Author: Jill Shalvis


“Honey, I was coming in anyway to help you serve breakfast. Give me fifteen.”


“Okay,” Tara said, grateful to have someone to worry with. “Thanks. You want to call Sawyer or should I?”


“Call Sawyer what?” Sawyer asked, coming in the back door, filling the kitchen with his big build. He was in his uniform and looking very fine as he went straight to the coffee pot.


Tara handed him one of the to-go mugs.


“Thanks.” The very corners of his mouth tipped in a barely-there, bad-boy smile as he leaned back against the counter, the mug in hand. “Tell me what?” he repeated.


Tara thought about not going there with him. After all, typically when Chloe got herself in some sort of trouble, poor Sawyer was the one forced to deal with it.


But if Tara didn’t tell him and something had happened to her sister… She sighed. “Chloe didn’t make it home last night.”


He didn’t so much as blink, and yet there was a new stillness about him that told her he wasn’t happy to hear this. “And she was supposed to?”


“Yes.”


“Was she with the group of rock climbers out on the Butte?”


“Possibly,” Tara said warily. “Why?”


“Because I arrested one of them this morning.”


Oh, God. “Who was it, and for what?”


“Todd Fitzgerald. Public intoxication.”


Todd. Of course. Tara sighed, and Sawyer pushed away from the counter. “I’ll make some calls.”


She knew he meant he’d call the station, the hospital… the morgue. But before he got to the door, Chloe came in—hair wild, face flushed, wearing yesterday’s clothes and carrying her shoes.


Sawyer looked at her impassively.


“Don’t start,” she said and brushed past him. Limping.


He eyed her body carefully. “You okay?”


She turned to face him. “I’m always okay.”


There was a long, awkward beat between the two of them. There always was. Tara had no idea what to make of it or how to help.


“Don’t you have sheriff-type stuff to do?” Chloe asked him.


Sawyer gave a short shake of his head, one that clearly said fuck it before he moved toward the door. Tara gave Chloe a recriminating you-are-so-rude look, and Chloe rolled her eyes. “Sawyer,” she said with reluctant apology.


He pulled open the door. “Glad you’re home safe.”


“We were at the Butte,” Chloe said to his broad, tense back. “We ran out of gas and had to wait until daylight to catch a ride.”


He looked at her. “It’s illegal to party out there.”


“We ran out of gas,” she repeated.


“Did you lose your cell phone too?”


Chloe sighed dramatically. “I forgot mine at home, okay? And Lance doesn’t carry one.”


Sawyer locked eyes with hers. “Were you with Todd?”


“For a while.”


“He had a phone.”


“How do you know?” she asked.


“Because it’s now residing in his personal possessions baggie for when he bails himself out after he sobers up.”


“You arrested him? Seriously?”


Sawyer was unapologetic and unmoved. “He staggered into the convenience store at five this morning, knocked over three displays, and urinated on the magazine stand.” He shook his head. “And you and Lance have a serious death wish, you know that? What if he’d had a medical problem out there?”


“He needed to do this, Sawyer. It isn’t my place to babysit him and tell him what he can and can’t do.”


“Jesus, Chloe, his cystic fibrosis isn’t a fucking summer cold!”


“And you think he doesn’t know that?”


“And what about you?” he asked. “Does the inhaler always do the job? I don’t think so. You can’t tell me you’ve never had to make a trip to the ER because of an asthma attack while climbing.”


“Nothing happened,” Chloe said. “So I don’t get it. Why are you so pissed?”


“I’m not pissed.” His face was impassive. The cop face. “That would imply that there were feelings between us.”


Chloe stared at him for a long beat. “My mistake then,” she finally said.


Sawyer stared at her right back, then swore beneath his breath and left without another word. When the door shut behind him with quiet fury, Chloe let out a breath.


“Gee,” Tara said in the silence. “No tension there.”


“Don’t you start too.” Chloe headed directly for the refrigerator and some leftover Not Yo Mama’s Apple Pie.


“Was it just you, Tucker, Lance, and Todd up there?” Tara asked.


“No. Lance brought a bunch of friends, and one thing led to another.”


So Sawyer was right. It had been a party. “I thought you can’t have sex without landing yourself in the hospital.”


