Being a die-hard fan of Nicole Williams’ writing, I am excited whenever one of her books gets on my book junkie radar. Up in Frames has been quietly gaining a loyal following since its initial release in December 2012 and it is the angst-filled story of a young woman on her journey to find herself. I bring you a never-seen-before excerpt…
I filled my lungs to capacity before slowly letting that breath out through my nose. As soon as I was below the surface, I started to count. The longer I counted, the blacker the water around me got. The farther my body fell below the surface, the colder the water got. Deeper and deeper I sunk until my lungs started to burn. The last of the oxygen was gone after ten seconds.
I pushed past the burn and ignored the fear that clawed at me when the black got opaque around me. I was three seconds away from tying the record. Four seconds away from breaking the record.
Two more seconds down, two more to go. My lungs had gone from that burning feeling to feeling like raw open wounds. I felt myself go a little light headed when something grabbed a hold of me.
I jolted in surprise as a strong arm wound around my middle before I was towed to the surface. The instant my head broke through the water, I gulped in a mouthful of air. The arm wound around me didn’t let me go, and as I took a second gulp of air, I felt a few emotions trickle into my veins: I’d been so close.
So close to breaking my record and this arm and its owner had ruined it.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I gasped, shoving out of the arm’s hold and swimming a few strokes away.
“You’re welcome. Happy I could be of assistance and I’m even happier to have you show your utmost appreciation for saving your life,” a male’s voice replied with a strong dose of sarcasm. It wasn’t a familiar one.
When I’d put some distance between us, I twisted around. His face wasn’t familiar either, but a girl wouldn’t mind getting familiar with that kind of face.
That was, if a girl wasn’t with another guy who was the town’s unofficial crown prince.
“I wasn’t drowning,” I said, biting back the you idiot part. “I was swimming.”
“You were under the surface for over thirty seconds,” he said, swimming closer. I backed away until my feet hit the sandy loam. “I thought you were drowning. What was I supposed to do? Just let you go down without a fight?”
Sinking my feet into the sand, I stood up. “No. You’re supposed to ask a person if they want saving before you go all hero on them.”
Hero boy’s mouth curved up when his eyes drifted south. “Thank God.”
“No, not ‘thank God’ for you interrupting my efforts to break a sinking record,” I snapped back.
“I’m thanking God for something else right now.” The look on his face was one I’m sure God wouldn’t approve of and, if it wasn’t for the way it was making me breathe a little short, I wouldn’t have approved either.
“What are you thanking him for?” I said, ready to get out of the water and leave this stranger, who was both infuriating and appealing at the same time thanks to his own life-saving, god-thanking ways.
That was when I remembered I was swimsuit impaired in waist deep water. A fact that wouldn’t have escaped my mind if it hadn’t been so oxygen deprived.
“Right now,”—one brow arched—“I’m thanking him for cold water.”
I glanced down, already mortified.
Yep. That dreamy look in his eyes and that twisted smile all made sense now. As if my bare boobs weren’t enough, my nipples were on high beams for his viewing pleasure.
I ducked beneath the surface so he had nothing but a neck up view. His expression didn’t change as much as I thought it would. “For someone who can stare like that at a girl’s . . .” I stumbled for the right word to use. I fumbled even more trying to verbalize it.
“Rack?” the grinning boy suggested.
“Chest,” I added with a tight smile. “For someone who can stare at an unsuspecting girl’s chest for half a minute, I wouldn’t take that person to be the thanking God, religious type.”
“I’m not,” he said with a one-shouldered shrug. “But after just witnessing that wonder of the world, I might change my mind.”
I narrowed my eyes. “How long have you been here?”
He swam a little closer, and now I could make out the color of his eyes. A bright greenish-blue that, when paired with his dark hair, tan skin, and the appealing angles of his face, could make a girl weak in the knees even from ten yards back.
That sly smile of his went higher. “Long enough to know that your hair color is natural.”
Despite the cold water, my face heated instantly.
“It’s all right,” he said immediately, lifting his hands above the water. “We were brought into the world naked and it’s a damn shame somewhere along man’s way he felt the need to cover up.” Those eyes of his sparkled. “Because bodies like yours make clothing a real tragedy.”
I knew in some sick, twisted way, he was trying to make me feel better, but I felt worse. My own boyfriend hadn’t seen me naked. Heck, he hadn’t even seen me naked from the waist up, and this smiling stranger had gotten the whole shebang. Not only that, I was uncomfortable with the way he looked at me and the way I felt when he looked at me. Some part of me, and if I was a betting girl I’d put it all on that wild streak, liked the way he looked at me.
Liked it way too much.