Sea Panther by Dawn Marie Hamilton – Christmas Eve Excerpt
A Crimson Storm Novel
A drunk banged into the table and broke the steamy spell holding Kimberly and Robert enthralled. She choked on a flat laugh. He cleared his throat.
The awkward moment thickened the air. Made it hard to breathe.
Kimberly twitched her nose. Now would be a good time to find a hidey-hole to crawl into. Perspiration glazed the skin between her breasts. God, her face must be the color of a ripe strawberry.
“I overheard you,” Robert said.
“Did you?” Just great.
“Aye.” His gaze dropped to the tabletop. He picked up a drink stirrer and fiddled with it.
Mesmerized, she watched large fingers nimbly tie the thin strip of plastic into a bowline knot. The naughty image of him using the same knot to tie a silk scarf around her wrists flashed in her mind. Where had that idea come from?
“What the rest of the crew has been trying hard not to tell you is I have a rare blood disease.” Her wayward thought splintered at the unemotional statement of fact.
She gazed into his eyes, searching for something empathetic to say.
“I have to take it easy until my doctors can find a donor with the right DNA makeup to help me. That is why I sleep a lot.”
“I’m sorry.” Oh, that sounded lame. Worse yet, she’d been thinking about sex. Kinky sex. My God, what had come over her lately? She’d never thought of having that kind of sex with Jason. Heat rose from toes to face. Thank God Robert couldn’t read minds. She reached for her mug, but it was empty.
“Dance with me?” He grasped her hand.
She nodded, and followed him onto the dance floor. “When they find a donor, will they be able to make you well?”
His eyes clouded. “I hope so.”
So did she.
He tucked her close, held her tight, smooth cheek against the rasp of whiskers, as they swayed with the other couples to the sweet melody of an Irish love song. She embraced hard muscle as she wrapped her arms around him.
How could a virile man like Robert be critically ill?
When the song ended, she pulled away, feeling awkward. He seemed uncomfortable too. They returned to the booth at the same time as the twins.
The moment Robert sat, his cell phone buzzed. He grabbed it from his belt. “Aye.” A dark expression hardened his features. “Do what you can. Tell Colin to be ready to motor out and set sail as soon as we arrive.”
Alarm pinched. Something bad must have happened.
He returned the phone to his belt and pulled her to her feet.
“What’s up?” Davey asked.
“We have trouble.” Robert pushed Kimberly through the crowd toward the back door. Davey and John followed. Once they were out in the night air, Robert answered Davey’s question, “It appears Miss Scot is wanted by the sheriff’s department.”
Kimberly wanted to explain, but he cut her off.
“Colin is stalling the deputies, which will buy us some time but not much. You two…” He directed an intense stare at the twins. “Go to the boat and make ready to cast off on Colin’s order. I will borrow a launch, and we will rendezvous offshore.”
John and Davey disappeared into the shadows.
“Come.” Robert tugged on her arm.
They ran down the back alley away from the Christmas gaiety. By the time they reached the outskirts of town, Kimberly panted for breath. She still hadn’t figured out how to explain the situation. “Captain, I—”
“Just answer one question. Did you break the law?”
“No.” She shook her head with force. “Definitely not.”
“Then you can explain later. Now, we need to hurry.” He led her behind a waterfront hotel. They jogged across the manicured lawn to a private dock with a Zodiac tied to it. Luck was with them. Keys dangled from the ignition.
The inflatable boat raced out into the dark night. When the town with its twinkling lights looked like a miniature holiday village, Robert idled the engine, and they drifted.
“I’m sorry. I’ve done nothing wrong.” Kimberly found it hard to believe the mess that had caught up with her.