew once again, the word was completely appropriate.  But who was he?   She squinted again, this time trying to make out exactly who this man was.  She’d been coming to this pool for three years now and hadn’t ever seen him before.  Of course she was normally watching her daughter, Hadley. But still, she would have noticed him.  You’d have to be unconscious to not notice this god-like creature if he walked by in a swimsuit like the one he was wearing at the moment.

Good lord, he was sex on legs.

She silently chastised herself.   What the hell was she doing?  If she spent any more time looking at him—whoever he was—she was going to start to drool.  She forced herself to tear her gaze away once more, determined to do something—anything—besides spend her morning staring at this stranger.  She looked from side to side, making sure—for the last and final time!—that her ogling had not been noticed by anyone else at the pool.  Once she felt assured she was in the clear, she reached over and grabbed her magazine once again.

She shifted her position, figuring if this stranger wasn’t in her direct line of vision, she’d be able to settle in and concentrate on the magazine.  She flipped through the first couple of pages, silently thankful they were filled with advertisements and required only a minimal amount of concentration.  Despite this, she was still unable to focus on any of the pages in front of her.  It seemed this man had scrambled her brain, leaving her unable to have a coherent thought.  She frowned and looked down again at the magazine in front of her.  She managed to flip through a few pages and found an article: “How to increase your sex drive in your 20’s 30’s and 40’s.”  Okay, really?  This was certainly one article she didn’t need at the moment.  Her sex drive was just fine, thank you very much. Not that she had any use for it, but still, it was fine.

Desperate by now to have anything that would distract her, Kate read the first paragraph but found that by the time she’d finished, she had no idea what it was she’d just read.  Dammit! She thought, slapping the magazine down onto her thighs.  What was with her today?  Normally, she was able to relax a bit while her daughter was in the pool but today she wasn’t about to concentrate on anything thanks to this photo-shopped demigod who was . . . poised to dive into the pool.  Kate swallowed hard as she watched him pull his goggles down over his eyes and then leap into the pool, long legs trailing in the air behind him.

She sighed.  Clearly, she wasn’t going to do anything today but be distracted by this man so she figured she might as well give up on reading her magazine and watch Hadley practice.  It couldn’t hurt to actually learn something about the sport her daughter was so excited about.   She re-positioned herself once again, and began to watch the sixty or so kids who were swimming laps.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that her delicious stranger was swimming with the team, she thought, smiling.  None of the other parents needed to know she was trying desperately to determine who this stranger was.

She watched as he swam the length of the pool and then sprang up out of the water on the other end and tossed his head quickly to shake off some of the water.  His hair formed short ringlets of waves over his head which caused Kate’s fingers to tingle as she imagined what it would be like to run her hands through those locks.  She noticed that a group of the kids had surrounded him and were laughing and horsing around.   It seemed odd to her that not a single parent was the slightest bit concerned about this man splashing about with their children.  As she looked around, it seemed that the other parents weren’t even paying attention to the frolicking going on in the deep end of the pool.

“Huh,” she muttered.  “That’s odd.”

Turning her attention back to the water, she noticed him talking to one of the children that looked an awful lot like….

Kate sat upright, trying to make out exactly what was going on.  She leaned forward to get a better look then felt her mouth drop open as her very own daughter climbed up onto this man’s shoulders and dove off.  Hadley laughed out loud as she sailed through the air and then came up a few feet away.  Both Hadley and the stranger and were grinning from ear to ear.

What the . . . ?  Her mouth formed the words but no sound came forth.

It was then that it dawned on her who this man might be.  She’d gotten numerous emails over the winter detailing the resignation of last year’s swim coach as well as emails regarding the search for a new coach.  Kate figured this man was probably the coach they’d hired.  She realized she was very behind on checking her emails since she had no idea if her guess was correct.  She made a mental note to do a better job of keeping up to date on her mail.

