Carolina Blues

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Book: Carolina Blues by Virginia Kantra Read Free Book Online
Authors: Virginia Kantra
Tags: Romance, Literature & Fiction, Contemporary
dispatcher in the county sheriff’s office. But there were three of them now. Jack had been talking to Nick O’Neal, head of the volunteer firefighters, about developing a coordinated emergency response, police, fire, medical. But that would demand a hell of a lot more sophisticated system than they had now.
    Hank came out, his face creased in heavy lines. “That was Grady Real Estate. Somebody busted the air conditioner over at the bakery. Repairman’s saying it’s vandalism.”
    Jack went still, his skin tightening.
Lauren
. “Everything else okay?”
    “Fine. But Grady wants a police report so he can file an insurance claim.”
    “Right.” Jack drew a careful breath.
Don’t overreact
. Vandalism was a common problem on the island, where big vacation homes sat empty half the year. “You want to take it?”
    Since you’re so concerned about her ex
. Jane was Hank’s daughter. It was her bakery. Nothing to do with Jack at all.
    Was Lauren there?
    “She won’t want me,” Hank said gruffly. “Luke’s on duty.”
    “He’s on a call.” The Crowleys’ dog, barking again, disturbing the renters next door. Nothing that required much time. But maybe Luke’s absence would give Hank the excuse he needed to go.
    Hank’s face set. “So he can handle it on his way back.”
    Of course he could.
    And in the meantime, Jane was fine. Lauren was fine. It was only vandalism. Nothing dangerous. Not like, say, getting caught in a bank robbery and being held hostage for three days.
    The thought made his gut clench.
    How was Lauren handling this? She was a crime victim. She might act like she was over it now, but you didn’t walk away from what she’d been through without it affecting you. Jack had been a sniper. He knew.
    He dried his hands, reached for his keys. “I’ll check it out.”
    *   *   *
    T HE BAKERY WAS hot as hell. Condensation dripped on the outside of the steel-and-glass refrigerated cases.
    Behind the counter, Lauren was dripping, too. Sweat slid down her spine; soaked the band of her bra. She wiped her face with the back of her forearm.
    The bakery had nearly emptied, the climbing temperatures inside driving patrons outside to the tables under the trees. Apparently the heat was more bearable outdoors away from the ovens. But the shift meant that she and Thalia were kept running, serving orders, bussing tables, as Jane dealt with the repairman out back.
    Lauren scraped the last scoop of ice from the cooler, her mind leaping ahead. They couldn’t make drinks without ice. She glanced toward the kitchen door. If Jane didn’t come back soon, Lauren might have to close, if only to run out and buy more ice.
    God, it was hot, a blanketing heat that smothered her in exhaustion.
    The silver bells over the entrance jangled. Her stomach tightened like a fist. More than a year after the robbery, she still tensed sometimes at sudden entrances. She looked up, forcing a smile to her lips.
    Jack stood in the door of the bakery wearing jeans and a damp white T-shirt, projecting an air of cool authority.
    And she just . . . melted. Like the icing on the cupcakes.
    Wow. Just . . . Wow. He looked different out of uniform, younger, tougher, more aggressive. Everything that was soft and weak and fluid inside her just flowed toward him, attracted by his power and sense of purpose. As if he could stamp her, mold her, shape her somehow into something stronger and more durable. He had all the confidence she lacked right now. How was she supposed to resist him? Did she even want to?
    The jeans rode low on his narrow hips. The T-shirt molded to his heavily muscled chest. Beneath the thin white cotton, she could see the shadow of his body hair. She flushed all over as if she’d been scalded.
    He came toward her with that fluid walk she admired so much, all contained power and masculine grace.
Oh, God
. She was abruptly aware that her face was hot and undoubtedly shiny. She probably stank, too.
    Most individuals

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