Home > Temptation After Dark (Gansett Island #22)(9)

Temptation After Dark (Gansett Island #22)(9)
Author: Marie Force

“You’re hardly a pseudo-celebrity. You’re the real deal.”

“If you say so.”

“I say so.”

As they headed for Jared’s, she drove slowly along the dark, winding island roads that led out of town. The sun had finished setting during their time at the clinic, and with the power out, everything was dark.

“This place could do with some streetlights,” Gigi said.

Cooper laughed. “I was just thinking the same thing.”

“It’s dark as fuck out here.”

“That it is.”

“The first few weeks I was here, I was afraid to drive at night because the road home is so crazy dark. Where I come from, it’s lit up like daylight at night.”

“Same in New York.”

“Gansett is like a foreign country. No streetlights, no stoplights, sketchy internet, basic cable, no AC in some places, power failures that last for days. I could go on.”

“It’s a different world, for sure.”

“What’s interesting, though, is I’ve never felt more relaxed than I do here. There’s nothing to do, so that forces you to just chill and smell the roses as Evelyn says. She’s Jordan and Nikki’s grandmother.”

“That’s why Jared loved it so much the first time he came here for a wedding. He called it his decompression zone before he moved here year-round.”

“I can’t imagine spending a winter here.”

“I bet it’s fun.”

“I bet it’s not.”

“Jared and Lizzie seem to love it, and my other brother, Quinn, and his fiancée, Mallory, love it, too.”

“That’s because they’re all stupid in love and have each other to keep them entertained.”

Cooper cracked up laughing and immediately regretted it. “Ugh, don’t make me laugh.”

“Sorry you’re hurting.”

“It’s my own fault. I never should’ve driven around that one log to get a selfie. What was I thinking?”

“You weren’t thinking,” Gigi said. “We all do dumb things in the pursuit of the perfect selfie.”

“I’m done with selfies after this.”

“We’ll see if that sticks.”

Gigi took a right-hand turn into Jared’s driveway and parked the car. She turned it off and removed the keys, handing them to him. “Phew. That’s a relief. The car is home in one piece. Jared will never know how close he came to losing it—and his brother.”

“You think we can keep that secret on this island? I bet he already knows about what happened.”

Sure enough, his brother came out of his house and walked over to the driveway. Floodlights illuminated him as he came toward them with purpose in his stride.

“Yep, he already knows,” Cooper said.

Jared opened the driver’s door. “Are you okay?” he asked Gigi.

“I’m fine. Him? Not so much.”

“What the hell happened?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” Cooper said.

“I’ve got time.”

“We haven’t eaten yet. Can I tell you the whole sordid tale tomorrow?”

“I guess.” Jared stood to his full height and stepped back to let Gigi out of the car. “Just tell me what happened to you?”

“Two broken ribs and a banged-up face. Nothing to worry about.”

“Jesus, Coop.”

“The car is fine.”

“I don’t give a shit about the car!”

“Now you tell me.”

Gigi giggled as she extended a hand to help Cooper.

He braced himself. This was going to hurt like hell. Crap, he nearly passed out from the pain of getting himself out of the car.

Gigi put an arm around him, which was the only thing that kept him from falling over.

Jared rushed around to the passenger side of the car. “Oh my God, Cooper! Your face! What the hell?”

“I’m okay. I swear.”

“You’re not okay. You’re sweating and breathing funny.”

The sound of a baby crying came from Jared’s house.

“Is there, uh, anything we can do?” Cooper asked.

“No, but thanks for asking. We’re going to try to find them somewhere else to stay tomorrow. I’ll let you guys have dinner. Let me know if you need anything, Coop. And I do want to hear your version of the story.”

“Does that mean you’ve already heard other versions?”

Jared had started to walk away. Over his shoulder, he said, “Maybe. Maybe not.”

“Great.”

Gigi laughed. “You’re so busted.”

“I guess so. This freaking island. Nothing stays secret here.”

“Nope. Can you do the stairs to my place?”

“I hope so.”

“Take it slow.”

Gigi held his arm with one hand and the pizza box with the bag on top of it with the other hand.

Cooper made his way slowly and painfully up the stairs. By the time he got to the top, he was winded and sweating. He’d never been this seriously injured and hoped he never was again.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Liar. Come in and get comfy.”

“I think it’s going to be a while before I’m comfy.”

“Let’s see what we can do.”

Inside, she led him to the sofa and helped him get settled with throw pillows under his right arm for support. Thanks to Jared’s whole-home generator, she had power in the apartment. “How’s that?”

“Not bad. Thanks.” Truth be told, he was afraid he might pass out from the pain, but she didn’t need to know that.

Gigi went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of ice water. “Have some of this.”

Cooper took the glass from her and downed a swallow of cold water. “Thanks.”

“You need to stay hydrated.”

“How long until I can have more pain meds?”

“Three hours.”

“I’ll die before then.”

“No, you won’t.”

“I might.”

“Do you think you could eat something?”

“Maybe.”

Gigi went to the kitchen and returned with plates and silverware. She put a slice of pizza on a plate and handed it to him.

“Thanks.”

She took the ice water and put it on the table. “Let me know when you need more water.”

“I’m really sorry you’re having to tend to me like this. That’s not how I wanted this evening to go.”

She raised a saucy eyebrow. “You didn’t hope I’d end up tending to you?”

Cooper grimaced as he held back a laugh. “I told you not to do that.”

“Sorry, I can’t help it.”

“Try.”

While she ate her salad, he took tentative bites of pizza. He wasn’t sure his stomach would be hospitable to food, and the last freaking thing he needed was to puke. That would surely kill him.

“Mario’s has one of the best house salads anywhere in the world,” Gigi declared.

“What sets it apart?”

“The shaved Parmesan, the croutons, the house Italian dressing. So good.”

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