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She didn’t hear footsteps approach until a voice she recognized shattered her contentment.
“Rex told me you were working on your grandpa’s boat. Thought I’d offer a hand.”
Her eyes flew open, surprised to find Travis Winston staring lazily at her from the dock. He was casually dressed in shorts and a blue polo shirt that made him look almost normal.
She straightened up on the seat and frowned her annoyance. “So what’s the catch? In return for your help you’ll escort me to the courthouse on Monday to register to vote.”
He grinned. “Nah. That’s a dead issue. I owe Gran-Donna a lot for everything’s she’s done. But I see I’m intruding.”
He turned to leave and she surprised herself by saying, “It’s been a long time since I took the boat out—years in fact. I could use some guidance. Rex said he’s kept her tuned, but I’m not sure she’ll start.”
Travis came closer and offered her his hand. She rose, glad that sunglasses shielded her against his steady gaze. Already, she was regretting her impulse to spend time with this man she didn’t trust.
“The key please,” he said, sensing her hesitation.
The engine roared to life. “Okay, take the wheel and I’ll help you guide the boat out,” he said, towering behind her. She kept herself rigid, and concentrated on steering the boat away from the dock.
“You’re doing great,” he whispered against her ear.
She dared not turn around.
“Head west,” he said. “There’s a cove I want to show you.”
The boat plowed through the water for about twenty minutes before he said, “We’re almost there.”
They pulled into a cove and she was surprised to see a sandy beach. “I don’t remember this being here,” she said.
“I had sand trucked in,” he replied.
She looked around at the thick forested area. “More like flown in.”
“It took some planning. We used wagons to haul sand from the road down to the cove. I love it here and thought it should have a beach.”
“How come it’s not crowded?”
“Because I made a half dozen more on this side of the lake. Plenty of room for everyone.”
“And it keeps people coming back to the marina. Your family’s marina.”
She expected him to retort. Instead he said simply, “I love the water and where there’s water there should be beaches.” He shrugged. “Boaters love the water, but they like to play too. Come on, there’s another reason I brought you here.”
“Oh,” Leslie said.
They beached the boat and he took her hand leading her away from the cleared area to a trail through the woods. They came to a grassy opening next to a swampy spot with clumps of reeds spreading into the lake. A section had been roped off and buoys warned boats not to come close.
“What’s this?” Leslie asked.
“A swan’s nest. And there are eggs. I check on them periodically to see if they’ve hatched. Be careful. There’s nothing worse than getting bit by an angry swan.”
She stared at him, but he nodded ahead.
Pulling back some reeds they looked down at a nest with six white eggs.
“Oh,” Leslie said. “They’re beautiful.”
Just then a swan swam into view. “Time to go,” Travis said.
He took her hand and they ran a safe distance.
Leslie smiled up at him. “I’ve never seen swan eggs before.”
“You should do that more often.”
He lifted her chin. “Smile.”
They held each other’s gaze. For a moment she thought he would kiss her, and she stiffened her resistance.
He dropped his gaze and said, “Our adventure isn’t over yet.”
She raised an eyebrow.
They pushed the boat away from the beach and Travis headed for trees bordering the water’s edge in the direction of the marina. After a few hundred yards, she saw it. The sturdy branch of a large oak tree hovering over the water, a thick rope dangling below it. Travis grabbed hold of the rope and landed the boat next to the bank.
“Okay,” he said, emptying his pockets of keys, cellphone and wallet. He removed his polo shirt leaving him bare-chested. “We’re going to swing out on this rope and drop into the lake.”
“No way,” Leslie said, shaking her head. “That’s for kids.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I don’t have a swimsuit.”
“It’s warm. Your clothes will dry in no time.”
“This is lake water. It’s not yet summer. It’ll be freezing.”
“Refreshing,” Travis protested.
Leslie looked at him. His eyes danced with amusement and challenge. She could see how people gravitated to him. He had the charisma it took to be a politician.
“We’ll swing out together. I know the exact spot to drop into the water,” he said.
“You’ve done this before?”
“Lots of times.”
“I can’t imagine someone who cruises the lake in a yacht swinging into the water from a rope.”
He moved closer. “There’s lots of things you don’t know about me.”
Like supporting a casino and keeping that fact hidden from voters, Leslie thought. Even knowing this, his nearness sent forbidden thoughts through her mind. As a doctor she understood she was experiencing a biological instinct. A dip in cold water would numb her weakness, and stifle any impulsive urges.
“Let’s do it,” she said.
He let his surprise show, then grinned.
They climbed up on the bank. Travis grabbed the rope above her head and put one arm around her waist. “Ready?”
She nodded, already knowing this was a mistake. His closeness aroused her. She could feel every part of him, his warm breath against her neck that triggered thoughts of hot trailing kisses. The hint of cologne mixed with sweat that teased her senses. She tensed to avoid melting against him. He grinned down at her. He was enjoying her discomfort.
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