Interesting. Sexy Grumpy Surfer could laugh . . .

She watched while eating her pizza and thought maybe she didn’t need cable after all.

It was quiet when, an hour later, she walked outside with the empty pizza box, down the dark alley to the Dumpster. Real dark. There was no sign of a single soul now, and Becca hummed a little tune to herself to keep from freaking out, one of her own.

Not that it helped. A sound startled her, and she nearly jumped right out of her skin.

About five feet ahead, three sets of glowing eyes turned her way.


They were sitting on the Dumpster, having a feast. She laughed at herself, but swallowed her amusement when the six eyes narrowed on her, all accusatory-like. “Sorry,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be foraging around back here.”

The raccoon closest to her growled.

Yikes. Becca lifted her hands. “You know what? None of my business. Carry on.” Whirling to leave, she had taken one step when she suddenly found herself pinned against the wall by a big, hard, sculpted, warm body, two big hands at either side of her face. She gasped in shock, and at the sound, her captor went still as well. Then his thumbs were at her jaw, forcing her to look up at him.

“It’s you,” he said, and she recognized his voice. Sexy Grumpy Surfer. As fast as she’d been pinned, she was unpinned. “What are you doing?” he wanted to know.

Her mouth dropped open. “What am I doing? How about what are you doing? You scared me half to death.”

“I thought you were following me.”

“No.” But okay, she had been watching him earlier—two entirely different things, she told herself. “I was just talking to the raccoons—” She gestured to where they’d been rifling through the trash, but they were long gone, the traitors. Shakily she started to bend to pick up her fallen pizza box, but he retrieved it for her, tossing it into the Dumpster.

“You need to be careful,” he said.

She gaped at him, her fear turning to temper. “The only danger I was in came from you!”

“Lucky Harbor might be a small town,” he said, “but bad shit can happen anywhere.”

“I know that,” she said. And she did. She knew far more than she should.

He was in a pair of loose black sweats, battered athletic shoes, and a T-shirt that was plastered to his flat abs and broad chest with perspiration. She realized he’d been running, hard by the look of him, though he wasn’t breathing all that heavily. If she hadn’t been feeling so defensive, she might have thought about how sexy he looked. But she was feeling defensive, so she refused to notice.


“You okay?” he asked.

Well, now was a fine time for him to ask, after he’d nearly given her a heart attack. “Yeah, I’m okay,” she said. “I’m totally okay.” Because saying it twice made it so.

“It’s late,” he said. “You should go inside.”

Becca wasn’t real good at following nicely uttered requests, much less an out-and-out order. “Maybe I was going somewhere,” she said.

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Were you?”

He wasn’t going to intimidate her. She no longer let herself get intimidated. But it wasn’t really intimidation she was feeling, not with the interesting heat churning in her belly from his nearness. Then he stepped even closer, and she forgot how to breathe, even more so when he cupped her face and tilted it up so he could study her. With a gentleness that surprised her, he stroked the pad of his thumb beneath her left eye.

“You’ve got a bruise on your face,” he said.

She pushed his hand away. “No, I don’t.”

“You do.” Those intensely green eyes held hers prisoner. “What happened?”

She reached up and touched the tender spot. “I was reading in bed and smacked myself with my flashlight and e-reader.”

He stared at her. “Is that your version of I ran into a door?”

She let out a mirthless laugh, which made his frown deepen. Apparently laughing in the face of an overprotective alpha wasn’t the right move. “Seriously,” she said. “I did this one all on my own.”

“This one?”

Well, shit. An overprotective, sharp alpha. “Have you ever tried to read in bed?” she asked, feeling contrary. “You hold the flashlight and e-reader above your head and if you start to fall asleep or relax, it’s smack.”

He gave one slow blink. “Maybe you should sit up when you read.”

“Maybe.” But she wouldn’t. She loved to read while lying down in bed. Which meant that she’d be hitting herself in the face again real soon.

Sexy Grumpy Surfer didn’t move, nary an inch. Then he told her why. “I’m not going anywhere until you go back inside,” he said.


He just looked at her, and she realized that he was still in protective mode.

“Fine,” she said. “Be all silent and mysterious. I’m going in.” She pointed at him. “But not because you told me to.”

His mouth twitched, but he said nothing.

“Has anyone ever told you that you have a strange sense of humor?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve heard.”

Chapter 3

There was still the night’s chill on the air when Becca woke up the next morning. Early sun rays were doing their best to beat back the dark shadows of the night, stabbing through the cloud layer with hints of soft yellow and orange.