Steam practically flew out Selena’s ears. “So you’re what,” she asked in disbelief, going up in volume with each word, “ignoring me?”

“It’s been a month,” he said. “I thought there was nothing left to say.”

“I’ve got plenty left to say!” Selena screeched. “And if you’d answered even a single call, you’d know it!”

Sam looked pained. “My office then.”

“Oh, hell no,” Selena said. “This shit’s going public now. You took me to Cottonwoods. Cottonwoods is a serious place, Sam. It says we’re in a relationship.”

“We went to Cottonwoods because you asked to go there,” Sam said. “It was our second date, and over appetizers you informed me you were researching sperm donors so you could get inseminated.”

Selena’s crazy eyes narrowed. “And?”

“Sperm donors,” he repeated, as if this explained all.

“You saying I scared you off?” Selena asked. “You’re not afraid of anything, Sam, and you damn well know it.”

Becca swiveled to get Sam’s reaction. She might not have dated him twice, or gone to Cottonwoods—wherever that was—but even she already knew Sam Brody wouldn’t admit to be scared off by a single thing.

When Sam didn’t respond, Selena whirled to storm off, giving Becca a not-so-accidental shoulder shove. “He’s dead inside, you know,” she snapped. “He’s magic in the sack, but trust me, he’s not worth it.”

Becca didn’t respond, and Selena shook her head. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

A moment later, her tires squealed as she left the lot.

There was an awkward silence as Becca and Sam watched her go. Well, Becca was feeling awkward. Hard to say what Sam was feeling. He kept his own counsel. “Okay, yeah,” she finally said, “I can see why you might not like to live in the past.”

Two days later, Sam stood in the hut at the front counter. He had notes on three different napkins, one scratched in ink on his forearm, and another on a piece of wood from his shop in his back pocket.

And the phone was still ringing.

He was at the end of his rope, for lots of reasons. He hadn’t managed to break away from work long enough to get any time alone with Becca. And he wanted to be alone with her. Not just to get her naked again, though he wanted that, badly. But he also wanted to get inside her head and learn more about her.

Cole came in from the boat. He and Tanner had taken out a group of twelve before the crack of dawn for a deep-sea fishing trip.

Sam had stayed behind to catch up on paperwork—which he hadn’t gotten to thanks to the phones. “This place is insane,” he said. “No one writes shit down.”

“You’re the one who won’t use the schedule,” Cole said.

Tanner trailed in behind Cole, dripping water everywhere as he limped in, carrying some of the gear. “He doesn’t use the schedule to prove a point.”

“Not true,” Sam said.

Okay, it was totally true.

“I’m trying to work.” He jabbed a thumb in the direction of the warehouse behind them. “But the f**king phones keep ringing, and no one’s answering them. Why isn’t anyone answering?”

“You know why,” Cole said. “We haven’t hired anyone yet. Were any of the calls from prospective applicants?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Which is why I’m in here. I made appointments with three people. One didn’t show.”

“And the other two?”

“One was Lucille,” Sam said. “Again. She showed up in a bikini to prove she was—” He used air quotes. “Beach-savvy.”

They all shuddered.

“I reminded her that we’d discussed this, that there were age limitations to this job,” Sam said. “And then she accused me of being a geriatric bigot. She said I should be expecting to hear from her lawyer.”

Tanner grinned. “And the third?”

Sam looked at Cole. “Your sister.”

“Aw, Christ,” Cole muttered, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Which one?”

“Does it matter?” Tanner asked. “They’re all crazy.”

Cole held out a palm to Tanner. “Pay up.”

“What?” Tanner said, still dripping water everywhere.

“You swore you wouldn’t make fun of my family anymore, remember?” Cole asked. “And I said that you couldn’t stop yourself, and you said you could, too, and then I said I bet you, and you said no sweat, and I said put your money where your mouth is, and you said fifty bucks. So. . .” He wriggled his fingers. “Fifty bucks, man. Right now.”

Tanner shrugged. “Can’t. I’m holding all this wet gear. I can’t reach my wallet.”

“Turn around, I’ll get it.”

This made Tanner grin and shake his head. “It’s in my front pocket.”

Cole yanked his hand back like he’d been bitten. “No way am I touching your front pocket. Sam, you do it.”

“Why me?”

“You get me my money, and I’ll hire someone today so you can stop bitching.”

Sam sighed and shoved his hand down Tanner’s front pocket.

The door opened behind them. Becca walked in and stopped short at the sight of Sam with his hand down the front of Tanner’s pants.