Smoke on the Water Episode 17

Smoke on the water header

Chapter 17: Hoyt

“We don’t have time for this.” Caroline’s words were practical, but her breathy tone and the way her fingers threaded into my hair said otherwise.

I continued my slow, nibbling exploration down her throat, toward the patch of skin revealed by the V of her shirt. “I can be fast.”

“Prior experience would suggest that’s a lie.” She hissed in a breath and tipped her head to the side as I traced my tongue along her collarbone. “Hoyt.” But there was no real oomph behind what I knew she’d meant as a reprimand.

“I need you naked.” I’d thought I’d spent a lot of time fantasizing about that before we’d slept together. Now that I knew what it was to be inside her, I was obsessed. Over the past week, we’d stolen what time we could, but the Universe seemed intent on interrupting us every time. We’d been playing an endless game of denied desire, and I was about at the end of my rope.

Her free hand curled around my shoulder, but she didn’t push me away. “We definitely don’t have time for that. I have work. And you have—oh God, a magic mouth.”

I smiled against her skin and continued to use that mouth in an erotic assault, while I coasted my hands over her delectable ass and around to find the button of her shorts. “Let me make you feel good.” Her belly tensed as my finger slipped under the edge of the waistband to graze her skin. “I know we’re pressed for time, but I’m very motivated.”

Her head thumped back against the cabinet and her mug thunked onto the counter as she set it aside. “I’m not going to be able to think about anything else until you do this.”

“Good.” I lowered the zipper, already thinking about how wet she’d be when I slipped my fingers between her legs. My dick stirred, making it absolutely clear it was onboard with hard and fast and let’s get to it already. But before I could fulfill my promise, a knock came at the door.

I swore and dropped my brow to Caroline’s. That would be my dad, who couldn’t have the decency to not be early.

“I told you we didn’t have time.” She tipped her mouth up to mine and pushed my hands away while she zipped her fly. “You’re going to finish what you started later.”

I caged her against the counter. “Yeah, I am. Come to my bed tonight. Please.”

Cheeks flushed, eyes huge with arousal, she murmured, “Okay.”

There is a God.

Caroline glanced down at the erection tenting my jeans. “Um… how are you going to fix that before answering the door?”

My solution was to grab the tool belt I’d set on the kitchen table and strap it on like one of those sporran things Scottish dudes wore. The contents of the pouch weighed the whole thing down enough that it more or less camouflaged the situation.

Seeing the sparkle in her eyes, I fixed her with a mock glare. “Not one word.”

She picked up her coffee again, her face comically blank. “I said nothing. Go answer the door before he starts to think we’ve been up to something.”

Judging by the smirk on Dad’s face, I was far too late for that. His gaze took in my no doubt messy hair and the oddly placed tool belt, and his tongue went firmly in cheek. “Mornin’, son.”

Hoping my expression was more sleep deprived than lust crazed, I jerked a thumb toward the kitchen. “Morning. You want coffee?”


Caroline had a fresh cup waiting when we got back to the kitchen. Her cheeks and lips were still flushed, but her shirt had been straightened, so she didn’t look two steps away from being ravished. “Hi, Mr. McNamara. I wasn’t sure how you took yours.”

“Black is fine. And so is Frank.”

She smiled and handed over the mug. “I’ll work on it.” Draining the last of her own cup, she set it in the sink. “I’ve gotta get to work.”

I snagged her hand as she moved past me. “Where are you today?”

“I’ve got two rentals to clean back-to-back over on Sandpiper. Then a double at the tavern. It’s going to be a long day.”

I hoped she actually had the energy for my plans later. “Are you closing tonight?”

“Yeah. I won’t be home until late.”

“Why don’t I come by right before closing? Escort you home?”

“That’s really not necessary. I know you’re planning a full day of reno here. Everything’s been quiet, and Ed will be there.”

Yeah, that quiet was part of what was bothering me. “Still. Humor me?”

“Okay.” She brushed a quick kiss to my cheek. “See you tonight. Bye, Mr.—Frank.”

“Bye, Caroline.”

A few moments later, the front door closed behind her.

Dad smiled into his mug. “Well, that was nice and domestic.”

I twitched my shoulders. “With our schedules, breakfast is usually when we manage to see each other.”

“Do you have good reason to worry about her tonight? Is something going on?”

“No. Not for a while.” Our nuisance arsonist had been quiet this week, leading some in the department to speculate that they’d left the island. I wasn’t so sure. “I just don’t like it when she closes. Last time that happened, Troy Lincoln got pushy with her. If I hadn’t been there…” If I hadn’t been there, stepping in and playing boyfriend, I likely wouldn’t be here with her as her actual boyfriend now. But that wasn’t why I intended to be there tonight. As she’d said, Ed would be there. But… “I’d just rather be safe than sorry.”

“Fair enough. So, water heater replacement today?”

“Among other things. I appreciate you coming over to help. I haven’t gotten as far on renovations as I’d intended.”

