Read Nothing But Trouble Online

Authors: Trish Jensen

Nothing But Trouble

BOOK: Nothing But Trouble
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Praise for Trish Jensen

“Trish Jensen is a one-woman laugh riot.”

—Sandra Hil , NY Times Bestsel ing Author
“Trish Jensen is the undisputed queen of comedic romance.”

—Kathy Boswel , The Best Reviews
———
He’s gorgeous, rich, sexy, super-nice, and head-over-heels
for her. So what’s the problem?

Her psychic best friend predicts that Laura Tanner is due to meet a prince—the man of her dreams. Not a likely scenario for a hard-working bartender who’s better at karate-chopping rowdy patrons than hobnobbing with the silver-spoon crowd.

When Ivy League lawyer Brandon Prince (a prince!) strol s into her bar, Laura admits he’s hard to resist. Brandon quickly realizes that this lovely, funny, take-no-prisoners woman is the special someone he’s always wanted.

Brandon is an expert at wooing women, and even a tough cookie like Laura can’t help but fal under his spel . Before she knows what’s happening, he’s lured her on a romantic adventure fil ed with laughter and desire. Dazzled, she begins to believe that she really can have this prince of a man as her own.

One problem: Brandon’s powerful mother is used to women chasing his family fortune, and she’l do whatever it takes to keep yet another money-grubbing female out of his life. If a man is everything you’ve ever wanted, how can he also be nothing but trouble?

 

Nothing but Trouble
by
Trish Jensen 
Dedication

Deborah Smith: You make me laugh almost every single day.

And you make me think (okay, that part hurts).

Debra Dixon: You amaze me over and over with your brilliance and talent in every aspect of publishing.

Brittany and Danielle: You work harder than any people in the industry, and make me love working in it.

Bel eAuthors Loop: You are an upbeat and wonderful collection of women and men who love what I love. And I love that we love working together. Did I say "love" enough?

And my troll sisters: We were together from the beginning. This book has always been for you.

As always, my undying gratitude to Ross Bennett for his friendship and research skills.

 

One

“TONIGHT’S the night.”

Laura Tanner glanced up from the margarita she was blending and looked across the bar at her friend and cocktail waitress, Alison Harris.

Ali was squinting intently into the screwdriver Laura had just handed her. That could only mean one thing. Ali was reading the orange pulp again.

Laura garnished the margarita with a lime, then set it on Ali’s tray. “Tonight’s the night for what, Ali?” she asked, knowing she’d probably regret asking.

Besides waiting tables for Laura, and being one of Laura’s two best friends, Ali was a psychic. A bad one, although wel -intentioned. But where her extrasensory col eagues went for tea leaves or tarot cards or crystal bal s, Ali found her inspiration in fruit juice.

“Tonight’s the night you meet Mr. Right,” Ali predicted with a decisive nod of her blond head.

For one split second, alarm seized Laura. She had no desire to meet any misters, right or otherwise. The two in her life to date had cured her of any romantic notions. She and men just didn’t mix. In fact, if she were to be honest, she sincerely believed she was allergic to testosterone.

Just as quickly as the horror hit her, it disappeared. If Ali, who usual y batted zero, predicted she was about to meet a man, Laura was safe as safe could be.

“Do tel ,” Hannah Mil er said, settling in on the barstool beside Ali. As much as Ali was a starry-eyed optimist, Hannah was a cynical realist. A stockbroker, Hannah had to be the most beautiful woman Laura had ever met. But something in her past had injured her badly—something she refused to share with them. The scars ran deep.

Laura could relate, which was probably why she and Hannah were so drawn to Ali. Something about Ali’s naive optimism was refreshing.

Ali nodded again, causing the five or so sets of earrings in her lobes to set off a clamor. “Laura’s about to meet her life mate.”

“My condolences,” Hannah offered.

Laura poured Hannah a glass of chablis. “I’ve already met my life mate. This bar.”

“A bar can’t love you,” Ali protested.

Neither can a man,
Laura thought. This wasn’t a new discussion. Ali, ever the dreamer, wouldn’t rest until the friends she loved were blissfully wed. Poor Ali just didn’t understand that the phrase was an oxymoron.

