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Authors: Lily Harper Hart

Deadly Prospects (7 page)

BOOK: Deadly Prospects
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Jake barked out a laugh. “Aren’t you guys being a little dramatic?”

Everyone in the room stilled at the sound of the bedroom door opening. Mandy was the first down the hall, and she immediately moved over to James’ side. He pushed her blonde hair away from her face, searching for a hint she was angry, but there was none there. “Hey.”

Mandy’s pinched her face in surprise. “Hey. What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” James said hurriedly. “I was just checking to see if something was wrong with you.”

“I’m fine.”

“What were you doing down there?” Grady asked.

“Talking. Why do you care?” Ally asked.

“We were just curious,” Grady said.

“Well, I should be going,” Jake said, climbing to his feet. “I just wanted to make sure that everything was set here.”

“Oh, wait,” Ally said.

Jake paused, looking at her. When Ally didn’t continue, Jake turned back to the door. “I’ll see you guys at the office tomorrow.”

James saw Ally cast a desperate look in Mandy’s direction. “Dinner,” she blurted out.

Jake shifted back to Ally. “What?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner,” Ally said. “With me.”

Mandy slapped her hand to her forehead in frustration, while Grady and Finn tried to hide their smiles.

Jake glanced around the room, unsure of himself. “Um, thank you for the invitation, but I have plans tonight.”

“Oh,” Ally said.

“I’m … sorry,” Jake said, clearly reading the distress on her face.

“It’s fine,” Ally said, turning on her heel and stalking down the hall. “It’s perfectly fine!”

The four men flinched as the bedroom door slammed shut.

“Well, that’s not how I told her to do it,” Mandy said, moving back toward the bedroom.

James sighed, sinking down on the couch. “I can’t take this.”


By Tuesday night, Ally had managed to turn the disastrous dinner invitation into nothing but an uncomfortable memory. Unfortunately, no matter how many times she told herself that Jake had only declined because of her brothers’ presence, Ally wasn’t so sure.

She felt Jake’s pull whenever he was in close proximity, but Ally couldn’t be sure he felt it, too. There were times she was convinced he did, but those instances were few and far between.

She was at a loss.

Mandy had tried to make her feel better, but Ally asked her to clear everyone out of the house so she could wallow alone. Ally had spent the rest of the night in her pajamas, a pint of ice cream on her lap, and the remote control in her hand. After three Lifetime movies in a row, Ally realized life could be worse. If Nancy McKeon could survive getting beaten by three different men in three different movies, Ally felt she could survive dire embarrassment.

When she’d woken up this morning, she felt better. She’d taken a shower, gotten ready for work, and went about her day like nothing happened. Since she’d been busy, the day had flown by, and thoughts of her great embarrassment were pushed to the side. Working in a law office is often tedious, but Ally was thankful for the never-ending busywork this day. It hadn’t allowed her to dwell. Now, alone in her car, the bad thoughts could more easily push their way to the forefront for her to obsess about.

Jake had looked mortified when she’d asked the question. Perhaps it was because her brothers were staring at her like she’d grown a second head, but it was just as likely that he was embarrassed because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. He was a good guy, and good guys don’t want to cause pain for others.

He’d said he had plans. For all Ally knew, those plans were with another woman. Ally scowled. She was probably blonde. She probably had big blue eyes, and hair like an angel – just like Mandy.

“Ugh.” Ally jumped when she hit a pothole, sighing when she heard her engine start to rattle. She kept her foot on the accelerator, but when the car started making lurching movements, she pulled over to the side of the road.

Ally climbed out of the car, checking all four tires, and then kicking the last one for good measure before sliding back inside. There was no way she could drive the vehicle in this condition. She could call for a tow, but that didn’t sound like her idea of fun. Instead, she called the only person she knew would come – and not give her an earful about watching where she was driving at the same time.

Mandy answered her phone on the second ring. “What’s up?”

“My car broke down.”


Ally glanced around. “I’m on Heidenreich, between 21 Mile and Hall.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Ally said. “I think I just hit a pothole.”

“Do you want me to come and get you?”

“Can you?”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Mandy said. “Just … don’t wander around.”

“It’s still broad daylight,” Ally scoffed. “Although, there are storm clouds approaching, so if you can hurry, that would be great. You’re starting to sound like a mother hen, just like my brothers. You should know that. By the way, don’t you dare bring one of them.”

“Don’t worry,” Mandy said. “I don’t plan on calling one of your brothers.”


disconnected from Ally and glanced around the apartment uncertainly. She had no problem with picking Ally up, but there was another possibility, and he was sitting at a desk downstairs.

Jake glanced up when he heard Mandy enter the room. “Hey. James isn’t here. He had to run an errand. He said he wouldn’t be gone long.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Mandy said, feigning unhappiness. “I needed him.”

“Can I help you with something?” Jake asked.

“Well, um, Ally called, and she has a bit of a problem,” Mandy said.

Jake leaned forward, a crease forming between his eyebrows. “Is she okay?”

Mandy didn’t care what James and his brothers said, she knew Jake was attracted to Ally. It was written all over his face. “She’s a little shaken,” Mandy said, fully committing to her part. “Her car broke down, and she’s stranded by the side of the road.”


Mandy gave Jake the directions. “I don’t suppose … could you pick her up? I can call and have a tow truck pick up her car, but I would feel better if one of you picked her up, especially given the break in. It looks like a storm is coming, too.”

Jake still wasn’t convinced. “I could call James.”

