They whispered among themselves like jurors debating his sentence. Josh slid Grace a look. She was looking at him right back, eyes lit with amusement, not looking particularly desperate for the job at all.
“Six to two,” Lucille announced, “in favor of Grace giving Dr. Scott another shot.”
Grace didn’t react, and Josh had the feeling the vote was actually more like six to three. “Triple the pay,” he said. No more messing around. He was already late, and he was sinking fast. The board didn’t need another excuse to get on his ass about being unable to handle the workload.
Grace smiled, and it was a really great smile. So great that he felt something twinge inside him, something he’d thought dead. “What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Triple the pay?” She was still smiling but there was something in her voice that warned him he was on thin ice, but hell if he knew what he’d done now.
Several of the women behind him snorted, the rest nodded in agreement, all of it adding up to him being an idiot.
“I’d have done it for that kiss you promised me,” Grace said.
Well, now was a fine time to tell him that.
“Aw.” Lucille clapped her hands together in utter delight. “Break time, ladies! Let’s give these two a moment.” She slid a sly look in Josh’s direction. “Go ahead, then,” she whispered. “Pay her.”
Josh shook his head. “My wallet’s in the car—”
“Not money, Dr. Scott. The girl said she’d do it for a kiss.”
Josh let out a laugh. “Lucille, she was just kidding.”
Lucille studied Grace, then slowly shook her head. “No, I don’t think she was kidding. Does anyone here think Grace was only kidding?”
Everyone in the room shook their heads in unison. A room full of damn geriatric bobblehead dolls.
Grace stepped down off the pedestal. “It’s okay, Lucille,” she said, still looking at Josh, her mouth curving slow and sensuous. “We’re scaring him. Of course Dr. Scott doesn’t have to kiss me to get me to walk his dog.” She shrugged at him, like Hey, this isn’t my doing.
Bullshit it wasn’t her doing. But she had such pretty eyes, he thought insanely. Real pretty. And, hell, they were scaring him. Pride stinging just a little bit, feeling like he had something to prove—though he wasn’t quite sure what—he stepped close to Grace and bent his head low, his gaze searching hers for a sign that she was being pushed into this.
Her smile broadened.
“You could put a stop to this,” he said softly, and unbelievably, she made the sound of a chicken. He straightened and narrowed his eyes. “What does that mean?”
“You know what it means.”
She was crazy, he decided. A crazy cutie. He had way too much on his plate for this. Too many people to take care of, and she had “take care of me” written all over her. And yet she thought that he was a chicken. Interesting.
And a little bit of a turn-on. But fuck it, he was done thinking. The woman wanted a kiss, and hell if he’d try to talk her out of it. So he leaned in and brushed his mouth over hers. Peach. Her lip gloss was peach, and it was more delicious than anything he could remember.
So was the kiss, chaste as it was, which rocked his socks right off.
Chocolate is good for three things. Two of them can’t be mentioned in polite company.
Grace closed her eyes to enjoy the feel of a man’s mouth on hers. Yep, just as heavenly as she remembered. Maybe even more so. She definitely felt a spark.
Actually, she felt a full fireworks display.
When Josh pulled back, she opened her eyes to his dark brown ones and caught his own flash of surprise before he masked it.
“We have a deal, then,” he said. “For today.”
He hadn’t worded it as a question, of course, which was just like a man. But he looked even more exhausted today than he had yesterday, and that both intrigued and worried her. She was extremely aware of his proximity, that his big, bad self wasn’t in wet, sandy ER scrubs today. He wore cargo pants and a fisherman’s sweater, both in black, both casual but expensive-looking, like he’d walked right out of an ad.
But she was even more aware that the entire art class was watching them.
Her phone buzzed. The incoming text was from Lucille: Honey, I don’t mean to rush you but it’s rumored that the good doc has got the best hands in all of Lucky Harbor. Go for it.
Grace lifted her head and sent Lucille a look.
Lucille smiled innocently.
Grace rolled her eyes and nodded to Josh. “Fine. We have a deal.”
He handed her a key to his house and left.
Grace watched him go, thinking that his hands weren’t even his best part. “Excuse me a minute,” she said to the class, before running to catch up with Josh in the hall.
He turned to face her, and she shook her head, her body still humming from his kiss. “What was that?” she finally managed. “Back there.”