Kate sat back against the chaise lounge, feeling somewhat confident that her assumption was correct.  She felt even more certain of her assessment as she watched Hadley climb out of the pool with this . . . new coach?  And then saw him demonstrate the arm movements for one of the swim strokes.  He stood behind Hadley and moved her arms in the proper motion.  Kate’s jaw dropped open as she watched the coach (God, she hoped he was the coach) began to mimic the pelvic thrusting motion required for the butterfly.  She felt her mouth go dry as she watched his hips sway back and forth in a motion that her daughter (thankfully!) would only associate with a swim stroke. Kate however, realized that not only was she sitting erect and immobile watching him, but other not-so-swim-related thoughts were entering her mind.   This man had to be the new swim coach.

Surely, if he wasn’t the swim coach, someone would have stepped in during the hip-thrusting display.  Right?

Then again, she hadn’t moved from her spot either.

One thing was certain, if this was the new swim coach, there would be very few absences to the daily practices this season since the moms of the kids on the swim team would certainly enjoy looking at this specimen—especially if he wore that tiny suit.  The thought of the moms gathered around the pool watching their little darlings with attention they’d never displayed until this man’s arrival made her chuckle.  She knew that while the parents came to the practices, it was as much a social gathering for them as it was for the kids.  Actually, there were some days that the swimming just got in the way.

Kate leaned back against her lounge chair suddenly realizing that having a child on the swim team meant she should watch practice.  And if that meant she was forced to have this man enter her line of vision from time to time, then so be it. We all have our crosses to bear, she thought as a smile worked its way onto her lips.  Hell, she might even learn something.  She settled into her chair, preparing to watch the rest of the practice.

She’d only watched the kids swim a lap or two when she heard a familiar voice calling to her.

“Kate!  Hey, Kate!”

She looked up to see Wendy Morgan waving enthusiastically at her from the three foot section of the pool.   Once again, Kate was struck by how poised and elegant Wendy always looked.  Though she was well into her forties, Kate thought she looked much closer to thirty five.  Today, her straight blond hair hung down to just below her shoulder, though more often than not she would pull it up into a ponytail that only further accentuated her smooth, nearly wrinkle free skin.

Kate felt a small pang of guilt knowing she hadn’t seen her in nearly a month.  The end of the school year was so hectic that she barely had time to shower, let alone see friends.  Between the end of grade testing and the final projects that Hadley had due, there was simply no time.   Kate was glad summer had finally arrived. She would be able to spend some time with Wendy and the other swim team moms, since they’d all be here for the daily two-hour practices.  With the kids in the water for that amount of time every day, there was really nothing else to do but chat with one another . . . or watch practice, Kate thought, a smile coming to her face.

The swim team was made up of about 60 kids, ranging in age from four to eighteen.  The families of these kids were all members of the Danbury Country Club pool and regularly clustered together while their children practiced.  There were several coaches, each one focusing on a particular age group.  In addition to the instruction the children received from the paid coaches, the older swimmers took some responsibility and gave pointers to the younger ones, which helped to cement the camaraderie among teammates.

This was Hadley’s third summer with the swim team, the Dolphins, and it was Kate’s third year of membership at the pool.  The first year she felt a bit out of place and found it difficult to develop friendships with the other moms.  She wasn’t sure exactly what it was that prevented her from developing friendships that first year.  Kate could only compare it to being the kid who arrived at a new school in the middle of the year.  It seemed that the friendships had already been formed and Kate was just shy enough to accept that fact.  She did her part, though, working at the swim meets, handing out water, filling out ribbons, and doing anything that was needed.  Towards the end of that first season, Kate began to feel as though, to a certain extent, she fit in with everyone and even chastised herself for not making more of an effort.

Hadley’s first year swimming was difficult, though for a different reason.  She made friends with everyone in her age group and had even begun to hang around (and on) some of the older children.  It was shocking at first, but Kate soon learned that the younger kids would jump, climb and crawl on any teenager on the swim team.  It didn’t matter if they were in the water or out, every older teen would end up carrying one or two kids with them wherever they went.  Pretty soon it became normal, even to Kate. While Hadley excelled at the social aspect of the swim team, she had difficulty in the actual swimming portion.  Irony at its best, Kate thought.