“He wouldn’t get there in time,” Mandy said. “I think Ally is really upset. She won’t admit it, but she’s nervous after everything that’s happened. We need to get out there to her right away.”

Jake got to his feet, all indecision wiped away. “I’ll go right now. Will you tell James where I’ve gone?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll handle James,” Mandy said. “Don’t worry about him at all.”


shouldn’t have been surprised to see Jake, and yet she was. Now that she thought about it, calling Mandy had been a mistake. The blonde was loyal and fun – but she also liked to meddle. Ally could only guess what story Mandy had spun to get Jake out here.

“I should have called Finn,” Ally grumbled to herself. She pushed open the driver’s side door and got out, fixing Jake with a rueful smile. “Let me guess, Mandy sent you?”

“She said your car broke down,” Jake said, crossing the road. “Let me look at it. Pop the hood.”

Ally acquiesced. After a few minutes of looking, Jake told Ally to start the car. When the engine didn’t turn over, he dropped the hood back down. “I don’t know enough about cars to fix this,” he said. “It looks like something is leaking underneath. Mandy said she was going to call for a tow truck. Go and get in the truck. I’ll take you home.”

“If I didn’t have bad luck right now, I wouldn’t have any luck at all,” Ally said once Jake had turned his truck around and was heading in the opposite direction. “This is just the worst week ever.”

“You’ve been through it,” Jake agreed. “I’m sure things will turn around soon. Things can only get better.”

“Yeah.” Ally watched as the scenery flew by the window, making a quick decision. “I’m sorry I asked you out to dinner yesterday.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jake said. “It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not,” Ally said. “I feel like an idiot. I shouldn’t have asked you in front of my brothers, but the words just kind of came out. I didn’t realize you were seeing someone.”

Jake frowned. “What makes you think I’m seeing someone?”

“You said you had plans,” Ally said. “I get it. You don’t have to worry. I won’t bug you anymore, and I’ll make sure Mandy doesn’t do anything like this again.”

“Anything like what?”

“I asked Mandy to come and pick me up,” Ally said. “I don’t think she could resist trying to play matchmaker. I don’t think she knows that you’re involved with someone.”

Jake was quiet for a minute. “Can I ask you a question?”


“Why did you ask me out?”

Ally shrugged, refusing to meet his gaze. “I just … I find you attractive. I could probably lie about it, but that’s not really my style. It’s not really my style to move in on another woman’s man, though, either. Trust me. I won’t be bothering you again. I understand that you just stayed with me the other night out of obligation.”

“I didn’t stay out of obligation,” Jake said. “I stayed because I didn’t think you should be alone.”

“That’s obligation.”

“It’s not obligation,” Jake argued. “It’s … just sit there and be quiet a second. I need to think.”


found the front door of Hardy Brothers Security locked and the office deserted when he returned. He glanced at his watch. Something must have come up. Jake never left early. Above all else, the man was diligent.

James jogged up the stairs, letting himself into the apartment he shared with Mandy, and dropping the files he was carrying on the kitchen table. “Hey, baby, do you know where Jake went?”

When she didn’t answer, James looked around curiously. Everything looked normal. He’d been expecting to find Mandy waiting for him when he got home. She should have beaten him to the apartment by a couple of hours. He moved toward the bedroom, worry niggling the back of his mind.
What if Jake’s emergency had something to do with Mandy? What if something had happened to her?

He found her in the bedroom, a wide smile on her face, and the rest of her completely bare. She was lying back on the bed, her legs crossed at the ankles, and her arms resting at her sides. “You’re late.”

“I … .” A broad grin broke out across James’ face. “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you.”

“Where are your clothes?”

“I lost them.”

“Do you need help finding them?”

Mandy shrugged. “Do you want me to find them?”

“Definitely not,” James said, shifting out of his coat and dropping it onto the floor. His fingers moved to his button-down shirt. “This is like the best homecoming ever.”

“That’s what I was going for,” Mandy said.

“Not that I’m complaining, baby, and trust me, I will never complain about coming home to find you like this,” James said, his eyes roaming over her firm body. “But what’s the occasion?”

“I just wanted to spend some time alone with you,” Mandy said. “We haven’t had a lot of time together, you know, just the two of us.”

“No,” James agreed, unbuttoning his pants. “You don’t know where Jake is, do you?”

“Oh, I told him I wanted a night alone with you, and since he was all caught up he agreed to leave early,” Mandy said. “I hope that’s not a problem. I probably should have asked you first.”

“No problem at all,” James said, climbing onto the bed and sliding his body up hers so he could press his warm skin against the entire length of her body. He captured Mandy’s pouty mouth with his, kissing her deeply. This was the first time in days he felt in sync with her, and he was going to enjoy it for the whole evening if he could. “I love you, baby.”

Mandy felt a slight twinge of guilt for lying, but she pushed it out of her mind. She and James really did need some time together. Just because their alone time happened to coincide with Jake riding to Ally’s rescue – well, that was just icing on the cake.

Mandy cupped James’ face in her hands, pressing her forehead to his briefly. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because I’ve been … difficult.”

James smiled, kissing her again. “You’re always difficult. That’s one of the things I love most about you.”

“Still, I know you’ve been upset.”

“Is that what all of this is about?”

“No,” Mandy said. “I just thought a night of you, me, no clothes, and takeout sounded like something we needed.”

“Baby, the only thing I need is you,” James said, kissing her deeply. “You’re all I’ll ever need.”

“Well then,” Mandy said, relaxing against the bed. “Come and get me.”

James didn’t need to be told twice.

BOOK: Deadly Prospects
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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