Just This Once (Last Frontier Lodge #3)(5)

By: J.H. Croix

After several long moments of silence, Becca’s mouth had curled into a smile. “You must be Aidan,” she’d said. All he’d been able to do was nod. Somehow, he’d regained the ability to speak and carried on a semi-normal conversation with her, all the while reminding himself he couldn’t try to make a play for Gage’s little sister. Not to mention, he wasn’t interested in making a play in a casual way. He’d looked at her—at the gorgeous fall of brown hair, her sharp blue eyes behind her cat-shaped glasses, and her full pink mouth—and he’d wanted to lift her in his arms and carry her away to be with him forever. But he couldn’t do that because he was home between missions. He was already scheduled to leave with his team in a few short days on another classified mission. In the intervening years, she’d gotten engaged and dumped by her fiancée. He’d learned that bitter news from Gage on the mission when their friend Matt had died.

Aidan had known for years Becca was the one and only woman for him. Yet, time and opportunity had boxed him in. Beyond the lightning bolt of attraction he felt for her, she called to him on so many levels. She was brilliant, strong and independent. She was also a protective, loving sister. Due to his friendship with Gage, Aidan was close to their whole family and watched her time and again be there for her family whenever anyone needed her. The hardest part had been watching the walls come up around her after her engagement fell apart. Before that, he’d resigned himself to the fact he’d have to let her go since she appeared to love someone else. After that, he’d yet to sort out a way to approach her. To say she was unapproachable was an understatement.

On top of everything else, there was the complicating factor that she was Gage’s sister. In the beginning, his life as a Navy SEAL kept him away so much that romance hadn’t been a priority. He’d been able to put his feelings for Becca on the back burner. He figured if he ever had a shot with her, then he’d figure out what to do about how Gage might feel about it. Gage was one of his closest friends, and while he wasn’t irrational, he was a protective older brother. Until tonight, Aidan had figured he simply might never have to worry about how to navigate the problem with Gage.

Ten long years after his heart nearly stopped when he first saw Becca, Aidan finally kissed her. Instead of it being planned and carried out meticulously, he’d impulsively kissed her in his car on the side of the road. His heart pounding, he gathered himself and looked at her.

“I won’t forget it, and neither will you. Stop pretending.” Her eyes swung to his, wide. “I didn’t plan it this way, but I’ve wanted to kiss you for too damn long, and don’t pretend you didn’t want it too. I’m going to get out and make sure those guys don’t need anything from me. Then, I’m taking you wherever you need to go. We can talk on the way. Or not. But for God’s sake, don’t act like this was nothing. Because it damn well wasn’t and you know it.”

Becca stared at him and chewed her lip. He thought his heart might pound its way out of his chest, but he forced himself to breathe. He was afraid he’d played his cards too fast, but he’d kept his feelings under wraps for so long, his restraint was weak. When she finally nodded slowly, he let his breath go.

He climbed out into the rain, which soaked him instantly. After checking in with George and Dale and confirming the towing company was on the way, he climbed back in his sedan. Becca turned to him.

“You’re soaked! I don’t imagine you have a towel in here, huh?”

“Actually, I do.” He reached into the back and curled his hand around the handle of a black case, which held first aid and other supplies. A small, highly absorbent towel was tucked in the corner. He whipped it out and dried his face and hair.

Becca started laughing. “Only you would have a case like that. Or maybe Gage,” she said as she rolled her eyes.

“Gage definitely has one. Carryover from our military days.” He tossed the towel into the back seat and eyed her. “Okay, I don’t think we ever got to the part about where you were headed.”

“You can just take me back to Seattle.” Her shoulders hunched on a sigh.

“I’ll take you wherever you need. I know you weren’t driving home at midnight.”

“I was on my way to Bellingham to see my parents. I was supposed to go last weekend, but it got too late, so I promised I’d be there this weekend. Now it’s past midnight, it’s pouring and if you take me, I don’t know how I’ll get back home.”

Aidan shrugged. “We’re headed the same place. Did you forget Ellie lives in Bellingham?” Ellie was his younger sister.

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