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The deep rattling cough woke her from a restless sleep. This cold was kicking her ass, but even though all she wanted to do was burrow under the covers, she was out of tissues, and the dog needed to go outside.
Glancing out her window, the weather had worsened. She almost would have been content putting out a pad for Gertie to go inside, but her tissues and cough medicine were in the back seat of her car. She had to go out regardless.
“Come on, Gertie, time to pee.”
With a whimper and a moan from her spot at the other end of the couch, her little rescue buried her face in the corner. Gertie was no dummy.
“Look, if I have to go out, so do you. Your bladder is the size of a thimble, and it’s going to get even worse later.”
The dog sighed—sighed her annoyance at Jordan. A dog with an attitude. Didn’t it figure? Gertie practically rolled off the plush cushion and settled on her back on the blue patterned rug. Her short little legs were straight up in the air, feigning death.
Jordan felt pretty dead herself, but they still had to go outside.
The wind howled, and all the windows in the cottage shook like it was going to lift up and fly away. Gust after gust provided a not-so-subtle reminder that the nor’easter currently blowing across Long Island was going to make all their lives miserable. This storm was brutal. It had been wreaking havoc for the last twelve hours and based on the latest weather report it had slowed down to a crawl, meaning it was going to stick around for a while.
Grabbing the dog’s leash, Jordan gently nudged the little furry blob on the floor. Nothing. She didn’t budge. “Gertie! Come on!”
Ninety-nine percent of the time, she loved the little mutt. This moment definitely fell into the one percent.
After she broke her engagement, Jordan had the sudden urge to have a pet. A lot of people told her it would pass, but she knew that wasn’t the case. Jordan needed unconditional love in her home, so she kept her eyes open for the right opportunity. She couldn’t handle a puppy or a kitten, so when she wandered around a rescue fair one Sunday this past September, she found herself completely enamored with Gertie. A stubby-legged little mutt, Gertie was a tube of golden fur with a pointy snout and big, soulful brown eyes. She was about five years old, and her owner had just died, leaving the little dog all alone.
Jordan felt a kinship with the pooch, and took her home that day.
Lina Rinaldi, who usually frowned on her cottage tenants having pets, took to the dog right away, and Gertie loved the older woman right back.
As Jordan stared at the lump still upside down on the floor, she was about ready to offer Mrs. Rinaldi full custody. Then a deep, rasping cough shook Jordan to the core. It racked her body violently, and pain shot around her chest. God, she felt awful.
“Come on,” she said firmly to the pooch. “We’ll skip the leash this time. Out and in. Let’s get this over with.”
Gertie rolled over and trotted to the front door, giving Jordan the side eye as she waited. Donning her parka and a pair of lined wellies that she pulled over her pajama pants, Jordan grabbed the remote and unlocked her car. When she opened the front door, she was hit by a blast of wind, rain, and sleet that stung her cheeks and chilled her to the bone. “Lord, it’s miserable.” Looking down at Gertie, she nodded. “Okay, let’s make this quick.”
The two of them bolted outside, with Gertie heading for her favorite patch of grass and Jordan heading for her car. She stopped when she coughed so hard she could barely breathe. It hurt. She’d never had a chest cold that hurt so much. Finally, yanking open the door, she heard her pooch barking from the small covered porch. Jordan grabbed the bag that was filled with some basic food provisions, juice, tea, tissues, and a selection of over-the-counter cold remedies. She slammed the car door shut, and on her way back inside she noticed the whitecaps on Jennings Bay. The wind was forcing massive amounts of water into the coves and harbors around town, and she hoped it didn’t breach the seawall surrounding the property. Jordan’s cottage was closer to Cove Road, but the Rinaldis’ big house was at risk.
Without any further delay, Jordan made it back to the porch, feeling chilled and soaked to the bone despite all the foul weather gear she’d put on. Gertie was barking frantically, having positioned herself under the old wooden swing, and Jordan was starting to lose her patience.
“Gertie, what the hell is the problem?”
That’s when she heard the groan and crack. Jordan looked up just as a large section of an old oak tree, about fifty feet from the house, gave way. Throwing her body against the wall to avoid any debris, Jordan watched as the massive tree split in half and came crashing down, crushing her car in the process.
If she had waited ten more seconds to head outside, Jordan would have been killed.
Frozen in place for—she didn’t know how long—Jordan startled when a large, strong arm wrapped around her.
She looked away from the wreckage in the front yard and into the gorgeous face of Nick Rinaldi.
