Capture, p.20
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       Capture, p.20

         Part #1 of Seaside Pictures series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  Dani

  Adrenaline surged through my body. My voice! That was my voice! A voice I hadn't heard outside my head in months! I wanted to shout in victory, yell at the top of my lungs. But instead, my knees knocked together and spots clouded my vision as Lincoln lifted me up into his arms and carried me down the stairs.

  I blinked my eyes as the angry, black clouds started moving in our general direction.

  Cold rain splattered against my face before Lincoln walked us down into a small alcove.

  Chilled, I couldn't stop my teeth from chattering as he set me on my feet directly in front of the penguin exhibit.

  It was freezing in there.

  But we were alone.

  "Dani?" He cupped my face. "Are you going to pass out?" His eyebrows knit together in concern as he backed me against the wall.

  I could almost taste him again — wanted to — but then he'd be on to me. He'd know I wanted more of his kisses.

  Was it so wrong to want a kiss from someone like him? A real kiss? Not one that was forced or acted out — but a kiss made of passion and spontaneity?

  I nodded my head, swallowing the dryness in my throat.

  "That was…" His eyes lit up with awe. "… that was insane… right?"

  "The whale or this?" My voice was barely above a whisper as my treacherous eyes zeroed in on his mouth.

  Linc leaned in, pushing my hair out of my face. "Both, but for the record, I forgot all about the whale the minute I heard your voice."

  I smiled at that.

  "Is it hard?" He eyed me gently, almost like I was a piece of china about to teeter off a table and shatter into a million pieces.

  I'd thought it would be nice to be on that side of his looks, but something in me felt disappointed; maybe it was because he was looking at me in reverence as a result of my talking, not because of me.

  Then again, I've always been hard on myself.

  I shrugged.

  "Nope." He grinned. "Not gonna let you default. At least say 'I don't know.'"

  I licked my lips. "No."

  "Okay, that works," he said with a tender chuckle. "Has this ever happened before? You know, where a dead-sexy actor, afraid of whales inspires you so much that a miracle occurs, and you say your first words in—" He tilted his head in question.

  I rolled my eyes, even though I was so nervous I felt like I was going to puke. Texting was one thing, talking to him was… well, difficult would be an understatement.

  "Eight months." Saying it out loud made it seem so much worse than I'd originally thought. Almost as if I was finally admitting that there was this huge elephant blocking my way out of the room. My hands went to my throat. Lincoln was still staring at me in shock, so I immediately went into sarcastic, defensive mode. "And, for the record, it was probably brought on by the whale… don't go tweeting that you're magic or anything. That's not what the world needs, Linc."

  His jaw went slack.

  I frowned and shoved my hand into my jeans. Crap, I hoped I hadn't just taken it too far. I'd seriously turned into a really sarcastic person since I stopped talking, maybe because I was my only source of entertainment. "What?"

  "Holy shit, you've been talking for three minutes, and you've already insulted me." He held up his hand for a high five.

  "I'm not hitting that. Imagine the places it's been," I teased, this time my words flowing a bit easier.

  "Same place as you, sweetheart. A whale's mouth." He shivered.

  "I'm sure that's not the worst place." I patted him on the shoulder.

  "Ha!" He gave a dry laugh and rolled his eyes. "Jealous?"

  "Immensely."

  "I didn't expect you to be funny."

  "And I didn't expect you to be afraid of fish, yet here we are."

  "Mammals," he corrected, eyes narrowing. "They're mammals."

  "Look at you getting all defensive of Zoe. Should I go let her know you want another round?" I turned on my heel but was pulled back by my T-shirt.

  "Zoe's sleeping."

  "You sure?"

  "Yeah, she communicates telepathically and made sure I got the message before almost eating me."

  "That was nice of her."

  "Whales are givers." Linc's gaze dropped to my lips.

  My eyes darted to his.

  What was happening right now?

  "Seventeen," he whispered. I almost didn't catch it.

  "What was that?"

  "Clean." His eyes traveled the length of my body from my feet to my head. "We should probably… shower."

  "Right."

  "Separately."

  "Because you normally shower with the help?"

  "Ha ha." He choked out a strangled laugh. "Should we go?"

  Lincoln walked around me and held open the door. The minute we stepped outside, a woman and three kids barreled into me, sending me sideways into Linc. His strong hands gripped my shoulders.

  "Sorry!" The haggard mom blew her bangs out of her face as all three of her kids ran into the penguin exhibit. "They get kinda crazy over penguins."

  "I know the feeling," Lincoln whispered, his lips grazing my ear.

  I don't know how long I stayed staring at the door, or how long Lincoln held me like that, but our little moment, or whatever it was, was interrupted by more screaming, only this time it was directed Lincoln.

  "Lincoln Greene!" a pre-teen squealed.

  His fingers dug into my skin as he used me for a human shield. Classy.

