By Jill Shalvis
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For the first time in his life, Ty can’t bear to leave. Helping this sexy seductress-in-training walk on the wild side is making him desire things he shouldn?t?including leaving the military for good. As their just-for-fun fling becomes something more, Mallory and Ty wonder if they could really be this lucky in love. After all . . . anything can happen in a town called Lucky Harbor.
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All you need is love. But a little chocolate
now and then doesn't hurt.
Lightning sent a jagged bolt across Ty Garrison's closed lids. Thunder boomed and the earth shuddered, and he jerked straight up in bed, gasping as if he'd just run a marathon.
A dream, just the same goddamn four-year-old dream.
Sweating and trembling like a leaf, he scrubbed his hands over his face. Why couldn't he dream about something good, like sex with triplets?
Shoving free of the covers, he limped naked to the window and yanked it open. The cool mist of the spring storm brushed his heated skin, and he fought the urge to close his eyes. If he did, he'd be back there.
But the memories came anyway.
"Landing in ten," the pilot announced as the plane skimmed just beneath the storm raging through the night.
In eight, the plane began to vibrate.
In six, lightning cracked.
And then an explosion, one so violent it nearly blew out his eardrums.
Ty dropped his head back, letting the rain slash at his body through the open window. He could hear the Pacific Ocean pounding the surf below the cliffs. Scented with fragrant pines, the air smelled like Christmas in April, and he forced himself to draw a deep, shaky breath.
He was no longer a SEAL medic dragging his sorry ass out of a burning plane, choking on the knowledge that he was the only one still breathing, that he hadn't been able to save a single soul. He was in Washington State, in the small beach town of Lucky Harbor. The ocean was in front of him, the Olympic Mountains at his back.
But hell if at the next bolt of lightning, he didn't try to jump out of his own skin. Pissed at the weakness, Ty shut the window. He was never inhaling an entire pepperoni pizza before bed again.
Except he knew it wasn't something as simple as pizza that made him dream badly. It was the edginess that came from being idle. His work was still special ops, but he hadn't gone back to being a first responder trauma paramedic. Instead, he'd signed up as a private contractor to the government, which was a decent enough adrenaline rush. Plus it suited him—or it had until six months ago, when on an assignment he'd had to jump out a second story window to avoid being shot, and had reinjured his leg.
Stretching that leg now, he winced. He wanted to get back to his job. Needed to get back. But he also needed clearance from his doctor first. Pulling on a pair of jeans, he snagged a shirt off the back of a chair and left the room as the storm railed around outside. He made his way through the big and nearly empty house he'd rented for the duration, heading to the garage. A fast drive in the middle of the night would have to do, and maybe a quick stop at the all-night diner.
But this first.
Flipping on the lights, Ty sucked in a deep, calming breath of air heavy with the smells of motor oil, well-greased tools, and rubber tires. On the left sat a '72 GMC Jimmy, a rebuild job he'd picked up on the fly. He didn't need the money. As it turned out, special ops talents were well-compensated these days, but the repair work was a welcome diversion from his problems.
The '68 Shelby Mustang on the right wasn't a side job. She was his baby, and she was calling to him. He kicked the mechanic's creeper from against the wall toward the classic muscle car. Lowering himself onto the cart with a grimace of pain, Ty rolled beneath the car, shoving down his problems, denying them, avoiding them.
Seeking his own calm in the storm.
Put the chocolate in the bag, and no one gets hurt.
The lightning flashed bright, momentarily blinding Mallory Quinn as she ran through the dark rainy night from her car to the front door of the diner.
On three Mississippi, thunder boomed and shook the ground. A vicious wind nearly blew her off her feet. She'd forgotten her umbrella that morning, which was just as well or she'd have taken off like Mary Poppins.
A second, brighter bolt of lightning sent jagged light across the sky, and Mallory gasped as everything momentarily lit up like day: the pier behind the diner, the churning ocean, the menacing sky.
All went dark again, and she burst breathlessly into the Eat Me Café feeling like the hounds of hell were on her very tired heels. Except she wasn't wearing heels; she was in fake Uggs.
