‘Lucy enjoyed baseball, didn’t she?’ Claudia said.

Whit didn’t look at her. ‘Yeah.’

She touched his hand. ‘I didn’t love Ben – I hadn’t quite gotten past the infatuation point. We hadn’t been together very long. But you loved Lucy.’

‘Yes, Dr Claudia, I did.’ Sounding a little irritated with her now.

‘But you haven’t grieved for her.’

‘Of course I have.’

‘Tell me, did killing Alex make you feel better, Whit?’

He stared at her, turned away. ‘This is going to be a damn long day fishing.’

‘It was self-defense. But you killed him. You even told me to let him die. Not that anything could have saved him then.’ Her words – unsaid in the long quiet of the past weeks – came in a rush.

‘Claudia, let it go.’

‘Are you worried you’re like him in some way? He killed Lucy, you killed him – you think you’re on his level?’

‘No,’ he said after a pause. ‘I don’t feel anything about killing him yet. That bothers me.’ He looked away. ‘But Lucy. I… yelled at her. I ended it with her. I said terrible things to her.’

‘You had every right to be mad at her, at what she’d done. You can be mad at someone you love.’

‘That only works if you get to say you’re sorry, Claud.’

‘She knows, Whit. She knows.’ She laced her fingers with his.

Gooch stopped the boat, dropped anchor, called down that it was time to fish.

‘Let’s go swimming first,’ she said.

‘You want to get in the water? After you nearly died out here?’

‘Not the water’s fault. What am I supposed to do, avoid the Gulf for the rest of my life?’ Claudia stood, took off her T-shirt, dropped her shorts. She had a swim-suit underneath, a navy two-piece, not cut too brief.

‘Is that a police-issue bikini?’ Gooch called.

She shot him the finger, dove over the edge. She surfaced. ‘Come on, it feels great,’ she called to Whit, who stood at the rail.

He didn’t move.

‘Whit, come on.’

Whit shucked off his shirt, cannonballed over the railing like he thought he’d better before he changed his mind. Broke to the surface, let the gentle wave swell pick him up, settle him back down. Claudia kicked away from him, giving him space.

‘It feels okay,’ he said.

She watched him dive down, surface, again and again, swimming through the waves, and if there were any tears on his face she could not tell.

They swam, they fished, Gooch saying no more than two sentences about what a good job his Washington lawyer had done in keeping his record clean. They talked instead of baseball, of books, of perhaps a trip to Austin for a long weekend to hear Lyle Lovett play. The day was warm and sleepy, the water fine and greenish-blue, the sky smooth as pearl. On the way back in through the bay Whit watched Claudia doze in her chair and he wanted to reach out and touch her hand and say, I know how bad Ben hurt you. I know, and still you worry about me and I can’t believe how you care. But I’ll be okay. Given time, I’ll be okay. I will choose to be okay.

But Whit didn’t say any of these things. He just closed his eyes and let the sun warm him. Knowing that here, with these two people sacred to him on this boat, he had a wealth to outshine rare gold or the most precious gem. More than he could ever need.

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