Stern

By: Brenda Jackson

One

“Stern, what can a woman do to make a man want her?”

Stern Westmoreland, who had been looking through the scope of his hunting rifle, jerked his head around at the unexpected question, nearly knocking the cap off his head.

He glared at the woman beside him who was staring through the scope of her own rifle. When a shot rang out, expletives flowed from his lips. “Dammit, JoJo, you did that on purpose. You asked me that just to ruin my concentration.”

She lowered her rifle and frowned at him. “I did not. I asked you because I really want to know. And if it makes you feel better, I missed my target just now.”

Stern rolled his eyes. So what if she had missed her shot now? Nothing had stopped her from taking down that huge elk yesterday when he had yet to hit anything, not even a coyote. On days like this he wondered why he always invited his best friend on these hunting trips. She showed him up each and every time.

Lifting his rifle and looking through the scope again, he drew in a deep breath. He knew why he always invited JoJo. He liked having her around. When he was with her he could be himself and not a man trying to impress anyone. Their comfortable relationship was why she’d been his best friend for years.

“Well?”

He lowered the scope from his eye to look at her. “Well what?”

“You didn’t answer me. What can a woman do to make a man want her? Other than jump into bed. I’m not into casual sex.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m glad to hear that.”

“What do you find funny, Stern? It’s okay for you to be into casual sex but not me?”

Stern stared at her in astonishment. “What in the heck is wrong with you today? You’ve never been into drama.”

JoJo’s expression filled with anger and frustration. “You don’t understand, and you used to understand me even when nobody else did.” Without saying anything else she turned and walked off.

He watched her leave. What the hell? JoJo was being temperamental, and in all the years he’d known her she’d never been temperamental. What in the world was going on with her?

Deciding he wasn’t in the mood to hunt anymore today, he followed JoJo down the path that led back to his hunting lodge.

*

After a quick shower, Jovonnie Jones grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, pulled the tab and took a refreshing sip. She needed that, she thought as she left the kitchen to sit outside on the wooden deck and enjoy the picturesque view of the Rocky Mountains.

A few years ago Stern had stumbled on this lodge, an old, dilapidated place that sat on more than a hundred acres of the best hunting land anywhere. In only two years, with the help of his brothers and cousins, the building had been transformed into one of beauty. It was a perfect hunting getaway. It offered black bears, deer, fox and other wildlife, but this was mainly elk country.

The lodge had been a good investment for Stern. When he wasn’t using it, he leased it. It was a huge two-story structure with eight bedrooms, four full bathrooms and wooden decks that wrapped all the way around the house on both the first and the second floors. The common area included a huge kitchen and dining area and a sitting room with a massive brick fireplace. Plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows provided breathtaking views of the Rockies from every room.

She eased down in one of the outdoor cedar rocking chairs. Even after her hot shower and cold beer, she was still feeling frustrated and angry. Why couldn’t Stern take her seriously and answer her question? It should work in her favor that she was best friends with a man most women believed to be the hottest thing on legs. Stern got any woman he wanted. If anybody ought to know about a woman’s appeal, it should be him.

JoJo chuckled, remembering. In high school, girls would deliberately pretend to befriend her for no other reason than to get close to Stern. It never worked for long because once Stern learned the truth he would drop them like hot potatoes. He refused to let anyone use her. To him, friendship meant more than that. If those girls didn’t want to be her friend because of who she was, then he wanted no part of them.

In truth, most of the girls she’d known in high school, and even some of the women she knew now, preferred not to hang around with someone who wasn’t very girly. JoJo preferred jeans to dresses. She liked to hunt, practiced karate, could shoot a bow and arrow, and knew more about what was under the hood of a car than most guys. Of course, that last skill set had come from her father, who had been a professional mechanic. And not just any mechanic—he had been the best.