Lucky Harbor tended to roll up its sidewalks after ten o'clock, and tonight was no exception. The place was deserted except for a lone customer at the counter, and the waitress behind it. The waitress was a friend of Mallory's. Smartass, cynical Amy Michaels, whose tall, leggy body was reminiscent of Xena, the warrior princess. This was convenient, since Amy had a kick-ass 'tude to life in general. Her dark hair was a little tousled as always, her even darker eyes showed amusement at Mallory's wild entrance.
"Hey," Mallory said, fighting the wind to close the door behind her.
"Looking a little spooked," Amy said, wiping down the counter. "You reading Stephen King on the slow shifts again, Nurse Nightingale?"
Mallory drew a deep, shuddery breath and shook off the icy rain the best she could. Her day had started a million years ago at the crack of dawn when she'd left her house in her usual perpetual rush, without a jacket. One incredibly long ER shift and seventeen hours later, she was still in her scrubs with only a thin sweater over the top, everything now sticking to her like a second skin. She did not resemble a warrior princess. Maybe a drowned lady-in-waiting. "No Stephen," she said. "I had to give him up. Last month's reread of The Shining wrecked me."
Amy nodded. "Emergency Dispatch tired of taking your 'there's a shadow outside my window' calls?"
"Hey, that was one time." Giving up squeezing the water out of her hair, Mallory ignored Amy's knowing snicker. "And for your information, there really was a man outside my window."
"Yeah. Seventy-year-old Mr. Wykowski, who'd gotten turned around on his walk around the block."
This was unfortunately true. And while Mallory knew that Mr. Wykowski was a very nice man, he really did look a lot like Jack Nicholson had in The Shining. "That could have been a very bad situation."
Amy shook her head as she filled napkin dispensers. "You live on Senior Drive. Your biggest 'situation' is if Dial-A-Ride doesn't show up in time to pick everyone up to take them to Bingo Night."
Also true. Mallory's tiny ranch house was indeed surrounded by other tiny ranch houses filled with mostly seniors. But it wasn't that bad. They were a sweet bunch and always had a coffee cake to share. Or a story about a various ailment or two. Or two hundred.
Mallory had inherited her house from her grandma, complete with a mortgage that she'd nearly had to give up her firstborn for. If she'd had a first born. But for that she'd like to be married, and to be married, she'd have to have a Mr. Right.
Except she'd been dumped by her last two Mr. Rights.
Wind and something heavy lashed at the windows of the diner. Mallory couldn't believe it. Snow. "Wow, the temp must have just dropped. That came on fast."
"It's spring," Amy said in disgust. "Why's it frigging snowing in spring? I changed my winter tires already."
The lone customer at the counter turned and eyed the view. "Crap. I don't have winter tires either." She looked to be in her mid-twenties and spoke with the clipped vowels that said northeast. If Amy was Xena, and Mallory the lady-in-waiting, then she was Blonde Barbie's younger, prettier, far more natural sister. "I'm in a 1972 VW Bug," she said.
As Mallory's own tires were threadbare, she gnawed on her lower lip and looked out the window. Maybe if she left immediately, she'd be okay.
"We should wait it out," Amy suggested. "It can't possibly last."
Mallory knew better, but it was her own fault. She'd been ignoring the forecast ever since last week, when the weather guy had promised ninety-degree temps and the day hadn't gotten above fifty, leaving her to spend a very long day frozen in the ER. Her nipples still hadn't forgiven her. "I don't have time to wait it out." She had a date with eight solid hours of sleep.
The VW driver was in a flimsy summer-weight skirt and two thin camisoles layered over each other. Mallory hadn't been the only one caught by surprise. Though the woman didn't look too concerned as she worked her way through a big, fat brownie that made Mallory's mouth water.
"Sorry," Amy said, reading her mind. "That was the last one."
"Just as well." Mallory wasn't here for herself anyway. Dead on her feet, she'd only stopped as a favor for her mother. "I just need to pick up Joe's cake."
Joe was her baby brother and turning twenty-four tomorrow. The last thing he wanted was a family party, but work was slow for him at the welding shop, and flying to Vegas with his friends hadn't panned out since he had no money.
So their mother had gotten involved and tasked Mallory with bringing a cake. Actually, Mallory had been tasked with making a cake, but she had a hard time not burning water so she was cheating. "Please tell me that no one from my crazy family has seen the cake so I can pretend I made it."
