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From Temptation to Twins(4)

By:Barbara Dunlop

“You want to date my mechanic?” Matt asked.

“She’s pretty cute.”

Matt laughed. “She’s tough as nails. I wouldn’t recommend her as a starting point.”

“You calling dibs?”

“Fill your boots, brother. She’ll eat you for lunch.”

Caleb couldn’t help but grin. “Should we go into the city and hit a club tomorrow night?”

Whiskey Bay was less than two hours from the nightlife of Olympia and it sounded like TJ and Matt could use a little push into the social scene. Caleb would be more than happy to forget his own problems for an evening.

“I’m in,” said Matt.

“Sounds great,” said TJ.

Caleb finished his beer. “In that case, I’m going home to strategize.” He rose. “I like your idea to test Jules’s sincerity. I’ll do it in the morning.”

“Good luck,” Matt called.

Caleb took the stairs to the pier then left the lights of the marina behind him on the walk home.

Whiskey Bay was characterized by stunning steep cliffs. There was very little land at sea level, just an acre or so under the marina and another parcel of a similar size where Caleb intended to build Neo. The Crab Shack was located on a rocky spit of land to the south of the marina. It had been closed now for more than ten years, since Felix Parker had grown too old to run it.

Four houses sat on the steep rise of the cliff. Matt’s was directly above the marina. TJ’s was a few hundred yards to the south, then came the Parkers’ small house, with Caleb’s house last.

Back in the ’50s, his grandfather had built a small place similar to the Parkers’. But while the Parker place had remained intact, the Watfords had rebuilt numerous times. After his grandfather’s death Caleb had bought the house from the rest of the family, gradually renovating it to make it his own.

There was a path halfway up the cliff that connected the four houses. Caleb, Matt and TJ had installed solar lights a few years back, so walking after dark was easy. Caleb had passed below the Parker house thousands of times. But in the five years since Felix Parker had moved to a care home, there’d never been a light on there.

Tonight, it was lit. Caleb could see it in the distance, filtered by the spreading branches of cedar trees. As he grew closer, the deck came into view, and he had a sudden memory of a teenage Jules. It had to have been her last summer visiting her grandfather. She’d been dancing on the deck. Dressed in cutoff shorts and a striped tank top, her hair up in a messy knot, she was dancing like nobody was watching.

He could see her freckles. That’s how he’d remembered she’d had freckles. The sunlight had glowed against her blond hair and her creamy skin. She’d been far too beautiful, and far too young. He’d felt guilty for even looking at her back then. He’d been twenty-one, building his first Neo restaurant in San Francisco.

“Spying on us?” Jules suddenly appeared on the trail in front of him.

“On my way home,” he answered, quickly pulling himself back to the present.

She wasn’t wearing cutoffs, and no tight striped tank top either. Thank goodness. Although her blue jeans and cropped white T-shirt weren’t exactly saving his sanity. In fact, it was worse, because she was all grown up now.

“You’re standing still,” she pointed out.

He went with a partial truth. “I’m not used to seeing lights on in your house.”

She glanced up at the deck. “I guess it’s been a while.”

“Quite a few years.” He gazed at her profile. She was quite astonishingly gorgeous. He couldn’t remember ever meeting a woman so beautiful.

“Did you know your family sent flowers?” she asked. “When my grandfather died.”

“I did.” It had been Caleb who’d arranged it.

“Sent my dad off the deep end, I tell you.”

Caleb felt a twinge of regret. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

She turned to look at him again. “So it was you?”

“Was that a test?”

“I was curious. It didn’t make sense that your dad would have sent them.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” Caleb’s father had once been arrested because of an altercation with Jules’s father, Roland. Caleb had never heard all the details, but his father had often railed about the overreaction of the authorities, and how it was Felix Parker’s fault they were called in the first place.

“He might have sent a brass band,” Jules mused.

“I don’t know what to say to that.” Caleb wondered if she was looking for an apology.

“It was a joke.”

“Okay. It seemed a little...”