Hill Country Hold Up

Steve finished a couple of hitches around a post and turned his back on the Jet Ski. “Okay, I’m ready.”

     “So am I.”

     “Oh no you’re not,” he shouted sternly, placing his fists on his hips. “You’re staying here.”

     “This is our only way out.”

     “It’s too dangerous. I couldn’t get to the life vests. The rain’s coming down so hard I can’t see twenty feet in front of me. The evacuation point will have rescue boats. I’ll come back for you after I’ve gotten across to the south side.”

     “No.” She shook her head, running a hand across her eyes only to have the rain replace the water as fast as she’d removed it. “We go together.”

     “Don’t be so dang stubborn.” Creases between his eyes emphasized how much he believed he was right.

     “Me?” All the fright she’d experienced in the past twenty-four hours surfaced faster than she could control. Words tumbled from her heart that she’d wanted to say for almost four years. “You are the biggest, most stubborn, hardheaded, jackass of a man I’ve ever met.”

     “Oh yeah? Well, this hard head of mine might just survive getting across ten miles of lake on my own. This Jet Ski is twelve years old. It might just be big enough for my stubborn ass, but there’s no damn way two of us can make it in this weather. Hell, it’s probably going to run out of gas.”

     “You can’t leave me behind.”

     “Yes, I can. It’s too dangerous. Now hand over my pack.”

     Although she’d experienced it only once, Jane knew that tough look he threw her way. He’d used the same one when he’d told her she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for Johns Hopkins. But she wouldn’t let him make decisions for her.

     Not again.

     Never taking her eyes from Steve’s, she slipped one arm through a strap, then the other.

     “Aw, hell,” he moaned as lightning splintered across the sky. The storm wasn’t backing off. It was getting worse. He stomped barefoot across the porch and angrily grabbed her shoulders. “Dammit, Jane, you aren’t a strong enough swimmer for this.”

     “I’m going. Rory’s depending on me.” Stubborn? He only thought he’d seen stubborn before. Jutting her chin out, she gritted her teeth and prepared to fight him if necessary. He could stay here. She’d take the Jet Ski. Her mind raced to a far mental shelf where she stored a self-defense book.

     Pictures flooded her mind. Steve’s tall lanky frame would topple if she had the right move, but she didn’t want to hurt him on the slick porch.

     Then he freed her, pushed his hair out of his eyes and released a long sigh. “Damn it to hell. Get on.”

     Not waiting for a second invitation, she grabbed the sweatpants around her waist, inching the material from under her feet, then used the porch rail to steady herself on the wet concrete steps that led to the Jet Ski. She waited as Steve untied the rope from the post, wrapped some around his hand and followed her.

     Standing on the steps with the lake rising around their calves, Steve tipped her chin to face him. The wind whipped the rain in stinging pelts against her skin, but she could barely feel it after his warm touch.

     He wrapped and knotted the end of the rope around her waist. “I won’t lose you, Janie.”

     His lips brushed hers firmly and much too briefly to be considered exciting. Yet all the sensations she’d experienced four years ago rushed back, making her lightheaded.

     Maybe it was just a lack of sleep.

     The other end of the rope now hung around his own waist. He pushed the Jet Ski into the water, straddled it, and waited for her to climb on behind.

     Both soaked to the skin, they pushed away from shore, Steve mumbling about her hardheadedness all the while.

     “I wish I’d been more stubborn and kept you from pushing me away four years ago,” she whispered softly into the back of his shirt.

     He couldn’t have heard her. The roar of the Jet Ski coming to life combined with the thunder and water crashing the muck against the porch surely covered her mumbling. But his hand squeezed her thigh and pulled her closer to him on the seat. He drew her arms tighter around his broad chest before he gunned the gas and headed into the gray, murky horizon.

     Jane had no choice but to trust him. She had to get to San Antonio and find their son.

 

Copyright © 2003-2010 Angela Platt, Author

Copyright © 2010 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

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