Riptide Rendezvous

Juliet works for the Marine Mammal Conservancy Center, where she commits her whole life to saving injured sea life and cleaning the Florida beaches. Focusing entirely on her career, she rarely has time for relationships. One late summer evening, she is called to save a group of sea turtles. She quickly learns that they are not the only ones who need saving when she meets Harry Styles, whose cheeky but rugged personality makes her question her own motives. Maybe she was so busy saving the world that she didn't realize it was she HERSELF who needed to be saved...

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2. Chapter 2

JULIET'S POV.

The waves this morning were absolutely perfect. I wanted nothing more than to be out there on my old green surfboard, with sea foam tickling my toes and the salty water washing away my worries. It was 9AM, which is late for a marine biologist, considering I'd been up since 4. The fencing had been set up for the hatchlings, keeping them out of harm's way, but only temporarily. The fence would keep curious children, mischief-making teen boys, and careless bypassers from stepping on the baby turtles desperately fighting for survival. Now, I would be on surveillance duty until lunchtime.

I set up my umbrella and folding chair a few feet away from the hatchling site, removing my bright blue MMC tank and white shorts. I really took a liking to my new bathing suit, which my best friend Elle got me to buy after a lot of convincing. Again, I loved my body, but I was just so damn shy. I lathered up some sunscreen (which I always thought smelled like creamsicles) and applied some to my long, tan legs.

I think it’s funny how many freckles I have, considering the amount of sunscreen I use on a daily basis, I thought to myself. That’s what happens when you work outside for 12+ hours a day. You get a ridiculous tan accompanied by an unwanted amount of freckles.

I squeezed the orange bottle as it made hideously unattractive fart-like noises. Okay, I get it, there’s not a lot left in there. I just needed to cover up my shoulders. On my right shoulder, I had 5 freckles that were bigger than any of the other ones. If you cocked your head slightly to the left, they formed a perfect heart. As a child, I loathed those freckles. They were simply another characteristic that drew attention to me, something I never got used to.

Just as I finished rubbing my shoulders, the obnoxious-yellow swim trunk man emerged from the water. Now, let me again stress that I hardly ever got caught up in attractive boys at this beach anymore. They were such a normal occurrence that I never glanced twice.

But something about this guy was different.

For starters, he was unusually tall. I mean, lots of boys around here are tall. Braedan towered over me, and everyone found that quite comical when they saw us together. This guy had to be a couple inches over 6 feet. His long, sculpted torso was decorated with the most tattoos I’d ever seen in my life.

Unlike Elle, who made it her mission to find a man who met her unrealistic standards of “clean-cut, no piercings, no tattoos, tall, lightly-tanned skin, athletic build, and ‘like, totally huge biceps’”, I wasn’t horrifically picky about appearance but I definitely had standards.

This man’s tattoos seemed to be connected in mysterious ways. Upon examining the many designs that trailed up his well-built arms, I felt like I was reading a story. The picture book was like looking at completely unrelated things that somehow fit together in a beautiful way. My eyes followed his tattoos up his arm and across his chest.

For the longest second of my life, our eyes met. When I realized I was staring, I felt my cheeks grow warm and I turned my attention back to the hatchlings. I prayed to God that some distraction would save me. He was headed this way. I wasn’t bad at talking to boys; I was just too shy to sell myself.

By some miracle, a little boy with a water gun scampered around the fence and started to squirt the hatching turtles. I leaped from my folding chair so quickly that it collapsed and folded back up in an instant. Grabbing my supplies to fix the fencing, I approached the curious child.

"Hey bud! I’m afraid you’ll have to step away from the fence!”

I said to the little boy, who scowled back at me.

''Don’t be mad at me, I sighed, “See those little eggs? There are baby turtles in there, and they’re going to hatch soon!”

Wide-eyed, the small child took a few steps back from the fence. I reached into my bag and pulled out a little turtle keychain, branding our bright blue MMC logo on its shell.

" We want to make sure that the turtles stay safe, but I’m very glad you’re interested in their journey! In just a few hours, the MMC will be hosting a free show all about turtles if you’d like to learn more!” I exclaimed.

The boy shyly reached out his hand to take the keychain, gave me a quick nod, and ran away happily. I spun around to head back to my station and I froze in place. Attractive tattoo guy was on my beach blanket trying to set up my old folding chair, which by the looks of it, was finally kicking the bucket. His back was turned. I slowly walked back to the blanket.

Unaware of my presence, he continued trying to pry the legs of the stubborn chair. I don’t know what came over me in that moment, but I actually spoke to him. In my head, all I could think about was calling Elle. She’d be so proud of me for initiating the conversation for once.

“Hi..” I managed to choke out, nearly in a whispered voice.

His eyes wandered from mine, down to my feet and back up again. After what seemed like the most antagonizing 10 seconds of my life, he let out a sigh of defeat and said,

"Your chair’s a piece of crap. Tried to fix it, but it’s pretty old. I suggest buying a new one from Charlie’s Chairs down the block from here.”

I curled my toes in the hot sand. He had a thick accent.

What was that, British? I had travelled to London my senior year of high school and I fell in love with how proper everyone spoke there. They were practically better than Americans.

"Ooh. Ooookay, “ I drug out the syllables. "Thanks for trying, I guess.”

He stood up, brushing the sand off his knees and adjusting his snapback.

“You’re very welcome,” he nodded.

There were a few moments of silence between us as he continued to brush the sand off his body, which awkward me could not seem to stop staring at, and I rocked back and forth on my heels.

“ Well, see you later.”

Just like that, he was gone. He leisurely strode across the blanket and tiptoed onto the hot sand, looking back at me once and flashing me a smile that made me feel out of place. I gave him a small wave and ran my fingers through my tangled hair. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, and sank onto my blanket. I whipped out my iPhone and called Juliet.

She picked up on the first ring.

“Juliet! You never call me at work. Is everything ok? Did you get stung by a jellyfish again? Did Aaron try to ask you to dinner? Where’s Braedan?!”

She was too much. I laughed, “ No, no, and I don’t know,” I answered her questions. “ Everything’s fine, I’m great!” I tried to mask the chirpy excitement in my voice.

“Oh is it? Because you sound almost…Oh, I don’t know… EXCITED about something?!” she squealed. “ It’s really not a big deal-“ I began, but she quickly cut me off. “ OhmygodddISITABOY?” she jumbled her words together. “ It’s a boy! I knew it! Oh my god this is too good.”

I fiddled with the jewels on my bikini bottoms and briefly explained my awkward encounter with the attractive tattoo boy. “I made contact first!” I screamed into my phone, hearing Juliet gasp. “ I knowwww!” I said.

We made plans to meet for lunch at 2, and I hung up the phone feeling unusually sure of myself. I think I was just surprised that I grew a pair of metaphorical balls and talked to an attractive boy without stammering. Well, without stammering a lot…

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