Lucky in Love (Lucky Harbor Series #4)by Jill Shalvis
Mallory Quinn has had enough of playing it safe. As a nurse and devoted daughter, she takes care of everyone but herself. And as the local good girl, she's expected to date Mr. Right. But for once, she'd like to take a risk on Mr. Wrong. And who could be more wrong than Ty Garrison? The mysterious new guy in town has made it clear that he's only passing through,… See more details below
Mallory Quinn has had enough of playing it safe. As a nurse and devoted daughter, she takes care of everyone but herself. And as the local good girl, she's expected to date Mr. Right. But for once, she'd like to take a risk on Mr. Wrong. And who could be more wrong than Ty Garrison? The mysterious new guy in town has made it clear that he's only passing through, which suits Mallory just fine. Besides, his lean, hard body and sexy smile will give her plenty to remember once he's gone . . .
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.
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 notesfunny yet sweet, a light romance that was made all the more unforgettable by its witty heroine and Mysterious Cute Guy hero."TheRomanceReviews.com
Read an Excerpt
Lucky in Love
By Shalvis, Jill
ForeverCopyright © 2012 Shalvis, Jill
All right reserved.
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.
Amy pulled her order pad from her apron pocket. “You know what? I’m making you a list of some possible candidates. Since this is the only type of guy I know, it’s right up my alley. Off the top of my head, I can think of two. Dr. Josh Scott from the hospital, and Anderson, the guy who runs the hardware store. I’m sure there’s plenty of others. Promise me that if a Mr. Wrong crosses your path, you’re going for him. As long as he isn’t a felon,” she added responsibly.
Good to know there were some boundaries. Amy thrust out her pinkie for what Mallory assumed was to be a solemn pinkie swear. With a sigh Mallory wrapped her littlest finger around Amy’s. “I promise—” She broke off when a thump sounded on one of the walls out front. Each of them went stock still, staring at each other.
“That wasn’t a branch,” Mallory whispered. “That sounded like a fist.”
“Could have been a rock,” Grace, the eternal optimist, said.
They all nodded but not a one of them believed it was a rock. A bad feeling had come over Mallory. It was the same one she got sometimes in the ER right before they got an incoming. “May I?” she asked Grace, gesturing to the smart phone.
Grace handed it over and Mallory rose to her knees and used the lighter app to look over the edge of the counter.
It wasn’t good.
The opened doorway had become blocked by a snow drift. It really was incredible for this late in the year, but big, fat, round snowflakes the size of dinner plates were falling from the sky, piling up quickly.
The thump came again, and through the vicious wind, she thought she also heard a moan. A pained moan. She stood. “Maybe someone’s trying to get inside,” she said. “Maybe they’re hurt.”
“Mallory,” Amy said. “Don’t.”
Grace grabbed Mallory’s hand. “It’s too dangerous out there right now.”
“Well, I can’t just ignore it.” Tugging free, Mallory wrapped her arms around herself and moved toward the opening. Someone was in trouble, and she was a sucker for that. It was the eternal middle child syndrome and the nurse’s curse. Glass crunched beneath her feet, and she shivered as snow blasted her in the face. Amazingly, the aluminum frame of the front door had withstood the impact when the glass had shattered. Shoving aside the thick branch, Mallory once again held the phone out in front of her, using it to peer out into the dark.
Nothing but snow.
“Hello?” she called, taking a step outside, onto the concrete stoop. “Is anyone—”
A hand wrapped around her ankle, and Mallory broke off with a startled scream, falling into the night.
If it’s a toss up between men and chocolate,
bring on the chocolate!
Mallory scrambled backward, or tried to anyway, but a big hand on her ankle held firm. The hand appeared to be attached to an even bigger body. Fear and panic bubbled in her throat, and she simply reacted, chucking Grace’s phone at her captor’s hooded head.
It bounced off his cheek without much of a reaction other than a grunt. The guy was sprawled flat on his back, half covered in snow. Still holding her ankle in a vice-like grip, he shifted slightly and groaned. The sound didn’t take her out of panic mode but it did push another emotion to the surface. Concern. Since he hadn’t tried to hurt her, she leaned over him, brushing the snow away to get a better look—not easy with the wind pummeling her, bringing more icy snow that slapped at her bare face. “Are you hurt?” she asked.
