Authors: Nicola Marsh
Coordinating events is fun. So far, I’ve learned sucking up and simpering were the most valuable attributes an aspiring function coordinator needed. And it’s cool I write soppy verses for the invitations. I’m a budding author, if you count my journal and the notepad I keep by my bedside to jot down dreams and inspiring thoughts.
To be completely honest, I haven’t written in the journal since high school and the dream book only has a few pages filled (mostly with guys’ defunct phone numbers) but I
I can write. I have a million ideas in my head waiting to be published and in the meantime customers think our invitations are ‘
’. Nat calls it a waste of my talent; I prefer to call it honing my craft.
As I pull up outside the address on Amanda’s stylish invitation—not designed by me—a black Jag screeches to a halt behind me. I wind down the window to give the driver a mouthful when Channing Tatum steps out of the car and the abuse dies on my lips as I watch him shut the door with a bump of his sexy hip.
He walks around the back of the car to the passenger side and opens the door. No doubt he has a date. I can’t see much through my mirrors so I get out of the car and casually glance over. He takes a cute plant, not a cute date, out of the car. It’s not Channing but a dead ringer for him.
"Could you give me a hand? I’ve left my keys in my pocket and I’ve got my hands full."
"Sure." I briefly wonder if giving him a hand means reaching into his chino pockets to remove the much-needed car keys.
"Thanks." He smiles and his likeness to Channing is uncanny. "Reach into my jacket pocket and hit the button, it’ll lock."
Somewhat relieved I wouldn’t be starting our relationship by playing pocket billiards, I reach into his jacket and locate the keys. My hands are shaking as the overwhelming scent of new leather and spicy aftershave wafts over me.
Now I wish the keys
been in his chinos.
"You’ve got it. Give it a press."
The Jag’s indicator lights flash twice as I press the remote. "Done. Anything else I can help you with?"
Carry the plant, take off the leather jacket, marry you
The killer smile again. "No thanks."
He stares at me from around the fronds, checking me out from head to foot. I take a deep breath that thrusts my chest out. No harm in advertising. Hopefully Channing was in the market to buy.
"Is that for Amanda?" I gestured at the plant, hoping the housewarming gift was all he was giving her at the moment. He was just how she liked her men: tall, dark, sex on legs. Damn, I envied her.
He nodded. "Think she’ll like it? I don’t know her that well."
My heart soared. He was a friend, unless she’d taken to inviting her one-night stands home, which I seriously doubted. Also, he was going to the party. Alone. And I had first dibs on him.
That flight to Love? More remote by the minute, thank goodness.
"She’ll love it."
I followed him up the path, his back view every bit as tantalizing as the front. Nothing like a firm butt and long, lean legs to get the heart pumping.
"Can you do the honors?" His voice matched the rest of him: deep, rich, mysterious. And lucky for him, unraveling the mysteries of the male species was a favorite hobby of mine.
A shiver of anticipation ran down my spine. It was the first time in a
time that any man had affected me like this. Vaughan had been the last but a lot of that had been unresolved sexual tension that magically vanished once we’d done the deed.
I rang the doorbell. "I’m not your personal slave."
"Would you like to be?" He stared at me over the top of the plant and my mouth went dry.
Before I could answer, the door swung open and Amanda squealed. "Sloan, you made it. Great to see you. You too, Jazmyn. Come in."
As I stared at Amanda’s LBD, slashed to the waist in front and revealing her recently enhanced DD boobs, one word penetrated my brain.
? Which narcissistic parents would burden a guy with a girl’s name?
He delivered the plant to the gushing Amanda, who soon rushed off to supervise the hors d’oeuvres. Uncharacteristically shy, I gazed at the most gorgeous guy I’d seen in a long time. More amazing? He stared back at me.
"Nice to meet you, Jazmyn. Though it seems like we’re already old friends, doesn’t it?"
That warm, intimate smile again, as if I was the only woman in the world. Time for some witty anecdote or meaningful conversation.
Predictably, I blathered. "Sloan’s unusual for a guy. Your parents must have eclectic taste."
“I chose it.” He frowned, though it did little to detract from his gorgeousness. "I was adopted, didn’t like my name so I changed it by deed poll. A liberating experience. You should try it."
