God, he hated the beach on the weekends during the summer.
Cody Carruthers glanced down at the throngs of tourists that lay below him and grimaced. He hoped they were wearing sunscreen; the California sun was strongest during the month of August. A few red backs and chests told him that some of them were being careless.
Cody looked over again at the pretty, redheaded girl that had been lurking near the tower for the past thirty minutes. She was good-looking enough, he guessed. Nice rack, slim thighs. Cute face. He tried to decide if she was worth flirting with, then realized that not being able to decide was answer enough. He'd always thought of himself as a bisexual sort of guy, having slept his way through both sorority and fraternity houses during college, but it seemed like women were holding less and less appeal these days.
So was this job, if he was taking stock of his life. Twenty-four was getting a little old to be lifeguarding, but the pay during the summer was decent. He needed it to pay off some college loans, and his other job of waiting tables paid the rent. It was either hold down two jobs or move back in with his parents, and there really wasn't a choice to make there. At least he wasn't the oldest one on the lifeguarding crew; there were at least two guys nearing their thirties. Cody figured he had some time before he should probably quit.
He sighed and sat back under his umbrella, doing an automatic scan of the ocean without even being aware of it. His shoulder-length hair was tickling his neck and he wished he'd brought a hair band. A check of his watch showed another hour before his relief showed up, and he wondered vaguely if he'd have time to hop down and run to the snack bar for a soda. He was supposed to go right to his next job after this and doubted there'd be time to eat.
Cody was about to make a dash for the snack bar when he heard the faint cry. Leaping immediately to his feet, he tore off his sunglasses and shaded his eyes with his hand. Yup, there--about a hundred feet out, a swimmer thrashing around. Probably had a cramp. There was another head bobbing next to the swimmer, no doubt trying to help and getting yanked under for their trouble.
He grabbed his red life preserver and swung down from the tower, not bothering with the ladder. Cody was aware of beach-goers sitting up on their blankets and watching him as he dashed past, probably because he sprayed them with sand, but oh well. Those were the dangers of depositing yourself directly under the lifeguard stand.
Splashing into the shallows, Cody dove under the first wave he met and started the strong strokes that would bring him to the struggling swimmer as fast as possible. Tide was low so he got there quickly, immediately offering the life preserver to the man that was thrashing about in the water.
His wife or girlfriend or whoever was shrieking at Cody to "Save him! Help him!" and he closed his eyes in frustration.
"Ma'am," he said as politely as he could while trying to keep the drowning man from dragging him under in a state of panic, "why don't you start swimming toward shore?"
She ignored him, as they often did, and Cody made another mental note to look into a different second job. Gritting his teeth and ignoring her as best he could, he turned his full attention toward the thrashing man. "Sir!" he shouted. "Grab the life float, please!"
The man grabbed for Cody instead, desperate to hold on to something solid. Cody struggled for a minute before going under, hands pushing at the other man to let go before they both drowned. Cody prided himself on being a strong swimmer, but this guy outweighed him by at least thirty pounds.
Finally managing to surface, he sucked in a good lungful of air and got ready to get dragged under again. The man clutched at his head and the life preserver at the same time, pushing Cody down in an effort to wrap his arms around the red float.
At least it was quiet beneath the surface, the woman's shrieking muted and the splashing of the water just a low rumbling sound. Cody didn't usually like to open his eyes in the ocean because the saltwater turned them bloodshot, but when something brushed against his foot, he had to look to make sure there was no one else in the water who needed his help.
He couldn't possibly have seen what he thought he saw.