He was non-responsive. His down parka was open, and he was wet and shivering. Pushing his dark brown hair from his forehead, she saw the first problem. He had a nasty gash over an eyebrow, which was bleeding profusely in a trickle down his temple and over his swollen eye. Not from where she’d hit him with the phone, thankfully, but from something much bigger and heavier, probably part of the fallen tree.
His eyes suddenly flew open, his gaze landing intense and unwavering on her.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to sound like she believed it. “It looks like you were hit by a large branch. You’re going to need stitches, but for now I can—”
Before she could finish the thought, she found herself rolled beneath what had to be two hundred pounds of solid muscle, the entire length of her pressed ruthlessly hard into the snow, her hands yanked high over her head and pinned by his. He wasn’t crushing her, nor was he hurting her, but his hold was shockingly effective. In less than one second, he’d immobilized her, shrink-wrapping her between the ground and his body.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, voice low and rough. It would have brought goose bumps to her flesh if she hadn’t already been covered in them.
“Mallory Quinn,” she said, struggling to free herself. She’d have had better luck trying to move a slab of cement.
Breathing hard, eyes dilated, clearly out of his mind, he leaned over her, the snow blowing around his head like some twisted paragon of a halo.
“You have a head injury,” she told him, using the brisk, no-nonsense, I’m-In-Charge tone she saved for both the ER and her crazy siblings. “You’re hypothermic.” And he was getting a nice red spot on his cheek, which she suspected was courtesy of the phone she’d hurled at him. Best not to bother him with the reminder of that. “I can help you if you let me.”
He just stared down at her, not so much as blinking while the storm railed and rallied in strength around them. He wasn’t fully conscious, that much was clear.
Still, testosterone and dark edginess poured off him, emphasized by his brutal grip on her. Mallory was cataloguing her options when the next gust hit hard enough to knock his hood back, and with a jolt, she recognized him.
Mysterious Cute Guy.
At least that’s how he was known around Lucky Harbor. He’d slipped into town six months ago without making a single effort to blend in.
As a whole, Lucky Harbor wasn’t used to that. Residents tended to consider it a God-given right to gossip and nose into people’s business, and no one was exempt. All that was known about the man was that he was staying in a big rental house up on the bluffs.
There’d been sightings of him at the Love Shack—the town’s bar and grill—and also at the local gym, and filling up some classic muscle car at the gas station. But Mallory had only seen him once in the grocery store parking lot, with a bag in hand. Tall and broad shouldered, he’d been facing his car, the muscles of his back straining his shirt as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his keys. He’d slid his long legs into his car and accelerated out of the lot, as she caught a flash of dark Oakleys, a firm jaw, and grim mouth.
A little frisson of female awareness had skittered up her spine that day, and even wet and cold and uncomfortable beneath him, she got another now. He felt much colder than she, making her realize she had no idea how long he’d been out here. He was probably concussed, but the head injury would be the least of his problems if she didn’t get him warmed up and call for help. “Let’s get you inside,” she said, ceasing to struggle beneath him, hoping that might calm him down.
No response, not even a twitch of a single muscle.
“You have to let me up,” she said. “I can help you if you let me up.”
At that, he seemed to come around a little bit. Slowly he drew back, pulling off her until he was on his knees, but he didn’t let go of her, still manacling both of her wrists in one hand. His eyes were shadowed, and it was dark enough that she couldn’t see their color. She couldn’t see much of anything but she didn’t need a light to catch the tension coming off of him in waves.
His brow furrowed. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s you who’s hurt.”
“No, I’m not.”
Such a typical guy response. He was bleeding and nearly unconscious, but he wasn’t hurt. Good to know. “You’re bleeding, and we need to get you warmed up, so—”
He interrupted this with an unintelligible denial, followed by another groan just before his eyes rolled up. In almost slow-motion, he began to topple over. She barely managed to grab onto his coat, breaking his fall with her own torso so he didn’t hit his head again. But he was so heavy that they both fell.
