Grandfather addressed the waiting customers. "If you'll just step to one side and let them off the boat, you can find your seats, and we'll be off again." He directed them down the path toward the landing, where Sammy was refueling the boat. Sammy looked up and saw me and waved. He set the gas cans down and started up the path. When he got to where I stood, he put his arms around me and hugged me close. The women watching swooned in envy, and I almost lost my footing as he lifted me off the ground and spun me around. Wow.
"I haven't seen you much lately." He set me back on my feet and held me at arm's length. "You look good."
"Is he your boyfriend?" asked one of the women.
Before I could answer, Sammy nodded.
"Sammy," I said so only he could hear. "What are you saying?"
"You could be my girlfriend, you know." He gave me a roguish grin.
"Alex might protest."
"Yeah, but he's not my worry. You are."
Sammy was in a mood I'd never seen before--flirtatious, something I didn't know he did.
"What's got into you?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know." He looked around him, at the sky and then the river beyond the landing. "It's a beautiful day, and I've got more customers than I can handle."
"Oh, I get it. All this money is making you horny."
The words had leaped out of my mouth. It was the kind of sassy, sexual teasing I might say to some of my cowboy friends from the Burnt Biscuit, but I'd always been careful around Sammy. We'd spent a night alone in the swamps, and had never talked about the feelings that had developed out there. It seemed to make us both self-conscious. Besides, Alex and I were a couple.
"Sorry, Sammy. I didn't mean that."
He gave me one of his soul-searching looks. "Didn't you? Too bad for me."
Both of us stared at the ground; then the uncomfortable moment passed. Sammy broke the spell.
"Well, you did us right, woman. Sending all these folks our way. I may be able to buy a new shirt for the first time in five years."
"Keep that one. It looks great." I liked Sammy's understated handsome looks and rugged style--the faded pink and turquoise Miccosukee-pattern long-sleeved shirt, which pulled tightly across his broad chest, and the jeans bleached almost white from too many washings. The clothes did not make the man. Not in this case, anyway. This man--tall, dark-skinned, with long black hair--made the clothes. On anyone else they would just look worn. On him, they looked like a very attractive second skin.