Page 14

Author: Jill Shalvis

He was going to do that anyway, but she didn’t have to know it.

“I’m of age,” she said. “I don’t have to give you my friends’ address.”

“Don’t have to… or can’t, because there are no friends?” he asked.

She stared at him, the silence broken by the sound of someone clearing her throat.

Amy. She was standing in the parking lot, purse slung over her shoulder, keys in her hand. “I got off early,” she said. “I have a spare bedroom, Riley. It’s the size of a piece of toast, but it’s all yours for the night if you’d like.”

“No,” Matt immediately said. It was one thing for him to get involved with a troubled teen they knew far too little about, another entirely for Amy to do it for him.

“No,” Riley said, echoing Matt. “I couldn’t do that. But thanks. I just want to go back to the woods.”

“You’re done with the woods,” Matt said. “No more illegal camping. It’s not safe, and I can’t have you out there.”

“And besides, you don’t have to camp,” Amy said to Riley. “Just come to my place. You’d get a hot shower and a roof.”

Matt opened his mouth, but Amy gave him a small head shake. To Riley, she gestured toward her car, and to his surprise, Riley got into it.

Amy turned to him, her expression one of grim determination. He could see that Riley had stirred something inside of her. Protectiveness, certainly, but memories too, and it didn’t take a genius to see that those memories made her sad.

His fault. “Amy—”

“I’m doing this,” she said.

Clearly, whether he liked it or not. And for the record, he didn’t. “When I asked for your help, I didn’t mean for you to—”

“I know. But I can’t leave her here, Matt. I just can’t.” There was something in her voice, something that twisted the knife deeper within him. “We’ll be fine,” she murmured, and slid behind the wheel of her car. He stepped between her and the driver’s door before she could shut it, crouching at her side. “Be careful.”

“Always am.”

He paused, but he had no further reason to detain them so he stood and backed up, watching her drive off. He didn’t feel good about this, about sending a possible juvenile delinquent home with the woman he had a thing for. He wasn’t sure what kind of thing exactly, but it didn’t matter at the moment. This was his doing, and if something went wrong, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.

So he followed them. He parked on the street outside of Amy’s building and watched them go inside together. A minute later, the lights came on. While he watched from his truck, he called Sawyer, requesting a search for a missing persons report on one Riley Taylor.

If Riley Taylor was even her real name…

While he waited to hear back, Matt spent the time keeping an eye on the building, and maybe playing solitaire on his phone.

When Amy knocked on the driver’s window, she nearly gave him a coronary.

“If you’re not going home,” she said through his window, “you might as well come in.”

She’d showered and was wearing an oversized T-shirt and tiny booty shorts that revealed her mile-long legs. Her hair was wet, her long, side-swept bangs falling over one eye. She smelled like shampoo and soap—and warm, soft woman. He followed her up the stairs, watching her ass in those short shorts. She could’ve led him right off a cliff and he’d never have noticed.

Her place was a tiny two bedroom, emphasis on the tiny. The living room, kitchen, and dining room were all one room that was not much bigger than his truck. Small as it was, it was also cheerful. Sunshine yellow paint in the kitchen, bright blue and white in the living room. Clearly the place had come like this because he was quite certain that Amy wouldn’t have picked such vibrant colors. Amy was a lot of things—smart, loyal, fiercely protective, beautiful, edgy—but not exactly cheerful.

Proving the point, she gave him a blanket, a pillow, the couch, and a long look that he didn’t even try to interpret. “Thanks,” he said.

She nodded and turned away.

Then turned back.

Their gazes caught and held for a long moment, and the air hummed with hunger and desire. Fuck it, he thought, tossing the blanket and pillow down, but just as he stepped toward her, she hightailed it into her bedroom.

Smart girl.

Two hours later, he was still tossing and turning on the couch that wasn’t wide enough for his shoulders and about two feet too short. What the hell was he doing here? Thinking of sex, that’s what he was doing. Sex with Amy, which he was no longer sure was a good idea.

In fact, he was pretty damn sure it was a bad idea now that he suspected Amy had an extremely rough past. A past he’d likely stirred up for her by bringing Riley into her life. He needed to stay the hell away from her, that’s what he needed to do. She didn’t need the complication.

Getting comfortable was impossible, so he sat up and put his feet on the small coffee table. Slightly better. Count sheep, he told himself, but when he closed his eyes, sheep wasn’t what came to mind.

