When Ayzlin James met Noah Peters, they were both on the rebound. She had been reeling for months from three losses within just a few short months of each other, and he was staring the loss of his girlfriend in the face, waiting for either himself or his girlfriend to cross the line. Ayzlin had come to California to visit her older brother Wes, who had joined the Marine Corps a few years before after failing out of college. She went knowing full-well what his intentions were; Wes wanted to get her over David. The way Wes introduced Noah at the airport when they picked her up immediately alerted Ayzlin that Noah had been chosen by Wes as the lucky guy. Having gotten started with a mini bottle of Jack Daniels on the plane, Ayzlin welcomed the tequila shots waiting for her back at the hotel where more of Wes's friends and his friends' friends were waiting. There were only a couple other girls in the room, and they seemed to be preoccupied with getting the attentions of the men more than they were in camaraderie with Ayzlin. Just as Wes was taking one of those girls back to his own hotel room, someone mentioned the beach, and Ayzlin was like a child at Christmas begging him to take her. In the end, Noah, the only half-sober person in the room, volunteered to take her. That was how she ended up alone with him for the first time.
"Hey man," Wes yelled after them. "She better come back no more fucked up than she already is. Remember that's my baby sister."
Noah nodded to his friend and shut the door behind him. They started off mostly silent. Ayzlin didn't know what to say, and Noah was wondering if maybe she was too drunk to be making the trip. She faltered only a little stepping on to the sidewalk though, so he made sure he stayed on the street side and was ready with a hand to balance her whenever she got a little tipsy. It didn't take Ayzlin long before she just couldn't stand it anymore.
"So, you've been really quiet tonight and you've had that look like you've got something on your mind since you picked me up from the airport. I'm a good listener," she offered. She watched Noah bite his bottom lip for a few seconds, apparently debating on how much he wanted to share with her. Finally he nodded and began to talk.
"Her name is Mandy. We've been together for a little while, and I love her but I don't know if she's ready to be a military girlfriend. Or if she'll ever be, really." He added the last part as an afterthought that had really just occurred to him at that moment. Ayzlin nodded, and Noah helped balance her when they hit the sand, so she could remove her shoes. He offered his elbow to keep her steady while they walked along the shoreline, the chilly waters washing over her feet every time the waves washed up to the sand.
"What does she say about it?" Ayzlin bent to pick up a pretty seashell and placed it in her pocket. Noah took the chance to produce the beer he had placed in his jacket pocket and snap it open, then held it in his free hand as they continued their walk.
"She says it's just going to take some getting used to. I've been a Marine for almost two years now, and we've been seeing each other off and on for most of that time, so you'd think she would have gotten used to it by now."
Ayzlin nodded. "I know it takes a certain kind of woman. My grandfather was a Navy man. I remember my grandmother telling me all kinds of stories when I was younger about how much she missed him when he was at sea. She never thought twice though."
"Exactly," Noah said, taking another swig of his beer. "I don't want Mandy to think twice about anything. I just want her to be happy and secure in her decision."
"Sounds like you really love her," Ayzlin sighed, taking a seat in the sand. Noah followed suit and shrugged.
"Here's the thing," he started. "It's one of those 'I love her, but am I in love with her' situations. Mandy and I have known each other since we were kids, and I would never want to see her hurt. I especially don't want to be the one to hurt her."
"It's hard to break off from someone you care about so much, but if it's what's best, then you have to, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm talking to you about this. Most of the guys back in that hotel room don't even know what's really going on, only that Mandy and I are having problems. None of them know that part about not being in love with her."
"It's okay, I won't say anything. I'm drunk anyway," Ayzlin laughed. Noah laughed with her, and the mood lightened a little bit. "I love the beach."
"Does your boyfriend ever take you?"
Ayzlin gave a half-smile. "There are no beaches where I live, and I broke up with my boyfriend a few months back."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bring it up," Noah apologized. The moonlight caught the glaze of tears that suddenly covered Ayzlin's eyes, and he felt horrible.
