By Jill Shalvis
Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 30, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to “save” him. In fact, he’d like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He’s just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole’s heart, or will it be the end of Olivia’s days in little Lucky Harbor?
For a guy balancing his weight between the stern of his boat and the dock, thinking about sex instead of what he was doing was a real bonehead move. Cole Donovan was precariously perched on the balls of his feet above some seriously choppy, icy water. So concentrating would’ve been the smart move.
But he had no smarts left, which was what happened when you hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in far too long—your brain wandered into areas it shouldn’t.
Sex being one of those areas.
He shook his head to clear it. It was way too early for those kinds of thoughts. Not quite dawn, and the sky was a brilliant kaleidoscope of purples and blues and reds. Cole worked with a flashlight between his teeth, his fingers threading new electrical wire through the running lights on the stern. He only had a couple hours before a group of eight was coming through for a tour of the area.
That’s what Cole and his two partners and best friends did—they hired out themselves and their fifty-foot Wright Sport boat, chartering deep-sea fishing, whale watching, scuba diving… if it could be done, they did it. Sam was their financial guy and boatbuilder. Tanner was their scuba diving instructor and communications expert. Cole was the captain, chief navigator, mechanic, and—lucky him—the face of Lucky Harbor Charters, mostly because neither Sam nor Tanner was exactly a service-oriented person.
They’d had a warm Indian summer here in the Pacific Northwest, but October had roared in as if Mother Nature was pissed off at the world, and maybe in need of a Xanax to boot. But business was still good. Or it had been, until last night. He and Tanner had taken a group of frat boys out, and one of the idiots had managed to kick in the lights running along the stern, destroying not only the casing but also the electrical.
Cole could fix it—there was little he couldn’t fix. But as he got down to it, a harsh wind slapped him in the face, threatening his balance. He kicked off the dock so that he was balanced entirely on the edge of the stern. Still not a position for the faint of heart, but after five years on oil rigs and two more running Lucky Harbor Charters, Cole felt more at ease on the water than just about anywhere else.
He could smell the salt on the air and hear the swells smacking up against the dock moorings. The wind hit him again, and he shivered to the bone. Last week, he’d been out here working in board shorts and nothing else, the sun warming his back. Today he was in a knit cap, thick sweatshirt, cargo pants, and boots, and he was wishing for gloves like a little girl. He shoved his flashlight into his pocket, brought his hands to his mouth, and blew on his fingers for a moment before reaching for the wires again.
Just as they connected, there was a sizzle and a flash, and he jerked, losing his footing. The next thing he knew, he was airborne, weightless for a single heartbeat…
And then he hit the icy water, plunging deep, the contact stealing the air from his lungs. Stunned, he fought the swells, his heavy clothes, himself, eyes open as he searched for the flames that surely went along with the explosion.
Jesus, not another fire. That was his only thought as panic gripped him hard. He opened his mouth and—
Swallowed a lungful of seawater.
This cleared his head. He wasn’t on the oil rig in the gulf. He wasn’t in the explosion that had killed Gil, and nearly Tanner as well. He was in Lucky Harbor.
He kicked hard, breaking the surface, gasping as he searched for the boat, a part of him still not wholly convinced. But there. She was there, only a few feet away.
No flames, not a single lick. Just the cold-ass swells of the Pacific Northwest.
Treading water, Cole shook his head. A damn flashback, which he hadn’t had in over a year—
“Omigod, I see you!” a female voice called out. “Just hang on, I’m coming!” This was accompanied by hurried footsteps clapping on the dock. “Help!” she yelled as she ran. “Help, there’s a man in the water! Sir, sir, can you hear me? I’m coming. Sir?”
If she called him “sir” one more time, he was going to drown himself. His dad had been a sir. The old guy who ran the gas pumps on the corner of Main and First was a sir. Cole wasn’t a damn sir. He was opening his mouth to tell her so, and also that he was fine, not in any danger at all, when she took a flying leap off the dock.
And landed right on top of him.
The icy water closed over both of their heads, and as another swell hit, they became a tangle of limbs and water-laden clothing. He fought free and once again broke the surface, whipping his head around to look for the woman.
No sign of her.
Shit. Gasping in a deep breath, he dove back down and found her doing what he’d been doing only a moment before—fighting the water and her clothes, and herself. Her own worst enemy, she was losing the battle and sinking fast. Grasping the back of her sweater, Cole hauled her up, kicking hard to get them both to the surface.
