Author: Jill Shalvis


Or… on Ford’s boat.


Was it breaking and entering to board a man’s boat and steal food? No doubt. But hell, she’d already stolen his shirt. In fact, she was wearing it right now, so what was one more act of pilfering?


Her stomach growled, and making her decision, she rolled out of bed once more. At the door, she realized she needed shoes, and slipped into the only ones she had out—her wedge sandals. She gave a brief thought to how she must look in Ford’s shirt, panties, and the heeled wedges. Ready for a “Girls Gone Wild” video.


No one else will see you at this hour, she assured herself. The boat was only fifty yards across the driveway. She ran in the heels, skirting around the marina building and onto the dock, by some miracle not twisting an ankle or breaking her neck.


The night was noisy. No wind, but there was an owl hooting softly somewhere on the bluffs, and the answering cry of its mate. Crickets sang, and the water, stirred by the moon’s pull, pulsed against the dock, slapping up hard against the wood.


In Houston, Tara had slept in a fourth-floor condo. City lights had slashed through her windows, blotting out the moon’s glow, and there’d been no noise except for the drone of the air conditioning just about 24/7. Six months ago, when she’d first arrived in Lucky Harbor—bitchy, resentful, and unhappy—she’d hated the sound of nature at night. It’d kept her up, and she’d lay in bed for hours, mind racing. But somehow, over the months, she’d come to accept the noises. Even welcome them.


They soothed her now, as did the utter darkness of the night itself. There were no city lights here, nothing to mute the glorious stars. She would stay outside and enjoy the night but she wasn’t exactly dressed for it. And those chips were calling her name. She did have a bad moment boarding the boat in the wedges, and pictured falling into the water between the boat and the dock and being found with Ford’s T-shirt up around her ears.


Once she managed to board, she headed below deck, and as hoped found a bag of chips on the counter in the tiny galley. She downed her first mouthful, and her hand was loaded with her second when the light came on. Blinking in the sudden brightness, she turned and faced…


Ford.


He took in the fact that her mouth was full, her fingers loaded with more chips, and began to smile. By the time he eyed her undoubtably bedhead hair, bare legs, and heels, it was a full-blown grin. “Nice,” he said.


“This isn’t what it looks like.”


“No?” He wore sweatpants low on his hips and nothing else. His hair was rumpled in that sexy way that guys’ hair get when they’ve been sleeping. He leaned back against the opposite counter and slid his hands into his pockets. Relaxed. Watchful.


Amused.


Damn him.


“So what do you think it looks like?” he wanted to know.


Like she was a crazy chick so on the verge of losing it that she’d broken and entered and stolen his chips. “Uh…”


His eyes had locked in on her shirt. “You’re either chilly or very happy to see me—is that my shirt?”


Crap. She looked down and crossed her arms over herself, which made the shirt rise up higher on her thighs, possibly exposing her pink lace panties.


This momentarily diverted his attention downward. His smile went naughty and the air around them heated to scorching.


Yeah, definitely she’d exposed her underwear.


“That is,” he said. “That’s my shirt.”


She didn’t really want to talk about the shirt. “I couldn’t sleep. I got hungry and figured you had chips.”


“So you committed felony B&E,” he said, nodding. “Good plan. Except for the getting caught part. Were you going to sleep in my bed, too, Goldilocks?”


The way he said bed brought vivid memories of all the mind-blowing, amazing things he’d done to her in a bed. And out of a bed…“No,” she said. “That would be rude.”


He laughed softly. “Are you still working on your issues?”


“Yes,” she said primly. “You?”


“I’m a work in progress, babe.” He slid her a bad boy smile. “Still hungry?”


Oh boy. “Yes,” she whispered.


He crooked a finger at her. “Come here, Goldilocks.”


“That would be… a really bad idea.”


“I can make it so bad it’s good.”


Gah. “You’ve got to stop that.”


“Stop what?” he asked.


Looking hot, she thought. Talking naughty.


Breathing.


As she turned to face the counter and set down the bag of chips, she grabbed a bottle of water and washed down the crumbs. She knew by the tingling at the base of her neck that Ford was right behind her now. Then he was so close that she could feel his body heat seeping through the shirt to her skin. She could have moved away, but the truth was, she was exactly where she wanted to be.


