He smiled. “Glad to hear that. You’ve been busy.”

“More than you know. Right now I’m working on the decorations.” She gestured to the big mess of lights in front of her. Stuck on yet another knot, she swore beneath her breath. “And by the way, this is a really stupid way to store your lights.”

“Yeah, and if Tanner sees that mess, he’ll kill Cole. Tanner’s pretty fanatical about the equipment.” Sam hunkered in front of her, took the ball, shoved it back into the duffel, and rose, slinging it over his shoulder.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Taking care of it.”

“You’re going to untangle that mess?” she asked.

“I’m going to take care of it,” he repeated.

Okay then. So she rose, too. “How’s your dad?”

“Sprawled out on my couch watching movies and eating me out of house and home.”

“So he’s . . . okay?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m seeing his doctor later today.”

Sam didn’t give off a whole lot of “tells,” but neither did he hide much. If he was feeling something—anger, amusement, arousal, whatever—he didn’t seem to have much of a problem showing it. When his gaze met hers, she saw hints of worry mixed with irritation.

He didn’t yet know what to think, and he was withholding judgment until he knew.

Which made him a whole lot smarter than her.

She tended to react first and think later. Hence the dreaming about him. The yearning for him. The kissing him the other night. . .In order to not repeat that mistake, she tore her eyes off his fine-ass self and instead looked at the walls.

There were a bunch of pictures, and she’d had a lot of time to study them. Most were of clients, some holding up large fish, others in scuba gear or just mugging for the camera on the boat and dock. There was one of a younger Sam, along with Cole and Tanner and another guy, the four of them on what appeared to be an oil rig, looking pretty badass. The next picture was in the same locale, but just Sam, Cole, and Tanner, with Tanner on crutches. “Seems like it must have been a real rough job,” she said. “And dangerous.”

Sam nodded, though to which she couldn’t say. Maybe both.

“Did Tanner get hurt out there?” she asked.

“Yeah.” He came to stand next to her, his gaze on the picture. “We nearly lost him along with Gil in a rig fire.”

“Oh, my God.” She turned back to the pic of the four men. She looked at Gil, so young, so full of life, and felt a pang for what they’d been through. “I can’t imagine how awful it must have been.”

“It sucked.”

Sam didn’t use a lot of words. He didn’t need to. The few he chose were effective. She imagined It sucked covered it all. She took in the rest of the pictures, one with the three of them on a smaller boat than the one currently moored outside. “You’ve upgraded,” she said. She turned to face him. He was wearing black board shorts today and a plain gray T-shirt. No ball cap this morning, but his sunglasses were in place. “You’ve given yourself a great life here,” she said, realizing she was more than a little envious. “Working with your closest friends. All the adventures. . .”

A customer walked in. Actually, four customers, college buddies who wanted to rent surfboards along with Sam’s expertise to tutor them. Becca logged the equipment rental, and Sam headed out with them.

On the beach, all of them stripped out of their shirts, but Becca had eyes for only Sam. She tried not to look but she honestly couldn’t help herself.

Then he turned back, and caught her staring.

She considered dropping to the floor like she’d done when she’d gotten caught staring at him before, from her apartment, but it was far too late for that.

“Hey, Peeper,” he called, and crooked his finger at her.

Damn. She met him halfway on the dock.

“You got a suit?” he asked.

She tore her gaze off his chest. “Suit?”

“A bathing suit,” he said, looking amused. “Are you wearing a bathing suit under all those layers you’re so fond of?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I don’t know how to surf.”

“Lesson number two, in five minutes.”

Oh, my God. “I don’t—”

“You’re still living in your head,” he said. “Can’t live in your head when you’re surfing. On the water, you live for the here and now. Log yourself out a wet suit so you don’t get cold. Five minutes,” he repeated. “Give yourself an adventure.” And, as it turned out, he gave her the adventure. She wasn’t ever going to become a pro surfer, but she’d had the time of her life.

Late that afternoon Sam walked into the town medical building for a meeting with his dad’s doctor.

Dr. Josh Scott had been ahead of Sam in school by about five years, but they’d gone rock climbing together a bunch of times, so Sam expected to spend a few minutes bullshitting before getting to the nitty-gritty of his dad’s health problems.

What he didn’t expect was to find his dad in the waiting room.

With Becca.

“Hey,” she said, coming to him. “Your dad asked for a ride.”

Mark nodded but didn’t rise. It was hard to tell if his small smile was the usual I’m up to shenanigans, or an apology. “Next time,” Sam said, looking into Becca’s eyes. “Call me. You don’t need to spend your time driving him around.”