Last year, their second, had started out easier than the first.  Hadley had a basic understanding of the strokes and seemed to get back into the rhythm of things quickly.  And her friendships with the other swimmers picked up exactly where they’d left off.  Even Kate found that the friendships she’d developed the year before were quickly re-established.  Of course, last summer was difficult for reasons that had nothing to do with swimming.  Last summer was when Hadley and she had their lives altered forever.   During the middle of the season, Kate lost her husband and Hadley lost her father when he was killed in a car accident.  It was then that Kate learned just how thankful she was to have these ladies as her friends.  She knew that without them, particularly Wendy, she and Hadley might not have made it through that terrible time in their lives.

This year she and Hadley were looking forward to a new beginning.  Hadley had been swimming all winter at an indoor pool so she wouldn’t be completely out of practice when June rolled around once again.  Kate had spent the school year passing through the many stages of grief and trying to help Hadley do the same.  Though she still had bad days, Kate felt as though they’d passed a turning point and was now ready to reclaim a bit of her former life.  The summer swim team would be one way of providing just that for both of them.  Kate had feared that, since it was in the middle of last year’s swim season that Hadley’s father had died, she wouldn’t want to participate this year.  Thankfully, that had not been the case.  Kate would have been even more worried about how losing her father would affect Hadley if she’d suddenly developed an aversion to a sport that she’d been so excited to be a part of.

Kate had survived the year since her husband’s death and she knew she had Wendy to thank for it.  It was Wendy who’d helped her get her life back on track and wade through the depression that enveloped her during the first few weeks after Todd’s death.  Now, she knew she’d be fine, but that was all she’d be—fine.  Sure, she was doing all she was suppose to do—raising her daughter, running her interior design business—but those who knew her, really knew her, could tell that she was simply a muted version of the old Kate.  Kate knew it, everyone knew it.   The glint from her eyes that was so utterly Kate was now gone and she had no idea how to get it back.

Kate stood up and waved back to her friend, watching as she made her way around the edge of the pool.  “Hey, Wendy!  How are you?”  She enveloped her friend in a bear hug.  “It’s so good to see you.  Are the boys here?”

Wendy nodded.  “They sure are.  Let’s see . . .” she said, shielding her eyes from the sun as she searched the deep end of the pool.   Finally, she pointed.   “There.  See the caps with the stars on them?  That’s the twins.  And Riley?  He’s . . .”  She searched again.  “Well, he’s somewhere….”  Her voice trailed off as she looked around for her son.  After a moment, she shrugged, giving up her search.

Kate surveyed the pool trying to locate the twins amongst the group of thirty or so kids who were in the pool at the moment, swimming their warm up laps.  She finally located the twins who were frantically swimming the length of the pool, each one splashing the other in an attempt at distraction—or drowning , she wasn’t sure which.  She kept looking into the choppy water but couldn’t locate Riley, Wendy’s oldest son.

She motioned to the chair beside her. “Sit down, would you?   I haven’t seen you in forever!  We need to catch up.”

“I know,” Wendy replied, nodding.

She sat down gracefully, a trait that Wendy seemed to have in abundance.  Kate couldn’t help but notice, as she did every time she saw Wendy, how different they were.  Wendy was a tall, thin woman who never seemed to be the slightest bit flustered, despite having three boys.  She had long, blond hair and the palest blue eyes that when looked directly at you, made you feel as though you were the only person in the world.  She was the most nurturing woman Kate knew and frequently Kate would find herself saying a prayer of thanks for having Wendy in her life.

“End of school…it’s a nightmare!  And I’ve got two that need to get through it!”

“How are the twins, anyway?”  Kate asked.

Wendy beamed.  “They’re great.  Just great.”

Kate smiled back at her, knowing that Wendy meant every word of it.  After having their son, Riley, Wendy and her husband, Bill, tried for years to have another child.  They could conceive and did so many times, each one ending in a miscarriage.  The doctor’s couldn’t seem to determine what was going wrong and, more importantly, what they could do to fix the problem.  Depressed and frustrated, Wendy and Bill gave up hope of carrying a pregnancy but were unwilling to give up their dream of adding to their family.  After their fourth miscarriage, they began the process of adoption.  Of course they’d only begun the mountains of paperwork when Wendy found out she was pregnant. Despite this wonderful news, both Wendy and Bill felt they should continue with the adoption process, not because they feared yet another miscarriage but because they already felt a commitment to the child they hoped to adopt.

