“I didn’t mean to,” she said. “The words, they just sort of came out. But I felt it, Sam,” she said, the pain in her voice tearing his guts out. “I meant it.”


“No. I need you to hear this,” she said. “I was touching you, looking at you, and thinking, All I ever want is to feel like this, surrounded by you, consumed by you, warmed from the inside out by you.” She punctuated each word with a finger poke to his chest. “I’ve never felt that way before, and I thought, I honestly believed, you felt the same.” She dropped her hand. “And looking back, I can’t even say I regret letting you know. I still believe you felt it, too, I saw it in your eyes. I still believe that you’d have gotten there, that you’d have said it to me, too, eventually.”

Sam closed his eyes until he felt her body go still and then opened them again to see a look of defeat on her face.

“You were never going to get there,” she said flatly. “You were never going to say it.”

Chapter 29

Heart pounding, eyes stinging, Becca started to climb down off the table, but Sam caught her. He wrapped one arm low on her back to hold her against him, the other tilting her jaw.

She did her best not to be moved by his proximity, and failed spectacularly.

“It’s true,” Sam admitted. “I never intended to say the words.”

Oh, God. Face burning with humiliation, she began to struggle in earnest, knowing only that she had to get away.

Between them a phone began vibrating. Hers. She slapped a hand down to it, hitting IGNORE. The moment she did, Sam’s phone began ringing. He hit IGNORE, too. “Becca—”

“I let you in,” she said. “All the way in. I told you everything, things I’ve never told anyone, and you held back. You kept yourself distant—God forbid anyone walk into the Man Cave.”

“You didn’t walk in,” he said. “You blasted your way in.”

“Well, I’d have waited to be invited, but I’d still be waiting!” She drew a breath with what appeared to be great difficulty. “And you telling me to stop living in the past is bullshit, Sam. Your entire present is lived the way it is because of your past. And you know what?” She got right up in his face. “That’s just as bad as me being unable to get past my own past. Which means we’re both screwed up!”

She began to fight the umbrella to get down, completely ignoring the six-foot-plus of testosterone and bad attitude still trapped inside the umbrella with her. And then all that testosterone and attitude spoke, and his words stopped her cold.

“I’m not good with trust.”

Like a knife to the heart, she thought, and dropped her head to the pole of the umbrella, squeezing her eyes shut at the pain in his voice. “I’ve never given you any reason to doubt me,” she said softly. “I was yours before you even knew what you had.” She looked at him. “I’d never have stepped out on you, Sam.”

“I don’t mean that,” he said, and drew in a deep breath. “I—”

“Hey,” Tanner said, his voice floating up to them from below. “Trust me, this conversation is fascinating, but you need to shelve it for later. We’ve got other problems.”

“Problems can wait,” Sam said, eyes still on Becca.

“Becca isn’t going to think so,” Tanner said.

Crap, what now? Becca ducked low, beneath the umbrella, hopping off the table to face Tanner. “What is it?” She was aware of Sam hopping down behind her and standing at her back, but she ignored him. She planned to ignore him until forever. Or until the time she got over him, whichever came last.

“That was fun,” Tanner said. “Four legs, two female, two male, poking out beneath the umbrella. Lots of yelling. I think Lucille got video of it if you want to revisit it later.”

Sam gave him a hard look.

“No? Okay.” Tanner shrugged. “The band Becca hired just canceled.”

Becca gasped. “What?”

“Yeah, apparently they went out last night and had all-you-can-eat sushi. They’re currently in the B and B puking their guts out.”

“Oh, my God,” she said.

Sam shook his head. “It’s going to be okay.”

She stared at him. “How?” she demanded. “How is not having music at the Summer Bash going to be okay?”

“We have games, food, and the ocean right here,” he said reasonably. “Trust me, Lucky Harbor knows how to have a good time. There’s no need to panic.”

“It’s a party, Sam.” She could feel her voice rising along with her anxiety. “A big one, the biggest of the year. I set this whole thing up, I strong-armed you guys into having this party in the first place, and I want it to be perfect. So of course I have to panic. Join me, won’t you?”

He had the nerve to smile at her, like her hissy fit was cute.

“We need music, Sam,” she said tightly. “Music makes the damn world go around.”

“I thought that was love.”

She narrowed her eyes. “So you can say the word.”

Tanner snorted, then turned it into a cough when Sam gave him another hard look. “Maybe I should give you two a moment,” he said, and flashed a grin at Becca. “Give him hell, sweetness.”

When he was gone, Sam put his hands on her and turned her to face him. “Babe, seriously, it’s going to be okay.”