Sam shook his head and turned on his iPad again. “Where were we?”

“You were playing hero,” Tanner said.

Sam ignored this. “Our boat fund will hit its projected mark this year,” he said.

Both Cole and Tanner blinked at him.

“You’re serious,” Tanner finally said. “You really did manage to pay us and save a mint while you were at it.”

“Do I ever joke about money?” Sam asked.

“Holy shit,” Cole said. “Just how much are we making anyway?”

Sam thumbed through the iPad, brought up their receivables, and shoved the screen across the table.

They all stared at the numbers and Tanner let out a low whistle.

“Why the hell are you so surprised?” Sam asked, starting to get insulted. “I send you both weekly updates. Between all the chartering and the profits from the boats I’ve been building, we’re doing good.”

Both Cole and Tanner still just stared at him, and Sam shook his head in disgust. “I could be ripping you guys off, you ever think of that?”

“Yeah,” Cole said. “Except you’re a terrible liar and you’re not nearly greedy enough.”

Needing the beer Becca had taken away, Sam went to the bar for a pitcher. The bar was crazier than usual, and Sam realized he saw only a hungry crowd and no sign of Becca at all. He took the pitcher back to his table and poured.

“To Gil,” Cole said, and as they always did, they drank to Gil’s memory.

A few minutes later, wondering if maybe Becca had gotten her sweet ass fired, Sam stepped into the hall and found her standing there with her back to him, hugging herself with one arm, the other hand holding her cell phone to her ear.

“No, I can’t come play at your concert,” she was saying. “I’m— They’re paying how much?” She paused. “Wow, but no. I can’t— Yeah, I’m fine. In fact, I’ve got my toes in the sand right this very minute, so you just concentrate on you, okay?” She paused. “The noise? Uh . . . it’s the waves. It’s high tide.”

This was when she turned and caught sight of Sam standing there. Flushing a deep red, she held his gaze. “Gotta go, Jase. The whitecaps are kicking up and it’s making my muse kick into gear.” She lowered her voice and covered her mouth and the phone, but Sam heard her whisper, “And don’t come out here. Okay? I’m good. Really, really good. So just stay where you are.” She disconnected and made herself busy stuffing the phone into her pocket before flashing Sam her waitress smile. “I think your order’s almost up.”

“How would you know? You’ve got your toes in the sand.”

She drooped a little. “Yeah. I’m probably going to hell for that one.”

“Jase?” he asked.

“My brother.” She sighed. “You know families.”

Yeah, Sam knew families. He knew families weren’t necessarily worth shit, at least not blood families. He wondered what her story was, but before he could ask, she sent him one last shaky smile and walked away.

Chapter 5

It was two thirty in the morning when the bar finally got quiet. Becca was cleaning up, or supposed to be, but really she was staring at the piano again.

It was always like this. She’d be drawn by the scent of the gleaming wood, the keys, the beauty of losing herself in the music.

And then she’d sit and the anxiety would nearly suffocate her.

It’d taken her ten years of playing, from age seventeen to twenty-seven, ten years of needing anxiety meds to get on stage, before she’d admitted she didn’t have the heart for that life. She might have said so sooner but her brother had needed her, and her parents had depended on her being there for him. A painful crush on their manager Nathan had only added to the pressure. The crush had eventually evolved into a relationship, but when that had failed, she’d walked away from the life.

That had been two years ago.

She’d been working at an ad agency ever since, writing jingles for commercials. Behind the scenes really worked for her, though about a year ago, Jase had hit rock bottom and Nathan had come to her, pressuring her to give their world another go.

She’d refused, but the aftermath from that confrontation had killed off her muse but good.

Becca had promised herself that she’d never again duet in any capacity. Especially relationships.

Now, at age twenty-nine, she decided she was all the wiser for that decision, and not missing anything.

Play me, Becca. . .

Once again she looked around, and when she saw no one watching, she allowed herself to sit. Before she knew it, her fingers were moving, this time playing one of the first songs she’d ever learned, “Für Elise” by Beethoven. She’d been twelve and had eavesdropped on Jase’s lessons. He’d hated practicing, but not Becca. She’d been happy practicing for hours.

When she finished, she sat there a moment, alone in the bar, and smiled. No urge to throw up! Progress! Getting up, she grabbed her things from the back, turned to go, and found Jax standing there.

“You going to freak out again if I tell you that you’re really good?” he asked quietly.

“At waitressing?” she asked hopefully.

“No, you suck at that.”

She sighed.

He smiled and handed her an envelope. “The night’s pay.”

She looked down at it, then back at his face. “I’m not invited back, am I?”