“No would’ve been a good place to start.”
“You’re an opportunist. Think of it as the ultimate occasion to convince people we’re really getting married.”
Jack swallowed his retort and turned up the radio.
Keely lasted about thirty-five seconds before she flipped the music off. “You actually like that noise?”
“Why would I listen to it if I didn’t?”
“You probably think it makes you sound sophisticated if you tell people you listen to jazz.”
“And I’d be better off listening to that goat-yodeling crap you prefer?”
“Yep. At least it’s honest.”
“As honest as the Nashville music executives can manipulate in a slick multimillion dollar recording studio with a marketing team in the wings.”
“Your fault,” he pointed out.
“How is it my fault?”
“You’re in my car, ripping on my music choices.” He expelled a heavy sigh. “Can you just not talk for the rest of the drive?”
A minute later she dragged out her iPod and sang along. Loudly. By the time Jack parked behind her building, he almost wished he hadn’t asked her not to talk.
Keely appraised him coolly. “Want me to stay in the car with you while you call your mother?”
“For what? To hold my hand?”
“Fuck off, Jack. I thought Doro would want to talk to me, but you can deal with her on your own.”
Just as she grabbed the door handle to get out, Jack hit the automatic locks. Keely faced him again, fury in her stiff movements. “Let. Me. Out.”
“Sorry. And yes, buttercup, I’d like it if you stuck around when I called her.” He offered her a winsome smile. “My mother adores you. She hoped you and Justin would end up together.”
Keely redirected her eyes away from his. “Yeah, well, I hope to hell she doesn’t know why that one didn’t work out.”
“It didn’t work out because you broke up with Justin.”
Her long pauses never boded well for him. “Keely?”
“You’re wrong. Justin broke up with me after you told him to ditch me.”
Jack silently repeated the numerical sequence of pi to the fifteenth digit before he spoke. “Are you really blaming me for my brother’s stupidity?”
She spun toward him. “I don’t know why Justin told you about our New Year’s tryst with his friend Logan. God knows I never would’ve told any of my brothers about my sexcapades. I’m assuming Justin wanted to…impress you or some damn thing. All I know is Justin told me that you told him I wasn’t the woman for him.”
“Justin didn’t come right out and admit he was calling it quits because of the threesome, but he hinted pretty strongly that my slutty behavior—which he enjoyed immensely while we were in the moment, mind you—was why he was breaking up with me…after talking to you.”
“For fuck’s sake. Justin is an idiot.”
“You didn’t say any of that shit to him?”
“What I said was he should know you weren’t the woman for him because it didn’t bother him to watch his buddy fucking you. I said if Justin loved you, he should’ve thrown Logan out the goddamn hotel window for daring to put his hands on you.” Jack remembered being extremely pissed off because his brother had Keely McKay in his bed and wasn’t man enough to keep her satisfied, nor was he man enough to call the shots.
Comprehension dawned in her eyes. “You’re serious.”
“Completely. That dumbass took it totally out of context and you blame me.”
“Not entirely. I mostly blamed Justin.”
“Good. He couldn’t handle you anyway, could he?”
“Nope.” She gifted him with a flirty grin that made his balls tighten. “You think he’ll be upset by our engagement?”
“Probably. But he won’t freak out as much as your brother.”
Keely snorted. “Carter is a pussycat. You oughta be worried about Cam; he’s always armed. Plus, he knows we had an…incident at Colt and India’s wedding reception.”
No wonder the guy always glared at him. “Did you tell him what happened?”
“Are you kiddin’? I haven’t told anyone the embarrassing truth. All Cam knows is that I was unhappy and it was your fault.”
“Fantastic.” Jack jammed his hands through his hair again. “We really have to call everyone tonight, don’t we?”
“Yep. And since your folks didn’t reproduce like rabbits, your list is considerably smaller than mine.”
“My mom and dad always wanted more kids. It’d be easier on her now if she had more family around…” Guilt popped up. Again. Followed quickly by sorrow. Again.
She smoothed her hand up his forearm. “I’m sorry about your dad, Jack. Marvin was very sweet to me the couple of times I met him.”
