Online dating is a nightmare, but one Jordan Billette can endure for the sake of fulfilling her Grannie's dying wish to see her walk down the aisle in a bridal gown. The trouble is, finding the perfect groom proves harder than finding the perfect dress. Until an impromptu date with her brother's best friend ignites a flame worth fanning.
JT Murphy is desperately trying to hold his life together. Raising a teenaged brother, waiting tables, and finishing college keep him busy. But when his best friend asks him to look out for his sister Jordan during her dates where he waits tables; that's a no-brainer. He won't let any jerks break her heart. And that's what Jordan's dates are. Jerks. Every last one of them. None of them deserve her dazzling smile, sweet curves, or enduring love.
As the wedding date draws near and JT advises Jordan on her best options, he can't help but wonder whose heart needs protecting. Jordan's or his?
Date Night is the first book of four in the completed Wish Come True romantic comedy series. Grab your copy and prepare to laugh and cry as Grannie sets up her grandchildren with the loves of their lives.
Release date: May 3, 2014
Publisher: RCM Imprint
Print pages: 200
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Chapter One Beef Jerky
Big Ben’s Brewery
Royal Oak, Michigan
Get your filthy hands off her!
I breathed deep as my eyes narrowed on Jordan and her newest' flavor of the week' being escorted to their table. Watching her closely, I detected a slight stiffness in her gait. Her long, dark brown hair wasn't bouncing in the usual way.
If Beef Jerky didn't remove his hand from her lower back in a nanosecond, I would be forced to take matters into my own hands. And Jordan wouldn't be happy with me. Too bad. Grannie gave me express orders. She didn't want an asshole for a grandson-in-law. All right, those weren't her exact words, but close enough. One thing was for sure; only assholes feel up a woman on their first date.
The second Beef Jerky caressed Jordan's lower back as he owned her. I grabbed three plates of piping hot food off the counter and strode towards them. When Jordan caught sight of me, her eyes lit up the room like stars on a pitch-black night, and a brilliant smile spread over her face. I almost regretted what I knew I had to do.
I bumped shoulders hard with Beef Jerky a second later, effectively dislodging his hold on Jordan.
"Pardon me," I said, glancing back. "It's a tight fit through those tables."
When the hostess apologized profusely to Beef Jerky, my smile widened to a face-splitting grin. I set the hot plates down at table sixteen.
"Enjoy your meal. Let me know if there's anything else I can get for you."
I gave a curt nod of my head, waited a few seconds for a response…all set. I turned and made a bee-line for my newest customers.
"Hey, Jordan." I gazed directly into her chocolate brown eyes. The dark hue blended in with her pupils, rich and mesmerizing.
She shook her head at me with pursed lips that attempted to hide the smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She knew exactly what I was up to, but she decided to let me off the hook for some reason. Perhaps this date started on the wrong foot.
"Good to see you again," I said, covering my chuckle with a cough. "What is this? Like the sixth time in three weeks?"
The sparkle in her eyes flickered and then ignited into flames. Hmmm. Am I pushing my luck? I shouldn't tease her in front of her date. But someone had to keep it real for her.
"JT Murphy, this is Bryan Jones," Jordan said in a sweeter than honey voice while turning to her date. "Bryan, this is my brother's best friend, JT."
A flash of surprise gleamed in Beef Jerky's eyes. At least the initials were right this time. I could start calling him BJ as my private joke. Bryan stared directly into my eyes while firmly shaking my hand. I knew when I was being sized up, and I didn't like it one bit. BJ had a little touch of the control freak in him. Grannie wasn't going to like my report tonight.
"So can I get you two an appetizer or a drink?" I asked, pulling out my order pad.
"Would you like a starter, Jordan?" Bryan asked in a gentleman-like fashion. "I've never been here, but if you want something, then I'm game."
"The potato skins with extra bacon and sour cream are her favorite," I said, tapping my pen on the table to the rhythm of the background music. Jordan's brows furrowed, and she tossed me an irritated glance. Crap. Did I say that out loud? Oh, well.
"I'm more in the mood for nachos or chicken wings tonight," she said, addressing her date. "They're both good. Do you want to pick, Bryan?"
"Mild chicken wings sound fine—with blue cheese dressing. And bring me whatever light beer you have on tap. Don't forget the water."
