Six years. Two break ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.
Police officer and army reservist Rafe Minelli knows better than to tell his his wife no, particularly since they aren't married anymore. But when she decides it's time to leave Pine Harbour for good, he puts his foot down. Unfortunately, Liv doesn’t seem to notice. She keeps packing until a last-minute job offer stalls her out, and Rafe realizes he's got one last chance to make things right if he wants to keep her here permanently.
Olivia Jackson can’t wait to leave Pine Harbour, but she’s just been handed her dream job in exchange for staying. Now she’s torn. If she leaves she’ll have to settle for a position with low pay and few prospects, but if she stays she’ll have to face Rafe’s renewed advances—and the ire of her ex-mother-in-law.
Now Rafe’s pulling out all the stops to convince Liv he’s changed—and he’s worth taking another chance on. Liv’s working hard to keep him at arm’s length to protect her heart.
Will love finally bridge the distance between them? Or will the next break up be their last?
A cool wind rustled the leaves overhead—just starting to turn colours—and she shivered. He unzipped his hoodie and handed it over but she shook her head. “I’m fine.”
“Don’t be stupid,” he muttered and wrapped it around her. She reluctantly shoved her arms in the sleeves and he glowered at her as he reached for the zipper. The sweatshirt was way too big—he had a solid foot on her—and as he ducked low enough to grab the lower hem, their cheeks touched.
Damn double damn. Somehow this was totally different than the hug inside the dinner. His breath hot against her ear, the pounding of her heart in her chest. He froze, bent over her like that, and she opened her mouth to tell him to back up but nothing came out.
Ever so slowly, he dropped the zipper parts and slid his hands inside the warm fleece instead. He found her waist and tugged gently at her t-shirt, freeing it from the waistband of her jeans. He breathed her name against her skin, and she froze. Don’t say anything else. Don’t stop touching me but let’s not talk. Let’s pretend for a minute.
As if he understood, he pressed his mouth against her neck and sucked gently at her pulse point at the same time as he found bare skin under her shirt. With a groan, he lifted her up and pressed her gently against a tree, notching one of his super awesome thighs between her legs and under her butt. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her legs around his waist, and tipped her head back, letting him feast on her skin. This was a terrible idea. She was definitely going to regret muddying these waters.
Two years and they hadn’t so much as touched hands. Now two embraces in one day. At this rate she was going to let him fuck her in a forest.
But he didn’t move his hands higher or lower. He stroked one thumb back and forth across the bottom of her rib cage, but the rest of him was perfectly restrained. Except for the part where she was wrapped around him and his mouth was wet and hot on her neck, this was just a hug.
A completely naughty, nipple-tightening hug.
And then he shifted his pelvis and she felt his erection beneath her, and it was most definitely not just a hug. They were ten seconds away from dry-humping. And she couldn’t wait.
Every Wednesday she worked a short shift, so she took the afternoon to head south. When they’d been together, she would have looked for his cruiser, that familiar black and white shape that made her so proud. And once they’d split, she’d look for it in a different way—a mix of longing and apprehension that filled her with sorrow. The Bruce Peninsula detachment had a lot of area to cover, so the chances of him randomly being in the same place as her were slim to none. Over time, she’d stopped looking.
So when someone tapped her on the shoulder as she stood in line for coffee, she thought maybe she’d dropped some money. Instead she got a face full of navy blue flak jacket. She tilted her head up and was rewarded with a slow grin that said Rafe remembered just how much she liked his uniform. She blushed. “Coffee break?”
He nodded, his gaze never leaving her face. Maybe he liked the way she’d pinked up. She liked remembering how she used to strip him out of the uniform when he wore it home. He cleared his throat and leaned in close. “But if you keep looking at me like that, I might need to forgo the coffee and drag you back to my cruiser so we can make out a little.”
God, that thought made her a little lightheaded. But it also made her laugh, which was a good thing. She chuckled and shook her head. “Oh, Rafe.”
He grinned wider still. “Yes, baby?”
“Nothing.” Nothing. She needed to remember that.
“I like it when you say my name like that.”
“I didn’t say it like anything.”
“Mmm, I disagree. I heard a breathy little catch there.” He dropped his gaze to her mouth. “And I liked it. A lot.”
He needed to stop before she did something stupid. She lowered her voice and tried to sound stern. “Rafe.”
He laughed. “Yeah, I like it like that, too.”
“I’m not moving for a while yet. Let’s revisit this conversation in a few months.” She reached for the beer bottle and their fingers brushed. A shiver danced up her arm at the rough slide of skin on skin, igniting way too much desire. A simple, accidental touch and she was squirming in her seat. Right after talking about moving on.
She gave him a pointed look through narrowed eyelids. “Don’t you dare offer me your shirt.”
He gave her an innocent who me look and she laughed. “What? You look cold!”
“Here’s how that plays out,” she said, tipping the last of the bottle back. She licked her lips, enjoying the last drops of his beer, then pointed her finger firmly in his direction. “You wrap it around me, taking the opportunity to be all close and big and strong. Show off your muscles. Then I’m actually surrounded by your yummy smell, and now you’re cold, so you stay close. Put an arm around me. All in the name of warmth, of course. And then all of a sudden, your hand is on my ass, your tongue is down my throat, and everyone is talking about Rafe and Olivia making out in the back of a truck at a bonfire.”
He stared at her for a minute, then bit his lower lip and nodded. “Right. K. Well, I’m gonna grab another beer.”
He hopped off the tailgate and unbuttoned his shirt. She gasped as he tossed it into her lap before he ambled over to the cooler.
Between the moon overhead and the orange glow of the bonfire, it was almost like he had a spotlight on him. And from her perch on the back of his truck she felt like she could watch him safely from the darkness. Without anyone else noticing her hunger for his broad shoulders and long legs. His strong arms and tight butt. Even with the warm flannel that she greedily wrapped around her body—and it did in fact smelly yummy—he still sent shivers down her spine. From thirty feet away. The man was dangerous.
He stopped to talk to a couple people on the way back, then handed her the beer before continuing to the cab of the truck. He returned wearing an OPP sweatshirt and she was absurdly disappointed that he’d gone and covered up most of the muscles she’d just complained he might show off to her.
He hopped back up next her, leaving a solid six inches between their thighs, and smirked as she stared at the blanket between them. “Miss me?”
Like you wouldn’t believe. “Nope.”
“Can I have a sip?” He nodded to the beer, and it dawned on her that he’d only brought one bottle back from the cooler. The first one had been shared…well, sort of by accident. But he could have brought two back and he didn’t.
The hoodie, the space…that was for her. The public show of Rafe and Olivia just being friends. But the single bottle of beer, passed back and forth? That was something else. She twisted the cap off and drank first, then quietly handed it over. He kept his eyes locked on hers as he tipped the bottle back, his lips where hers had just been.
When he handed it back again, she reached across her body and took it with her right hand. Leaving her left hand pressed on the itchy blanket between their bodies. He pressed the bottle into her grasp, then dropped his hand on top of hers.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Zoe York is a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. Her debut novel, What Once Was Perfect, started the popular Wardham series, and her first military romance, Fall Out, was released as part of the international bestselling SEALs of Summer super bundle.
She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform.