“I’ll pay,” Mindy said. “Whatever they’re paying.”
Since Amy was paying in cupcakes, and Grace needed more cupcakes like she needed another sexually frustrated alpha male standing impatiently at her side, she started to shake her head, but Mindy grabbed her hands.
“It would mean so much to me,” she said urgently, “to have someone trustworthy handling my books. My ex, he”—she drew in a shaky breath—“he screwed things up for me financially. Like I said, I really need your help.”
Grace felt her stomach clench in sympathy and understanding and nodded. “Okay.”
“Oh, thank you. Thank you so much! Now?”
“No,” Josh said. “Not now.” He took Grace’s hand in a firm, inexorable grip. “Tomorrow. She’ll help you tomorrow.” And he pulled her away, through the crowd, across the lot, once again moving so that she was practically running to keep up with his long legs and relentless stride.
“That was rude,” she said breathlessly.
He didn’t bother to respond.
“People are going to think we’re in a hurry to…”
He slid her a look that said, We are in a hurry to…
There were people milling around in the lot. One or two called out to Josh, but the man was on a mission and didn’t veer from his path.
“Josh,” Grace said on a breathless laugh. “Slow down.”
He didn’t, not even a little. And when several ladies from the drawing class she’d modeled for tried to wave her over, he tightened his grip on her. “No eye contact,” he reminded her, and beeped his car unlocked, practically shoving her into the passenger seat. She might have objected to the way he was manhandling her except his big, warm hands were sliding over her body, making themselves at home, and she couldn’t quite catch her breath. He shut the door and was in the driver’s seat before she could so much as blink.
“What if those ladies needed to talk to me?” she asked.
“I need to talk to you.”
She laughed. “You want to talk? Really? Because you’re looking a little bit like the big bad wolf over there. But if you want to talk, hey, I’m game.” She leaned back in the guise of settling in comfortably. “How was your day?”
Josh reached across the console and pulled her into his lap.
“So it was a good day, then?” she teased.
“Fantastic. Tell me it’s about to get even better.”
She rocked a little, feeling his arousal beneath her, hard and quite insistent. “Mmm. Maybe…”
“Don’t tease me. I’m beyond that.”
“Aw. Poor baby.”
“I mean it,” he said in a low, very serious voice. “If we’re interrupted again…”
She laughed. “At least we made it to the end last time.”
“That wasn’t the end. That was just the beginning.” His dark eyes met hers. “A year, Grace. I went without sex for a whole year. I have some moves stored up.”
“Yeah?” she asked, breathless at the thought. “Show me.”
He covered her mouth with his, sliding a hand into her hair to angle her head the way he wanted it. She was getting to know him, and she knew that he was a man who rarely acted without thinking. His moves were always rational, calm.
But there was nothing controlled about him now as his hands wandered madly from her face to her waist to her hips, ending up back in her hair while he kissed her hard, his tongue tangling with hers.
And suddenly a Josh-induced orgasm right here, right now, seemed like the best idea she’d had all night.
Needing to touch him, Grace wrapped her arms around him and pushed her hands beneath his shirt, encountering sleek, smooth sinew.
His groan rumbled in her ear, and she pressed even closer. He was breathing unevenly, a fact she liked, very much. His hands were busy, the heat of them seeming to scald her skin as they dug into her hips. He was huge and hard and pressed up against her core, which worked for her. He’d completely forgotten their surroundings, which she liked even more. Then his hands slid beneath the hem of her dress, and she forgot their surroundings, too, beginning to pant before he’d even touched anything vital. He moved his lips to her neck, kissing and tracing his magic tongue down her throat as his wandering fingers stroked the wet silk of her panties.
The knock on the window startled them.
It was Lucille, one hand covering her eyes. “Sorry!” she yelled through the glass.
“I know I took an oath to save lives,” Josh muttered, “but I’m going to kill her.”
Grace scooted back into the passenger seat, desperately righting her clothing as she did. Josh checked her progress, then rolled the window down an inch.
“I’m sorry!” Lucille told him again, eyes still covered. “But a couple of the guys were messing around on the pier, and Anderson fell in. He hasn’t surfaced. They’re looking for him but—”
Josh was already out of the car. “Call nine-one-one,” he called back to Grace, and took off running toward the pier.
