Authors: Laura Drewry
How Forever Feels
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright Â© 2015 by Laura Drewry
Off the Hook
copyright Â© 2015 by Laura Drewry
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Off the Hook
by Laura Drewry. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Seductive Designs
Cover photograph: PeopleImages/istock
“How you doin'?”
“The One with Rachel's Sister”
“From the guy in the gray T-shirt at the end of the bar.” Grinning, Shelley set a white frothy drink, complete with a pineapple wedge and tiny blue parasol, in front of Maya then moved on to her next table.
With scarcely a glance at the piÃ±a colada, Maya and all three of her friends immediately craned their necks toward the bar.
“A piÃ±a colada?” Regan snorted. “Come on, buddy.”
“I know him,” Ellie muttered. “Why do I know him?”
Jayne just gaped. “He's huge.”
Being the shortest of the four of them, Maya had to push away from the table and stand up to be able to see around and over everyone in the packed pub.
“Oh my God!
“Who's Jack?” Jayne's question hung unanswered, because Maya was already dodging and weaving her way around waitresses and other tables.
Ducking under Shelley's lifted tray, Maya came around the corner of the last table just as the guy sitting there stood up, shoving the chair hard into her hip. She tried to right herself but ended up crashing into the corner of the wall and spiraling off like she was in some kind of pinball game.
Grasping and flailing, and with the floor racing up to meet her, Maya was saved by two big hands that caught her under the arms and righted her.
Without a word, Maya thrust her hands straight up over her head, snort-laughed, and gave a dramatic bow as everyone cheered.
“And that'll be a ten from the Canadian judge,” Jack announced, using his beer bottle as a mic, “for sticking the landing with such grace and style.”
“Thank you, thank you very much.” Another quick bow, then she turned and walked right into Jack's open arms.
“Hey, Snip.” He laughed quietly, and his huge frame swallowed her up until her feet dangled just below his kneecaps.
“What are you doing here?”
His chest rumbled with a low chuckle. “Someone had to be here to catch your sorry ass, didn't they?”
Maya pulled back far enough so she could see his face. “Oh, God. Will's not here with you, is he?”
“NopeâI'm solo.” He set her down slowly, then perched on his stool, bringing them closer to the same level, his hazel eyes wide, his brow lifting slowly. “You lookâ¦
“Thanks.” She laughed lightly as she leaned her hip against the stool next to him. “But I think we can both agree anything would be an improvement over the last time you saw me.”
“I don't know about that.” He shrugged. “You looked pretty good then, too.”
Ha! She'd looked like a crazy person and they both knew it, but considering she'd been going through her divorce from Will at the time, she hadn't really cared.
“So what's going on? Are you in town to visit Will?”
“Partly.” His grin vanished as he twisted his jaw to the side and blinked down at his beer for a second. “I'm sorry, Snip. I didn't know about him and Stella, but I swear I could've killed him when I finally found out.”
Maya snorted. “Yeah, you and me both.”
“And thenâ¦jeezusâ¦I didn't know what the hell I was supposed to do. I mean, shit, it's
we're talking about.”
“I know, which is exactly why we're going to stop talking about him right now and agree to disagree on the fact that he's a complete asshole and deserves to rot in hell.”
It was a feeble joke at best, so she couldn't really blame him for not smiling back at her.
“Oh come on, Jack, it's done, it's over. Dickheadâ¦sorryâ¦
â¦has moved on and so have I.”
“Have you? Moved on I mean.” Finally a smile, hesitant as it was. “Should I be watching out for some big hulking dude who's going to kick my ass for buying you that drink?”
“Yeah, right.” Jack was six three, with the shoulders of a linebacker and arms the size of tree trunks, so there weren't many guys who had what it took to kick his ass. “No hulking anyone, just my girls over there and they're pretty friendly.”
His gaze flicked past her briefly. “I don't know, that one in the green sweater looks like she could take me.”
Without turning, Maya laughed. “Ellie. And you might be right on that one. Are they still staring?”
“Oh yeah.” Jack's eyes crinkled at the corners. “I don't think any one of them's moved since you shoved them all out of the way and leapt over the table.”
