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A haunted beauty inspires a Navy SEAL turned playboy bar owner to change his ways in this tender and sensual novel from the bestselling author of Hot Shot and the Heller Brothers series.
Waitressing at a tequila bar on the beach in sunny San Diego may not be what Reece Kirkwell wants to do forever, but for now it’s perfect—other than the flashbacks to the tragedy she caused in Boston. And the fact that one of her bosses is a domineering, first-class manwhore who’s as stubborn as he is sexy. If he’d just listen to her, she could double his business. But it would also mean getting close to someone, and that’s a risk she can’t afford.
Cade Hardy’s partners at Conquistadors are like his brothers, but he’s the money man trying to keep them all afloat. To blow off steam, he’s been sleeping around a little. The last thing he needs is business advice from their crazy-hot new waitress. Cade can’t figure Reece out. She’s smarter than she lets on, and she doesn’t hide her disgust for his active sex life. But after he recognizes her PTSD symptoms, Cade is determined to save her . . . unless she saves him first.
Praise for Long Shot
“[Kelly] Jamieson hits her stride in her enjoyable third Last Shot tequila-flavored contemporary romance. . . . Cade’s vulnerability and gruff kindness make him a hero to root for.”—Publishers Weekly
“I love watching two stubborn, independent, complex characters fall so hard for each other—and fight it so hard, too. What a terrific story!”—Christi Barth, USA Today bestselling author of the Naked Men series
“Top shelf tequila, yummy food, mouth-watering sex. A charming heroine and a tough, wounded hero. You need to one-click Kelly Jamieson’s sparkling series finale, Long Shot, now.”—Serena Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Do Over
“Intriguing, sexy, and intense . . . I absolutely loved it!”—Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
Kelly Jamieson’s USA Today bestselling Aces Hockey series can be read together or separately: MAJOR MISCONDUCT OFF LIMITS ICING TOP SHELF BACK CHECK SLAP SHOT PLAYING HURT BIG STICK
Don’t miss any of Kelly’s alluring reads: The Bayard Hockey series: SHUT OUT | CROSS CHECK The Last Shot series: BODY SHOT | HOT SHOT | LONG SHOT The standalone novel: DANCING IN THE RAIN
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Long Shot
Her boss was definitely a grade A manskank.
Reese walked toward the table at Conquistadors Tequila Bar, carrying a tray of champagne flutes and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, trying to ignore the woman standing next to the table who was pouting at Reese’s boss, Cade Hardy.
Everyone at the table had swiveled their heads to stare at the woman, the happy chatter falling silent.
“Why won’t you answer my calls?” The gorgeous, tall brunette blinked wet, thickly mascaraed eyelashes. “My texts? I don’t understand.”
Cade shifted in his chair, then rose. “I told you, Amelia.” He gently took the woman’s arm and tried to steer her away from the table.
Reese did her best to ignore the developing drama as she set glasses at each place, studiously focusing on the table, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. This wasn’t the first time one of Cade’s “dates” had shown up at the bar, either pissed off and chucking glasses at him or crying her mascara off. It made life interesting.
Amelia stood firm in her platform heels. “You didn’t really mean that. What we had was special. You said that yourself!” She wasn’t keeping her voice low, and everyone could hear.
Reese exchanged a tight smile with Carrie, the girlfriend of one of her other bosses.
“Amelia, I told you I don’t do relationships.” Cade’s voice was lower as he edged Amelia away from the table.
“You said you were fine with that. It was just one date.”
No shit, he didn’t do relationships. In the few months Reese had been working at Conquistadors, Cade had probably slept with twenty-eight women. Not that she was counting.
“But you brought me to a wedding! I met your friends! That has to mean something.”
Reese focused on her task to avoid the awkward encounter, easing the cork out of the bottle of champagne with a small pop, diverting attention away from the unhappy couple. She expertly poured the wine into Carrie’s glass, her thumb in the punt of the bottle, holding the flute in her other hand and tilting it so the wine slid down the side.
She waited as bubbles subsided to fill the glass, then set the glass on the table and stepped to the side to pick up Marco’s.
“This is so nice,” Carrie said in a bright tone, reaching for the flute.
Marco inclined his head. “Congratulations again, belleza.”
They were celebrating the opening of G Gallery, where disadvantaged kids could hang out and make art, in the hopes that it would keep them off the street and out of trouble. Marco’s girlfriend Carrie had been working on setting up the gallery pretty much since Reese had started working at Conquistadors, along with her mother and of course Marco.
