He found the boat in late afternoon, on a February day as cold and dry as it gets in Maine. That’s how the adventure began for Mikael Larson, ex-Army, relatively new sheriff and unattached man in a small town. Starting uneventfully at home, by the time he walked into the station, the day turned weird on the way to unexplainable and a lifetime of love satisfied in death.
The blasted take-care-of-my-woman testosterone tugged at his insides again as he recalled how he’d removed her wet clothing and gave her a sponge bath, rinsing out the sticky and saltwater tangled hair. Repeatedly, he told himself to look upon her nakedness clinically. I’m doing this to clean her and make her warm and comfortable. Yeah, he kept telling himself that over and over. She was a delicate angel who set his blood on fire like the devil, and battered relentlessly at his resolve to remain professional.
For most of the night, he sat beside the bed staring at the mysterious woman in his house. In my bed. Before he took his place in the overstuffed chair, he sat on the edge of the mattress raking his eyes over the petite blonde woman. Using honed observation skills, he estimated she was in her early twenties, a baby compared to his thirty-six. He only caught a quick glimpse of her eyes, a chestnut brown with specks of gold. Her breathing slowed and he knew she fell into a deep sleep. The kiss, the intoxicating kiss she gave him before losing consciousness still burned his lips from earlier. Sweet, but salty.
Mikael had pushed his hands into the pockets of his jeans, anything to keep his fingers occupied and away from touching her again. This delicate flower had the softest skin of any woman he’d ever known. Just simple contact of her arms when she’d grabbed and kissed him made his mouth water and fingers itch to handle other parts of her. When he stripped her clothes and gave her a sponge bath, it took every bit of his control not to look too hard. Hard, hell that’s what he felt. He slapped himself mentally to get those thoughts out of his mind.
This was Valentine’s Day night and he blew off the idea as Cupid playing tricks on him. Tempting him to find love again. But, that’s all it was, a fantasy. Loving again was too soon. Not after the breakup with Paula. Maybe four months after a long-term relationship dissolved was more than enough time to get back to dating again for some men, but not him. The so-called love of his life didn’t want to follow him to the ends of the earth or even to Maine when he told her his plans to apply for the position. She refused to leave Alabama. “I have friends and family here. I’m not going to some town without a mall and freeze my ass off to boot.”
That was the whole crux of the matter in the end. She liked to shop, and shop and shop. The last he heard, she hooked up with a high-powered attorney in Birmingham who could give her everything she wanted. Enough lonely nights had been spent pining for Paula.
As he viewed the angel-on-earth with awe—high cheekbones, straight nose, heart-shaped face—his throat went dry. His ex-girlfriend never looked that beautiful sleeping, or any other woman he bedded, for that matter. Something appealing, seductive and outright helpless had him all twisted inside. Suppressed passion? Him or her? Both? He burned for her and if his growing erection was any indication of how the mere sight of the woman affected him, what would she do awake? Her mouth fell open slightly as she rolled to her side, and it took enormous amounts of self-control not to lean over and kiss her rosy full lips. Time seemed to slow and the image of him stripping her naked again ran through his mind.