Driftwood Bay (Hope Harbor #5) by Irene Hannon

1

Chaos.

That was the only word to describe his new home.

And his new life.

Logan West ran his fingers through his damp hair, exhaling as he surveyed the mess in the kitchen.

Shredded paper towels covered the floor like springtime petals from the Bradford pear trees that had lined the streets in the small Missouri town of his youth.

Eggshells were scattered about, the residual whites oozing onto tile that had been spotless when he’d stepped into the shower less than ten minutes ago.

Soup cans, peanut butter jar, bread wrapper, OJ carton, the open container from last night’s takeout dinner, and other sundry food packaging items rounded out the inventory—all of them pristine. As clean as if they’d never been used.

Meaning Toby had gotten into the trash.

Again.

The happy-go-lucky beagle might be cute as the proverbial button, but he was wreaking havoc on a life already in disarray.

Logan wiped a hand down his face.

What on earth had he been thinking when he’d decided to add a dog to the mix?

Or maybe the problem was that he hadn’t been thinking.

Not straight, anyway.

Because getting a dog was flat-out his dumbest idea since the day he’d convinced his kid brother it would be fun to jump off the porch roof into a mound of raked autumn leaves that wasn’t nearly as cushiony as it appeared.

Man, their parents had never let him forget that escapade—or the subsequent trip to the ER to get Jon’s broken arm set.

Skirting the mess on the floor, Logan edged toward the counter as a familiar sense of panic nipped at his composure.

How could his well-ordered existence disintegrate into such bedlam in a mere four months? ER doctors were supposed to be pros at dealing with turmoil.

However . . . hospital trauma centers were managed chaos, with protocols for every kind of emergency, while his new life in this small town on the Oregon coast hadn’t come with a procedure manual.

But who would have expected to need one this far away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco and the complications of big-city living?

Go figure.

All he knew was that based on his first thirty-six hours in Hope Harbor, his dream of a quieter, simpler life in a small seaside town seemed destined to remain just that—a rose-colored fantasy with no basis in reality.

With a resigned sigh, he retrieved a garbage bag and began collecting the debris. Once the kitchen was clean, he’d have to round up Toby and—

A swish of movement in the doorway caught his attention.

Smoothing out the frown more than one intern had deemed intimidating, he straightened up and turned toward Molly.

The five-year-old stared back at him, eyes big, expression solemn, feet bare, her strawberry-blonde hair in desperate need of brushing, her ratty baby blanket clutched in her fist.

“Hey.” The sticky goo from the eggshell in his hand leaked onto his fingers, and he tossed the fragment into the trash bag. Or tried to. He finally resorted to shaking it off. “I think you forgot your shoes.” He forced up the corners of his lips.

Hers remained flat as she watched him in silence, then stuck a finger in her mouth.

His stomach twisted.

If there was a secret to coaxing a smile out of a grieving little girl, he’d yet to learn it.

He set the garbage bag on the floor, crossed to her, and dropped to one knee. Moisture spiked her thick fringe of lashes, and he swallowed past the lump in his throat.

She’d been crying again. In private—like he and his brother had always done. One more trait she shared with them, in addition to the distinctive cleft in their chin and wide-set blue eyes.

He took her small hand and gentled his voice. “Did you brush your teeth?”

She gave a silent nod.

“Why don’t you put your shoes on and I’ll tie them for you? Then we’ll go down to the beach. Would you like that?”

She slowly removed her finger from her mouth. “Can Toby go?”

Not if he had his druthers. One glimpse of the leash at the end of their outing and the beagle would race off in the opposite direction, sand flying in his wake. After their stroll yesterday, it had taken ten minutes to corral the pup, who seemed to think they were playing a game of tag.

But if Molly’s request meant she was beginning to warm up to the new addition to their family . . .

“Sure. You get your shoes while I clean up the kitchen.” He stood. “Is Toby in your room?”

She shook her head.

A quiver of unease rippled through him, and once again he furrowed his brow. Come to think of it, the playful pup was uncharacteristically quiet.