Author: Jill Shalvis


“You’re probably starving from burning all those calories having wild animal sex last night, right?”


Tara nearly dropped the eggs before turning to stare at Chloe. “What?”


“Well, you came in at dawn with crazy hair and a ridiculously wide smile for someone who hates early mornings.” Chloe shrugged. “I figured it had to be sex. And given that it was Ford, I also figured it had to be a pretty fantastic night. It was Ford, right?”


“Oh my God,” Tara said. “Yes.”


Chloe grinned at the confession.


“Stop that,” Tara said. “We’re not talking about this.”


“Pretty please? It’s so much better than what I have to talk to you about.”


Tara opened her mouth to respond to that but Sawyer came in the back door with his usual long-legged stride. It faltered only slightly when he locked gazes with Chloe, whom he wasn’t used to seeing in the kitchen when he made his early morning coffee run.


Tara pulled out a to-go mug from a stack that she kept just for him and filled it up.


Chloe watched the process, including Sawyer’s quiet but grateful thank you, although she didn’t say a word until he was gone. “Why do you let him steal your coffee?”


“Because he’s a good man with a crappy job, that you make all the more difficult for him, by the way. I feel like I owe him.”


Chloe rolled her eyes. “Back to you, missy, and you’re just-got-laid expression. You should try to lose that. You know, for the children.”


Tara attempted to catch sight of herself in the steel door of the refrigerator. Damn, Chloe was right. She was glowing.


“Oh, and I borrowed your laptop this morning,” Chloe said casually, gathering strawberries, yogurt, and the blender.


“Don’t tell me you were looking at porn again,” Tara said. “You froze my computer last time you opened that See Channing Tatum Naked attachment.”


“Hey, anyone would have clicked on that, and it was a total hoax. I never even got to see him naked. And no, I didn’t do any of that today. I was just getting my mail. Oh, and I accidentally clicked on your Firefox history.”


“So?”


“So I happen to know you went to Facebook, created an account, and voted for Ford.”


Tara went still. “Did not.”


“Okay. But you did.”


Tara crossed her arms. “I’ll have you know that there’s not a single Tara Daniels on Facebook,” she said with confidence.


Chloe looked amused. “And you know this how, Tallulah Danielson? Tallulah? Danielson? Seriously? Because Jesus, if you ever find yourself with the need to go deep undercover again, I’m begging you, ask for help. And never consider a job with the FBI.”


Well, hell. This was embarrassing. Worse, she couldn’t come up with an excuse. Not a single one.


Oh! Temporary insanity. That would work. Or avoidance, Tara decided, and turned away from a grinning Chloe, only to come face to face with the man himself.


Ford. Who was also grinning. “Bless your heart, Tallulah,” he said.


Chloe laughed and walked across the room to hug him. “If you weren’t so totally hung up on her,” she told him, “I’d claim you for myself.”


Ford hugged her back. “It’s true. I’m totally hung up on her.”


Aw. And dammit, he really had to stop doing that, Tara thought, watching them, her heart going all mushy. It was all those little things that added up, like making her a quesadilla in the middle of the night, or the way he looked at her, like maybe she was a better sight than say his first cup of coffee in the morning. Or, in the case of how he was looking at her right now, like she was greatly amusing him. “You might have told me he was standing there,” Tara said to Chloe.


“I might have.”


Tara shook her head and looked at Ford. “I meant to vote for Logan. I hit the wrong button.”


Ford burst out laughing. He wore a T-shirt and Levi’s that were faded into a buttery softness and doing some nice things for his bod. He had a day of scruff on him and looked so utterly delectable that she found herself just staring.


He looked right back, that small smile still hovering at the corners of his mouth.


Chloe cleared her throat. “Well. This is cute and all…” She looked at Tara. “But I actually do really need to talk to you. Got a few?”


“Actually, not until later and neither do you. The guests are going to want breakfast.”


“This is a quick thing,” Chloe said, “but an important one.”


Oh hell. It was something big, Tara could see it in Chloe’s eyes. “Don’t tell me you got arrested again, because I’m pretty sure Sawyer’s going to throw away the key on you this time—”


“No. Jeez,” Chloe said, tossing up her hands. “A girl gets arrested one time—”


“Three times.”


Chloe sighed. “This is about you.”


“What about me?”