“Damn. Are you alright?”
Was she? She wasn’t sure. Jordan tried to answer, but she had trouble catching her breath. Sucking in air, he kept her steady when they walked into the house.
Waiting for the dog before he closed the door, Nick sat her on the bench in the entryway. Glancing in the canvas tote from the market, his brow furrowed.
“You’re sick? What’s wrong?”
With a low rattling cough that had him pressing the back of his hand to her forehead, she muttered, “Chest cold.”
Shaking his head, he helped her off with her boots and jacket. “Let’s get you settled in bed, and I’ll go get my bag. You’ve got a lot more than a chest cold.”
“We can’t do anything about your car until the storm passes, so put it out of your head. It’s the last thing you need to worry about.”
“Are you kidding? Not worry about it?” How was she supposed to get to work or see her dad? How was she supposed to do anything if she didn’t have a car? The pain in her chest wasn’t just from her cough at that moment, but at the wave of dread—helplessness—that rushed through her.
“One thing at a time.” Nick, a former Navy doctor, was single-minded. And as much as Jordan didn’t want to admit it, he was right. In this weather, there was nothing she could do.
“Come on,” he said. “Lead the way.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said, stopping in her tracks. Those few words taxed her already strained system. She coughed painfully into her arm while Nick guided her into her room. The coughing spell was so violent, ripping at her tender lungs, she couldn’t even object as he tucked her into bed.
Sick as she was, Jordan wasn’t blind. Nick Rinaldi had been on her radar since he landed back in Compass Cove the previous fall. The guy was gorgeous, smart, and a gentleman to the core. But he’d settled back in with his grandparents almost six months ago, and other than a token hello, or a polite smile, he rarely spoke to her.
Still, with his lean frame, dark hair, and kind eyes, he checked a lot of boxes.
She thought she heard him mutter something about being stubborn, but her lack of breath didn’t allow a response. If anyone was stubborn, he was. The man of mystery was a well-known do-gooder, and obviously she was his next project. There was only one problem with that. She didn’t want his help. Needing people was a slippery slope, and Jordan had no intention of heading down that way again.
Cold, his ass. The girl had full blown bronchitis, if not pneumonia. The cough he heard wrack her body could crack a rib. He had no idea why she hadn’t seen a doctor.
Because she was stubborn. That’s why.
Nick didn’t know Jordan well, just what he’d picked up about her from his grandparents and some mutual friends. There was a common theme though. They all said she was tough. Resilient.
So, while he expected she was going to be a pain in the ass as a patient, he admired her strength of will. It would help her recover.
Nona was standing at the back door with a towel for him as soon as he entered the house. “Is she okay? That poor thing. Tell her we’ll replace the car. She shouldn’t worry about anything.”
“I told you we should cut down that tree.” His grandfather, still strong as an ox at eighty-two years old, sat at the kitchen table, ready to spout more I-told-you-so’s.
“That’s doesn’t matter. The tree coming down may have been her lucky day because it got me over there.” Nick took the towel his grandmother handed to him. He was soaked from the short walk across the yard. “She’s pretty sick. I’m going to get my bag and head back.”
“Sick? What’s wrong?” Nona was wringing her hands, and when she reached in her pocket, Nick thought she might break out her rosary. Whenever someone was sick, Lina hit the beads.
“Best case scenario, she has bad bronchitis. Worst case, she has pneumonia.”
“Oh, no. Poor Jordan. She told me she had a cold.”
“She told me the same thing.”
“I made soup. Let me get some food together.” Not knowing what else to do, his grandmother launched into what she did best, feeding people. In her mind, there was nothing a good meal couldn’t fix.
Nick, however, knew better. If his hunch was right, Jordan was going to need more than soup. Heading upstairs, he went to his room on the far side of the large farmhouse and grabbed his medical pack from the bottom of the closet. He’d done some local outreach when he was based at the hospital in Kandahar, going into the small villages, and manning poorly staffed clinics. Those treks to help people who had so little was some of the most rewarding work he’d done when he was in country, and it had given Nick some of his best memories. And some of his worst. That’s what he’d been doing when he was shot.
Going through a mental checklist, like he always did, he wondered if that was all he needed.
Finally, after some quick deliberation, Nick stuffed a change of clothes in a backpack, along with his tablet and a charging block. There was no way he was leaving a sick woman alone during a storm, so if that meant he had to camp out on her couch, so be it.