She sucked in some air and immediately started coughing, reaching out blindly for him and managing to get a handful of his junk.
“Maybe we could get to shore first,” he said wryly.
Holding on to him with both arms and legs like a monkey clinging to a tree, she squeezed him tight. “I’ve g-g-got y-y-you,” she stuttered through already chattering teeth, then climbed on top of his head, sending him under again.
He managed to yank her off him and get her head above water. “Hey—”
“D-don’t panic,” she told him earnestly. “It’s g-g-gonna be o-o-okay.”
She actually thought she was saving him. If the situation weren’t so deadly, Cole might have thought some of this was funny. But she was turning into a Popsicle before his very eyes, and so was he. “Listen, just relax—”
“H-hang on to m-me,” she said, and… dunked him again.
For the love of—. “Stop trying to save me,” he told her. “I’m begging you.”
Her hair was in her face, and behind the strands plastered to her skin, her eyes widened. “Oh, my God. You’re trying to commit suicide.”
“What? No.” The situation was ridiculous, and he was frustrated and effing cold, but damn, it was hard not to be charmed by the fact that she was trying to save him, even as she was going down for the count herself. “I’m trying to keep you from killing me.”
The flashback to the rig fire long gone, Cole treaded water to keep them afloat as he assessed their options. There were two.
Shore or boat.
They were at the stern of the boat, much closer to the swimming platform than to the shore. And in any case, there was no way his “rescuer” could swim the distance. Though Cole was a world-class swimmer himself, he was already frozen to the bone, and so was she. They needed out of the water… fast.
With a few strokes, he got them to the stern of the boat, where he hoisted her up to the platform, pulling himself up after her.
She lay right where he’d dumped her, gulping in air, that long, dark hair everywhere. Leaning over her, he shoved the wet strands from her face to better see her and realized with a jolt that he recognized her. She lived in one of the warehouse apartments across from Lucky Harbor Charters.
Her name was Olivia Something-or-Other.
All he knew about her was that she hung out with Sam’s fiancée, Becca; she ran some sort of shop downtown; she dressed in a way that said both “hands off” and “hot mama”; and he’d caught her watching him and the guys surfing on more than one occasion.
“Y-y-you’re bleeding,” she said from flat on her back, staring up at him.
Cole brought his fingers to the sting on his temple, and his fingers indeed came away red with his own blood. Perfect. Just a cut though, no less than he deserved after that stupid stunt of shocking the shit out of himself with the wiring and then tumbling into the water. “I’m fine.” It was her he was worried about. Her jeans and sweater were plastered to her. She was missing a boot. And she was shivering violently enough to rattle the teeth right out of her head. “You’re not fine,” he said.
No shit. “What the hell were you thinking?” he asked, “Jumping in after me like that?”
Her eyes flashed, and he discovered they were the exact same color as her hair—deep, dark chocolate.
“I th-th-thought you were d-d-drowning!” she said through chattering teeth.
Cole shook his head. “I didn’t almost drown until you jumped on top of me.”
“I was working on the electrical wiring and got shocked and fell in.”
“S-s-see? You needed help!”
He absolutely did not. But arguing with her would get them nowhere, except maybe dead. “Come on, the plan is to get you home and warmed up.” Rising to his feet, he reached down and pulled her up with him, holding on to her when she wobbled. “Are you—”
“I’m f-f-fine,” she said, and stepped back to look down at herself. “I l-l-lost my favorite b-b-boot rescuing y-y-you.”
She called that a rescue? “Can you even swim?”
“Y-y-yes!” She crossed her arms over her chest. “A l-l-little bit.”
He stared at her in disbelief. “A little bit? Seriously? You risked your life on that?”
“You were in t-t-trouble!”
Right. They could argue about that later. “Time to get you home, Supergirl.”
“B-b-but my b-b-boot.”
“We’ll rescue the boot later.”
No. Her boot was on the ocean floor and DOA. “Later,” he said again, and grabbing her hand, he pulled her across the platform, through the stern. He needed to get her off the boat.
She dug her heels in, one in just a sock, one booted.
“What?” he asked.
Still shivering wildly, she looked at him with misery. “I d-d-dropped my ph-ph-phone on the dock.”
“Okay, we’ll grab it.”
“Y-y-yes, but I d-d-didn’t drop my keys.”
“That’s good,” he said, wondering if she’d hit her head.
“Y-y-you don’t get it. I th-th-think I lost my k-k-keys in the w-w-water.”
