You do know you can pre-order it, right? And that you can save $1.05 if you do it now? Just wanted to make sure…
I should have my new computer installed tonight. I’m crossing my fingers the Geek Squad had no problems getting all my files and emails from my old hard drive. I’m thinking only positive thoughts. The alternative will make me cry. Not really, but it would be hugely inconvenient if they can’t!
Anyway, back to Five Ways. Where’d that title come from? I really don’t know. I think one of my muses, the Mr. among the three, came up with it, hoping to make me blush. He should know better by now. Once when I was mad at my daughter, I shouted down the aisle at the grocery store, “Honey, was that supers or ultras?” as I shook a box of tampons at her. Ahhh, such sweet memories.
I don’t think you’ll have any complaints about this book—other than the fact my cops aren’t wearing Wranglers and cowboy hats. But hey, they are cops with cuffs and badges. Next best thing, right?
Meet the boys, ladies!
Two days later, Jackson sat at his usual table with his buddies in The Emerald Tavern, eyeing Marti’s flushed face as she worked the bar. She hadn’t glanced his way except once when he’d first arrived.
Things had been strained between them since he’d read the note. Although they’d gone through the motions, the part of their relationship that made it so different than anything he’d experienced before was absent, crushed beneath the strain of the damn list.
“So’s the honeymoon over?”
Jackson shot Craig with a stinging glare then scanned the rest of his friends. Thursday was the one day of the week where their schedules allowed them to meet. They slouched in their seats. Condensation glistened on the sides of their beers. Not something that happened often because the first beer was always eagerly consumed.
Absent were the rowdy laughter and crude jokes. Not a single gibe had been aimed his way, even though his attention was snagged, as usual, by the curvy brunette behind the counter.
Beau McIntyre cleared his throat. “Craig said you needed some help with something.” Humor glinted in his slanted, dark brown eyes, but his features were difficult to read. Although he was only half Asian, the other half African American, inscrutable was still a word that fit his neutral expression. If he was laughing inside, no hint shown in his dark eyes as he watched Jackson.
Jackson glanced at Craig, frowning, wondering if he’d spilled the beans about The List. “I don’t need help with a goddamn thing.”
“Yeah,” Beau said, his tone dripping sarcasm. “I can see things are peachy between you and Marti. She hasn’t been to our table even once. I’d say she’s avoiding us.”
“She’s avoidin’ me.”
Gus Taggert’s seat creaked as he shifted his large frame. “Can’t say as I blame her. You’re givin’ her the stink-eye.”
Jackson glanced away from Marti and turned his full attention back to the rest of his friends, flicking to Beau who challenged him with his steady stare, then moving on to the rest of his crew whose varied expressions all showed disapproval or concern.
Gus frowned. He adored Marti and likely thought whatever had happened between them was all Jackson’s fault.
Mondo Acevedo’s dark eyes glittered with devilment.
Craig’s expression was carefully neutral. But then he knew what the problems were.
These were his best buddies. Gus and Craig he’d known since high school, having played varsity football together. They’d met Beau and Mondo in the academy seven years ago and quickly bonded over Saturday touch football and chasing women. He trusted every one of them with his back. But Jesus, could he trust them with his woman?
“Guys, I have a problem.”
“We’re here for you, Jack,” Mondo said, his smile fading as he waited.
“Marti’s got some issues.”
Mondo’s brow arched. “Doesn’t everybody?”
“Yeah, but she’s got issues with commitment.”
Mondo grunted. “You asked her to marry you? She say no?”
“She say why?”
Jackson’s cheeks billowed as he blew out a breath. “She gave me a list.”
“Of reasons why she won’t marry you?”
He grimaced. “No, of things she has to do before she settles down.”
Mondo shrugged. “Those things—can they be accomplished here in Memphis?”
“Yeah, I guess. But they’re…sexual things. Fantasies.”
“And you’ve got a problem with that?” At Jackson’s sudden glower, both of Mondo’s eyebrows rose higher. “Does she want to watch you do another guy?”
Jackson huffed. “Fuck no.”
“Then what’s the freaking problem?”
Jackson cleared his throat, glanced back at Marti to make sure her attention was elsewhere, then pulled the list from his wallet. He handed it to Beau, because he sat nearest. Beau skimmed Marti’s long-winded apology. Then he turned it over and took his time reading. When he was done, he didn’t look at Jackson, but firmed his mouth into a straight line and passed the note to Mondo who skipped the front and went straight to the list on back. His chuckles were low and dirty, but stopped when Gus elbowed him to pass it along.
Jackson turned in his chair and stared at Marti again, feeling his cheeks burn because his best friends now had a view into Marti’s dirty little mind that he had loved keeping as his own private treasure. Jackson didn’t like sharing Marti with them. And therein lay the big fat issue.
A cough sounded, drawing his attention back to his crew.
“She serious?” Gus asked, his gaze shooting to Marti like he was seeing her clearly for the first time.
“As a heart attack,” he said dryly.
“It’s not a long list,” Mondo said, his voice tight—no doubt because he was trying not to laugh. “You plan this right, you could take care of every one of them over a long weekend.”
Jackson nodded. “I asked for time off. Starting tomorrow.”
“Wow.” Mondo’s lips pursed. His gaze narrowed. “And you’re telling us because you need a little help?”
Jackson drew a deep breath. “I don’t want it to be strangers. And I need this kept on the down-low.”
Beau nodded. “Last thing you’d want is for the whole station house to get wind of it.”
“Craig and I have the strip tomorrow night,” Mondo said, fighting a grin. “We could arrange something. Make sure you two aren’t arrested.”
Gus leaned forward. “I’m off tomorrow night.”
Jackson gave him a hard-edged glare.
Gus shrugged, his lips curving slightly at the corners. “It’s her list. Sooner we get ‘er done…”
Jackson’s neck tightened. “Get ‘er done?”
Soft laughter erupted around the table.
Gus raised both hands. “One of us has to go first.”
Jackson wiped a hand across his face. Shit. They were really going to do this. “All right. You’re up tomorrow.” He cringed at his word choice as the laughter grew.
Craig cleared his throat. “Saturday, I’ll make sure my car’s free. But I’m off after midnight.”
“Let me know when you’re in place, and I’ll be there too,” Gus said.
“Saturday’s gonna be tricky,” Beau said. “I’ll call in sick. You’ll have us all at your beck and call.”
Saturday was gonna kill him.
Jackson tapped the list with is forefinger. “Sunday? Maybe if we count just after midnight…”
The men nodded their heads. They wore the same expressions they had when they’d all faced the last physical evaluation at the academy. Pumped. Excited. Determined.
Craig leaned forward in his seat. “Come Monday, bro, she won’t have any excuses left.”