Christian turned his attention away from Luanne and stared at the couple in the water. Sterling was feeling up his girlfriend, having managed to remove her bikini, and Christian frowned, disappointed they weren't closer so he could get a better look. Laila was beautiful by many standards, though far too skinny for Christian's taste. He still wouldn't mind getting a peak at her topless. But he'd rather see her friend naked. Piper was gorgeous and Christian had wanted her from the very moment he laid eyes on her. He knew she was dating Sterling's brother and the idea of stealing her away from him hadn't even crossed his mind. He didn't want to date Piper - he just wanted to sleep with her. But he knew that if he wanted to keep Luanne, he would have to give up that option.
He turned back to the redhead sitting beside him. She was busy applying sunscreen to her arms, her complexion in no way suited for the sun. Christian smiled as he watched her. Luanne really had no idea what she was doing when it came to dating. She would say the most ridiculous things in an effort to amuse Christian and he could see right through all of her flirting. But he knew she was smart, really smart and had been raised well. A debutante from the southern states no doubt had tons of Daddy's money coming her way as well.
"Can I get your back for you?" Christian asked, holding out his hand for the bottle of lotion.
Luanne raised her eyes and batted her lashes. "Yes, thank you."
He winked at her, knowing she would like it, and then smiled as he was rewarded with a blush rising to her cheeks. She turned around and straightened her back, waiting for him to begin. Christian had been out with Luanne a few times, a few trial runs before he made up his mind. He knew that with his brother's upcoming nuptials, a marriage would be expected from him in the near future. His parents had already been throwing numerous girls in his path, all with the right upbringing of course, but they were all from London and would undoubtedly want to stay there to raise their family.
Christian wanted out of the city, out of the country. He was tired of London girls and longed for the excitement of a new adventure. Girls in America would no doubt fall for him as soon as he spoke to them, laying his accent on as thick as he could. But his parents would finance a move there without a valid reason. Finding a job in the States wasn't easy these days, but finding a wife could be. Luanne would no doubt be oblivious to his indiscretions. She was so head over heels for him already, he doubted he could do anything wrong in her eyes. And being attached to the girl wouldn't be a burden at all. She was nice to look at and certainly as pure as she could get, something his parents would no doubt pick up on and approve of.
Christian finished rubbing the lotion into Luanne's back and leaned into her, reaching around her shoulder to hand the bottle back, his lips close to her ear.
"You know, Luanne," he nearly whispered, watching as her body tensed from the close contact. "I'm glad we have a spare moment alone because there is something I have wanted to do for quite some time."
"There is?" She sounded scared and Christian smiled.
"There is," he confirmed and sat down next to her, his arm draping over her shoulder. "I think you know how I feel about you, how much I respect and admire you."
Luanne's eyes dropped and he saw a smile come to her lips. This was almost too easy.
"I've grown quite fond of you, you do realize that?"
"I…I like you too, Christian," Luanne murmured, her confident act now completely shot to hell.
Christian took her face in his hand and lifted her chin, leaning in so she would be able to feel his breath on her skin. "I was hoping you would say that," he said, smiling at her.
She smiled back and then closed her eyes, puckering her lips ever so slightly. Christian had to hold back a laugh as he closed the distance between them. Life with Luanne would never be dull, of that he was certain. He kissed her lips lightly at first and waited for her to relax before opening her mouth with his. She wasn't an experienced kisser but he didn't mind. She would get better with practice and for the time being he wouldn't have to put much effort into impressing her. He could save it for someone else.
They pulled apart and Christian was pleased to see how flustered Luanne had become. She was blushing all over, her eyes refusing to meet his. He reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, allowing her a moment to compose herself but their silence was cruelly interrupted by a shrill voice.
"Oh. My. God! Did we just witness the first kiss?"
Christian looked up and saw Piper and Tamlyn smiling down at them. He couldn't stand Tamlyn and had very nearly kicked her out of the car on the drive down. Her voice and her endless chatter had driven him near insane and he couldn't figure out why the girl had even been invited. But he glared at her for only a second before turning his attention back to Luanne. She was blushing from head to toe and looking at Piper with a giddy sense of achievement.
"I thought you two were trying to find dates for tonight," Christian said, changing the subject for his and Luanne's benefit.
"Done and done!" Tamlyn announced. "It was way too easy. Piper is a great wingman."