Amelia’s sobs grew fainter as Cade led her out of the bar. Reese continued to fill glasses until everyone at the table had champagne. Then Marco lifted his in a toast. “To G Gallery. And to Cheryl and Carrie. Congratulations on all your hard work.”
They all clinked their glasses together and sipped the sparkling wine.
Cade rejoined them and picked up his glass. “Sorry about that,” he muttered.
Reese moved away from the table with the empty wine bottle, unable this time to stop her eyes from rolling and her lip from curling. What a hound he was.
Before she could get far, her third boss waved her back to the table. Conquistadors Tequila Bar was owned by three men—Cade Hardy, Marco Solis and Beck Whitcomb, all of them former Navy SEALs; all of them hot as hell. (Manwhore tendencies notwithstanding.) She’d just overheard Marco telling Carrie’s mom why they’d named the bar Conquistadors . . .. “We thought it was fitting. All three of us had some . . . challenges growing up. Then we all decided to become SEALs, which is another huge challenge. We all made it—we were three of the fifteen who made it out of a class of a hundred forty-five when we started. We decided that naming the bar would remind us that we can overcome anything if we put our minds to it.”
For some reason, she truly admired that, even if she privately thought they were a little crazy to think they could just open a bar and be successful.
“Hey, Reese,” Beck said. “Can you bring us some nachos, some chips and dip, and, uh, jalapeño poppers? And hey, Sid’s got something new we can try: Tater Tot nachos.”
Reese winced at the mention of the new menu item. “Um, yeah, about that . . .”
Beck frowned. “What?”
“They’re . . . well, you’re the boss. You should try them, if you haven’t. I’ll get those right out for you.”
She headed to the kitchen to put the order in.
Tater Tot nachos. Ugh. It wasn’t a bad idea, but the execution left much to be desired.
She got that the guys were trying to improve their food menu. She knew Sid, the cook, was trying. He just wasn’t up to the job.
Oh, the things she could do . . .
But no. She was a waitress here. Happily waiting on people, serving drinks and food, living in sunny San Diego . . . she sighed. Okay, not so happily, but still, this was her choice and she was making the best of it.
The food menu here sucked, and even though the bar served some excellent drinks, which was what attracted most of their customers, the drinks menu could also be improved. The bar was attractive, elegant and stylish with white walls, dark wood, black leather furniture, and funky chrome light fixtures suspended above tables. The big stone fireplace against one wall nearly always had a fire flickering in it. Wood Venetian blinds on the windows shaded the bar from bright California sun.
She checked on her other tables, picking up a few dishes and transporting them to the kitchen, taking more drink orders, which she relayed to Alex working the bar tonight. Often Beck tended bar himself, or sometimes Marco. Beck was a charming flirt, though happily married, but that didn’t stop female patrons from hanging around to talk to him, admiring his sexy tats, beard, and man bun. Actually, even the male customers liked hanging around talking to Beck.
Marco was more serious than Beck, but had definitely lightened up since Reese had first started working there, which seemed to be largely due to his girlfriend Carrie. All three guys were knowledgeable about fine tequilas, but Marco was the connoisseur. But when it came to serious, Cade was the winner. He rarely tended bar, spending most of his time in the office with his spreadsheets and graphs and sales charts. When he wasn’t out screwing half the female population of Southern California.
Reese carried the food her bosses had ordered to the table and they all began passing the platters around, serving themselves nachos and poppers and chips. She waited expectantly, holding her tray in both hands.
“This is the new item.” Marco picked up a cheesy Tater Tot and popped it into his mouth. He chewed. And swallowed. “Well.”
“I know what he’s trying to do,” Reese spoke up. “Using some fresh ingredients would be so much better.” Her lip curled again. “Those are made with frozen Tater Tots.”
One of Marco’s eyebrows shot up.
Cade rose to his feet. “Hey, Reese, can I talk to you for a minute in the office?”
Her stomach clenched at the grim look on his face and her face tightened. “Of course.”
She followed her boss back behind the bar, down the short hall and into the office the three men shared. It was a cluttered space including two desks, one of which was covered with papers, folders and binders as well as half-drunk bottles of tequila and inexplicably a bike helmet and a basketball. Cade’s desk, however, was neat and tidy, with nothing but a couple of file folders and his computer.
He turned and leaned a hip against his desk. She stopped just inside the door, her insides tightening.
Damn, why did he have to be so good-looking? The first time she’d met him when he’d interviewed her for the waitress job here, she’d taken him to be a laid-back beach bum based on his appearance—shaggy, sun-bleached hair hanging over his forehead nearly into his stunning ice-blue eyes, dark gold scruff on his tanned cheeks and chin, and big, broad shoulders wearing a loose tropical-patterned shirt. His mouth was distracting in itself—a full bottom lip and sharply carved top lip she had to drag her attention away from.
