I was on my fifth length of front crawl when I realised there were three other swimmers preparing too. On the wall at the other side, two Ridgeway brothers were sitting dipping their goggles ready to put them on. Caleb was standing above me on the edge of the pool, his lips pulled up into the smallest of smiles.
"I thought you were never going to surface."
He was talking to me. My ears were blocked because his words sounded muffled. Shaking my head to clear the fog of confusion, I remembered to breathe. My heart sped up rather than settled down.
His smile grew a little wider, as I reached for the wall to steady myself. But when he sat, and stretched his hand closer to me every system in my body, supposed to work on the autopilot, malfunctioned.
I moved my hand, as a reflex reaction. I thought he was offering to help me climb from the water. But it faltered to a stop in the space which stretched between us. He wasn't offering to help. His face was solemn. This was an invitation into his life. He scanned my features intently.
"Jess?" His hand didn't waver, as he waited.
I clenched my fingers into tight fists beneath the surface of the water, tilted my head so I could see him better. This had been planned. Alex and Raphael were official observers, their faces were lined with concern. Caleb still waited.
In the minute details: the gentlest of smiles, the narrowed eyelid and the arch of eyebrow were glimmers of his hope and trust, and endless patience.
Raising my hand, I kept my eyes focussed on his as our palms met. The warmth between us grew. My hand burned hotter than my red-stained cheeks. A pull somewhere deep inside me demanded I left my hand in his, but time had passed and I had to break the connection.
As I began to draw back Caleb turned his hand over so my palm slid slowly over his. Fingertips curled, clung, tried to maintain the contact. His smile of pleasure shone in a face which already glittered with the pool's reflected light. When my nail scraped beyond his I lowered my hand into the water, surprised it didn't bubble, hiss and sizzle.
Caleb slid down the wall beside me but it wasn't his nearness which made me realise we had just bridged some serious divide.
I can't wait to read all the Love at First Sight passages.
Happy Saint Valentine's Day - my wedding anniversary <3