Lost and found sisters, p.29
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.29

          

  “Tell her to use condoms, don’t be stupid enough to get knocked up, and don’t get fat,” Lena said. “There’s time for all that later, like when you’re old. Or dead.”

  “Wow,” Quinn said. “You’re right. You’re really bad at this.”

  “Hey, those golden tidbits came straight from my mom when I was a teenager.” She went back to staring at Quinn’s hair. “You really should reconsider using that deep-oil conditioner I wanted you to buy.”

  “It was a million dollars.”

  “Forty dollars,” Lena said. “And worth every penny. You’re as frizzy as a squirrel on a rainy day.”

  “Gee, thanks.”

  “You’re not telling people I did your hair, are you?”

  Quinn sighed.

  Lena was quiet for a moment. “So you’re really not seeing Mick anymore?”

  “I’m not sure.” Quinn turned and met Lena’s gaze. “Besides, what does it matter? You were going after him whether I was or wasn’t.”

  Lena let out a low, mirthless laugh. “Come on,” she said. “We both know I don’t have a shot as long as you’re in the room.”

  “I still don’t understand why you’re not with Boomer, who clearly loves and adores you.”

  “I have my reasons.”

  “Such as you enjoy sabotaging your own happiness?”

  Lena stared out at the water for a long time. “I’m an alcoholic,” she said quietly. “Recovering, but still. Boomer runs a bar and he . . .” She shook her head.

  “What?”

  “He has a problem. With alcohol. He’s gone to rehab in the past, but it didn’t stick. He says he wasn’t ready then but . . . I can’t . . .” She shook her head. “He’s a bad influence on me.”

  Quinn felt a wave of genuine sympathy roll over her. “Can he get help?”

  “Of course he can. The question is will he, and the answer is no, at least not for me.”

  “You’ve talked to him?” Quinn asked.

  Lena just looked out at the water.

  “You haven’t talked to him,” Quinn said.

  “Look, if a guy can’t read my mind and figure out my admittedly mercurial moods, then he’s not for me.”

  “You’re scared,” Quinn said. Marveled. “Holy shit, who would’ve guessed that the badass Lena is running scared?”

  “Shut up,” Lena said without much heat.

  Which meant she was right. “So what’s this thing with Mick then? Just a way to make Boomer feel jealous so he’ll kick it into gear?”

  “Maybe I’m trying to save Mick from making a mistake with a spoiled city girl.”

  “Okay. Good talk.” Quinn stood up, brushed herself off, and turned toward her car.

  “Now who’s chicken?”

  “Still you!” Quinn yelled back. “Talk to Boomer!”

  MICK CAME BACK into Wildstone on Monday for the night’s bimonthly city council meeting. It turned out to be a crowded affair. There wasn’t a lot to do here at night. Drinking at the Whiskey River, making out on the dunes, hitting the occasional moonlight surf contest . . . and going to Wildstone city council meetings.

  Just about everyone in town was there. His mom. Lena. Greta and Trinee.

  But not Quinn, which he knew because he searched the crowd. He didn’t acknowledge the disappointment. She wouldn’t be here, of course she wouldn’t, she wasn’t staying in town.

  He did enjoy the surprise on city manager Tom Nichols’s face when he spotted Mick in the audience.

  The meeting droned on, but when the time was appropriate and people were allowed to speak or ask questions, Mick stood up. He asked several questions, all pertaining to the outside contracting of construction projects and other jobs.

  “This isn’t the time or place—” Tom began, but several other people stood up to join Mick, including some of the local businessmen Mick had been talking to: Lonnie and Cruz Rodriguez, Rick Espy, and Tyler Coronado, among others.

  “Isn’t it?” Lonnie Rodriguez asked. “I’ve been asking you all year and got nowhere.”

  More people stood up, and as the attendees got riled up and more assertive, their city manager got less polite. The mayor, Camille Olsen, an elected official in her last term, tried to restore order and failed, finally gesturing for Mick to go on and finish with his question.

  “We’d like specifics for what’s being done to attract visitors and boost the local economy,” he said.

  This was followed by a lot of vocal agreement. Everyone wanted to know what was being done.

  “How is this your business?” Tom asked. “You don’t even live here anymore.”

  “He bought property,” Lonnie Rodriguez said. “Mine and the winery. And maybe the B and B too, so it’s very much his business.”

