Jase took a step back like she’d slapped him, and brother and sister stared at each other.

“I’m sorry,” Becca finally said. “That was out of line.”

“No.” Jase shook his head. “I deserved it. And I’m the sorry one. I’m sorry I upset you by coming here without warning. Besides the concert, I wanted to see you, and for once make sure you were okay, the way you always used to do for me.” He hesitated. “Mom and Dad are flying in. I promised I’d come get you and bring you to the concert tonight.”

Becca shook her head slowly. “You shouldn’t have promised that.”

“No doubt, given how all my other promises have turned out.” He let out a long, shaky breath. “I guess you also think I shouldn’t have come.”

“You shouldn’t have, no,” she said. “I asked you for time. It’s the only thing I’ve ever asked of you.”

Jase stared at her for a long beat, and then nodded.

Becca rubbed the heels of her hands over her eyes, which were filled with a hollow, haunted devastation that just about killed Sam. He had no idea how Jase could even look at her without doing everything in his power to fix this.

“I’m sorry,” Jase whispered, but it wasn’t enough; it didn’t change Becca’s expression. If anything, it made it worse. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you after. . .Nathan—”

Becca snapped upright, eyes glossy. “Stop.”

He didn’t stop. “I didn’t get what happened. I honestly thought you two were back together, so I didn’t think—” He hesitated. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me most. I know that’s why you really left—”

“You’re sorry I’m gone.”

Jase stared at her for a beat. “Yeah. I’m very sorry you’re gone. I wish I’d paid more attention, that I’d really listened—” He broke off when she made a sound like a soft sob and covered her mouth. “Too little too late?” he whispered.

“No, I. . .I don’t know.” She closed her eyes. “Yes.”

Jase closed his eyes. “I shouldn’t have come,” he said again, and when Becca didn’t contradict this, Jase blew out a breath. “I’m going to text you the venue info for tonight, okay? Please, just think about it.”

Becca unlocked the hut and stared at nothing, vibrating with so much energy she didn’t know what to do with herself. She couldn’t get her mind to wrap around anything, but surely there was plenty to do. Their Summer Bash was in a few days. There were a million things she could be doing.

She didn’t do any of them.

Footsteps sounded behind her, and she forced herself not to move. She knew Jase wouldn’t follow her in here, not after the things she’d said to him.

He’d run tail.

That was what he did. He’d wait her out and eventually come back, not referring to their fight or the things she’d said. He’d smile charmingly, sweet-talk, give her the I-can’t-help-myself eyes, and she’d sigh and forgive him. Help him. Whatever he needed. She’d seen Sam do this with his father, and she could do the same.

She strode to the counter and busied her hands, forcing a friendly smile so she could greet their customer. But it wasn’t a customer at all. It wasn’t Cole or Tanner, either. It wasn’t anyone she could fool with her friendly smile at all.

It was Sam.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t trust her voice, plus there was nothing to say. She figured he’d heard a whole hell of a lot more than she’d wanted him to, but she couldn’t change that. She could, however, do her best to brush it under the table. She was off the clock, in fact. She could go home and lick her wounds in private.

Normally when he showed up, he strode in with that innate, almost cat-like grace, always looking completely in control and completely at ease. But this time, he was still by the door, not moving toward her until she made eye contact. Then he walked to her, took her hand, and tugged her into him.

“I’m not going to talk about it,” she said, muffled against his shirt. “There’s only one thing I will do, and it is definitely not talking.”

Lowering his head, he brushed a kiss to the top of hers, and she braced for rejection. But he kept ahold of her hand as he closed the big, sliding front door with his other, even though it always took her two hands and all her weight.

“You’d better not be teasing me,” she said, as he took her to his warehouse. “Because that’d be just mean.”

The big hanging door was closed. He bypassed the front and took her to a side door she’d never noticed before, guiding her down a hallway she’d also never noticed. The first door there was his office. He unlocked it, gently pushed her in, then shut the door behind them.


“Shh a second.”

Oh, hell no. She’d been quiet for most of her life—all of her life. She’d been good, and a people pleaser, and all sorts of things she could no longer be because they made her sink. So she opened her mouth to tell him what he could do with his Shh, but he kissed her.



She didn’t want soft and gentle, so she did what he’d done to her not all that long ago. She pushed him against the wall, trapped him there with her body, and tugged his face down to hers.

His hands came up to her hips, his fingers tightening on her. He was going to push her away, let go of her, but if he did, she’d go under for the count and drown. She could feel it. “Sam,” she whispered, unable to say more.