Though it hurts, I force myself to read the email from my mother again. Have things between Elijah and Addison gone south so soon? Disappointment sinks in my belly. With a bemused head shake, I realize somewhere deep down I must have been rooting for them. Lord, I am the least devoted ex-fiancée on this planet. I really must work on that before going home.

For now, I can’t let my mother get to me. I do, however, need to make contact with Elijah. The note I left him at the church was pitiful and desperate—plus, I left it almost a month ago. He deserves to know where I am and that…I’m thinking about him.

But when I open the fresh email and type his address into the top bar, it’s not Elijah I’m thinking about. It’s Jason. Goosebumps crawl up my neck, as if he’s standing behind me, observing me as I email another man. He wouldn’t like it. At all. Guilt has my fingers going still on the keys—for two reasons. One, my whole body reacts to the mere thought of Jason, my nipples gathering into painful peaks, my thighs shifting around on the seat. Not the kind of state I should be in while contacting my ex-fiancé and thanking him for being patient. Two, after what Jason and I did in his bedroom…I do feel as if I’m being untrue to my complicated employer. And that’s terrifying.

Voices outside distract me from my thoughts. Men. One of them is Jason, but I don’t recognize the second. I push away from the kitchen table with a frown and move to the window, finding Jason opening the back door to his house, calling for Birdie. There’s something different about Jason and I’m so intent on figuring out what it is, I don’t realize the second man is staring up at me from the driveway. I recover with a jolt, sending him a tentative wave, which he returns while shaking his head and laughing.

Birdie comes out of the house in pajama pants and a hoodie, shaking hands with the second man. Altogether they move toward the stairs and I realize they’re coming here. To my place. “Oh shoot.” I hop back from the window with a squeak, throwing off my silky pink honeymoon robe, trading it for the blue maxi dress I wore today. A couple of pinches of my cheeks in the mirror and they’re already knocking. “Some notice would be nice,” I mutter, padding to the front door and pasting on a smile. “A simple phone call. Anything.”

“I don’t have your number,” Jason drones through the door.

I bury my face in my hands for a beat, then pull the door open. “Hello!” Without waiting for an invitation, Birdie sails past me and hops onto my kitchen counter, leaving Jason and the unknown man standing in the doorway. I extend my hand to him and he takes it, squeezing warmly. “Naomi Clemons. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Kyle Musgrave at your service.” He smiles charmingly, and I realize he’s quite handsome with his cleft chin and light, sun-scorched hair. The antithesis of Jason’s dark, could-be-man-or-could-be-bear appearance. “Sorry for the last-minute visit,” he says. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”

There’s no help for it. I have to send Jason a prim look. See? A proper greeting isn’t so hard. “Think nothing of it. Please come in.” I step back with sweep of my arm. “I gather you’re a friend of Mr. Bristow?”

He smirks at Jason, who sends him back an eye roll. “Mr. Bristow and I were in the service together. I showed up unannounced at the marina today and he’s been kind enough to put a stray dog up for the night.”

Jason’s frown is fixed on something and I have to turn in a circle to find out it’s my silk robe in a heap on the floor. Maintaining my smile, I scoop it up and toss it into my bedroom, closing the door behind it. Thinking about it out of place makes me antsy, though, so I slip into the bedroom, hang it on a peg and reemerge to Jason’s shaking head. What is it about him that’s tugging at my curiosity? After a moment, the smell of beer reaches me and I realize he’s been…out. Drinking in a bar. These two rugged warrior men have been out on the town. A vision of Jason surrounded by dancing women rises unbidden in my mind and I shake my head to loosen it. It’s none of my business where he’s been.

Yet the back of my neck remains tighter than a pickle jar.

“Can I offer you gentleman something to drink?” Telling myself it’s ridiculous to be miffed with Jason for enjoying his evening, I enter the small kitchen area and open the fridge. I hesitate a moment before sliding two bottles of Budweiser out of their sleeve in the cardboard six-pack holder. Jason’s gaze nearly burns a hole in my back, but I manage to snick open the bottles without fumbling the play. “Would you like a Coke, Birdie?”

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