Author: Jill Shalvis


She was pathetic.


On the top of the basket of clothes lay a T-shirt. It said LUCKY HARBOR SAILING CHAMP across the front. At one time, it’d been gray, but years of washing had softened it to nearly white. She knew this because he’d been given two of them. Ford had gotten them that long-ago summer during his first sailing race when he’d been nothing but the dock boy on a local team.


She had the other shirt. He’d given it to her all those years ago, and she’d worn it to sleep in. She’d kept it as one of her few true treasures. Unfortunately, she’d been wearing it the night of the inn fire six months ago, and it’d been destroyed. Unable to stop herself, she ran her fingers over the shirt and whoops, look at that, picked it up. Well, hey, he’d invited her to play with his underwear, and a T-shirt could be classified as underwear. She pressed her face to the soft, faded cotton and felt her knees go a little weak even though it smelled like detergent and not the man.


She wanted the shirt.


Don’t do it…


But she did. She totally stole his shirt.


She drove back to the inn with it in her purse and walked straight to the marina, and then to the end of the dock.


She needed a minute.


She inhaled the wet, salty air. Sitting was a challenge in her pencil skirt and she had to kick off her heels, but once she managed, having the water lap at her feet and the sun on her face made it worth it. It meant unwanted freckles and almost dropping a Jimmy Choo knock-off into the water, but there was something about listening to the water slap up against the wood and watching the boats bob up and down on the swells that really did it for her.


It was better than dark chocolate for releasing endorphins and helping her relax.


Better than orgasms.


Okay, no. Nothing was better than orgasms, but this would have to be a close second.


She’d stolen his shirt. Good Lord, she was losing it.


Two battered cross trainers appeared in her peripheral vision. Long legs, dark blue board shorts, and a white T-shirt came next.


And then the heart-stopping smile.


“So you didn’t climb into my bed,” Ford said, sitting next to her.


“How do you know I didn’t just get tired of waiting for you to show up?” she asked.


His brow shot up so far it vanished into the lock of hair falling over his forehead. “Are you telling me I missed my shot?”


“Sugar, you never even had a shot.”


Ford grinned and slung an arm over her shoulder, pulling her into him. He smelled delicious. Like salty air and the ocean and something woodsy too.


And male.


Very male.


“Liar,” he said affectionately.


This was true. “You’re in my space,” Tara noted.


“That’s not what you said when we—Oomph,” he let out when she elbowed him in the gut. Unperturbed, he grinned. “Aw, don’t be embarrassed that you attacked me in your kitchen.”


“What? That night was all your fault,” she told him. “You were standing there putting away spices and making me fried chicken, looking all—” Sexy. Sexy as hell. “I mean you practically force-fed me the cuteness.”


“Cuteness,” he repeated, testing the word out like it was a bad seed. “I’m not cute.”


“Okay, true. You’re far too potent for cute.”


He cocked his head. “And you really think that us having sex was all on me?”


Her cheeks were getting hot, along with other parts of her. “I’m saying you seduced me with all the—”


“Say ‘cuteness’ again,” Ford warned, “and I’m going to strip you naked right here and show you exactly how not cute I can be. I’m going to show it to you until you scream my name.”


“Okay, wait. Does anyone really scream during orgasm? I mean, you read about it all the time in books, but—”


He laughed. “Okay, so you don’t scream.” He leaned in close. “But your breath gets all uneven and catchy—which I love, by the way—and then you let out this sexy little purr, and—”


She elbowed him again.


“Told you I wasn’t cute,” he said, rubbing his ribs.


She squelched the urge to say “cute” one more time just to see if he’d follow through on his threat. She took a look around them to see if they were alone, just in case—


He laughed again, then put his lips next to her ear. “Sticking with your story, Tara?”


She shivered. “That you seduced me? Yes.”


“We’re even, you know.” He nipped her earlobe with his teeth, making her shiver. “Since you’ve been seducing me since I first met you.” He kissed her just below her jaw then, and along her temple, while she worked on not melting.


“W—what are you doing?”


“Seeing how far you’re going to let me go.”


