Just This Once (Last Frontier Lodge #3)

By: J.H. Croix

A Last Frontier Lodge Novel

Chapter 1

The thwack of the windshield wipers was steady as Becca Hamilton drove along the highway. It was approaching midnight, much later than she planned to be on her way to her parents’ home in Bellingham, Washington. She had yet another late night at work in Seattle, but she’d promised her mother she’d be there for the weekend. After working too late and failing to come through on the same promise last weekend, she was bound and determined to get there tonight. The visibility was crap with fog and rainy mist encompassing the road. She might as well have been in the middle of a cloud. It was so foggy, she couldn’t tell if her defrost was working, so she wiped at the windshield with her sleeve. With a sigh, she dropped her arm away. She rolled her shoulders in a weak attempt to ease the tension bundled in them.

Glancing at the clock, she estimated she had another hour before she made it to Bellingham. Suddenly, headlights flashed in front of her as she came around a corner, much too close for comfort. Blinded by the glaring lights, she yanked the steering wheel and swerved to avoid the vehicle coming straight at her. She felt the other car bounce off of hers with a hard thump that jolted through her body. She heard a loud screech before her car tumbled into the ditch. She came to a thudding stop with her car on its side.

Stunned for a second, she started to scramble, unbuckling her seatbelt and trying to climb out before it occurred to her she might want to take stock of her situation first. She froze and glanced around. Rain continued to fall, her windshield wipers carrying on as if nothing had happened. She looked up toward the road to see the taillights of the car that ran her into the ditch disappearing into the wet darkness.

“Great, just great,” she muttered. “Run me off the road and leave. Dammit!” She adjusted her position, so her hips rested on the console between the driver and passenger seats. She mentally scanned her body and didn’t sense any significant injuries. Her shoulder had jammed against the door in the tumble into the ditch. She figured she’d be sore from the impact by morning, but all in all, she seemed okay. The pressing issue was she was alone in the dark, rainy night and stuck in a ditch. She was living a bad cliché, if only for a moment.

If there was one thing Becca hated, it was asking for help. It ranked right up there with dating. She hated it so much, she actually pondered the likelihood that she could somehow get her car upright again on her own. Mid-thought, her rational brain kicked in. Are you out of your damn mind? Don’t confuse yourself with a superhero. There is NO way you can get your car out of this ditch by yourself. Her ridiculous train of thought elicited a wry smile that faded promptly. There were times she had to swallow her pride and accept she needed help. They were few and far between, but tonight definitely qualified as such.

She flicked on the interior light and searched for her purse, which held her phone. It had fallen to the passenger side on the floor. Far out of her reach. She started maneuvering to grab it when there was a knock on her window. She scrambled back up and managed to reach the button to open the window. As the blurry glass rolled down, a familiar face loomed in the rainy darkness. Aidan McNamara, the absolute last person she wanted to see her like this. Aidan was a family friend through her older brother Gage. They’d served together in the Navy SEAL’s. Aidan was a woman’s dream if one liked tall, dark, sexy-as-hell military types who tended to save the day so often it was annoying. Even under these circumstances, Becca’s pulse raced at the sight of him. As much as it drove her insane, her body had all kinds of ideas about Aidan.

“Becca?” Aidan’s brows hitched up when he saw her.

“It’s me.”

“Are you okay? Let’s get you out of there.”

Aidan didn’t bother to ask what happened, but instantly went into action. After he did a quick circle around her car to make sure it was safe to pull her out, he opened her door and reached in for her. He ignored her protests as he lifted her out. Next thing she knew, she was in his strong arms, the rain falling softly around them. He adjusted her weight in arms. Becca shivered and couldn’t help the tiny curl of comfort that snuck through her. A corner of her savored feeling protected like this. Aidan had the disconcerting tendency to elicit this feeling in her. She pushed against it like a cat swatting its paw and wiggled.

“Put me down,” she demanded. Her voice sounded prickly, and she didn’t care.

She heard his sigh. “Becca, it’s more work to put you down right here than it is to carry you. The ground’s like mush here. Let’s get to the road, and I’ll put you down.”