Author: Jill Shalvis


“You’re not.” She swallowed hard. “You’re…”


He quirked a brow.


Hot and sexy, and damn. Fun. Which meant that she was in big trouble here, going-down-for-the-count kind of trouble. Time to wave the white flag, she decided. And she would. In just a minute…


“Say it, Grace.”


“Okay, so maybe you’re a little fun,” she admitted. “But—”


He nibbled her lower lip, soothing it with his tongue, then stroked and teased her with his mouth until she let out a helpless murmur of arousal and fisted her hands in his shirt.


His eyes were heavy-lidded and sexy when he pulled back. “Bullshit, a little fun.” His mouth curved as he looked down.


Following his gaze, she realized she was still gripping his shirt. She forced herself to smooth her fingers over the wrinkles she’d left. “Fine. You’re a barrel of fun. Happy now?”


“Getting there.” His eyes were dark with lust and focused on hers, his hands on her back, fingers stroking her through the thin material of her dress. When he lowered his head, he did it slowly, giving her plenty of time to turn away.


She didn’t.


Their eyes held until his lips touched hers, and then her lashes swept down involuntarily. She couldn’t help it; his lips were warm, firm, and oh how just right…


With a deep, masculine groan, he threaded his hands through her hair and tilted her head to better suit him, parting her lips with his, kissing her lightly at first, then not so lightly. And then everything felt insistent and urgent, and all her bones melted.


By the time he broke the kiss, Grace was unsteady on her feet, and her breathing was more in line with a marathon run. “I’m not sure what that proved exactly,” she managed. Except he was the best kisser on the planet…


His eyes were heavy-lidded. His shirt was half untucked—her doing. He stood there looking dangerously alluring and hotter than sin.


He slowly shook his head. Obviously he didn’t know what that proved any more than she did. “I’m not looking for a relationship with you either,” he said quietly. “I’m not looking for a relationship period. You’ve seen my life, Grace. Hell, you’re living it. You know I’d be crazy to bring a woman into this mess.”


“So we’re on the same page,” she said with relief. Except not really. She should feel relief, but didn’t, which made no sense. Neither of them wanted this. Where was her relief?


His gaze dropped to her mouth. “Thanks for agreeing to watch Toby for me this week.”


“Any time,” she whispered, then went up on tiptoes so that when she repeated the two words softly, her mouth brushed his with each syllable.


He groaned, and the sound of it was so innately male, so sensually dominating, that she tingled all over. She leaned into him, and when he groaned again, it rumbled from his chest to hers. “Grace.”


“I know.” She lifted her hands from him and backed away, right into the door, of course.


His hand, low on her back, slid up until he cupped her head in his palm. “Careful.”


They stared at each other some more. Then her hands made their way up his chest, around his neck, her fingers gliding into his hair.


He made another sound low in his throat and pulled her back to him. She wasn’t sure which of them made the next move after that, but then they were kissing again, and damn, she’d been right. The man could kiss, really kiss—


The knock on the other side of the door caused her to nearly jump out of her skin.


Josh didn’t jump or let go of her. He pressed a kiss to the soft spot just beneath her ear. “You’re lethal,” he whispered before pulling her clear so he could open the door to Anna.


Toby was in her lap eating a Popsicle, his mouth rimmed in purple.


Anna was smirking. “Whatcha doing?” she asked.


Josh just sent her a long look, one that would have had Grace quivering in her boots if it’d been directed at her.


But Anna wasn’t cowed in the slightest. “Oh, I know,” she said. “You were checking each other’s tonsils.”


“Anna,” Josh said, his tone mild but laced with a clear warning.


She just smiled. “Toby wanted to remind you that you have open house night at school later. And you’re supposed to bring cupcakes for something or another tomorrow.”


Still sucking on the Popsicle, Toby nodded his agreement on this.


“Neither of those things are on the schedule,” Josh said.


“Oops,” Anna said. “They must have gotten erased. Like my Europe trip.”


A muscle twitched in Josh’s jaw, but he softened his expression for a solemn Toby, ruffling the boy’s hair in reassurance.


Tank was at their feet, squealing and snuffling, trying to coax someone into picking him up. “Arf,” he said.


“Arf,” Toby said.


