Author: Jill Shalvis


Ty pointed his beer at Josh. “Want to know what I think?”


“No,” Josh said.


“I think you have a case of being a little girl. Maybe you should prescribe yourself a heavy dose of man-the-fuck-up.”


Josh rolled his eyes as the two of them laughed their asses off over how clever they were. He turned to the dance floor again, watching Grace move with an easy rhythm.


Last night, she’d arranged for two babysitter interviews for him, vanishing instead of taking part in the interview process. He hadn’t understood until he’d talked with Jenna Burnett and Sierra Hennessy. Jenna had wanted to know how much downtime they would get to spend together without “the kid,” and Sierra had wanted to discuss his stance on prenups.


Not a big surprise that neither were going to work out.


He had two more interviews for tomorrow, and he wasn’t sure he had any faith that either of them would be any more right for them than Jenna or Sierra had been. He knew he needed to step up and get more involved in the interview process because the clock was ticking down. Any day now, Grace was going to find a job, and she’d stop playing Mary Poppins.


He’d deal with it. He’d pick up the pieces and go on. But for now, watching her move so gorgeously and easily to the music, he wished time would stop. She wore a lacy camisole top, one of those sheer numbers, with another camisole beneath it, showing off lean, toned arms. Her skirt was short and made of a lightweight gauzy material that flirted with her thighs and blew his brain cells right and left. Her strappy sandals had heels, making her bare legs look long and sleek. The need to start at her toes and lick his way up those legs to the promised land was strong.


“You might be too much of a pussy to claim your woman,” Matt said, rising to his feet, “but I’m not.” He headed for Amy, moving in close to her, reaching out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear.


Josh watched Grace smile at the couple as she moved aside, leaving room for Matt to wrap his arms hard around Amy.


Josh pushed to his feet and met Grace on the edge of the dance floor.


She smiled. “You dance?”


He gave her a boogie move that had gotten him laid once or twice in college and made her laugh. “I didn’t know,” she said.


“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”


“Like the time you and the sheriff got drunk and went streaking on the pier?” she asked sweetly.


He sighed. “Why do you listen to Anna?”


She was grinning wide. “Did you really?”


“Yeah.” He grimaced, making her laugh again.


“Honesty,” she said. “I like that. Is lying against the doctor’s oath or something?”


“Hell, no. I lie all the time. Just tonight, on the walk from my car to the pier, I told Mrs. Lyons that she was looking good.”


“Is she the one wearing the chartreuse green spandex shorts?”


“Yes,” he said. “And for the record, we were stupid punk-ass seventeen-year-olds who thought we had something to show off to the world.”


“Oh, you do have something to show off, Dr. Scott.”


Shaking his head, he reached for her, pulling her into him as the music slowed. She fit against his body like the last pieces of a puzzle, and he felt himself relax for the first time in days.


“So what are some of your other lies?” she asked.


“Hmm…” He thought about it. He’d just lied to Ty and Matt about this being nothing more than a diversion. Not that he planned on saying that. Which probably counted as yet another lie. “This morning I told Toby that Santa Claus was alive and well and making toys as we speak.”


“Aw. That’s sweet, Josh.”


His jaw was pressed to hers. He could feel her thighs and breasts pressing against him. She had one arm wound up around his neck, her fingers playing in his hair, making him want to purr like a big cat. “Sweet,” he repeated.


“Yeah.” She nudged closer. “Sweet.”


“I’m not feeling sweet, Grace.”


She very purposely rocked against the zipper of his pants. A zipper that was slightly strained. “Mmm. I suppose not,” she murmured. “Just as well, really. Sweet’s overrated.”


Then she rocked again, laughing softly when he tightened his grip on her. He had a hand low on her back, itching to go lower, to run up her bare leg and beneath her skirt. He’d been thinking about doing that, or some version of it, all damn day. For two damn days really, ever since the pool, when he’d had her bare, wet body in his hands.


Scratch that. He’d been thinking about getting his hands on her since he’d accidentally hired her to walk Tank and gotten the call that she’d lost the dog. He could still see her, standing on the beach, her sundress plastered to her like a second skin, completely see-through.


She’d looked like a sun-kissed goddess.


Another couple bumped into them. Lucille and Mr. Wykowski. Mr. Wykowski was eighty, but he had all his own teeth and still had a driver’s license, so every female senior citizen in Lucky Harbor was constantly chasing him. He winked at Josh. “It’s a night for getting lucky, eh, boy?”