Amy tsked. "The good girl of Lucky Harbor, lying to her mother. Shame on you."
This was the ongoing town joke, "good girl" Mallory. Okay, fine, so in all fairness, she played the part. But she had her reasons—good ones—not that she wanted to go there now. Or ever. "Yeah, yeah. Hand it over. I have a date."
"You do not," Amy said. "I'd have heard about it if you did."
"It's a secret date."
Amy laughed because yeah, that had been a bit of a stretch. Lucky Harbor was a wonderful, small town where people cared about each other. You could leave a pot of gold in your backseat, and it wouldn't get stolen.
But there were no such things as secrets.
"I do have a date. With my own bed," Mallory admitted. "Happy?"
Amy wisely kept whatever smartass remark she had to herself and turned to the kitchen to go get the birthday cake. As she did, lightning flashed, followed immediately by a thundering boom. The wind howled, and the entire building shuddered, caught in the throes. It seemed to go on and on, and the three women scooted as close as they could to each other with Amy still on the other side of the counter.
"Suddenly I can't stop thinking about The Shining," the blonde murmured.
"No worries," Amy said. "The whole horror flick thing rarely happens here in Mayberry."
They all let out a weak laugh, which died when an ear-splitting crack sounded, followed immediately by shattering glass as both the front window and door blew in.
In the shocking silence, a fallen tree limb waved obscenely at them through the new opening.
Mallory grabbed the woman next to her and scurried behind the counter to join Amy. "Just in case more windows go," she managed. "We're safest right here, away from flying glass."
Amy swallowed audibly. "I'll never laugh at you about Mr. Wykowski again."
"I'd like that in writing." Mallory rose up on her knees, taking a peek over the counter at the tree now blocking the front door.
"I can't reach my brownie from here," Blondie said shakily. "I really need my brownie."
"What we need," Amy said, "is to blow this popsicle stand."
Mallory shook her head. "It's coming down too hard and fast now. It's not safe to leave. We should call someone about the downed tree though."
Blondie pulled out her cell phone and eyed her screen. "I forgot I'm in Podunk. No reception in half the town." She grimaced. "Sorry. I just got here today. I'm sure Lucky Harbor is a very nice Podunk."
"It's got its moments." Mallory slapped her pockets for her own cell before remembering. Crap. "My phone's in the car."
"Mine's dead," Amy said. "But we have a landline in the kitchen, as long as we still have electricity."
Just then the lights flickered and went out.
Mallory's stomach hit her toes. "You had to say it," she said to Amy.
Blondie rustled around for a moment, and then there came a blue glow. "It's a cigarette lighter app," she said, holding up her phone, and the faux flame flickered over the screen like a real Bic lighter. "Only problem, it drains my battery really fast so I'll keep it off until we have an emergency." She hit the home button and everything went really, really dark.
Another hard gust of wind sent more of the shattered window tinkling to the floor, and the Bic lighter immediately came back on.
"Emergency," Blondie said as the three of them huddled together.
"Stupid cake," Mallory said.
"Stupid storm," Amy said.
"Stupid life," Blondie said. Pale, she looked at them. "Now would be a great time for one of you to tell me that you have a big, strong guy who's going to come looking for you."
"Yeah, not likely," Amy said. "What's your name?"
"Well, Grace, you're new to Lucky Harbor so let me fill you in. There are lots of big, strong guys in town. But I do my own heavy lifting."
Grace and Mallory both took in Amy's short Army camo cargo skirt and her shit-kicking boots, topped with a snug tee that revealed tanned, toned arms. The entire sexy-tough ensemble was topped by an incongruous Eat Me pink apron. Amy had put her own spin on it by using red duct tape to fashion a circle around the Eat Me logo, complete with a line through it.
"I can believe that about you," Grace said to her.
"My name's Amy." Amy tossed her chin toward Mallory. "And that's Mallory, my polar opposite and the town's very own good girl."
"Stop," Mallory said, tired of hearing "good" and "girl" in the same sentence as it pertained to her.
But of course Amy didn't stop. "If there's an old lady to help across the street or a kid with a skinned knee needing a Band-Aid and a kiss," she said, "or a big, strong man looking for a sweet, warm damsel, it's Mallory to the rescue."
