Authors: Barbara Huffert
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Questing Copyright © 2009 Barbara Huffert
Edited by Helen Woodall
Photography and cover art by Les Byerley
Electronic book Publication August 2009
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
For Lance Cheuvront, dearest friend and poet extraordinaire. One day soon…
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Armani: GA Modefine S.A.
Starbucks: Starbucks U.S. Brands, LLC
“This cake is absolutely delicious! I still can’t believe you chose to spend your birthday here but I do admit I’m happy to share it with you.” Vera patted Kiley’s hand. “You’re such a sweet girl, the way you continue to visit even though your poor mother passed over three years ago. She’d be so proud of the lovely young woman you’ve become. And Alyssa, what a nice surprise for you to drop in too. Your cousin showed me that book of pictures you compiled. Quite shocking, I must say but she assures me that was the whole point.” She smiled innocently and asked, “Kiley, why didn’t you bring your young man with you?”
“Young man?” Alyssa perked up, vibrating with even more energy than usual.
Kiley blushed, her pale complexion turning the prettiest feminine shade of pink, which suited her green eyes and red hair perfectly. “He’s not my young man. I hardly know him,” she declared, her normal serenity slipping somewhat.
Vera’s eyes were full of mischief. “From what you told me dear, that’s only because you choose to keep him at a distance.”
“Him who?” Alyssa pried.
“No one, Lyssa,” Kiley scowled at her cousin. “I’m glad you enjoyed the cake, Vera. I’m so sorry but we really must run now if we want to make the beginning of the movie.”
As they said goodbye, Kiley’s spirits sank. Alyssa was sure to latch onto Vera’s question like a terrier. She’d push and prod until she got details that didn’t even exist yet.
“Come on, Kiley, spill it. Who is Vera talking about?” Alyssa demanded the instant they were outside.
“No one, really,” Kiley insisted. “I just mentioned once that Jordan McKade is still coming in for lunch every day. I told you about him and I’m sure Dee’s added her two cents.”
“Jordan McKade? The guy with the voice?” Alyssa rolled her eyes. “It’s been what, six months and you still haven’t gone out with him?”
“Only four,” Kiley corrected. “Besides, he’s never asked me out.”
“Maybe he would if you didn’t turn into a complete ninny whenever he tried to talk to you.”
“So Dee has been telling tales,” Kiley was quick to respond.
“Yeah but only because the two of you are so amusing,” Alyssa supplied. “Maybe I should come see this performance myself. Dee says you’re hysterical. Does he really show up every day?”
“Yep. He and his friend, Brett Hudson. Dee must have told you about him too,” Kiley sighed. “I can’t help it, Lyss. All I need to do is hear him and I go to pieces when he’s nearby, even before I see him. Every day I tell myself I’ll be cool and chatty when he gets there but, as soon as he says hello, my brain turns to mush.”
“Dee claims he has a voice that could melt butter.”
“Mm, you should hear him.” Kiley felt her face flush just thinking about it. “He just sounds so hot. I’m telling you, that man’s voice should be illegal. Nothing should sound that good. It doesn’t help that he’s absolutely gorgeous either.”
“So why don’t you make the first move and ask him out? Any man who’s willing to eat at the same place everyday like he does is either hooked or brain-damaged.”
“Or an incredibly good and supportive friend like Brett is,” Kiley sighed again. “I’m such an idiot around Jordan. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“I do,” Alyssa snickered. “You want him. Bad.”
“Lyssa!” Kiley exclaimed.
“Admit it, Kiles. This Jordan guy is the first man who ever got you hot just by being in the same room and you don’t know how to handle it.” She grinned. “Take my advice, cuz. Just go for it. Tell him you want him and see where it leads. Dee thinks he’s an honestly good guy. The least that could happen is you have a steamy fling. But who knows? Maybe, just maybe, he’s a keeper.”
