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Authors: Nicola Marsh

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BOOK: Lucky Love
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I added cocky to his list of attributes as he trailed kisses from my ear to my mouth. His lips demanded entrance. Our tongues entwined. He tasted of mustard, ketchup and coffee. Yum.

Our frantic hands explored and caressed and stroked. I attributed his urgency to the hormones of youth. What was my excuse?

As his hand covered mine and guided me to the bulge between his legs, I broke the kiss.

"Whoa."

He chuckled and wound a strand of my hair around his finger. "Not that kind of girl, huh? Just my luck."

His teasing made me all gooey inside. Rather than pushing the issue, which most guys I’d known would have, he backed off and made a joke out of it.

“I’d better go."

"Sure, whatever."

No pressure. Very cool.

“Can I have your number?”

I didn’t want to waste my time on another dead-end relationship but with Flo’s challenge constantly mocking me, I had no choice. I could do a month, right?

"Sure." I scribbled it on the back of an old lottery ticket and handed it over. Schmuck. Me, not him.

His hand rested on my thigh as we made small talk during the drive back to Amanda’s where he’d left his car and after dropping him off I zoomed home, eager to tumble into bed before seven a.m.

With my laptop beeping, it wasn’t to be. I could’ve ignored Flo but the truth was, I loved her, every loony inch. She was the only family I had and no matter how grim things were in my non-existent love life, she always made me laugh.

I sat in front of the screen. “Two nights in a row? Love dragging you down, huh?”

Flo waggled her finger. “Love’s bloody marvelous, which you’d find out if you ever bloody visited.”

I mock winced. “Too early for that much swearing.”

“Really? Fuck no.”

I laughed. “What do the Lovernians think of your crass Aussie humor?”

“They love me.” Flo patted her ample girth. “And there’s a lot of me to love.”

“Seriously, I doubt I’ll be visiting any time soon.”

Flo’s eyes glittered with mischief. “Let me guess. You met someone tonight, he’s Mr. Right and you’ll live happily ever after. At least for the next month.”

I didn’t like her mocking tone. Or the fact she knew me so well.

“James seems nice—”

“Did you put out?”

I shook my head. “Give me some credit.”

I usually waited until the second date. Sometimes.

She held up four fingers. “Four weeks is a mighty long time. And none of your others have lasted that long. So I reckon I should make up the spare room in case.”

“Don’t bother—”

“Fine. I’ll book you a suite at the Love Inn. Though there are rumors of bed bugs. And don’t forget I make a mean pav. And lamingtons. And jelly slice.”

I’d tasted Flo’s passionfruit pavlova, her freshly baked lamingtons and red jelly slice. They were almost enough to tempt me into taking the first flight out.

“Last time I checked, blackmail is against the law in all countries.”

Flo chortled. “If my desserts don’t get you here, maybe a bit of hot gossip will.”

I doubted anything she could say would entice me into making the fourteen-hour trip from Sydney to LA, with another ninety-minute trip to kitschy heaven.

“I’d really like to get to bed—”

“I’ve met someone.”

My mouth dropped open. It had been years since Uncle Charlie had died and in all that time I’d never heard Flo mention a bloke let alone be interested in one. She may live in Love but that’s as close as she got to the ‘L’ word.

“Close your mouth, you’re catching flies.” Flo patted her wiry curls self-consciously. “Can you believe it? At my age?”

I couldn’t believe it. How had my sixty-year-old, chain-smoking, trash-talking, wrinkled, grey-haired aunt who never used make-up a day in her life found a guy? Either the karma fairies had got it wrong or there really was something to that crap she spouted about people flocking to Love to find love.

“You’re never too old for a little action.” I puckered up at the screen, laughing at her pained expression as she blushed.

“I’m too old for this shite.”

Considering her wicked sense of humor and sharp tongue, I reckon Flo would give any old fogey a run for his money.

“What’s he like?”

“Not saying another word.” She compressed her lips and mock zipped. “You’ll have to visit to find out.”

I shook my head. “First, there was your challenge for me to keep a guy longer than a month. Now you’re blackmailing me with my favorite desserts
and
boyfriend goss?” I tsked-tsked. “Are there any lengths to which you wouldn’t go?”

She tilted her head to one side, pretending to ponder. “I wouldn’t use the fact Hugh Jackman and Alex O’Loughlin are guests at Love Fest to sway you.”