Get a grip, she ordered herself as he got to the very corner of her mouth, and she took a big grip herself. A two-fisted one. Of him. She was holding him so tight that he couldn’t have pulled away even if he wanted to, and given the rough sound that escaped him, he didn’t want to. “We’re not doing this again,” she said. “You know we’re not.”


He sucked her bottom lip between his teeth and gave it a light tug. “I do know. I just can’t remember why.”


She sank her fingers into his hair. It was thick and silky and wavy, and she loved it. “Because—”


He kissed her long and hard, his hand sliding low onto her back, pulling her in closer to him.


“Ford. Ford, wait.”


He smiled against her lips. “Let me guess.” His mouth ghosted over hers with each word. “You have something else to say.”


“Yes! You’re…” She couldn’t think. “Trouble. You know that? You’re bad-for-me trouble.”


“Maybe. But I’m only trouble some of the time,” he said in that husky, coaxing voice that made her want to give him whatever he asked for.


“And what are you when you’re not trouble?” she managed. “A Boy Scout?”


“ ’Fraid not. But sometimes my intentions are honorable.”


“Like now?”


“No.” His deep-green eyes met hers. “Right now, my intentions are definitely not honorable.” And then he kissed her again. He kissed her until she was gripping him like she was drowning and he was her lifeline.


“Oh! Um, excuse me…”


They both turned to the young woman standing on the dock in a cute short skirt and cotton top, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun with her hands, her long, sun-streaked, brown hair flowing out behind her. “Hi, sorry. I’m Mia Hutchinson.”


One of the Seattle high school students that had called about the ad and had an interview with Tara this morning. “Mia, hi!” Knees still knocking, Tara stood up. It was too much to hope that her little make-out session with Ford hadn’t been seen, but her plan was to ignore it. Denial, meet your queen. “You’re right on time.”


Ford was on his feet as well. “I thought we set that up for this afternoon,” he said to the girl.


Tara looked at him. “No, she’s interviewing with me for a position at the inn.”


“Actually,” Ford said. “She called to interview me for an article she’s writing on sailing.”


“Um, yeah,” Mia said with a little wince. “Actually, I contacted both of you. I brought my résumé.” She pulled an envelope from her purse. “I didn’t really have any previous work experience that applied, so I just used the résumé I made up in economics class last semester. And before you ask, no, I didn’t really work for Facebook or Bill Gates. And I wasn’t a personal assistant to the Mariners’ manager either.” She hesitated, looking younger than seventeen. “The references are real, though.” She turned to Ford, apology in her gaze. “I need a job, but I made up the article thing.”


“Why?” Ford asked.


“Because I wanted to meet you both in a setting where you wouldn’t get all weirded out. Finding you both here was just luck, I guess.”


Tara was very still, in direct opposition to the way her heart was threatening to burst right out of her chest. “You know us?”


Again, Mia dragged her teeth over her bottom lip, looking at them from mossy green eyes that exactly matched…


Ford’s.


“I kinda know you,” Mia said. “It’s sort of a long story.”


“The CliffsNotes version, then,” Ford suggested mildly.


Good. Good, Tara thought. He was calm, cool, and collected. Normally that was her role, but she’d left calm a few minutes back and was quickly heading straight past cool and collected, directly to Freaking Out. Because looking at Mia was reminding her of a very young Ford.


If he’d been female.


With Tara’s willowy build.


“I was actually really surprised to find you two… kissing,” Mia said carefully. “I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.”


“Why don’t you enlighten us on what you did expect?” Ford said. “Or should I help you out with that?”


Mia cocked her head, her gaze as sharp as his. “You figured it out,” she said, sounding relieved.


“Yes,” he said.


Tara couldn’t speak. Hell, she could hardly breathe. She reached out blindly for purchase and found Ford’s hand.


“You’re ours,” Ford said quietly to the girl. “You’re our baby.”


Chapter 11


“Always tell the truth. It eliminates the need to remember anything.”


TARA DANIELS


Up until that moment, Ford’s plans for the day had included talking Tara into going out for a sail. And then burning off some excess energy.


With their naked bodies.


Yeah, that would have been right at the very top of the to-do list.


But that all changed with Mia looking at him through his own green gaze, her expression slightly challenging and yet braced for… hurt and rejection, he realized as something twisted hard in his chest.

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