Well, shit. No keys, no getting her inside her place. This wasn’t good. Nor was her color. She was waxen, pale. They couldn’t delay getting her out of the elements and warm. “Okay, plan B,” he said. “We warm you here on the boat.” Again he started to tug her along, needing to get her inside and belowdecks, but she stumbled against him like her limbs weren’t working.
Plan C, he thought grimly, and swung her up into his arms.
She clutched at him. “N-n-not necessary—”
Ignoring her, he got them both into the small galley, where he set her down on the bench at the table. Keeping his hands on her arms, he crouched in front of her to look into her eyes. “You still with me? You okay?”
“Y-y-y—” Giving up, she dropped her head to his chest.
“Not okay,” he muttered, and stroked a hand down the back of her head and along her trembling frame.
Truth was, he wasn’t much better off. His head was still bleeding, and his shoulder was throbbing. He had nothing on her, though. She was violently trembling against him. Easing her back, he got busy. First he cranked the heater, then he opened their linens storage box, pulling out towels and blankets, which he tossed in a stack at her side. “Okay,” he said. “Strip.”
Olivia’s head jerked up, and her dark eyes met Cole’s. “Wh-wh-what?”
Not good, he thought. She wasn’t tracking. “Your clothes are keeping you cold,” he explained as gently as he could. “So you gotta lose ’em. Towel dry and then we’ll wrap you in blankets.” He kicked off his boots and pulled off his water-laden sweatshirt, which hit the floor like a fifty-pound weight. “I’ve got spare clothes here. I’ll get you something to wear.” His T-shirt went next. Another thunk.
Not moving, she stared at his chest. “You’re c-c-crazy if you think I’m g-g-going to s-s-strip—”
“That,” he said, “or I call nine-one-one. Nonnegotiable, Olivia.”
She blinked. “You kn-kn-know my name?”
“Yeah. You’re the woman who watches me and the guys surf while pretending to talk to Becca. Get moving, Supergirl.”
“I d-d-don’t watch,” she said, her gaze still lingering on his chest.
He had to laugh. “Okay, fine. You don’t watch us.” And he was the Tooth Fairy.
“And I’m f-f-fine,” she said with a shiver that nearly threw her off the bench.
“You’re blue, is what you are. You could pass for a Smurf.”
She flashed those dark eyes at him. Clearly she had plenty on her mind, but she was shaking too hard to let him have it. Lucky him.
“Look,” he said. “I’ll close my eyes, okay? And it’s not like we’re going to do the stupid chick flick thing where we have to get into bed together to warm each other up.”
“G-g-good, ’cause if you tried it, you’d be w-w-walking funny tomorrow.”
If she could toss out threats like that, she probably wasn’t in immediate danger of dying from hypothermia. But caution and safety first, as he’d learned the hard way over the years. “You’re still shaking badly,” he said. He grabbed a huge beach towel and shook it out, holding it up between them.
Instead of jumping up to follow his unspoken command, she narrowed her eyes.
But she wasn’t the only one who could play tough-as-hell. “Strip,” he said again, losing the gentle voice and going with the one he’d used as chief positioning operator and navigator, directing crews on the rigs. “Or I’ll do it for you.”
In truth, this was an empty threat, but the Boss Voice got through to her. She stood up, glaring at him before ducking behind the towel.
There was some movement, some rustling, which he took as a good sign. “We’ll get you dry,” he said, staring up at the ceiling to avoid catching a peek at her. “And then I’ll find you a pair of sweats and help you break into your place, since you lost your keys trying to kill me—er, save me.”
Her head reappeared for the sole purpose of delivering a pretty impressive eye roll, then she vanished behind the towel again. When he heard the heavy, wet thud of her clothes hitting the floor, he leaned forward and wrapped the towel around her body as best he could. His fingers inadvertently brushed the soft, wet skin of her shoulders and back, and he had to force himself not to think about the fact that she’d dropped her sweater and jeans. He was about to do the strip routine himself, and he didn’t want to be sporting wood while he was at it. “Dry off,” he said, and stepped back from her.
She nodded but didn’t move.
“Olivia?” he asked.
Her face was a mask of misery. “M-m-my arms won’t w-w-work.”
Shit. He quickly and gently pushed her back down to the bench, sat at her side, and began to pile blankets over the top of them both.
“W-what are you d-doing?”
“Sharing my body heat,” he said.
“I c-c-can’t feel any h-h-heat.”
“You will.” Beneath the blankets, he reached for the towel she still had wrapped around her. “Don’t freak,” he warned. “I’m just going to remove the wet towel and pull you into me.”