  Mick knew better than to think anything could remain quiet in Wildstone, but he wasn’t thrilled about this public statement of his business dealings. Everyone, including his mom, was suddenly looking at him, reading too much into it. “I’m not a local anymore,” he emphasized. “But I do have a vested interest, same as everyone else.”

  Tom spouted some well-worded verbiage that didn’t really answer anything, and right after that the mayor took back control and closed the meeting.

  Afterward, Mick’s mom hugged him. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d bought property here in Wildstone?” she asked, looking thrilled.

  “I didn’t want you to make too much of it.”

  “Too late,” she said, smiling big.

  Mick drove her home and then, feeling restless, he took to the streets again. He ended up at the bluffs with Coop and was watching the waves by moonlight when a figure came close and sat next to him.

  Quinn.

  Chapter 29

  I hate the feeling when you’re sad and you have no idea why but you just are.

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

  Quinn had been quietly walking the bluffs, taking in the night and trying to clear her head when she’d seen Mick and Coop arrive.

  Coop bounded over to her, all floppy ears, excited drool, and wide smile.

  His owner was more subdued, but there was a light in his eyes that said he was just as excited to see her as Coop, and something went a little squishy in her chest.

  Coop climbed into her arms and sat himself on her lap like he’d been born there, and just panted happily.

  Mick shook his head at his dog. “What are you doing here?”

  “I come here sometimes,” she said. “When I need to think. It was my first stop in Wildstone, if you’ll remember.”

  “I remember.”

  She smiled. Her panic attack at being here seemed so long ago now. “It’s my spot.”

  “We have the same spot.” He looked at her. “It’s good to see you.”

  “You too. You’ve been avoiding me.”

  “Giving you time to think,” he said.

  Her heart melted and she leaned into him, setting her head on his shoulder. “I missed you,” she said softly, and felt his arm come around her.

  “Missed you too,” he said in a voice that told her he meant it.

  She was quiet for a moment, and so was he. Then she said, “According to the gossip mill, you’re moving home to Wildstone and you’re still buying up properties.”

  He snorted. “Don’t believe everything you hear. In fact, don’t believe anything you hear.”

  “But you did buy some properties when they were in trouble.”

  “Because they were a good, solid investment,” he said.

  Her smile was wry. “In Wildstone? I think we both know that’s not necessarily true. Maybe you were meant to come back here.” She paused. “And stay.”

  “I bought these properties because I hate how the town is being managed and I don’t want to see good people go down. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a local—something you of all people should understand. You’re staying here for now but you’re temporary too.”

  True. “It’s hard to make any kind of personal decision because I’m making it for two.”

  “Is it?” he asked. “Or is the hard part following your heart when you no longer trust it?”

  Her gaze flew to his as she felt the words echo deep in her heart.

  “Quinn,” he said with such terrifying gentleness that her throat burned. “You’ve gone a long time without letting your heart rule.”

  “Two years,” she whispered back.

  “You’re fighting your own nature.”

  “Which is what?” she asked, and she wasn’t kidding. She really wanted to know.

  He nudged Coop out of her lap.

  Coop snorted his displeasure but turned in a circle and plopped at their feet.

  Mick moved in, holding Quinn’s gaze. “To feel,” he said quietly. “You’re fighting your own nature to feel.”

  Oh, God. That was true too. She’d held back her emotions and she’d gotten good at it, but ever since coming to Wildstone, it had been nothing but a flood of feels.

  “You’ve also held back your own nature to love,” he said.

  She stared at him, her heart pounding. “How do you know?”

  “Because I know you. Or I’m starting to. I’ve seen you with Greta and Trinee, and the café you thought you didn’t want. I’ve seen you with Tilly, and no matter what she throws at you, trying desperately to prove she doesn’t need you or anyone, you keep your patience.”

  “She’s my sister,” Quinn said. “And the café is, was, Carolyn’s.” She hesitated. “My mom’s.”

  “And Lena?” he asked. “You’ve gathered her in too, like one of your chickens. What’s your excuse for caring about her?”

  Dammit.

  He laughed softly. “Let yourself go, Quinn. Let it happen. It’s okay to love this place and everyone in it.”