“No one had sex. Or at least I didn’t.” Chloe sighed. “Bunch of stupid boys in this town.”


“Sawyer isn’t stupid.”


“And he’s not a boy, either.”


Tara watched as Chloe shoveled away the pie like she hadn’t eaten in a week. “What is he, then?”


“Hell, Tara, do I need to give you the birds and the bees talk? Why can’t you get the deets off the Internet like all the other kids these days?”


When Tara laughed, Chloe relaxed slightly. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” she said.


“A common theme amongst us sisters,” Tara said.


“What’s this?” Chloe asked. “Regret? From the most private sister of them all?” Without waiting for an answer, she took her plate to the sink and headed to the door. “I’m out.”


When Tara was alone, she sighed. “Yeah. I’d definitely call it regret.” Shaking it off, she began pulling out all the ingredients she needed for the Good Morning Sunshine Casserole, which she’d adapted from Mia’s recipe. She was grating cheese when the back door and the door leading to the hallway opened at the same time.


Logan came in one, and Ford the other.


Immediately, the testosterone level shot up and hit maximum velocity in two point zero seconds as both men stared at each other over Tara’s head.


“Well, if it isn’t the drinking buddies,” Tara said dryly. “Should I break out the mimosas, boys?”


“I just came by to help,” Logan said. “Since you keep burning meals and all.”


“How are you going to help?” Ford asked. “You actually cook?”


“Well, no, but I give real good help,” Logan said with a charming smile in Tara’s direction.


“I cook,” Ford said.


Logan’s eyes narrowed, and Tara felt yet another competition coming on. She’d heard about the abs of steel contest at The Love Shack. Part of her still couldn’t believe it, and the other part of her wished she’d seen it herself.


“Okay, you know what?” She dropped an empty bag into Logan’s hands and gave his leanly muscled, warm body a push out the back door. “I need some apples. Go pick me some, would you?”


Ford, looking big and bad and very cocky, leaned back against the counter with a smile.


“Oh, no.” Tara shoved him out after Logan. “You too. And play nice.” She shut the door on them both, threw the casserole into the oven, and turned and met Mia’s amused glance.


“I showed up to make sure you didn’t have any trouble,” the teen said.


“Well, the trouble part is taken care of. Other than that, everything’s the same old status quo. My life is pretty boring.”


“Yeah.” Mia laughed. “Okay, let’s work on not burning breakfast today.”


“I swear I’m a good cook,” Tara said, needing to be good at something in her daughter’s eyes. She walked Mia through the steps to make dough for fresh bread. “This won’t take long to bake and then we can—” Tara broke off as she got a good look out the window. “Oh, for the love of God.”


Logan and Ford had each shimmied up a tree—Logan with the help of a stepladder—and were making piles of apples. Big piles.


More than she needed for the next month.


Not that they were doing it for her. Nope, they were competing again.


Mia joined her at the window and raised a single brow—yet another talent she’d inherited from her father. Together they watched the guys pick apples.


“And you think your life is boring,” Mia murmured.


• • •


“You’re sleeping with her.” Logan repeated this grimly to Ford from somewhere inside his apple tree. With his arm injury, he’d been slower to climb up.


Ford, having the free use of both arms, hadn’t needed a ladder to climb the adjacent tree. “This is not news,” he told Logan. “You read Facebook.”


“Christ. I should just kill you. Or me. It’d be less painful to be dead.”


“You’re not in any real pain,” Ford said in disgust. “It’s just your fucking ego. You hate to lose.”


“Said the pot to the kettle,” Logan muttered.


Okay, that might be true, but this was more than about winning for Ford. It was about Tara, a woman he couldn’t live without. He pulled himself up to the next branch and dropped another three perfect apples. He glanced down. Yep, his pile was bigger than Logan’s. Even as he thought so with deep satisfaction, an apple whizzed by his ear, so close it disturbed his hair. “Hey—”


Logan flashed a grim smile and chucked another one. Ford saw this one coming and ducked again, and slipped. “Shit—”


That’s all he got out before he lost his grip, his temper, and his balance all at once.


And fell out of the tree.


Chapter 25


“Families are like fudge—mostly sweet with a few nuts.”

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