Just This Once (Last Frontier Lodge #3)(2)

By: J.H. Croix

She bit her lip and stayed quiet. Aidan’s embrace was strong and sure. She could feel his muscles flex against her body as he stepped carefully up the incline. Her pulse galloped and heat slid through her veins. Why, oh why, did this man have to affect her like this? She’d sworn off men after her fiancée had dumped her two days before their wedding. That had been three years ago. Since then, she’d had no trouble completely ignoring men. Except for Aidan. He had this unerring ability to make her flushed and flustered simply by existing.

He reached the road and carefully eased her down. His black sedan was pulled to the side of the road, its lights illuminating them. She glanced up. Of course, Aidan had come to her aid without bothering to put a jacket on. His button-down shirt was clinging to his muscled chest and arms. His black hair was damp from the rain. His blue eyes were bright in the small circle of light cast around them. His strong features were shadowed. His blade of a nose crooked the tiniest bit in one spot. She’d always wanted to ask how he broke it, but she never had. With his career as a Navy SEAL, she surmised he’d had many brushes with injury.

He gestured to her car. “Need me to get anything for you?”

“Oh, um. I can get my stuff. Let me…” She started to turn and walk back into the ditch when she felt his hand curl around her arm.

His grip was strong and implacable. “I’ll get it. You seem to have gotten out of this without getting hurt, but I’m not letting you go back down there. Where’s your stuff?”

“Oh my God! Don’t be all tough with me. I’m fine. I can…”

“Becca,” Aidan said, his tone low with warning. “Gage will let me have it if I let you climb back down there and you somehow get hurt. We don’t know if your car’s stable where it is, and it’s a mud pit. Just tell me what I need to find.”

She wanted to argue, but she bit it back. She was cold, tired and wet. The shock of getting bounced into a ditch by another car was starting to set in. Shivers raced through her and she felt slightly dazed. She struggled to gather herself and think clearly, annoyed at how out of it she felt. Too tired to wrestle with herself, she took a deep breath and managed to nod. “Okay. My purse fell on the floor in the front. My bag should be in the backseat.”

Aidan nodded and turned away quickly. She waited by the side of the road. She heard him moving around, but she couldn’t see much in the dark. Her car engine and lights were turned off before she heard a door slam, and he climbed back up to her side. Her purse and small overnight bag were hanging from his shoulder. She followed him to his car. Somehow, he beat her to the passenger side and held the door for her. Once she was seated, he handed her purse over and put her bag in the backseat.

His car was warm. She held her hands in front of the heater and rubbed them together. Of course, he drove a luxury sedan. She had no idea what kind of car it was, but the seats were soft, supple leather, and the engine hummed so quietly she could barely hear it. When Aidan climbed inside, he looked over at her.

“What happened?” he asked.

“A car came around the corner in my lane. I swerved to avoid them, and they bumped me on the way. Next thing I knew, I was in the ditch.” She hugged her arms around her waist, her teeth chattering slightly from the cold.

He reached behind her and pulled something forward. “Here, put this on. You got pretty wet.” He handed her a sweatshirt.

Without thinking, she pulled it over her head, sighing once it fell around her. It held a subtle woodsy scent. The sweatshirt nearly swallowed her whole, but she tugged it close, savoring the warmth. She could hardly let herself think it, but she loved that it held his scent.

“Thanks. I didn’t realize how cold I was.”

Aidan nodded, his eyes still on her. “Should I take you to the hospital to get checked out?”

She shook her head quickly. “No! I’m fine. My shoulder jammed against the door when my car rolled in the ditch, but I’m fine. I do not need to go to the hospital.”

He was quiet for a long moment before he nodded. “Okay. Let me make a call to get your car towed.”

Before she could say anything, he tapped a button on the screen in the center of his dashboard.

“Hey, boss. What can we do for you?” A man’s voice came through the car speakers clearly.

“Hey, George. I need you guys to arrange for a towing company to come get Becca Hamilton’s car out of a ditch. It’s about twenty minutes north from our office. I’ll wait with her until you guys get here, then you can take it from there.” Aidan owned a private security company and had an entire crew he could call upon at any hour. Becca figured George must be one of his employees.

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