Catch 'n' Kiss (Are You Game?)

Dedication

For Mr. C. You can
catch ’n’ kiss
me whenever you want.

Chapter One

Dan O’Conner reached for the warehouse door only for it to fly open and almost take his hand off. He took a half step back when a curvy behind appeared first through the doorway. Jody. She was bent at the waist, her lust inspiring curves on perfect display as she attempted to drag a huge box outside.

He stepped forward. “Here, let me help you.”

“No, thanks. I’ve got it.” She might not have snapped at him as usual, but there was a steel edge to Jody’s voice that told him to back off.

“Whoa.” Dan raised his hands and stepped out of the way as she cleared the doorway, tugging the box with her. Or trying to at least, but the thing was as wide as the door, and if she wasn’t careful it would be wedged good and tight. “I was just offering to help.”

Jody turned her head, flicking her blonde ponytail out, and lasered him with stormy-blue eyes. “And
I
said I’ve got it.”

Dan took another step back. He had no clue why this woman didn’t like him. It went beyond their initial introduction where he’d been pissed off at his boss, Cassie, for bringing in someone to share his workload. He’d been an arse about it all, and after that first day, Jody had avoided him or cut him off at the knees. The animosity hadn’t improved one iota when he’d swallowed his pride and apologised for his behaviour either. For some reason, Jody was still determined to dislike him. Which was a definite shame, because once he’d pulled his head out of his arse he’d realised she was one woman he wouldn’t mind getting to know better.

Not that he’d take it beyond friendship even if she did like him. They worked together, and he’d been burned by a workplace relationship before. He wasn’t about to tread in that territory again no matter how much his libido stood up and took notice whenever she was near. She wiggled her arse as she attempted to pull the huge box clear of the doorway, and Dan’s pants got a little tighter. If she didn’t want his help he’d be quite happy to stand here enjoying the view until he could sneak past and go inside.

A car pulled up behind him and Dan turned to see Cassie’s boyfriend—and Jody’s brother—climb out of the driver’s seat. “Hey, Luc.”

Luc raised an eyebrow and tipped his chin in Jody’s direction. “How’s it going?”

“Good. You helping out tonight?” Dan asked.

“Nah, just a quick stop to see Cass before I have to get back to work.” Luc stood beside Dan and eyed his sister. “Ah, Jody, do you want—”

“No!” Jody snapped as she yanked hard on the box. It sprang free of the frame and sent her stumbling back a couple of steps.

Dan and Luc both jumped out of the way to avoid a collision. Jeez, she really was in a mood. Good to see it wasn’t just him she was lashing out at though. If she was that short with her brother, maybe it was her natural disposition and not anything to do with him. Except she was all smiles and laughs with everyone else at work most days. Stepping around the box, he grabbed the door. Jody huffed out a breath and stared at him. He could see her struggling to hold her tongue, so he smiled and pushed the door wider so it wasn’t resting on the box and restricting its movement at all.

She narrowed her eyes and pulled her normally plush lips into a thin, straight line. “Don’t you have things to do before we head out to the venue?”

Dan grinned. “Yeah, guess I do. See ya later, Luc.” He wasn’t stupid. He knew when he wasn’t wanted, and if Jody was going to treat him like crap even the draw of checking out her hot bod couldn’t convince him to hang around.

 

Jody took a deep breath and grabbed the box again. She knew Luc was still standing behind her, could feel his eyes boring holes in the back of her head. She’d been a bitch with a capital B. Damn. What was it about Dan that rubbed her the wrong way? He’d apologised for his initial hostile treatment weeks ago, and yet she couldn’t seem to let go of her animosity towards him.

“Wanna talk about it?” Luc asked.

She let go of the box and turned to face him. “Not really.”

“Are you pissed off in general or just at Dan?”

“Neither.”

Luc’s eyebrows hiked up to his hairline.

Jody sighed. “You know he was an arse when I first started working here.”

“And?”

She shrugged.

“C’mon, Jody, it isn’t like you to be nasty when it’s not warranted, and I know Dan apologised for being a prick ages ago.”

“I know.” She dug her nails into her palms. “He just rubs me the wrong way.”

“By offering to help?”

Dammit. Why did Luc always have to be logical? “By breathing,” she mumbled.

“What?”

“Nothing.” She looked at the ground and tried to clear her thoughts. Something that proved difficult whenever Dan was around. She brought her gaze up to meet Luc’s. “I don’t want to be a bitch to him, honest, it’s just…argh. I don’t know why I’m like that with him. It’s not like I treat anyone else that way.”

Luc shook his head. “You don’t even treat Colin that badly, and God knows if anyone deserves to be treated like shit it’s your ex.”

He had a point. But she’d always kept things civil for the girls’ sake. “That’s for Leigh and Amy’s benefit not his.”

“Want to know what I think?”

She laughed. “If I say no, is it going to stop you from sharing?”

“Probably not.” He grinned. “I think the animosity between you is hiding some serious sexual sparks.”

Jody closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. God, not only was her brother logical, he was smart. She opened her eyes and her gaze met Luc’s knowing one. What could she say? She certainly couldn’t argue. Dan did get her sexual juices flowing. Something that hadn’t happened in so long she’d begun to think that part of her had died a slow, agonising death along with her marriage.

“Look, I understand if you don’t want to acknowledge or do anything about it, but you can’t keep acting the way you are. It’s not fair to Dan—or you—and you’ve got Cass worried. She said the two of you had a shouting match yesterday, and while I know you’d never do that at a party, you can see how it might be a concern for her.”

