Luke started to load up the gear and, realizing he was doing it alone, glanced over his shoulder to see where the hell his partner was.
Unsurprisingly, his friend was chatting up City Girl. Neither Charlie nor Ryan seemed to mind in the least that these two fancy pants had swooped into their town to capitalize on Luke’s past.
What was more surprising was that Jordan Carpenter was chatting right back, her smile seemingly genuine, her laugh real.
Luke ground his teeth.
He couldn’t say he’d put much thought into the woman behind the name as he’d been unceremoniously deleting her emails and voice messages, but if forced to assume, he’d have guessed aggressive shrew.
He suspected he was wrong there. Because while there was no mistaking the ambition in the woman, it wasn’t the cutthroat, ball-busting kind.
Her lean body might be all angles and long lines, but there was a softness to her as well. The way her hair did its own thing. The easiness of her smile, the quick laugh. The small but pert breasts.
Damn. He was staring.
He slammed the door shut. “Bander,” he shouted at Charlie across the lawn. “Let’s clear out.”
Charlie leaned into Jordan, whispering something in her ear that made her laugh, before walking away with a last wink.
Luke rolled his eyes. Really? This was happening?
“Hey, Elliott,” Ryan called. “You want to come over for a barbecue tonight?”
Luke crossed his arms and studied his friend suspiciously, waiting for the catch. “Who’s on the guest list?”
He saw Jordan and her purple-shirt friend exchange a look. Well, that answered that question.
Damn. Ryan never had been able to resist the urge to stir up trouble.
“It’s no problem if you don’t want to join us,” Jordan called out, lifting her hand to shield the afternoon sun from her eyes. “I’m sure your friends here can fill me in on everything there is to know about Luke Elliott.”
All about Luke Elliott’s romantic history was more like it. City Girl wasn’t even pretending to be coy about the reason she was here.
All former positive thoughts about her evaporated. Only the worst sort of human would use another’s failed relationships to advance her own career—for entertainment.
Luke turned away without another word, hauling himself into the driver’s seat of the truck as he waited impatiently for Charlie to get done shouting goodbye to every single person within earshot.
He drummed his thumbs against the steering wheel, refusing to even think about going to the BBQ tonight. If his friends wanted to stir up trouble, they could do so without his cooperation.
As for the two New Yorkers, they’d flame out all on their own. Weren’t East Coasters known for being impatient and fast moving?
Surely they’d be off to find some other glory-seeking asshole if he ignored them. One of the other guys could play the role for all he cared.
As Charlie hauled his ass up, Luke started the truck, his eye catching on Jordan Carpenter, who was watching him with a stubborn, determined look on her pretty face.
Damn it. She’d stir up all sorts of trouble unless he ran interference.
Luke pulled out his phone to text Ryan.
I’ll be there. Have beer.
Charlie leaned over, unabashedly reading Luke’s iPhone screen. “Ha. Knew it.”
“What?” Luke glared at his friend.
Charlie grinned wider, gesturing over his shoulder. “You’ve got a boner for the hot blonde.”
“Are you kidding me with this? She wants me to be the next bachelor.”
How were Ryan and Charlie not getting the absurdity of this?
Charlie shrugged. “So? Maybe it’d be good for you.”
Luke stared at his friend for a moment longer before putting the truck in drive. “The only thing that would be good for me is to push you out of this truck.”
Charlie was waving goodbye to Jordan and Simon. “See you tonight!”
Luke ground his teeth harder. He was already dreading the BBQ, but not going would only make matters worse. Clearly he needed to have a very blunt conversation with Jordan Carpenter.