Just This Once (Last Frontier Lodge #3)(10)

By: J.H. Croix

Aidan stood by the windows, turning when she entered the living room. She held her phone up. “I forgot all about it.”

He shrugged. “Your parents around?”

She couldn’t help it, but she felt a tiny sense of relief her parents weren’t here. She was having enough trouble managing her feelings without her too-observant parents present. “They’re out running errands this afternoon and then they have a fundraiser tonight.”

He nodded. “Think they’ll be around tomorrow when I come by to pick you up?”

“They should be.”

“Good. Like to at least say hello whenever I’m around.”

“They’d like that.”

Becca knew Aidan’s parents were both gone. He was close to his sister and was considered family by hers. He often checked in on her parents when he was in Bellingham. Another thing she liked about him.

The room was quiet around them. She started to feel nervous. Aidan made her nervous all on his own, but after last night, she was worse off than usual. Meanwhile, her body had its own ideas. Liquid heat swirled in her center, and her pulse ran wild.

“It’s a little early, but I thought maybe we could get dinner.” Aidan’s voice was low. She felt the sound of it echo inside her body.

She looked up at him and scrambled to gather herself. One look at him left her dry mouthed and nearly quivering inside. She finally managed a nod. “Okay.”

He appeared to be about to say something else, but he stopped himself and nodded quickly. “I’m ready whenever you are then. Any preferences?”

“My mom says there’s a new pizza place downtown. I think it’s called B’s Pizza.”

“Sounds perfect.”


Aidan looked across the table at Becca. They’d found B’s Pizza just beyond downtown Bellingham in an old renovated factory. The owners had turned the industrial style building into a warm, colorful space with bright paintings and walls of windows replacing the old garage style doors. They’d wisely carpeted the floor, otherwise the space would have felt cavernous and noisy. Becca sat across from him, tracing her fingertip around the edge of her wineglass while they waited for their pizza to arrive.

He’d come up with a ramshackle plan on his drive over to her parents’ house. No matter what, he wasn’t going to try to talk about their kiss, or what he said last night. That was the extent of his plan. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk about it, but more that he knew Becca well enough to know there was a high likelihood her defenses would fly up if he gave them a chance. He was far from an expert on matters of the heart, but he had enough sense to know thinking it to death wouldn’t help. Becca loved to ponder and process. It was one of the characteristics he respected in her. She was a damn good lawyer, in large part because she took the time to know the facts and argue a good case. He just didn’t think now was the time to encourage her to ponder and process.

If he was being truthful, a corner of him worried she didn’t share his depth of feelings. He sensed there was a kernel of possibility inside of her, but he didn’t know, and he wasn’t ready to find out just yet. In that vein, he behaved as if nothing had happened last night. Though it was definitely out of the ordinary for him and Becca to be having dinner alone together. Oh, he’d spent many, many dinners with her, but they were always surrounded by family and friends.

Now, he had to find a way to keep it casual. Once they sat down, he found it surprisingly easy to talk with Becca. There was plenty of ground to cover between discussing her family and work. It was impossible to avoid the topic of her twin brother Garrett turning his life on its head.

“Seriously, I’m glad Garrett cut way back on the corporate bullshit, but I still can’t quite believe he’s living in Alaska now. I can’t believe how he is with Delia’s son. Before this, if I’d suggested to Garrett he might fall in love with a single mother, he’d have looked at me like I was psychotic. Not because he had a problem with single mothers, but because his life didn’t leave any room for anything.” Becca paused and took a swallow of wine, smiling softly. “I’m so happy for him though. He looks happier than he has in years. I never thought the whole corporate law thing was his gig, but he took it on like it was.”

Aidan considered the way Garrett looked when he last saw him. Aidan had seen him a few times when Garrett had been back to Seattle. Most memorable was when Aidan had encountered him at a restaurant with Delia, his new love. Garrett carried himself with an easiness Aidan had never seen. The tight lines bracketing his face were gone. When his eyes had landed on Delia, Aidan had felt like he was intruding—the look in Garrett’s eyes was so intimate. Aidan glanced across the table at Becca. His mind flashed to the feel of her lips under his. He forced his brain to the present and nodded. “When I saw him last month, can’t say I’ve ever seen him look so relaxed. Good for him is all I’ve got to say about it.”

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