They’d squared off and were glaring at each other, Amelia with her arms crossed over her chest, Mark looking guilty as hell.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked.

“Just making sure you don’t need anything today, honey,” Amelia said, tearing her hard gaze from Mark and moving toward Sam to hug and kiss him. “Summer Bash has taken over town,” she said, “and everyone’s so excited. I thought I’d come offer to help.”

“Me too,” Mark said.

Amelia snorted.

Mark frowned at her. “What the hell was that?”

“Dad,” Sam said.

“No, I mean it,” Mark said, staring at Amelia. “You got something to say?”

“I sure do,” Amelia said. “I came here to give whatever I could. Time. Encouraging words. Whatever it takes. And you—”

“I what?” Mark asked, eyes narrowed.

“Coffee,” Sam said. “Clearly, we need coffee.”

“You think I didn’t come to help,” Mark said to Amelia. “You think I came to take.”

“Isn’t that your MO?” Amelia said.

“Breakfast even,” Sam tried. “From the diner—”

“Shut up, Sam,” Mark said. “The lady’s got something to say.”

“Don’t you tell him to shut up,” Amelia said.

Sam moved to step between them but Mark pointed at Amelia. “No, son, I want to hear what she thinks of me.”

“You know what I think of you,” Amelia said. “I—”

“Caffeine,” Sam said. “The hut’s got—”

“Sam, baby,” Amelia said, eyes sharp on his father, “shut up.”

Sam opened his mouth, but Mark pointed at him. “Do what she says, son.”

Christ. Sam rubbed a hand over his jaw and wondered if this is how Cole and Tanner felt dealing with his grumpy ass in the mornings. “You know, usually I’m the one snarling at people before sunrise,” he said.

This didn’t lighten the tension.

“Maybe things change,” Mark said to Amelia. “Maybe people change.”

The words hit Sam. They were close to what Becca had said to him. He stared at his father. “What did you just say?”

“Maybe it’s not just my liver I’m working on healing,” Mark said, but he was speaking directly to Amelia. “I know what I’ve got here, Am. You’ve got to trust me on that. He’s given me everything. I know it, but I’m trying to give back now. Trying to be what he needs.”

Wait a minute. “I don’t need anything,” Sam said.

“You’re wrong, son.”

“Very wrong,” Amelia agreed, but she hadn’t taken her eyes off Mark. “What is it that you think he needs?”

“Nothing,” Sam said. “I don’t need shit.”

“He needs to learn to be happy, Let people in.”

“And depend on people,” Amelia piped up.

“Becca could make him happy,” Mark said to her.

“Which brings us to love,” Amelia said.

“I didn’t do a great job there,” Mark said. “I admit it. I’m trying to remedy that.”

“I said I don’t need anything,” Sam said with a frown, but no one spoke to him. Hell, no one looked at him.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mark said to Amelia. “It’s taking time. It took time to get him this screwed up; it’s gonna take time to unscrew him.”

“Hello,” Sam said, waving his hands. “Right here. Am I invisible?”

Amelia didn’t move an inch, but there was a very slight lessening of the grim set to her mouth. “You’re starting to get it,” she said to Mark.

Mark nodded.

“I wonder if I should use my invisibility for good, or for evil,” Sam mused.

At that, it was Mark’s turn to snort.

Amelia let out a very reluctant, very small smile and hugged Sam again, hard. “It’s going to be okay,” she said. “It’s all going to be okay. Assuming you don’t do anything stupid.”

“Wait—me?” Sam asked.

“You,” Mark said.

Sam pointed at them. “You’ve lost it. Both of you, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”

“Like I said,” Mark muttered to Amelia. “Work in progress.” He hugged Sam, too. “I’m proud of you,” he said. “Love ya, son.”

Sam waited for the usual anger over those words, so casually uttered, to hit. It didn’t. Because suddenly the words didn’t feel so casually uttered.

He wasn’t sure what to make of that. “Cuckoo,” he repeated, and tossed his dad the keys to the warehouse. “I’m going to check on the setup. Don’t kill each other.”

Becca was already at the beach when he arrived.

She was a tyrant in white shorts and a white tank top, whistle around her neck, clipboard in hand, a visor on her head, and a militant finger pointing out where she wanted what. She’d hired high school kids to help set up, and they were carrying out the equipment she’d rented. Benches. Trash bins. Awnings.

She’d gotten the Eat Me diner to cater, and they were setting up a food tent.

Cole arrived just behind Sam and watched along with him. “She’s really something,” he said.

Just then, Becca glanced up and met Sam’s gaze from across a stretch of a hundred feet of organized chaos. He stared into those fathomless eyes and felt a piece of him that he hadn’t even known was loose settle into place. “Yes,” he agreed. “She is something.”