Months went by and Wendy’s pregnancy continued without incident.  Only a week or so before their due date, Wendy and Bill were informed that there was a good possibility a child would be placed with them.  Ten days later Wendy delivered their son Tyler, only to find out they were in fact going to be the adoptive parents of a little boy born on the same day as Tyler.  Baby Ben was welcomed home one week to the day after Tyler had been born.  From that moment the two infants were inseparable.

Wendy handled everything in stride and somehow managed to care for what amounted to twins.  Of course, Ben knew he was adopted but Wendy did not want to label him as her “adopted child,” feeling as though he might be viewed as somehow less than his brothers.  Without fail, each time the “twins” birthday was mentioned, inevitably someone would ask which of the two had been adopted.  Wendy, always gracious, would smile broadly and reply that she simply couldn’t remember.   The look on the face of the person who asked the question never ceased to make Kate giggle.   Without even a hint of irritation, Wendy had managed to put the individual in their place without even suggesting that their question might be considered rude.

“And Riley?”  Kate asked.  “How’s he doing in school?”

“He just finished his junior year at Carolina.  Dean’s list!”  Wendy was beaming with pride speaking of her eldest son’s accomplishments.

Kate smiled back at her.  “I still can’t believe he’s in college.  It seems like just yesterday he was on the swim team. . . .”

“I know.  It goes by so fast.”  She pointed a finger at Kate knowingly.  “You just wait.  Hadley will be in college before you know it.”

“Ugh.  Don’t remind me.  I still haven’t adjusted to her being in elementary school.”

“Kate!  Wendy!”  She looked up to see Angela Martin approaching, a huge grin on her face.

Angela had two boys who had been on the swim team for several years and she was somewhat of a fixture at the pool.  Most days, Angela could be found sitting at one end of the pool with a stopwatch in her hand while her boys swam laps and tried to beat their best times and each other.  As a result of this “training,” her boys placed first in nearly every event they swam.

“Angela! How are you?”  Kate stood to hug the woman that she had not seen since last year at the closing of the pool.  Despite the length of time most went without seeing each other, the swim team families came together at the first practice as though it had been no more than a few days.  Moms greeted each other with welcoming hugs while their children immediately began to plan the next sleepover.  Of course, there were some families who lived near each other or had children in the same school so they were able to see each other during the school year.  The rest just picked up right where they had left off the previous summer.

“Really good.   We got here first thing this morning so the boys could get some laps in before practice.  They’re really excited for this year.  Itching to have a little competition.  I guess it’s boring having your mom time you all the time.”  She shrugged and smiled.

“At least they have each other to promote a little competition,” Kate said.  “Unless someone sounds a buzzer, Hadley swims as though she’s got all day.”

“True,” Angela replied. “But it’s not exactly fair when your competition is three inches taller and two years older than you.”

Kate chuckled.  “No.  I guess not…”

Angela’s gaze softened.  “So, how are you, Kate?  You and Hadley . . .”  She left her voice drift off as though she didn’t want to mention that it was only the two of them now, as though the mention of it would make Kate realize that her husband was no longer alive.

Did people honestly think that she didn’t think about his absence every moment of every day?  She sort of understood their discomfort, though.  No one ever wanted to think about your husband being ripped out of your life in an instant.  If fact, most people were afraid to mention what had happened to her, as though it were contagious and the simple act of asking about would transfer the fearful disease of “death by car accident” to them.  Wendy was one of the few that didn’t shy away from the subject at all, asking how she was and what she needed frequently.

“We’re fine,” Kate replied and trying to communicate with her smile that it was okay to ask.  “Thanks for asking.”

Angela smiled but Kate sensed she was still uncomfortable with the subject matter.  Sure enough, she turned to Wendy and smiled, ready to change the subject.  “So, Ben and Tyler ready for the season?” She asked.

Wendy laughed out loud.  “Are you kidding?  Knowing their big brother is going to be coaching has made them so excited I can barely tear them away from the pool!”  She turned to Kate.  “Hadley must be excited as well knowing that Riley’s going to be helping out.”