“I didn't leap!” Heat raced up Maya's neck and across her cheeks until she finally had to laugh and look down at the floor for a second. “Okay, I might have leapt a little, but I haven't seen you inâ¦whatâ¦two years, so a little leaping wasn't completely uncalled for.”
“Yeah, it's been a while, hasn't it?” His gaze never wavered as he took a slow sip of his beer. “How are you doing? For real, no B.S.”
“I'm fine, really.” She waved away his concern, because for the most part she
fine. Sure, she still had moments every once in a while when it hurtâthat was normal in any divorceâbut those moments were few and far between now. “I can't believe you're here. Thought for sure I'd seen the last of you when I left Will.”
“Yeah, wellâ¦” He chewed his bottom lip for a second, then shrugged. “It was pretty easy to avoid you when there were three hundred kilometers and the border patrol between us, but when I saw you sitting over thereâ¦I don't knowâ¦I figured after all this time, the very least you deserved was the chance to tell me to go screw myself for deserting you the way I did.”
“Hmm. Tempting.” She pinched a couple peanuts out of the bowl on the bar and tossed them in her mouth, all the while grinning up at him, at that face she'd missed so much. “I never felt like you deserted me. We all did what we had to do.”
She might be Jack's friend, but Will was like his brother, and when push came to shove, Jack's loyalty had always been to Will and the rest of the Carson family. She'd known that from the first day they met, and she'd never expected him to change, which was why his next words made her choke on her peanuts.
“He never deserved you, Snip.”
“Well, that's true,” she snorted. “But come on, enough about Dickhead. What's up with you?”
It took a couple seconds for him to finally let it go, and when he did, his expression warmed, his mouth lifted at the corner.
“We're moving to Newport Ridge.”
“We who?” Wife? Wife and kids? A lot could have happened in the two years since she'd seen him.
“The Vancouver office. The lease is coming due on the building we're in and we need something bigger, so we did some looking around and found space in that new building down on the waterfront.”
“The Luna Building? That's great! Does that mean you're moving back from Seattle, then?” Her enthusiasm faded as her own words echoed in her ears. “Hold onâ¦if you already have a place lined up, how long have you been here?”
“Me?” Jack glanced down at his watch and tipped his head a little to the side. “About three hours.”
“Keith from the Vancouver office has done everything up to this point, but he's having knee replacement surgery this week, so they sent me to keep an eye on things while he's sidelined.” He glanced down at his shoes for a second before looking back at her, his little wry smile doing nothing to hide the regret lingering in his eyes. “I don't want to keep you from your friends, but since I'll be in town a while, I was hoping we could get together and maybe catch up?”
“Come on, I'll introduce you.”
“No buts. This is what you get for showing up unannounced after so long. Come on.”
Curling her fingers around his wrist, she tugged him up off the stool and led him back through the crowd, her brain spinning the whole time. Jack Rhodes had walked into her life four years ago, changed everything, and then faded out.
And now he was back. How could that make her so happy and yet a little freaked out all at the same time? And why was her stomach flippity-flopping like thatâthis was
for crying out loud.
Three huge grins greeted them at the table as Maya held her palm up in front of Jack first, and then each of the others around the table as she made introductions.
“Jack Rhodes,” she said, “this is Ellie, Regan, and Jayne.”
“Jack Rhodes,” Jayne murmured. “I've heard that name before.”
“Yeah,” Maya said. “Probably from me.”
Chuckling quietly, Jack shook everyone's hands, then tipped his bottle toward the table. “It's nice to meet you all, but I didn't mean to interrupt your night, I just wanted to say hi to Maya real quick. I'll catch upâ”
“Good try,” Ellie snorted. “But you're not getting away that easily. Pull up a chair and tell me why you look so familiar.”
“And don't worry,” Jayne added. “You're not interrupting anything. We do this every Tuesday.”
“Ah.” He nodded. “Ladies night?”
Regan nodded. “But consider yourself an honorary member for the night, because we need to know why Maya threw herself at some guy none of us have ever met.”