Grace’s uterus contracted, which she couldn’t have explained to save her life. “I can handle the cupcakes,” she heard herself say.


Josh looked at her with the expression of someone who was drowning but hadn’t expected a rope tossed to him. “Yeah?”


“Yeah.” She smiled at Toby. “I’m something of a cupcake expert. Especially chocolate cupcakes.”


Josh’s phone buzzed from the depths of his pocket. He pulled it out and looked at the screen, mouth grim. “Gotta go.” He kissed the top of Toby’s head. “Be good.” He sent Anna a long warning look, then went on the move, towing Grace along with him, his hand on her wrist, forcing her to practically run to keep up with him. They strode through the house and out the front. Josh shut the door firmly, then pressed her back against it, dipping down a little to look into her face.


“We have got to stop meeting like this,” she said.


He didn’t smile. “We still on the same page?”


“The no-relationship page in spite of the fact that we tend to burn up all the oxygen in a room when we’re in it together?” she asked. “Hell yes, we’re on the same page. Who needs all that crazy chemistry.” She forced a laugh. “Not me…”


“Grace.” He wasn’t smiling. “If this is too much—”


“No, of course not. We have a deal. I’ll watch Toby. Another reason to minimize the whole kissing thing, right? Because I don’t kiss my bosses. In fact, my last job didn’t work out because I wouldn’t…” She grimaced. Damn big mouth of hers. “You know.”


Josh’s expression was suddenly even more serious. “No,” he said quietly. “I don’t know. Tell me.”


Well hell. How did they get here? She rolled her shoulders and looked at the ocean across the street, uncomfortable with the subject and the memory she didn’t want to tell him about. “It’s no big deal. He wanted…things. I didn’t want to give him things. The end.”


Josh studied her for a moment. “But first you sued the pants off him, or at least smacked him around a little, kicked him where it hurts, right?”


She let out a low laugh. “No.” Nothing nearly so satisfactory. She’d simply left Seattle, not willing to fight for the job that she’d realized she’d never be comfortable in. Unnerved about what had happened, scared about her future, she’d gotten in her car and headed out. She’d been thinking only about putting some distance between her and what would have been a bad decision, and then she’d ended up here in Lucky Harbor.


A complete accident that had turned out to be the best accident of her life. A glorious break from the fast track of her life.


“Grace,” he said, and waited for her to look at him. “I’m not that guy.”


“I know.” And she did. “Which is how”—she waved her hand between them and let out a low laugh—“it got a little out of hand just now. My fault, I know, but I just don’t want you to think—”


“I don’t,” he said. “I wouldn’t. And you weren’t alone in letting it get out of hand.” He shook his head. “Not even close. I acted inappropriately. I’m sorry, Grace.”


In her world, blame was assigned and cast upon the closest target. In her world, people did not take responsibility for their own mistakes. She met his gaze and gave him the utter, terrifying truth. “It didn’t feel inappropriate,” she admitted. “It felt…”


“Fun?” His tone was lighter now. Teasing. And she knew they were truly going to be okay. He didn’t want this; he didn’t have time for this. That made two of them. She’d be leaving soon, going back to her “real life.” Soon as she found it. “Anything critical I need to know to ensure Toby’s well-being?”


“He’s shy and won’t tell you if he’s hungry or thirsty. He eats dinner at five-thirty, and there’s stuff in the freezer with directions included. Be careful not to deviate—he has food allergies. There’s a card on the counter listing all the no-nos. And don’t let him feed Tank any of his Zhu Zhus. Tank is the Antichrist himself, but even the Antichrist can’t digest metal and plastic. That painful lesson cost me six hundred bucks last week.”


“Ouch,” she said, grateful not to have a pug puppy. Or a Zhu Zhu. “So feed and water the kid, and keep Tank away from the Zhu Zhus. Got it.”


“And Anna…”


“I’m thinking she can tell me when she’s hungry and thirsty. And she probably knows not to try to inhale any Zhu Zhus, right?”


Josh let out a breath. “Yeah. But she’s not your responsibility. Don’t let her drive you off.”


“She won’t need any help?”


“No. Trust me on this, no. And I should probably apologize ahead of time for her.”


“We’ll be fine, Dr. Scott.”


He let out a half laugh. “Back to that, are we?”


“Don’t you like it when people call you doctor?”

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