When she opened her mouth to argue, Jack silenced her with a harsh look.
“Don’t presume to dissect the way I handle my family life when you handle yours awful damn close to the same way.”
Keely’s head fell back into the couch cushion. “We’re never gonna pull this off, Jack. We can’t go five minutes without snipping at each other.”
“We managed more than five minutes in the restaurant.”
“Pure luck. Lightning won’t strike the same place twice.”
“Then let’s force it to strike again.”
“Wow. That sounds fun. Not.”
Just to be obstinate, he scooted closer to her. “Your middle name is West. What’s mine?”
“Jack… Off Donohue?”
“Funny. My middle name is Michael.”
“Jack Michael. Kinda sounds like—”
“Chas Michael Michaels,” they said simultaneously.
He grinned. “Maybe we do have a few things in common.”
“Name one thing besides lowbrow movies.”
“We both like Carter’s kids.”
“What about sports?”
“I like rodeo.”
Keely shrugged. “Yep.”
“Figures. I watched VERSUS when Justin was on the PBR tour, but after he left I stopped. You don’t like football or baseball?”
“Ugh. No. Men will watch anything with balls. Which is why I’m surprised about men’s homophobia.” She shot him a sideways glance. “If you tell me you like men’s wrestling or figure skating I’ll knit you a rainbow sweater, GQ.”
Good God, Keely was a pain in the ass. He wanted to kiss that smart mouth so much it bordered on ridiculous.
Jack draped his arm across the back of the sofa, feeling like a teenage boy attempting to get to second base. Hah. Try again. He hadn’t made it to first base with her.
No reaction to him invading her space.
Stubborn woman. If Keely wouldn’t acknowledge him, he’d goad her. “What were you about to say in the restaurant before India interrupted us?”
“I don’t remember,” she replied flippantly.
“Seriously. I don’t. I’ve been told I have a very short attention span.”
He clucked a couple of times.
She jabbed his gut with her elbow. “I ain’t skeered a nothin’.”
“Prove it. Tell me.”
Keely debated. Then her words tumbled out in a rush, “Why you were looking at me like that?”
“Like what?” he asked inanely, even when he knew.
“Like you wanted to devour me. You looked at me like that once before. At Colt and India’s wedding reception. Remember?”
The memory broadsided him. After his life went to shit in Chicago, he’d hid out at Carter and Macie’s to try and get his head on straight. At Carter’s insistence, he’d tagged along to Colt and India’s wedding reception. He’d ended up doing whiskey shots with Carter, Colby and Cord. Seeing the men’s connections with their wives only increased his sense of displacement, of disillusionment. Of the bone-deep fear he’d never be worthy of that kind of love and devotion, let alone find it. No matter how much he drank, he felt completely sober…until he’d clapped eyes on Keely McKay. Talk about punch drunk. She was breathtaking. When their eyes met, a primal need consumed him.
Jack had crossed the floor, taken her hand and led her out of the big tent without a single word. He hadn’t cared that she wore high heels. He hadn’t cared she was in a long, formal bridesmaid’s dress. He hadn’t cared about anything but slaking his lust with her sexy, nubile body while gazing into her incredible midnight blue eyes.
Once they were finally alone, Jack couldn’t voice a coherent thought, so he kissed her.
It was the single most explosive kiss he’d ever experienced. It literally knocked them both to their knees. They rolled around on the cold ground amidst the dirt, rocks and hay. Every kiss burned hotter.
Every touch built his pure blinding lust for her higher. Keely’s urgent whispers tickled his ear as her hands worked his belt buckle.
That’s where the memory blurred. Hell, that’s where it ended completely. Jack woke up alone, hours later, freezing, with his pants unzipped. His stomach hurt—probably she’d socked him in the gut after his untimely fall into drunkenness. His body had picked a bad time to succumb to the whiskey.
Although they’d never spoken of what hadn’t happened, from that moment on, Keely McKay had hated the sight of him.
Not that he blamed her. He couldn’t even look at her now.
“I don’t know how to interpret that look any better now than I did back then,” she said, subtly bringing him back to the present.
Jack twined his fingers in her hair. “How long we can continue this pretense we’re not imagining balling each other’s brains out?”