She opened her mouth, but using her sluggishness to his benefit, Cole quickly stripped the towel away from her, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her into him as two things happened simultaneously. One, she squeaked. Probably trying to formulate her next threat.
And two—holy shit—he realized she was completely, totally, one hundred percent naked beneath the layer of blankets.
And pissed. “Y-y-your pants!” she gasped. “Th-th-they’re c-c-cold!”
“Sorry, but I’m trying to do the right thing here,” he said through clenched teeth. He couldn’t see a thing below her neck, but he could sure as hell feel her. His hands were on her hip and low on her back, respectively, not touching anything he shouldn’t be, but damn she was soft, and at the feel of her, his brain clicked off. Just completely flatlined.
“I’m n-n-naked,” she snapped.
And oh, how well he knew it. He was pretty sure her nipples were boring holes in his chest. Just thinking about it had him warming up considerably. In fact, he might be starting to sweat. It’d been a while, but he was pretty sure he remembered nipples being one of his favorite parts of a woman’s body—
She gave him a shove.
“Sorry,” he said. “But you don’t want me to go away. I’m the one making you warm.”
“N-n-not what I m-m-mean,” she said. “Y-y-you have to be n-n-naked too!”
He stared at her. “That’s a really bad idea.”
“You w-w-want me to freak out?” she asked. “No? Then s-s-strip, Donovan.”
Bossy thing, wasn’t she.
“N-n-now,” she added, eyes sparking.
Yeah, bossy. And he liked it. “Whatever you say.” Still covered by the blankets, he shucked out of his pants—feeling more than just a twinge of pain in his shoulder now, something he ignored—and kicked the material away. “Better?”
“Are y-y-you… smiling?” she asked in disbelief.
He didn’t even try to hide it. “A beautiful woman just ordered me to strip,” he said. “But not because she wants my body. It’s funny, so yeah, I’m smiling.”
“Oh p-p-please,” she scoffed, and surprised the hell out of him by leaning in and carefully dabbing at the cut on his temple with the edge of a towel. “I’ve s-s-seen you and your partners,” she said, eyeing the cut and apparently deciding he was going to live. “You’re all l-l-listed on Lucky Harbor’s Tumblr as some of the hottest guys in t-t-town,” she said in a tone that didn’t suggest she was all that impressed by the dubious title. “I know you’ve got to have game.”
Seemed he wasn’t the only one warming up—her teeth were rattling less and less.
“You could probably turn a woman’s head with a single crook of your finger,” she muttered, rolling the towel to get to a clean spot to press against his temple.
He didn’t just smile now, he out-and-out laughed.
“What’s so funny now?”
“I was the runt all the way through high school. Small and skinny, and sickly too, even ending up in the hospital annually for strep and pneumonia. I’ve never crooked my finger at a woman in my life, though that’s definitely a skill I wouldn’t mind acquiring.” Luckily, in his senior year, he’d finally had his tonsils removed, and in the next year he’d grown eight full inches and gained fifty pounds of muscle, which had come in handy when he’d been working on the oil rigs. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been a lot of women on those rigs.
In fact, there’d been a total of three.
Given the odds—eighty-five guys to three women—Cole had done pretty well for himself, considering. But that was then.
He, Sam, and Tanner had come back to Lucky Harbor after the rig fire, having lost Gil. And in the time since losing his best friend, and then his father last year as well, he hadn’t had much game at all.
Correction. He’d had no game. “If I could turn a woman’s head that easily,” he said, “you’d be doing something other than dabbing the cut on my forehead.”
She went still for a beat, her eyes wide on his. He had no idea what was in her head, but he knew what was in his—the feel of the soft, curvy body practically in his lap.
And he nearly choked when she lifted the blanket and took a peek at him. “What the hell—”
She raised her gaze to his. “You left your underwear on.”
“Yes,” he said.
“But you told me to strip, and I did.”
“I didn’t say strip everything,” he said. “It never occurred to me that you’d lose the undies. Hot as they are.”
They both stared at the black lace lying innocuously on the floor. She flushed and lifted her chin. “Well, there’s only one thing to do now,” she said.
“You have to do the same.”
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“Drop the boxers.”
He stared at her. “Tell me the truth. You hit your head, too, right?”
“No. And I’m not kidding,” she said, jabbing him in the chest with a finger. “Lose ’em, or a freakout of epic proportions will commence in three. Two. One—”
“Jesus, hang on.” He worked at shedding his boxers, doing his best to keep covered by the blanket. “I can’t believe you looked after I promised not to look at you—”
“Yes, well, one of us isn’t a gentleman, now are we?” she asked.
