“What do you need with that place?” he asked.

“I’m the new tenant there. Or one of them anyway.”

His expression was unfathomable. “I take it you haven’t seen it yet.”

“Not in person,” she said. “Why? Is it that bad?”

“Depends on how long you’re staying,” he said. “More than five minutes?”

Oh, boy. “I don’t actually know,” she said. “It’s a month-to-month rental. Lucky Harbor is sort of a pit stop for me at the moment.”

His gaze searched hers. Then he nodded and moved back to his work. He plugged the planer in and flicked it on again.

Guess their conversation was over. She was on her own. And if that thought caused a little pang of loneliness inside her still-hurting heart, she shoved it deep and ignored it, because now wasn’t the time to give in to the magnitude of what she’d done. Leaving the warehouse, she turned right.

To her new place.

To a new beginning.

Chapter 2

Sam Brody lifted his head from the boat he was building and let his gaze drift to the north-facing window. The sky was a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun vanished, but he could still see the quiet, industrial street, and the backside of Tough Girl as she walked off.

And walking off was just as he wanted her, too. He turned his concentration back to the hull. He was good at concentrating. If his childhood hadn’t drilled it into him, then working on an oil rig for seven years—where paying attention meant the difference between life and death—had certainly done so.

But damn if not two seconds later his gaze flickered to the window again.

Yep, she and her sweet bod were gone. She had a backbone, but she also had those warm, soulful brown eyes, and one of those smiles that could draw a man right in.

And a sassiness that could hold him there . . .

And she was going to be right next door. Not good news. The warehouse she’d rented was a complete piece of shit, cold in the winter, hot in the summer, not easily secured or safe. Not his call, of course, but he didn’t like that the landlord had put her in there, alone. Lyons should’ve known better. The place had been up for sale for years now, but no one in Lucky Harbor was stupid enough to sink any equity into that money pit. Still, Sam should’ve bought the thing himself just to keep it empty.

Empty, and quiet.

The phone rang again, and the accompanying red lights gave him an eye twitch. He’d been ignoring the calls while trying to work, figuring one of the guys would get the hint and pick up. But neither Cole nor Tanner was good at hints. No, for his two partners to get something, they had to be hit over the head with it. Besides, Sam knew damn well it amused the hell out of them to make him answer the phone.

Finally he snatched the phone just to shut it up and snarled, “Lucky Harbor Charters.”

There was a brief pause, a hesitation that made him feel like a jackass as his gaze skimmed the big sign that Cole had taped above the phone for Sam’s benefit alone. It read:


Be friendly.

Ask “Can I help you?” in a tone that suggests you actually mean it, and not that you’d like to rip the head off whoever’s interrupting you.

(You smiling yet?)

Refusing to smile on principle, Sam did make the effort to sound friendly as he spoke into the silence. “Can I help you?”

“Sammy? That you?”

Sam closed his eyes. “Yeah, Dad. It’s me.”

“Oh, good.” Mark Brody laughed a little sheepishly. “I remembered the number right this time. So . . . how’s it going?”

This wasn’t the question his dad really wanted to ask, but at least the guy had become self-aware enough to feign interest. In the past, his dad would’ve gotten right to it. Got a little extra for your good old dad? Thanks, love ya.

“Sammy? You there?”

Sam scrubbed a hand down his face. Yeah. He was here. He was always here, from all those crazy years when Mark hadn’t had it together enough to keep Sam from landing in foster care, to now, when Mark still didn’t have it together. “How much you need?” Sam asked.

“Uh . . .” His dad laughed again, guilt heavy in the sound. He’d spent a total of maybe ten minutes being a dad, so he’d never really gotten the hang of it. “That’s not why I called.”

Yeah, it was. Of course it was. They had a routine. Sam would call his dad to check in every week, never getting a return call until Mark ran out of money, which happened every few months or so. “It’s okay, Dad. Just tell me.”

“A grand.”

Sam opened his eyes and stared at the sign.


Be friendly.

“A grand,” he repeated.

“Carrie needs to buy stuff for the baby, and—”

“Got it,” Sam said, not wanting to hear about the demands of Mark’s latest woman. Or the baby that’d be Sam’s half sister when it arrived in a few months.

A baby sister.

It didn’t defy the odds any more than picturing his dad trying to be a real dad . . . “Did you ask for the paternity test like we talked about?”

“Well . . .”


“She’d kill me, son. You have no idea how touchy pregnant women are.”

Sam bit back anything he might have said because there was no point. His father had made a career out of getting ripped off by women. “You need to find a way to try,” Sam said.