Amy came to mind. Amy, straddling him.


Damn if that wasn’t a hell of a lot better than sheep. But it wasn’t exactly conducive to falling sleep, so he rose, thinking a kitchen raid might work. A rustle warned him that he wasn’t the only one awake just as he collided into a willowy, warm body that his own instantly recognized. Amy. Catching her, he dropped backward to the couch, taking her with him.

She landed sprawled over the top of him, all soft, tousled woman, her breasts rising and falling against his chest with every breath. “You okay?”

Apparently she was, because she fisted both hands in his hair and kissed him, a really deep, wet, hot holy shit kiss. Yeah, this. This was what he’d needed all fucking day long. It was perfect.

She was perfect.

Instantly hard, he rolled to tuck her beneath him, spreading her legs with his to make room for himself, pressing into her so that he was cradled between her thighs. It was dark so he couldn’t see much, but he sure could feel. And what he felt just about stopped his heart. She appeared to be wearing an oversized shirt, panties, and nothing else, as he discovered when his hands slid beneath the shirt to cup her bare breasts.

Amy gasped his name, and he went still, realizing he had her pinned beneath him, a perfect breast in each hand. And he wanted to keep kissing her, keep touching her until she was too hot to stop him. Even the thought revved him up. But Jesus, he’d forgotten the reason he was even here—Riley was in the next room. With a Herculean effort, he managed to let go of Amy and rise to his feet.

The distance didn’t help. Nor did the sight of Amy still sprawled on the couch trying to catch her breath. Her shirt had risen up, her cute little panties looking very white in the dark of the room. He wanted in those little panties. Wanted that more than his next breath.

Not happening. Snatching up the pillow and blanket, he strode to the door. “I’m going to sleep in my truck.”

A lie. He wasn’t going to sleep at all.

“I thought the truck was uncomfortable,” she said.

Yes, and so was a hard-on. He’d just have to live with it.

Chapter 8

The best things in life are chocolate.

Amy got up early. She had until four this afternoon to try to get up to Sierra Meadows and back. Try being the key word. She wasn’t at all sure she had any confidence in her ability to do so, but she had to try.

She had some hope to get to.

She was deciding whether or not to leave Riley a note or wake her up when the teen staggered out of the spare bedroom. She was wearing the same ratty jeans as yesterday but a different shirt, this one strategically torn in some sort of misguided teenager sense of fashion.

“Sleep okay?” Amy asked her.

“Yeah.” Riley looked out the kitchen window. “The cop’s gone.”

Yes, Matt was gone. She’d heard him leave before the crack of dawn. She’d been lying in her bed awake, hot, aching, remembering what his hands had felt like on her when she’d heard his truck start up and drive away. “And he’s not a cop. He’s a forest ranger.”

“Same thing.”

Pretty much, Amy agreed. And she recognized some of the authority issues in Riley’s voice well enough since she’d always had her own to contend with. “Listen, I’m going up to Sierra Meadows. Feel free to stay and catch up on some sleep. There’s food, hot water… TV.”

Riley looked around, her wariness showing. “I don’t know.”

“No one will bother you here. Is that what you’re worried about? Because if someone’s bothering you, maybe I can help—”

“No,” Riley said quickly. Too quickly. “I don’t need help. I’m fine.”

Amy’s heart squeezed because she’d been there, right there where Riley was, terrified and alone with no one to turn to. Well, actually that wasn’t quite correct. She’d had people to turn to, but she’d screwed that up, so when she’d needed help, no one had believed her.

“You’re safe here,” Amy said.

Riley nodded, and Amy felt relieved. Maybe she’d stay and be safe for the day, at least. “Is there someone I can call for you, to let them know where you are?”


Well, that had been a long shot.

“I left out some spare clothes if you’re interested,” Amy said. “There’s some food in the fridge, but not much. If you walk down to the diner later, I’ll make you something to eat, whatever you want.”


Riley wasn’t asking about the food, and Amy knew it. What she didn’t know was how to answer, so she went with to-the-bone honesty. “Because I know how it sucks to not know where your next meal’s going to come from. You don’t need to feel that, not today anyway.”

It took Amy two hours to get up to Sierra Meadows, made easier by the fact that now she knew where to go. Lungs screaming, huffing like a lunatic, she climbed to the same spot where only a few nights ago she’d teetered and then fallen, sliding down on her ass in the inky dark.