Lily checked the time on her phone as she wove her way through the tightly-packed crowd to the stage. She was going to kill Beau Bennett when she saw him. Painfully. Slowly.
The thought had barely crossed her mind when she glanced over her shoulder and saw him easing his way through the glut of people blocking the front entrance.
“Thank God,” she breathed.
Then she registered his damp, messy hair, sweat pants and raggedy old sweatshirt.
Sweet baby cheeses, was this his idea of selling himself?
He caught sight of her and altered his course, heading her way. She pressed her lips together and tried to swallow her anger at his tardiness and lack of preparation. She’d known he wasn’t keen on being recruited, but making such a half-hearted effort was insulting, to her and to Josh and Molly.
“Hey. Sorry I’m late. Had an emergency call out at work,” Beau said. “Is there someplace I can change?”
Which was when Lily registered the garment bag draped over his shoulder, the coat hanger hooked on one of his fingers. Apparently he hadn’t let her down after all. Her relief was so profound she momentarily forgot her habitual wariness where he was concerned and offered him a huge smile.
“Beau. Thank God. There’s an empty room off to the side upstairs where you can get changed. We’re about to get this thing started so you’re going to have to hustle.”
Instead of heading off immediately like a good, obedient bachelor, Beau stared at her, his expression unreadable, a strange tension in his shoulders.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He frowned. “Nothing. Give me five, and I’m all yours.”
He moved off, cutting a path through the sea of very interested ladies, some of whom had recognized him as one of the offerings on tonight’s menu. Lily watched with a wry smile as a table full of women almost fell out of their chairs trying to maintain a sightline on his ass as he made his way to the stairs.
The next five minutes passed in a whirl as she dealt with Buck’s questions and touched base with Reese. Checking her watch, she saw they were already running late, and she raced upstairs to wrangle her bachelors.
Lincoln, Ryan, Jett, Jesse and Gabriel were talking with Dillon at the bar, nursing drinks and looking more than a little nervous.
“Don’t worry, boys. It will be mostly painless, I promise,” she told them.
“There are a lot of women down there,” Jett said.
“Yep. Lots and lots of single, interested, cashed-up women,” Lily agreed mischievously.
All the bachelors except for Jesse Grey shifted uneasily, like a herd of gazelles getting a whiff of a lion nearby. Jesse just continued to glower darkly. Lily got the sense that he was not happy to be here. He was the one recruit she hadn’t roped in herself, having been volunteered by his uncle, Jason Grey.
“I’ll just check on Beau,” she said, patting Ryan reassuringly on the arm.
Slipping into the short hallway that ran off the main room, she knocked on the first door.
She pushed the door open, stopping dead in her tracks as she caught an eyeful of firm male backside clad in stretchy boxer-briefs before Beau pulled up his suit pants, effectively ending the impromptu peep show.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize – ” She whirled on her heel, heat rushing into her face. “When you said you ‘in here’ I thought you meant you were dressed.”
“I promise not to sue for sexual harassment, don’t worry,” Beau said.
“I’ll come back later,” she said, stepping into the hallway.
“I’m decent now, no need to evacuate the premises, reverend mother,” he said dryly.
Lily rolled her eyes at his little dig, then snuck a glance over her shoulder. Sure enough, he was buttoning the last buttons on his shirt, his slim-cut navy trousers belted at the waist.
“What’s up?” he asked
“I wanted to talk you through how everything’s going to work tonight,” she said.
He continued to dress as she explained the running order and what was expected of him, slipping cufflinks into the French cuffs of his shirt before sitting to pull on socks and shoes. For some reason, the sight of his big, bare feet made her nervous, and she found herself fiddling with the side-tie on her wrap dress as he pushed himself to his feet again.
“You think I need to bother with this thing?” Beau asked, holding up a discreetly striped blue and black tie.
“Definitely. That blue is an almost exact match for your eyes,” she said without thinking.
Beau flicked her a quick look before threading the length of silk around his collar. Lily tried not to stare as he went through the uniquely masculine ritual of knotting the tie. There was something so intimate about watching him dress like this. Like a wife watching her husband prepare to face the day.
She was still frowning at the thought when Beau shrugged into his suit jacket.
“Presentable?” he asked, turning to face her, eyebrows raised in question.
She almost laughed out loud at how much of an understatement it was. Presentable didn’t begin to cover how good he looked in his precisely cut navy wool suit. The expertly tailored fabric enhanced his broad shoulder and lean torso, the slim trousers hinting at his powerful thigh muscles. His white shirt highlighted the fact that even in the depth of a Montana winter, he’d managed to acquire a tan, and the blue in his tie somehow gave his eyes even more depth and intensity.
“You’ll do,” she said, dragging her gaze from his chest. “I need to go. Dillon will hook you up with free drinks.”
She swiveled on her heel, suddenly very keen to be out of there.
“Aren’t you going to wish me luck?”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. He didn’t need luck, he was going to bring the house down. Women were going to fight to the death over him.
“Good luck,” she said.
Then she made her escape.
End of Excerpt