It's in His KissJill Shalvis
Oh, yeah,” Becca Thorpe murmured with a sigh of pleasure as she wriggled her toes in the wet sand. The sensation was better than splurging on a rare pedicure. Better than finding the perfect dress on sale. Better than . . . well, she’d say orgasms, but it’d been a while and she couldn’t remember for sure.
“You’re perfect,” she said to the Pacific Ocean, munching on the ranch-flavored popcorn she’d bought from the pier. “So perfect that I’d marry you and have your babies, if I hadn’t just promised myself to this popcorn.”
“Not even going to ask.”
At the sound of the deep male voice behind her, Becca squeaked and whipped around.
She’d thought she was alone on the rocky beach. Alone with her thoughts, her hopes, her fears, and all her worldly possessions stuffed into her car parked in the lot behind her.
But she wasn’t alone at all, because not ten feet away, between her and the pier, stood a man. He wore a rash-guard T-shirt and loose board shorts, both dripping wet and clinging to his very hot bod. He had a surfboard tucked under a biceps, and just looking at him had her pulse doing a little tap dance.
Maybe it was his unruly sun-kissed brown hair, the strands more than a little wild and blowing in his face. Maybe it was the face itself, which was striking for the features carved in granite and a set of mossy-green eyes that held her prisoner. Or maybe it was that he carried himself like he knew he was at the top of the food chain.
She took a few steps back because the wary city girl in her didn’t trust anyone, not even a sexy-looking surfer dude.
The man didn’t seem bothered by her retreat at all. He just gave her a short nod and left her alone.
Becca watched him stride up the pier steps. Or more correctly, she watched his very fine backside and long legs stride up the pier steps, carrying that board like it weighed nothing.
Then he vanished from sight before she turned her attention back to the ocean.
Whitecaps flashed from the last of the day’s sun, and a salty breeze blew over her as the waves crashed onto the shore. Big waves. And Sexy Surfer had just been out in that. Crazy.
Actually, she was the crazy one, and she let out a long, purposeful breath, and with it a lot of her tension.
But not all . . .
She wriggled her toes some more, waiting for the next wave. There were a million things running through her mind, most of them floating like dust motes through an open, sun-filled window, never quite landing. Still, a few managed to hit with surprising emphasis—such as the realization that she’d done it. She’d packed up and left home.
Her destination had been the Pacific Ocean. She’d always wanted to see it, and she could now say with one hundred percent certainty it met her expectations. The knowledge that she’d fulfilled one of her dreams felt good, even if there were worries clouding her mind. The mess she’d left behind, for one. Staying out of the rut she’d just climbed out of, for another. And a life. She wanted—needed—a life. Employment would be good, too, since she was fond of eating.
But standing in this little Washington State town she’d yet to explore, those worries receded slightly. She’d get through this; she always did. After all, the name of this place nearly guaranteed it.
She was determined to find some good luck for a change.
A few minutes later, the sun finally gently touched down on the water, sending a chill through the early-July evening. Becca took one last look and turned to head back to her car. Sliding behind the wheel, she pulled out her phone and accessed the ad she’d found on Craigslist.
Cheap waterfront warehouse converted into three separate living spaces. Cheap. Furnished (sort of). Cheap. Month to month. Cheap.
It worked for Becca on all levels, especially the cheap part. She had the first month’s rent check in her pocket, and she was meeting the landlord at the building. All she had to do was locate it. Her GPS led her from the pier to the other end of the harbor, down a narrow street lined with maybe ten warehouse buildings.
Problem number one.
None of them had numbers indicating its address. After cruising up and down the street three times, she admitted defeat and parked. She called the landlord, but she only had his office phone, and it went right to voice mail.
Problem number two. She was going to have to ask someone for help, which wasn’t exactly her strong suit.
It wasn’t even a suit of hers at all. She hummed a little to herself as she looked around, a nervous tic for sure, but it soothed her. Unfortunately, the only person in sight was a kid on a bike, in homeboy shorts about ten sizes too big and a knit cap, coming straight at her on the narrow sidewalk.
“Watch it, lady!” he yelled.
A city girl through and through, Becca held her ground. “You watch it.”
The kid narrowly missed her and kept going.
“Hey, which building is Two-Oh-Three?”
