Tess remembered climbing up Shenandoah’s ladder and losing herself in deep pools of blue. She’d barely heard him when he’d offered her a hand. “Need some help?” He’d asked simply enough.
“Ah, um, no,” Tess had stuttered, never shifting her gaze. He had grinned and her fate was sealed.
“Can I give you a hand?”
Tess had wanted to say, “I’m sure you can,” but she’d played it straight, “I’m looking for the Captain.”
“He’s below with the cook and galley boy. If you have a delivery, you can leave it with me,” Hawk had said pointing at the bag Tess held in her left hand.
Clutching the sack to her chest with dramatic flair, Tess flirted. “And who might you be? How do I know you won’t eat his lunch?”
Hawk had extended his right hand, took her hand in his, smiled that amazing smile yet again, and slyly eyed the brown bag. “I’m sure there’s something good in that bag, but hardly worth my job. If you happen to bring lunch again, you could bring one for the Captain and another for the first mate. Name’s Hawk. And you are?”
“Tess.” His hand had felt perfect. Silly, really, to notice how nicely their hands fit together, yet Tess had become aware of the fit the instant their hands connected. And so had Hawk. Tess was sure of it. He had held her hand longer than necessary, longer than it took Tess to climb over the cap rail, longer than the handshake that followed, and longer than the moment when she’d planted both feet firmly on the deck.
“Do you live on the Island?” Hawk had asked, still holding her hand.
“Born and raised here.” She’d been amazed then that the words had come out, that she’d thought of anything intelligent to say when all she could feel and think about was their hands.
Their fingers touched, through the handshake and into something more. She hadn’t wanted to pull back. Even now, in the middle of the backyard, Tess felt her hand in his, the calluses on his palm from years of working the lines, the strength under the surface of his touch.
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