“Okay,” she said shakily. “Here’s the thing. I’m… still attracted to you.” Her breath shuddered out when he nudged her hair aside and brushed his lips along the nape of her neck. She locked her knees. Had to, in order to keep standing. “But I don’t want to sleep with you again.”


“And yet here you are,” he murmured against her skin. “On my boat. In the middle of the night.”


“Yeah. That looks bad,” Tara admitted. “But really, it was all about the chips.”


“And my shirt.” He ran a finger down her spine, stopping far below the line of decency, making her breath catch in the sudden silence. “How is it that you have it?” he asked, his hand on her ass.


She fought against the urge to thrust her bottom into his palm.


Or better yet, his crotch.


“Tara.”


She squeezed her eyes shut. “I stole it. The day I returned your crepe pan.”


“Look at me.”


No. No, thank you very much.


His hands settled on her hips and he turned her to face him. “Not that I don’t like the sight of you in the shirt,” he said. “Because I do. Very much. But you’ve been keeping your distance, and I’ve been trying to respect that. But you came to me tonight, so all bets are off. Tell me why you’re in my shirt.”


She nibbled on her lower lip. She didn’t have an answer. At least, not one she wanted to give him. “You gave me one just like it when you first got them.”


“I remember. I just didn’t realize you did as well.”


“Yes, well, I do. And I loved it,” she told him. “And I lost it in the fire. I really missed it. So when I saw yours…” She closed her eyes. “Hell, Ford. I can’t explain it. I lost my head and stole your damn shirt. There. You happy?”


“Hmm,” he said noncommittally. “The fire was six months ago.” He was still gripping her hips, his hands beneath the hem of the shirt now and his thumbs scraping lightly up and down on her bared belly, making her muscles quiver. “You had it all that time?”


“It was comfortable.”


He smiled at that. “Comfortable. You kept a shirt for seventeen years because it was comfortable.”


“Yes.”


“Liar. Such a beautiful liar.” Leaning in, he kissed her.


Soft.


A warm-up round.


She knew just how potent the next round would be, so she put her hand to his chest, not quite sure if she was stopping him or making sure he couldn’t stop.


In the silence, her stomach growled, and he grinned. “I stand corrected. You really are hungry.” Turning to the small refrigerator, he pulled out tortillas, grated cheese, and salsa.


“What are you doing?”


“Making you a quesadilla. I’d grill it, but I can’t do that in here.”


She watched as he stroked a spoonful of salsa onto the tortilla, then layered grated cheese over it. There was something about the way his hands moved, his concentration, the obvious ease that he felt in his kitchen, that got to her.


And he did get to her, in a big way.


He waited until she’d eaten the entire quesadilla to take the plate from her and then lifted her up to the counter. Eyes on hers, he stepped in between her thighs.


“I didn’t come here for this,” she whispered as he slowly lifted his shirt from her and peeled it off over her head.


“Your nose is going to start growing, Pinocchio,” he said, resting his hands on her waist.


“You didn’t eat anything,” she said inanely.


“Wasn’t hungry for a quesadilla.”


“What are you hungry for?”


His eyes were so heated that she felt her bones melt away. “Guess,” he said, and slid his hands up her thighs. He hooked his thumb in her panties and inched them down. Then he dropped to his knees and proceeded to show her.


Over and over again.


Chapter 16


“Things are always funnier when they’re happening to someone else.”


TARA DANIELS


Tara stood alone in the inn’s kitchen in rare blessed silence. She was trying not to think about how many times Ford had taken her—and she him—last night before he’d walked her back to her bed at dawn.


Or how much he was coming to mean to her. Along with Mia. And her sisters. And Lucky Harbor…


It was all those strings that Ford had pointed out, tangling around her heart.


Damn strings. She didn’t want them. She wanted to be able to protect her heart as needed, and that was getting damn hard to do. At least with Ford, she knew what she was getting. A good time. Okay, a really good time. She’d meant for it to be nothing more but it was…


Chloe came into the room just as Tara was staring blindly into the refrigerator. “Hungry?”


“No,” Tara said. “Trying to decide between juice or the vodka.”


Chloe laughed. “Always the vodka. It’s fewer calories. But I’ve never actually considered vodka and OJ to be mutually exclusive. Go ahead, splurge, have both.”


“Hmm,” Tara said and pulled out the eggs.

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