She waved at Dani, the receptionist, and then at the two accounting clerks in the staff room as she punched in. She moved to the front desk to see that everything was on track and froze as a man came in the front door. Given how the day had gone, nothing should have been able to surprise her at this point, but this did.
Hottie Lake Patrol Guy was striding directly toward her.
She opened her mouth and then closed it, gaping like a fish. What the hell could he possibly want? To sue her for getting seasick and throwing up? For leaving her boat in a spot no one else wanted anyway? Heart pounding, she narrowed her eyes. “Seriously?” she asked. Maybe yelled. “I didn’t do anything wrong! Well, okay, other than parking my boat illegally, but throwing up—while unfortunate—is not arrest worthy, especially since I didn’t even get it on your shoes! So just get over it already!”
He pulled off his dark sunglasses and met her gaze, his mouth tilted up in the barest hint of a wry smile.
“This is harassment,” she said. “I could sue you, but I’m not that girl. Especially if you agree to compensate me by letting me use the dock for one more night.” Holy crap, she couldn’t believe the stuff coming out her mouth, but she was backed into the proverbial corner, her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest.
Without saying a word, Lake Patrol Guy reached for the pen on the sign-in sheet they used for visitors of their patients and…
Signed in to see a patient.
Then he set the pen down, quirked a brow at her, and walked away.
Unable to help herself, she watched his very fine ass as he went. “So I can stay one more night, right?” she called after him.
Dani came up beside her and joined in the ass watching. “You threw up on his shoes?”
She sighed. “It’s a long story.”
Jacob was still shaking his head as he made his way up the stairs of the rehab center to the second floor. Turned out Red from the lake had a name, which he’d seen on her name tag just now.
She’d been wearing a different outfit from the one he’d seen her in before, now a pencil skirt and a sleeveless blouse. Not looking pale and green, not throwing up…Instead, she’d had her hair twisted up on top of her head, with a few long, wispy strands falling out. There was a flush to her cheeks, and her lips were shiny. Her pretty green eyes were behind a set of reading glasses, and the overall look screamed sweet, cautious, reserved librarian.
It was a look he’d never given much thought to, but suddenly it was sexier than hell. Especially when he added in the slight Southern accent he detected every time she got sassy, which around him seemed to be a constant.
He was thinking about that and smiling a little because she’d pretty much yelled at him, and it’d been a damn long time since he’d been called out like that. In his world, people respected him, feared him, avoided him…They most definitely did not put their finger in his face like a schoolteacher and take him to task.
His smile faded quickly enough when he remembered why he was here—to visit his mom. From there he’d figure out how to see Hud.
But then he turned the corner and came face-to-face with him.
Once upon a time they’d been mirror images, exact replicas of each other while also being opposites. Hudson was right-handed, and he was a southpaw. Hud’s cowlick was on the right, Jacob’s on the left. Hud reacted with his emotions, Jacob with his brain.
Except for the one time he hadn’t.
The fight with Hud had been the worst day of his life, and that was saying something, as there’d been a few doozies before and since. But that day they’d each said things, and Jacob had no idea how to make it right again.
They’d grown up hard and fast. Carrie, their mom, had been a sweet but troubled eighteen-year-old whom their father had taken advantage of one night. Later they’d find out that Richard Kincaid was something of a serial sperm donor. And that monogamy wasn’t a word he knew the definition of.
So growing up, it’d been just Hud, Jacob, and Carrie, raising each other. Actually, Hud and Jacob had raised themselves while doing the best they could to raise their mom too. But when they’d turned twelve, Carrie had fallen apart completely, leaving her unable to hold a job.
Jacob and Hud had done everything they could, working when they could get jobs, conning when they couldn’t, but eventually they hadn’t been able to keep a roof over their heads anymore and had landed here in Cedar Ridge, thanks to the generosity of Char Kincaid.
Char had been another of Richard Kincaid’s rejects. She’d had two boys with the guy, Gray and Aidan, both a few years older than Hud and Jacob.