“Oh my God,” came Grace’s quavering voice. “That’s a lot of blood.”
Mallory squeezed out from beneath him and looked up to see both Grace and Amy peeking out from between the fallen tree branches and the door frame.
“Holy shit,” Amy said. “Is he okay?”
“He will be.” Mallory scooped Grace’s phone from the snow and tossed it to her. “I need help. I told him I’d get him inside but my car’s better, I think. My phone’s there, and I have reception. We can call for help. And I can turn on the engine and use the heater to warm him up.”
Amy leaned over him, peering into his face. “Wait.” She looked at Mallory. “You know who this is, right? It’s Mysterious Cute Guy. He comes into the diner.”
“You never told me,” Mallory said.
Amy shrugged. “He never says a word. Tips good though.”
“Who’s Mysterious Cute Guy?” Grace wanted to know.
“When you get reception on your phone, pull up Lucky Harbor’s Facebook,” Amy told her. “There’s a list of Mysterious Cute Guy sightings on the wall there, along with the Bingo Night schedule and how many women managed to get pulled over by Sheriff Hotstuff last weekend. Sawyer’s engaged now so it’s not as much fun to get pulled over by him anymore, but at least we have Mysterious Cute Guy so it doesn’t matter as much.”
Grace fell silent, probably trying to soak in the fact that she’d landed in Mayberry, U.S.A.
Or the Twilight Zone.
Mallory wrapped her arms around Mysterious Cute Guy from behind, lifting his head and shoulders out of the snow and into her lap. He didn’t move. Not good. “Grace, get his feet,” she said. “Amy, take his middle. Come on.”
“It’s karma, you know that, right?” Amy said, huffing and puffing as they barely managed to lift the man. Actually dragged was more like it. “Because you promised you’d go for the first Mr. All Wrong who landed at your feet. And here he is. Literally.”
“Yes, well, I meant a conscious one.”
“He’s going on the list,” Amy said.
“Careful!” Mallory admonished Grace, who’d dropped his feet. Too late. With the momentum, they all fell to their butts in the snow, Mysterious Cute Guy sprawled out over the top of them.
“Sorry,” Grace gasped. “He weighs a ton.”
“Solid muscle though,” Amy noted, being in a good position to know since she had two handfuls of his hindquarters.
Somehow, squinting through the snow and pressing into the wind, they made it to Mallory’s car. She hadn’t locked it, had in fact left her keys in the ignition, which Grace shook her head about.
“It’s Lucky Harbor,” Mallory said in her defense.
“I don’t care if it’s Never Never Land,” Grace told her. “You need to lock up your car.”
They got Mysterious Cute Guy in the backseat, which wasn’t big enough for him by any stretch. They bent his legs to accommodate his torso, then Mallory climbed in and again put his head in her lap. “Start the car,” she told Amy. “And crank the heat. Get my phone from the passenger seat,” she said to Grace. “Call 9-1-1. Tell them we’ve got a male, approximately thirty years of age, unconscious with a head injury and possible hypothermia. Give them our location so they can send an ambulance.”
They both did her bidding, with Amy muttering “domineering little thing” beneath her breath. But she started the car and switched the heater to high before turning toward the back again. Her dark hair was dusted with snow, making her look like a pixie. “He still breathing?”
“Are you sure? Because maybe he needs mouth to mouth.”
“Just a suggestion, sheesh.”
Grace ended her call to dispatch. “They said fifteen minutes. They said to try to get him warm and dry. Which means one of us needs to strip down with him to keep him warm, right? That’s how it’s done in the movies.”
“Oh my God, you two,” Mallory said.
Amy turned to Grace. “We’re going to have to give her lessons on how to be a Bad Girl, you know that, right?”
Mallory ignored them and looked down at her patient. His brow was still furrowed tight, his mouth grim. Wherever he was in dreamland, it wasn’t a happy place. Then suddenly the muscles in his shoulders and neck tensed, and he went rigid. She cupped both sides of his face to hold him still. “You’re okay,” she told him.
Shaking his head, he let out a low, rough sound of grief. “They’re gone. They’re all…gone.”
