Trouble on Tap(7)

By: Avery Flynn

His gut twisted. Of all the Sweets in Salvation, the car had to belong to Olivia. “What a clusterfuck.”

As tempting as it was to drive off, it wasn’t an option because even though he hadn’t always, he now understood the importance of following the rules—written and unwritten. He’d learned that lesson the hard way and would never forget it again.

Grumbling under his breath, he stormed back to the SUV, yanked the door open, scooped up the ragamuffin pooch and humped it up the driveway.

Her ear still ringing from her sisters’ surprised squeals, Olivia emerged from the bathroom with freshly washed feet, her long hair tied back with a borrowed ponytail holder and wearing a dry pair of yoga pants from Miranda and a T-shirt from Natalie.

“The three musketeers, back together again.” Miranda handed her a glass of beer from the Sweet Salvation Brewery, which they’d inherited from their uncle, along with the house. “With a few additions, of course.”

Logan Martin and Sean Duvin raised their beers in a toast. Logan and Miranda were getting married in a couple of months, and Sean had declared his love for Natalie on national TV. Saying her sisters were off the market was putting it mildly.

And she was the fifth wheel who didn’t belong. Nice. Unease crept across her skin. “Sorry for crashing the double date. I would have called first but—”

“Don’t worry about it.” Miranda gave her a quick squeeze. “We know to always expect the unexpected with you.”

Right about now, Olivia would sure love a hell of a lot less of the unexpected.

“So what got you here early?” Natalie narrowed her gaze, her blue eyes as questioning as always. “Is everything okay?”

Damn. Natalie never missed a thing.

“Why would you think it’s not?” Telling her sisters what had happened was going to be embarrassing enough—nothing like having to admit how low she’d fallen to feel as though she really was the devil-may-care pretty girl who lived off her looks everyone thought she was, instead the motivated woman with a brain she really was. There was no way she’d be spilling her guts in front of the dudely duo of Logan and Sean. “Can’t a girl surprise her favorite sisters?”

“We’re your only sisters,” Miranda deadpanned.

“Lucky me.” Even to her own ears, her words sounded strained.

Natalie focused her gaze as if Olivia was a puzzle to be solved. Miranda opened her mouth, no doubt to start the questions, but a sharp rap on the door saved her from a full-on, spotlight-in-the-face interrogation.

“I’ll get it.” Olivia practically sprinted to the front door. Whoever was on the other side was her new favorite person in the whole wide world.

She flung it open and the chilly wind brought in a smattering of raindrops that pelted her cheeks.

A man holding what looked like the end of a mop—if mops could shiver and whine—stood half in the shadow. The lighting kept his face mostly in the dark, but something about his take-no-shit stance and the breadth of his wide shoulders tickled a memory and jacked up her heartbeat.

“Hello, Olivia.”

That voice. Deep and low, it poured over her like warm honey and reignited a fire she’d thought she’d put out years ago. “Mateo.”

After his little sister and her best friend, Luciana, had told her about the roadside explosion while he and his team were on some hush-hush mission, she’d left messages at the VA hospital and sent e-mails and care packages. He’d ignored them all. She’d tried to visit but the nurses turned her away, saying she wasn’t on his approved visitors’ list. After a year, she’d given up. She wasn’t the smartest Sweet sister but she wasn’t an idiot either. “It’s been forever.”

"Close to it." His large hand rubbed behind the dog's floppy ear. "That your Fiat at the bottom of the drive?"

"I got stuck." Nodding, she looked past him into the darkness beyond, but her gaze returned to his tall outline and the dripping dog in his strong arms. “Do you want to come in and dry off for a bit?”

His only acknowledgement of her invitation was to take a half step farther outside of the porch light’s reach. “You gotta move the car. Another driver could get hurt."

Annoyance flicked her skin. After years as a model, she should be used to people assuming her head held nothing but fluff, but it still rubbed her nerves raw—especially coming from someone who knew better. “You don't think I tried?"

"That would explain why the tires are half-buried." He sighed. “Do I have your permission to tow it out of the mud and onto the shoulder?"

"My permission?"

He stepped forward enough that the light touched his broad chest, and then pulled his jacket open to reveal the Salvation Police Department logo imprinted on the T-shirt. "Yes or no?"

A meow sounded as Handsome wound his way through her legs in figure-eight fashion.

The fat feline temptation proved too much for Mateo's dog. The little guy sprung forward, landing with a wet thump at Olivia's feet.

Handsome hissed and smacked her front paw against the dog's nose before sprinting out into the night.

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