Edited by Sione Aeschliman writelearndream.com
Chloe Hayes is fine. But she’s about to learn what better feels like.
This summer, her boyfriend Jeff is away working on set with his director dad, and Chloe’s staying behind to work as a lifeguard at their college town’s local pool. Chloe knows the time apart will be good for them. For the first time since they started dating, she’ll have something of her own, and Jeff will learn to be less dependent on her. They’re going to be fine.
When Chloe meets Gales “The Beast” Perry, the fellow lifeguard and aspiring chef seems more interested in poking holes in Chloe’s defenses than forming a lasting friendship. But somewhere between teaching swim lessons and pranking the day camp staff, Chloe’s relationship with Gales evolves. Gales believes that fine is a baseline, that if you’re lucky enough to be fine, you have no choice but to want better. And he’s not about to let Chloe settle for less.
But when Jeff returns from the shoot, he reveals a family history of abuse and neglect, leaving Chloe torn between her new feelings for Gales and her longstanding commitment to Jeff. When Jeff’s dependency takes on a new urgency, Chloe has to make a choice: it’s her happiness… or Jeff’s life.
TREADING WATER is a 94,000 word contemporary New Adult novel. The slow burn between Chloe and Gales will appeal to readers who savored the chemistry and tension of Coleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday, and fans of Tamara Webber's Easy and Sweet will connect with Chloe’s struggle to define herself and her desires.
This is the book I needed when I was eighteen (and twenty… and twenty-two…), brought to life with details taken from my decade-plus working in the aquatics industry. This April, TREADING WATER was a winner in the RevPit contest at reviseresub.com.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Five Pages:
What time is it?
I sneak a look at my watch, but it’s hidden by the cuff of my hoodie. I’d push the sleeve back, but my other hand is presently fisted into the front of my boyfriend’s shirt. Which, I realize, is probably wadding the freshly pressed Oxford into a wrinkled mess. That’s a downside to messing around in the backseat of a car; no one leaves without looking like they’ve been doing exactly what they’ve just been doing.
Jeff breaks the kiss, his lips leaving mine just enough to ask, “Chloe?”
He smooths his palm along my thigh, his hand sliding around to my hamstring. “Are you trying to check your watch?”
“Ah.” He nods somberly and sighs, and the seat cushion gives on one side of my head as he shifts to prop himself on his elbow.
A familiar tension sinks into my sternum, pinning me to the leather upholstery. I don’t want him to think I’m eager for his departure, I’m just excited for my first day of work. I open my mouth to apologize, but before I can say anything, he looks at me with a wicked smirk. He drums his fingers against the back of my leg, tickling the sensitive skin, and my eyes go wide.
“Don’t you dare,” I warn, but his fingers continue to dance over my hamstring. He presses one finger into the muscle, and I arch involuntarily, the tickle making me yelp. “Jeff!”
“What?” he asks, all wide eyes and feigned innocence. “I’m just trying to get you to focus.” At the last word, he digs his fingers into my leg, and I shriek with laughter. He rolls to rest his full weight on top of me, pinning me to the backseat as I struggle against him. The onslaught at my hamstring is relentless, and his other hand works my ribs on the opposite side. “So distractible, Chloe Hayes!”
“I give!” I cry, literally; he’s tickled me enough to get my eyes watering. “You have my undivided attention!”
Jeff relents, laughing. He gives me a peck on the lips, then presses himself up again and lets me catch my breath.
I wipe at my wet eyes with the cuff of my hoodie, careful not to smear the light touch of eyeliner I applied earlier. I take in a deep breath, meeting Jeff’s gaze. He grins, and when combined with the smolder in his eyes, the effect is nothing short of panty-dropping. But I’m wearing a one-piece swimsuit under my hoodie and shorts; it’s going to take more than a look to get that thing to budge.
“Time is still a consideration, sir,” I remind him.
“Is it?” The hungry look lingers in his brown eyes, and he lowers his head, lips meeting the spot where my neck meets my shoulder. He walks his fingers up the back of my leg again, and I flinch at the prospect of another attempt at focusing my attention.
He chuckles, his breath rustling the fine hair at the back of my neck in a way that steals my breath. “No more of that, I promise,” he murmurs, and his hand slides up the leg of my shorts to meet the edge of my swimsuit. Or, where he would have met the edge of my swimsuit, if it hadn’t been so intent on wedging itself up my backside. I really shouldn't have put the thing on so early. We won’t be getting into the pool at the staff meeting until ten, and these polyester suits have zero stretch when dry.
Jeff’s hand moves up and down the length of my thigh, leaving goosebumps in its wake. I gasp, gripping him tighter, and he brings his hand to my hip, running his thumb over the sliver of skin exposed between my shorts’ waistband and the high leg of my swimsuit. His thumb nudges against the band at the bottom of the suit, and while it’s a far more pleasant means of getting my attention than the tickling, I’m reminded why I opted to suit up in the first place. Farewells can only get so frisky when one party is partially encased in a poly-nylon blend. I’m all for a little fun in the backseat, but we got in our “thorough” goodbyes last night, and this morning I knew I’d be too fixated on the time and my day ahead to properly appreciate another go. I feel a little guilty, but since the suit is literally biting me in the ass, karma seems to have already caught up.