“Low blow.” I jabbed a finger at the screen. “You know I have a thing for hot Aussie actors. How could you?”

She shrugged and her smile faded. “Don’t get me wrong, sweetheart, I have friends here. Good friends. There’s Liv, who’s my age. She’s a high society LA gal who divorced her bastard ex and is now marrying a local farmer if they can get their shit together. Then there’s Sierra, my neighbor, who runs Love Byte, an Internet dating agency, who fancies Liv’s hotshot son Marc. And there’s Belle, who looks like Katherine Heigl and is the sweetest girl on the planet next to you.”

Flo sighed. “But they’re not you, sweetheart. I miss you. It’s been too long.”

Uh-oh. I could withstand a little blackmail and a boyfriend challenge. I couldn’t withstand tough-nut Flo showing her emotional side.

“I’ll think about it, okay?”

It was the best I could do. I had a job I enjoyed, a nice apartment, great friends and a city I loved on a par with Hugh and Alex.

Sydney suited my lifestyle. Some backwater town that traded on its corny name held little appeal, even for a flying visit.

I didn’t trust the wicked grin accentuating Flo’s laugh lines. “Think fast. Because I may need some girly advice for the boudoir—”

“Chat soon. Love you.”

I disconnected, not sure what horrified me more.

The fact my aunt could potentially solicit sex advice from me.

Or the fact she was getting some action and I wasn’t.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Aunt Flo’s tips to be lucky in love.

If you must use batteries, choose rechargeable. Save the environment and your sanity if they run flat at inopportune moments
.

 

 

Please don’t think I’m a sad case; I had a Sunday routine. Market day. I loved to explore local haunts, checking out the merchandise and fresh produce. Retail therapy without the cardiac-arrest-inducing credit card bill.

Brody, my best bud from work, usually tagged along as Nat worked or spent the day with Marlon in couple-dom. I liked a little one-on-one with him: a guy who made no demands, a guy I could be myself around, a guy I lived vicariously through. Brody’s Saturday night exploits could rival Fifty Shades.

He bumped me with his hip. "Do anything last night?"

“Went to Amanda’s housewarming party.” I picked up a magenta silk scarf, draped it over his shoulder and ducked when he made like he wanted to strangle me with it. "How come you weren’t there?"

He winked. “Big date, you know how it is."

“Yeah, I do."

Surprise widened his hazel eyes. "Did you meet someone?"

“Yeah.” I held the scarf up to the light. "You don’t have to look so shocked."

“I’m not.” He slugged me on the arm. “Any guy would be crazy not to date you.”

I usually found his rueful grin endearing. Today for some reason it pissed me off. Okay, so I may not pick up guys with the regularity of changing my knickers—I swear Brody dated a new woman daily—but was it so hard to believe I might’ve actually met someone worth dating?

“Details?"

I glanced at the price tag on the scarf, equivocated for a second, before replacing it on the display. "James Goodall. Twenty-one, six foot, green eyes, bod to die for."

He made a barf noise, an odd reaction totally unlike Brody.

"What’s up with you? Didn’t you get any last night?"

"We’re talking about you, not me.” His smirk made me want to slug him. “So what does Jimmy do for a living?"

I’d omitted this pertinent fact on purpose, knowing Brody would tease me mercilessly. "He’s in customer service."

"What field?" Brody gave me one of his famous ‘I know you’re holding out on me’ looks.

"He’s a barman," I blurted, wishing he’d drop the subject. I shouldn’t be ashamed of James’s career. Invitation/wedding coordinating wasn’t brain surgery.

“A barman?” Brody’s raucous laughter drew the attention of several passers-by. "I get it. He gave you Sex on the Beach, a Slow, Comfortable Screw and an Orgasm, and you’re his.”

Brody had heard my woeful dating disasters many times so his teasing hurt. I thought he’d be happy for me. Instead, I felt ridiculous and cheap rather than hopeful in the uncertainty of a new romance with endless possibilities.

“Bastard."

“Lighten up.” His chuckles petered out as he placed an arm around my shoulders. "If Jimmy’s what you want, go for it."

My indignation faded. "Not sure if I want
James
."

He hugged me to him. "You mean he didn’t give you the big O yet?"

I wriggled out from under his arm and whacked him in the chest. "None of your business. So which woman did you BS last night?"

