Page 40

Author: Jill Shalvis

“Whatever you have,” Lucille said, waving a bony finger in her face. Then she sent Jan a calculating, shrewd look. “She won’t be a waitress for long. You should know that right now. Look at this.” She opened the pad to a colored-pencil sketch of Lucky Harbor at night, drawn from the end of the pier looking back at the town, with the brightly lit Ferris wheel in the foreground. “This one should be on all the town’s marketing efforts and on the website, at the very least. It’s a work of art and a pot of gold waiting to happen.”

Amy stared down at it. “Is it?”

Lucille smacked Matt upside the back of the head. “How could you not have told her this already? How could you have kept such a secret?”

“Jesus, Lucille.” Matt rubbed the back of his head. “And I did tell her they were amazing. But her head is even harder than mine.”

Lucille turned back to Amy. “You listen to me. People love local art. Especially Pacific Northwest art.” She waved a dramatic hand in the air. “I’m seeing a series of hand-drawn postcards, detailing all the popular trails.” She smiled. “You’re going to hit it out of the ballpark, honey. Out of the ballpark, I tell you.”

Amy shook her head, her brain too full to deal with this right now. Sawyer stood up and gestured to Matt.

“Where are you going?” Jan asked. “I’m a crime victim here.”

“We’re going to talk to Riley.” Sawyer looked at Amy. “She’s at your place, right?”

“Uh…” Unexpectedly cornered, Amy went still. “Actually, no.”

“No?” Matt asked.

“No.” Suddenly uncomfortably aware of everyone’s attention on her, she met Matt’s gaze pleadingly, not even sure what she wanted from him. Here she’d thought her biggest problem today would be keeping her mind out of the gutter after what she and Matt had done back at his place. No such luck. “She’s not staying with me.”

“Since when?” Matt asked.

She managed to hold his gaze, knowing there was no way to keep this from him now. “Since that first night. Well, she was around this morning, but I think that was only to make sure her stepbrother didn’t come after me for saving her.”

There was a very heavy beat of silence at this. Sawyer looked at Matt, but Matt didn’t take his eyes off Amy. “Where has she been staying?”

This wasn’t the guy who’d cuddled her after she’d fallen down a ravine. Or the one who’d slid his body down hers and put his mouth on her until she’d come, crying out his name. This wasn’t that easygoing, sexy guy at all. He was the law now, distant and cool.

“In the woods,” she said quietly. “Camping.”

More weighted silence. And a muscle ticked in Matt’s jaw. “Illegally camping, you mean?”

She gave a mental cringe. “Yes.”

Oh, he was good, an utter professional, not allowing his shock and anger to show, but Amy felt the blast of it just the same. And something else, too, something far more devastating.


“Riley’s innocent,” she said. And knowing she had no right, she turned and appealed directly to Matt. “Completely innocent.”

His gaze roamed her features but didn’t soften like they usually did, and she tried again. “She’s been through hell…” Her throat tightened. He knew this, goddammit, he did. “And I know you might not understand it, but you have to believe me. She wouldn’t do this. She’s just a scared, lost runaway, and she needs us. She needs to be trusted, to believe someone cares.”

“Honey.” Lucille took her hand and gently squeezed, her rheumy eyes surprisingly shiny. “You know we all love and trust and care about you, right?”

Her own past was biting her in the ass, all those times she’d screwed up, lied, pushed people away… until no one had believed her. She’d hated that. She’d felt so helpless. Just like she felt now. “Then believe me about this.”

Lucille squeezed her hand again. “Love and trust are earned, Amy.”

No one knew this better than she. Unfortunately, she’d just blown any hope of either of those things with Matt, which made her sick to her stomach. She knew that, in his eyes, she’d chosen Riley over him, and that sort of thing couldn’t be undone.

Sawyer turned to leave, and Matt was right on his heels. Amy excused herself and ran after them, stopping Matt just outside the diner with a hand on his arm.

Sawyer looked at them both, then met Matt’s gaze.

“Two minutes,” Matt said to him.

Sawyer nodded and gave Amy what might have been the briefest glance of sympathy. “I’ll be in the truck,” he said.