“New relationships tend to suck up a lot of free time. But I’ll warn you, your mama isn’t gonna be put off too much longer. It’s taken Drew and me both to keep her from just coming over here to check the place out.”

“I appreciate that, too. I just wanted to get it in better shape before she saw it, so she didn’t worry I took on too much.”

“Oh, she’ll worry about that no matter what.”

“I had to shift my list around some. I originally expected to be knocking out walls first.”

Dad went brows-up. “Oh?”

“I wasn’t going to leave it a duplex. But then Caroline needed a place and…” I shrugged. “Here we are.”

“It’s a good thing you’ve done there, son. Above and beyond dating her. Giving all of them a place to go to get the hell out of that house and away from Hector.”

“How’s he been since then?” There’d been nothing from him since that one tantrum at the tavern. Rios and his friends had backed off a bit, at least from watching Caroline. The fact that she was usually with me when she wasn’t at work had a lot to do with that.

“More irritable than usual. But still showing up and doing the job, so Ace has no reason to get rid of him. A good personality isn’t required to be a good mechanic, and he doesn’t deal directly with the public.”

“I expect he’s now having to do a lot for himself that Caroline and her siblings used to handle.”


“He said anything to you about us?”

Dad shook his head. “Nah. We have a policy of just not talking unless we have to. Mostly, we don’t have to. He keeps to his jobs; I keep to mine. I’m sure he has opinions, but he hasn’t shared them with me.”

Maybe he truly had recognized the futility of trying to control his adult children. If he wanted to be all bitter about it, that was his choice, and I couldn’t give a shit. Just so long as he continued to steer clear of Caroline and her siblings. That would be one less worry.

“You ready to do this thing?”

He tipped back the last of his coffee. “Let’s do it.”

After verifying that Rios and Gabi were already gone for the day, I shut off the water and electricity to the house and turned on all the faucets to run out the contents of the water heater. Then I attached a hose to the base of the heater and ran it all the way out the back door. While the last of the water drained, Dad and I worked on hauling in the new one I’d picked up at the hardware store yesterday.

As we unhooked the wiring and plumbing connections, I glanced over at my dad, who’d been happily married for nearly thirty years. “Can I ask you something?”


“How did you know Mom was the one?”

His wrench didn’t falter, though his gaze flicked up to mine. “Well, we’d been dating for maybe three months at the time. It was late spring, and I’d stopped by to pick her up for a date. I was early.”

So that was clearly a lifelong habit of his.

“She wasn’t quite ready yet. Said she needed to pull the laundry in before we left. I followed her outside. The sun was shining down through the trees, and it hit her hair just so while I watched her gather all these sheets that were billowing in the breeze, putting them into a basket. That moment just struck me right in the chest, and all I could think was, ‘Yeah, I want this for the rest of my life.’”

He finished loosening the connector. “Maybe that’s stupidly sexist because it was a woman folding laundry. But it wasn’t about the laundry. It was this incredible, domestic sort of vision that made me think of home and comfort, and I knew she was going to be at the center of it. And she always has been.”

Folding his arms across the top of the water heater, he fixed me with a look. “You having one of those moments?”

I thought of how Caroline had looked the day we’d gone sailing. Not straddling me in the cabin—though that would always rate among my top favorite memories ever—but before, when we’d been cutting through the water. She’d tipped her face up to the sky, eyes closed as the wind whipped her hair and she’d looked so… free of all the burdens of her everyday life. It had struck me right down tot he marrow that I’d done that for her. That I wanted to keep doing that for her for always.


Dad nodded. “Thought you might. You’ve got the look.”

“The look?”

“Like you’ve been whacked over the head with the love stick.”

I snorted. “The love stick?”

“Stupid term for a serious condition. You in love with Caroline?”

I didn’t have to think about it.

“I am. I know it’s fast, but that’s where my head is. I’m good at looking into the future. That’s why I bought this house. I can see what it will be when I’m done. Now, when I look out into that future—five years, ten years, twenty—I see her. Is that crazy?”

Dad smiled. “No. I’d say that’s just love. You told her yet?”

“No. I don’t want to freak her out. Our whole relationship has been, in some ways, faster than I think she’s entirely comfortable with, so I’m gonna sit back and let things take their course. Wait until I don’t think the idea of it will scare her to death.”

“Sensible. For what it’s worth, your mom thinks Caroline looks like she’s been hit by the love stick, too. And she’s usually a pretty good judge of these things.”

That gave me a jolt. “What does she think about it?”

“That you’ll give her beautiful grandbabies if she keeps her nose out and doesn’t say things like how you’ll give her beautiful grandbabies.”

I laughed outright. “Okay, yeah. Good call on her part. That would definitely send Caroline running. She’s spent her whole life taking care of her siblings. I don’t know how she feels about the idea of a family of her own someday. I don’t even know how she feels about the idea of marriage. For her, I think that’s all way on out there in a hazy future. And that’s okay. We’ve got plenty of time.”

“But you’re gonna fix up this house with that in mind?” Dad prompted.

“Damned straight.”

“Solid plan. Let’s swap out these water heaters.”