It had been hard to take him seriously at first, but she’d quickly learned he wasn’t laid-back and he wasn’t a beach bum. He was the guy in charge—organized, efficient, decisive, and controlling. Waaaay too controlling. Now she swallowed, once more trying not to look at his sexy mouth.
“You can’t criticize our menu in front of guests,” Cade said, his eyebrows pulled together.
She bit back the words she wanted to say—that the menu sucked. She’d only been here a couple of months, and she didn’t want to lose this job. But annoyance rose in her because he was right, dammit. She would never have tolerated anyone who worked for her criticizing her menu. “I’m sorry,” she said stiffly. “It won’t happen again.”
One of his dark gold eyebrows lifted. “You sure? This isn’t the first time you’ve done it.”
She tried to keep her face neutral. “I’m sorry.”
He fixed her with a steady gaze that made her insides twist up. No wonder he had women all over him, all the time. Manskank.
“What’s your problem with our menu?”
She pressed her lips together. “I don’t have a problem with the menu.”
“Funny, you seemed to have a problem with it a few minutes ago. And last week when you told a customer not to order the seven-layer dip.”
Her lips twisted. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
He regarded her thoughtfully for another moment, then lifted his chin. “Okay. Glad we set things straight.”
Taking that as a dismissal, she nodded and hurried out.
Inside, she burned. She hated being told what to do. Hated making mistakes. And she especially hated serving people food that sucked.
She had to get over that. This wasn’t her restaurant. She didn’t have to care. She didn’t want the worries and responsibilities. All she wanted to do was smile and serve people, collect her tips, and go home to the crappy little duplex she rented.
Tight-lipped, she went back to take orders for another round of drinks from the table her bosses were at. They were all laughing and happy, Beck and his wife, Hayden, Marco and Carrie, and Carrie’s family. A brief pang of self-pity struck her, a moment of intense loneliness.
Then Marco smiled at her with a quizzical look, no doubt wondering if Cade had thoroughly spanked her back in the office.
As if she’d want his hands on her ass.
She didn’t need pity. She lifted her chin and gave Marco a determined smile in return. “Another Mayahuel?” “Yes, please.” He circled a finger in the air. “Another round.”
The one thing she approved of was the selection of tequilas at Conquistadors. These guys definitely knew their tequila.
Cade watched Reese disappear out the office door. She’d tried to hide it, but she was pissed. Her moss-green eyes had flashed and those lush lips had tightened, though it was barely perceptible. Her long red-gold ponytail bounced as she stalked out, and his eyes followed that trail of bright hair down her back to her ass.
She was kind of on the skinny side, but that ass . . .
He blew out a breath. He’d been told more than once to keep his hands—and his eyes—off their staff. Okay, specifically that one waitress. He would never go there. They were trying to make this bar a success, and a reputation for sexual harassment wasn’t going to help.
Reese was an enigma. A gorgeous, anxious enigma.
She didn’t hang out with any of the other staff. Possibly because she was a little older than the college-age people they usually hired. She was a hard worker, efficient and competent, and customers seemed to like her. She didn’t talk about herself, although she was friendly and interested in others. Maybe that was what made him so curious about her.
He knew nothing about her, except that she’d worked at a few high-end restaurants in New York City. She wore no ring, so apparently wasn’t married or engaged, and there was never any mention of a boyfriend. Or family. When asked why she’d moved to San Diego, she’d smiled and answered with a breezy, “I needed a change.” What did he know about her? Besides the fact that she was gorgeous, she was jumpy. Sometimes he picked up on a faint tremor in her hands. A rapid blinking of her eyes. A habit of twisting her clothing—her shirtsleeve or hem—between her fingers.
She fascinated him, and he had to shut that down. She worked for him.
He pushed away from the desk and followed her back out to the bar where his buddy and business partner Marco was celebrating with his girlfriend Carrie.
Amelia’s little drama had been embarrassing, but he’d managed to calm her down, and convince her that she didn’t really want anything to do with him because he was an asshole who had no intention of committing to one woman. The guys were on his ass about his active sex life, but screw them. Now that they both were in relationships, they were all uptight about his degenerate ways. As if they hadn’t slept around. Okay, Marco not so much. He’d actually been engaged to be married once, until she’d cheated on him and married someone else while he was away in Afghanistan. It had taken Marco a while to get over that.
