Lost and found sisters, p.13
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.13

           Jill Shalvis

  Quinn grabbed for the covers but he caught her hand and kissed the palm. “You’re beautiful,” he said.

  And she felt it. From the tips of her hair to her still-curled toes. She leaned over him to make him feel the same, brushing her mouth over a wide shoulder, a hard pec. She stopped at his abs and couldn’t help but take a lick as she filled her hands with him.

  His groan rumbled through her as he rolled her to her back, his mouth coming down on hers. He’d come up with a condom, which made him smarter than she was. He nudged her thighs apart and she eagerly made room, wrapping her legs around him as he filled her, locking her ankles behind his back to keep him right where she wanted him.

  She was already chanting his name when he began to move, rolling his hips with purpose until they came together, even as they fell apart.

  As simple and terrifying as that.

  They lay there awhile, entangled on the trashed sheets. She’d opened the window earlier, and she could hear the lovely night sounds she’d forever associate with Wildstone. She could also hear the damn sink dripping again, which would drive her crazy. Later. For right now her brain was still nothing but a pleasure button, one that couldn’t find annoyance or irritation to save its life.

  It had been a long time, but she knew holy-cow sex when she had it, and it had been exactly what she needed. She opened her eyes to tell Mick so and found him watching her, a pensive look on his face. “Uh-oh,” she said, suddenly feeling very naked. “Regrets already?”

  “Hell no,” he said.

  There was something in his tone and eyes that she couldn’t name, but it made her both yearn and feel uneasy at the same time. She knew this was a man she could fall for, if she let herself.

  She wasn’t going to let herself.

  She couldn’t even commit to brunch plans with her parents, much less a relationship. And more than that, aside from what had just happened, she wasn’t ready to feel emotion again, of any kind. Just the thought made her panic.

  Mick smoothed a fingertip over the furrow in her brow and smiled wryly. “Regrets already?” he murmured back to her.

  She forced away whatever troubles were lurking on the horizon and smiled. “Hell no.”

  Chapter 13

  There should be a weather app for people with social anxiety, like “Today life will be partly crowdy with a 70 percent chance of having to deal with people.”

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  The next morning, Mick woke up to numb extremities. He instantly saw the problem. Coop lay on his feet, Quinn on the rest of him. She’d fallen asleep in his arms muttering something about needing to get him to fix the damn dripping sink again, and he’d stilled as he’d realized.

  She still thought he was the B & B handyman.

  When she’d first assumed that on day one—four days ago now—he’d been amused. And intrigued. And then, let’s face it, turned on by the bossy, cute, sexy woman sticking her head out her window, asking so sweetly if he could fix her shit.

  The fact was, she’d been a welcome distraction from the hell he was in, being back in the town he hadn’t been able to escape fast enough, having to deal with the mess his dad had left behind.

  His problem, not hers.

  And so was the fact that he’d misled her, no matter how unintentionally. Not that this mattered if this was truly just the “fun” she said she needed his help with, but he was beginning to get to know her now, and he also knew himself. Yeah, it was fun, a hell of a lot of fun. And the sex had been off the charts, but . . . it had also been more.

  He’d just tell her the truth, that was all. He’d say: So, by the way, funny story—I’m actually a structural engineer from the Bay Area, staying at this B and B, same as you, since it’s the closest to my mom’s house, where I really am a handyman.

  Just not a paid one.

  Yep, he’d tell her the minute she woke up. She had a good sense of humor, it would be fine.

  Coop lifted his head and yawned. And also farted. The dog jerked his head around and stared at his own ass in shock, even though this happened every day.

  “Dude,” Mick said and Coop sighed. Slowly, so slowly he might’ve been moving backward, he slid off the bed and plopped to the floor, like Mick had insulted him to the marrow.

  Unable to help himself, Mick stroked a hand down Quinn’s back and palmed her sweet ass. She stirred and stretched, and then froze for a beat before lifting her head.

  Her face was adorably sleepy looking, her hair a wild, rioted mass of waves all over the place. She blinked once, slow as an owl, taking in their positions. “Forgot to warn you that I’m a bed hog,” she murmured. “Sorry.”

  “Don’t be.” He paused. “Quinn.”

  “Uh-oh,” she said, her eyes clearing a little bit. “That’s a very serious tone.” And this time when she tried to pull free, he let her. She sat up, tugging the sheet with her and stared down at him. “If you’re going to tell me you’ve changed your mind about regrets, just keep it to yourself—”

  “I’m an engineer,” he said. “I run a structural engineering firm with three other partners in the Bay Area.”

  She stared at him. “What?”

