The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series) (5 page)

BOOK: The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series)
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“Good evening, Ladies,” he said. Over the last few days she’d seen several of the girls flirt with Crane, and that rubbed her wrong. Now, when he asked how everyone was doing, one of the mouthy gals who’d already had too much to drink sidled up beside him.

             
“Doing good, David.”

             
Jaxie smiled from behind her wine glass.

             
“You’d make a good Bachelor. You’re more my type.” She was tipsy and would regret these words in the morning. The girls were getting bored with each other. One man for twelve gals was simply not enough.

             
Jaxie suddenly realized she was the only one who hadn’t commented. “I think you would have fun as the Bachelor.”

             
A crew member walking by, heard the question and laughed. “What would your daughters think of that Crane?” He continued walking, leaving Crane to nod and back away from the group. “Ladies, good luck tonight.”

             
Crane was married? Jaxie suddenly felt like a balloon that had been pricked by a very pointy object. That explained why he looked at her the way he did. He was married, God dammit. And he was attracted to
her
too. She was forbidden territory, not just because she was on the show, but because he was married with daughters. Dammit.

             
It took the next hour for Jaxie to regain her composure and return to normalcy. When Liam arrived, looking as gorgeous as a quarterback should in an expensive suit, Jaxie tried to smile and play along with the original plan. She was going home tonight anyhow. She might as well fake her last hurrah and hope that Brent watched the show when it aired in three months. But suddenly, the Seahawks football player wasn’t as interesting to her and Jaxie had to wonder why her love for Brent had faded. What had happened to squash her idea of a life with him?

             
An hour later, Liam had sent home several of the gals, but miraculously kept Jaxie for another week. She wanted to feel grateful, but she was flabbergasted. Getting the Bachelor alone was almost impossible especially after the rose ceremony and she had to go to bed wondering why. The only thing she could think of was that he was trying to get back at Brent for their little running feud.

*  *  *  *

 

             
After a morning around the pool, a new date card arrived at the door and the person who’d been asked to go on a private date was Jaxie. Her eyes widened when the girl named Lizzie read her name. Everyone looked over at Jaxie and she tried to look pleased. Crane was in the room, on the sidelines with the film crew.

             
Instead of jumping up and down with glee, she was mortified. “Oh goodness,” she looked at the other girls, some of whom were pleased for her. There were girls in the house who’d quit their jobs, left a child at home and desperately wanted to find a husband to complete their lives. Now she felt badly. Really badly. She was taking up valuable date time with Liam when she knew that she’d never end up with him, no matter how handsome he was.

             
Why had he chosen her? And if Crane was a family man and out of bounds, why the heck didn’t she jump up and down in anticipation of this date with Liam? Sure, she had a crush on Crane but couldn’t she transfer some of that to Liam now? “I better go get ready!” She jumped off the couch and hurried upstairs.

             
The clues on the date card indicated it was a casual affair and she needed to bring a swim suit. After packing a little bag with beach things, she let the other girls do her hair and help choose the sundress to wear on the date. Jaxie was feeling guilty as hell and knew she had to tell Liam to not give her a rose today. Maybe that was it. He wanted to spend the day with her then humiliate her by saying there was no chemistry. She had to be prepared if he rejected her first.

             
When Liam arrived at three, he was followed into the house by Crane. Watching him walk in, Jaxie had to wonder if the other producers didn’t realize how appealing the host was? How did it help the show and the girls to have a sexy man around when they were supposed to be focusing on Liam?  Jaxie hadn’t realized she was biting the inside of her lip, staring at Crane. The makeup girl ran alongside the two men, trying to powder Crane’s nose and he was teasing her by spinning around to avoid her. At that moment Jaxie was jealous, actually jealous, to see him playing around with this young woman.

             
She had to lose this interest in David Crane fast! For one thing he was married, and for another she was going on a private date with Liam. It would behoove her to at least try to see if there was a romantic connection with Liam, even if she didn’t hold much hope for it. Otherwise this whole trip to L.A. and her experience on the show might be worth nothing. Especially if Brent didn’t want her back after he saw her on The Husband Hunt. If she even wanted Brent after this. Oh God, she was so screwed up, she had to get a grip.

             
Liam looked good in basketball shorts and a white t-shirt. With everything she had, Jaxie tried to summon some feeling for him. Maybe it would come later. Crane smiled over at her seated on the couch and she flashed one back. But there was a touch of sadness in hers and maybe even in Crane’s smile. Even if he had an interest in her, she had to ignore him now. Even though he didn’t wear a ring, Jaxie knew many men who took theirs off for the camera.

             
There were a few announcements and then the cameras started to roll. Liam summoned Jaxie from the couch, took her hand and they walked outside where an Aston Martin sports car waited for their date. “Cool. This car is awesome.” She and Liam exchanged a look of excitement and hopped in, with him behind the wheel. They waved goodbye to the rest of the girls and took off down the twisting road to the Pacific Coast Highway and on to the Santa Monica Pier where the production crew had a whole day planned at the amusement park.

             
Unfortunately, it turned out the date was riddled with productions snags and they had to move their venue to Venice Beach. There, they rented roller skates instead, and hobbled their way up the paved trail to embarrass themselves by falling every few feet. Neither Liam nor Jaxie had any experience roller skating but hanging on to each other, they made their way to a hoops game on the edge of the beach. Liam took off his skates and joined the guys shooting baskets. Jaxie could only watch from a grassy area where she sat and undid her roller skates. She couldn’t play basketball. Instead, she cheered Liam on, as he sunk basket after basket.