Ali held the glass over her head and studied the pulp from below with one eye squeezed shut. “He’s in the bar, right now.”

She settled the drink back on her tray and sashayed away.

Laura and Hannah both turned to survey the main room of Nothing But Trouble. For a Tuesday night the bar was fairly full, but not a single Mr. Right stood out in the crowd.

“Can you be more specific?” Hannah asked when Ali returned from serving drinks.

Ali pointed to the Budweiser beer tap and held up four fingers. “Not really. But I’l cruise the place and see if I can’t find him.” “Don’t do me any favors,” Laura muttered as she pulled four frosty mugs from the cooler.

“Black hair?” Hannah persisted. “Blond? Green? Purple?”

Ali shook her head, setting off another round of earring clanging. “I don’t know. All I know is I have this overwhelming urge to sing, ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’”

“Oh, Lord!” Laura muttered as she passed the drafts across the bar. Good thing Ali was so bad at this.

“Laura’s getting a prince?” Hannah raised one ebony brow.

“I’m not seeing this as good news, Ali. Princes make notoriously bad life mates.” 

“This is a good prince,” Ali announced.

“Wel , thank heavens for that,” Hannah said. “Let’s hope he’s rich, too.”

“Let me ask you this, Ali,” Laura said, wiping down the bar.

“Just on the off chance that you’re right. What would a prince want with a drink-slinging divorcée from Red Dog, North Carolina?”

Ali opened her mouth, but a series of shouts from the back room interrupted her. Laura tossed down her towel. “Maybe that’s my prince now,” she said, heading for the bil iards room.

From experience, she knew she was about to enter a room teeming with testosterone. She hoped she didn’t break out in hives.

As Laura ducked under the bar, Ali warned, “Stay calm, hon. You know what happened the last time you broke up a fight.”

“The guy deserved a one-way ticket to the emergency room,” Hannah opined.

“Use psychology,” Ali advised.

“If that doesn’t work, shoot them,” Hannah added.

Sometimes Hannah gave the best advice.

The bil iards room was crowded, and a verbal exchange was going on between two burly men, neither of whom were regulars. Too bad. Usual y she could defuse a volatile situation with the customers she knew. Strangers were always more of a pain. Because of her size, they underestimated her, patronized her. They learned, eventual y, but teaching them had begun to be a real bore.

“What’s going on here?” she asked, squinting through the smoke. She resisted the urge to inhale the pungent odor, to savor it. She’d kicked the habit four years ago when she hadn’t had enough money to spend on cigarettes, and she had to keep reminding herself that she was glad to be an ex-smoker. She was a slave to no one and no habit.

One of the two men—who had HOG tattooed on his beefy right forearm—grinned at her, revealing one missing upper tooth. “We’re just having a personal-type discussion. Nothin’ to worry your pretty little head over.”

Laura gritted her teeth, forcing herself not to lay him low instantly. That was the one drawback of being an owner. You had to learn restraint. Not an easy task for Tusslin’ Laura Tanner. But she’d learned over the years that bleeding and unconscious customers tended not to buy beer.

She glanced at the other man. His red bandanna was greasy-looking, his beard scraggly. If either of these men was her prince, she was in dire straits.

Normally Laura’s clientele ranged a whole lot higher on the evolutionary scale than these guys. She’d chosen this section of Manhattan with care, fashionably close to Wall Street. She catered to stockbrokers and lawyers who wanted to unwind at the end of a long, tense day.

Her bar was decorated with them in mind, full of dark, rich mahogany, gleaming brass, and green leafy vegetation. But occasional y a group of Neanderthals found their way inside, either drawn by the name or her reputation for mixing reasonably priced, generous drinks.

“Everything all right?” she asked Mr. Bandanna.

“Wil be,” he answered her, glaring at Mr. Hog. “Soon as this jerk pays up.”

Hog took a menacing step toward Bandanna. “I don’t pay cheaters.”

“Who you cal ing—”

Laura stepped between them. “Enough. You two want to slug it out, go elsewhere. Like, say, New Jersey.”