The three women stared at each other for a beat, then Mallory bent lower over him. “Hey,” she said gently, knowing better than to wake him up abruptly. “We’ve got you. You’re in Lucky Harbor, and—”
He shoved her hand off of him and sat straight up so fast that he nearly hit his head on her chin, and then the roof of the car.
“We’ve called an ambulance,” she said.
Twisting around, he stared at her, his eyes dark and filled with shadows.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Really? Because the last time you said that, you passed out.”
He swiped at his temple and stared at the blood that came away on his forearm. “Goddammit.”
“Yeah. See, you’re not quite fine—”
He made a sound that managed to perfectly convey what he thought of her assessment, which turned into a groan of pain as he clutched his head.
Mallory forced him to lie back down. “Be still.”
“Bossy,” he muttered. “But hot.”
Hot? Did he really just say that? Mallory looked down at herself. Wrinkled nurse’s scrubs, fake Uggs, and she had no doubt her hair was a disaster of biblical proportions. She was just about the furthest she could get from hot, which meant that he was full of shit.
“Mr. Wrong,” Amy whispered to her.
Uh huh, more like Mr. All Wrong. But unable to help herself, Mallory took in his very handsome, bloody face, and had to admit it was true. She couldn’t have found a more Mr. All Wrong for herself if she’d tried.
Ty drifted half awake when a female voice penetrated his shaken-but-not-stirred brain.
“I’m keeping a list of Mr. Wrongs going for you. This one might not make it to the weekend’s auction.”
“Stop,” said another woman.
“I’m just kidding.”
“I still vote we strip him down.” This was a third woman.
Wait. Three women? Had he died and gone to orgy heaven? Awake now, Ty took stock. He wasn’t dead. And he had no idea who the fuck Mr. Wrong was, but he was very much “going to make it.” He was stuffed in the back of a car, a small car, his bad leg cramping like a son-of-a-bitch. His head was pillowed on…he shifted to try to figure it out, and pain lanced straight through his eyeballs. He licked his dry lips and tried to focus. “I’m okay.”
“Good,” one of them repeated with humor. “He’s fine, he’s okay. He’s also bleeding like a stuck pig. Men are ridiculous.”
“Just stay still,” someone close said to him, the same someone who’d earlier told him that he’d been hit by a branch. It felt more like a Mack Truck. Given where her voice was coming from, directly above him, it must be her very nice rack that he was pillowed against. Risking tossing his cookies, he tilted his head back to see her. This was tricky because one, it was dark, and two, he was seeing in duplicate. Her hair was piled into a ponytail on top of her head. Half of it had tumbled free, giving her—both of her—a mussed-up, just out-of-bed look. Looking a little bit rumpled, she wore what appeared to be standard issue hospital scrubs, hiding what he could feel was a very nice, soft, female form. She was pretty in an understated way, her features delicate but set with purpose.
A doctor, maybe. Except she didn’t have the cockiness that most doctors held. A nurse, maybe.
“I know it looks like you’ve lost a bit of blood,” she said, “but head injuries always bleed more, often making them appear more serious than they are.”
Yeah. A nurse. He could have told her he’d seen more head injuries than she could possibly imagine. One time he’d even seen a head blown clear off a body, but she wouldn’t want to hear that.
Her blessedly warm hand touched the side of his face. He turned into it and tried to think. Earlier when he’d woken up to the nightmare, he’d gone to work on the Shelby before taking it for a drive. He’d needed speed and the open road. Of course that had been before the snow hit, because even he wasn’t that reckless. He remembered winding his way along the highway, the cliffs on his right, and far below on his left, the Pacific Ocean. The sea had been pitching and rolling as the storm moved in long, silvery fingers over the water. He remembered making it into town, remembered wanting pie and seeing the lights in the diner, so he’d parked.
That’s when it’d started to snow like a mother.
He’d gotten nearly to the door when his memory abruptly ended. Damn. He hated that. He tried to sit up but six hands pushed him back down. Christ. That’d teach him to wish for a dream about triplets.
Someone’s phone lit up, giving them some light, and Ty ordered himself to focus through the hammering in his skull. It wasn’t easy, but he found that if he squinted he could see past the cobweb vision. Sort of.
