The Sweetest Thing Read online

Page 37

  Author: Jill Shalvis

  A secret rendezvous between a certain sexy sailing champion and a very beautiful innkeeper. Guess a certain poll is null and void.

  There was another pic of Ford and Tara standing on the marina dock. The shot was incredibly revealing and intimate, Ford trapping Tara against a pylon, his mouth devouring hers. Tara’s hands were fisted in his shirt, and he had one hand tangled in her hair, the other tightly wrapped around her back.

  Guess this leaves superstar NASCAR driver Logan Perrish out in the cold. No worries, Logan, we’re running a new poll starting today. Log in and give us choices for The Bachelor, Lucky Harbor Style. Single ladies, sign up to date sexy Logan now!

  Tara stared at the screen in horror. “Did you—”

  “No,” Mia said quickly. “I didn’t take either pic. Neither of us did. You have a spy. I was about to post a comment that people need to mind their own stinking business and leave you to yours. ”

  Tara smiled grimly. “You don’t know the locals here very well yet. Minding their own business isn’t a strong suit. ”

  Carlos turned to the door. “I should go. I got something to do…”

  When he’d vanished, Tara raised a brow at Mia, who shrugged. “He’s the tough guy at his school. But you scare him. ”

  “I’ve never scared him. ”

  “You do. He’s worried you’re going to kill him. ”

  Tara paused. “Has he given me a reason to kill him?”

  “It’s more that he thinks you can read minds, and that you’ll kill him for what’s on his. Boys are kind of obvious that way, you know?”

  Yes, Tara knew. She just didn’t like that Mia knew.

  “You won’t kill him, right?” Mia asked.

  Tara sighed. “Do you like him that much?”

  “Yes. I love him,” her daughter said without hesitation.

  “Love? Mia, it’s only been—”

  “I know what I feel,” her daughter said with the conviction of a seventeen-year-old. She shut the laptop and leaned back against the counter. “Remember when you said you’d answer any question I might have? Does that still stand?”

  Oh boy. “Ask,” Tara said bravely.

  “I’ve been wondering why you lost contact with Ford after you had me. You two loved each other, and yet by all accounts, you just walked away. ”

  Tara drew in a long breath. “I went back home. To Texas. It’s pretty far from Lucky Harbor. ”

  “Yes, but there are phones. Computers. The U. S. mail service. And your mom lived here. ”

  “Phoebe didn’t live here, not yet. She was only visiting that summer, and… and well, Ford and I had only met that summer, and we each had our lives. ” Lame excuses. And Mia deserved better. “Part of it was that I wasn’t nearly as mature as you. ”

  “You didn’t want to keep in contact?” Mia asked. “You didn’t like him anymore?”

  “Mia, it wasn’t that simple, and we were just kids. ”

  “You could have come back here instead of going to Texas. ”

  “No, because Phoebe didn’t stick here, either. But even if she had, I wasn’t used to living in a small town. It was different. ”

  “Good different?”

  No. Tara had felt claustrophobic and smothered, but she didn’t want to say that. “I was used to more. And I wanted to go to school in Texas, to Texas A&M. ”

  “A big college,” Mia murmured.

  “Yes, and…” Tara trailed off, at a loss on how to make it sound logical when the truth was it hadn’t been logical at all. Her reactions had been of sheer emotion. “Honestly, I was just trying to keep it together, and not doing all that great a job. ” Tara took Mia’s hand. “But I’d like to think I’ve done a lot of growing up since then. If I could go back now, I’d—”


  What would she do differently? She wasn’t sure.

  “You can’t go back,” Mia said quietly. “Even I know that much. You can’t ever go back. ”

  Wasn’t that the truth.

  With a sigh, Mia turned to the door. Tara followed, just happening to glance down at the trash can.

  At the empty condom wrapper right on top.

  She stared at it, then slowly looked up at Mia. Who was also looking at the empty condom wrapper, chewing on her lower lip and looking guilty as hell.

  “Maddie’s,” Tara said hopefully.

  Mia gnawed on her lip some more and slowly shook her head. “No. Not Maddie’s. ”

  “But you said you weren’t having sex,” Tara said with what she felt was remarkable calm.

  “No, I said I wasn’t having unprotected sex. ”

  “God. ” Tara pressed her fingers to her eyes. “Mia…”

  “Do you want me to go?”

  “No! I want…” She dropped her hands from her face and met Mia’s shuttered gaze. “I want you to be able to tell me the truth. ”

  “Really? You wanted me to tell you I was having sex with Carlos?” Mia asked with disbelief, winding up to a defensive stance.


  Mia shook her head. “Did you tell your parents when you were having sex with Ford?”

  Tara staggered back and leaned against the counter. No. No, she hadn’t told anyone what she’d shared with Ford. It’d been for them alone. “I’m failing you,” she whispered. “This is all my fault, somehow. ”

  Mia sighed. “No, it’s not. It has nothing to do with you. And you’re acting like I’m too young or something. ”

  “You are too young. ”

  “Because you weren’t doing the exact same thing when you were my age?”

  Tara opened her mouth, then shut it, at a complete loss. “Mia, having sex is a huge emotional commitment, and I don’t think any seventeen-year-old can possibly be ready for it. ”

  “Yes, well, I need to make my own mistakes,” Mia said. “Not yours. Mine. And for this to work, you’re going to have to let me. ”


  But she was gone.

  • • •

  Tara needed a sister bad. Chloe was off God knew where doing God knew what, but Tara found Maddie at Jax’s house on the bluff. They sat outside on his deck, and while he barbecued, Tara filled Maddie in on how she’d screwed up with Mia. “Epic failure,” she said as Maddie poured them both wine. “And the worst part of all is that I practically hand-delivered Carlos right into her lap. I de-virginized my own daughter!”

  “You don’t know that Carlos was her first. ”

  Tara went still as she absorbed that, then groaned and covered her eyes. “Okay, not helping. ”

  “Look,” Maddie said finally. “Seventeen is nothing but one big pleasure button, from head to toe. You know that. And Mia and Carlos care deeply for each other. You know that too. At least she’s with someone who thinks the sun rises and sets on her. He’ll make it good for her, Tara. ”

  Tara groaned again.

  “What, you’d rather she be with someone who doesn’t care about her needs?”

  “I’d rather she be with no one at all!” Tara said. “At least not until she’s thirty-five, or I’m dead. Whichever comes last. And can we not talk about her having sex?” She winced. “Let’s concentrate on getting her to like me. ”

  “She does. ” Maddie sipped from her glass, her gaze slipping to Jax where he stood at the grill about twenty feet away, turning over the chicken. “Remember how you felt when I wanted you and Chloe to stay with me here in Lucky Harbor, and all you wanted to do was run like hell?”

  “Yes. ” It’d been a tough time for all of them, facing the rush of fresh memories from simply setting foot inside Lucky Harbor. But Maddie had been searching for a place to belong, and at the inn, she’d found it. With Jax, she’d found it. Tara had been thrilled for her sister.

  And resigned to sticking around longer than she’d wanted in order to protect their investment—the inn—and to m