* * *

BRANDON TYLER Prince found himself thoroughly fascinated by the scene playing out before him. A slip of a woman was squaring off against two meaty thugs and holding her ground.

Brandon set down his draft and shifted forward, ready to spring to her aid if things got out of hand. She was very pretty.

He’d noticed that the first time he saw her standing behind the bar.

  

Her hair was the color of rich, dark honey and pulled back in a slightly crooked French braid. Her nose, now high in the air, was straight with just a tiny upswing on the very end of it.

From this distance and through the murky film of smoke, he couldn’t make out the color of her eyes, but they seemed too big for her face.

She wasn’t flawlessly beautiful, but she sure as hel was attractive. Her shape was hidden from view by a pair of baggy black-and-white-striped overal s over a not-so-baggy black tank top. By the delicacy of her bare arms, he could tel she weighed in at around one hundred and ten pounds, give or take a pound.

Brandon glanced at his buddy, Ned McGarry, sitting across the booth. “Brassy little broad, isn’t she?”

Ned cocked his head toward the woman. “Keep watching.

You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

“Shouldn’t we help her?”

Ned snorted. “Not unless you have a death wish.”

Brandon returned his attention to her. She had lush, pink lips, but the words spil ing from them right now did not put a man in the mind to kiss her. In fact, had she been talking to him, he’d have an overwhelming urge to protect some of his more sensitive body parts.

“I don’t tolerate macho crap in this establishment, gentlemen, so if y’all don’t settle up, real nice-like, real quick, you’re outta here.”

The man with a tattoo on his arm gave her a condescending pat on the head, and Brandon held his breath as he watched her bridle. Either the guy was a complete dunce, or he was too looped to spot trouble when it glared at him.

“Go on and fix your lipstick or something,” the loser urged the woman. “This is between us boys.”

Brandon voted for dumb-as-a-tree-stump. He took a sip of beer, his gaze never straying from the scene. His muscles tensed as he prepared to jump to the lady’s defense if she needed him.

The three exchanged more words, the two idiots digging themselves deeper and deeper by continuing to argue over their pool game. The woman said one more thing, but in such a low voice Brandon couldn’t make out the words. Whatever it was, it made the tattoo guy jerk in surprise, then throw back his head and howl with coarse laughter.

Then the fool made a fatal mistake. As soon as she turned to address the guy with the red kerchief wrapped around his head, the bigger man grasped her around the waist and lifted her bodily off the ground. Brandon leapt to his feet, but before he could take a step, the woman instantly jabbed her elbow into the idiot’s considerable gut and kicked back her foot, connecting with his knee.

The kick made a sickening, crunching sound, but the man barely reacted other than to release her. Dumb
and
drunk, Brandon decided.

The tattoo guy lunged for her. She sidestepped, and he lumbered right on by her. She whirled and faced him, crouching slightly and putting up her hands in a karate fighting stance.

That stopped the man for a moment, and there was confusion written al over his splotchy face. But Brandon saw in a flash that he wasn’t going to back down now. His male pride had been wounded.

“She needs help, Ned,” he said without looking back. “That guy’s too sauced to recognize she probably just shattered his kneecap.”

He started forward, but Ned grasped his arm and jerked him back. “She wil not appreciate your help, Bran. She can handle herself, believe me.”

Brandon didn’t want her to handle herself. Even though she seemed expert at self-defense, he couldn’t stop the surge of protective instincts that flowed natural y through him. Having four younger sisters had done that to him.

Whistles and catcal s echoed through the room, and some of the customers started placing bets. The woman ignored the noise, keeping her eyes trained on the thug. He hesitated a fraction of a second, then tried to jump her again.

She grasped his arm and spun, twisting it high up on his back. “Owwwwwwwwwww!” the man howled. He braced his legs apart and raised up on his toes to try and relieve the pressure on his arm and shoulder.

BOOK: Nothing But Trouble
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton
Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury
Thirty Sunsets by Christine Hurley Deriso
His Brother's Bride by Denise Hunter
Stepping by Nancy Thayer
Turn Me Loose by Frank X Walker
The Ride of My Life by Hoffman, Mat, Lewman, Mark
Nixon's Secret by Roger Stone