Stern(7)

By: Brenda Jackson


She’d known that Canyon had been quite taken with Keisha Ashford three years ago, so his decision to marry wasn’t a surprise. But she had been surprised at Megan’s marriage, only because of the swiftness of the romance between her and Rico Claiborne. And Riley’s and Zane’s decisions to marry were definitely shockers. Could such a thing happen to Stern? What if Stern began seeing a woman seriously and the woman convinced him to end his close friendship with JoJo out of jealousy? So far it hadn’t happened, probably because none of the women he dated saw her as a threat.

Stern would be a good catch for any woman. Besides being handsome and wealthy, he was a nice person—insightful, kind and considerate. And she didn’t just think that because he was her best friend. He dated a lot, but he never treated any woman shabbily. He let them know up front where he stood in regards to relationships and he’d said more than once that he had no intention of settling down or thinking about marriage until after his thirty-fifth birthday. That meant he only had five years to go. And he’d only have that much time if some woman didn’t come along to sweep him off his feet. JoJo had never worried about that before, but the family trend seemed to be that the Westmoreland men were vulnerable to love.

JoJo shook her head. Vulnerable? She couldn’t imagine that word connected to Riley or Zane. And because she knew them so well, she figured that if they were making a long-term commitment, it was because they deeply loved the woman they were marrying.

And because Stern never did anything half-step, there was no doubt in her mind that one day he would meet a woman and fall in love just as deeply. And when that happened, where would it leave her? She knew the answer without having to think hard about it.

Alone.

That meant she had to move forward with her plan. It would be imperative to have someone special of her own before Stern met someone and married. Pushing away from the desk, she stretched her body before grabbing a clipboard off the wall. As she left her office she knew pursuing Walter Carmichael was more important than ever. In a few days she would know where he liked to hang out and then go from there. Wanda, her fiftysomething-year-old know-it-all receptionist, was on it and if anyone could find out the information it would be her.

Like Beeker, Wanda was another trusted employee who’d worked for the Golden Wrench for years—ever since JoJo was in high school. It had been Wanda who had explained to JoJo why it meant so much to her father that she take those etiquette classes and dance lessons, although she’d hated every minute of them. She much preferred being under the hood of a car instead of acting like a simpering idiot the way most teen girls behaved. She and her father had compromised. He would let her go hunting with him and Beeker and take the karate and archery classes she loved, if she learned what she needed to know to be a lady every once in a while.

She’d never been interested in boys the way other girls had been, mainly because the boys sought her out and not the other way around—it hadn’t been for her looks, but for her wheels. Thanks to her dad, she’d always driven a smooth-looking muscle car, a guy’s dream. And just as Stern had known the girls’ motives for faking friendship with her, she’d been very much aware of the guys’ motives. That was yet another reason her friendship with Stern meant so much to her.

Whether it happened in a few months or in the next year, one day he would be forced to end their friendship. And the last thing she wanted him to do was feel guilty about having to cut her loose.

Then there was that other problem she’d found herself contending with during their weekend away: her newfound attraction to him. More than once while they’d been playing cards, when his attention was squarely on the hand he held, her attention had been squarely on him. When had that little mole on his upper lip started to look so sexy? And when had long eyelashes on a man become a turn-on?

If those thoughts weren’t bad enough, when he had dropped her off at home and given her the usual peck on the cheek and hug, she had felt her heart pounding deep in her chest. Yes, she was into Stern bad, and the only way out of it was to turn her attention to another man.