July Fourth was hot, and the tourists were out in droves. Together, the heat and the full passenger load made a demanding day for Hunter. Still, when he got off work and a couple of the guys asked, “Hey, are you coming to the beach?” he answered, “Sure, why not?”
“Are you bringing that babe you had with you last time?”
“Come easy, go easy, huh, Hunter?”
“Yeah, well. Look, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Hunter walked the dock alone. On a dining porch, a lone guitarist sang mellow James Taylor tunes. Moonlight cast a radiant path on the black water. As a child, Hunter had thought if he could just set his feet on that path, he could walk straight to the horizon. Somehow, the path always seemed to dissolve beneath his feet, and he would end up with his knees in water. Remembering that now, Hunter wished the path had been real.
Without hesitancy, he walked down the ramp and straight to Jack Franklin’s yacht. “Miki,” he called. “Miki!”
She appeared on deck wearing an elegant sweater and long silk skirt. “Whatcha want, Hunter?” She looked a little puzzled, maybe a little pleased, to see him. Then, Jack Franklin stepped on deck, and something distant, formal, came over her features.
Hunter held his eyes on hers, would not let her look at Jack. “Hey, Babe, you look great. There’s a party down at the beach. Wanna come?”
“Well, I . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“You’re not working. Come with me. Might be some fireworks later on.”
“Get lost, Kittrell.” Jack’s voice was patronizing. “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to go with you?”
Miki didn’t look at him, and neither did Hunter. “It’s not that I don’t want to go, Hunter. But Jack and I have a party to go to; you know, sort of an obligation thing, so . . .”
“So get out of here, Kittrell.” This time, Jack’s voice was threatening, and he took a step.
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