"No, sir." Hadn't he watched me write it down? What an idiot. "I won't forget. Corona Light for you, Jordan?"
"Sounds great. Thanks, JT."
I input their order in the kiosk: one beer on tap, one Corona Light, and half spicy/half mild chicken wings. Beef Jerky didn't even ask Jordan what kind of wings she liked. Otherwise, he would know she preferred her wings spicy. Good thing I knew her so well and could reduce her suffering through these dates. At least the meal would be good, if not the company.
I stopped by table eighteen to clear their plates before heading back to Jordan's table with their drinks. Her peal of laughter on my way over inspired a chuckle of my own. I loved Jordan's laugh, not just for the rich timbre of her voice, but because of the way it made her eyes shine. So BJ had a sense of humor, huh?
"Have you decided on dinner?" I asked Bryan. "Or do you need another minute?"
Bryan would be leaving the tip tonight, so I had to suck up a little. As much as I didn't want to care, I needed the tip to help pay for my master's degree, or I'd be hustling tables at a restaurant the rest of my life. The college fund my parents left me had dried up, and I refused to dip into my brother's college fund, even if Derek told me to do it. Just one more year until my studies were done and I could earn real money.
Jordan gave the menu one last look before snapping it shut. "I'll take the steak fajitas."
"With extra guacamole," I said with a wink. "Great choice."
She flashed me one of her genuine, full white teeth smiles, and my heart thudded hard in my chest. Why didn't the women I dated ever give me a smile like that? On second thought, that was a good thing—no time for long-term relationships in my life.
"What about you, Bryan?"
"The Asian Chicken Salad, dressing on the side, please. And hold the cheese."
"You got it." I walked away. After a safe distance, I snorted. What kind of man eats salad for dinner? Dressing on the side and hold the cheese; health nut. Another checkmark on the 'cons' for the Grannie report.
As I waited for my order to come up, I stood by the counter, perusing my tables. Everyone looked content. No hands waving to grab my attention. A few seconds later, my gaze wandered to Jordan again. Nothing else in the place interested me as much as her table. What were they talking about? Oh, to be a fly on the wall. The smile on her face didn't fool me; her body language told another story. She was a smart girl, very wise. She knew Beef Jerky was an asshole and was waiting out the date.
"Hey, JT," Chloe said. She punched me playfully in the arm and stood next to me at the counter. "Isn't that Jared's kid sister at table fourteen?"
"Yep." I crossed my arms over my chest and glanced over at Chloe.
She was one of my favorite co-workers. Short and perky. But with a lot of grit. She didn't take crap from anybody, and the woman knew how to work the tips. I even coaxed a few of her tricks out of her, though the smiley face idea was more of a chick thing. But I knew how to charm the ladies when needed, though truth be told, I didn't put much effort into it these days. My focus was squarely on getting through school to secure my future.
I gazed at Jordan. "She's not much of a kid anymore. Just finished her last semester at Grand Valley State and is back for the summer until she finds a job. For her mother's sake, I hope she limits her search to this area. Everyone missed her the last four years while she attended college."
No. Jordan wasn't a kid anymore. That was for damn sure. Her white button-down shirt pulled slightly in the chest across her full bosom. And those long legs of hers filled out a pair of skinny jeans just fine. A strange knot formed in the pit of my stomach, watching her. I enjoyed having her back in town. We'd had a lot of laughs over the past three weeks during her twice-weekly dates at the restaurant; we even hung out a few times afterward. Summer classes kept her brother busy these days so that I couldn't hang with my best friend often. But Jordan had extra time on her hands while she interviewed for teaching jobs for the fall.
If she wasn't my best friend's kid sister and I had a penny to my name to support her, then I might sign up for the stupid dating service Grannie was paying a fortune for. Jordan wanted to find her soul mate before Grannie died. I didn't believe much in soul mates. But whoever eventually called Jordan his wife was going to be one lucky guy.
Stiffness settled in my shoulders, but I hoped my smile appeared genuine. Anyone who knew me well would recognize the difference. But I had just met Bryan twenty minutes ago for the first time. And already I wished the date was over. What a possessive and self-centered jerk. I hated when men got too familiar with my body on a first date or second or third. Although I should've scolded JT for his antics when we arrived at the restaurant, I secretly wanted to fist bump him.
Another hour…I could handle it.