Leaning over the back of the driver’s seat was the waitress from the diner, though she was looking a little bit like a drowned rat at the moment. The woman riding shotgun next to her was a willowy blonde and unfamiliar to him.
As was the woman whose breasts were his pillow. “Thanks,” he said to her. “For saving my ass.”
“So…would you say you owe her?” the waitress asked.
“Amy,” his nurse said in a warning tone. Then she shot Ty a weak smile. “You’ve had quite a night.”
And so had she. She didn’t say so—she didn’t have to—it was all there in her doe-like brown eyes.
“The ambulance will be here soon,” she said.
“Don’t need one.”
She didn’t bother to point out that he was flat on his back and obviously pretty damn helpless. She kept her hands on him, her gaze now made of steel, signaling that in spite of those soft eyes, she was no pushover. “We’ll get you patched up,” she said. “And some meds for your pain.”
“No.” Fuck, no.
“Look, it’s obvious you’re hurting, so—”
“No narcotics,” he growled, then had to grip his head to keep it on his shoulders, grinding his teeth as he rode out the latest wave of pain. Stars danced around in front of his eyes, shrinking to pinpoints as the darkness took him again.
“They passed us up,” Grace said worriedly, twisting to follow the flashing blue and red ambulance lights moving slowly through the lot and back out again.
“Did you tell them that we were inside my car, and to look for us here?” Mallory asked.
“No. Dammit.” Grace grabbed Mallory’s phone again. “Sorry. I’ll call them back right now.”
Mallory looked down at her patient. Dark, silky hair. Square scruffy jaw. An old scar along his temple, a new one forming right this very minute on his eyebrow. His eyes were still closed, his face white and clammy, but she could tell he was awake again. “Easy,” she said, figuring she’d be lucky if he held off getting sick until they got him out of here.
“What happened?” he said, jaw tight, eyes still closed, his big body a solid weight against her.
It was not uncommon after a head trauma to keep forgetting what had happened, so she gave him the recap. “Tree on the head.”
“And then Nurse Nightingale here came to your rescue,” Amy told him. “And you said you owed her.”
“Amy,” Mallory said.
“She needs a date this weekend,” Amy told him.
“Ignore her.” Over his head, Mallory gave Amy the universal finger-slicing-at-the-throat signal for Shut It.
Amy ignored her. “If you go with her to the charity auction on Saturday night at the Vets’ Hall, you’d save her from merciless ridicule. She can’t get her own date, you see.”
Mallory sighed. “Thanks, Amy. Appreciate that. But I can so get my own—”
Unbelievably, her patient interrupted her with what sounded like a murmured ascent.
But Amy grinned and bumped fists with Grace. “Five bucks says Mr. Wrong will rock her world.”
Grace looked down at the prone man in Mallory’s lap with clear doubt. “You’re on,” she whispered back.
Mallory gave up trying to control Amy and eyed her patient. Even flat on his back, he was lethally gorgeous. She could only imagine what he’d be like dressed to the nines and on his feet.
“She’ll meet you at the event, of course,” Amy said to him. “Because even though this is Lucky Harbor, we’re not giving you her address. You might be a serial killer. Or worse, just be a completely Mr. Right.”
Another sound of ascent from Mysterious Cute Guy. Which, actually, might have been more of a moan of disbelief that he’d agreed to this craziness.
Right there with you, Mr. Wrong. Right there with you.
By age thirty-five, women have only a few taste buds left: one for alcohol, one for cheese,
and one for chocolate.
One week later, Mallory was walking around in a cloud of anticipation in spite of herself. The auction was tonight, and although she knew damn well Mysterious Cute Guy wasn’t going to show up, she could admit a tiny part of her wanted to be proven wrong.
Not that she’d actually choose to date a man like him, with the guarded eyes and edgy ’tude. She didn’t even know his name. Not to mention she’d chucked a phone at his face.
Mr. Wrong, aka Mysterious Cute Guy…
Truthfully, that whole stormy night at the diner was still pretty much a blur to her. The ambulance had eventually found them and loaded up her patient. The snow had stopped, and Mallory had been able to drive home, after a solemn pinky-swear vow with both Amy and Grace to meet weekly, at least for as long as Grace stayed in town.
