Just This Once (Last Frontier Lodge #3)(7)

By: J.H. Croix


“Say that again, Mom. My brain hasn’t had enough coffee yet.” True, but not why she was distracted. She took another gulp of coffee and topped it off before walking to the small round table by the windows and sitting down.

Jill followed and sat across from her. “I was just asking where your car was now.”

“Oh, right. Aidan arranged for two of his crew to wait with it until the tow company got there. You know Aidan, he probably had it sent to the most swank towing company lot in Seattle. As if there could be such a thing.” She rolled her eyes and glanced out the window.

“Now, honey. Don’t give Aidan a hard time for helping you. He’s a good man.”

Becca idly twirled a lock of her damp hair around her finger. “I know. I was teasing. He’s another Gage—always there to save the day.”

Jill frowned. “And what’s wrong with that?”

Becca couldn’t seem to eliminate her slightly snide tone. She didn’t really mean it, but Aidan set her off. Their kiss last night had only exacerbated the feeling. She certainly didn’t want to try to explain that to her mother. She bought a moment by taking a slow sip of coffee before she met her mother’s soft gray eyes.

“Nothing’s wrong with saving the day. You know me, sometimes I tease too much.”

Her mother held her gaze, her eyes a tad too knowing for Becca’s comfort. “Maybe so, but you hate asking for help more than anyone I know, so I’m sure it rankles when you need it. It wouldn’t hurt you to be forced to ask for help a bit more. Maybe you’d get over yourself then.”

Becca tried to beat back the defensive feeling that arose inside. She wanted to stomp her feet and deny her mother’s point. However, it was so apt, she knew she’d sound ridiculous if she argued. She hadn’t always been this bad about it. She and her twin brother Garrett occupied the middle tier of siblings in their family. Gage was the oldest, her and Garrett next, then Sawyer, and last came her only sister, Jessa. Being jostled in the middle and surrounded with three brothers, Becca had fought to be as strong and as tough as her brothers. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she’d always wanted to be strong, to show the world she could take care of herself. Yet, she hadn’t been antagonistic to the concept of relying on someone. She’d taken a spin on trying to let down her guard, which had ended in the spectacular and mortifying end of her engagement when she caught her fiancée with his pants around his ankles in the bathroom and another woman’s mouth wrapped around his cock. The woman in question, Lynne Green, had allegedly been Becca’s friend and was supposed to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. The bitter irony of how cliché it all was still rankled at her.

Even worse, Kyle—she could barely stand to think his name—had pulled himself together faster than she had in the moment and technically broken up with her before she managed to form a word in her brain. He’d gone on to report to their many shared friends and acquaintances his toned down version of events, which included the face-saving detail that he had broken up with her. She was too embarrassed to tell many people the sordid truth, but a few close friends knew. To her knowledge, her mother didn’t know the worst of it. She only knew Kyle had broken up with Becca two days before the wedding and he’d gone on to date her friend.

To say Becca didn’t enjoy the idea of allowing herself to be vulnerable, which meant asking for help sometimes, was an understatement after that. Traversing this mental trail of events, Becca smiled ruefully at her mother. “Maybe so. At least I let Aidan drive me up here last night after he made the arrangements for my car. That’s big for me, you know?”





***

“Easy, Oscar,” Aidan warned when his sister’s dog barreled toward him.

Oscar incrementally slowed his gait, but he still crashed into Aidan’s knees. Aidan leaned down and ran his hand through Oscar’s thick fur.

“He can’t help himself,” Ellie remarked from across the room. “He loves you to pieces.” Ellie tucked her almost-black hair behind her ears as she looked over at Aidan, her hazel eyes glinted with amusement.

Aidan plunked down on the couch and patted it. Oscar had free rein in Ellie’s house, including to the couch. Oscar leapt up beside Aidan and immediately curled up and rested his head against Aidan’s leg. Oscar was Ellie’s latest foster dog. She cared for dogs one a time until the local rescue organization found permanent homes for them. Oscar had been with her for months now. Large and black, he was a mixed breed dog who looked mostly Labrador retriever. According to Ellie, even the friendliest black dogs were harder to adopt out.

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