“Shit. I thought Dan and I were the only ones here.” She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Hey.” Luc pulled her into a hug. “It wasn’t Cass that heard you. West was here.”

“Oh God.” Jody buried her face in Luc’s chest. “That’s even worse.”

He laughed.

She pulled back and thumped his arm. “It’s not funny.”

“Yes, it is.” He gripped her forearms and set her away from him. “You need to sort it out.”

“I know. I will.”

“All right then. Want some help with that?” Luc pointed to the box.

Jody laughed. “Yeah. Help me get it into my car.”

Luc bent his knees, wrapped his arms around the sides and picked it up as if it weighed no more than a box of tissues. She rolled her eyes and led the way to her car. She pressed the button on her alarm and opened the tailgate of her SUV. “Shove it in there.”

“What’s in here anyway?”

“Decorations for a kid’s party next week. I’m going to get the girls to help me put them together on Sunday.”

“Isn’t there a law against child labour?”

“Probably.” She grinned. “But don’t tell them.”

“My lips are sealed.” He mimed zipping his lips.

Tears stung her eyes, and for the life of her she couldn’t work out why she was on the verge of crying. As Luc straightened from the back of the car, Jody stepped next to him and threw her arms around his waist. She clung to him and swallowed the emotion clogging her throat.

“Hey, hey. What’s wrong?” He held her close and patted her back.

“I just wanted a hug.”

Luc squeezed her tighter. “Anytime, you know that.”

“Yeah, I know.” He’d always been there. For as long as she could remember, her big brother had been watching over her—supporting her. But it was time to stand on her own two feet.

Jody allowed herself a few more seconds of leaning on Luc before she pulled free. He watched her with that all-seeing gaze of his and she fought against the need to wrap herself around him again. It wasn’t often that she let her doubts and fears creep in, but since she’d gone back to work fulltime, she’d found her emotions in a complete jumble. She flipped from confidence in her ability to support her and the girls to absolute terror that she’d default the mortgage and not be able to put food on the table. It was irrational and stupid, and she’d had enough of her see-sawing state of mind.

“I’m good.” It was a verbal assurance for both of them. Luc would take over if she let him, and that was the last thing she or the girls needed. “I gotta go. We’re heading out in an hour.”

“I’ll walk you in. I want to spend a few minutes with Cass before I have to head back to work,” Luc said.

They walked back to the building. “You don’t normally work nights.”

“I’ve got a couple of new guys on tonight’s detail, so I want to be on hand.” Luc held open the warehouse door for her to step through. “Plus, Lachlan is worried about Cameron. This is her first official public appearance since she disappeared from the spotlight years ago.”

“Not to mention she’s now the future Mrs. McDermott. That’s got to garner a boatload of attention.” Jody had met Lachlan a few times, and while the dark, brooding man wasn’t her type, she could see his appeal and understand why a woman who’d shunned the limelight would step back into it for him. She glanced at Luc. “Are you expecting a late one?”

“I don’t think so. As soon as I’m happy with the way my men are working, I’ll probably cut out.” He stopped at the stairs. “I might even see you later if I get off early enough.”

“If not, I’ll talk to you next week. We have to sort out Mum’s birthday present soon.”

“Why don’t you just get whatever and bill me,” he suggested.

“Ha. You’re not getting out of it that easy. Besides, we should decide whether or not to go out for dinner or just have it at my place.”

“Why don’t you have it at Luc’s?” Cassie asked from halfway up the stairs.

“Hey, gorgeous.” Luc spun around and took the stairs two at a time. He wrapped an arm around Cassie’s waist and yanked her against his chest. “Ah…just the person I was looking for.”

Jody watched as her brother planted a kiss on her boss. It wasn’t a quick peck on the lips either. No, this was a carnal assault that made Jody’s stomach knot with envy. She turned away.

She didn’t begrudge her brother happiness, but she’d been married and had two kids and not once had her husband given her the kind of contentment that glowed on Luc and Cassie’s faces. Of course, it had a lot to do with the no-good scumbag she’d married and the huge bubble of denial she’d lived in for years. Well, no more. She might not have someone to share the rest of her life with, but she was determined to find happiness and satisfaction in every other aspect of her life. Starting with her job and the friendships she’d begun to form.

And that included Daniel O’Conner.

 

 

Dan stood off to the side and watched Jody shut down the party. He was supposed to be here only as backup, but he’d been helping out all night much to her disgust. She’d finally told him to quit interfering in her event, find a spot and stay in it. And he had to admit, she knew what she was doing. He’d underestimated her abilities and owed her another apology. Of course, he’d wait until after everyone had gone home before he gave it to her.

The host and hostess had disappeared behind their bedroom door hours ago and Jody was currently seeing the last of their guests out the door. Clean up was well underway, and he figured they’d be heading out and locking up within an hour, possibly less. There’d been only one glitch to the evening, and while he’d been prepared to deal with it, Jody had taken the situation—a half-naked partier—out of his hands and dealt with it with speed and efficiency. He really did owe her that apology.

She must have felt his eyes on her, because she turned his way and raised one finely sculptured eyebrow. The question was clear. The answer not so much. He couldn’t say why he had the urge to follow her with his gaze. Sure, she was easy on the eyes, more than easy, she was a knockout. Especially when you considered she was the mother of two teenagers. Definitely one for the MILF column. A smile tugged the corner of his mouth and she narrowed her eyes.

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