One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay #2.5)(3)

by Jill Shalvis

Except maybe . . . secretly . . . Max himself, a fact she’d take to her grave, thank you very much. They’d had a science class together, that was it; nothing memorable for him, she was certain. But he’d been kind to her, twice taking her on as a lab partner when no one else had wanted the shy, bad-­at-­science wallflower, and she’d never been able to forget it. Or him. “So what college did you end up at?” she asked.

Surprisingly enough, this got her a reaction. He looked at her across the dark console, rain and wind and city lights slashing as harshly across his features as his voice sounded when he asked, “Are you kidding me?”

Chapter Two

MAX HADN’T MEANT to respond to Rory’s questions at all but that last one—­where had he gone to college?—­cut through all his good intentions and lit the fuse of his rare temper.

She couldn’t be serious. She knew damn well what she’d done to him, what she’d cost him.

She had to.

Didn’t she?

He glanced at her, and the intensity that was always between them ratcheted up a notch, something he’d have sworn wasn’t possible.

“Why would I be kidding you?” she asked.

Like he was going to go there with her, but at whatever was in his expression along with the tone of his voice, Carl whined.

Rory narrowed her eyes at Max, clearly blaming him for upsetting the dog, before she twisted, going up on her knees to reach over the back of her seat for Carl.

His dog, hampered by his seatbelt, whined again and leaned into her touch.

Rory made a soft sound in her throat and clicked out of her seatbelt to wrap her arms around the big oaf—­a fact Max knew only because he could see her both in his rearview mirror and over his shoulder. He watched as she loved up on his big, slobbery dog, not seeming to care one little bit when Carl smiled and drooled all over her pretty sweater.

Most women didn’t like Carl.

Which didn’t matter in the least to Max. Women came and went, if he was very lucky. And yeah, he’d been luckier than most in that regard. But there’d been no keepers, much to his family’s ever loving dismay. So far, Carl was his only keeper.

And Carl clearly loved and adored Rory.

That wasn’t the problem. Nope, the problem was that Rory seemed completely clueless to what she’d done to Max. She’d ruined his life and she’d either forgotten or she didn’t care. The crazy thing was that he’d hardly known her. The only reason he’d even known her name was because he’d been her lab partner a few times. But though he’d enjoyed her company, she’d ignored him outside of class.

And back then she hadn’t been his type anyway. He’d been an unapologetic jock, and he’d be the first to admit that he’d been enough of an ass to enjoy the perks of that—­including going out with girls known to enjoy sleeping with the most popular athletes.

He glanced in the rearview mirror again. Huge mistake. All he could see was Rory’s heart-­stopping ass covered in snug, faded denim that outlined her every curve, and his mouth actually watered, wanting to bite it.

In the time that they’d both been working in the city, he’d come to realize that not only had she outgrown her shyness, but she was smart, resourceful, and funny. If he didn’t resent their past so much, he’d probably have asked her out a long time ago.

But he did resent their past, which left him both driven nuts by her presence and also somehow . . . hungry for her. Which meant it was official: he’d lost his mind.

If he’d ever had it in the first place.

He glanced at the very nice view again and the wheels of his truck hit the edge of his lane, giving off a loud whump whump whump. “Shit,” he muttered and jerked the truck back into the lane.

Smooth, real smooth, he thought with self-­disgust.

At the motion of his truck swerving, Rory nearly slid into his lap.

“Sorry,” she gasped, bracing one hand on his shoulder, the other high up on his thigh, using them to shove clear of him.

He could still feel the heat of her hands on him as she flopped back in her seat, hair in her face. She shoved it clear and then bent over and started rifling through the huge purse at her feet.

The movement slid her sweater north and her jeans south, revealing a two-­inch strip of the creamy white skin of her lower back.

And two matching dimples that made his mouth water again.

“What the hell are you doing?” he managed to ask.

“Nothing.” She straightened, coming up with a dog biscuit, which she tossed back to Carl. The dog snapped it out of thin air, practically swallowing it whole, and then licked his chops.

“You carry bones with you?” he asked in surprise.

“Of course,” she said, like didn’t everyone?

His phone buzzed an incoming call. He answered it via speaker but before he could say a word, his elder, know-­it-­all sister Cass spoke.

“I know you’re on your way,” she said, her voice blaring out from his truck’s speakers. “So I’ll be quick. Two things. One, the weather is atrocious and the roads up here are an epic disaster already so please be careful, and two, don’t forget that we’ve got a promise between us.”

“Cass—­”

“No excuses,” she said. “The next girl you feel something for, anything at all, you have to go for it, no exceptions. That’s my Christmas present and I just wanted to remind you of that. And since I’m assuming you’re going to say you’ve felt nothing, you should know I’ve got you covered.”

Max didn’t bother to groan. Nor did he look at Rory, who he could sense straightening in her seat with interest. “What have you done, Cass?”

“Me?” she asked innocently. “Nothing.”

Yeah, and he was Santa Claus. “Cass.”

Her sigh echoed in the truck interior. “Okay, fine, I might have invited a friend—­”

 “No,” he said.

“Come on. Kendall’s cute, smart, gainfully employed, and she has a crush on your dog.”

“How the hell does she know Carl?”

 “Honestly, Max? Are you seriously not reading my Facebook messages?”

No. He wasn’t.

“I started a Facebook page for Carl weeks ago,” Cass said. “He’s already got a thousand likes.”