‘You’re shivering,’ he said, as they waded out of the sea.
Lily nodded. She wanted to speak but her throat was so sore she didn’t even try. With difficulty, she attempted to swallow. It would have been very easy to cry, but she most certainly wasn’t going to humiliate herself further.
‘Let’s get a towel around you.’ He guided her up the beach back to her towel and bag.
How did he know where she’d been sitting?
He bent down, whipped her towel from the sand, shook it and wrapped it around her; he pulled it tight and rubbed her arms. She winced.
‘Sunburn? Sorry.’ He stopped rubbing and just held the towel tight. ‘It’s shock as well as cold,’ he said as her teeth chattered. His teeth shone white against his bronzed skin. She noted his bright blue eyes again, or was that also an optical illusion caused by the tan? ‘I’m Jackson, by the way,’ he said.
‘Lily,’ she croaked. ‘Thanks for helping me. I’m okay now.’
‘You’re getting there,’ he gave a soft laugh.
She wished he would leave, go away, leave her alone with her embarrassment, but he showed no signs of doing that. He still held the towel tight around her body, still appraising and assessing her condition.
‘I think you need a hot drink.’ He spoke with authority and bent down to pick up her bag. She held her hand out for it; he gave her a look that said I wasn’t stealing it. ‘Come on. I know just the place.’
He guided her up the beach and past the surf shack where a guy polishing a board nodded and grinned at him. Lily felt uncomfortable, but she also felt shaky and ill.
‘He we are,’ he said, showing her into the Sunset Cove beach café and sitting her at the window.
While he went to the counter, she dabbed herself as dry as she could and fished in her bag for her dress and hastily pulled it on. Her hair had unravelled from its updo and hung in wavy rats tails down her shoulders. She pushed it back behind her ears.
Jackson had a quick word with the two women serving, then came back with cutlery and napkins which he laid on the table. He sat opposite her and smiled. She offered a quick smile back. He was being kind, she shouldn’t be so grumpy but her throat still hurt and her eyes were smarting and she felt stupid and humiliated.
‘Drink this,’ he said, as the waitress put a jug of iced water and glasses down. ‘It’ll help clear the salt from your throat. It’s hell when you drink half the ocean.’ He smiled, his eyes crinkling at the sides. ‘I’ve done it enough times myself.’ He poured her a glass of water and waited while she drank it.
It soothed, it lubricated, it washed away the vile taste. She poured herself another glass and downed that one as quickly as the first.
‘Thank you,’ she said, her voice sounding more normal.
‘You were probably dehydrated too. Ah, perfect, thank you Marnie,’ he said to the waitress who put a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread in front of them both.
It smelled delicious. Lily peered at it, inhaled its soothing vapours.
‘It’s chicken,’ he said, ‘best cure for everything.’ He laughed, then his tone changed to one of alarm. ‘You’re not veggy, are you?’
Lily shook her head. ‘No. And thank you.’ She picked up her spoon and began to eat. It tasted so good.
Excerpt from first draft of chapter five so usual caveat about typos and errors. Hope you enjoy this and come back next week for another snippet.