A short laugh escaped him, which he cut off when she—holy shit—lifted the blanket and peeked again.
Grabbing the blankets like a virgin at a frat sleepover, he swore. “Jesus, woman!”
“Just making sure,” she said.
“Sure of what?”
Looking pretty damn pleased with herself, she laughed.
And damn, she had a smile on her. Mischievous and full of secrets, but still contagious. “Okay,” he said. “I like that look on your face much better than the abject misery you were wearing, but didn’t anyone ever tell you not to look at a naked man and laugh?”
She just laughed again, the sound soft and musical and somehow both sexy and sweet at the same time.
He sighed. “At least you’re warming up.”
“A little,” she allowed.
“Maybe I should peek to make sure.” Teasing, he made to lift the blankets.
With a squeak, she fisted them tight to her chest. “Don’t you dare!”
“Uh-huh. What’s good for the goose and all that.” All he could see of her over the pile of blankets was her face, those fathomless eyes, and all that wet, dark hair. She smelled like ocean and sexy woman—his favorite scent—and he was suddenly struck by how beautiful she was.
Oh shit, Donovan, don’t go there…
He had to clear his throat twice to answer. “Yeah?”
“I really need my phone—it’s on the dock where I dropped it. Hopefully. But I’m still cold.”
Still staring into her eyes, he pulled her tighter into him, and at the feel of her soft curves, his body gave up the valiant fight and tightened.
Some parts more than others.
He immediately began to work complicated calculus problems in his head, trying to remember the definition of the derivative of the function—
She pressed her icy feet against his calves, and he yelped like one of his sisters.
She laughed again, and he immediately lost track of calculus. All he could feel was her frozen limbs. Rubbing her arms to warm her up, he forced himself not to think about what she might look like under the blanket.
He failed miserably, which meant he was hard as a rock and buck-ass nekkid. And worse, she had to feel it pressing into her hip. He tried to pull back, but she made a soft, disagreeable sound and tightened her grip on him.
“You’re not warm yet?” he asked in a voice so low as to be almost inaudible.
He couldn’t help it. He didn’t have enough blood to run both heads. And on top of that, their bodies were melded together in a way that had him heated up and aching to lay her flat on her back on the bench and—
“You’re really warm,” she whispered.
Try hot as hell, babe. “I’ll go get your phone,” he said valiantly. “And something hot for you to drink.” Coffee, tea… me.
“Uh…” She shifted, bumping a bare thigh right into his erection.
He hissed out a breath as his hips gave an entirely instinctive roll to get closer. Christ. And there, perfect, now she was back to staring at him.
“You’re…” She broke off. “Um.”
“Yeah.” He was “um” all right. “Involuntary reaction,” he promised. “Just ignore it.”
“Seriously. Don’t give it another thought.” He went to shrug and had to bite back a grimace thanks to the pain in his shoulder. “Drink?” he asked again.
She bit her lower lip and nodded. “Tea, please.”
Tea for her, and never mind that it was the crack of dawn, he’d take a vodka, straight up. He grabbed a towel for coverage and worked at not further revealing himself, which involved gymnastics that should have won him a medal.
Olivia was smiling by the time he got all wrapped up. “I’ve already seen it all,” she reminded him.
- "Fall in love with Jill Shalvis! She's my go-to read for humor and heart."—Susan Mallery, New York Times bestselling author
- "Clever, steamy, and fun! Jill Shalvis will make you laugh and fall in love."—Rachel Gibson, New York Times bestselling author
- "[S]cores big with a delicate love story and red-hot passion. Fans of smalltown contemporaries will savor this delicious and heartwarming story, a refreshingly realistic romance between two great characters."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Once in a Lifetime
- "Charming and engaging... Shalvis's fans will devour the two friends' introspective and passionate journey to love."—Publishers Weekly on Always on My Mind
- "Engaging writing, characters that walk straight into your heart, and a town you can't wait to revisit make this touching, hilarious tale another heart-warmer worthy of Shalvis' popular series."—Library Journal on It Had to Be You
- "Shalvis makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me sigh with pure pleasure."—Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing Dirty
- "Count on Jill Shalvis for a witty, steamy, unputdownable love story."—Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Harvest Moon
- "Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!"—Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
- On Sale
- Sep 30, 2014
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Grand Central Publishing