“I could have planned this a little better!” he shouts, over the barrage of rain pounding on the roof like drumsticks.

I could have pointed out that I knew it was going to rain.

Which I totally knew.

And ignored.

We’re both drenched. His hair’s plastered to his forehead and cool rivulets of water are snaking down my back. There are no lights in the boathouse; only two tiny windows and a dirty fly-specked skylight. Outside, all you can see is a gray wall of torrential water and, suddenly, a flicker of lightning.

“God’s flicking the light switch,” I say.

Cass shoves his hair out of his eyes and squints, assessing my craziness level. Which of course means I keep talking. “Grandpa Ben used to say that, when Nic and I were little and scared of storms and you know, hurricanes and stuff. Lightning was God flipping the switch and thunder was God bowling and . . .”

He’s now cocking his head, smiling at me bemusedly, as though I really am speaking a foreign language.

I trail off.

“Um,” I say. “Anyway. What are you thinking?”

“That I’ve gotten you wet and cold again.” Cass lifts the bottom of his T-shirt, squeezing water out of the hem, then pulls it entirely off. Sort of like detonating a weapon in the tiny, warm, confined space.

I shiver, glancing around the boathouse for something to dry us.

There are a few old tarpaulins piled in one corner, but they look mildewy and rough and smell musty and are probably full of earwigs and brown recluse spiders. There’s another flicker of lightning with a loud crack to follow, like a giant is splitting a huge stick over his knee. The rain seems to pause for an instant as though gathering strength, then an angry grumble of thunder rolls out.

“What d’you know?” Cass says, bending down and pulling something out from behind the Hoblitzells’ dinghy, named Miss Behavin’. He tosses it toward me. A pink towel, which lands neatly at my feet.

I pick it up. “You can’t get warm if you put the dry clothes on over wet ones,” I quote, wondering if he’ll remember say-ing that.

He grins at me. “As a wise man once said.”


“You’re questioning man? I was betting you’d go for wise.”

“Which would be more insulting?”

He picks up another towel and sets his fingers and thumb at the back of my neck, urging my head down, then starts rub-bing the towel through my hair to dry it.

He’s just drying my hair. With a towel. This should not feel so . . . amazing.

“Insulting each other, Gwen? Is that what we’re doing here?” His voice is low, so close to my ear.

I don’t know what we’re doing here.

Or maybe I do. He stops, dumps the towel to the ground, says gruffly, “I think you’re good.”

“Yes, totally.” I back up, pull my soaking T-shirt up over my bikini, drop it to the floor with a squelch. Cass freezes. The atmosphere inside the boathouse suddenly feels more electri-cally charged than the storm outside.

We’re only a few feet away from each other.

“You’ve got, um—” He makes this gesture with both thumbs under his eyes, which I can’t interpret.

Another flash of lightning. A really loud rumble of thunder.

For a second, since he’s not moving, I wonder if I should act terrified of storms just for an excuse to throw myself at him, then I can’t believe what a lame thought that is.

He reaches out his thumb, very slowly, and brushes it under one of my eyes. I close them both, and the thumb smoothes under the other one. Both of us take a deep breath in, as though we’re about to speak, but words fail me. It’s Cass who talks.

“Mascara . . . uh . . . here.” Another graze of his thumb.

I step back, rub impatiently under both eyes with the pink towel. “Makeup. Ugh, I’m terrible with it. I mean, I can do it, but just the basics. Forget the eyelash curler, which is like some sort of medieval torture device anyway and . . . Maybe I should just give up completely on trying to be a girl.”

“That would be a shame. Here, you’re getting it all over. Let me.”

“I should at least have gotten . . . the . . . water . . . proof kind.” Now he has set his fingers on either side of my face, tangling in my wet hair, with the pads of his thumbs still pressing over my cheekbones.

“Water would help . . . clean this up,” he says, his voice as quiet as mine. He nods toward the boathouse door. “I could go out and—”

Another crack of lightning, followed almost instantly by thunder. The storm is nearly directly overhead.

“Get struck by lightning? Uh, no,” I say. I don’t know what to do with my hands. I know what I want to do with them, but . . .

It’s so dim now in the gray light coming in through the windows that I can feel more than I can see. I see the outline of Cass’s head dip lower, then the faint rasp of stubble as his cheek brushes against mine, the roughness of the calluses on his hand as it slides over my hip.

Then he is absolutely still, motionless.

Very, very slowly, I lift my own hand, slide it up to rest on top of his and squeeze. His breath catches, but he still doesn’t move. There’s another flash of lightning. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. The way to count out a storm. Another beat of silence, then I turn my face to the side and catch his mouth with mine. And I am finally, finally kissing Cass Somers again.

The hand I’m not touching slides down my back, gathering me closer, and he leans back so he’s against the wall and I’m flat against him. His mouth is warm and tastes like rainwater and salty ocean both. I take my other hand and slip it into his hair, wet and slick, twist my fingers around a curl. He edges his legs apart, so I’m closer still. Then his fingers edge slowly up my back to where my bikini ties behind my neck, tracing the outline of the straps, nudging at the knot, slipping away again, tracing the line around to my front, then the dip of the bikini top, down, back up to the other side.

Slow. Tantalizing. I hear myself make this little sound of impatience in the back of my throat.

He moves his lips away from mine for a second, takes a deep breath, then hesitates.

Don’t think, Cass.

I rest one hand on his jaw, reach the other hand back, yank at the bow at the back of my neck. I double-knotted it and it holds fast. I hear that impatient noise again, but this time it’s him, not me. His hand covers mine, untangles, unknots.