The Sweetest Thing Read online

Page 16

  Author: Jill Shalvis

  Turning around at the end of the pier, she walked back. She could have gone straight to the cottage and had a nice shower but she decided to walk through the marina to burn a few extra calories.

  Or because Ford was out there on the dock.

  She was drawn to him like a damn magnet. He was surrounded by sailing boat parts, with a tool in one hand, a part in the other, and a look of concentration on his face.

  When he caught sight of her, the corners of that amazing, fantasy-inducing mouth of his quirked. Only a few hours ago, he’d been buried deep inside her, their bodies slick with sweat, their breath mingling, moving in tandem. Just in the remembering, the air around them changed, and she was swamped with more memories.

  And longing…

  Their gazes caught and held though neither of them spoke. Her nerves fluttered. So did a few other body parts.

  “You okay?” he finally asked.

  It wasn’t a filler question. Last night had been emotional, and he had a look of genuine concern on his face. It conflicted with the picture she had in her head of him walking out the door without a backward glance. “I’m fine. ”

  “Logan gone?” he asked.

  “Not exactly. ”

  His jaw tightened, and he took a moment to answer. “What then, exactly?”

  “He’s staying for the summer. ” When he locked gazes with her, she lifted her hands. “Not my idea. ”

  He said nothing to this but his silence spoke volumes.

  “So is this going to be uncomfortable now?” she asked.

  He cocked his head. “Does it feel uncomfortable?”

  “I’m not sure yet. ”

  He sighed, muttered something to himself that sounded like “don’t do it, man,” then wrapped an arm around her waist. He snugged the lower half of his body to hers, rocking against her. “How about now?”

  “No, uncomfortable is not the word I’d use,” she managed. “Ford. ” Helpless against the pull of the attraction, not to mention his easy, sexy charm, she gripped his shirt in two fists and dropped her forehead to his chest.

  He stroked his hand down her hair, a movement of affection and gentle possession, and she pressed even closer. Not again, her brain told her body. You are not going to have him again. But her brain wasn’t in charge because she glanced over his shoulder at the sailboat, which had a bedroom below deck.

  And a bed.

  Ford followed her gaze and let out a low laugh. “Okay, but only if you ask nice. ”

  “Not funny,” she said and pushed away from him. “Besides, I’m all sweaty, and you’re all dirty. ”

  “Then we’re already halfway to where I’d like to be. ”

  “Stop it. ”

  “Hey, you’re the one who came out of your way to see me. ”

  That was true, which didn’t make it any less irritating that somehow he always knew what she was thinking. “I’m going to take a shower. ” A cold one.

  “You want help with that?”


  “You want me bad,” Ford called after her as she walked away.

  Yes, she did. Quite badly, in fact. What woman could help wanting him in her bed? The problem was that Ford didn’t tend to exert much energy on things that were difficult. And Tara was just about as difficult as they came. Which meant she needed to resist him and all his gorgeousness because she already knew the ending to their story.

  A few nights later, Ford was at The Love Shack serving drinks. The place was busy, which usually gave him a surge of satisfaction. He loved being here, hearing the chatter and the laughter, knowing that he brought everyone together. He’d learned a long time ago to make a family and a home wherever he could. This was both.

  The walls of The Love Shack were a deep, sinful bordello red, lined with antique mining tools that he and Jax had collected over the years on various adventures. Lanterns hung from the exposed-beam ceilings and lit up the scarred bench-style tables and the bar itself, which was made of a series of old wooden doors attached end to end.

  If Ford wasn’t on a boat with the wind hitting his face as he flew over the water at dizzying speeds, then he was at his happiest here.

  It was a simple lifestyle, but when it came right down to it, he was a simple guy. Growing up poorer than dirt had ensured that. So had being loved and protected by his grandma to the best of her abilities as they’d worked their asses off. She’d always said that someday it would pay off and she’d get to retire to Palm Springs.

  It gave Ford great satisfaction that he’d been able to give that to her, that right this minute she was probably on the deck of the Palm Springs home he’d bought her, sipping iced tea and watching the mountains. It was her favorite pastime after cooking for him on the rare occasions he made it down there to visit, that is. She’d marvel at his height and build every single time he walked in her door, as if she couldn’t quite believe he’d grown up from that scrawny, undersized kid he’d once been.

  Ford couldn’t blame her. He’d managed to live through his teens, and then his twenties in spite of himself, and was now working on his thirties and being a grownup. On accepting his mistakes and living with no regrets, though his biggest regret was heavy on his mind lately.


  “Earth to Ford. ” Sawyer Thompson waved a hand in Ford’s face. “You with us? Or do you need a moment alone?”

  “Thought tonight was your night off. ” Sawyer was big and broad as a mountain, and could be as intimidating as hell—unless you’d grown up with him and knew that he wouldn’t watch any Disney/Pixar flick because they made him cry like a chick. Ford poured him a Coke—Sawyer’s standard order when he was on duty.

  “Got called in. ” Sawyer’s smile faded. “Unexpected trouble out at Horn Crest. ”

  “Hang gliders again?” Last time, the hang gliders had turned out to be Chloe, Lance, and Tucker, and they’d been arrested for trespassing when they’d landed in Mrs. Azalea’s prized field of rhododendrons. Lance was on a mission to accumulate as many crazy adventures as he could before his cystic fibrosis caught up with him, and Chloe and Lance’s brother Tucker were dedicated to assisting him in his stupidity.

  For some reason, this drove Sawyer insane.

  Ford was just glad to see that it ran in the family, the unique ability of the three sisters to drive men right over the edge of sanity.

  “Not hang gliders this time,” Sawyer said, sounding relieved. Chloe was well-liked in town, and every time she ran into trouble and Sawyer had to deal with it, he got the backlash.

  Ford knew that Sawyer liked order. Calm order. Which meant that Sawyer and Chloe were oil and water. But like oil and water, they ended up together a lot. Karma was a bitch with a good sense of humor.

  “It was a group of teenagers,” Sawyer said. “Brought them home to their parents and caught hell from one of the mothers. She told me I’d be a better use of her tax money if I was out catching real bad guys. ” With a sigh, he sank to a stool and accepted the Coke. “And what are you doing here? I thought you were going to do that race in the Gulf this weekend. ”

  Ford shrugged. “Maybe next time. ”

  Sawyer lifted a brow. “You losing your edge?”

  “What? No. ”

  “What then? Over the hill already at thirty-four?”

  “Shut up. You’re the one who threw your back out playing foosball last month. ”

  Sawyer scowled. “Hey, that was an amazing play. Genius even. ”

  “So was your having to spend the rest of the weekend on the couch whining, and then desk duty for a full week. ”

  “So?” Sawyer said. “It got me some great bedside treatment from the women. ”

  Ford snorted. “What women?”

  “Hey, I have women. ”

  “Women on porn sites don’t count. ”

  “You’re being an asshole,” Sawyer said mildl