Emily tentatively stepped into the cove with her tennis shoes on. The first cool sensations against her skin made her gasp, but she determinedly sloshed on until she was knee deep.
Her spirits lifted as the water caressed her legs. Nearing the halfway point, she noticed the sea had crept above her knees, so she stopped to roll up her walking shorts. She took a few more steps as water stole farther up her thighs, then found herself simply standing there. The vague white bones of the half-built cottage caught her eye. It perched above her on the bluff, so silent, as though waiting to be turned into something lovely and valued.
"Like me?" she asked the night.
"I never said I didn't like you, sweetheart."
She was so startled by the deep, male voice coming from out of nowhere, she staggered. Unaccustomed to standing on sandy sea-bottoms, especially encumbered by shoes, she lost her balance, and with a startled cry, tumbled backward. She sputtered and flailed, trying to right herself.
She felt a hand at her back, lifting her. As she gagged and choked, the hand became an arm, supporting her shoulders until she could get her knees under her.
"Are you okay?" He was very near. His thigh brushed hers, so she knew he was either crouching, or on his knees.
Coughing into her hand, she peered sideways at him. Her eyes stung and she wiped at them. "You scared--me--to death!" she rasped.
"I'm sorry." He grinned at her, the dim moonlight reflecting white teeth and a dreadful lack of remorse. His wide shoulders and lightly furred chest gleamed; the lower portion of his body was masked at belly-level by rippling water. "I thought you saw me, since you were talking to me."
"I wasn't talking to you!" She winced, wishing she hadn't blurted that. She didn't want to explain her melancholy state of mind to this grinning hyena.
"Oh? Sorry." An eyebrow rose. "Can you stand up?" His grin refreshed itself. "It seems like that's all I say to you."
She was affronted. "Are you suggesting I'm clumsy? You're the one booby-trapping my jogging path and leaping out at me in the dark like a bogeyman."
He chuckled. "I've been busy, today, haven't I."
She knew she was overreacting, but the residue of this morning's awful meeting still clung to her heart, making her defensive. Even in such dim light he was devilishly handsome. She didn't like to admit it, but he affected her--oddly. "Why are you here, anyway?" she demanded. "Don't you have a swimming pool?"
He removed his arm from around her shoulders and backed away slightly, but didn't rise. "Yes."
"Well--well, why are you out here in the dark?"
"Because, I'm naked."
She'd opened her mouth to retort, thinking he was going to say something flip, like 'I'm a loner,' or 'I hate crowds.' But 'I'm naked,' hadn't occurred to her. Her lips just froze in a horrified 'oh.'
From the book GETTING OVER HARRY, by Renee
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 1997 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA), March 1997, ISBN: 0-373-03448-2
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