“Once bitten, twice shy, Jack. Flirting to cement our ‘cover’ is one thing. Beyond that…not happening.”
He gave her credit. Keely didn’t scoot away from his touch to prove her point. “So if I kissed you right now?”
“I’d enjoy it, but that’s as far as it’d go.”
“We can go directly to the bed twenty feet from here,” he said with a silken purr. “We’ve got nothing but time.”
Keely’s eyes widened with pure comic sarcasm. “Ooh. And would you need time to snag your bottle of Viagra?”
Jack yanked on her hair. “FYI, buttercup, I don’t need any fucking Viagra.”
“Really?” She batted at his hold until he released her hair. “It would’ve been handy three years ago when my hand was on your deflating cock.”
His humor vanished as his pride emerged. “You want to know why I lost my erection that night?”
Jack crowded her until they were nose to nose. “Because I imagined you fucking my little brother. I realized I didn’t want sloppy seconds.”
Keely shoved him and scrambled off the couch. “That’s an interesting lie, Mr. Limp Dick. Keep believing it if it serves your self-deluding reputation as a stud.”
“Don’t believe me?”
“You just pegged my bullshit meter to an all time high. It’s called ‘whiskey dick’ for a reason, Jack- off.”
Jesus. Man up. She deserves better.
As Jack started to apologize, to admit his shame about the incident and plead for another chance, Keely loomed over him, shaking with fury.
“Have an awesome fucking time in Iowa. But if you pull a no show Saturday night, I’ll track you down and skin you alive—starting with your squishy dick. Not a threat, a promise.” She retreated to her bedroom and slammed the door.
Not what he’d been angling for tonight. Not at all. And yet, he wasn’t surprised. Turned on, but not surprised.
Jack adjusted his erection. He considered breaking down her damn door and dropping his pants to prove “squishy” wasn’t in his goddamn realm of existence when in her company.
Right. Terrific plan. The mouthy cowgirl probably had shotguns under her bed.
Screw that. Jack wasn’t backing down. However, pushing her tonight smacked of harassment.
But this was far from over.
She was going to fucking kill him.
Jack wasn’t here yet.
His plane had been delayed leaving Des Moines. They’d spoken briefly once and not about the farce they were presenting to their family and friends…in less than an hour.
Keely turned and smiled at Jack’s mother, Dorothy “Doro” Donohue. “Yes. I’ve been to engagement parties before, but never mine. I tend to get nervous in new situations.”
“Jack does too, if that’s any consolation. But I’m sure you already knew that.”
No, she hadn’t a clue the infallible Jack Donohue experienced anxious moments. Who better than his mother to share his foibles? “Really? He’s kept that from me. He’s always so…poised.”
“I’m sure he’s gotten over it. We all overcome adversity.” Doro fussed with the strap on Keely’s dress. “My Jack is a good man. We couldn’t have kept the farm after Marvin died if not for Jack’s financial support.”
Keely was speechless. Obviously Doro wanted to connect with her, regardless of whether Jack would be livid she’d spilled intimate details of his family’s financial struggles.
“Listen to me blather on. I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but I’m happy he’s settling down with you, Keely. Hopefully he’ll take time to enjoy his life with you. You’ll be good for him.”
“I imagine you call him on his b.s.”
“Oh, please. Jack is a man who expects to be in charge all the time. He needs a strong woman who’ll stand up to him. You knocking him down a peg or two will keep him grounded and your lives interesting, that’s for sure.”
Keely smiled. She genuinely adored the plump, sweet widow with the gentle disposition. Pity the only thing Jack inherited from Doro were her green eyes. “Thanks for coming to help my mom get ready for this.”
She waved off Keely’s thanks. “It’s been a treat to be around your family. Your brothers’ wives certainly are a fertile bunch.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“You’ll have to draw straws for the ring bearer position.”
Because she was feeling ornery, Keely said, “I’m hoping the fertility blessing holds true for Jack and me. He wants a pile of kids. Right away.”
Doro’s entire face lit up. “Really? Well, Jack isn’t exactly a pup, is he? And I would love to have grandbabies to spoil.”