             
“Go, Liam!” she yelled, full well knowing that the camera was on her. Brent would see this. But a few times, she found herself cheering for Liam simply because he was a sweet guy and they were having a wonderful day.

             
He didn’t stay long in the game, just long enough to get sweaty and after sitting down beside Jaxie on the grass, he realized he needed a shower. Liam stood under an outdoor beach shower while Jaxie watched the water rain over his gorgeously toned athletic build. Even if she didn’t feel much for him romantically, she had to admit he was a beautiful man. The camera caught her looking and she stuck out her tongue in defiance, hoping they’d decide against that shot. Leave it on the editing room floor.

             
If not, she hoped she hadn’t been drooling at the sight of Liam’s body in the shower. Her eyes followed the camera man back to the crew to see David Crane had arrived. He stood talking with the group, in a baseball cap, jeans and a T shirt. At first she wondered if it was him, then he turned and looked straight at her from under his hat. A slight lift of her chin said hi to him, and he mirrored her motion just before a wet Liam closed in on her from behind in a big soggy hug. The Bachelor picked her up and spun her around while Jaxie screamed in surprise.  Of course they got it all on camera, her giggling, him growling in her neck.

             
After drying Liam off they headed down the Venice Beach boardwalk, meandering along, checking out the vendors, laughing over some of the items for sale. After buying her a piece of ridiculously goddy jewelry they stopped for a beer at one of the restaurants that jutted onto the boardwalk.  Music blared from overhead speakers and it was hard to have a conversation but both contestants were wired for sound and the crew would catch every word, even if Liam and Jaxie couldn’t hear each other.

             
Liam was charming. Really, he was. Jaxie had to admit that some lucky gal would get him in the end. When he reached across the plate of nachos to grab her hand, she let him, not knowing if he was trying to irk Brent, or if he really liked her. Liam was definitely likeable and Jaxie had to remind herself several times to not let herself get sucked in to the emotions of the day. The filming continued with Crane out there watching. It was embarrassing, having a romantic date in front of Crane, and his question kept ringing in her ear. “Why?” Why indeed.

             
What she really wanted was to get Liam alone and agree that they were both acting it out for their own reasons. Instead of voicing her question, she borrowed the waitress’s pen and when the cameras stopped rolling for a few minutes, Jaxie wrote on her napkin “I’m having fun. U?”

Liam
nodded and smiled like he was having a ton of fun.

             
“Trying to make Brent mad?” she wrote.

             
He shrugged and looked at her with a measure of guilt.

             
“Me too,” she wrote.

             
He took the pen and wrote “but I’m having fun w u”.

             
“Me too.” Now they both knew each other’s plans. They looked at each other and laughed, knowing each other’s thoughts. They each had their own reason for the date. Jaxie’s smile was as big as her relief. They were comrades. But, strangely, the person immediately bothered seemed to be Crane. Every time she looked over, he scowled.

             
After leaving the restaurant, Liam took her in his arms and kissed her. Not long, not deep, but a good solid kiss with just the tip of his tongue. She let him. And when they pulled back and smiled at each other, they both knew what was going on. From the corner of her eye, she saw Crane walk away, back towards the restaurant, his arms not swinging.

             
She wanted to be two people and send one person to run after him, to reassure him that they were only acting out of spite for another person. But why? Crane was married with kids. That thought alone took the fun out of the moment. For some reason, Crane had a crush on her. Looking back at their moments alone, Jaxie now knew he’d sought her out, hung around her and was holding back telling her. There was no doubt in her mind that the feeling she had was mutual. That had to come to an abrupt stop immediately.

             
As she and Liam walked back to the SUV, arm in arm, laughing, Jaxie tried to not wonder what was going through Crane’s mind. Poor Crane. Oh God, she couldn’t do this. She had to take herself out of this competition. What was the point of being on this show?

             
Back in the Aston Martin, Liam leaned over and turned off her microphone, then did his own. The remainder of the ride to the hotel where they’d change clothes for dinner, was about things they couldn’t say on camera.

             
He looked over at her. “Spill. What’s going on?”

             
Liam looked so handsome, sitting there behind the wheel of a sports car, the afternoon sun casting a peachy glow on them. She had to be truthful now. “Brent broke up with me two weeks ago. He said I’m not adventurous enough.” Jaxie looked over and smiled. “And he’s probably right. I like plans and lists and preparation. I’m a chef. I like recipes.”

             
Liam laughed and Jaxie couldn’t help but notice that it didn’t spur the joy in her as when Crane laughed at her jokes. “I came here to show Brent I could be fun and spontaneous, and then when I saw it was you, I knew it would also infuriate him.” They turned off the highway on their way to the W Hotel. “But, now, I’m really reconsidering. I don’t want to make him feel badly, I don’t. And he was right. We aren’t a great match. I need someone more settled down.” Jaxie put her hand on his arm that gripped the steering wheel.

             
Liam looked over at her and raised one eyebrow in jest. “Like me, baby.”

             
She laughed at him. “Will it hurt your feelings if I tell you that I need a break from football players?”

             
He laughed again but looked slightly disappointed .“We would be great friends.”

             
“I agree.”

             
He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “You sure about not wanting to give this a try?”

             
Jaxie nodded. “I’m sorry. I just think there are some fantastic girls in that house who would make a perfect match with you. I’m kind of damaged goods right now.”

             
So what should we do? Do you want to stay or go?”

BOOK: The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series)
3.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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