With a smile, Cade took his seat at the table. He picked up one of the Tater Tot nachos on his plate, now cold, and shoved it in his mouth. Potatoes, cheese, jalapenos . . . how could you go wrong? He thought it was decent bar snack food.
He caught Marco’s eye and gave him a nod to let him know he’d taken care of the issue. Their serving staff dissing their food wasn’t going to help their business. Hopefully Reese kept her word and didn’t do that again or he’d have to fire her ass.
Her ass . . .
No, no, he had to stop thinking about her ass.
He didn’t want to fire her. None of them liked firing anyone, although it had happened. Finding good staff—not to mention retaining them—was surprisingly hard. Although he was starting to think they might have to fire Sid, their cook. They were doing okay, and Sid was doing his best to try new things and improve their food menu, but his skill set wasn’t really up to the job.
The party started wrapping up, Carrie’s family getting up to leave first, then Beck and Hayden, then Carrie and Marco were left standing, smooching, and gazing into each other’s eyes. Bleh.
“Go home,” he told them. “I’ll lock up.”
The bar was empty now, only floor staff left putting away dishes and glasses, kitchen staff cleaning up. He’d make sure the garbage was taken out, the grease traps cleaned.
“Thanks, man,” Marco said. “See you tomorrow.”
Cade turned to head to the kitchen. Reese stood at the bar folding towels neatly. “Go home, Reese.”
“I’ll just finish these.”
He had to admire her work ethic. He moved over to help her.
She glanced up at him, then stared at the white bar towels as she continued folding. “That was a nice celebration,” she commented. “Everyone seemed to be having fun.”
Was that a wistful note he heard in her voice? “Yeah. It was.”
“I’m surprised you and Beck and Marco actually took a night off and let someone else look after things.”
He frowned. “What does that mean?”
She lifted one narrow shoulder. “You guys spend a lot of time working here.”
“We own the place.”
“I know, but . . . you have a restaurant manager. You have capable staff. Well, mostly,” she added under her breath.
His frown deepened. “Ultimately, we’re responsible for everything and everyone. For making sure the bartenders aren’t giving away free booze, or cash isn’t disappearing.”
“You have to trust the people who work for you.”
“What’s your point? You think we should be off golfing?”
She snorted. “I can’t picture the three of you golfing. Aren’t you guys into skydiving and rock-climbing?”
He grinned. “Sometimes.”
“I guess my point is, you’re either working in your business, or you’re working on your business. Owners should be working on their business—marketing, bigger-picture things.”
“We do that.”
“Okay,” she said again, clearly humoring him.
Cade’s molars ground together and his body tensed. “So you’re telling me how to run my business.”
“No.” She set down the last towel on the pile and picked it up. “If I were telling you how to run your business, I’d have a lot more to say.” She moved to set the towels on a shelf.
What the hell did she know, anyway? Heat flared inside him. “Say it, then. Tell us what we’re doing wrong.”
She gave him a long look and a pleasant but fake smile. “I’m just a waitress. What do I know? Good night, Cade.”
She headed back to the staff room, presumably to get her things.
Cade gripped the edge of the bar tightly enough to splinter the wood. Jesus Christ. He’d just about had enough of her snotty superiority. Who the hell did she think she was, implying they weren’t running their business well? It was their business, and they were in charge.
He started toward the break room, but heard the back door closing. She’d left.
He sucked in a long breath, standing at the end of the bar, hands clenched into fists. Okay, calm down. This wasn’t the time to be firing someone, at midnight on a Sunday night. Also, they couldn’t afford to lose a good waitress. Staff turnover was surprisingly high, given that they thought they were pretty damn good bosses and had a great place to work.
He was a master of self-control, keeping his emotions firmly in check. Actually, he tried not to have any emotions.
That made life a lot easier.
Why did she get to him like that?
He turned out lights, checked the kitchen and then he, too, headed out the back door where his SUV was parked. The motion-sensor light they’d installed a while back, when they’d been having trouble with vandalism, came on. Reese was nowhere in sight.
He knew her address from their personnel records, knew it wasn’t that far from the bar, and he knew that she often walked to and from work. Tonight for some reason it bugged him that she was alone in the dark, even though she annoyed the hell out of him.
He was tempted to follow her and offer her a ride. Just to make sure she got home safely.
He gripped the steering wheel and knocked his forehead against it. Don’t be an idiot. She’s an adult and she’s been walking home alone for months now.
USA Today bestselling author Kelly Jamieson is the author of more than forty contemporary romance novels. She writes the kind of books she loves to read—sexy romance with heat, humor, and emotion. She likes coffee (black), wine (mostly white), and shoes (high!). She also loves watching hockey.