Jax stepped in to help her, but by then she was frazzled beyond repair. “Listen,” he said very kindly, considering, “maybe you should stick with playing. You’re amazing on the piano. Can you sing?”

“No,” she said, and grimaced. “Well, yes.” But she couldn’t stick with playing, because she couldn’t play in front of an audience without having heart failure. “I really can do this waitressing thing,” she said.

Jax shook his head but kept his voice very gentle. “You’re not cut out for this job, Becca. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

She was beginning to think she wasn’t cut out for her life, but she met his gaze evenly, her own determined. “I bet you, remember? By the end of the night, you’ll see. Please? One more try?”

He looked at her for a long moment and then sighed. “Okay, then. One more try.”

A group of three guys walked in the door and took a table. Fortifying her courage, Becca gathered menus and strode over there with a ready-made smile, which congealed when she saw who it was.

Sexy Grumpy Surfer and his two cohorts.

Bolstering herself, she set the menus on the table. “Welcome, gentlemen.”

SGS was sprawled back in his chair, long legs stretched out in front of him crossed at the ankles, his sun-streaked hair unruly as ever, looking like sin personified as he took her in. She did her best to smile, ignoring the butterflies suddenly fluttering low in her belly. “What can I get you to start?”

“Pitcher of beer. And you’re new,” one of them said, the one with the sweetest smile and the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. He had short brown hair he’d forgotten to comb, some scruff on a square jaw, and was wearing cargo pants and a polo shirt with a small screwdriver sticking out of the breast pocket. “I’m Cole,” he told her, “and this big lug here . . .” He gestured to the dark-haired, dark-eyed, darkly dangerously good-looking guy next to him. “Tanner.” Then he jerked his chin toward SGS. “You apparently already know this one.”

“Yes,” Becca said. “SGS.”

They all just looked at her.

“Sexy Grumpy Surfer,” she clarified.

Cole and Tanner burst out laughing.

SGS just gave her a long, steady, paybacks-are-a-bitch smile.

“Or Grandpa,” Cole offered. “That’s what we call him because he always seems to know the weirdest shit.”

“And Grandma works, too,” Tanner said. “When he’s being a chick. No offense.”

Sam sent them each a look that would’ve had Becca peeing her pants, but neither man looked particularly worried.

“And your name?” Cole asked Becca.

She opened her mouth, but before she could answer Sam spoke for her. “Peeper,” he said. “Her name is Peeper.”

His steely but amused gaze held hers as he said this, which is how Becca finally saw him smile. It transformed his face, softening it, and though he was already ridiculously attractive, the smile—trouble-filled as it was—only made him all the more so. It gave her a little quiver in her tummy, which, as she couldn’t attribute it to either hunger or nerves, was not a good sign.

“Peeper,” Tanner repeated slowly, testing it on his tongue. “That’s unusual.”

Still holding Becca’s gaze, Sam said, “It’s a nickname, because she—”

“It’s my big eyes,” Becca broke in with before he could tell his friends that she’d been caught red-handed watching them like a . . . well, peeper. “Yeah,” she said. “I’ve bowled him over with my . . . peepers.”

Sam startled her by laughing, and the sound did something odd and wonderful and horrifying deep inside her, all at the same time. Unbelievably, she could feel herself standing on the precipice of a crush on this guy. She’d been attracted before, of course, plenty of times, but it’d been a while since she’d taken the plunge.

A long while.

She hoped the water was nice, because she could feel the pull of it and knew she was going in.

Chapter 4

When Becca was called to the bar, Sam watched her go, sass in every step. She was in one of those flimsy, gauzy skirts that flirted with a woman’s thighs, and a stretchy white top. Her hair was piled on top of her head, but strands had escaped, flying around her flushed face and clinging to her neck. She’d clearly had a rough night because she appeared to be wearing both beer and barbecue sauce.

“Cute,” Tanner said, also watching.

“She’s off limits,” Sam said, and when they both looked at him in surprise, he shrugged. “We’re concentrating on business right now.”

Tanner coughed and said “bullshit” at the same time.

“It does feel like Grandma here’s holding out on us,” Cole said, still watching Sam.

Sam didn’t want to get into the real reason, which he told himself was that clearly Becca was trying to get her footing, and yeah, she put off a tough, I’ve-got-this vibe, but there was something about her that told him it was a facade. “She’s new to town,” he said. “Let her settle before you start sniffing around her.”

“I will if you will,” Tanner said with a smile. It faded when he caught Sam’s long look. “Kidding,” he said. “Jesus. Hands off your Peeper, got it.”

The nickname of course had jackshit to do with her eyes—though they were indeed big and luminous. They were also a warm, melted milk chocolate, and filled with more than a little trouble.