“Be real.” Kiley pretended to be shocked by her casual attitude even though she wished she could be as nonchalant as her cousin had always been. Alyssa would meet a guy. If she wanted him, she got him. When she got bored, she moved on. Kiley knew she was at the other end of the spectrum. She was too old-fashioned or idealistic or something. Still, she had to admit that Jordan McKade was the hottest man she ever met even if she didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. He really was nice too on top of being incredibly handsome with that voice that made her wish he would never stop talking. It didn’t even matter what the man talked about as long as he kept speaking. It was like she could feel his voice caressing every inch of her with each word and they hadn’t discussed anything personal yet.
“Kiley. Hey, Kiley.” Alyssa nudged her.
“What?” Kiley realized her mind had drifted, lost in daydreams and turned bright red. “Oh, sorry.”
Alyssa laughed. “Yep, I was right. You do want this guy real bad.”
“Hey, stop teasing. It’s my birthday, remember? You’re not supposed to pick on me on my birthday,” Kiley stated.
“Okay, you win. I’ll back off for now but one of these days…” She let it hang. “Let’s get to the movie. I still think you could have come up with a better way to celebrate.” She held up her hand to stop Kiley’s protest. “I know, your birthday, your choice. Well cuz, next month is my birthday and we’re going to start the night with a hockey game, followed by many drinks at locations of my choosing. I’ll let you bring Mr. Sexy Voice if you want. Would I like his buddy, Brett?” When Kiley gasped, Alyssa fought to control her giggles as she said, “Teasing, just teasing.”
* * * * *
Brett Hudson waited on the balcony for the man who had always been his best friend to join him. “Did you get Will all set up?” Jordan McKade asked, handing him a beer without bothering to ask if he wanted one.
“All done,” Brett responded cheerfully. “He already had it in order for the most part. I just did a little tweaking. You should’ve come with me. Dee’s one hell of a cook.”
“What did you mooch this time?” Jordan teased.
“Mooch! I don’t mooch. Since Will’s new to the whole website business we made a deal,” Brett explained. “Creative advice in exchange for dinner. Of course, you’d already know that if you actually listened to the conversation going on at your table instead of focusing entirely on the hostess.”
“I listen,” Jordan protested half heartedly.
“Yeah, okay, right, whatever you say.” Brett humored him. “Why don’t you just get on with it and ask her out?”
Jordan sighed, staring into the top of the bottle. “Kiley’s not ready. She needs some more time to get used to me.”
“More time? We’ve been eating lunch there every weekday for four months. I don’t think time is the answer.”
“Maybe not.” Jordan’s face took on a far away look. “But she gets so flustered when we get there everyday that I’m afraid that if I invite her somewhere she’ll say no without even considering it.”
“It’s not we, Jordan, it’s you. I’ve been there plenty of times before you and she’s perfectly calm and coherent. The instant you show up, she gets tongue-tied and grows two left feet.”
“So how do I make her comfortable around me? I don’t want to scare her off.”
“Well, now, that’s why I’m here.” Brett grinned. “Dee said that Cousin Alyssa wants to go to a hockey game on her birthday. Probably hoping a bloody fight will break out and she’ll get to photograph it. Apparently, a quiet dinner, cake at the nursing home and a movie isn’t her idea of celebrating. Last night, Kiley called to ask Will how she could get tickets since the game’s already sold out.”
“What did he tell her?”
“Funny thing about that.” Brett made him wait. “As it turns out, Dee had mentioned our discussing just that subject a few weeks ago. Will, good man that he is, remembered and suggested to Kiley that she speak to you. He said it wouldn’t be safe for her to go to any old scalper since most would surely take advantage of her. He made it sound as if you hooked him up with someone once but unfortunately the information slipped his mind. Couldn’t find the paper he wrote it down on either. It’s a perfect setup and all you have to do is be ready to step in and take care of it for her when she asks you.”
“She won’t go for that.” Jordan’s tone indicated that he was already scheming. “And I certainly won’t send her to anyone I know, alone but…”
“But what?” Brett knew he had a plan.
“But I could give her a number to call where someone could arrange to have tickets dropped off for her.”
“Won’t work. She’ll recognize your voice no matter what you do to disguise it.”
“True but she won’t recognize yours,” Jordan stated. “I’m sure one of your interns would be willing to deliver the tickets if he gets some for himself as payment.”