“Must be something good, because I didn't even know she could move that fast.” Ellie pointed Jack in the direction of an empty chair.
When he went to grab it, Maya tipped a warning look at each of her friends. “Be nice.”
“Aren't we always?” Regan blinked innocently as Jack set a chair down at the end of the table. “So how do you two know each other?”
Maya turned her face toward Jack and half muttered, half laughed, “Yeah, you might want to scooch your chair closer to me.”
Instead of answering, Maya looked straight back at Regan and grinned. “He was Dickhead's best man.”
Jack!” Regan, Ellie, and Jayne in surround sound was more than enough to make Jack choke on his beer and everyone at the nearby tables stop and stare.
“I knew I'd seen him before,” Ellie said, wiggling her finger at him. “He was in the wedding pictures we burned.”
“Wow, okay.” Head down, eyes wide, Jack gripped the sides of his chair and shuffled it a little closer to Maya. “Is it too late to make a run for it?”
“You're fine,” Maya said, patting his arm. “But that might change when they find out you were the one who introduced me to him.”
“What?!” Again in surround sound.
“Hold on.” Sputtering and laughing, and with his cheeks flushing all sorts of pink, Jack held up both hands in surrender. “You can't just say that and then leave it hanging. I mean, yeah, I did, but tell them what happened so I don't come off looking like a total dipshit.”
“Okay, but it's not much of a story.” Maya frowned. “It was, what, four years agoâ¦ishâ¦and my roommate at the timeâhave you ever meet Louise, Ellie?âshe got invited to this Hawaii-themed birthday bash for some woman she worked with, but she didn't want to go by herself, so she dragged me with her. We'd barely made it in the door when she hooked up with some guy and deserted me.”
Ellie clicked her tongue. “Bitch.”
“Right? Anyway, I didn't know anyone else there and had just called a cab when Jack here took pity on me. He brought over a piÃ±a colada, stayed until he could finally flag Dickhead over, and then he took off to do the limbo, which he sucked at, by the way. Ba-da-boom ba-da-bing, here we are today.”
“Ohhh.” Regan nodded, pointing at Maya's drink. “PiÃ±a coladaâgot it. Okay.”
Maya turned to smile at Jack, but he wasn't smiling; he was actually looking a little dumbfounded. “You're kidding, right?”
“Seriously?” Shaking his head slowly, Jack lifted his bottle but blinked a few times before drinking. “How did that
make me look like a dipshit? Let's try telling them what really went down that night.”
“What do you mean? I did.”
“Ooooh.” Ellie clapped her hands together and leaned forward. “I haven't even heard it yet and I already like Jack's version better. Spill it.”
Jack hesitated, chuckled quietly then downed a good shot of his beer.
“Will had an on-again-off-again thing going with the birthday girl. That's why we were there.”
“He was with someone else that night?” Maya growled. She shouldn't have been surprised, but still. “Figures.”
“Sonuvabitch,” Ellie muttered.
Jack lifted his hands. “Hold on. In his defense, I think they were off at that point but were stillâ¦
when I saw Maya and her friend come in, I figured there was no way someone like her could possibly be single, so I kept waiting for some guy to show up. No one did, and I couldn't just leave her sitting there, looking all kinds of pathetic in her grass skirt and plastic leiâ¦” Laughing, he dodged the elbow Maya jabbed at him. “So I grabbed a couple drinks and headed over.”
“Oh.” Jayne's soft sigh floated across the table, followed immediately by Regan's snort.
“Are you freakin' kidding me?” she asked. “Maya picked Dickhead over you?”
“What?” Maya sputtered as she shook her head. “No!”
“I think you did,” Ellie said. “Sure sounds that way.”
“That's not what he meant. Jack wasn't hitting on me, he wasâ”
“What?” Her tongue froze the second her gaze locked on Jack's. “You
His warm hazel eyes wide, Jack shrugged slightly and laughed over the rim of his bottle. “There's only two reasons a guy buys a girl a drink, Snip: He's either trying to pick her up or he's trying to apologize.”
“Which one's this?” Ellie asked, but both Maya and Jack ignored her.