Chocoholics—CA for short—was their name, chocolate cake was their game.
Mallory had then spent the rest of the week alternating between long shifts in the ER and working on the auction. A portion of the evening’s take would go to her own pet project, the Health Services Clinic she planned to open in conjunction with the County Hospital Foundation. HSC would be a place for anyone in the county to get community recovery resources, teen services, crisis counseling, and a whole host of other programs she’d been trying to get going for several years. She still needed hospital board approval, and hopefully the money from the auction would ensure that. It’s what should have been foremost in her mind.
Instead that honor went to one Mysterious Cute Guy. For the first time that day, Mallory walked by the nurses’ station and eyed the computer. Thanks to HIPPA, a very strict privacy act, she couldn’t access a patient’s records unless she’d actually worked on the patient that day. This meant that if she wanted to know his name, she’d have to ask the nurse who’d seen him in the ER that night. Unfortunately, her own mother had been his nurse, so she decided against that option.
Luckily, she had six patients to keep her occupied. The problem was that her counterpart, Alyssa, was very busy flirting with the new resident, doing none of her duties. This made for a long morning, made even longer by the fact that one of Mallory’s patients was Mrs. Louisa Burland. Mrs. Burland was suffering from arrhythmia complicated by vasovagal syncope, a condition that was a common cause of dizziness, light-headedness, and fainting in the elderly. She was also suffering from a condition called Meanness. “I brought you the juice you asked for,” Mallory said, entering Mrs. B’s room.
“I asked for that three hours ago. What’s wrong with you? You’re slower than molasses.”
Mallory ignored this complaint because it’d been five minutes, not three hours. And because Mrs. B was so bitter that even the volunteer hospital visitors skipped her room. Before retiring, the woman had been a first grade teacher who had at one time or another terrorized most of town with a single bony finger that she liked to waggle in people’s faces. She was so difficult that even her daughter, who lived up the road in Seattle, refused to call or visit.
“I remember you, you know,” Mrs. Burland said. “You peed yourself in front of your entire class.”
Mallory was surprised to find that she could still burn with shame at the memory. “Because you wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom.”
“Recess was only five minutes away.”
“Well, obviously, I couldn’t wait.”
“And now you make me wait. You’re a terrible nurse, letting your treatment of me be clouded by our past interactions.”
Mallory ignored this too. She set the juice, complete with straw, on Mrs. Burland’s bedside tray.
“I wanted apple juice,” Mrs. B said.
“You asked for cranberry.”
Mrs. Burland’s hand lashed out and the juice went flying, spilling across the bedding, the floor, the IV pole, and Mallory as well. Juice dripping off her nose, Mallory sighed. Perfect. It took twenty minutes to clean up the mess. Ten more to get Mrs. Burland back into her now fresh bed, which had Mallory huffing a little with the effort.
Mrs. B tsked. “Out of shape, or just gaining some weight?”
Mallory sucked in her belly and tried not to feel guilty about the cinnamon roll she’d inhaled on a quick break two hours ago. She reminded herself that she helped save lives, not take them, and walked out of the room, purposely not glancing at herself in the small mirror over the sink as she went.
Paramedics were just bringing in a new patient, a two-year-old with a laceration requiring stitches. Mallory got him all cleaned up and prepped the area for the doctor. She drew the lidocaine, got a suture kit, 4x4s and some suture material, and then assisted in the closing of the wound.
And so it went.
At her first break, she made her way to the nurses’ break room and grabbed her soft-sided lunch box out of the fridge. Her older sister Tammy was there and Mallory sidled up to her. Once upon a time, Tammy had been wild. For that matter, so had Mallory’s younger brother Joe. And Tammy’s twin, Karen. All three of them, as out of control as they came.
Not Mallory. She’d always been the good one, attempting to distract her parents from the stress of raising wild, out-of-control kids.
Then Karen had died.
Tammy and Joe had carried on for Karen in the same vein, but for Mallory, everything had pretty much skidded to a halt. Blaming herself, she’d fallen into a pit of desperate grief. She’d always walked the straight and narrow path, but she’d taken it to a new extreme, terrified to do anything wrong, to screw a single thing up and make things worse for her parents. Once during that terrible time, she’d accidentally forgotten to pay for a lip balm and had turned herself in as a thief. The clerk of the store had refused to press charges, instead calling Mallory’s mother to come get her.
