Mallory’s mouth fell open.
The entire place went stock still. A real feat when it came to the people of Lucky Harbor. No one even blinked.
“He is so hot,” Tammy whispered to Mallory. “You really ought to keep him.”
“Can’t,” Mallory said, staring at Ty in shock through the fingers she still had across her eyes. “We’ve agreed it was a one-time thing.”
“Well, that was stupid. You can put your hands down now. It’s safe. No one’s going to dare cross him. He’s pretty badass.”
He was pretty badass standing up there, steady as a rock, speaking his mind. Offering his help…
“Hey, didn’t he also save your ass at the auction too by getting the bidding going?” Tammy asked.
Yeah, he had, and here he was at it again. Saving her ass.
As if sensing her scrutiny, he met her gaze for one long charged beat across the entire audience before walking back up the aisle to leave.
He’d stood up in front of the entire town and defended her. Her, a one-night stand. What did that mean? It meant he cared, she decided. The knowledge washed over her, and she sat up a little straighter, craning her neck to watch him go.
“My boyfriend’s ever so dreamy,” Tammy whispered mockingly.
Mallory smacked her again.
In spite of Ty’s rather commanding appearance, the next three people who stood up opposed the clinic. Then Ella Quinn had her turn. Still in her scrubs, she grabbed the microphone. “This is poppycock,” she said. “Anyone against this clinic is selfish, ungiving, and should be ashamed of themselves. As for my daughter Mallory, you all know damn well that she can be trusted to handle the HSC and any problems that might arise. After all, she’s handled her crazy family all her life without batting so much as an eyelash.” She searched the audience, found Joe in the fourth row, and gave him a long look. “And call your mamas. No one’s calling their mamas often enough. That is all.”
Joe slunk in his seat, his shoulders up around his ears. The little blonde sitting next to him gave him a hit upside the back of his head.
The meeting ended shortly after that, and Mallory was rushed with people wanting their questions answered. Would she really be supplying drug dealers? Doling out abortions? It was an hour before she was free, and even knowing she wouldn’t find him, she looked around for Ty.
But he was long gone.
That afternoon, a spring storm broke wild and violent over Lucky Harbor. Ty worked on the Shelby, and when he was done, he drove through the worst of the rain, flying through the steep, vivid green mountain canyons, his mind cleared of anything but the road. For once he wasn’t thinking of the past, or work.
He was thinking of a certain warm, sexy nurse.
He’d shelved his emotions years ago at SEALs training camp, long before he’d ever met one Mallory Quinn. But no amount of training could have prepared him for her.
She was a one-woman wrecking crew when it came to the walls he’d built up inside, laying waste to all his defenses. Only a few weeks ago, there wasn’t a person on earth who could have convinced him that she would have the power to bring him to his knees with a single look.
And yet she could. She had.
A few hours later, the storm was raging as he came back through Lucky Harbor. At a stop sign, he came up behind a stalled VW. Through the driving rain, he could see a woman fiddling beneath the opened hood, her clothes plastered to her. Well, hell. He pulled over, and as he walked toward her, she went still, then reached into the purse hanging off her shoulder.
Ty recognized the defensive movement and knew she had her hand on some sort of weapon. He stopped with a healthy distance between them and lifted his hands, hopefully signaling that he was harmless. “Need some help?”
“No.” She paused. “Thank you, though. I’m fine.”
He nodded and took in her sodden clothes and the wet hair dripping into her eyes. Then he looked into the opened engine compartment of the stalled car. “Wet distributor cap?”
Her eyes revealed surprise. “How did you know?”
“It’s a ’73 VW. Get the cap wet, and it won’t run.”
She nodded and relaxed her stance, taking her hand out of her purse. “I was going to dry the cap on my skirt but it’s too wet.” She shoved her hair back from her face and blinked at him. “Hey, I know you. You’re Mysterious Cute Guy.”
Christ how he hated that moniker. “Ty Garrison.”
“I’m Grace Brooks. One of your three guardian angels in that freak snowstorm last week.” She flashed a grin. “I’m the one who called 9-1-1.”
“Then the least I can do is this.” He came closer and took the distributor cap from her, wiping it on the hem of his shirt, which hadn’t yet gotten drenched through. When he had the inside of the cap as dry as it was going to get, he replaced it and got her off and running.
