Rudy woke with a stiff neck. He checked his phone. A quarter past noon. He’d slept an incredible three and a half hours. Only Kak’s backpack occupied the seat beside him. He stood up to stretch. Ahead, out the port windows, Key West poked its head over the southern horizon.

The cat would soon ease into Key West Bight and snug up to the dock at the ferry terminal at 100 Grinnell Street in the Key West Historic Seaport. The Airbus A319 he was ticketed on had landed over two hours earlier and taxied to its gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Mom would have been waiting in the arrivals lane to pick him up. When she’d returned to the Pax-Jupiter offices without him, Hell would have begun to break loose in large chunks.

He found Kak at the bar flirting with a margarita.

“Good afternoon, sleepy head,” she said, cheerfully.

“Why the hell did you let me sleep so long?”

“I’m sorry. Did you leave a wake-up call with the desk?”

She was even more relaxed than before. He tapped her cup. “How many did you have while I slept?”

“None of your damn business.”

The captain swung the vessel around toward the landing. Off the starboard side, vacationers ate lunch under the faded lime green umbrellas of Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa. The big catamaran slid past the string of limestone boulders that made up the breakwater for Key West Bight. Boats of every size and value, from center console runabouts to luxury yachts approximating floating homes, hid behind it. The big cat curled around it toward the landing. In five minutes he’d hide behind it, too.

The 400 passengers pushed their way to the exits as if there was a quota and you might not be admitted to the island if you weren’t off the boat fast enough. He led Kak past the press of that mass and up to the deserted bow to wait for things to clear.

She leaned over the rail. “Are we having a Titanic moment?” she asked.

“I hope not.”

“Say it.”

“Say what?”

“You jump, I jump.”

He leaned over the rail beside her. “You jump, I throw you a life ring and alert the crew. Actually, you could paddle to shore from here.”

“You’re no fun,” she said, taking his hand and pressing it to her chest. The unexpected contact and her warm touch thrilled him. He concentrated to keep from twitching.

“What do you feel?” she asked.

“Your breastbone?”

“Nothing else?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You’re thinking too much.” She put her free hand behind his neck and pulled him into her, pressed her mouth against his and kissed him hard. As quickly as she’d started it she stopped. She pulled his hand even harder into her breastbone.

“Now,” she said. “What do you feel?”

What he felt was a swelling in his crotch but he couldn’t tell her that. The big cat bumped against the long dock of the Key West Ferry Terminal, jarring to a stop. He caught her waist with his free hand to keep her from losing balance.

It was an illusion, the balance. From the warmth of her skin and the taste of her lips, the next twenty-four hours could bring anything. Only the boat had stopped. He and this odd woman were teetering into something that was just picking up momentum.

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