"So where is he then?" Grace asked. "Her big, strong man?"
Amy shrugged. "Ask her."
Mallory grimaced and admitted the truth. "As it turns out, I'm not so good at keeping any Mr. Rights."
"So date a Mr. Wrong," Amy said.
"Shh, you." Not wanting to discuss her love life—or lack thereof—Mallory rose up on her knees to take another peek over the counter and outside in the hopes the snow had lightened up.
Gusts were blowing the heavy snow sideways, hitting the remaining windows and flying in through the ones that had broken. She craned her neck and looked behind her into the kitchen. If she went out the back door, she'd have to go around the whole building to get to her car and her phone.
In the dark.
But it was the best way. She got to her feet just as the two windows over the kitchen sink shattered with a suddenness that caused Mallory's heart to stop.
Grace's Bic lighter came back on. "Holy shit," she gasped, and holding onto each other, they all stared at the offending tree branch waving at them from the new opening.
"Jan's going to blow a gasket," Amy said.
Jan was the owner of the diner. She was fifty-something, grumpy on the best of days, and hated spending a single dime of her hard-earned money on anything other than her online poker habit.
The temperature in the kitchen dropped as cold wind and snow blew over them. "Did I hear someone say cake?" Grace asked in a wobbly voice.
They did Rock-Paper-Scissors. Amy lost, so she had to crawl to the refrigerator to retrieve the cake. "You okay with this?" she asked Mallory, handing out forks.
Mallory looked at the cake. About a month ago, her scrubs had seemed to be getting tight so she'd given up chocolate. But sometimes there had to be exceptions. "This is a cake emergency. Joe will live."
So instead of trying to get outside, and then on to the bad roads, they all dug into the cake. And there in the pitch black night, unnerved by the storm but bolstered by sugar and chocolate, they talked.
Grace told them that when the economy had taken a nosedive, her hot career as an investment banker had vanished, along with her condo, her credit cards, and her stock portfolio. There'd been a glimmer of a job possibility in Seattle so she'd traveled across the country for it. But when she'd gotten there, she found out the job involved sleeping with the sleazeball company president. She'd told him to stuff it, and now she was thinking about maybe hitting Los Angeles. Tired, she'd stopped in Lucky Harbor earlier today. She'd found a coupon for the local B&B and was going to stay for a few days and regroup. "Or until I run out of money and end up on the street," she said, clearly trying to sound chipper about her limited options.
Mallory reached out for her hand and squeezed it. "You'll find something. I know it."
"I hope you're right." Grace let out a long, shaky breath. "Sorry to dump on you. Guess I'd been holding on to that all by myself for too long, it just burst out of me."
"Don't be sorry." Amy licked frosting off her finger. "That's what dark, stormy nights are for. Confessions."
"Well, I'd feel better if you guys had one as well."
Mallory wasn't big on confessions and glanced at Amy.
"Don't look at me," Amy said. "Mine isn't anything special."
Grace leaned in expectantly. "I'd love to hear it anyway."
Amy shrugged, looking as reluctant as Mallory felt. "It's just your average, run-of-the-mill riches-to-rags story."
"What?" Mallory asked, surprised, her fork going still. Amy had been in town for months now, and although she wasn't shy, she was extremely private. She'd never talked about her past.
"Well rags to riches to rags would be a better way of putting it," Amy corrected.
"Tell us," Grace said, reaching for another piece of cake.
"Okay, but it's one big bad cliché. Trailer trash girl's mother marries rich guy, trailer trash girl pisses new step-daddy off, gets rudely ousted out of her house at age sixteen, and disinherited from any trust fund. Broke, with no skills whatsoever, she hitches her way across the country, hooking up with the wrong people and then more wrong people, until it comes down to two choices. Straighten up or die. She decides straightening up is the better option and ends up in Lucky Harbor, because her grandma spent one summer here a million years ago and it changed her life."
Heart squeezing, Mallory reached for Amy's hand, too. "Oh, Amy."
"See?" Amy said to Grace. "The town sweetheart. She can't help herself."
"I can so," Mallory said. But that was a lie. She did like to help people—which made Amy right; she really couldn't help herself.
"And don't think we didn't notice that you avoided sharing any of your vulnerability with the class," Amy said.
