The Sweetest Thing Read online

Page 32

  Author: Jill Shalvis

  “And we’ve been apart seventeen. ”

  “I’m thinking the amount of time isn’t what matters,” she said.

  Ford was quiet a moment. “You know, back inside, for just a minute when I saw that stick, a bunch of things hit me. ”

  “Yes. Abject terror. ”

  “And confusion,” he said. “And maybe… excitement. ” His eyes met hers. “I never regretted Mia. Not for a minute. I only regretted what happened to us. ”

  Her chest squeezed. “I hate that I hurt you. ”

  Again he was quiet. “I feel something for you, Tara,” he finally said. “You feel it, too. I see it in your eyes when you look at me. I feel it in your touch when you let me in close. ”

  She let out a breath and watched the water. “Yes. ”

  He tugged her onto his lap and stroked a thumb along her jaw, waiting until she opened her eyes.

  “I feel it,” she said, giving him the words. “And I feel it for only you. Whatever ‘it’ is. But—”

  “No buts,” he said. “That sentence was perfect without any buts. ” He slid his hands beneath her skirt and cupped the cheeks of her bottom in his big hands, yanking her in even closer, letting her feel what this position was doing for him. Kissing his way along her jaw to her ear, he made her shiver in anticipation.

  “Here,” he said. “Now. With me. ”

  The words weren’t spoken with a question mark at the end, but he was asking.

  “Here,” she agreed, cupping his face. “Now. With you. Only you…”

  With an agreeing growl rumbling in his throat, he pushed up her sweater and down the cups of her bra, baring her breasts to him. “You drive me crazy,” he said against her skin. “Crazy. ”

  “Ditto,” she gasped, then again when he slid his hand between her thighs. She fisted her hands in his hair and cried out, rubbing against him, needing the friction, needing him inside her with a wild abandon and desperation she couldn’t control.

  “I think about you day and night. ” His voice was raw. “And Jesus, the image of you in my T-shirt and those heels, that’s going to be fueling my fantasies for a good long time. ”

  “How about doing it on your boat while anchored just off shore in the light of day?” she asked breathlessly. “Is that fantasy worthy?”

  His eyes darkened. “Oh Christ, yeah. ” He pulled off her sweater and yanked her body flush to his, raining openmouthed kisses down her throat to her breasts. He flicked a nipple with his tongue, causing them both to groan when it pebbled in his mouth. He was pushing up her skirt when she freed him from his jeans. “Please tell me you have a condom,” she murmured when he slipped beneath her panties and unerringly touched her so that she writhed for more.

  He pulled out a little packet that nearly made her weep for joy. “Now,” she said. “You promised now. ”

  Good as his word, he guided her down onto him, inch by glorious inch. “God, Tara. When I’m inside you, I feel like I’m home. ”

  Before she could recover from the beautiful but shocking words, he roughly covered her mouth with his, and gripping her hips hard, gave a slow grind that had her gasping for more. Then he rolled them, reversing their positions. With the warm sun overhead and the pull and thrust of the ocean tide rocking them, Ford moved inside her, taking her to a place no one else ever had. It was the most erotic thing she’d ever experienced, and afterward, they lay side by side, hands entwined, staring up at the clear blue sky as they struggled to catch their breath.

  Eventually, Tara rose to dress, and Ford did the same. In comfortable silence, they sailed back to the marina. After Ford had tied up at the dock, he turned to her.

  She looked at him, his last few words still in her head. I feel like I’m home. “Ford?”


  “Me too. ”

  Chapter 17

  “A person who’s willing to meet you halfway is usually, conveniently, a poor judge of distance. ”


  Tara walked into the kitchen and found Chloe sitting on the countertop, mixing up something that smelled delicious.

  “A new exfoliating face scrub,” she explained. “Melon-flavored. The bonus is that it tastes delicious. ”

  Tara tried not to panic. “I thought you were making breakfast. ”

  “We are. ” Mia came into the kitchen from the dining room carrying a huge casserole dish. “I made Good Morning Sunshine Casserole,” she said, looking adorable in fresh—and tiny—denim shorts and a stretchy tee. “Not strawberry pie, though I was tempted. It’s a casserole with some leftover ham, Tater Tots, and cheese, all mixed together. ” She looked very proud of herself. “It’s already been served and cleaned up. ”

  Tara stared at this creature who was her own flesh and blood and felt her own pride bubble over. “Wow. ”

  “I know. Cute and talented,” Mia said.

  Carlos came into the room from the back door. Mia turned a smile on him. The poor guy took one look at her mile-long legs in her short shorts, and walked smack into the island.

  Chloe shot Tara a smirk.

  Tara ignored her in favor of taking a good look at the teens, and didn’t like what she saw, because she was seeing a whole hell of a lot of heat. “Busy day,” she said to Carlos as he attempted to recover. “We need to hose down the front porch, water the flowers, and fix the flickering lights on the dock in case guests want to walk along there at night. ”

  “On it,” he said, and vanished back outside.

  “I’ll help,” Mia said and followed him out.

  Tara waited until the door shut behind them. “Those two are—”

  “Having sex,” Chloe said helpfully.

  “She said they weren’t. ”

  “Okay, but probably I should add some condoms to the baskets I just put out in the bathrooms. ”

  Tara choked, and Chloe patted her shoulder. “They’re seventeen, babe. That’s like ninety-nine percent hormones, as I’m sure you remember. ”

  Tara felt her gut clench. “I’m going to have to fire him. ”

  “Are you going to fire every boy that looks at her?”

  “That or kill them,” Tara said, only half joking.

  That night Ford ended up behind the bar at The Love Shack. Earlier he and Sawyer had gone out for a long sail, something that had never once in his life failed to soothe him. They’d had clear blue skies filtered only by a few scattered clouds. Winds had come out of the northwest with knots at twelve to fourteen, which actually was “holy shit” weather on a sailboat. Just the way he usually liked it. It’d taken every ounce of concentration just to stay on the water and not ten feet under. Sawyer had bitched about it the whole time.

  The sail should have cleared Ford’s mind. It hadn’t. He just kept thinking. About his life, and what he was doing with it. About Mia. About Tara… And Christ, he was tired of thinking. Tired of his life being in flux.

  And when had that happened? He’d thought he had things set up. He had money in the bank, and a job running the bar when he felt like working. He wanted for nothing.

  Okay, that wasn’t quite true.

  He wanted something new, something he’d never really wanted before—a relationship. In the past, any attempt at one had been rough to maintain while sailing eight months out of twelve. Hell, just seeing his own sisters and grandmother had been challenging, although now that he was no longer racing so much, his sisters managed to invade his life on a fairly regular basis.

  Which meant that these days, a relationship could actually work.

  Slightly terrifying.

  Sawyer strolled into the bar after his shift. “Since you saved Logan’s ass, you’re now ahead in the polls by eighty percent. ”

  Lucky Harbor’s gossip train was the little engine that could. Nothing slowed it down—not real news, not decency, and certainly not the truth.

  The d