In this snippet, Dell, the heroine, has just been reunited with her childhood friend, Rory, for the first time in many years--although he hasn't recognized her yet. All grown up, he's now the worldly captain of a steamboat which has run aground in her remote Ozarks settlement. Unfortunately, the handsome gambler knows things about Dell's past and identity that could turn the whole community against her.
Presently, the captain’s strong arms went around her as he lifted her over the rail. His hands lingered on her sides a moment past propriety.
Flushing, she stepped aside. “Thank you.”
He winked at her and helped hoist the rest of the party up from the keelboat onto the packet’s leaning deck. Standing behind her cousins, Dell could still feel the branding on her ribs where his hands had touched her. She willed herself not to panic, but her pulse fluttered wildly at the base of her throat. She couldn’t hide, nor could she return to the riverbank, though every second she stood under his nose was another second he might recognize her.
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