Kate looked back at Wendy guiltily.  “I have to admit.  I’ve been a little lax on checking my email and didn’t even know Riley was coaching this year.  Telling her that he’s coaching will only add to her enthusiasm.”

“Ladies!  Yoo hoo!”

The three women turned to see Brenda Williams approaching with a clipboard.  The three of them shared a knowing look.  Brenda headed up the volunteers each year for the swim team and spent the first several practices tracking down all the parents in order for them to sign up for their required volunteer assignments.

“I know you’re all just waiting to sign up!”  Her smile was contagious and all three women laughed out loud.

“Of course we are!  We were just waiting for you to get over here with your little clipboard!” Angela replied, grinning.

“If I didn’t know you so well, Angela, I might believe you,” Brenda said, waggling her finger at her.  She smiled and handed the clipboard to Kate.  “Here you go. You know the drill.  Just sign up for whatever you want.”

Kate, Wendy, and Angela perused the clipboard and signed up for their duties for the several swim meets that were coming over the next few weeks.   Kate signed up to be the team mom for Hadley’s age group, figuring she’d know most of the girls since they were friendly with Hadley.  Plus, it meant she’d be able to keep an eye on her daughter for the meets.  Hadley had been known to wander off in search of frogs, butterflies and pretty much anything that was outside the boundaries of the pool.  On a couple of occasions, she’d nearly missed her race.

Once she was done signing her name in the appropriate slots, she passed the clipboard to Angela.  She looked up to find Brenda inspecting her with the same concerned look she’d seen on Angela’s face earlier.

“You okay, Kate?  You and Hadley?  I mean, you’re . . .”

Once again, the voice trailed off and the sentence was left open as though the person doing the speaking couldn’t even bear to say what had happened to her.  Kate had to stifle a sigh.  While she was thankful to have all these people who were concerned about her and Hadley, it was hard to continue the healing with all these concerned faces hovering around her.  She knew they were just making sure she was doing well but it was unnerving nonetheless.  What did they think she was going to do?  Curl up in her bed and stay there for weeks at a time?  She couldn’t do that.  She had a daughter to raise.  Besides, she’d done that already.  Just the thought of the time immediately after Todd died and how useless she became made her glance toward Wendy and think about all she’d done for Hadley when Kate found she couldn’t.

She would be eternally grateful for this woman’s friendship.

But Angela?  She didn’t have the heart to tell her and everyone else she’d be fine if they’d just stop asking how she was doing with a look of sadness and concern on their faces.  But Kate knew she’d never be able to say anything even close to that.  Instead she just smiled and nodded, and said she and Hadley were doing fine, just fine.

Brenda continued to inspect her and, for just a moment, Kate wondered what would happen if she were to break down into hysterics.  The thought brought a smile to her face, which caused Brenda to smile uncomfortably and look away.

“Wow, Brenda,” Angela said.  “You are on the ball this year.  Everything’s just about done!”

Brenda, obviously thankful for the change of subject, looked at Angela and beamed.  “I’d love to take all the credit but you know I really have nothing to do with it.  It’s all the parents who sign up!  They make my job easy!”

“Now, come on.  You’ve got to take a little credit,” Angela said.  “You’re the one walking around with that clipboard, shoving it our faces the first chance you get!  We all know if we didn’t volunteer, you’d clock us with that thing.”  She nodded toward the clipboard, which was now held tightly in Brenda’s hands.

“Well, I haven’t had to do that yet, thankfully.”  Brenda replied, giggling.  “I should go.  I’ve got to hit up the Masterman’s.  They somehow escaped my radar last year and didn’t volunteer for anything.” 

      The three women made the appropriate expressions of shock and horror, then watched as Brenda made her way across the pool deck.

Kate turned to Wendy again.  “You said Riley’s coaching this year?”  She asked.

Wendy nodded.  “Yeah, he’s very excited about it.  And I have to say how proud I am of him for doing this.”