“Did I also mention that Dee’s decided Kiley might be less shy if you two bumped into each other away from the restaurant?”
“I’ve been thinking that same thing myself.” Jordan grinned. “You know, Brett, we haven’t done anything with Shane lately. He’s been working much too hard. Maybe it’s time for the three of us to get together.”
“Hmm, your brother always did like a good hockey game,” Brett observed.
“So he did.” Jordan was already reaching for the phone. Five minutes later, everything was arranged. “I think I’ll wait a few weeks to call Shane. It’ll sound better if it seems more last minute.”
“Probably be less obvious to the ladies if it comes up too. And it would be very rude not to invite Alyssa for a birthday drink.”
“We’d never be rude,” Jordan agreed. “Of course, we’d have to go somewhere with some sort of competitive distraction available.”
“Of course. I’m sure I can find a way to goad Shane into playing but what about Cousin Alyssa?”
“From what I’ve picked up she sounds awfully competitive too,” Jordan paused. “Naturally, I will be available to keep Kiley company.”
“Naturally,” Brett echoed. “You really need to make something happen soon. It’s not good for you to spend all your time moping like you do.”
“I’m not moping,” Jordan protested. “I’ve been working on our little project.”
“Really? How are we doing?” Brett trailed Jordan to his office to review the progress.
* * * * *
“Brett, what are you doing, sneaking around back there?” Dee asked when she noticed him lurking behind a plant.
“Sh.” He pulled her so she was hidden too. “I came in the back. Jordan has something for Kiley. He’s coming in a little early. I want to see her reaction but I don’t want to be obvious by waiting around out front because she might get suspicious, which would ruin his element of surprise.”
“Did you tell him about the hockey tickets?” Dee whispered.
“Yep, he’s got it covered.” Brett crouched lower as Kiley moved around the room, checking tables. “Here he comes.”
Jordan waited near the door, watching as Kiley made some last minute adjustments. When she turned and their eyes met, Jordan smiled slowly, staying where he was, letting her come to him.
Kiley quickly glanced around the dining room. Thank goodness no one else was there. Maybe today she’d manage to speak to him without making a complete fool of herself. But who could blame her for being nervous, what with the way they all stared as soon as he walked in every day?
“Good morning, Kiley,” he greeted her softly when she reached him.
“Hello, Jordan. You’re early,” Kiley responded. So far so good.
“Yes, I was hoping to catch you alone for a minute,” he explained.
“Oh,” Kiley mumbled after a long pause.
Jordan continued as if he hadn’t noticed. “I know I’m a few days late but I wanted to wish you a happy birthday.” From behind his back, he produced a single white orchid.
When Kiley reached to accept it, Jordan caught her hand. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.” Kiley’s heart started to pound the instant he touched her.
“No, it’s you that’s beautiful. The flower is merely pretty.” His voice lowered seductively as his other hand cupped her cheek.
“Jordan…” Kiley was afraid he’d be able to hear her heart.
“I intended to invite you to dinner until I overheard you telling Dee about your plans with your cousin.” Jordan almost seemed about to kiss her. “Did you have fun?”
He wanted to ask her to dinner? Kiley felt her smile growing. “Uh, we did.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it. Do you girls celebrate all your birthdays together?”
“What?” Kiley felt warmth radiating from his hands. He was still very close to her. “Oh, um, well, usually.” She tried desperately to ignore the impact he was having on her so her brain would continue to function.
“When’s your cousin’s birthday?” Jordan’s expression showed he clearly knew she’d be much more comfortable if he gave her some space but continued to hold her hand anyway.
It finally registered on Kiley what they were talking about. She’d been worrying about how to bring up the subject of finding tickets without sounding like an idiot ever since Will recommended him. “In three weeks and that’s actually something I was hoping to discuss with you.”
“Really? Are you throwing a party? I’d love to come,” he said.
“Well, no, sorry.” Kiley watched his face fall. “But I do need a favor. If you don’t mind my asking?”
His smile returned. “Sure. Anything. Ask away.”
“Alyssa, um, my cousin, wants to go to a hockey game on her birthday. I called and it’s already sold out. I asked Will and he suggested I talk to you.” She hesitated.