By Jill Shalvis
Read by Suehyla El Attar
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 26, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Becca Thorpe has uprooted her life and escaped to the beach. Now's her chance to get away from city living, throw caution to the ocean winds, and live in the moment. Especially if the moment includes the deliciously sexy surfer she meets shortly after arriving in Lucky Harbor. Something about the dark intensity of Sam's eyes and the thrill she gets at his touch convinces her to stay awhile.
Boatbuilder and investment genius Sam Brody is a self-made man who knows how dangerous it can be to mix business and pleasure. But he can't resist offering Becca a job just to hear her laugh and have her near.
Yet, when her brother comes to town asking for help, will he tempt her back to her glamorous life in the city? Or do Sam and little Lucky Harbor have a chance to win Becca's heart?
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 together enough to keep Sam from landing in foster care, to now, when Mark still didn’t have it together. “How much you need?” Sam asked.
“Uh…” His dad laughed again, guilt heavy in the sound. He’d spent a total of maybe ten minutes being a dad, so he’d never really gotten the hang of it. “That’s not why I called.”
Yeah, it was. Of course it was. They had a routine. Sam would call his dad to check in every week, never getting a return call until Mark ran out of money, which happened every few months or so. “It’s okay, Dad. Just tell me.”
Sam opened his eyes and stared at the sign.
“A grand,” he repeated.
“Carrie needs to buy stuff for the baby, and—”
“Got it,” Sam said, not wanting to hear about the demands of Mark’s latest woman. Or the baby that’d be Sam’s half sister when it arrived in a few months.
A baby sister.
It didn’t defy the odds any more than picturing his dad trying to be a real dad… “Did you ask for the paternity test like we talked about?”
“She’d kill me, son. You have no idea how touchy pregnant women are.”
Sam bit back anything he might have said because there was no point. His father had made a career out of getting ripped off by women. “You need to find a way to try,” Sam said.
Sam blew out a breath. He wouldn’t try. “So a grand, then. To the usual bank account?”
“Uh, no,” Mark said, back to sheepish. “I closed that one out.”
More likely, the bank had kicked him out for repeatedly overdrawing his funds.
“I’ll email you the new info,” his dad said. “Thanks, son. Love ya.”
The love ya was so rote that Sam wondered if Mark even realized he was saying it. Not that it mattered. Nor did his response, as his dad had already disconnected.
The phone immediately rang again. Resisting the urge to throw it out the window, he yanked it back up, wondering what his dad could have possibly forgotten. “Yeah?”
“Hi, um… is this Lucky Harbor Charters?” a female voice asked, sounding uncertain.
Shit. Sam glanced at the sign. He still didn’t have a smile in him so once again he attempted friendly. “Yes, you’ve reached LHC.”
“Oh, good. I’d like to book a deep-sea fishing trip for a family reunion. It’s our first big reunion in five years and we’re all so excited. There’s going to be my dad, my grandfather, my two brothers, my uncle—”
“Okay, great. Hold please,” Sam said, and punched the HOLD button. He took a deep breath and strode out of the warehouse and to their “yard.” This led to the waterfront. There they had a dock, where their fifty-foot Wright Sport was moored.
Hours ago, Tanner—their scuba diving instructor and communications expert—had texted Sam that he was working on their radio system.
“Hey,” Sam called out to him. “How about answering a damn phone call once in a while?”
“You’re the one inside,” Tanner said, not stopping what he was doing, which didn’t look to be work so much as sunbathing. Not that he needed it with the mocha skin he’d inherited from his mother’s Brazilian roots. He’d stripped to a pair of board shorts, a backward baseball cap, and reflective aviator sunglasses, and was sprawled out on his back, face tilted up to the sun.
“Busy, are you?” Sam asked drily.
“Cole and I chartered the midnight cruise last night and didn’t moor until three a.m.”
“And you slept until two p.m., so what’s your point?”
Tanner lifted a middle finger.
Sam gave up and strode up to the smaller building—a hut really—that they used as their front office and greeting area. The rolling door was up when they were open for business and shut when they weren’t.
It was up now, and Cole was sitting behind the front counter. He was their captain, chief navigator, and mechanic, and was currently hunt-and-pecking at the keyboard of his laptop. The fingers stopped when Sam reached into the bucket beside the counter and pulled out one of their water guns. The thing had been touted as a squirt gun, but the more apt term would have been cannon. Sam weighed it in his hands, decided it was loaded enough, and turned back to the door.
