They’d lost Gil. Just the thought brought the low, dull ache of his passing back as a fresh knife stab, and Sam drew a breath until it passed.

They’d nearly lost Tanner in that rig fire as well. Tanner still limped and was damn lucky to have his leg at all, something Sam tried not to think about. “We talked about expanding,” he said, “hiring on more people and buying a new boat.”

“When we have the money for it,” Tanner said. He was their resident pessimist. Never met a situation he liked. “We said we’d revisit the issue when we were ready. No loan payments.”

Sam hadn’t been the only one to grow up on the wrong side of the poverty line. “No loans,” he said.

Cole hadn’t taken his eyes off Sam. “You already spend all your time bitching and moaning about not having enough hours in the day to make your boats,” he reminded him. “You’d have heart failure if we expanded our business right now. Have you updated your will? You left everything to me, right?”

“We start with more staff,” Sam said, ignoring him. “Office help first, then hire on an additional crew.” He pointed at both Cole and Tanner. “You guys are in charge of that.”

“Why us?” Tanner asked.

“Because I’m busy making you rich,” Sam said.

Becca was back, with a pitcher of beer this time, and a huge plate of nachos, chicken wings, and pesto chips. “Your order,” she said.

The guys all looked at each other, and Becca paused. “What?” she asked.

“We didn’t order yet,” Sam said.

“Oh for the love of—” She slapped Tanner’s hand before he could snatch a nacho, picked up the platter and the beers, and once again vanished.

She was back a breathless moment later, looking flushed as she held her order pad. “Okay, let’s start over. I’m Becca, your server for tonight.”

“You sure?” Sam asked.

She let out a theatrical sigh. “Listen, I’m not exactly in my natural habitat here.” Suddenly she straightened and gave them a dazzling smile as she spoke out of the corner of her mouth. “Quick, everyone look happy with your service. My hopefully new boss is watching. I made a bet with him that I could handle this job and I have tonight to prove it.”

Sam craned his neck and saw Jax at the bar, watching Becca. “It’d help if you were actually serving,” he said.

“Working on that,” she said, and vanished.

The three of them watched her go for a moment. She went straight to the bar, smiled at Jax, grabbed a tray of drinks, and then brought them to a table. That she had to take drinks right out of a few people’s hand and switch them to someone else’s made Cole and Tanner chuckle.

“She can’t serve worth shit,” Tanner said. “But she does have a great smile. And those eyes. Man, it’s like when she looks at you, you’re the only one she sees.”

Sam watched her take an order from the table. One of the customers said something and she tossed her head back and laughed. Not a fake I-want-your-tips laugh, but a genuine, contagious one that made everyone at the table join her.

Cole and Tanner were right. She was cute. And as he already knew from catching her staring at him several times now, she absolutely had a way of making a guy feel like he was the only one she saw.

She left the table and vanished into the back, coming out a moment later with a tray laden with plates of food. The muscles in her shoulders and arms strained as she moved, and Sam found himself holding his breath. Maybe she did suck as a waitress, but no one could deny that she was working her tail off. She got all the way to the back table before she dumped the tray.

Down the front of herself.

The man closest to her must have gotten sprayed because he flew to his feet and held his shirt out from his body, jaw tight. He said something low and undoubtedly harsh given the look on Becca’s face as she bent to clean up the mess. Grabbing her elbow, he gave her a little shake, and before Sam gave it a second thought, he was on his feet and at Becca’s back.

“You’re the worst waitress I’ve ever seen,” the guy was yelling. “You are nowhere near good enough for this job.”

The barb hit. Sam could tell by the way Becca took a step back as if slapped, bumping right into him.

“You’re going to pay for the dry cleaning of this shirt, do you hear me?” the guy went on.

“Hard not to,” Sam said, steadying Becca. “Since you’re braying like a jackass.”

Becca slid Sam a look that said she could handle this. When he didn’t budge, she made a sound of annoyance and turned back to the pissed-off customer. “I’m sorry,” she said. “And of course I’ll pay for your dry cleaning.” Then she bent again to clean up.

Sam crouched down to help her scoop the fallen plates onto the tray, but she pushed at him. “I’ve got this,” she whispered. But she was trembling, and her breath hitched. “Stop, Sam. I don’t need you to help,” she insisted when he kept doing just that.

He’d disagree with her, but that would only back her into a corner. So he continued on in silence, and then when she vanished into the kitchen, he went back to his table.

Tanner and Cole were grinning at him.


“You tell us what,” Cole said.

“I was just helping.”

“No, helping would be going into the kitchen and wrangling us up some burgers,” Tanner said, rubbing his belly. “I’m starving.”