Author: Jill Shalvis


“Incapacitated, maybe.” With a hand to the center of his chest, she pushed.


He fell flat to the bed and stared up at the ceiling, which was twirling. And there was something else. He badly wanted to roll her beneath him and take her. Take her hard and fast and dirty. “You need to go, Grace.”


“Yeah? And why’s that?” she asked. “You might actually let your control slip? Or worse yet, an emotion?” She shook her head, a small smile curving her lips. “You’ve seen me reveal lots of emotions. Fear, sadness, anger…You’ve seen me totally out of my element and freaked out. You’ve seen me everything. So I think I can handle whatever you’ve got, big guy.”


He blinked. “Big guy?”


She crawled onto the bed and then over him, letting her stomach brush over his erection. “Feels big to me.”


Through his haze, Josh felt her hands stroke his thighs. And then higher as her fingers deftly untied and tugged enough to free him. “I’m not feeling gentle,” he warned.


“I don’t need gentle.” She smiled at him. “Remind me sometime to show you my sexual fantasy list. It’s quite comprehensive. In fact, you in your scrubs are on it. Being not gentle.”


He groaned.


“We play doctor. And in a variation, I get to be the doctor.”


Jesus. “Grace—”


“Shhh,” she murmured, her warm breath brushing over him as she wriggled some more, right out of her leggings. At the feel of her bare legs entangled with his, he groaned again.


“I have your attention?” she asked.


“You always have my attention.”


“Good to know.” As light and teasing as her words were, she made a little movement that rubbed her thighs together, and it occurred to him that she was as turned on as he was. He felt himself twitch at the thought. “Grace—”


“No.” She covered his mouth with a finger. “You just sit there and look pretty.”


His low laugh turned into a husky groan when she grasped him with her hands and let her lips slowly descend over him.


“Oh, Christ.” He had to close his eyes after that, his hands fisted tightly in the bedding instead of in her hair, because she was right—he wasn’t at all sure he could control himself. Two minutes in, he was drowning in pleasure and hot, desperate need. “Grace—” he gasped, trying to warn her.


She merely let out a hungry little murmur and tightened her grip, humming her approval, and blowing his mind right along with his favorite body part.


He came fast and hard, and he figured he should be mortified—tomorrow. For now, all he could muster was a blissed-out exhaustion…


When he woke several hours later to the alarm, he was all alone, leaving him to wonder—real or Memorex?


The next day came too early, and Grace cursed her alarm. It’d been two when she’d left Josh sprawled out spread-eagle on his bed, eyes rolled back in his head. She’d been pretty sure he’d still been breathing.


He must have been, because his car was already gone.


She drove into Seattle for an interview at a second firm that had called late yesterday, and it went well. On her way back to Lucky Harbor, she got a phone call from Anna.


“Toby’s school called. He fell into a mud puddle, and he needs a change of clothes.”


“Okay,” Grace said. “I’ll be there in twenty.” When she got to the house, she went through Toby’s dresser and pulled out a pair of pants.


“Don’t forget socks,” Anna said from the doorway.


“Socks.” She grabbed those too.


“And shoes. And a shirt. And a coat…”


Grace looked at Anna.


“Apparently, he’s quite the mess.”


Grace drove the change of clothes to the elementary school, and Anna had been right. Toby was a mess, but a happy one.


“I didn’t need new clothes,” he said, not quite so happy now that he had to change. Apparently little boys like to wear their mud like badges of honor.


Grace handed him the clothes and gave his hair a tousle. Or tried. Her fingers caught on the mud in his hair. “What, did you bathe in the stuff?”


He grinned, and she shook her head. “See you at the bus stop in a little while, handsome.”


She left the school and met Amy and Mallory for a late lunch at Eat Me. Lunch was chocolate cupcakes, of course.


“So sad about Mrs. Porter,” Mallory said. “We’re all taking it hard at the hospital. Especially Josh.” Her eyes cut to Grace. “You hear from him?”


Not since she’d left him boneless and panting on his bed. She shook her head and peeled her cupcake from its wrapper.


“He might need some TLC,” Mallory said.


“Whatever you do, don’t call it TLC,” Amy said. “That’ll scare an alpha into next week. Just do him. That’s all the TLC he’ll need.”