Nick drew a breath and looked at himself in the mirror above his bureau. This was what he was meant to do, and he had to get cleared so he could start working again.
Heading back to the kitchen, Nona had gathered provisions in a small cooler. That was his grandmother. Strong, decisive, and very good at taking care of people; nothing much spooked her. She’d lived in Compass Cove her whole life, having been born there after her family came to the town from their apartment in Little Italy. Nona’s father was a baker, and bought the family a small house on the corner of Cove and Compass just a few blocks from the heart of the village. With money he’d been saving for years, he opened his Italian bakeshop in the heart of town.
The cottage Jordan lived in was the house where Nona grew up. Five rooms and a bathroom, he couldn’t imagine raising three kids there, but they did. Happily.
Quickly gaining a reputation for the best pastries, bread, and espresso on the North Shore, Lina learned to bake at her grandfather’s side. When she married Angelo Rinaldi, they turned the little bakeshop into much more.
Pops was a force of nature. His family had come to Compass Cove from the coal mining region of Pennsylvania, settling there around the same time as Nona’s. The two of them had known each other since they first went to Saint Ann’s Catholic School. They married at eighteen, had three sons, and built a successful business that served the town well. Above all, they loved each other.
“You two will be okay here on your own?” Nick was leaving his elderly grandparents to take care of Jordan.
“We’ve been in worse storms than this, Nicky. If the power goes out, the generator kicks on automatically.” His grandfather was constantly yearning for the old days, but the man had added every modern convenience to his home.
“Right. Okay. I’ll check in later.” Throwing the cooler over his free shoulder, Nick kissed his grandmother on the cheek, patted his grandfather on the shoulder and headed out in the deluge to get back to Jordan’s.
As soon as he stepped outside, a strong gust forced him to turn into the wind to keep his balance, all while buckets of rain pelted him in the face. God, the weather was foul. Before his injury, he’d been in the Navy for over ten years and he’d seen his share of bad storms while on base and at sea. This nor’easter was one of the worst.
He entered the cottage through the front door, but before going in he took a good look at Jordan’s car. A large piece of the tree had broken off and slammed down on the roof, cutting the small SUV almost in two.
The scary part was that the limb extended well past the car on each side. If Jordan had been any closer than she was, it would have killed her.
Jesus Christ, the woman was lucky.
He expected that little dog of hers would be barking up a storm as soon as he walked in, but the place was quiet. Making his way through the house, he glanced at the framed photos dotting the living room, before dropping the cooler in the kitchen.
Ever since he’d laid eyes on her, Nick had been intrigued by the leggy blonde. She was beautiful, no denying that, but there was something about her—a deep, quiet dignity that was a powerful attractor. He’d seen her around town with friends singing bad karaoke at the pub, sipping tea with his grandma at the café, and heading into the Maritime Museum with a bunch of kids he later found out were her students. Something in her eyes, her smile—it caught him right in the gut. The woman was all heart.
When he reached her bedroom, the dog was laying with her head on Jordan’s legs. The pup’s eyes were locked on Nick, and based on her posture, there was a good chance he was going to get bitten if he wasn’t careful.
Stepping closer, he heard a small growl come from the dog’s throat. It was barely there, but he wasn’t taking any chances.
“Jordan?” If she was awake, maybe the dog wouldn’t pounce. “Jordan, how are you feeling?”
“Crappy.” Her voice was low and hoarse. She opened her eyes and it was evident how sick she was. Rolling on her back and pushing herself up, the hacking began immediately. This time, it was bad. Endless, deep. Her dog inched up next to her, ears pinned back and worried, and Nick couldn’t blame her. He was worried too.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, his pack on the floor, he held her steady as she tried to catch her breath.
Finally, when she stopped, Nick picked up her arm, gently gripping her wrist so he could take her pulse. Jordan yanked it back like his fingers were on fire.
“What are you doing?” she snapped.
He stood, realizing he’d overstepped. Knowing all too well what it was like to deal with skittish patients, Nick backtracked. “I’m sorry. I have to examine you. Mind if I continue?”
It took a second, but finally she nodded while extending her arm toward him. Her pulse was strong, but rapid. Reaching down, he pulled out his stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and the small portable ultrasound, just in case he needed to confirm his diagnosis.
“My back hurts.”
“I bet. The strain on your lungs and your rib cage is pretty intense.”
