When her arms reached up to circle his neck, he took a step closer. His hands found their way inside his coat to run up and down the trim curves of her sides before grasping her hips to hold her against him. The heat of the contact, of her body aligned with his, sent warning signals to his brain.
He was making the second-biggest mistake of his life, but he might never get this chance again and was not going to let it slip away. One faint click wasn’t enough to make him stop kissing her, but a second one was.
She let out a little mumble and he pulled her closer. “Shhh. Listen.”
A snap sounded, like the one he’d heard earlier, as if someone had stepped on a twig. A tingle spiraled up Scooter’s spine. There were no twigs inside the boathouse. It was all sand. Clean sand, from when it had been refurbished.
The double doors on the far side of the structure rattled slightly before something clanged and clicked.
“Damn,” he muttered.
“What?” Josie asked.
“I think someone just locked us in here.” Scooter sidestepped, keeping one arm around her as he felt for the handle of the door that he knew had to be just behind her. Finding the handle, he grasped it and gave the door a hard shove. It barely moved. Someone had fastened the padlock outside.
“Who?” she asked. “Dac?”
“Dac wouldn’t lock us in here,” he whispered. There was another sound and the eerie sensation it created made him add, “Listen.”
After a brief silence she answered, “That’s just the waves splashing.”
Every sense Scooter had kicked into full awareness. “That’s not water. It’s gas.” Grabbing Josie’s hand, he spun around and rushed toward the back of the boathouse. The lock on the double door would give way easier than the smaller door.
“Yes, someone is throwing gas on the building.” He let go of her hand. “Stay back.”
A well-aimed, solid kick sent the double doors flying open. “Stay here!” Scooter shot out of the building and ran around one swinging door. A can rolled down the bank as he dashed up it. He raced all the way around the building, but didn’t catch so much as a glimpse of anyone. The smell of gas filled the air, though, and he ran down the bank on the other side of the building.
Josie stood near the door. “Who was it? Did you see anyone?”
“No,” he said. “But we interrupted them before they could strike a match.”
“Who would do such a thing?”
Dismay and fear shimmered in her eyes as she looked up at him. A great storm of emotions collided inside him. He stepped closer, wrapped both arms around her and kissed the top of her head as her body, trembling, snuggled closer. Earlier he’d wanted to tell her someone had learned who she was, what she was doing. Now he wanted to protect her from that possibility as much as everything else.
“Probably just another prankster,” he said.
Her arms were around his waist, holding on tightly. “Don’t lie to me, Scooter,” she whispered. “You don’t believe that. I know you don’t.”
Not saying anything about what he did or didn’t believe, Scooter held her close for several minutes before gathering the will to step back. “Come on, let’s get back up to the party.”
A lost kitten couldn’t have looked sadder than when she lifted her eyes to his. “You think this is my fault, don’t you? The fire and—” she waved a hand “—this.”
Scooter grasped her cheeks. “I didn’t say—”
She grabbed his wrists and pulled his hands away. “I didn’t ask if you’d said it, I asked if you were thinking it, but never mind, I know the answer.”
He let his hands fall to his sides as she started walking away, but then he lurched forward and grabbed her arm. “Hold up. We have to shut these doors. Help me grab a couple of rocks to keep them shut for now.” He didn’t remind her someone might still be close at hand, waiting for her to take off alone.
While he closed both doors, she positioned decent-sized rocks in front of them to keep them shut. She didn’t pull away when he took her elbow to help her maneuver through the sand, either. Once on the grass, she stepped away and stopped near the gas can.
“That looks like an old milk can to me.”
He reached down and picked up the can by one of the two handles welded near the top. The cap was a few feet ahead of them and he walked forward to scoop it off the ground. Demonstrating how it fit, he explained, “See, the lid screws on.”
When she made no comment, he added, “You can’t tell me you don’t smell gasoline.”