  And you, she wondered. Is it okay to let myself love you as well? But she knew the answer to that. It wasn’t okay. But looking into his eyes, seeing the easy attraction, she told herself it was okay to stay in the moment and enjoy this for as long as she could.

  To that end, she stood and kicked off her shoes as her fingers went to the button on her jeans.

  Coop lifted his big head and gave one excited bark. His humans were on the move!

  Mick raised a brow at Quinn.

  “It’s hot,” she said. “And my brain’s tired of thinking. I’m going for a swim.” She wriggled out of her jeans while he watched, eyes hot now.

  “This swim,” he said. “Is it a solo swim?”

  “Only if you’re slow.” She pulled off her top and turned to the water, but before she’d taken a single step, she was lifted into the air and thrown over Mick’s shoulder.

  “It’s not me who’s slow,” he said and dove into the water with her.

  THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY morning, Quinn stood in Carolyn’s kitchen wearing nothing but Mick’s T-shirt, undies, and some whisker burns. Tilly had spent the night at Katie’s, and Quinn had had a sleepover of her own.

  Later, after Tilly came home, she was going to have the let’s-move-to-L.A.-and-make-this-real conversation.

  She was nervous as hell about that.

  But it was time. Past time . . .

  The hens were very busy clucking and muttering among themselves. Such a simple life, she thought, and yet . . . it felt right. She’d been fighting that for a while, but she couldn’t deny the truth.

  She was happy here. She would definitely miss being here, including the sexy, six-foot, naked guy she’d left in her bed.

  The knock on the front door surprised her and she looked down at herself. Definitely needed more clothes on before answering. Dodging out of the kitchen, she stopped short in the living room, staring in shock out the window that ran alongside the front door.

  It was Brock.

  Before she could think it through, she pulled the door open. “What are you—”

  He hauled her into him and kissed her.

  She was so shocked she froze in place as his arms tightened on her so that they were pressed up against each other in a familiar way that once upon a time had both comforted her and turned her on.

  It did neither now.

  She took a big step back and shook her head at him, and then realized that Mick had come into the living room.

  When she’d left him flat on his back, spread-eagled on her bed, he’d been sated, boneless, and practically purring. He’d certainly been relaxed.

  He wasn’t relaxed now. In nothing but unbuttoned jeans, he stood there with a carefully blank look on his face, tension radiating from him.

  Not sure how much he’d seen, Quinn decided to deal with one problem at a time and turned on Brock. “What are you doing here?”

  “Thought I’d visit my fiancée.” He said this with his eyes locked on Mick. “I’d ask you the same question but I think it’s pretty obvious what you’re doing.”

  Resisting the urge to tug Mick’s shirt down lower on her thighs, she shook her head. “I thought you were in London.”

  “I’m back. Surprise.”

  “Mick,” she said with what she felt was remarkable restraint, “this is Brock. Who is not my fiancé. And also knows how I feel about surprises.” She gave Brock a long look. “Brock, this is Mick.”

  The men stared at each other. Neither spoke. Awkward didn’t even begin to cover it.

  Quinn’s dad wasn’t a quiet man. When her dad got angry, he blew his lid so everyone knew it. Brock was very much the same. And those were the only two real relationships she’d ever had with the male species.

  Mick was nothing like either of them. He was . . . stoic. When angry, he got quiet. She had no experience with this and had no idea how to defuse the situation. The only thing she could think of was that she had to get rid of Brock so she could explain things to Mick, but she knew Brock wasn’t going anywhere until she made him. “Brock,” she said. “We need to talk.”

  “I agree,” he said.

  She nodded and turned to Mick. “Can we have a minute?”

  For a single heartbeat, Mick remained still, his body language carefully neutral, calm even. Then he gave her a single nod and turned away, giving a low whistle for Coop, who’d been sleeping on the living room rug.

  Quinn assumed Mick would go back into her bedroom, or maybe the kitchen. Instead he walked—still shirtless and barefoot—right out the front door, Coop at his heels.

  He must’ve had his keys in his pocket because he headed to his truck and drove off, leaving a small cloud of dust thanks to the dry weather, and a big hole in her heart.

  “Fiancée?” she asked Brock, pissed off. “Seriously?”

  “Hey, you once made a promise to marry me if we were both single when we hit forty.”

  “You know neither of us meant that!”

 
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