  He reached for her, but she scooted back. “Wait,” she said, holding him off. “You told me you were the B and B maintenance guy. You lied to me?”

  At her tone, Coop gave a low, worried “wuff.”

  “It’s okay,” Mick told him. “And no,” he said to Quinn. “I didn’t lie to you. I never said I was the B and B maintenance guy.”

  “Yes you did.” She stared at him some more, thinking so hard her ears were smoking. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “You’re right, you didn’t. I just assumed. And you let me.” She scrambled off the bed, snatching the entire sheet as she did, wrapping it around herself like she was cold.

  Or needed armor.

  In any case, it left Mick bare-ass naked on the bed. He sat up and opened his mouth but she whirled on him, pointing a finger in his direction. “Why did you let me assume that?”

  “A hot woman asks me for help?” he asked. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have refused you. And to be clear, even if you weren’t hot, I wouldn’t have refused you.”

  She just narrowed her eyes. “That’s your defense?”

  “Well, you’ve got to admit,” he said, “it’s a little funny. Though the joke’s really on me because I had no idea what I was doing under that sink, I just got lucky.”

  “It’s still dripping,” she pointed out.

  “Yeah, see, my dad would’ve loved that. It proves him right, that I never listened. He tried to teach me everything he knew.” He let out a low laugh. “And hey, it made me think of him fondly, which is a rarity, so that’s actually a favor you did me.”

  “This isn’t a joke, Mick.” She closed her eyes. “Why were you always parked right out in front of the office, like you belong there?”

  “Because besides staying here, I’m working with the owner, who wants to sell this place and lease it back.”

  She was holding tightly to the sheet. Coop moved close and leaned on her. She crouched down and hugged the dog. “What is it with my life?” she asked Coop. “Why is lying and deceiving me some kind of new trend? Or is it just that everyone thinks they can decide for me what I need to know and what I don’t?”

  Coop licked her chin in commiseration.

  Understanding her reaction now, and also feeling like a complete asshole, Mick got out of the bed. “It wasn’t like that, Quinn.”

  “No,” she said quickly, holding up a hand to ward him off. She took another step back and caught her foot in the sheet.

  Before she could go down, he caught her, all soft, warm curves he’d been hoping to get another taste of this morning, but she broke free. Sending him a scalding glance over her bare shoulder, she turned to look for her clothes, grabbing pieces as she came to them, yanking them on.

  “Wuff,” Coop said, clearly deeply concerned.

/>   Quinn gave the dog another quick, soothing hug that Mick wished she’d bestow on him. Instead, she leveled him with a withering stare. “To be clear, this, between us, was just—” She jabbed a finger at the bed. “That. And it’s done now. I’m done. We’re done.” Her phone rang and she snatched it up. “Hello.” She paused, listening, giving him a moment to appreciate that she’d gotten her jeans up but not fastened, and her top only halfway on before she’d frozen in place. “You’re kidding me.” Another pause. “Oh for God’s sake, yes, I’m coming.” She disconnected, shoved the phone into her pocket, and to his disconcertion, finished dressing in two seconds, muttering something about “those effing chickens are going to effing kill me.”

  “What’s wrong?” he asked, pulling on his clothes as well.

  “My life.”


  She shoved her feet into her shoes. “The hens made a run for it.”

  “The what?”

  “I know, right? But maybe they’ve got the right idea, running like hell.” And then she was gone, slamming out of her own room.

  Coop’s expression said, I can’t believe how stupid you are.

  A fact Mick had to agree with.

  IN TILLY’S WORLD, she was the caregiver. She’d taken care of her mom. The house. Her friends. Chuck. It was what she did.

  She’d been taking care of her mom’s chickens for years on top of everything else and she’d never once left the pen open. And she wouldn’t have done it that morning either except Chuck’s silly girlfriend had a silly hissy fit when Tilly had eaten the last two eggs—like there weren’t more out back.

  So Tilly had dragged herself out of bed half an hour before her usual time to stop the fighting that was coming through the thin walls.

  “I didn’t sign up for a teenager, Chuck!”

  “She’s a good kid. A really good kid.”

  “To you, maybe. But if it’s not you, she’s sullen as hell, and I think she stole a twenty from my wallet.”

  “Here’s another twenty,” Chuck said. “And she just lost her mom. She’s earned the sullen . . .”

  So yeah, Tilly had gone to the hen coop with a bad ’tude, and somehow she’d managed to leave the gate open. The stupid-ass chickens had escaped and were currently running around the yard acting like their heads had been cut off.

  Which made it official—her life sucked. The chickens were out, she hated school, and her mom was gone. Her mom hadn’t been perfect, but she’d been Tilly’s. Now she had no one except a sister who couldn’t wait to vanish.