Chloe glanced uneasily at Ford, who clearly wasn’t budging, then sighed and pulled a white plastic stick from her pocket. “I was in the downstairs bathroom setting up a basket full of lotions and soaps, cleaning up, emptying the trash, that sort of thing.”


“I emptied the trash just this morning,” Tara said.


“I know,” Chloe said. “I saw you. Which means you were the last one in there. So I figured you’d want me to give this to you so no one else could come to the wrong conclusion.”


Tara looked down at the thing in Chloe’s hands in shock. “That’s a pregnancy test stick.”


“A negative one,” Chloe said. “Probably a relief for you guys, right?”


Tara nearly went into heart failure. “What are you talking about? It’s not mine.”


Ford’s face was utterly blank as he stared at the stick. After a beat, he lifted his head and met Tara’s gaze, his eyes completely shuttered.


Because he knew what she did. They’d used a condom. Every time. It was an unspoken, very serious thing with them, and they both knew it. So undoubtedly his mind was now leaping to the next possibility, that she’d slept with… Logan?


“It’s not mine,” Tara said again and grabbed Chloe by the arm. “Excuse us a minute?” she said to Ford, then without waiting for an answer, yanked Chloe into the pantry and slammed the door.


“Yeah,” Chloe said, looking around at the small but cozy space. “I can see why you pull Ford in here whenever you can. It screams ‘do me.’ ” She tested a shelf. “Does this hold?”


“Chloe, how could you?” Tara demanded in a harsh whisper.


“I don’t know. I guess I’d hop up right here, and then he’d stand between my legs and—”


“I meant how could you give this to me in front of Ford? My God, that was the most irresponsible, rude, grossly negligent sisterly thing you’ve ever done, and you’ve done a lot!”


Chloe paused a moment, clearly startled by Tara’s fury, as if she sincerely, honestly hadn’t given anyone else’s feelings a thought. As always, though, she rebounded with an excuse for herself. “Hey, if you’re close enough to need a pregnancy test with him, then he’s close enough to go through the worry with you. For the second time.”


“It’s not mine!”


“Well, it’s not mine,” Chloe said emphatically. “I haven’t had sex all damn year. Not since that hot Cuban guy in Miami, which landed me in the ER. A bit of a post-coital downer, I should add.”


“Oh my God,” Tara said. “It’s Mia’s.”


“What?”


“The pregnancy test! It’s Mia’s.”


Chloe contemplated this, then let out a slow breath. “Oh boy.”


Tara gritted her teeth. “I’m going to kill Carlos—”


“It’s not Mia’s. It’s mine.”


Tara and Chloe looked at each other, and then at the door, which had spoken to them. Chloe pulled it open and there stood Maddie.


And Mia.


They stood side by side, Maddie looking sheepish. “I thought I wrapped it up so no one would see it,” she said.


Tara stuck her head out into the kitchen and looked around for Ford.


“He left,” Maddie told her.


Mia still hadn’t said a word. She stood staring at Tara with barely veiled resentment. “You thought the stick was mine.”


Tara opened her mouth but Mia shook her head and took a step back. “I have to go,” she said and moved to the door.


“Mia, please.” Tara rushed to her. “Wait—”


Mia whirled back, her eyes swimming. “You thought it was mine,” she repeated. “You think I’m having sex and being stupid enough to do it without protection. You think I’d compound that stupidity by taking a pregnancy test here and then leave the stick where it could be found.” She winced and shot Maddie a look. “No offense.”


Maddie sighed. “None taken.”


“Mia,” Tara said, and heard the emotion in her own voice. “I’m sorry. It was a knee-jerk reaction, and I’m sorry.”


Some of the tension drained from Mia’s shoulders, but not all, as she nodded.


“So you’re not having sex?” Chloe asked her.


“No!” Mia said, hugging herself. “Jeez!”


“Good,” Chloe said. “Because I really didn’t want to be the only one not getting any.” She turned to Maddie. “And you. You really thought you might be pregnant?”


Maddie nodded, backed to a chair, and dropped into it. She confiscated Chloe’s coffee and sipped. Making a face, she added three heaping spoonfuls of sugar and then sipped again and nodded.


“So since you’re not preggers, you’re what, going for diabetes?” Chloe asked.


Tara gave Chloe a dark look that had Chloe miming zipping up her lips and throwing away the key. Tara still wanted to strangle her, but even more than that, she wanted to go find Ford and make sure they were okay. Or as okay as they could be when they were…

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