A hollow emptiness expanded in his chest whenever his dad’s name was mentioned. “Thanks.”
“As long as I’m apologizing… I’m really sorry I was such a jerk two years ago at my family picnic.
When I saw you moping around, I thought it was because I refused to talk to you. I had no idea it was because your dad had died. After Macie chewed my ass, I went looking for you to express my condolences, but you were already gone.”
“It’s okay. Maybe you can run interference for me with Macie when she finds out I own the Sandstone Building. I imagine she’ll rip me a new one.”
“Deal.” She gestured to his phone. “Get crackin’. I’ll hang out until you’re done.”
His mother was beside herself he’d snatched up that “fine young woman” Keely McKay for his wife.
She spent more time chatting with Keely than with him. Maybe because Keely snapped a picture of her engagement ring with her cell phone and sent it to her. Maybe because Keely begged her to help Carolyn plan the engagement party. But Jack couldn’t accuse Keely of pandering, because she genuinely liked his mother. He felt his first twinge of guilt about this charade; it’d hurt his mother when he and Keely called off the engagement.
A sexy trill of laughter caught Jack’s attention and he watched Keely’s lips curve into a smile.
“Honestly, we didn’t tell anyone, so your boy isn’t keeping you out of the loop, Doro. I promise. Yes. I’ll tell him.”
“Tell me what?”
Keely clicked the off button. “Your mom says your dad would be proud of you.”
“Who’s next on your list?”
“Can’t we just send everyone else a text message with that picture of your engagement ring?” Hell.
That actually sounded whiny. What the fuck was happening to him?
“That’s a great idea but let’s take a picture of us. The light is all golden and glowy right now.” She yanked on the door handle. Four times in rapid succession. “Let me out.”
“Patience isn’t your strong suit, is it?”
“Better learn that early on.” After Jack skirted the front end of the car, Keely positioned him against the passenger side and took over. He allowed it. For now. But the cowgirl was sorely mistaken if she thought he was malleable like the men she usually dated.
“Put your hand here. No, here. Now pull me close. Angle your head into mine. Hang on. I wanna get the ring in the pic too.” She settled her left hand prominently in the center of his chest. “Okay. Hold that beautiful smile on the count of three. One. Two…”
At the last second, Jack turned and kissed her cheek.
“Dammit, Jack.” She jumped away from him. “That was uncalled for.”
“Told you payback was a bitch. So let’s see it.”
“No.” Keely lifted the camera out of his reach. “You don’t get to—”
“Yes I do.” Jack snatched the phone, clicking to the last picture. He grinned. The light reflected off Keely’s glossy black hair, creating a halo effect. She smiled prettily as he lovingly smooched her cheek. He flipped it around so she could see the screen.
“It’s okay, but I think—”
“Anyone looking at this will think we’re happy, and that’s the point, right?” He pushed a few buttons and sent the picture to everyone in her phone book with the message, Jack Donohue and I are engaged!
Love, Keely. “There. It’s a done deal. Now everyone knows.”
“What?” Keely swiped the phone and scrolled down. “No, no, no, no! You sent this to everyone?
Including… Omigod, Casey and Renner and Kent?”
“Who are Casey and Renner and Kent?”
“Some guys I’ve been—”
Jack boxed her against her the car with his body, forcing her undivided attention. “You will not fuck around on me, ever, understand? No calling other guys. No flirting with other guys. No kissing other guys.
No touching other guys. As far as the world is concerned, we are engaged for real, and you will not embarrass me, or yourself, by acting any way other than wildly in love with me, got it?”
Her gaze slid to his mouth and she licked her lips.
Fuck. He’d spent way too many hours thinking about what he’d do if that tempting mouth of hers was ever close to his again. If he lowered his head he could taste the juicy sweetness of those full red lips as he swallowed her surprised moan…
The phone in his hand buzzed with a text message.
Dammit all to hell. “I said got it?”
“Uh-huh.” She kept peering at him with those enormous midnight blue eyes.
“Nothing to say?” he prompted.
“Just one thing.”