She shook her head and swiped at a stray tear. "It's all right. It was just a rough time."
"I'm a good listener, too," Noah offered, seriously.
What can it hurt. I'm drunk anyway, Ayzlin thought to herself. "David and I were high school sweethearts. We were together for about six years. Eight months ago, we found out I was pregnant. Things were still good then, and we were really excited. Then my grandfather, who helped my dad raise me and Wes because my mom was never around, got very sick. He died two months after I found out I was pregnant, and when I found out, it more or less caused a miscarriage, from the stress and everything. Things with me and David were never the same after that. He thought I was getting weak, emotionally, and I thought he was never there for me enough. I lost my grandfather, my baby, and my boyfriend of six years, all in three months time. So, here I am now, visiting Wes and trying to stay away from any of his matchmaking schemes."
At this, Noah laughed again. "He just wants you to be happy, Ayzlin. He wants you to find a good man. He told me just that you were still getting over your ex, the other day when he was telling us all about you coming out. You deserve so much better."
Ayzlin let out a deep breath, and nodded. The waves weren't coming in so high now, and the ocean was more peaceful. The alcohol did its job in taking away her inhibitions, and she subconsciously leaned her head on Noah's shoulder. He instinctively put an arm around her, feeling encouraged for some reason that she fit so neatly in the space, but then he wanted to hold her closer. He had a fleeting thought this was the beer kicking in, but then remembered what Ayzlin said about her being drunk as well. He brought her into his lap and wrapped both arms around her middle, while she leaned back against him and sighed contentedly.
"I think this is what Wes was hoping for," Ayzlin smiled up at him. Noah released one arm from around her long enough to brush a hand across her cheek and smiled in agreement. Her eyes were inviting yet unsure, so he hesitated in his next move. The hesitation was just long enough to break the moment. Ayzlin looked away, then helped herself up off the shoreline. She dusted off the seat of her pants and held out a hand to help him up. Noah wasn't missing his chance this time; when he was fully standing, he kept a hold of her hand and pulled her into him, pressing his lips to hers.
Ayzlin felt fireworks go off in her stomach. Maybe it was the liquor, maybe it was the spontaneity of everything; whatever it was, she knew she could very easily kiss Noah for the rest of her life if she had to do it. The way he held her while they kissed made her want to find this Mandy girl and slap her for being stupid enough to balk at the chance of being with a guy like Noah. Of course, that would've ended the kiss and that was far from what she wanted.
Noah did eventually pull back, although he still held on to her hand, all the way back to the hotel. When they got to the front door, Noah stopped her. Ayzlin wasn't sure what he was stopping for but was very aware of the nervous look he was showing.
"Look, Ayzlin, I don't want to assume where this is going, but there are going to be a lot of people left in that room and-"
Ayzlin silenced him with a kiss. "Let's get our own room."
Once they were settled into a room that they reserved for the next couple of nights Ayzlin would be there, Noah wasted no time in bringing her back into his arms. His lips found hers in a slightly chaste kiss, and then let her go, choosing to sit on the bed for what he had to say next.
"I've really enjoyed spending time with you tonight and I know we talked about where this is going and everything. I just want to make sure you know up front that I can't make any kind of commitment to you, Ayzlin. With everything going on with Mandy, it's just not fair to either of you. That's not to say I'm not attracted to you; the truth is if Mandy weren't in the picture, well, things would be very different for us."
Ayzlin smiled and kissed him again. "I understand, Noah. We both need a no-strings-attached weekend, and it's presenting itself. So there you go. No hard feelings."
Noah grinned as he took her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers.
After that first night together, Ayzlin only wanted to spend the weekend as if they would never be apart. Wes and Caitlin, the girl he had snuck off with the night before, joined Noah and Ayzlin around San Diego. They spent the day enjoying a sober visit to the beach, laying in the sun and playing in the water. Noah left momentarily to find them some bottled waters, and Wes took that chance to get a moment alone with his sister.