Josh met Grace’s gaze as the other couple had danced off. “It’s a night for something,” he said.


The music was shifting again, gearing up for a faster-paced song. Night was upon them, the sun a mere memory on the horizon. All around them people danced, laughed, talked, drank. No one was paying them any attention, so Josh took Grace’s hand and led her off the dance floor.


The bar was run by an old friend, Ford Walker.


“How’s it going?” Ford asked. “Hear the little guy is doing great.”


“Student of the week,” Josh said proudly. He looked at Grace. “A drink?”


“A beer, please.”


Ford served them up two longnecks. “So now that you’re going to have all this free time, I can finally get you on our basketball team, right? Three on three. It’s been just me and Jax ever since Sawyer pussied out. Pulled his Achilles. We need your height.”


“Count me in,” Josh said, and took Grace down the pier, lit by strings of white holiday lights that twinkled in the dark. Instead of walking to the end, where they’d be highlighted as if they were in a fishbowl, he directed her to the wood stairs that led down to the beach.


The sand was damp and giving, the water pounding the shore hard enough to drown out most of the sounds of the festival as they walked and sipped their beers. It’d been a long week, a big week. A week of irrevocable change. Josh had made a lot of mistakes in his life, and he’d tried to learn from all of them. He definitely tried to not repeat them.


Hiring Grace had been his favorite mistake so far. That he’d gotten to this place where he’d sold the practice and was going to live his life in a way far more suited to him was because of her. Even knowing she was going to leave, he still felt that way. “Have you heard back from any of the jobs you’ve interviewed for?” he asked, trying to sound neutral.


“I think Seattle and Portland are both going to offer. They’re both good, strong opportunities in my field.”


He wasn’t the only one who sounded carefully neutral. She had her face averted. He tilted her head up and searched her eyes. “Is that what you want?” he asked.


“I’m working on figuring that out.” Her gaze was unguarded, letting him see her hopes and dreams and doubts and fears. It was the last that got him.


She was at the proverbial fork in the road, and he’d been there, right there, wanting to do the best thing, the right thing. “I gave up my dad’s expectations for me when I sold the practice,” he said quietly. “I let it all go, knowing, or at least hoping, he’d understand.” He paused. “Maybe you need to give up your parents’ expectations and do what’s right for you.”


She drew in a deep breath and nodded. “I know. But I’ve been living for their expectations so long, it’s taking me some time to figure out what mine are.”


Around them, the ocean continued to batter the shore. The silence was comfortable as he took in the fact that oddly enough, their problems weren’t all that different from one another.


“How about you?” she asked after a few minutes. “What do you want for yourself?”


What did he want? For things to be different. For this to be what she wanted. “I want to have time to breathe.”


“You think that will happen now?”


“Christ, I hope so,” he said. “I haven’t seen enough of Toby.”


“I helped him with his homework earlier,” she said. “It was that family tree thing.” She paused. “You and his mom weren’t married?”


“No. Technically, we weren’t even dating.”


“A one-night stand?” she asked.


“Sort of.”


She gave him an expectant look, and he blew out a breath. Was he really going to do this? He never did this. “You don’t know this about me,” he said. “But I wasn’t exactly the cool kid on the block growing up.”


“I do know. You were the late-bloomer nerd.”


He sighed, and she smiled. “People like to talk about you,” she said.


Yeah, and how he loved that. “Well, nothing much changed for me between being that kid who’d get stripped and tied to the flagpole and graduating high school.”


“What?” She straightened, eyes flashing fury for the kid he’d been. “Who did that to you?”


“Easy, Tiger. I’m just saying, you grow up getting picked on, you aren’t exactly prepared when the summer before college you suddenly grow a foot and women start paying attention to you. Then add a few years and the initials M. and D. after your name, and it gets even worse.”


She blinked. “So women started throwing themselves at you? That must have eased your pain quite a bit.”


Yeah. A lot, actually. But it didn’t mean he’d instantly known what he was doing. “I met Toby’s mom at a friend’s wedding. She was from Dallas, and just in town for the weekend.” It’d been the day from hell. He’d lost his first patient that day, a teenager who’d coded out on the table from an overdose before Josh could help him. Josh had gone to the wedding in a fucked-up frame of mind. Aided by a few beers, a beautiful stranger, and apparently one faulty-as-hell condom, he’d done his best to forget the day.

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