From the book
DELPHIC BEACH, MAINE PRESENT DAY
PATCH WAS STANDING BEHIND ME, HIS HANDS on my hips, his body relaxed. He stood two inches over six feet tall and had a lean, athletic build that even loose-fit jeans and a T-shirt couldn't conceal. The color of his hair gave midnight a run for its money, with eyes to match. His smile was sexy and warned of trouble, but I'd made up my mind that not all trouble was bad.
Overhead, fireworks lit up the night sky, raining streams of color into the Atlantic. The crowd oohed and aahed. It was late June, and Maine was jumping into summer with both feet, celebrating the beginning of two months of sun, sand, and tourists with deep pockets. I was celebrating two months of sun, sand, and plenty of exclusive time with Patch. I'd enrolled in one summer school course--chemistry--and had every intention of letting Patch monopolize the rest of my free time.
The fire department was setting off the fireworks on a dock that couldn't have been more than two hundred yards down the beach from where we stood, and I felt the boom of each one vibrate in the sand under my feet. Waves crashed into the beach just down the hill, and carnival music tinkled at top volume. The smell of cotton candy, popcorn, and sizzling meat hung thick in the air, and my stomach reminded me I hadn't eaten since lunch.
"I'm going to grab a cheeseburger," I told Patch. "Want anything?"
"Nothing on the menu."
I smiled. "Why, Patch, are you flirting with me?"
He kissed the crown of my head. "Not yet. I'll grab your cheeseburger. Enjoy the last of the fireworks."
I snagged one of his belt loops to stop him. "Thanks, but I'm ordering. I can't take the guilt."
He raised his eyebrows in inquiry.
"When was the last time the girl at the hamburger stand let you pay for food?"
"It's been a while."
"It's been never. Stay here. If she sees you, I'll spend the rest of the night with a guilty conscience."
Patch opened his wallet and pulled out a twenty. "Leave her a nice tip."
It was my turn to raise my eyebrows. "Trying to redeem yourself for all those times you took free food?"
"Last time I paid, she chased me down and shoved the money in my pocket. I'm trying to avoid another groping."
It sounded made up, but knowing Patch, it was probably true.
I hunted down the end of a long line that wrapped around the hamburger stand, finding it near the entrance to the indoor carousel. Judging by the size of the line, I estimated a fifteen-minute wait just to place my order. One hamburger stand on the entire beach. It felt un-American.
After a few minutes of restless waiting, I was taking what must have been my tenth bored look around when I spotted Marcie Millar standing two spots back. Marcie and I had gone to school together since kindergarten, and in the eleven years since, I'd seen more of her than I cared to remember. Because of her, the whole school had seen more of my underwear than necessary. In junior high, Marcie's usual MO was stealing my bra from my gym locker and pinning it to the bulletin board outside the main offices, but occasionally she got creative and used it as a centerpiece in the cafeteria--both my A cups filled with vanilla pudding and topped with maraschino cherries. Classy, I know. Marcie's skirts were two sizes too small and five inches too short. Her hair was strawberry blond, and she had the shape of a Popsicle stick--turn her sideways and she practically disappeared. If there was a scoreboard keeping track of wins and losses between us, I was pretty sure Marcie had double my score.
"Hey," I said, unintentionally catching her eye and not seeing any way around a bare-minimum...