Uh-oh. I knew this was too good to be true. Apart from the suave looks and sex appeal, he was a nutter.
After I’d removed my size eight foot from my mouth, I answered. "I like my name." Time for damage control. "How about a drink?"
The diversion tactic worked as his face relaxed into a semblance of a smile. "Sounds good to me. What would you like?"
“Screwdriver please." The orange juice would counteract the vodka or at least turn it into a semi-healthy drink. Surely I could have one, despite my vow to never drink again after last night?
He winked. "Coming right up."
Apart from the name, he could lose the wink too. It detracted from his natural charm that right now, was shaky at best. Looks were important but could I handle yelling Sloan in the throes of passion? Or worse, pledging my undying love at the altar to a guy with a woman’s name? These important questions whirled through my head as I waited for my drink. And waited. And waited.
I pushed my way through the crowd and headed for the bar, a sleek black and chrome design hugging a wall. The entire apartment was black and chrome; very hip, very Amanda. As I rounded one of the chrome columns near the bar I spotted Sloan deep in conversation with a striking redhead. He held a beer and Miss Titian held my Screwdriver. I sidled up behind him, unsure of my plan of attack.
"The name’s Sloan. What’s yours?" Go get ’em, Tiger. Ten points for originality. Not.
"Tatiana.” She actually batted her eyelashes. “Wow, gorgeous name. My favorite horse was a roan and your name rhymes. I loved that horse."
I backed away as fast as I could. Titian Tatiana was welcome to him. They were a perfect match. Morons Inc.
Determined to drown my sorrows, I headed for the bar. Screw driving home, pun intended. I’d get blotto and take a taxi.
"A Caprioska, please."
I barely glanced at the barman, scanning the room for potential talent instead. The sad thing was while I’d been interested in Sloan I hadn’t so much as glanced around.
Okay, I’d taken a peek but now I had some serious looking to do. Tonight was the night, remember? Step One of my Shove Love campaign. Flo wouldn’t rest until I either landed in Love or proved I had a guy to love.
"Here you go. Hope it’s to your satisfaction."
Something edgy in his tone caught my attention and I glanced up, surprised to see interest in his eyes. An unusual green, the color of a stunning emerald I’d seen in Tiffany’s window once and coveted since. No one had eyes that green. I blame the color on my lapse in sanity.
I took a sip. "Delicious."
A bit like you, sweetie
, I want to say but thankfully don’t.
"Plenty more where that came from." He smiled, not quite as movie-star-ish as Channing but cute nonetheless. Definite potential. "I finish at two."
Direct. And I didn’t even know his name. I peeked at his nametag. James. A nice, normal name. Relief. He’d earned another Brownie point without trying, though I decided to play it cool. Looks weren’t everything.
Tell that to all the single, ugly guys scouting the room
"So?" I’d aimed for cool and casual, ended up sounding bitchy. Ouch.
He shrugged. "Thought you might like to take a drive later. Hang out a bit. Perhaps go down to the Harbor, have a hot dog, watch the sun rise?"
Corny? Hell yeah, but cute. Very cute.
Nat’s wise words
echoed for a moment. Closely followed by Flo’s Love challenge.
Never one to listen to my voice of reason, I chose to go with the flow.
"See you around two." I sashayed away, knowing my ass looked great in the bootleg pants.
"Hey. What’s your name?"
"Jazmyn," I threw over my shoulder, tossing my hair like a Pantene girl.
“See you later, Jaz.”
Impertinent and confidant. The guy had potential, not to mention extremely good taste in women.
Who knew where a moonlight walk by the harbor and a shared hot dog could lead?
Only one way to find out.
Aunt Flo’s tips to be lucky in love.
Avoid Gangnam Style dancing while wearing a micro mini in front of hot work colleague at the pub on Friday night
I was bored out of my brain.
The party wasn’t living up to expectations. All the guys were predictably gorgeous and predictably ten-foot-up-themselves.
I glanced at my watch and stifled a yawn. Was I seriously hanging around for a stranger to get off work?
With the prospect of Flo’s next dating interrogation looming? Hell yeah.
