Page 9

Author: Jill Shalvis

Until the day she’d run into real trouble. Bad trouble. Holy-shit trouble, and for once, it hadn’t been her own doing. No, that honor had gone to her stepfather, who’d decided she needed to give him a little of what she was so freely giving to the boys her own age.

But he’d been no boy.

Amy had always been able to intimidate anyone who’d invaded her space without permission, but not him. Scared for the first time in her life, she’d tried to get help. But no one had believed her.

She’d been on her own.

She’d been on her own ever since, and it’d worked out just fine for her. She didn’t need anyone.

But once in a while, like now, she felt a little flicker of need. Just to be held. Touched.


Matt had amplified those feelings, in a big way. And if they hadn’t been interrupted this morning, she’d have acted on them. She had no idea where that would have left them.

Well satisfied, no doubt, as Matt had a magic mouth and magic hands. Her reflection sighed in remembered pleasure. She wanted more. That wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was how badly she also wanted to run her hands over Matt’s tough, sexy body. She’d felt him vibrating with that same need, every single muscle, and he had a lot of delicious muscles.

Mutual pleasure. They needed it. She wasn’t looking for more, and after what he’d told her about his ex and how he didn’t do love, neither was he.

Could it be that simple? No. Nothing was ever that simple. Which meant she needed to steer clear of one sexy Matthew Bowers. Very clear.

Matt wasn’t much for cooking. He could do it—his mom had made sure of it—he just preferred not to. But there were limited dining options in Lucky Harbor: the Love Shack, the only bar and grill in town, or Eat Me, the diner. The Love Shack had great beer on tap.

Eat Me had Amy.

The day after their overnight adventure, following a long ten hours on the job, Matt entered the diner. He sat at a booth, and Amy brought him a soda. He could have kissed her for that alone. She was wearing a black tee with a silver zipper running amuck in a zigzag between her breasts, the kind that could open from the top or the bottom. Her jeans were low riding and faded, with a hole on one thigh, the denim there held together by a few threads across her taut skin. She was wearing the Ace bandage on her wrist. “The usual?” she asked. “Burger, fries?”

“Yeah. How are the injuries?”

“Fine. The thigh’s a little sore but my wrist’s a lot better.”

“And the other injury?”

She raised a brow. “You are not asking me about my ass.”

He smiled.

“You aren’t smiling at the thought of my ass either,” she said.

“Not funny yet?”

She just looked at him.

“Okay,” he said, letting a smile break loose. “Not funny yet.”

Lucille walked by the booth and stopped, touching Amy’s wrist. “What happened, honey?”

“I fell hiking. It’s nothing.” Amy slid a long look at Matt, daring him to say a word.

Matt wasn’t a complete idiot. He wanted this woman, naked. So he held his silence.

Lucille hitched a thumb at him. “You fell in Ranger Hot Buns’s forest?”

This had Amy flashing a rare real smile. “What did you just call him?”

“Ranger Hot Buns,” Lucille said. “Are you telling me you haven’t seen the side poll on Facebook to rank the town’s current hotties?”

Christ. Matt slouched down into his seat.

“It’s doubled our traffic,” Lucille said. “Matt’s out in front of Dr. Josh Scott, but just by a nose. You need to come by and vote.”

“I’ll do that.” Amy’s tone said that she’d be voting for Josh.

Lucille walked away, and Amy slid him a speculative look. “I’ll go put in your order. Ranger Hot Buns.”

He snagged her by her good wrist before she walked away. At the contact, he felt a current of electricity go straight through him.

She looked down at his hand on her. Apparently he wasn’t the only one experiencing the shock of connection between them. She tugged free, stepping back, looking a little off her axis.

He knew the feeling. Their chemistry was off the charts.

She turned and disappeared into the kitchen. He wasn’t all that surprised when a few minutes later it was Jan, Eat Me’s owner, who served him his food. Jan was fifty-ish, with a perpetual frown on her face and a black cap of hair that made her resemble Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip. “Where did Amy go?” he asked.

“Break,” she said in her been-smoking-three-decades voice. “She took her break.”

That night, Amy was trying to lose herself in a Friends marathon on TV, complete with a huge bowl of popcorn and two Snickers bars, when her phone rang.

“Chocoholics meeting tomorrow night,” Grace said when Amy answered. “Mallory wanted me to call you and let you know. She’d have called herself but she was about to go jump Ty’s bones.”