“Yep.” Her blood pressure checked in as normal. “I’m going to listen to your heart and lungs, okay?” Placing the stethoscope in his ears, he pressed it first to her chest. Her heart was beating rapidly, but that was to be expected after what she’d just gone through. Then he shifted her slightly and placed the diaphragm on her back, where he could hear the rattles deep in her chest. When she coughed, he got the answer he was looking for. The episode went on for a good thirty seconds, with her gasping for breath when it was over. “Yeah. You don’t have a chest cold; you have pneumonia. Tell me how this all started.”
“Pneumonia? Um… I came down with a cold last week. I thought it was going away, but a couple of days ago the cough came back. It’s been getting worse since.”
“March is pneumonia season around here, and you have a classic case. Let’s get a little food in your stomach, and then I can give you an antibiotic. Are you allergic to anything?”
“No, nothing,” she murmured. “This really sucks.”
“Yes, but fortunately you know a doctor who makes house calls.” He smiled as he fished a vacuum sealed package of pills from his pack, and put them in a tray on her night table.
“Oh. Ah.” She paused. “Do we know each other?”
Her blunt response threw him, even if she had a point. Saying they knew each other was a bit of a stretch. Over the past six months they’d barely interacted, which was a shame, really. “That’s true. But I come with good references. My grandmother thinks I’m a good guy.”
Even feeling as bad as she did, Jordan had to smile. “I guess I can trust you then. What’s in that little plastic package?”
“Really good antibiotics.” He tilted his head toward the tray on her nightstand. “They should help. Oh, and my grandfather said not to worry about your car. They’ll take care of it.”
“Oh. That’s… I’m sure insurance will help.”
“Maybe, maybe not. They’re not going to let you go without wheels.”
A shiver pushed through her, and Nick watched as she burrowed under the plush quilt. Putting his hand on her forehead, he could feel the warmth from her skin. “Do you have a thermometer?”
“A meat thermometer.” She smiled weakly.
“Very funny. You’re not exactly what I would call meat.” As soon as he said it he clamped his mouth shut, hoping she was too sick to pick up on the double meaning.
Her mouth twitched at the corner. “That’s good to know.”
“Right,” he mumbled. “I’ll see if I still have a thermometer strip in my pack, but you definitely have a fever.”
“Have you taken any medication recently?”
“Ibuprofen this morning.”
“Are you hungry? Nona sent over some soup.”
“I’ll take that as a good sign.” Nick ran through a mental checklist. It felt good to have purpose. To feel like he could do some good. “I’ll get you all dosed after you eat. Let me get that soup.”
“You don’t have to wait on me, Nick. I mean, you barely know me.”
“So? I’m a doctor. This is what we do.”
“Fixing a bowl of soup? Aren’t you a combat doctor or something like that?” Her voice was scratchy from coughing, the register low. That’s when it occurred to him, he’d never really heard Jordan speak. Other than a word here and there, he had no idea what she sounded like.
“I’m board certified in emergency medicine and pediatrics,” he replied. “But you seem to be forgetting something… I’m still a Rinaldi. Feeding people is what we do.”
“Cute. What kind of soup did Lina make?”
“You have a choice: Italian wedding or chicken.”
“Oh, wedding soup. I love that.” There was a flicker in her eyes that he hadn’t seen since he’d gotten her off the front porch.
“No. I can get it.” Just as she was about to get out of bed, Nick gently held her shoulders and eased her back into the pillows. Seeing her pressed into the softness, her blue eyes gazing up at him, Nick’s protective nature surged.
“Stay put. I’ll get it for you.”
“You don’t have to.” She tossed the covers back the second he let go, but as soon as she was on her feet, Jordan swayed, grabbing Nick’s shoulder, and lowering herself back to bed. “Whoa.”
“Yeah, I don’t need you fainting. Stay in bed.” He pointed his finger at her, and she gave up, pulling the covers back to her chin. “Don’t move.”
Making her best effort to smile at him, Jordan nodded. “Thank you.”
Nick considered that progress.
Once she’d had some soup, and all her medicine, Jordan watched a little TV and then she was out. Still running a fever, she’d been asleep for two hours, not noticing that the wind was like a runaway train careening over the house. Nick was on the couch in the living room, surfing through social media and hoping the power stayed on as he listened to sleet pelt the windows. It was getting cold, and the last thing they needed was to lose the heat.
She’d been restless—coughing and tossing in her bed. Whenever he checked on her, she was in a different position: sometimes uncovered, sometimes with the covers pulled up to her chin. Her fever hadn’t budged, and that had him worried.