“What the hell are you doing?” Cole asked.
“Going to spray the hell out of Tanner.”
“Nice,” Cole said, fingers already back to hunt-and-pecking. “Carry on.”
Sam stopped in the doorway and stared at him in surprise. Cole was their resident techno-geek. He wore cargo pants with handy pockets and could fix just about anything at any time with the ingenuity of a modern-day MacGyver. And he always, always, objected to fighting among their ranks. “What’s up?” Sam asked him.
“Trying to work. Go away.”
“If you’re working so damn hard, why aren’t you answering the phones?”
Cole lifted his head and blinked innocently. “Phones? What phones? I didn’t hear any phones.”
Sam shook his head. “We need to get that damn ad in the paper.”
Cole’s fingers clicked one last key with dramatic flair. “Done,” he declared. “Ad placed.”
“What does it say?” Sam asked.
Cole hit a few more keys. “Looking for self-motivated admin to answer phones, work a schedule, greet customers with a friendly attitude, and be able to handle grumpy-ass bosses named Sam.”
Sam arched a brow. “You’d push the buttons of a guy holding a loaded water cannon?”
Not looking worried in the slightest, Cole smiled and reached down beneath the counter, coming up with his own loaded cannon, which he casually aimed at Sam. “You forget who bought these.”
“Shit.” He turned to go.
“You’re forgetting something else,” Cole said.
Sam looked back.
“Tanner’s ex-profession as a Navy SEAL.”
“Shit,” Sam said again, lowering the cannon. He was pissed, not stupid.
“Line one’s for you,” Sam said.
Becca wasn’t much for regrets so she decided not to stress over the fact that she’d rented a third of a dilapidated warehouse sight unseen. Thanks to Sexy Grumpy Surfer’s warning—I take it you haven’t seen it yet—she’d been braced.
But not braced enough.
The building was similar to Sam’s in that they were both converted warehouses, and had the same floor-to-rafter windows. But that’s where the similarities ended. Her warehouse hadn’t been nearly so well taken care of. According to the landlord—an old guy named Lyons—the place had once been a cannery. Then an arcade. Then a saltwater taffy manufacturer with a gift shop. And finally a boardinghouse, which had last been used for a bunch of carnies in town for a long-ago summer, and they hadn’t been kind.
At the moment the entire warehouse was a wide-open space divided into three units by questionably thin walls. Each apartment had a rudimentary galley kitchen and bathroom and was filled with a variety of leftover dust and crap from the previous renters—hence the furnished (sort of) part of the ad. In addition to beds and tables, this included some odd-looking carnival equipment and a saltwater taffy pull.
Or possibly a torture device…
Becca and Mr. Lyons walked through each of the apartments. The first unit was cheapest since it was the smallest, and also the coldest, as it got the least sun exposure.
Since cheap was right up her alley, and she didn’t have to worry about cold for another six months, she’d handed over her check.
“If you need anything,” Mr. Lyons said, “yell for the guys across the alley. Tanner’s almost always on the dock or their boat, but he’s a real tough nut to crack. Cole’s good for fixing just about anything. But Sam knows all there’s to know about these old warehouses. He’s your man if you need anything.”
Sam again. But she decided she’d need his help never. “Got it, thanks.”
“He’s not exactly shy, so don’t you be,” Lyons said. “Just don’t try to date any of them. They’re pretty much ex-hell-raisers these days, but still heartbreakers, each and every one of them.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Becca said, knowing she could and had handled just about anything a woman could face. She absolutely wouldn’t be needing help.
Not an hour later, she was in the bathroom washing her hands when she found a huge, black, hairy spider in her sink staring at her with eight beady eyes. She went screaming into the alley, jumping up and down, shaking out her hair, and jerking her limbs like a complete moron.
“You lost again?”
She let out another scream and whirled around to face—oh, perfect—Sexy Grumpy Surfer. He was in faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and mirrored glasses, looking movie-star cool and sexy hot.
He arched a single brow.
“There’s a spider in my bathroom sink,” she said, still gasping for breath.
“That explains the dance moves.”
Ignoring this and him, she checked herself over again, still not convinced she was spider-free.
“Need help?” he asked.
He shrugged and turned to walk away.
"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
- Aug 26, 2014
- Hachette Audio