“Dunno, ask Sam!” he called back over his shoulder. “He’ll know, he knows everything.”
Okay, perfect. She cupped her hands around her mouth so he’d hear her. “Where’s Sam?”
The kid didn’t answer, but he did point toward the building off to her right.
It was a warehouse like the others, industrial, old, the siding battered by the elements and the salty air. It was built like an A-frame barn, with both of the huge front and back sliding doors open. The sign posted did give her a moment’s pause.
WARNING: PRIVATE DOCK
TRESPASSERS WILL BE USED AS BAIT
She bit her lower lip and decided that, after driving all day for days on end, her need to find her place outweighed the threat. Hopefully . . .
The last of the sunlight slanted through the warehouse, highlighting everything in gold, including the guy using some sort of planer along the wood. The air itself was throbbing with the beat of the loud indie rock blaring from some unseen speakers.
From the outside, the warehouse hadn’t looked like much, but as she stepped into the vast doorway, she realized the inside was a wide-open space with floor-to-rafters windows nearly three stories high. It was lined with ladders and racks of stacked wood planks and tools. Centered in the space was a wood hull, looking like a piece of art.
As did the guy working on it. His shirt was damp and clinging to his every muscle as it bunched and flexed with his movements. It was all so beautiful and intriguing—the boat, the music, the man himself, right down to the corded veins on his forearms—that it was like being at the movies during the montage of scenes that always played to a sound track.
Then she realized she recognized the board shorts, or more accurately the really excellent butt, as she’d only moments before watched it walk away from her.
Though he couldn’t possibly have heard her over the hum of his power tool and the loud music, he turned to face her. And as she already knew, the view of him from the front was just as heart-stopping as it was from the back.
He didn’t move a single muscle other than one flick of his thumb, which turned off the planer. His other hand went into his pocket and extracted a remote. With another flick, the music stopped.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
And just like that, the pretty montage sound track playing in her head came to a screeching halt. “Okay, sorry. I’m just—”
Just nothing, apparently, because he turned back to his work, and with another flick of his thumb the planer came back to life. And then the music.
“—Looking for someone,” she finished. Not that he was listening.
On the wall right next to her, a telephone began ringing, and the bright red light attached to it began blinking in sync, clearly designed
just in case the phone couldn’t be heard over the tools. She could hear it, but she doubted he could. One ring, then two. Three. The guy didn’t make a move toward it.
On the fourth ring, the call went to a machine, where a recorded male voice said, “Lucky Harbor Charters. We’re in high gear for the summer season. Coastal tours, deep-sea fishing, scuba, name your pleasure. Leave a message at the tone, or find us at the harbor, north side.”
A click indicated the caller disconnected, but the phone immediately rang again.
Sexy Surfer ignored all of this.
Becca had a hard time doing the same, and she glanced around for someone, anyone, but there was no one in sight. Used to having to be resourceful, she let her gaze follow the cord of the planer to an electric outlet in the floor. She walked over to it and pulled it out of the wall.
The planer stopped.
So did her heart when Sexy Surfer turned his head her way. Yep, Sexy Surfer was an apt description for him. Maybe Drop-Dead Sexy. Either way, he took in the fact that she was still there and that she was holding the cord to his planer and a single brow arched. Whether it was displeasure or disbelief was hard to tell. Probably, with that bad ’tude, not many messed with him. But she was exhausted, hungry, out of her element, and a little bit pissed off. Which made her just enough of a loose cannon to forget to be afraid.
“I’m trying to find Sam,” she said, moving closer to him so he could hear her over his music. “Do you know him?”
Having come from a family of entertainers, most of them innate charmers to boot, Becca knew how to make the most of what she’d been given, so she smiled. “I’m Becca Thorpe, and I’m trying to find Two-Oh-Three Harbor Street. My GPS says I’m on Harbor Street, but the buildings don’t have numbers on them.”
“You’re looking for the building directly to the north.”
She nodded, and then shook her head with a laugh. She could get lost trying to find her way out of a paper bag. “And north would be which way exactly?”
He let the planer slowly slide to the floor by its cord before letting go and heading toward her.
He was six-foot-plus of lean, hard muscle, with a lot of sawdust clinging to him, as rugged and tough as the boat he was working on—though only the man was exuding testosterone, a bunch of it.
