“Would I recognize any of your jingles?” he asked.

“Maybe, but nothing recent. The one I just turned in was for Cushy toilet paper.”

He grinned. “Nice. What are you working on now?”

She hesitated, nibbling on her lower lip again. “Diaxsis.”

“Which is . . .?”

She blew out a sigh. “An erectile dysfunction med.”

He laughed. “And you’re having a . . . hard time?”

“Funny,” she said. “It’s all fun and games—unless you have to write the jingle. At the moment, I’m wishing I had a job serving ranch-flavored popcorn on the pier instead. Or anything.”

“I used to want to be a rock star,” he told her.

“Yeah?” she asked. “What stopped you?”

“I’m completely tone-deaf and can’t sing worth shit.”

She laughed, and he smiled at the sweet sound of it.

“Is that why your music’s so loud that the windows rattle?” she asked. “You’re in there pretending to be a rock star?”

“I work to it,” he said. “Or I did. The past few days I’ve been listening to whatever it is you’re listening to.”

She froze. “You can hear me messing around on my keyboard?” she asked, sounding horrified.

He paused. “That’s you? You’re fantastic.”

She immediately shook her head. “No.”

“Actually, yeah.”

“No, I mean you can’t listen.” There was a new edge to her voice, and she took a step back. “I can’t play if I have an audience.”

“Why not?”

“Because I choke,” she said, sounding genuinely upset.

“Okay,” he said quietly, taking in the fact that she was now pale by moonlight. “I’ll pretend not to listen. How’s that?”

“No.” She didn’t relax or smile. “Because I’ll know you’re only pretending not to listen.”

She wasn’t being coy here, or searching for compliments the way women sometimes did. She was truly unable to bear the thought of him hearing her play. “I could wear earplugs,” he said.

She stared at him, then looked away, to the water. “I sound crazy, I know. But I don’t play for audiences anymore. I’m only playing for myself now, while trying to come up with my next jingle.”

“You used to play for an audience?”

“Oh, God, Becca,” she muttered, “just shut up.” She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. “I really need a subject change.”

“Is that why you left New Orleans?”

“How is that a subject change?” She dropped her hands and sighed. “I left New Orleans because I needed a break from . . . things. Family, to be honest. It’s hard to explain.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” he said. “Maybe you’re too focused on the past instead of the here and now.”

She stared at him.

He stared back.

“Maybe,” she finally said softly. “You don’t ever do that? Get stuck in the past?”

Sam didn’t like to think about the past at all, much less try to get back to it. “Hell no.”

“So . . . you’re a little broken, too?” she asked hopefully, her eyes locked on his with great interest.

“I’m not broken.”

She sighed. “Of course not, since you have a penis.”

“What does that mean?”

“Guys don’t admit to being broken,” she said.

He laughed, and she stared at him. “Okay,” she said, “you’ve really got to stop doing that, laugh all sexy-like, Mr. Broken Sexy Grumpy Surfer.”

“I’m not broken,” he said again. Much.

“Well, if you were, I should let you know, I’ve heard of this remedy . . .”


Again she dragged her teeth over her lower lip. “Maybe it’s not a remedy so much as a . . . temporary fix. Like a Band-Aid,” she said, tipping her face to his.

There was an intimacy that came with the dark night, and with it came an ache. An ache for a woman. This woman. It’d been a while since he’d held someone, gotten lost in someone. The truth was that no one had tempted him in a while.

Becca did. Becca with the dark, warm eyes, the sweet smile, and the pulse racing at the base of her throat. He wanted to put his mouth there. He wanted to put his mouth to every inch of her, and he reached for her hand, slowly pulling her in so they stood toe-to-toe. “What’s the Band-Aid?”

“Seeing as you’re not broken,” she said, “it doesn’t matter.”

Sam ran a finger along her temple, tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, and took in the quick tremble that racked her body at his touch. “What matters to me is how you got broken,” he said.

She closed her eyes, and his smile faded. “Someone hurt you,” he said.

“No.” She turned away. “It was a long time ago.”

Yeah. Someone had hurt her. He turned her to face him and waited for her to open those soulful eyes. Whatever had happened to her had cut deep, but she wasn’t down for the count.

He could relate to that.

“I don’t talk about it,” she said.

“Instead, you put a Band-Aid on it.”

“Yes.” She hesitated, and then set her hand on his chest, slowly, lightly dragging her fingers from one pec to the other as if testing herself out for a reaction. He hoped she was getting one because the simple touch stirred anything but simple reactions within him.