  "Think we can run?" he asked, already backing away, with me still blocking the way of the girls as they grouped together and started pounding the pavement toward us.

  I didn't have time to respond as we were flooded with screams and laughter. Cell phones pointed into the air snapping pictures of us. They asked for his autograph and then, once the excitement died down, glared in my direction.

  "Who are you?" One girl, who looked about ten, put her hands on her hips and glared.

  I wanted to say, "Nobody."

  I opened my mouth and… nothing.

  Deflated, I just shook my head and gave Linc a pleading look.

  "She's my assistant for the summer."

  Dismissed.

  Like we hadn't just shared a few moments.

  Why did I keep doing that to myself? Oh right, because I loved torture. I nodded emphatically and quietly stepped away so he could finish signing autographs.

  The rain was coming down in sheets by the time he was done. I'd been hiding underneath an alcove while mud and water splattered my tennis shoes.

  I had to give it to him. He didn't once complain, just kept taking pictures even though his shirt was clinging to his abs like a second skin, and his skinny jeans left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

  It was bordering on indecent.

  Even the moms were stopping now and taking pictures. I inclined my head to the side as Lincoln let out a loud laugh and signed a girl's shirt.

  My breath hitched. He had a gorgeous laugh. Was there anything ugly about the man?

  Even the way he walked was captivating.

  And he was currently walking toward me.

  It was one of those moments I prayed I looked cool and nonchalant, leaning against the trash cans that smelled like old hot dogs and wet dog hair.

  "Sorry." He ran his fingers through his wavy hair, slicking it back, then shook some droplets out. I imagined it wouldn't be a stretch to see girls trying to lick the water out of the air.

  I nodded.

  "What? No words of sarcasm?"

  Smiling, I opened my mouth to say something just as his cell went off.

  "She's fine, Jay. I'm fine. Everyone's fine," he sang, winking in my direction. "Oh." His face went from easy going to tense as his eyes darted back and forth between me and some imaginary object in front of him. "No, problem. We'll figure it out."

  He ended the call and gave me a long, heated stare.

  "Jay?" I offered.

  "You should have been a detective in anothe
r life." He wrapped an arm around me and led us toward the exit.

  "Yeah, my hearing his name had nothing to do with knowing who was on the other end of the line. I just calculated the minutes we'd been gone and divided that by the distance traveled — and boom — Jamie Jaymeson, calling to check in at exactly three in the afternoon."

  "You're kind of a smart ass." Linc nodded his head in approval. "I like it. No wonder you and Demetri are best friends."

  "Told you it wasn't just the Sour Patch Kids."

  "That you did." He sent a quick text, I imagined to our driver, and then faced me. "So Jay wants us to stay the night."

  "At his house?" I asked, confused. I mean, I lived there. Why would I need an invitation from my own family?

  "No." Linc licked his lips.

  I tried desperately not to follow with my hungry gaze. "Here in Newport. Apparently, a huge storm's coming in, and your sister's freaked about us driving. Flash flood warnings have already been issued, and because of the whole…" He gulped, looking away.

  "Because of my parents' accident, you mean?"

  Linc's eyes flashed with regret. "Yeah, she just… didn't want you to have a relapse like last time."

  My cheeks burned with embarrassment. "Last time."

  "You don't have to tell me."

  "What's there to tell?" I looked down at my muddy shoes. "There was a storm, we drove in it, I was so freaked out we were going to get into a car accident that I hyperventilated, nearly passed out, then started screaming hysterically when another car's headlights flashed us because our high beams were on." I let out a long exhale, counting to five before continuing. "It was shortly after I stopped talking, so somehow she thinks the whole car nearly hitting me then us being in that thunderstorm just compounded the whole mute thing."

  Linc grabbed my hand. "You're not mute."

  "Not with you. But ask me to talk to the milkman, I'd probably shriek and run in the other direction."

  Linc winked. "Probably because they don't exist anymore, and seeing one out in the wild would be like a whale walking on land."

  "It happens you know, whale walking," I teased.

  "Right up there with milk delivery and VHS tapes making a comeback." Linc nodded. "But thanks for the visual that's going to permeate my dreams tonight."

  I giggled as the limo pulled up to the front entrance.

  "So, where are we staying? In the limo?"

  Linc burst out laughing. "Hell no. Do I look like the type of guy who would sleep in a car?"

  I eyed his wet shirt and shaggy hair then met his gaze and gave him a tentative shrug.

  "So I look like shit. Message received. Let's go freshen up, then it's time for crabs."

  I gasped. "I'm not that kind of girl."

  Linc's cheeks reddened instantly. "Are you implying I have crabs?"

  "Hey, you said it, not me." The talking was getting so much easier.

  "I think I liked you better mute."

  I didn't take offense to that. I knew he was kidding, and it helped that when he said it, he didn't take his eyes off my mouth.

 
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