"So tell me, Bryan, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a male entertainer." He relaxed back into his seat and gazed down at me under hooded eyes. "Have you ever been?"
My face must have resembled an owl with eyes the size of half-dollar coins. I fought the urge to burst out laughing. No wonder he walked around like he owned me. Even I admitted the guy was a looker. He must be used to the ladies drooling all over him. And by the tone of his voice, he was pretty pleased with himself and his career choice.
I cleared my throat. "Um…sure, I've been once with my girlfriends for a bachelorette party. Just last month." Heat began rising in my cheeks. What an eye-opening experience. Well, at least the evening wasn't going to be a total waste. I couldn't wait to hear more. "So, do you have a stage name? That's what they call it, isn't it?"
"Smart girl," he said, flashing a lewd smile. He leaned into the table and spoke quietly as if sharing a trade secret. "They call me Sergeant Pecker."
A peal of laughter burst out of me, and I covered my mouth almost instantly. Red hot flames of embarrassment licked up my neck and singed my cheeks. "I'm sorry to laugh, but that's so funny. Where do you guys come up with those names?"
Before Bryan could share the interesting details, JT appeared with our drinks, ready to take our order. I picked up the menu again, relieved to have a few minutes to collect my wits. I decided on the steak fajitas. Before I ordered extra guacamole, JT read my mind and wrote it on his order pad. I loved coming here to eat twice per week. The food was terrific, and JT knew what I liked and how I liked it. It was wonderful to be home again.
As JT took Bryan's order, I marveled at JT's ability to maintain a positive attitude no matter what the situation. What a trooper? He watched over me while I brought male after male into the restaurant in my search for 'The One'. I tried my hardest to ensure the date was enjoyable, even with the total jerks. My attitude might mean the difference between a generous tip and a crappy tip. And whatever ensured he got the best tip, well, I would do it.
I admired JT for raising his younger brother at the cost of delaying his graduation from college. When his parents died in a tragic car accident five years before, he had only been nineteen. Talk about a lot of pressure for a teenager. But look at him now; one a year away from becoming a certified public accountant with an offer in the bag. And Derek would graduate from high school in a week. I felt proud of both of them.
JT walked away to put in our order, and I turned my attention to Bryan.
"You're making me feel guilty for eating steak fajitas," I said with a smile. I couldn't resist the urge to continue the entertaining conversation about his occupation. "But I guess you're careful of what you eat to keep those muscles lean."
"Exactly!" His expression bespoke of his daily personal sacrifice at the hands of his profession. I could only surmise he took his work very seriously. "You have no idea how hard I work to keep these six-pack abs. Do you want to see?"
We were in a public restaurant. I didn't want to see his six-pack abs here. Maybe I could sneak a peek outside for curiosity's sake.
"Um…another time," I said after forcing down my gulp of beer. "So tell me how you prepare for your routine every evening."
As Bryan droned on about himself, my gaze drifted over to where JT stood leaning against the counter. A perky petite blond strode up and punched him in the arm before starting a conversation. Could she be any more obvious that she was into him? A tiny twinge gripped me in the heart. Who was Blondie anyway? I hadn't noticed her at the restaurant since I got back from college.
Before the night was out, I would secure an introduction. Like it or not, if Blondie was interested in my brother's best friend, then she must pass the Jordan and Grannie test. He was like family, and I would do anything to protect my family.
"So do you want to come next Friday evening?"
"Excuse me," I said, settling my eyes back on Bryan. Damn. I got caught red-handed, not paying attention to the conversation. How rude of me. I'd be pissed if the tables were turned. And now I had to tell a little white lie. "I'm sorry. Looks like our appetizer is almost ready. I'm starving. What did you ask?"
"Do you want to come to next Friday evening's show? You're welcome to bring some of your girlfriends along. I can reserve a table for you in the front row. Seats up to eight women."
My mouth hung open. I didn't trust myself to speak and stalled a moment to craft a suitable response; 'Are you fucking kidding me?' probably wouldn't go over very well. Luckily I dodge the question because JT arrived with our appetizer divided on two plates, placing one in front of each of us. Huh? We'd only ordered one appetizer.
JT winked at me. "Spicy hot…the way you like it."
My eyes shot to Bryan's, and we both burst out laughing. JT arched a brow at me, not following along with the joke. I gently shook my head. I'd fill him in later as I had with my previous dates.
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