"Things are going well with Noah?" Wes asked.
"Yeah, we're getting along all right," Ayzlin smiled. "Which I know is what you wanted."
Wes shrugged. "I just wanted you to relax a little. As long as the two of you are being careful."
"We had a good talk last night. He knows about David - everything about David - and I know about him and Mandy. This is a no strings attached weekend, Wes."
"Just want I want to hear from my baby sister." Wes scrunched up his face, but then laughed. "I'm glad you're blowing off some steam. Caitlin wanted to go to a club and do a little dancing tonight. You guys want to join?"
"Dancing with Ayzlin? That may be more than I can handle," Noah teased, coming back with four bottled waters. He handed them out and then took a swig of his. "What do you think, Ayzlin? You going to put me to the test?"
"Didn't I already do that last night"? she countered with a flirty smile.
"Oh come on, I don't want to hear that!" Wes exclaimed. "Caitlin, bail me out here. You want to take a walk?"
Caitlin agreed, and she and Wes disappeared down the shoreline. Ayzlin leaned back on her elbows, watching other people play in the water.
"It's so beautiful out here," she breathed. "I'd love to live here."
"Move out here then," Noah told her. "I'll call it quits with Mandy and you can come live with me."
"Yeah, right," Ayzlin scoffed. "What happened to this being just for the weekend?"
Noah shrugged. "Hey, so are you down for the club tonight?"
"Of course." Ayzlin smiled, thinking of the one dress she had packed; she knew Noah would love it.
"What are you thinking?" Noah asked, but Ayzlin shook her head, refusing to tell. He leaned in closer, threatening to tickle her if she didn't spill, but she still refused. He carried through on his threat until she was laying under him and kissed her soundly.
Dancing that night was amazing. Just as Ayzlin had hoped, Noah couldn't stop commenting on the black linen dress she had worn that night. They both kept it to just one alcoholic drink at the club and returned to the hotel completely sober. Ayzlin put on her pajamas and snuggled up to Noah. He stroked her hair and stared at her in the dark.
"I can't believe this is over tomorrow," he whispered.
Ayzlin shook her head. "Don't make this more difficult than it already is, Noah. This has been one of the best weekends of my life. I'd live it forever if I could."
"So would I." Noah lifted her chin and met his lips to hers, passion for her overcoming him all over again.
Ayzlin's alarm went off before she was ready the next morning, but she had to get up and get ready for her flight home. She got up and showered and was dressed before Noah even thought about getting out of bed. Her duffel bag was set on the bed and she was packing away her toothbrush and other toiletries when he finally sat up, leaning against the headboard.
"You're so beautiful," he told her. He wasn't saying it as a line or to charm her; he was stating what he saw as fact. Ayzlin felt her cheeks warm as she shook her head.
"My hair is a wet mess right now, and I don't even have any make-up on. I'm sure I've got bags under my eyes from a lack of sleep this weekend."
Noah crawled towards her and pulled her onto the bed with him. "You are beautiful, Ayzlin. Don't ever think otherwise or let anyone convince you that you're not. Promise me that you'll never settle."
She nodded. "All right. I will promise you that I'll never settle, if you'll promise me the same. This Mandy girl, whoever she is, will miss out on a lot if she lets you go. And I know that after not even two days."
"I promise," he told her. Ayzlin gave him a peck on the cheek and then slid off the bed to finish her packed.
"I've got to meet Wes in the lobby in a few minutes. He's taking me to the airport."
"Do you want me to go?" Noah offered.
Ayzlin thought it over for a moment. "No, I think saying goodbye here would be better. This is a little more difficult than I thought it would be."
Noah accepted her answer and wrapped her in his arms. "You completely blew me away this weekend, Ayzlin. I hope nothing but the best for you."
"You too, Noah. Thanks for," she shrugged, "everything."
Noah kissed her one last time and then watched her walk out of the hotel room, wishing he had the courage to go after her and convince her that maybe this could work beyond just one weekend.