Mallory had felt as if she’d needed to be punished in some way for not paying enough attention to Karen, for being a bad sister, for something, anything. She’d put all of her energy into healing her family, but had not been even remotely successful. Her parents divorced and her father had left to go surf in Australia. He’d never come back, and Tammy and Joe…well, they’d gone even further off the deep end.
Joe was doing better these days, spending far less time at cop central and more time on the job. Tammy had improved, too. Sure, last year she’d headed to Vegas for a weekend and had come home with a husband. But to everyone’s shock, the wedding hadn’t been because of an unplanned pregnancy. It hadn’t even been alcohol-related.
Well, it might have been a little bit alcohol-related, but unbelievably, Tammy and her hotel security guard-turned-shotgun husband were still married. She’d applied for and landed a housekeeping job at the hospital and—gasp—had actually held onto the job, the same as her marriage. And since their mother was a supervisory nurse, that meant there were three Quinns at the hospital working together. Or, more accurately, Tammy and Ella working as opposing magnets, with Mallory doing her best to hold onto them both.
Tammy had been on shift the night of the freak storm, and because she liked to know everything, in all likelihood she knew Mysterious Cute Guy’s name.
Mallory knew that asking her would be better than asking her mom—or looking in the computer and losing her job, not to mention completely invading the guy’s privacy—but not by much. Her best hope was for his name to come up in a conversation, all casual-like, maybe even “accidentally.” The trick was to not let Tammy know what Mallory wanted, or it’d be Game Over.
The break room was crowded, as it usually was at this time of the day. Mostly it was filled with other nurses and aides. Today Lucille was sitting on the couch as well, sipping a cup of coffee in her volunteer’s uniform.
No one knew exactly how old Lucille was, but she’d been running the art gallery in town since the dawn of time. She was also the hub of all things gossip in Lucky Harbor, and she gave one-hundred percent in life. This included her volunteering efforts, and since she knew everyone, she’d been hugely influential in helping Mallory gain interest in the Health Services Clinic. Fond of her, Mallory waved, then sat next to Tammy at the large round table in the center of the room.
Tammy smiled and put down her phone. “Heard about tonight.”
Mallory stopped in the act of pulling out her sandwich. This might be easier than she thought. “What about tonight?”
“Rumor is that you have a hot blind date for the auction.”
“No, I—” She went still. “Wait a minute. How did you hear that?”
“I’m psychic,” Tammy said and stole Mallory’s chips from her lunch bag.
Dammit, she needed those chips. Then she remembered what Mrs. Burland had said about gaining weight and sighed. “Just because you paid for an online course to learn to manage your Wiccan powers does not mean you actually have powers. How did you hear about the date?”
“Amy told me when I grabbed lunch at the diner yesterday.”
Okay, she’d kill Amy later at their chocoholics meeting. For now, it was just the opening Mallory needed. “First of all, the date thing is just a silly rumor.” Even if she was secretly hoping otherwise. “And second…did Amy happen to tell you who this silly rumor date might be with?”
“Yep.” Tammy was munching her way through the chips and moaning with pleasure, damn her. Mallory hoped she gained five pounds.
“I can’t believe you actually landed Mysterious Cute Guy,” Tammy said, licking salt off her fingers.
“Shh!” Mallory took a quick, sweeping glance around them, extremely aware of Lucille only a few feet away, ears aquiver with the attempt to eavesdrop. “Keep it down.”
Unimpressed with the need for stealth, Tammy went on. “It’s pretty damn impressive, really. Didn’t know you had it in you. I mean, your last boyfriend was that stuffy accountant from Seattle, remember? The only mysterious thing about him was what you saw in him.”
“You were here last weekend when he came in,” Mallory said.
Tammy smiled. She knew she was stepping on Mallory’s last nerve. It was what she did. And this wasn’t going well.
“So is it a silly rumor?” Tammy asked. “Or a real date?”
