With Valentine's Day only two days from now, I thought it might be appropriate to treat everyone to a kiss from SEA OF HOPE, my EPPIE Award-Winning book.
He had grown so fond of her that it hurt him now to think of them each going their separate ways. Yet, it had to be that way. He had no future.
A hollow emptiness spread inside him. Doria had come into his life like a hurricane, but at her center he found strength, loyalty, and true courage.
She stirred. Her eyes opened slowly, vague from slumber.
"Hey," she said and lowered her eyelids again, fanning the dark brown lashes on her cheeks. She sighed and smiled.
"Hey," he echoed softly.
Two creases formed between her brows, marring her smooth complexion. Then her eyes flew open.
"What?" She ran her hand through her wild ringlets and moved to sit up.
"Everything's fine," Murray assured her. "We're docked in New York, waiting to unload the porgies. And the storm decided to move up to New England."
Doria flopped back down on the bunk. "You look good."
"So do you," Murray said. "How do you feel?"
"Like I could sleep for another decade," she replied.
Murray lifted up his digital thermometer. "Do you mind?"
Doria looked at him suspiciously. "I'm not sick."
"You were cold," he said.
"So were you." She pulled the covers up higher, under her chin. "And you nearly drowned."
"I already checked my own temperature." He grinned. "After a half dozen cups of hot coffee, I am almost normal."
"Too much coffee is bad for you." She glared.
"If you have hypothermia, it can work wonders," he countered. He turned on the thermometer. "This is not an invasive procedure. I put this in your ear and it gives a readout in seconds."
"I know how it works," she huffed.
"Your fingers are still blue," he mentioned.
When she looked down at her fingers, he placed the thermometer in her ear. She tensed.
"Can I talk?" she whispered.
"Yes," he whispered back.
"I-I'm glad you didn't drown," she said softly.
Regret weighed down on him. He had misjudged her at first, and hurt her.
"I'm glad you didn't let me drown." He found himself straining to keep his voice level. He took the thermometer out of her ear and glanced at the readout.
"We have got to get some hot drinks in you," he stated as he frowned at the numbers.
"What's with this 'we' stuff?" she asked.
"Nurses talk like that all the time." He shrugged. "I'm pretending I'm a nurse."
Doria laughed. "You look so much more like a pirate."
He bent his head and stared at the floor, letting her merriment warm him with waves of happiness. It felt good. Healing. He had wanted to see her smile, to make her laugh, and he finally had succeeded. But why did it leave him with a lump in his throat? With an effort, he lifted his head.
"You will always look like an angel to me, Doria Hanrahan." He could barely hide the emotion in his voice. "Thanks for saving my life."
She placed her hand on his. He tightened his fingers around hers.
"I would have saved anybody." Sincerity rang through every word. "Even George."
This time Murray had to laugh. "Should I let George know that?"
She gave him a puzzled expression and then pouted. "You know what I mean."
The delicate moue formed by her lips drew him. He dropped the thermometer on the blanket and reached out to cup her chin in his hand. Her eyes, the color of bittersweet chocolate, widened in surprise.
His lips came down on hers, slow and gentle. The tender fullness of her mouth had him drowning again, but this time from the forgiveness he found in her response.
He pulled away. Though brief, the kiss left his heart ramming against his rib cage.
"Why-why did you do that?" she asked, her lips still moist and rosy.
He shrugged and traced the generous curve of her mouth. "It's part of the prescription."
Her cheeks flushed even as she glared at him. "You made that up."
"I bet your temperature rose a few degrees." He lifted up the thermometer again. "Shall I check?"
"No!" She threw the blankets over her head.
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Wishing you a wonderful Valentine's Day!