Author: Jill Shalvis


He arched a brow. “Are you saying I’m not romantic?”


“It’s not your strong suit, no.”


He bit into the muffin. “What is my strong suit?”


She thought about how he could make her purr with a single touch, have her writhing in three minutes flat if he put his mind to it, and blushed.


He smiled. “Come here.”


“I don’t think so.”


“Don’t trust me?”


“Don’t trust me.”


That made him chuckle, and he finished his muffin. “What are these again? They’re amazing.”


“They’re honey banana, to calm the stomach. The honey also builds up sugar levels, and the bananas are rich in the important stuff: electrolytes, magnesium, and potassium, which you severely depleted with your alcohol intake.” She opened the thermos and handed it to him. “And milk. To rehydrate.”


“You always name your masterpieces. What are these muffins called?”


She squirmed a little. He knew her well, too well. She’d indeed named the muffins, but she didn’t want to tell him. It was too embarrassing. Not to mention revealing.


“Come on,” he coaxed.


She sucked in a breath and said it fast. “You’reMyHoneyBunMuffins.”


A sole brow shot up. “One more time.”


“You’re My Honey Bun Muffins.” She pointed at him. “And if you laugh, that’s the end of our friendship. Or whatever this thing between us is.”


Ford grinned. “Aw. I’m your honey bun.”


“Stop it.” She shoved a napkin at him. “And you’re getting crumbs in the bed.”


“Don’t you mean, ‘you’re getting crumbs in the bed, honey bun’?”


“Okay, that’s it. Give me back the muffins.” Tara reached for them but Ford laughed and held them out of her reach, leaning back so that she fell on top of him.


Smooth, she thought, scrambling off his hard, warm, perfect body. He was pretty damn smooth as he proceeded to inhale three more muffins and down the milk while she watched. And so… male. Logan had always been a gym rat, his body toned from a rigorous routine of weights and cardio. Ford didn’t do the whole gym thing. No, his body was honed to a mouthwatering tightness by running and sailing, and it worked for him.


It worked for her, too. “Are we going to talk about the phone messages?” she asked when he finally stopped eating, looking much better for it.


He winced. “I was really hoping that part of last night was a dream.”


She laughed and shook her head. “Nope.”


“Can we pretend it was?”


“So you don’t want to be my sex slave?”


Ford’s expression went hopeful as his gaze flew to hers, then turned crestfallen when she gave him an are-you-kidding-me look. “That’s just mean, teasing a man when he’s down.”


“You’re not down,” Tara said. “You’re never down.”


“And here I thought you were so observant.” He rolled off the bed.


“Where are you going?”


He dropped his boxers to the floor.


“You’re naked!”


“Yes, that’s usually how I like to shower,” he said and walked the finest ass she’d ever seen right out of the bedroom.


Chapter 19


“If it’s going to be two against one, make sure you aren’t the one.”


TARA DANIELS


Back at the inn, Tara cooked up a big breakfast. Then she made bread and put together a slow-cooking soup for later. After that, she cleaned the kitchen, opening the back door to sweep out the crumbs.


When she turned around, Logan was standing there, watching her, eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed with exhaustion.


“Wow,” she said. “You look like crap.”


His smile was grim. “You make a bedside visit to Ford with hangover muffins, and you tell me I look like crap. Where’s the justice in that? And before you ask how I know, it’s on Facebook. Lucille reported seeing you board his boat with the muffins. She tweeted it, too, and loaded a pic.”


Tara stared at him. “She did not.”


“Did.”


Tara shook her head to clear it but that didn’t help. Neither did the sneaking suspicion coming to her. “So what, you came here to hopefully get caught on camera as well?”


Guilt flashed across his pretty-boy face, but he accompanied it with a charming smile. “Didn’t think it could hurt.”


She glared at him, then realized that beneath that do-me smile was undeniable misery, and she felt her heart constrict. “Oh, Logan,” she said softly, coming around the island to push him gently into a chair.


“Ah, shit,” he said, staying where she’d put him. “The nice Tara. I’m getting dumped, right?”