“Never mind!” Mallory paused. “But…did you hear anything about him?”
Lucille was nearly falling off the couch now, trying to catch the conversation. Mallory turned her chair slightly, more fully facing her sister. “Like his name,” she whispered.
This got Tammy’s attention in a big way. “Wait a minute. You don’t know his name?”
“Wow, how absolutely naughty, Mal. You haven’t done naughty since you were sixteen and turned yourself in for shoplifting. Now you may or may not have a date with a guy whose name you don’t know. A fascinating cry for attention.” Tammy turned her head. “You catching all of this, Lucille?”
“Oh, you know I am.” Lucille pulled out a Smartphone and began tapping keys with her thumbs. Probably writing on the Facebook wall. “This is good; keep talking.”
Mallory dropped her head to the table and thunked it but unfortunately she didn’t lose consciousness and she still had to finish her shift.
After work, she drove home and watered her next door neighbor’s flowers because Mrs. Tyler was wheelchair-bound and couldn’t do it for herself. Then she watered her grandma’s beloved flowers. She fed the ancient old black cat that had come with the house, the one who answered only to “Sweet Pea” and only when food was involved. And before she showered to get ready for the night’s dinner and auction, she clicked through her e-mail.
Then wished she hadn’t.
She’d been tagged on Facebook.
Make sure to buy tickets for tonight’s elegant formal dinner and auction, folks! Supported by the hospital, organized by the nurses and spearheaded by Mallory Quinn, all proceeds will go into the Hospital Foundation’s coffers toward the Health Services Clinic that Mallory’s been working on shoving down our throats. (Just kidding, Mallory!).
And speaking of Ms. Quinn, rumor is that she’ll ‘maybe’ have a date for the event after all, with Mysterious Cute Guy!
p.s. Anyone at the event with their cell phone, pictures are greatly appreciated!
Chocolate will never fail you.
Ty’s routine hadn’t changed much in the six months he’d been in Lucky Harbor. He got up in the mornings and either swam in the ocean or went to the gym, usually with Matt Bowers, a local supervisory forest ranger and the guy who owned the ’72 GMC Jimmy that Ty was fixing up.
Matt was ex-Chicago SWAT, but before that he’d been in the Navy. He and Ty had gone through basic together.
When Ty had injured his leg again, Matt had coaxed him out West to rehabilitate. They’d spent time hitting the gun range, but mostly they enjoyed beating the shit out of each other on the mats.
They had a routine. They’d lie panting side by side on their backs in the gym. “Another round?” Matt would ask.
“Absolutely,” Ty would say.
Neither of them would move.
“You doing okay?” Matt would then ask.
“Don’t want to talk about it,” Ty would say.
Matt would let it go.
Ty would hit the beach, swimming until the exhaustion nearly pulled him under. Afterward, he’d force himself along the choppy, rough rocky beach just to prove he could stay upright. He’d started out slow—hell, he’d practically crawled—but he could walk it now. It was quite the feat. Or so his doctor kept telling him. He supposed this was true given that four years ago, he’d nearly lost his left leg in the plane crash thanks to a post-surgical infection.
Which was a hell of a lot less than Brad, Tommy, Kelly, and Trevor had lost.
At the thought of that time and the loss of his team, the familiar clutching seized his gut. He hadn’t been able to save a single one of them. He’d been trained as a trauma paramedic, but their injuries, and his own, had proven too much. Later he’d been honorably discharged and he’d walked away from being a medic.
He hadn’t given anyone so much as a Band-Aid since.
Working in the private sector had proven to be a good fit for him. In actuality, it wasn’t all that different from being enlisted, except the pay was better and he got a say in his assignments. But six months out of work was making him think too much. He wasn’t used to this down time. He wasn’t used to being in one spot for so long. His entire life had been one base after another, one mission after another. He was ready to get back to that world.
He needed to get back to that world, because it was the only way he had of making sure that his team’s death meant something.
But Dr. Josh Scott, the man in charge of his medical care until he was cleared, took a weekly look at Ty’s scans and shook his head each time.
Excerpted from Lucky in Love by Shalvis, Jill Copyright © 2012 by Shalvis, Jill. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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