“Why did you follow me? That first day?” I asked him, without really meaning to. We were still on the blanket with the sun sinking low and, even though we’d been out here all day, I didn’t want to leave. Alice disappeared the moment Jasper arrived and we hadn’t seen fur or feather of them in hours.
“You were pretty,” Edward shrugged, pinking at the ears and looking far too cute for his own good. “You don’t see pretty girls out there. They’re on the videos, but never in real life.”
“So you decided to stalk me?”
“I was curious. You didn’t have a mat, and I knew there wasn’t anyone further along for you to meet up with because we’d just been there. I thought you were maybe just hiking but I - you waved at me.” His eyes narrowed as if it was really all my fault.
“I was just trying to be polite.” I smirked at him and he shrugged, rolling over onto his back and staring up at the sky.
“Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did it.”
He rolled his head on his arms to look at me, quirking an eyebrow but all I could stare at was the curve of his jaw. “You’re good. Maybe a little too good.”
“Don’t sound so surprised,” I teased, rolling my eyes, but he started nodding his head.
“I am surprised. You on sighted your fourth problem. You barely ever complain about your hands and you shouldn’t have been able to do that Paper Tiger climb for at least another couple of months.”
“I didn’t do it though.”
I’d only gotten two holds along before the fist-jam thing fucked me up. I could practically feel the little edge of rock I’d been digging my fingers into to hold myself up under that rock, no wider than a pencil, while my other hand curled and forced itself into a space that it shouldn’t have fit into. Oh, pain.
“You held on upside down for almost a minute, I counted. I had you pegged at ten seconds.”
“Again, I feel like I should be offended.”
“Don’t.” He shook his head and peered at me thoughtfully for a moment before he continued, sounding almost as though he wasn’t even talking to me, but to himself. “It should make sense, shorter people are better climbers, but there’s all the other-”
“Are you calling me short?” I snapped, my instinctive response shooting back.
“You are short, Sparkles,” he grinned. “Your toes are touching my knees.”
I glanced down between us and sure enough, lying down at head level like this had kind of made me forget that he typically towered over me. I prodded his kneecaps with my bare toes just because I felt like I could and kept my eyes off his face when I spoke.
“Why are shorter people better? That seems totally backward.”
“Your muscles are shorter. They contract quicker and it takes a lot less energy to keep them there.” He held up his arm, clenching a fist and making the muscles in his forearm swell. When he plucked my own arm from the blanket and held up it along side his, I could see what he meant. He had at least four inches of muscle on me to tense up.
“Shorter climbers need different beta and they usually end up climbing an entirely different route than someone who is taller might. You, finding that finger-hold on the Lock and Key, for example. I’m glad you didn’t listen to me when I told you to peel.”
He smiled at me again and I really wondered if he knew what that thing did to my my insides. I’d spent the entire day feeling like half-set jello, wobbly and precarious.
“And what’s the other stuff?” I asked, breathless and flaming hot all of a sudden, wondering if it was the sun.
“You were saying . . . because I’m short, but there’s all the other-” I dangled, waiting for him to catch up. It didn’t take long for him to narrow his eyes at me as though he was debating how much to tell me.
“Just, small things,” he hedged with another shrug. “You picked up on the slang, and your observation about Rose was spot on. You didn’t even blink when you started bleeding, and the way you scowl at the rock when you’re stuck is damn fucking cute. Plus, you got half naked in front of me and you barely even knew me.” He gave me a sly wink, his mouth tucked up to one side and his eyes bright.
“I don’t know you,” I gasped. It was definitely not the sun.