The brunette only rolled her eyes and smiled, knowing very well that Tamlyn hadn't needed her to secure a date for the evening.
"Hey, guys," they all heard Laila's voice calling from a few feet away. "I'm starting to burn so I think I'm going to head back to the house. Are we all going to dinner tonight?"
"I'm not!" Tamlyn nearly screamed. "I have a date with Cédric!"
"I'm taking Luanne out," Christian said softly, looking at Luanne's still reddened face. "Just the two of us."
Laila frowned. "Piper?"
Her friend shrugged her shoulders. "I'm not doing anything."
"Good! So I'll see you later then?"
"Actually, I think I'll walk back with you," Piper decided, hoping they could find a drug store along the way and she could buy something to calm her stomach.
"I'll go too," Luanne said, quickly standing up and joining her friends. "I guess I have to go get ready."
Tamlyn let out an exaggerated sigh. "Well, I'm not staying here by myself."
"Can you girls find your way back?" Sterling asked, trusting Piper to know but doubting the other girls had paid attention.
"We'll be okay," Laila promised him, kissing him on the cheek and then wrapping her sarong around her torso.
Sterling waited until the girls had disappeared onto the streets of Nice and then sat down next to Christian who was pushing the rocky sand around with his feet. He had spent many afternoons with Christian, playing soccer, or football as he had been instructed to call it, and his new friend seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He had introduced Sterling to a few of his friends, though Christian had admitted that he no longer had much contact with any of the guys he grew up with. They were all too snobbish for Christian.
"You and Laila going to get married, then?" Christian asked, rather out of the blue.
Sterling smiled and picked up a handful of pebbles. "Someday."
"Have you asked her yet? She's got a ring on her finger, that's the only reason I'm curious."
"I've asked her. Many times."
Christian laughed. "She's keeping you in suspense, is she?"
"No, she'll marry me. She just wants to wait until we've graduated."
"And you don't? Isn't it usually the girl who's pushing to get married?"
Sterling laughed. "I guess. But we've been together for three years now and I'm just ready, you know?"
"Not really," Christian laughed.
Sterling laughed as well, knowing his reasoning was lost on Christian. "What about you and Luanne? Do you like her?"
Christian leaned back onto his elbows and stared out at the ocean. "Luanne's a great girl. She's…well, she's different, isn't she?"
"That's one way of putting it." Sterling watched as Christian's eyes followed a group of girls walking down the beach.
"Honestly, her innocence really intimidates me. I don't want to scare her off before…well, before she really gets to know me."
"It takes a lot to deter Luanne."
Christian smiled. "That's good to hear. I think that Luanne is exactly what I need right now."
Sterling tried not to frown but couldn't help it. "Why is that?" Something about the way Christian was speaking about Luanne didn't sit right with him.
"I've just been chasing after girls for far too long. Being in a relationship with someone like Luanne should help me move past all that nonsense. You know, help me settle down."
"Well you better figure out if you're ready for a relationship before you go stringing her along." Sterling hadn't meant to sound so rude, but Luanne was one of Laila's best friends and he felt protective over the girl.
But Christian didn't seem to take offense. "Don't worry," he laughed. "I have absolutely no intention of hurting her. I care about her too much."
"I'm glad to hear it," Sterling said, trying to keep his voice light.
"Way too much," Christian said slowly, his gaze following another group of girls, a hungry look in his eyes.
Sterling stared at his friend for a moment before returning his attention to the rocky beach. Christian's interest in Luanne seemed legitimate, his attraction toward her hadn't wavered since they were first introduced. But his intentions were still foggy and Sterling didn't want Luanne to rush into anything before she had a clear commitment from this guy. Sterling knew just how easy it was to use girls and then throw them aside as if nothing had happened. His brother had been guilty of it on too many occasions. Even Sterling had been guilty of it before meeting Laila. Luanne wouldn't understand that. She wouldn't be able to get over it as easily as most. But Christian had promised not to hurt her, not that Sterling could force him to live up to that promise, but why shouldn't he believe him?
Sterling lay back on his towel, balling up his t-shirt and putting it under his head. He knew he shouldn't worry about Luanne and Christian. The guy was his friend, after all, and he should trust him. He closed his eyes against the bright sun and tried to force the doubt from his mind. His thoughts returned to Laila and he smiled as he pictured how she and the girls would be interrogating Luanne on their walk back to the house.