“You know what it was.”
Yeah. Yeah, she did. Chemistry. Holy Toledo, some damn hot chemistry. “But it shouldn’t be like this, not between us.” They were night and day. Oil and water. He might not know it, but she did. “It was a fluke.” That was all she could think, that it was a complete fluke. But his eyes darkened, and in response, her nipples got hard. “Okay, so maybe not,” she muttered, and crossed her arms over herself and her fake triple Ds.
He stepped closer, his voice low. “I’d prove it to you, but I’m not into kissing by committee.”
She looked over her shoulder and found Lucille and the entire art class leaning out the classroom door, unabashedly eavesdropping. She gave them the “shoo” signal, and they vanished.
“Impressive,” he said. “Be sure to use that level of authority on Tank today and try to avoid another swim.”
“I really thought he was in the water.”
“He likes to play hide-and-seek.”
“Good to know.” And she still had to take that crazy puppy out for another walk…
“Interesting T-shirt,” he said.
She looked down at herself, eternally grateful that she hadn’t gone the full Monty route after all. “It’s not as good as the real thing, but as it turns out, I’m pretty selective about who sees the real thing.”
His smile softened. His eyes crinkled in the corners, and the laugh lines on either side of his mouth deepened, stealing her breath. “Good to know,” he mirrored back at her.
It was a genuine smile from a man who didn’t appear to do it too often, and it left her a little dazed. Or maybe it was the crazy amount of testosterone coming off him in waves.
“Let me know if you have any trouble today,” he said.
“For what you’re paying me, there’ll be no trouble.” And if there was, he’d be the last man she’d call, amazing kisser or not, because they had a connection, and she knew the power of it now.
Grace wasn’t in Lucky Harbor to make a connection with a man she knew wasn’t her type. She was looking for fun, that was it, and in spite of Josh being sex-on-a-stick, she wasn’t sure he had a lot of fun in him. Steering clear was her smartest option here. And no matter how good he was with his hands, she was going to be smart, if it killed her.
A few hours later, Grace headed to Josh’s house. As she parked, she noticed she had an unread text from Mallory.
Hey, head’s up. The hottest doctor in town just came by and coerced me into telling him where you were. I folded like a cheap suitcase. Sorry, but he’s hard to say no to. Don’t be mad. I owe you a cupcake.
Yeah, an entire batch. Grace shook her head and let herself into Josh’s house without incident. This time, she carefully leashed Tank before she opened his baby gate, and then as a double precaution, she just as carefully picked him up and carried him outside.
She might not be a blood-born Brooks genius, but she was quick on the learning curve.
She avoided the beach entirely, instead setting Tank down to walk alongside the quiet street. Tank sniffed every single rock, every last tree, and then finally chose a spot to hunch and do his business.
“Hey!” A man stuck his head out of a window of the house. “Don’t think I don’t see that you’re not carrying a doodie bag! You come back with a doodie bag and clean that up!”
A doodie bag? Grace had seen a stack of plastic baggies by Tank’s leash. Guess she knew what they were for now. She scooped Tank back up. “I hope you’re done.”
Tank snorted and licked her chin.
“I mean it!” the man yelled at her. “Make sure you take care of that mess or I’ll call the cops on you.”
Grace took Tank back to the house, securing him in the laundry room. Then she reluctantly grabbed a bag to go do her “doodie” duty. As she turned to the door, she nearly tripped over a young woman in a wheelchair. She was twentyish, petite, dark-haired, her eyes as dark and alluring as the man she had to be related to.
“Anna,” she said, introducing herself. “The crazy sister. And you must be the nude girl he kissed.”
Grace choked. “What?”
“Yeah, you haven’t seen?” Anna pulled her phone from a pocket and thumbed a few buttons, then turned the screen for Grace.
It was Lucky Harbor’s Facebook page, and a picture of Grace in the bikini T-shirt that was going to haunt her for the rest of her damn life. And her lips were indeed connected to Josh’s. The kiss had lasted only a heartbeat, but one would never know it by the picture, which had been captured at just the right nanosecond, showing Grace leaning into Josh with her entire body, both hands on his chest.
She hadn’t realized she’d touched him so intimately, but now she could remember the heat radiating through his shirt, the easy strength of him beneath. And he’d smelled delicious.
But God, had she really looked at him so adoringly?