As he proceeded to tell me about his latest conquest, I wondered for the umpteenth time why we hadn’t hooked up. We worked together, went out every weekend, told each other personal stuff and generally had a good time. Yet nothing. He’d never shown a glimmer of romantic interest and I pretended to feel the same. Pretended being the operative word, because I fancied Brody a tad.

Okay, I fancied him a lot; he was smart, good-looking, funny, and sexy. But nada. I’d tested the waters by inviting him over to watch
When Harry Met Sally
yonks ago but he’d laughed at the classic film, insisting men and women could be friends without sexual attraction. End of story. I’d quashed my crush. Buried but definitely not forgotten. How could it be, when he was in my face every day of the week and on Sundays too?

"I’m tired. Do you mind if I pike out?"

Translated: I wanted to rush home and see if James had called. I’d deliberately left my cell at home, not wanting to speak to him in front of Brody.

He stared at me through narrowed eyes. "Sure, though it’s unlike you to miss out on a cappuccino. You really like this guy."

Not yet, but give me time. Like four weeks. Long enough to keep me out of Love.

“Ton of work to do tomorrow and I need to get a head start. The Lovell wedding’s coming up, remember?"

Cameron Lovell, son of Australia’s wealthiest media mogul, and his pending nuptials to Tara Shaw, the supermodel, promised to be Australia’s wedding of the decade. Amanda had personally given her staff the biggest lecture in history, demanding we bend over backwards for the Lovells, or resign now. Apparently Cameron was a close friend and she’d insisted his wedding had to be the best.

Brody smacked his head. "How could I forget? Amanda has us walking over hot coals for her ex."

"Ex?"

"Amanda used to date him and by the way she simpers whenever he’s around? Still has the hots for him. Big time."

"You’re kidding? She let
him
slip away?"

Brody rolled his eyes in a perfect imitation of Amanda. "
Cam prefers stick-insects and I couldn’t compete. Why do you think I had my boobs done
?
I give the marriage a year max and he’ll come groveling back to me. I need to show I’m loyal. That’s why I’m investing so much in this farce of a wedding
."

I cracked up. Brody’s imitation of our illustrious leader always made me laugh.

"You’re such an old woman, for a guy."

"At least I don’t look like one," he quipped, punching me lightly on the arm.

I returned the favor with a resounding whack to his chest. He staggered, clutching his chest in mock pain. "See you tomorrow, WonderGal."

"Sure thing, BatBoy."

I grinned as he flexed his biceps and struck a pose. I loved that about Brody. No matter how flat I felt, more frequent on a Sunday after my usual disastrous Saturday night, he managed to cheer me up.

The superhero thing had started years ago when he’d taken me to the movies and some creep had tried to grope me in the dark. I’d twisted the offender’s wrist and yelled
pervert
. Brody had manhandled the jerk out of the theatre to a round of applause. We’d high-fived on his return, joking about what a great superhero team we made and the nicknames had stuck.

After we parted I raced home to check my cell. A tiny envelope icon indicating I had a message taunted me, and anticipation made my palms clammy. Until I saw the caller was Nat. I hit voicemail and listened.

"Hi Jaz, just me. Wondering how the party went last night. Call me."

I would. But I knew Nat would chat for ages and I didn’t want to tie up the line in case James called. Pathetic, I know, but hey, a man drought encouraged such behavior. Not to mention a daft aunt who’d probably have me kidnapped to visit her.

In order not to obsess, I threw myself into housework. After drowning the loo in disinfectant, scouring the shower base and scrubbing the floors, I collapsed in a tired heap on the couch. And yeah, I couldn’t help but glance at my cell. Which rang the instant I did.

Not recognizing the number, I cleared my throat and hit the answer icon. “Hello, Jazmyn speaking.”

“Hey, Sexy.” Low, deep, husky. James. I was impressed he’d called. The
sexy
part? Jury was still out.

“How are you?”

“Great. What are you up to?”

Glancing at my ravaged cuticles and bleach stained hands I bit back my first response
cleaning the crapper
.

“Been out with a friend, doing the Sunday coffee thing. You?”

“I usually work Sundays but have tonight off. Want to catch up?”

I hadn’t been on a Sunday night date in years. Discounting the one I had with Chandler, Ross and Joey in
Friends
reruns. I loved relaxing in front of the TV on a Sunday evening before starting another manic week.

BOOK: Lucky Love
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