Back in his own car, he ended up at the diner. Amy and Jan were there, Jan’s gaze glued to the TV in the far corner. American Idol was on, and she was very busy yelling at the screen. “Okay, come on! That sucked. God, I miss Simon. He always told it like it was.”
Amy rolled her eyes and met Ty at a table with a coffee pot. Guardian Angel Number Two, in a pair of low-slung cargoes and a snug, lacy tee. Normally she was alert as hell and on-guard but tonight her face was pale, her smile weak. “Pie?” she asked.
She came back two minutes later with a huge serving of strawberry pie. “You’re in luck,” she said. “It’s Kick Ass Strawberry Pie from the B&B up the road. That means Tara made it,” she explained to his blank look. “Best pie on the planet, trust me.”
That was quite the claim but one bite proved it to be true. Ty watched Amy refill his cup, then gestured to the towel she had wrapped around the palm of her left hand. “You okay?”
Bullshit. Her other hand was shaking, and she looked miserable. But hell, if she wanted to pretend she was fine, it was none of his business. Especially since he was the master at being fine.
Problem was, there was blood seeping through her towel. “Do you need a doctor?”
He nodded and ate some more pie. Good. She was fine and didn’t need a doctor. And God knew, he sure as hell didn’t want to get involved. But when he was done, he cleared his own plate, bringing it to the kitchen himself.
“Hey,” Jan yelled at him, not taking her gaze off the TV. “You can’t go back there. It’s against the rules.”
“Your waitress is bleeding. That’s against the rules too.”
This got Jan’s attention. Jan glanced into the back at Amy and frowned before turning back to Ty. “You going to patch her up? She has an hour left on her shift.”
He had no idea what the hell he thought he was doing. He hadn’t “patched” anyone up in a damn long time. Four years, to be exact. He waited for the sick feeling to settle in his gut, but all he felt was a need to help Amy. “Yeah. I can patch her up.”
Amy was standing at the kitchen chopping block, hands flat on the cutting board, head bowed, her face a mask of pain. She jumped when she saw Ty and shook her head. “Guests aren’t supposed to clear their own dishes.”
“I’m going to ask you again. Do you need a doctor?”
“It was just a silly disagreement with a knife.”
Not an answer. He unwrapped her hand himself and looked down at the cut. “That’s more than a silly disagreement. You need stitches.”
“It’s just a cut.”
“Uh-huh. And you need the ER.”
“No, I don’t.”
There was something edgy in Amy’s voice now, something Ty recognized all too well. For whatever reason, she had a fear or deep-rooted hatred of hospitals. He could sympathize. “You have a first-aid kit?”
He drew a deep breath, knowing if he didn’t help her, she’d go without it. “Get it.”
The diner’s first-aid box consisted of a few Band-Aids and a pair of tweezers, so Ty went to his car. He always kept a full first-aid kit in there, even though he hadn’t ever cracked this one open. He returned to the kitchen and eyed Amy’s wound again. He had Steri-strips but the cut was a little deep for that. “Trust me?” he asked her.
Good girl, he thought. Smart. “Me or the hospital, Amy.”
She blew out a breath. “All I need is a damn Band-Aid. And hurry. I have customers.”
“They’ll wait.” She was looking a little greener now. He pushed her onto the lone stool in the kitchen. “Put your head down.”
She dropped it to the counter with an audible thunk. He disinfected the wound, then opened a tube.
Head still down, she turned it to the side to eyeball what he was doing. “Super glue?” she squeaked.
“Skin glue. And hold on tight, it stings like hell.” He started, and she sucked in a breath. “You okay?”
She nodded, and he worked in silence, finally covering the wound with a large waterproof bandage.
“Thanks.” Amy let out a shuddery sigh. “Men are assholes. Present company excluded, of course.”
With a shrug—men were assholes, himself included—he gestured to her hand. “How’s that feel?”
She opened and closed her fist, testing. “Not bad. Thanks.” She watched him put everything back into his kit. “Does Mallory know that you’re as good with your hands as she is?”
“I don’t answer trick questions.”
She started to laugh, but choked it off at the man who suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway.
It was Matt, still in uniform, brow furrowed. “Jan said you’re all bloody and—” His eyes narrowed on the blood down Amy’s white tee. “What the hell happened?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Jesus Christ, Amy.” He picked up the bloody towel and jerked his gaze back to her, running it over her body, stepping close.