When they were alone, Matt just looked at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I couldn’t break my word to Riley.”

“But you could break your word to me.”

“I never gave you my word.”

“No,” he said in a voice that sounded terrifyingly final. “You sure as hell were careful not to do that.”

She felt like he’d slapped her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.” He took a step back. “Nothing at all.”

“Look, I said I was sorry, but I had to do this for her. She needed me.”

“I understand,” he said. “After all, all you and I ever had was sex, right?” And with that, he turned and walked to Sawyer’s truck.

Chapter 22

Love’s a fad. Chocolate’s the real thing.

In the end, Matt drove up to Squaw Flats by himself. Sawyer had gotten an emergency call, leaving Matt alone to search for Riley.

That she’d been camping, alone, vulnerable—not to mention against the law—drove him nuts. And she’d been doing it with Amy’s blessing, which really fried his ass. He understood that Amy’s loyalty to Riley had a lot to do with Amy’s own painful past and lack of adult guidance, but damn.

He parked at the campgrounds and headed into the forest where he’d first found Riley, all too happy to have something concrete to do rather than think about Amy and what had just happened.

She’d lied to him, and he was good and pissed off about that. Except it hadn’t been an out-and-out lie, more like an omission. Even as furious as he was, he understood her thought process. He knew how badly she wanted, needed to believe in Riley.

Just as he knew that Riley had taken the damn money.

Amy wouldn’t thank him for finding out one way or the other, but he made his way to what was most likely going to be the final nail in the coffin of… whatever the hell they had going. Which was fine. His life had been fine before Amy had been in it, and it would be fine without her.

Fucking fine.

As he walked, he couldn’t help but remember how he’d found Amy up here not that long ago, and let out a reluctant smile. She’d been so out of her element.

And now he was out of his.

Ten minutes later, he found Riley at her illegal camp spot. She was packing, shoving things into the backpack that Amy had bought her. When he stepped closer, she spun around and jumped up, something glinting in her hand.

A knife.

The minute she registered him, the knife vanished, tossed behind her. She shoved her hands into her ratty pockets, shoulders hunched.

“Expecting someone else?” he asked.


“Where you going?”

She shrugged and didn’t meet his eyes. “Nowhere.”

“You’re packing.”

“Well, you told me I couldn’t stay here.”

“I told you that two weeks ago,” he said. “And you’ve been staying out here anyway.”


He blew out a breath and walked up to her backpack.

“That’s mine,” Riley said, but before she could snatch it, he pointed at her.

“Stay,” he said, and crouched at the bag.

“Hey, you can’t just look in there—” She broke off when he reached inside.

And pulled out the charity jar.

“Damn, Riley.” She hadn’t even tried to hide the thing. The money was still in it. Furious, sick, he sat back on his heels and regarded her.

She was studying something fascinating on her battered sneakers.

“You have any idea what this is going to do to her?” he asked.

At that, Riley’s head snapped up. She’d paled to a pasty white. “You can’t tell her!”

Matt stood. “No?”

“No!” Riley’s cry was fierce. She nearly deflated with it, her entire body sagging as if the only thing holding her up had been Amy’s belief in her. “Please don’t.”


Riley sagged in relief.

“I’m not going to tell her,” Matt said quietly. “Because you are.”

She went from pale to flushed in an instant, her eyes shimmering brilliantly. “I can’t do that.”

“If you can steal it, you sure as hell can give it back.”

Riley’s lip quivered, but she bucked up and shook her head. “No.”

So she was going to be difficult. Shock. “Let’s go.”

“You going to arrest me?” she asked.

Matt would rather be just about anywhere other than here, facing this. Give him Afghanistan. Give him a crack house to bust. Anything other than this. But that’s not how his day was going so far. “Your knife.”


“Give me your goddamn knife.”

She bent and picked up the knife she’d tossed behind her and handed it over.

He took it and then held out his hand. “And the other one.”

Riley stared at him.

He stared back, steadily.

She let out the sigh of a martyr and bent, pulling a Swiss Army Knife from her sock.

“What else do you have on you?” he asked.


He picked up the backpack and shouldered it. “Get your other stuff.”