Grace called 911, then took Josh’s keys and locked up his car, moving quickly with Lucille to the water, anxious to know if Anderson had been found. An almost hushed crowd was gathered down on the beach, and they headed that way, taking the stairs as fast as Lucille could move.
There was a huddle in the water, three people making their way toward shore, a figure being carefully supported between them. One of the men was bent over the still one. It was too dark to see what he was doing or even who he was—but Grace knew.
He and the others staggered ashore. Josh dropped to his knees, situating the overly still man between them, careful with his neck and spine.
“Oh thank God, they found him,” Lucille breathed, and put her hands to her mouth. “I just hope they were in time.”
The other men crouched on the opposite side of Anderson, water streaming off all of them. Grace recognized one of them as Sheriff Sawyer Thompson. The other was Ty, Mallory’s fiancé. Sawyer borrowed a phone from someone on the beach and was on it, probably to dispatch, while Josh checked for a pulse. He must have gotten one because he nodded to Ty before beginning compressions, his movements quick and efficient.
“Oh no,” Lucille whispered, and clutched at Grace. “He’s not breathing.”
“Josh’ll fix it.” Grace gripped Lucille’s icy fingers and prayed that was true. In her heart, she knew that if Anderson could be saved, Josh was the man to do it.
But Anderson was awfully still, and there was blood on his face and head. He could have broken bones too; she couldn’t tell from here but knew Josh was worried about the same thing given the extremely cautious way he’d handled Anderson’s body. Just as he stopped to once again check for a heartbeat and pulse, sirens whooped, and red-and-blue flashing lights lit up the night as the ambulance pulled into the lot above.
And then, an even more welcome sound—Anderson choking up seawater, convulsing with the violence of it, his muscles spasming.
Sawyer and Ty let out audible breaths of relief. Sawyer stood up and pushed the crowd back. Ty accepted several jackets from people standing near, using them to cover Anderson.
Josh had deftly turned Anderson on his side to more effectively cough up what looked like gallons of water. As the EMS team ran down the pier stairs and hit the beach, Anderson tried to push himself up but Josh held him down, talking to him quietly.
“Dammit,” Lucille said, her eyes glistening, tears of relief on her cheeks. “I can’t hear what they’re saying.”
Grace didn’t need to hear to know that Josh was working to keep Anderson calm and still. She was riveted to the sight. All of the men were drenched, but none of them appeared to even notice, worried only about Anderson.
Josh gave out orders to the EMS, and working together they got Anderson on the gurney, covered him in blankets, and then loaded him into the ambulance. Josh hopped into the back alongside his patient, and the doors closed. A minute later, the ambulance pulled out of the lot, lights going, sirens silent.
“Everyone in town is here,” Lucille said to Grace. “They won’t have any traffic on the road.”
Grace nodded a little numbly, struck by the sudden feeling of fragility. Life was fragile.
Too short. Fingering Josh’s keys, she left the pier and drove home. Well, not home exactly, she reminded herself.
Josh’s home. Which he’d managed to make for himself and his family in spite of believing that he’d not given them much. It was a good home, too, warm and safe. But for now, tonight, it was silent and dark. Lifeless without Josh in it.
She found Anna by the pool, staring into the moonlit water. “Hey.” Grace plopped down on a lounge chair near her. “You missed the action tonight.”
“I can’t maneuver the pier by myself.”
“I’d have helped you.”
This had Anna looking at her. “Why?”
“Why? Well, why not?”
“Because I’ve been a bitch to you.”
“Yeah,” Grace said. “But you’re a bitch to everyone, so I never take it personally.”
Anna laughed. It sounded a little rusty. And unhappy. Grace knew that what she had to tell her wasn’t going to help. “I think I saw Devon there,” she said carefully.
Anna shook her head. “He’s in Seattle. At a family thing.”
Grace grimaced. “Okay, let me rephrase. I definitely saw him at the festival. With a girl.”
Anna went still. “Just when I thought I could learn not to hate you.”
“If I were you, I’d want to know,” Grace said, not hurt by Anna’s words. She understood. She might not know firsthand the tragedy of losing her parents and becoming paralyzed, but she knew boy pain.
“You don’t know anything about our relationship,” Anna said.