Clue one that she wasn’t the only one affected. Clue two was currently poking her in the butt. She had one arm tight around his neck and the other hand fisted in his hair, holding on. That was all she could ever do when he got up in her space like this—hold on for dear life.

With one last indiscernible look, he dropped her back into her chair.

“We having fireworks or what?” she managed.

“Shit,” he said, and scrubbed a hand over his face. “Yeah. We’re having fireworks. More than I realized, apparently.”

With a smile, she picked up the phone. “Yes,” she said to the waiting customer. “We’re having a bash complete with fireworks. If you leave your information, I can make sure you’re in our system, and that way you’ll get our invite.”

Sam shook his head when she’d hung up. “Hope you can pull this off,” he said.

“I can.” With her eyes closed. She was good at organizing and planning. Really good. “What else do I do?” she asked.

Sam showed her a list of services and prices so that the next time someone called, she’d be prepared to book a trip. “Stick to what we’ve got listed here,” he said. “Don’t add anything new unless you check with one of us. If anyone needs something you can’t answer, Cole or Tanner are on radio.”

“But not you?”

“I don’t typically spend a lot of time in here,” he said.

“Because using your people skills is really hard on you?”

“Yeah,” he said drily, “and because if I’m not out on the water, then I’m in the shop working on the financials, or building a boat.” He stood up. “Another thing you’ll do is check out our rental equipment. Snorkel gear, paddleboards, kayaks. . .” He moved to a door behind her and opened it up to a back room.

Sam led her in there and flicked on the light. There were no windows here. The place was tight quarters and filled to the gills with gear and equipment on racks that looked well taken care of and perfectly organized. One wall was lined with a huge industrial sink.

“The cleaning tank,” he said. “We bleach the rental gear between uses to hotel standard code.”

She nodded but took in the dark, closed-in feel of the room. The claustrophobia was relatively new, as far as her neuroses went, and even as she thought it and remembered what had caused it, the air was sucked from her lungs. “You need a bigger hut,” she whispered.

“Undoubtedly,” he said, his back to her as he eyed the shelves. “You ever snorkel? Paddleboard? Kayak?”

She swallowed hard. “Not a lot of that where I came from.”

He laughed quietly, and she might have reveled in the deep, masculine sound, but she was starting to sweat. The walls were closing in on her; she could feel them. “Um, I need to. . .” She gestured to the door, and practically leapt back to the front room.

She thought she’d covered her tracks pretty well as she leaned casually against the front counter and managed to stay still while sucking in big gulps of air, but when she looked up, Sam was standing close watching her.

He didn’t try to touch her, for which she was grateful. Touching her in the midst of a burgeoning anxiety attack only made it worse. “Whew,” she said with a fake smile. “It’s hot back there, right?”

He walked to the glass-fronted fridge and pulled out a bottle of water, which he uncapped and then handed to her.

She gulped it down, grateful he was going to let her have her little freak-out. “I’ll learn all this stuff real fast,” she promised.

He met her gaze. “You have nothing to prove here, you know that, right?”

Uncomfortable with the straightforward, brutally honest words that conflicted with his oddly gentle voice, she just nodded. “I know.”

“But if the guys and I are out on the boat and you get a customer, you’ve got to be able to go in there,” he said quietly.

“I know. I get it. I’ll be fine.” She held her breath, thinking he was either going to fire her on the spot, or push for details.

He did neither. “All right,” he said, apparently trusting her. He could have no idea how much that meant to her, and it took her a moment to swallow the lump in her throat.

He didn’t miss that, either. He simply gave her the moment she needed, watching her closely but not interfering as she got her shit together. “Hang on a second,” he said, and vanished into the equipment room for a moment. He came back with a tote slung over one broad shoulder.

He held out a hand, which she took without even thinking, and let him lead her down to the dock. The boat was gone, but he opened the tote and spread out some gear. “Consider this lesson number one,” he said.

“For what?”


She laughed. “What does snorkeling have to do with real life?”

“Teaches you how to live in the here and now, for one thing.” He looked up at her in the early dawn light to see if she got him.

She got him.

“Plus you need to know how this stuff works,” he said. “If you stick, we’ll have more lessons.”

“I’m sticking.”

He didn’t respond to this. Instead, he stripped out of his ball cap and T-shirt, rendering her mute.

He slid into the water and showed her how to work the snorkel gear.

She nodded a lot, and said “uh-huh” a lot, and tried not to drool. When he was done, he effortlessly hoisted himself out of the water and back onto the dock. He shook like a big, shaggy dog, spraying her with water.