My dotty aunt hadn’t specified how long I had to be dating the guy after our month challenge finished. James may not be long term potential but if he kept me grounded in Sydney and out of crazy Love, I’d do him.
"Hey, it’s my little helper. Enjoying yourself, sweetheart?"
Great. Sloan had reappeared, a lot worse for wear: bloodshot eyes, leering smile, and reeking alcoholic fumes.
"Don’t be like that, babe. We can have a real good time." He leaned toward me and before I knew what was happening he’d grabbed a handful of ass.
Time for the trusty line Nat had taught me ages ago after hearing it used by one of her clients in jail. It never failed.
I leaned into him and whispered in his ear. “I geld horses for a living and have a kit in my car for emergencies. So take your hand off my butt or I’ll slice your balls off and ram them down your throat."
The offending hand dropped immediately. He glared at me, muttered, ‘bitch’ under his breath and staggered away.
I stifled a laugh. Surrounded by Sydney’s trendy elite, I managed to fend off Channing Tatum look-alikes while waiting for a hot dog date with a barman. My life was going down the toilet and I had no one to blame but myself.
After this, even Love appealed.
I sidled toward the door and slipped out into the cool night air. The sounds of muted acid jazz and raucous laughter filtered out of the apartment as I strode toward my car.
That’s when I noticed Sloan was a lousy driver as well as a cretin. The black Jag almost touched my rear bumper. I’d been so preoccupied ogling him getting out of his car, I hadn’t noticed before. What sort of a Neanderthal parks that close to the car in front of him? Kicking a tire on my trusty Ford, I wished I hadn’t parked so close to the car in front.
I had two options. Go back to the party and waste another hour swapping mindless drivel with a bunch of morons or wait it out in my car. I knew the MX5 in front belonged to Amanda’s business partner Shingo and he’d appeared sober not that long ago, so the odds were stacked in my favor he’d leave the party soon. I hoped the fact Li had been draped all over him might accelerate his departure.
Thankfully, the couple materialized five minutes later. I waved as Shingo opened the door for Li but they didn’t see me. Instead, I watched him slide a hand up her dress as she slid her tongue into his mouth.
Ugh. Two people I know swapping a late night tongue samba is not my idea of fun. I almost toot the horn to break it up but Shingo pulled away, slid behind the driver’s seat and the sports-car shot away from the curb. No guessing why he was in such a hurry. Why couldn’t I find a guy who was that eager to get me home to bed?
As I turned the key in the ignition, a loud tapping on my window made me jump. James gestured at me to lower the window. I obliged but only a fraction.
"Aren’t you supposed to be working?" I’m not thrilled at having my escape thwarted.
"Aren’t you supposed to be waiting for me?"
I shrugged, not up to word games at this hour of the morning after the night I’d had. "I’m tired of waiting."
Story of my life.
"Why don’t you get back to your guests?" I turned the key, hoping he’d take the hint.
He leaned against the car, arms folded. "Mandy said I could quit an hour early. Want to get that hot dog now?"
"Not hungry." I sounded like a petulant child and didn’t care. Maybe I should head home, find an online travel agency and book that ticket to Love? Couldn’t be any worse than this.
“Pity. I know a great spot.” His green eyes glittered in the dim streetlight. "Caramelized onions. Hot mustard. Spicy tomato chutney. Winner of best hot dogs in the country."
As he turned away I had visions of rooming with Flo while she tried matchmaking me with every cowboy in town.
I stuck my head out the window. “Get in.”
The smile and accompanying flash of dimple was worth it. He bounded toward the passenger side like an eager puppy and I wondered what the hell I was doing. Could I teach a young dog old tricks? Long enough to stick around for a month and save me from a sojourn in Love?
Five hours later, I knew exactly what I was doing. Sitting on a wrought iron bench under the Harbor Bridge, holding hands with a young guy and watching the sun rise after spending the last few hours talking or kissing. Shame he was only twenty-one. James Goodall had potential with a capital P. And he kissed like a dream.
"How’s the coffee?" he whispered in my ear as he stroked my thigh with his free hand.
“Like me?” His warm breath tickled my ear, sending shivers down my spine. "Hot and addictive?"