  Greta and Trinee had come out of the café to stare at the loose chickens, but were no help.

  “Baby girl, there’s no way on God’s green earth I’m chasing chickens,” Trinee said.

  “And don’t look at me,” Greta added. “You think this body got its curves by running?”

  “So to be clear,” Tilly said, hands on hips, “no one’s chasing the chickens?”

  They both just looked at her.

  Whatever. Mad at the world, Tilly had used the number she hadn’t planned on ever using and called Quinn. “You said I could call you for anything . . .”

  Five minutes later, Quinn’s Lexus arrived. “What happened?” Quinn asked.

  Tilly shrugged. “Someone let the chickens out.”

  “Who’d do such a thing?”

  Tilly shrugged.

  Quinn watched all the chickens losing their collective shit. “So . . . what do we do now?”

  “I don’t know,” Tilly said. “Catch them?”

  “Oh my God. How?”

  Tilly didn’t have to fully fake the quaver in her voice. “They were my mom’s pets. We have to get them.”

  “Okay.” Quinn seemed to gather herself and reached out to squeeze Tilly’s hand. “Of course. We’ll get them.”

  And then to Tilly’s utter shock, Quinn inhaled deep, like she was searching for courage, and then began to run after the loose chickens.

  Cars on the street stopped to watch, proving there wasn’t a lot to do in Wildstone. From one of the cars, Lena got out and came to stand next to Tilly, a wide grin on her face as she sipped on a to-go coffee.

  “I was working on my bookkeeping,” she said. “This is much more fun.”

  Tilly, starting to feel a little guilty, chewed on her lower lip. She’d made a few motions to help but mostly she’d been caught up in the amusement of watching Quinn.

  Sweating, breathless, Quinn stopped in the middle of the yard and put her hands on her hips. “How about a little help?”

  Lena lifted her cup. “First I drink the coffee. Then I do the things. But only when I’m paid for the things . . .”

  Quinn rolled her eyes and looked at Tilly.

  Tilly went back at it with Quinn. And when Quinn actually caught a chicken, she flashed a triumphant grin Tilly’s way—and then the chicken squawked and emitted a long stream of poop. Right down the front of Quinn’s shirt.

  Lena leaned in with her phone and took a pic. “For Instagram,” she said. “Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but you smell like shit.”

  “Thanks for the tact.”

  “Honey, tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic.”

  Lou popped outside, holding the Polaroid camera. He lifted it to his face and peered through the lens in her direction.

  Quinn pointed at him. “Don’t you even think about—”

  He snapped the pic of her and two seconds later it rolled out of the camera. He waved it in the air and grinned. “For the wall.”

  “Perfect,” Quinn muttered, and to Tilly’s surprise, forged on.

  When she caught another chicken, she thrust it into Tilly’s hands. “Either you help,” Quinn said to Lena, “or I’ll go swimming until my hair is green and tell everyone it’s your fault.”

  The threat was pretty impressive, Tilly had to admit, and she got much more serious about helping. Five minutes later they’d caught every last wayward chicken.

  Quinn blew a strand of hair out of her sweaty face. “Thanks for the assist,” Quinn said dryly to Lena.

  “I never run. Well, unless running out of fucks count.”

  “Hey, watch the language. Impressionable kid sister aboard.”

  Tilly objected to this. “I’m neither impressionable nor your kid sister.”

  Quinn straightened and looked at her. “Maybe you’re right on the impressionable part, but whether you like it or not we are sisters.”

  For the record, Tilly didn’t like it. She didn’t like anything anymore and she didn’t know what to do about it. She was stuck, literally stuck, and it made her feel like her insides were a tornado hell-bent on self-destruction. “You can go back to L.A. now,” she said. “You know you want to.”

  “What about what you want?” Quinn asked. “You really want me to just walk away?”

  “It’s not like we’re family,” Tilly said.

  “We are family, and if you need proof, you need only say so and I’ll get it for you.”

  Tilly stared at her, irrationally angry and unable to control herself. “I’d rather have no sister at all.” She wished the words back right after they’d escaped but she just let them hang in the air.

  Quinn stepped up to her, chicken shit on her boobs and all. “I’ve already lost one sister,” she said, voice quavery, like she was really, really mad. “A sister of my heart, and I’d give anything, anything at all, including my own life, to have her back. The same, I imagine, as how you feel about your mom. So I’m going to hope that what you just said isn’t really true, Tilly, because trust me, having no sister at all sucks.”

  And then Quinn did what Tilly had thought she’d wanted—she walked away.

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