Here’s the thing. When your best friend treats you to the hoity-toitiest restaurant in town, some major shit is about to be unleashed. It’s an unwritten rule. Everyone knows this. Tugging her attention from the sleek Baby Grand and the tuxedoed pianist currently tickling its ivories, Jane pondered the possibilities as she tailed Marissa through Kaplins’s main dining room. Either she was about to get buttered up for something big...or Marissa had finally come to her senses and realized what a horrible, corruptive influence Jane was.
“Fuck, I’m getting dumped.”
Marissa winged a bemused look over her shoulder. “What?”
“Hell, I’m surprised you kept me around this long. I had a good run. I’ll try not to cry and embarrass you.” She added an extra dose of obnoxiousness to her loud sniffle.
Unmoved by the melodramatics, Marissa rolled her eyes. “I’m not dumping you.” She stalled next to a linen-draped table already occupied by Jane’s brother, Trig. He greeted both of them with a kiss and helped them with their seats before reclaiming his own.
Jane caught the moony look that passed between the two lovebirds. With anyone else, the sight would have immediately prompted her gag reflex. Not that Trig’s and Marissa’s PDAs didn’t occasionally spark the desire to poke her eyes out with a fork. Deep down, though, she was genuinely happy the two nauseatingly-in-love doofuses had navigated beyond the bumpiness of their initial courtship and were well on their way to happily ever after together.
She was particularly grateful Marissa had managed the impossible and convinced Trig to permanently retire his Little Black Book of Booty Calls and his professional gigolo status. He was still doing his male stripper gig on the side while he continued working toward his MFA at Oakland, but the important thing was he’d finally gotten his shit together. A big sister couldn’t ask for more than that major miracle.
Trig scooted his chair a smidge closer to Marissa’s before taking her hand in his. As if they’d choreographed the move, they simultaneously shifted their gazes to Jane. Trig cleared his throat. “We have something to tell you.”
She gaped at him. “Oh my God, you’re pregnant.”
Having subjected him to her bluntness his entire life, her brother merely cocked an eyebrow. “Pretty sure that’s physically impossible.”
“I meant you as in you.” She waved her hand in a vague fashion to indicate both he and Marissa. “Regardless, I trust you’re going to name the baby after me if it’s a girl, seeing how I brought you two together.”
Trig choked on a cough. “You’re remembering that way differently than me.”
“Have you conveniently blocked out the part where you accused me and Rissa of boinking each other behind your back?”
“Technically you were. But it’s not like I held it against you forever.” Studiously ignoring Trig’s stare, she veered her scrutiny to Marissa—who’d be more likely to take her side in this debate. “Getting back to the point of this conversation, I did bring you together in a roundabout way.”
“Care to explain your convoluted logic on that?” Trig butted in unhelpfully.
Jane gusted a heavy exhale and carefully smoothed her linen napkin over her lap. The move wasn’t so much about safeguarding the pristine status of her pinstriped pantsuit as the need to waste a few precious seconds. Should be enough time to fabricate a suitable bullshit theory to satisfy her brother. “If Marissa hadn’t been terrified of inviting me to another of her company shindigs, she never would have hired you to escort her.”
Not a bad improvisation on such short notice. I win this round, muthafuckas. Though it was a struggle, she killed her victory fist pump.
Marissa’s lips twitched. “She’s got us there. We all know Jane likely would have performed a table dance during my boss’s speech and then propositioned him with a quickie in the mailroom afterward.”
Trig grunted. Her brother was plenty used to her wild ways. Not like he had any place to judge, the judgy McJudgy pants. He was—or had been—nearly as bad as her.
Scary thing though? She seemed to be losing her mojo. The horrifying truth had been staring her in the eye for the last seven months. Been at least that long since her vagina saw any action. Well, none that required batteries. At this rate, her pussy could qualify as a halfway house for dust bunnies and rolling tumbleweeds.
“We’re overlooking one vital factoid here,” Trig droned on, breaking through Jane’s gloomy thoughts. “There isn’t a baby Jane on the immediate horizon. Sorry, sis, but you’re SOL for the time being.”
“This is a huge bummer for me.” She heaved a melodramatic sigh.
Marissa grinned. “Hopefully being my Maid of Honor will make up for it.”
It took several beats for the statement to register. Jane double-blinked. “Are you saying what I think you are?”
Happiness radiating from her pores, Marissa nodded. “We set a date.”
Unconcerned with the scandalized reception her unrestrained squeeing would garner from the nearby hoity-toity peanut gallery, Jane jumped to her feet and smothered her best friend in hugs and kisses. Although Marissa hadn’t exactly hidden the ring Trig slipped on her finger back in December, the two of them hadn’t made an official announcement or appeared in any rush to head down the aisle. All things considered, this news made up for being deprived a namesake niece.
Recalling Trig was part of this celebration too, she leaned sideways and squeezed an arm around her brother. “I’m happy for you, brat.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know you’re particularly thrilled you’ll be able to legitimately call each other sisters.”
“If only you could marry Sid too.” Marissa’s eyes sparkled. “Then we’d be one big happy family.”
