Someone yelled, “Fire!”
Scooter shouted to untie the boats. Josie found the rope on her end while he did the same on his. As the knot slipped loose, Scooter grabbed her arm.
She landed on the floor of the boat, between two of the bench seats, as the explosions started. A scream escaped her throat and when something covered her head, she clutched on to it. The scent and feel of the material told her it was Scooter’s coat, and that, despite all the noise and commotion, provided a sense of security.
The boat was moving, gliding fast over the water. Josie lifted her head slightly to peer out from beneath the coat. Scooter was behind her paddling with both oars. She was on the floor of the boat, sitting between his knees. She twisted to glance toward the raft, which was now several yards away.
Fireworks were shooting off in several directions, a dozen at a time. A loud boom, accompanied by sparks that engulfed the raft and spit into the air, made her pull the coat back over her eyes.
When the boat slowed, Josie once again lifted the jacket. They were almost to the shore. Gradually, the boat spun around to face the raft, where fireworks of all kinds were exploding.
“Are you all right?” Scooter asked.
“Yes.” Twisting to look up at him, she asked, “Are you?”
He nodded as his gaze went to the floating platform. Sky rockets, torpedoes, Roman candles and large mortars were all going off at once. Most were still shooting skyward, but a few shot off the edges of the raft, landing in the water and disappearing.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Whoever was in that motorboat threw something into one of the crates. Something that was on fire.”
A shiver rippled through her so fast she shuddered. Scooter settled his coat tighter around her and then rested both hands on her shoulders. “We’re safe here,” he said. “Far enough away. Dac and Brock and Ginger are far enough away, too.”
Josie nodded even while she scanned the lake, looking for the others. The constant flash of lights in the air made it easy to see them. “Who would do such a thing?” she asked.
“Don’t know. Maybe someone thinking it would be a fun practical joke.” Scooter tugged her backward. “Lean back. We might as well enjoy the show. The fireworks were packed in sawdust inside those crates and barrels. It’ll take a while before they’re done.”
The mass of explosions overhead was something to see. Red, blue, green, yellow and white lights lit up the sky. All at the same time. There was no waiting in between, just constant booms, pops and bursts of color. Josie maneuvered her legs out from beneath the bench seat to stretch them in front of her. “Want to sit down here?” she asked. “You won’t have to bend your head so far back.”
“I’m fine,” he said. “But you make yourself comfortable.”
“All right,” she said. Resting both elbows on his knees, she leaned all the way back, until her head touched his chest. “You make a pretty good chair, and it is a rather spectacular firework show.”
“Yeah, it is.” His hands were still on her shoulders, and when they started to gently rub, she closed her eyes. There was no rhyme or reason to the pops and booms of the fireworks, and she could almost see the lights through her closed lids. Once again, she admitted she was glad to be where she was at this very moment. Normally, she’d never admit that, never do this, but tonight, she wanted to be more like her sisters. Like those fireworks. Wild. Unconventional. Free.
All day, all week actually, she’d watched Twyla and Norma Rose snuggling and kissing the men they loved. Both had continued to work, to ensure this party would be a success, but even then, while working at her side, her sisters had giggled and talked about Forrest and Ty. Moments ago she’d caught Brock and Ginger in their boat in an embrace that said they were certainly not watching fireworks.
She’d never had anything remotely close to what her sisters had, and wondered if she ever would. Nestled between Scooter’s knees, with fireworks exploding overhead and the gentleness of his hands easing the tension from her shoulders, here she was as close as she’d ever come.
Scooter’s arms folded around her shoulders from behind and he rested his chin on the top of her head. “It’s quite the display, isn’t it?”
She opened her eyes and gazed heavenward, toward the bursts of light. “Yes. I’m sure the crowd is loving it.”
She twisted slightly to look up at him. The fireworks were reflecting in his eyes and his smile was one of those that had her wanting to smile in return. A wave of warmth rushed up inside her, making her want to sigh, and all the while her heart picked up the pace of its beats. He truly was a handsome man, and right now, for whatever reason, that fact seemed to be sweeping her out of her world and dropping her in one she didn’t know, but was excited to enter.