“I already dumped you.” She made him some green mint tea, his favorite. “And this isn’t me being nice,” she said, handing him a mug. “It’s mercy. It’ll help your headache, but what would help even more is not trying to drink other people under the table.”


“I didn’t try. I succeeded. And it wasn’t just any other people. It was your boyfriend.”


“Ford’s not my boyfriend.”


“Uh huh.”


“Okay,” Tara said. “I want you to try something new—listening to me for once.” She sat in front of him and took his hand in hers. “I’m not looking for a husband. That’s over.”


“But I’m not done fighting for you.”


“I’m not a prize, Logan.”


His smile softened. “Yes, you are.”


Aw. Dammit, he really had his moments. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said, “but you need to know that everything I’ve told you before still stands. I’m not coming back to you, Logan. We’re not going to make this work, you and me.”


He looked at her for a long moment. “I’m not ready to concede yet, Tara.”


“Logan—”


“Look, I’m enjoying this town. I’ve been making friends with people who don’t bow down to me or want anything from me.”


“What you’re enjoying is the chase,” she said. “And being talked about every day.”


“Okay,” he admitted. “That too.”


Shaking her head, Tara rose. “Go home, Logan. Go back to your life.”


“I’ve never quit anything, you know that.” He rose too and snagged her hand, pulling her back around to face him. “And I’m not going to quit this. Not even for you.”


He was looking at her just as she’d always dreamed he might, warm and soft and open, and all she could think was too little, too late. “Logan—”


“No.” He set his finger over her lips. “God, not the pity. Smack me around, tell me I’m an ass, anything but the pity eyes.” He paused. “I will, however, take a pity f—oomph,” he said when she elbowed him in the gut. “Damn, woman.”


“Go,” she said. Relieved to feel suddenly guilt-free, she shoved him out of her kitchen.


The inn’s first real guests arrived as scheduled. A middle-aged couple on a West Coast road trip from San Diego to Vancouver, stopping at a different B&B every night.


Maddie and Tara checked them in together, and Chloe gave them a gift basket full of her natural products. The wife fingered through the items, cooing at the bath salts, the herbal teas, the…


“Massage oil?” the woman asked, lifting the bottle. She had to slip her glasses on to read the label. “Edible strawberry massage oil,” she said out loud. “Perfect for that special someone. Put it on your—Oh my.”


Mia gaped.


Maddie covered Mia’s eyes.


Tara looked at Chloe in horror.


Chloe laughed and reached for the oil. “Whoops, I was wondering where that went. Here, try this instead.” And she quickly replaced the oil with body lotion.


“Oh,” the woman said, sounding greatly disappointed. “Could I maybe have both?”


“Well, sure.” Chloe handed back over the oil. “Enjoy.”


The woman glanced at her husband and grinned. “We will.”


When the couple was safely upstairs in their room, Maddie and Tara rounded on Chloe, who held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, that was my bad,” she admitted.


“You think?” Tara asked.


Mia giggled. A real, honest-to-god genuine giggle, and then Maddie snorted. She slapped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late, and the sound of it sent Mia into a new fit of laughter. Chloe promptly lost the battle as well.


“It isn’t funny,” Tara protested. “They’re going to be up there doing… things.” But her daughter was still cracking up, and Tara felt the helpless smile tug at the corners of her own mouth at the sound of it, and the next thing she knew, they’d all slid down the wall to the floor, laughing like loons.


Together.


That night, with everyone tucked into bed all safe and sound, Tara sneaked out to sit on the marina docks. She was staring up at the night sky when she felt a tingle race down her spine. “Ford,” she said quietly.


His long legs appeared at her side. Then he crouched down on the balls of his feet to meet her gaze. “The guests?”


“In and settled.” She felt herself smile. “They like us, I think.”


“There’s not much not to like.” He had two beers dangling from the fingers of one hand and a pizza box in the other. “It’s not flowers,” he said, handing her one of the beers.


Throat tight, she accepted it, their fingers brushing together. “I don’t need flowers.”


“Do you need pizza?”


No. The calories would warrant a damn run in the morning, and she hated to run. But there was this gorgeous man hunkered before her, looking like everything she could ever want. “Actually,” she said. “I need pizza more than I need my next breath.”

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