Grace, who’d just taken an unfortunate bite of her cupcake, inhaled it up her nose. By the time she’d stopped coughing and swiped at her streaming eyes, both Mallory and Amy were waiting, brows up.


“Stop,” Grace managed. “You guys read far too much into everything. Must be all that TLC you’re both having. It’s making you think everyone else is having it too.”


“So you’re saying that there’s nothing going on with you and the doc?” Amy asked.


Well, hell. She couldn’t exactly say that. “I’m saying that this was supposed to be just fun. Not anything real. I’m interviewing for jobs that I’m actually trained to do, and—”


“That your family wants you to do,” Mallory reminded her. “Because if you ask me, life here in Lucky Harbor suits you pretty nicely.”


“My parents mean well,” Grace said. “They want me to succeed.”


“Well of course,” Mallory said. “They love you. But I’m thinking success and happiness don’t get along. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one for the other.”


Grace had strived hard for success all her life, wanting to live up to being a Brooks. It meant a lot to her, but it’d also cost her. Until now she’d not managed to have any real relationships in her life, at least not long-lasting ones. They’d not been important. But now she couldn’t imagine her life without Mallory and Amy in it.


“Happiness should always win,” Mallory said quietly.


Grace sighed. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes.


“So on a scale of one to Taylor Lautner,” Amy said to Grace, “how good is he?”


Grace thought about hers and Josh’s two extremely memorable…moments. “It’s not what you think.” She paused. “But Josh is ten-point-five Taylor Lautners. No, make that eleven.”


This caused a moment of silent appreciation.


“He makes you happy,” Mallory said softly.


Grace looked into her friend’s warm eyes. Mallory wanted the best for her. She also wanted the best for Josh. It was natural that her romantic heart would want the best for them, together. “I’ve always been a little short on the happy,” Grace admitted. “So it’s hard to say. But it’s what I said I wanted. Fun.”


Mallory’s gaze never left Grace’s as she squeezed her hand, and Grace knew what she was thinking. What they were all thinking. Yes, Grace had said she wanted only fun. But somehow, when she hadn’t been looking, she’d begun to yearn for more.


Far more.


That she’d already set the parameters with Josh was her own fault, so fun it would be. And no more.


“You could do this the easy way and just tell him,” Mallory said.


“Tell him what?” Amy wanted to know.


“That she’s falling for him,” Mallory said.


Grace shook her head. She wasn’t falling. She couldn’t be falling. Because Josh had a very full life, and there wasn’t room for her in it. And she was quite over trying to squeeze herself in where there wasn’t room. She’d done that with her parents all her life. And every failed relationship.


No more. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to take it.


Amy looked at Mallory. “She’s going down the same path I did, poor baby. The path of most resistance.”


“I’m not taking any path,” Grace said, feeling grumpy now as she reached for another cupcake. Her grumpiness hit a new level when both Amy and Mallory merely laughed at her.


“Is watching Toby as hard as you thought it would be?” Mallory asked when she’d controlled herself.


Trick question. Grace had honestly believed that taking care of Toby would be easier than watching after Tank. It hadn’t been at all, but she couldn’t remember ever enjoying a job more. Not sure what that meant. She lifted a shoulder. “Little boys aren’t all that different from big boys.”


Amy grinned. “Now there’s a lesson that should be taught to every female in kindergarten to save years of frustration and heartache.”


“You really don’t think you’re falling for him?” Mallory asked Grace.


She shook her head. Her life had always been about the bottom line, about numbers, about getting to the top. It’d never been about emotions, about heart and soul. About falling in love…She knew better than that. “Josh isn’t looking for that.”


Mallory looked amused. “I meant Toby.”


Oh. Right.


“But good to know where you’re at,” Mallory said.


Yeah. Good to know. Grace’s phone rang. A number she didn’t recognize.


“Grace Brooks?” came an unfamiliar voice in her ear.


“Yes.”


“This is Serena, the nurse at Lucky Harbor Elementary. Toby’s not sick or hurt or anything.”


“Okay…”


“But he fell in a mud puddle again…”


Since there was only a half hour left of school, Grace just took Toby home with her. She buckled him into his booster seat and slid him a look in the rearview mirror. “Do I want to know?”

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