Without any warning, the dog, who’d been staying on Jordan’s bed, had planted her butt on the floor at his feet and was staring at him with those big, buggy brown eyes.
Gertie? Was that the little mutt’s name?
Earlier, he’d found some kibble and fed her, and after, he managed to get her outside to do her business. It wasn’t that long ago, so he couldn’t imagine what was going on. The dog was not a fan of the storm, and Nick didn’t think she wanted to go out. “What’s the matter, pooch?”
She whined, and looked toward the bedroom, and Nick heard a crash. He was up and in there so fast he almost ran face first into a door. Jordan was on the floor, attempting to pick up a pile of stuff she’d obviously knocked off the night table. He dropped to his knees where he could see how upset she was.
And how out of it.
Laying a hand over hers, she looked up into his face. Her eyes were watery and her breathing was coming in little hiccups. Tough Jordan was crying. “I was reaching for my phone, and I knocked it all over.”
“Not the end of the world.”
“Shit. It’s such a mess. I’m sorry. I…”
“Stop. It was an accident. Get back in bed.”
Jordan was frozen in place, her hand shaking, her body tense. Going against all his better judgment, Nick gently pulled her to her feet, lifted her into his arms and walked with her to the sofa.
“What are you doing? You don’t need to carry me.”
He chuckled. “Not really.”
He wanted to tell her that she was a hell of a lot lighter than the marine he had to carry from just outside the hospital compound to the ER. Compared to that giant, Jordan was a feather.
To be honest, he liked the feel of her. She was long and lean, but soft in all the right places.
He deposited her on the blue-green overstuffed sofa and covered her with the knitted throw she’d left on the back of the matching armchair. The dog hopped up and snuggled in next to her.
Through it all, she hadn’t said a thing. She just kept her head down, sniffling. Under normal circumstances, he would have brushed off her upset, and chalked it up to fatigue. Instead, he tried to think about what she was going through. Between being sick, her car, and having someone who was almost a complete stranger taking control of your life, Jordan was certainly entitled to feel sorry for herself.
The problem was, he had no idea what to do with a crying woman.
“It’s going to be okay. You’re a little disoriented. Stay here, I’m going to go clean up.”
“I’m sorry… I thought I heard my phone and then everything crashed.”
“It’s water; nothing to worry about. I’ll be right back.”
He grabbed a roll of paper towels from the kitchen before heading back to her bedroom. Whatever had been on her night table was on the floor. She’d knocked over the whole lot, except the lamp, and fortunately, her water was almost empty, so there wasn’t much to do except pick up all her crap. Lip balm, tissues, and at least a half a dozen books, ranging from really dirty romances to self-help books with titles like Going It Alone. Talk about a contradiction in terms.
When he’d lifted her into his arms, he could feel she was still feverish, and if that didn’t start coming down in a day or so, he’d get her to the urgent care for a chest X-ray and some stronger meds. But for now, he was satisfied that what he was doing would get her over the hump.
Still, Nick was seriously considering taking her over to Nona’s house. It was larger, he wouldn’t have to worry about losing power… he just felt he could take better care of her there. He also knew she wouldn’t budge, and if he had to admit it, he’d have put up a fight if he were in her shoes. The past few hours had confirmed what he suspected… the woman had a hard head. And even thought she was a pain in the ass, her strong will was one of the things he found most attractive. She knew her own mind.
He liked that about her.
Well, that and her legs. Her legs went on for miles.
Cleanup was quick, and he wasn’t surprised that she was a little out of it. Doped up on decongestants and cough syrup, and not sleeping well, Nick wasn’t sure if her fever was making Jordan’s brain cloudy, fatigue had exhausted her, or if she was in a little bit of shock from the tree falling so close to her house.
Whatever it was, this day had been shit for her from start to finish, and Nick had put himself smack in the middle of it. When he went back into the living room, Jordan was sitting with a box of tissues in her lap, petting her dog. Gertie barked as soon as he came into view. “Gertie, shh. Nick’s trying to help.” She looked up at him and shrugged. “She gets protective sometimes. I’m sorry she’s being so fresh.”
