“I’m perfectly willing to settle down. It’s the woman I want to settle down with who’s not being cooperative.”

“Which is why we’re going to kick some sense into her stubborn head,” Holly said breezily. “Trust me, no woman wants to see the man she loves with another woman. The claws always come out when a chick feels threatened.”

Will chuckled. “Sure you want to face those claws, Hol? Mac’s a lot tougher than you think.”

Holly smirked. “I can handle her.”

Next to her, Shelby let out a laugh. “Can I be there when we tell Carson about this?”

“I still haven’t agreed,” Will interjected, reaching for his coffee again.

But the protest was futile, because they all knew he would do it. Childish as this plan was, he suspected it might be exactly what Mackenzie Wade needed. Although he wouldn’t go as far as to say she’d taken him for granted, he did believe there was some truth to that. Since they were fifteen years old, Mackenzie had leaned on him for support. Whether she’d been complaining about her older sister, who’d been appointed Mac’s guardian after their parents died, or upset about the visions, Will always offered his ear, and his shoulder. He’d watched her date other guys, listened to her talk about her sexual fantasies, and through it all, Mac had continued to ignore the chemistry between them, the feelings they so obviously had for each other.

But while she’d had no problem introducing Will to whatever boyfriend she was with at the time, he’d never taken a woman back to Hunter Ridge before. And there had definitely been other women, warm, willing females with whom he’d passed the time and dated in an attempt to forget Mackenzie.

What would she do if he brought a woman home? Would it tear at her insides the way the sight of her with other men tore at his?

Would she finally find the strength to admit she loved him as deeply as he loved her?

He didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, but he was damn well going to try and get ’em.

He slammed his mug down on the counter and set his jaw. “You know what? Scratch that. I have agreed.” He fixed a determined stare at Holly. “We leave tomorrow.”

“You want to borrow my girlfriend?” Carson shouted later that afternoon, promptly dropping the box in his hands. The cardboard smashed onto the floor of Carson and Holly’s new glorious kitchen with a resounding thunk and the distinct sound of glass shattering.

“My new plates!” Holly wailed, immediately sinking to her knees. She ripped open the tape closing the two flaps together and peered into the box then looked up at Carson in horror. “You’re a monster!”

Carson scowled at her. “I’ll buy you new plates.” The scowl deepened. “That is, if I decide not to break up with you. I can’t believe this was your idea. I told Garrett you and Shelby shouldn’t hang out. The two of you are trouble together.”

“They’re just trying to help me out,” Will pointed out, experiencing a jolt of sympathy at the despair on Holly’s face. He swiftly knelt down and tried to pry her hands out of the box. “Quit sticking your fingers in there, Hol. It’s filled with broken glass.”

Carson let out an enraged roar. “Don’t you dare console my girlfriend. My girlfriend!”

Holly got to her feet, planting her hands on her hips. “Now I’m definitely going,” she shot out. “You broke my plates.”

“So you’re going to play house with my lieutenant as punishment?”

“He’s in love with another woman!”

“Well, I’m in love with you!”

Holly’s eyes softened. “Doesn’t it make you love me more, knowing I’m willing to help out one of your friends?”

A sigh slid out of Carson’s mouth. “What is it with you and helping people? Didn’t we just decide you’re not going to drop everything for your family anymore?”

“This isn’t my family. It’s yours.”

“Will and I aren’t related.”

“You’re SEALs. Of course you’re related.”

Another sigh. “Yeah, you’re right.” Carson took a step forward and pulled Holly into his arms. “Fine, you can go.”


“I just said it, didn’t I?”

Holly threw her arms around her boyfriend. The two proceeded to make out as if Will wasn’t in the kitchen.

He shook his head to himself. He wasn’t quite certain how they’d gone from furious to calm to horny in a matter of seconds, but he wasn’t complaining. Ever since Holly and Shelby had burst into his house this morning, he’d been warming up to the plan, starting to believe it might actually work. He was glad Carson hadn’t put up more of a fight.

Slipping his hands in the pockets of his khakis, he let the couple smooch a while longer, then cleared his throat. “Uh, guys?”

The two pulled apart sheepishly. “Sorry,” Holly said. “Forgot you were here.”

Story of his life, women forgetting he was standing right in front of them. Hopefully not for much longer, though.

“So how is this going to work?” Carson asked, bending down to retrieve the fallen box. He glanced at his girlfriend. “I’m sorry about the plates, sweetheart. We’ll go out and buy some tomorrow, ’kay?”

“I’m holding you to that.” With a stern look, she headed for the fridge and grabbed a can of soda. Flicking the tab, she raised the can to her lips, sipped, and then said, “Will and I are going to Hunter Ridge tomorrow. Apparently there’s some fair going on this weekend.”