Still… Jeff’s thumb make another pass over the bare skin, I arch into the contact with a sigh. So, so much nicer than tickling…
Jeff’s phone rings, and his thumb freezes. He groans against me, a low grumble that trails into a whine, and I bite in a laugh. Today, it would only be one of his parents, checking to make sure he’s on his way to the airport. I’d wager it’s his mom, Jenn, but she called before we even left the house, her shrill insistence that Jeff be on the road by 7:15 a repeat of what she made very clear at dinner last night.
The phone continues to ring, vibrating in the cupholder between the front seats. Jeff lets out another groan and releases me, giving an apologetic grimace as he sits up to reach the phone. He brings it to his ear, shaking his head. “Hey, Dad.”
I give him a tight smile. Jeff’s dad was a director but has spent the last few years mentoring at our university’s film school. There’s little doubt that the move to academia had more to do with a string of big budget flops than any desire to mold the next generation of American filmmakers, but he seems to enjoy it. Then again, I suspect Todd Keatings would be happy anywhere people were obligated to listen to him.
This summer, however, Todd is getting back behind the camera. He’s recruited a handful of his brightest acolytes to join the crew of his comeback project and is bringing Jeff along as an Assistant Director. The shoot begins with six weeks on location in Montana, which is where Jeff will be headed in—I prop myself onto my elbows and refer to my watch—
Oh, shit! I nudge Jeff with my knee, raising my wrist. “You’re supposed to leave in three minutes,” I say, keeping my voice low.
He wrinkles his nose and angles the phone away from his mouth. “It’s a Saturday. The traffic won’t be bad.”
I frown, and hear Todd’s protest over the receiver. The sharp tone sets me on edge, and I watch Jeff for his reaction.
He rolls his eyes, and I relax. “I’m just dropping Chloe off at work,” he says. “I’ll valet the car at LAX; I’ll be okay on time.” He listens to Todd for a moment and smiles, nodding at me. “Dad says hello––” he stops as Todd says something else “––and to use your feminine wiles to convince my ass to get on the road. Thanks, Dad,” he complains, and turns the phone my way.
“No worries,” I call, forcing a bright tone. “His ass and the rest of him will be on time.”
Jeff gets back to the phone. “See? All right, great. See you in a few hours. Love you, too. Bye!”
He ends the call, sliding the phone into his back pocket, and leans over me, mischief on his lips. “Now, where was I?” Reaching into the open front of my hoodie, he edges a finger along my collarbone toward my shoulder.
I clear my throat, pointing to my watch again. “I told him I’d get you out on time. You going to make a liar of me?”
“Sully your reputation with Todd? Not possible. He loves you,” he says, though he’s watching the progress of his finger, not my face.
Jeff’s finger gets back to the strap of my suit and hooks around it. He eases it from my shoulder, taking my hoodie down with it. The strap gets to the top of my bicep, but no further.
His eyes leave mine and his forehead wrinkles in sympathy. “Oh, babe,” he says, taking in what I can assume is the angry red line where the strap of my suit has been digging into my shoulder. “Are your suits always this tight?”
“Occupational hazard.” I sit up, reaching down to dislodge the seat of the suit from where it’s crept up again. “If a suit isn’t wet, it’s basically sausage casing.”
“Wow. That was probably the least sexy thing I’ve ever heard you say.” He tugs at my suit again. “But it still turned me on.”
“I’m a Lit Major. I have a way with words.”
“Oh, is that it?” He smiles again, and this time it’s the bright, poster-boy grin that melts me faster than the smoldering panty-dropper. I take in his dark eyes, his meticulously tousled sandy blond hair, and the slivers of slightly paler skin where the barber took up his sideburns the other day. This boy is the image of collegiate perfection.
My chest gives a painful squeeze, straining my smile.
You are so lucky, Chloe Hayes.
So lucky. I get it so often that when the words come to mind, it’s rarely my own voice in my head. As recently as Thursday it sludged out of the girl from my Food Science class, drunk and propped up against the wall at Jeff’s sendoff. Given that she brought it up while I was cleaning up the remains of her last meal, which she had also recently brought up, and quite violently, into the snake plant, I wasn’t exactly receptive. But she was right.
You are so lucky, Chloe Hayes.
Add a comment
Had me wanting more. Easy to get lost in Chloe's character. Looking forward to reading entire book. Good work, Vanessa!
Written on Tue, 23 May 2017 19:22:01 by Elizabeth Doubleday
Yayyyyyy! Finally a book! From glorious wonderful YOU!!! Wonderful! I want more!
Written on Tue, 23 May 2017 16:12:22 by Marie
Great work, Vanessa!!!
Written on Mon, 22 May 2017 22:42:48 by Tiefa