Kate looked at Wendy while she spoke.  Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Angela roll her eyes as Wendy went on about her son.  Kate bit the inside of her cheek to prevent herself from laughing.  Of course, Kate knew that Angela was just as bad as Wendy was at touting the merits of her children and never seemed to notice the glassy-eyed look of the person they were speaking to.  Neither Angela nor Wendy had ever grasped the concept that the only person who truly cared about every minute detail of a child’s life was their own mother.

Kate looked away from Angela quickly, trying to ensure Wendy hadn’t noticed anything amiss.   As she did so, she caught a glance of the man she’d been staring at earlier.  She tried to follow along to what Wendy was saying but dammit!  The man still hadn’t put any clothes on and was, at the moment, traipsing around in nothing more than a tiny black bathing suit.  She turned just bit so that the stranger in the tiny suit wouldn’t be directly in her line of vision, then she tried to focus on Wendy.

“…could have gotten another internship but wanted to come home and help the twins…”  Wendy continued.

Kate nodded, now only half listening to what Wendy was saying.  She knew from experience Wendy could talk about any of her kids endlessly, especially Riley.  She also knew if she nodded at appropriate intervals, Wendy wouldn’t have any idea her thoughts were elsewhere.   Kate stole another look at Angela and thought for certain she was paying close attention to Wendy.  It wasn’t until she noticed the color rise to her cheeks that Kate realized Angela had gotten a glimpse of the tall, gorgeous man who was . . . walking towards them with Hadley?  She groaned softly.  Of course it would be her daughter who latched onto this particular coach.

As Hadley and the coach made their way toward her, she noticed they were engrossed in a conversation together.  Kate smiled thinking how seriously Hadley was taking this season’s competition and she assumed the conversation was about some part of her stroke, time or dive.  Both the coach and Hadley were moving their arms around, mimicking the movements of the butterfly stroke once again.  That particular stroke was Hadley’s weakest of the four and it was quite a source of frustration for her.  Of course, if he spent much time mimicking the stroke out of the water as he’d done earlier, Kate felt certain all the moms would be asking for private lessons and swimming the butterfly before the end of the summer.  If not for the health benefits of swimming, then most definitely for the physical benefits—that is, the physical benefits of watching the coach.

Hadley, being seven and completely obtuse to a man thrusting his hips, wouldn’t have the same reaction her mother was having and hopefully, she’d grasp the concept quickly.  She’d spent countless hours over the winter trying to force her body into the rhythm of the stroke, often times leaving the pool with fingers and toes wrinkled from so much time in the water.  She was determined to learn it and got extremely frustrated when week after week, she couldn’t quite master it.  For a seven-year-old, she was quite mature when it came to her swimming and Kate hoped this new coach would be able to work with her on that particular stroke.

The two stopped at a table and Kate watched as he reached over and grabbed his sunglasses.  He put them on and then grabbed his towel, wrapping it around his waistline leaving his abdominals exposed.  Hadley looked over toward the table where Kate was standing with Wendy and Angela and pointed at them.  He nodded, then together they began walking toward the three of them.  As they approached, Kate got an odd feeling of déjà vu.  She felt almost certain she’d met this man somewhere before but struggled to determine where that might have been.  It seemed the answer was tucked away somewhere just out of her reach.

She frowned in frustration, then realized Wendy was still talking about Riley.  Kate had been so distracted by this man who was with her daughter that she had no idea what she’d missed.  She looked at Wendy and nodded, trying to show she was paying attention.  She was very nearly back to giving Wendy her full attention when Hadley and the coach came close enough for her to realize exactly who he was and where she’d seen him before.  She felt the color rise to her cheeks and her insides turn to water as this man leaned over and gave Wendy a hug.

Oh, God, she thought.  This cannot be happening to me.

“Hey, mom,” he said.

Kate wished a hole in the ground would suddenly appear beneath her feet, swallowing her whole.  She found she was rooted to the spot and unable to move a muscle.

This man that she’d been ogling all morning was Wendy’s son.

***

Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water. She discovered books at a very early age and would frequently ignore her teachers in order to discreetly read book during class. To this day, she is an avid reader and can be found most evenings curled up with a good book. She lives in Clemmons, NC with her two daughters and their beagle, Charlie, where she is at work on her next novel.

Click here to buy: A Ripple in the Water

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