“She’s just watching out for you.” Parking himself in the armchair adjacent to the couch, Nick took her in. Even sick, she was probably the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life. And he’d seen plenty. It wasn’t just the long legs, the blond hair, or the electric-blue eyes, there was something in the way she carried herself. Even on her worst day, when Nick could see she’d taken a bit of a beating, there was the dignity that came shining through. For people who lived barely a hundred and fifty feet apart, he and Jordan were in oddly unfamiliar territory. They both knew things about each other because they traveled in the same circles, even though they didn’t interact. A nod, a wave, a quick hello was all they’d exchanged when he’d been around the previous summer. She was still licking her wounds from her broken engagement, so he kept his distance.
Then, in September, he had his final surgery.
Recovery was a bitch and a half, but he’d still managed to make a few trips east for a change of scenery. His surgeon was based in San Diego, and rehab took months. But for the first time in over a year, Nick felt like he might be getting his life back.
The next step was to be cleared to work.
His hip was much better. The torn muscle was taking a little longer to heal, which annoyed the crap out of him, but he wasn’t in bad shape. It was the mental toll of the injury that brought him to a personal reckoning. Hard as it was to admit it, Nick wasn’t ready to go back into a trauma center. It ate at him, but he wasn’t going to put a patient at risk while he was still wrestling with his demons.
He could still work with kids, though. It wasn’t the pace he was used to, but it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. Maybe some regular hours with patients who weren’t going to die on him was just what he needed.
For now, he was going to focus on his one patient, who had finally calmed down.
“Do you need anything? Some tea?”
“No, I’m fine. I’ve been drinking water, like you said. I think I could float away.”
“The fluids are good for you.”
“Right.” She nodded. “You said that.”
Silence dropped between them, awkward and thick. There was only so much small talk he could handle.
Nick wondered when he lost his game. Usually, he could talk to a woman about anything. With Jordan, he was tongue-tied. That was another good reason to move to the big house. With Nona around, neither one of them would need to utter a word. She’d talk enough for both of them.
Keeping his ear out for any changes in her breathing, they sat together quietly. Nick hated the way the weather messed with his muscles and joints. Reaching down, he grabbed the heating pad he’d brought with him, and put it between the arm of the chair and his thigh.
“How is your hip?”
She spoke so quietly, he could barely hear her. Normally, he didn’t talk about his injury. But the concern in her eyes compelled him to answer. “It’s been a long recovery. Hard. My hip joint is in good shape, though. I worried about having a full replacement, but it was the right thing to do. Now it’s just the connective tissue that has to heal. That’s going to take time.”
“You’ve been through a lot.”
“Not as much as some, more than others. I’m not used to depending on people.”
“I get that,” Jordan replied. “I don’t want to need anybody. Needing someone nearly destroyed my life.”
There was something so sad about her declaration; about the way she’d thrown down a gauntlet against her own life.
“I was wondering,” he began. “What would you think about moving to Nona’s house? I know we said we’d only go if the power went out, but there’s plenty of room, plenty of food, and less likelihood we would be whacked in the head by a tree.”
“Always a positive, but I really think I’d like to stay here.”
“My grandparents wouldn’t mind,” he reassured her.
“Of course they wouldn’t. They live to take care of people. But I’m not going to take advantage of that.”
“It’s not taking advantage…”
Jordan shot him a firm look that sent a clear message she wasn’t going to bend on this point. He let the suggestion drop, but had to admit he liked the fact that she was coherent, and able to have a short conversation. Nick would call that an improvement, but expending that little bit of energy had exhausted her. It took only seconds, but the next time he looked over, it appeared Jordan had dozed off. Nick could hear her breath coming out in little puffs. She was on her side, curled around a pillow and blanket, looking very comfortable right where she was.
The storm had picked up since he first arrived at the house. The old cottage had more than its share of creaks and rattles, but hearing the way the winds were buffeting the structure, Nick was thinking it could use a little reinforcement.
His own eyes were heavy, and he figured with her just falling asleep, he had a little bit of time to catch a nap of his own.
Resting his head on the back of the chair, Nick focused on the noise in his head, rather than the woman who was filling his brain with many, many inappropriate thoughts.
“Well? Are we staying or am I overruled, Doc?” she said, groggily.
Okay, so she wasn’t asleep.
He chuckled and turned his eyes toward hers. “We’ll stay here until we lose power. If the lights go out, we head over to the other house.”
Reluctantly, she nodded. More progress. He’d take it.
“That sounds fair.”
With the roar of the wind providing the background, he and Jordan settled into their respective spots. Initially, he wasn’t sure if it was him she didn’t trust, or men in general. What he was starting to see was that Jordan was very trusting, and that made him angry on her behalf.
“Nick?” she whispered.
End of Excerpt