"Maybe later," Mallory said, licking her fork. Or never. She shared just about every part of herself all the time. It was her work, and also her nature. So she held back because she had to have something that was hers alone. "I'm having another piece."
"Denial is her BFF," Amy told Grace as Mallory cut off a second hunk of cake. "I'd guess that it has something to do with her notoriously wild and crazy siblings and being the only sane one in the family. She doesn't think that she deserves to be happy, because that chocolate seems to be the substitute for something."
"Thanks, Dr. Phil." But it was uncomfortably close to the truth. Her family was wild and crazy, and she worked hard at keeping them together. And she did have a hard time with letting herself be totally happy and had ever since her sister Karen's death. She shivered. "Is there a lost-and-found box around somewhere with extra jackets or something?"
"Nope. Jan sells everything on eBay." Amy set her fork down and leaned back. "Look at us, sitting here stuffing ourselves with birthday cake because we have no better options on a Friday night."
"Hey, I have options," Grace said. "There's just a big, fat, mean storm blocking our exit strategies."
Amy gave her a droll look and Grace sagged. "Okay, I don't have shit."
They both looked at Mallory, and she sighed. "Fine. I'm stalled too. I'm more than stalled, okay? I've got the equivalent of a dead battery, punctured tires, no gas, and no roadside assistance service. How's that for a confession?"
Grace and Amy laughed softly, their exhales little clouds of condensation. They were huddled close, trying to share body heat.
"You know," Amy said. "If we live through this, I'm going to—"
"Hey." Mallory straightened up in concern. "Of course we're going to live. Soon as the snow lets up, we'll push some branches out of the way and head out to my car and call for help, and—"
"Jeez," Amy said, annoyed. "Way to ruin my dramatic moment."
"Sorry. Do continue."
"Thank you. If we live," Amy repeated with mock gravity, "I'm going to keep a cake just like this in the freezer just for us. And also…" She shifted and when she spoke this time, her voice was softer. "I'd like to make improvements to my life, like living it instead of letting it live me. Growing roots and making real friends. I suck at that."
Mallory squeezed her hand tight in hers. "I'm a real friend," she whispered. "Especially if you mean it about the cake."
Amy's mouth curved in a small smile.
"If we live," Grace said. "I'm going to find more than a job. I want to stop chasing my own tail and go after some happy for a change, instead of waiting for it to find me. I've waited long enough."
Once again, both Amy and Grace looked expectantly at Mallory, who blew out a sigh. She knew what she wanted for herself, but it was complicated. She wanted to let loose, do whatever she wanted, and stop worrying about being the glue at work, in her family, for everyone. Unable to say that, she wracked her brain and came up with something else. "There's this big charity event I'm organizing for the hospital next weekend, a formal dinner and auction. I'm the only nurse on my floor without a date. If we live, a date would be really great."
"Well, if you're wishing, wish big," Amy said. "Wish for a little nookie too."
Grace nodded her approval. "Nookie," she murmured fondly. "Oh how I miss nookie."
"Nookie," Mallory repeated.
"Hot sex," Grace translated.
Amy nodded. "And since you've already said Mr. Right never works out for you, you should get a Mr. Wrong."
"Sure," Mallory said, secure in the knowledge that one, there were no Mr. Wrongs anywhere close by, and two, even if there had been, he wouldn't be interested in her.
- "4 Stars! Shalvis pens a tale rife with the three "H"s of romance: heat, heart and humor. LUCKY IN LOVE is a down-to-the-toes charmer..."—RT Book Reviews
- "Another touching, funny, delectably sexy treat that will make fans glad it is the first of three back-to-back releases."—Library Journal
- "Count on Jill Shalvis for a witty, steamy, unputdownable love story."—Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Harvest Moon
- "Shalvis makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me sigh with pure pleasure."—Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing Dirty
- "Heartwarming and sexy...an abundance of chemistry, smoldering romance, and hilarious sisterly antics."—Publishers Weekly on Simply Irresistible
- "Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!"—Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
- "Top Pick! LUCKY IN LOVE hits all the right notes--funny yet sweet, a light romance that was made all the more unforgettable by its witty heroine and Mysterious Cute Guy hero."—TheRomanceReviews.com
- On Sale
- Jun 1, 2012
- Page Count
- 400 pages