Becca didn’t have a lot of great experience with an overabundance of testosterone, so she found herself automatically taking a few steps back from him, until she stood in the doorway.
He slowed but didn’t stop, not until he was crowded in that doorway right along with her, taking up an awful lot of space.
Actually, all of the space.
And though she was braced to feel threatened, the opposite happened. She felt . . . suddenly warm, and her heart began to pound. And not in a terrified way, either.
He took in her reaction, held her gaze for a moment, then pointed to the right. “The front of the building you’re looking for is around the corner,” he said, his voice a little softer now, like maybe he knew she was torn between an unwelcome fear and an equally unwelcome heat.
She really hoped the heat was mutual, because it would be embarrassing to be caught in Lustville by herself. “Around the corner,” she repeated. Did he know he smelled good, like fresh wood and something citrusy, and also heated male? She wondered if she smelled good, too, or if all she was giving off was the scent of confused female and ranch-flavored popcorn.
“What do you need with that place?” he asked.
“I’m the new tenant there. Or one of them anyway.”
His expression was unfathomable. “I take it you haven’t seen it yet.”
“Not in person,” she said. “Why? Is it that bad?”
“Depends on how long you’re staying,” he said. “More than five minutes?”
Oh, boy. “I don’t actually know,” she said. “It’s a month-to-month rental. Lucky Harbor is sort of a pit stop for me at the moment.”
His gaze searched hers. Then he nodded and moved back to his work. He plugged the planer in and flicked it on again.
Guess their conversation was over. She was on her own. And if that thought caused a little pang of loneliness inside her still-hurting heart, she shoved it deep and ignored it, because now wasn’t the time to give in to the magnitude of what she’d done. Leaving the warehouse, she turned right.
To her new place.
To a new beginning.
Sam Brody lifted his head from the boat he was building and let his gaze drift to the north-facing window. The sky was a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun vanished, but he could still see the quiet, industrial street, and the backside of Tough Girl as she walked off.
And walking off was just as he wanted her, too. He turned his concentration back to the hull. He was good at concentrating. If his childhood hadn’t drilled it into him, then working on an oil rig for seven years—where paying attention meant the difference between life and death—had certainly done so.
But damn if not two seconds later his gaze flickered to the window again.
Yep, she and her sweet bod were gone. She had a backbone, but she also had those warm, soulful brown eyes, and one of those smiles that could draw a man right in.
And a sassiness that could hold him there . . .
And she was going to be right next door. Not good news. The warehouse she’d rented was a complete piece of shit, cold in the winter, hot in the summer, not easily secured or safe. Not his call, of course, but he didn’t like that the landlord had put her in there, alone. Lyons should’ve known better. The place had been up for sale for years now, but no one in Lucky Harbor was stupid enough to sink any equity into that money pit. Still, Sam should’ve bought the thing himself just to keep it empty.
Empty, and quiet.
The phone rang again, and the accompanying red lights gave him an eye twitch. He’d been ignoring the calls while trying to work, figuring one of the guys would get the hint and pick up. But neither Cole nor Tanner was good at hints. No, for his two partners to get something, they had to be hit over the head with it. Besides, Sam knew damn well it amused the hell out of them to make him answer the phone.
Finally he snatched the phone just to shut it up and snarled, “Lucky Harbor Charters.”
There was a brief pause, a hesitation that made him feel like a jackass as his gaze skimmed the big sign that Cole had taped above the phone for Sam’s benefit alone. It read:
Ask “Can I help you?” in a tone that suggests you actually mean it, and not that you’d like to rip the head off whoever’s interrupting you.
(You smiling yet?)
Refusing to smile on principle, Sam did make the effort to sound friendly as he spoke into the silence. “Can I help you?”
“Sammy? That you?”
Sam closed his eyes. “Yeah, Dad. It’s me.”
“Oh, good.” Mark Brody laughed a little sheepishly. “I remembered the number right this time. So . . . how’s it going?”
This wasn’t the question his dad really wanted to ask, but at least the guy had become self-aware enough to feign interest. In the past, his dad would’ve gotten right to it. Got a little extra for your good old dad? Thanks, love ya.
“Sammy? You there?”
Sam scrubbed a hand down his face. Yeah. He was here. He was always here, from all those crazy years when Mark hadn’t had it