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

By: J.H. Croix


“We’ll head up there right now. Are you on I-5 or Route 9?”

“Route 9. Look for my car.”

“Got it.”

The line clicked.

“You didn’t have to…” Becca started to say.

“We’re not leaving your car here.” Aidan glanced out the window as another car drove by, its headlights blurry in the rain. “The fastest tow company can’t get here sooner. This way, George will wait with your car and make sure everything’s taken care of. In the meantime, where were you headed?”

After Aidan retired as a Navy SEAL, he started his private security company in Seattle. The company quickly developed an excellent reputation. Becca encountered him and his employees frequently in her work as a prosecutor for the Seattle District Court. She hadn’t thought through what she was going to do about her car. Having Aidan step in and handle the situation rubbed against the annoyance she carried due to the simmering attraction she was doing her damnedest to ignore.

Warmth was starting to seep through her bones between the heat in his car and his sweatshirt. She took a breath and tried to gather her thoughts. Being this close to Aidan was discombobulating. She preferred to be somewhere she could take a step back and create enough distance between them, so her heart didn’t pound so hard and heat didn’t slide through her veins. To regain control, she latched onto her annoyance.

“You don’t have to step in and save the day, you know? I’m perfectly capable of calling a tow company and waiting for them to come. I appreciate you stopped, but…”

She paused for a breath, realizing her words were flying out of her mouth. She was flustered and disoriented. Between her unexpected roll into the ditch and Aidan’s appearance, she was off kilter in more ways than one.

Aidan appeared to be waiting. She glanced sideways to find his eyes on her, inscrutable in the dim light inside the car. After another long beat, he spoke. “Becca, I’m not trying to save the day. I didn’t do anything I wouldn’t do for a stranger. I saw your car in the ditch and stopped to see if I could help.” He gestured to the window. “It’s rainy and cold out and going on midnight. I can’t in good conscience just leave you here. I have no doubt you’d take care of yourself if I hadn’t happened along. Maybe you don’t feel the same way, but I consider you a friend. I’m not leaving you alone on the highway in this weather. Your brothers would never let me hear the end of it if I did.”

She knew what he said was true. He would stop to help anyone because that’s the kind of man he was. She just hated the fact she needed help and the one man who somehow got under her skin happened to be the man to stop and help. She glanced out the window. The pace of the rain had picked up, shifting from a heavy mist to something close to pouring rain. It felt like they were in a warm, dry island inside his car. The space compressed. Awareness prickled along her skin. Aidan was no more than a foot away from her. Darting her eyes sideways, they landed on his hand resting on the steering wheel—a strong, muscled and masculine hand.

When she brought her eyes to his, they coasted over her face—assessing, measuring. She could barely breathe and somehow had to get through the next twenty minutes until George arrived.

Aidan shifted in his seat, one of his hands falling to the console between them. “Have I done something to offend you?” he asked suddenly.

She could tell by his tone that he was genuinely curious. She shook her head. Because how could she explain that the only thing he’d done was to be the one man who made her forget her promise she’d never let a man get to her again? It wouldn’t be so bad if he were some random guy she encountered once in a blue moon. No, he had to go and be one of Gage’s best friends and a friend to her entire family. She couldn’t avoid him even if she tried.

“Well, then what is it? Every time I’m around you, you seem annoyed.”

Instead of dropping the topic, he kept going. Her body was a jumble of nerves, electricity emanating from him and coiling around her, setting her nerves alight and heat notching higher and higher.

“I’m not annoyed.” Maybe she could try to opposite approach. Say the opposite of everything she felt, and the feelings would go away.

He arched a brow, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Really?”

Annoyance arced higher. “No, I’m not! But I’m about to be.”

Aidan chuckled. Anger rose inside her, and she opened her mouth to tell him off when it occurred to her she was being ridiculous. She couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled in response. She turned to him and collided with his gaze. In a flash, the air around them hummed with heat. His smile faded. Becca could hardly breathe. She held still, her heart battering against her ribcage. Before she knew what happened, he leaned across the console, erasing the distance between them.

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