Stern(6)

By: Brenda Jackson


“This is Canyon.”

“Can, I apologize for acting like a jerk in the meeting today.”

There was a slight pause. Then Canyon said, “It wasn’t your usual style, Stern. We haven’t argued in years. What’s going on with you? I leave to go on my honeymoon and come back and you’re not yourself. What happened on that hunting trip with JoJo?”

Instead of answering Canyon’s question, Stern said, “Let’s meet for lunch and I’ll call and ask Riley to join us. My treat.”

“What about Dillon?”

A wry smile curved Stern’s lips. “No need. He just left my office after chewing me out, so he’s straight.”

Canyon released a low whistle. “Glad it was you and not me.”

*

“Hey, JoJo, we need a new set of tires for a ’75 BMW and I don’t think we have the model number in stock.”

JoJo glanced up from her computer screen and smiled at the older man who’d stuck his head in her door. Willie Beeker had worked for the Golden Wrench for more than forty years, first with her father and now with her. He’d been set to retire the year after her father’s death and she knew he’d only hung around the past couple of years to give her the help and support she needed. Although he’d trained a number of good men, any of whom could step into his shoes, no one could take his place.

She’d known Beeker all of her life. He and her father had become best friends while working together as mechanics in the army. Her father had gotten out of the military, returned home to Denver and married. Years later, the two friends hooked back up when Beeker had divorced and moved to Denver. While growing up, she’d seen Beeker as more than one of her father’s outstanding employees. She’d considered him an honorary uncle.

“No problem, Beeker. I’ll start checking around immediately.”

Beeker entered her office. “Things were crazy off the bat this morning, and I didn’t get the chance to welcome you back and ask how things went last week.”

JoJo leaned back in her chair and smiled. “I brought down an elk on the third day.”

“That’s great, girl! You didn’t make my boy too mad, did you?”

Her smile widened. “Um, maybe just a little. But Stern will be fine.”

She couldn’t help remembering their final days at the lodge. They’d put up their hunting rifles and pulled out the playing cards and checkerboard. He had whipped her hands down in all the games except one, and she had a feeling he’d felt sorry for her and had given her that one.

JoJo always appreciated unwinding at the lodge with Stern and this past trip had been no exception. After their first conversation about her makeover, he hadn’t wanted to discuss her request again, which made her think he wasn’t crazy about the idea. But he had promised his help and she couldn’t ask for more than that.

“Did the 2010 Porsche come in while I was away?”

Beeker raised a brow. “No. Why?”

“Just curious. It’s a nice car.”

“You sure that’s all you admire?”

She held Beeker’s questioning gaze. “Yes.” Since her father’s death he’d stepped in as a surrogate father to her, but she didn’t want to worry him needlessly.

Beeker nodded. “So you think he’ll ever settle down and marry?”

Now it was JoJo who raised a brow. “Who?”

“Stern.”

JoJo frowned. How had they moved from the driver of the Porsche to Stern? “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

Beeker shrugged. “There have been a lot of weddings in his family lately. His cousin Megan in June, Canyon last month, Riley later this month and Zane before the end of the year. The single Westmorelands seem to be falling like flies.”

“Stern dates a lot, but he doesn’t have an exclusive girl.”

Beeker chuckled. “If anyone would know, you would.” He checked his watch. “Let me know when you locate those tires so I can send Maceo to pick them up.”

Maceo Armstrong was her newest employee, fresh out of mechanic school. “I will.”

It took JoJo less than thirty minutes to make a few calls, find the tires and dispatch Maceo to make a run across town. It was only then that she allowed herself to consider Beeker’s question about Stern. Like she’d told Beeker, Stern didn’t have a serious girl right now. But she knew that didn’t mean he wouldn’t meet someone eventually. After all, as Beeker had said, there had been a lot of Westmoreland weddings and engagements lately. Because of her long friendship with Stern she also was close to his family.