“Really doubt the Kink Geeks would go for that,” Jane countered.
“Kink Geeks?” Trig’s expression implied he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to hear the story there.
“Your sister’s pet name for Sidney’s bosses,” Marissa helpfully elaborated. She stroked her chin. “Although, I suppose they’re technically no longer her bosses since they made her one-third partner at Phenom Lab.”
Jane reclaimed her seat. “Speaking of Sid, hopefully she won’t be bent out of shape about me being your Maid of Honor.”
“I can always ask her instead if you’re really worried about it.”
“Don’t you dare.”
A chuckle floated from Marissa. “Something told me you’d say that. Besides, Sid will be my honorary second Maid of Honor.”
“Sounds good. But let’s not forget the important stuff—like I still get top billing.”
Despite rolling her lips together, Marissa’s grin snuck through. “Of course. Would you like to wear a special sash that distinguishes you as such?”
“Only if you keep it classy with rhinestone bling and rainbow glitter.”
Marissa’s giggle slowly dissipated, leaving an odd uncertainty in its wake. She gnawed her bottom lip. “There’s something else you need to know.”
And here’s where the major shit drops. Jane ping-ponged her stare between the lovebirds. “So help me God, if you’re about to tell me one of you only has eight months to live and that’s why you finally set the date—”
“No, nothing like that,” Trig assured.
“Fucking A, don’t ever do that to me again.” Overwhelming relief swamping her, she slumped back in her chair. She scraped her bangs away from her eyes and squinted hard at Trig. “Whatever you have to tell me will be a walk in the park after that minor heart scare, you dipshit.”
“Remember you said that.” There was no mistaking the dryness in her brother’s tone. His attention flicked to the right. She automatically shifted in her seat to determine the cause for the glimmer of wary expectation gripping him. Her focus collided with six-foot-two-inches of gorgeous, aggravating male perfection striding in their direction.
She sucked in a breath, her traitorous pulse kicking into a high-speed jitterbug. Her involuntary and entirely undesired response to Jack Brewster? Royally chapped her ass. Big time. The son of a bitch shouldn’t be able to destroy her equilibrium. For fuck’s sake, no man lingered in her brain this long. And especially not one she hadn’t slept with.
Maybe that was part of the problem. He remained an irksome, sexy mystery. Though he clearly carried off his dove gray suit with aplomb, she had no damn idea if the body concealed by the impeccably tailored Armani lived up to the delicious promise it advertised. She did, however, know firsthand the brain-frying devastation of his kisses.
Then again, when it came to dishing out devastation, good ole Jackass was a goddamn pro.
With the worst timing in history, a fractured memory slipped through the cracks in her composure. Jack’s arms boxing her in as he pushed her up against the front door of her condo, his lips scrambling every thought in her head. By the time he’d let her come up for air, her panties had been soaked and no oxygen remained in her lungs or her brain. Somehow she’d conjured enough restraint not to drag him inside the doorway and tear off his clothes—with her teeth. Instead, she’d invited him in with all the casualness she could muster and promptly scurried to the bathroom to freshen up. In other words, ensure the lady jewels were fit for male company.
And therein lay her folly. Never leave a fish dangling on the hook if there’s the remotest chance it’ll break free.
Horny, clueless fool she’d been, she’d curbed her eagerness and wasted a few minutes in the john. Never a good idea to appear desperate, no matter how bad you wanted to jump a guy’s bones. By the time she’d returned to the living room, Jack had vanished without so much as a goodbye. To add an extra level of asshattery to that classic dick move, he kindly texted her the next morning with an apology and what amounted to the shortest Dear Jane letter in existence. Sorry, but this isn’t working for me. We should stay friends.
Stay friends. What the ever living fuck? He honestly thought that’s all they were. She didn’t make a habit of playing tonsil hockey with her buddies. Mostly because she made things awkward enough in her friendships without getting her tongue involved.
Asshole. He was goddamned lucky she didn’t jump in her car and hunt him down so she could mow him down. The only thing that’d kept her from committing vehicular manslaughter was her pride. No way she’d let the bastard know how much he’d hurt her. Revealing that intel would also tip him off to how much he’d gotten under her skin. And hell knows, once a man figured that out, you were doomed.
Jack continued his progress across the dining room. A few feet shy of reaching their table, he locked gazes with her. If he was perturbed by her presence he sure as hell didn’t let it show. Of course not. He was a master-level ninja when it came to keeping his cool and his emotions on lockdown. Unlike her.
Then again, he probably wouldn’t know an emotion if it bit him on that obnoxiously firm ass of his.
Gritting her teeth, she seethed in silence while Jack shook hands with Trig and squeezed Marissa in a one-armed hug. He shifted his focus to Jane, his handsome features revealing absolutely no clue as to what was going on in his head. “Good to see you.”
His bland politeness sparking her desire to deck him, she clenched her fists in her lap and nodded. “You too.”
Trig and Marissa gaped at her. For God’s sake. What did they think she’d do? Grab the nearest steak knife and drill it through his black, empty heart? She did have some restraint.