Yeah, or she was avoiding Amy after the whole sending-Matt-to-the-woods stunt… “I don’t know,” Amy said. “Jan says we can’t meet at the diner over chocolate cake anymore.” A couple weeks back, the Chocoholics had accidentally destroyed the interior of Eat Me when their chocolate cake had gone up in flames thanks to some trick candles.

“Brownies,” Grace said without pause. “We’ll meet over brownies.”

Brownies worked.

“Mallory says to prepare yourself,” Grace warned her. “Apparently now that her life is in order, we’re moving onto yours. She says we’re going to be giving you good girl lessons.” She laughed. “I’m sorry.”

“And this is funny why?”

“Well not funny exactly,” Grace said, still sounding amused. “A challenge, maybe.”

“Hey, I would make a good good girl.” If she wanted…

Grace snorted. “Okay. See you tomorrow night, good girl.”

“Maybe I’m busy.”

“Are you?”

Amy hesitated. She wanted to be busy getting back up the mountain to Sierra Meadows, but she wasn’t crazy enough to do it at night. She’d wait for her next day off.


“I’m free. I just really think our time would be better spent fixing your life first. I can totally wait.”

Grace had worked as a financial wizard back East until several months ago. Looking for some happiness, she’d stuck around town, but the employment opportunities here were pretty limited. “Nice try but you’re up,” Grace said. “Oh, and bee-tee-dub, Facebook says you were getting cozy on the mountain with Ranger Hot Buns.”


“B T W. By the way. Jeez, don’t you ever surf the ’net?”

Amy sighed. “Brownies. Tomorrow night.”

“We’ll expect the Ranger Hot Buns story.”

Amy hung up and then got a text from Mallory: Good girl lesson #4: Omitting juicy details to your BFFs is a sin. You slept with him????????

Amy rolled her eyes and typed a response: Haven’t you heard—good girls don’t tell all. Especially to nosy friends who sneakily set their supposed BFFs up when they don’t want to be set up. Amy sent the text off, knowing Mallory would stew over that all night. It was a small consolation, because half an hour later, there came a knock at her door. Amy’s entire body went on high alert, especially her nipples, so she knew exactly who it was.

Matt Bowers.

Aka Ranger Hot Buns.

She’d known he’d show up sooner than later. The question was, did she want him to?

He knocked again, a sturdy, confident sort of knock. She looked through the peephole. Yep, one sexy-as-hell, uniformed forest ranger stood at her door, armed, locked, and loaded.

And hot.

Looking her right in the eye, he raised a brow.

Still silent, she bit her lip in rare indecision. Obey the hormones? Or ignore the need humming through her…

“All night,” Matt said. “I can do this all night.”

Blowing out a breath, she opened the door.

He rocked back on his heels, hands in his pockets, perfectly at ease as he took in her appearance. “Pretty,” he said.

She was in her oldest T-shirt and a pair of cutoffs. She looked like a garage sale special, and the worst part was… he most definitely did not. He was looking waaaaay too good. “I’m a mess.”

“Maybe. But you’re a pretty one.”

She narrowed her eyes, and he laughed. “You know, most women like it when a man calls them pretty.”

“I’m not most women.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that.”

“Why are you here, Matt?”

“Get to it?” he asked. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes. Get to it.”

“All right. Direct. I like that. But you might not. It’s about the kiss.”

Her stomach suddenly had butterflies. “What about it?”

“You’ve been acting weird ever since.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Liar.” He leaned against the doorjamb, settling in, making himself comfortable. “So it’s been making me wonder. “Did I have bad breath?”

Was he kidding? He’d tasted like heaven. “No.”

“Did I kiss like a jackass? A Saint Bernard?”

She actually felt a smile threaten. How did he always do that, make her want to smile? Make her… want him, desperately. It was a conundrum, a big one. She really hadn’t had a single intention of getting tangled up in a man, but this man had come from nowhere and blindsided her, and now she could think of little else. “No,” she said. “You didn’t kiss like a jackass or a Saint Bernard.”

“Hmm.” He stepped into her then, crowding her in the doorway.

“What are you doing?”

“Apparently I have something to prove.” He pressed her up against the doorway. Fisting his hands in her hair, he kissed her. And just like that, with a single touch of his mouth to hers, her entire body disconnected from her brain. She kissed him back, too, hungrily pressing closer, as close as she could get.