Checking It Twice - By Jodi Redford

Dedication

To Sasha. This is our twelfth book together. Twelve! Through every single story I’ve written, you’ve made me a better writer. You’ve challenged and inspired me to venture into worlds and characters that I might not have been brave enough to pen without your encouragement and unwavering support. I couldn’t have done this without you, lady. So here’s to number twelve, and many, many more to come.

Chapter One

“I’ve been a very naughty girl, Santa. Think you better spank me with your big candy cane.”

Choking on his swallow of beer, Kevin Monahan jerked his gaze upward just as Jana Colton draped her arm around his neck. Flashing a cheeky grin, she leaned forward and planted a chaste kiss on his forehead that was in direct opposition to the wicked sparkle in her dazzling blue eyes. Her position thrust her generous breasts square in his face, awarding him a bird’s eye view of the luscious cleavage peeking from the scooped neckline of her pink sweater. A sweet and sensual floral scent drifted from her peaches-and-cream skin, tantalizing his already overtaxed senses. The bead of sweat crawling down his nape couldn’t be blamed on the too-warm interior of Hadley’s Bar and Grill.

He and Jana had known each other for five years and been good friends for at least four. He should have been immune to her outrageous flirtations by now. Apparently his libido was too sadistic to let him off the hook that easily.

Jana straightened and tugged off her fingerless gloves before shrugging out of her leather trench coat in a seductive shimmy that officially fried a few more of his brain cells. “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting long.”

Desperately grappling for every ounce of inner strength he possessed, he tore his entranced stare from the outline of Jana’s perky nipples and schooled his expression into the blandest one he could manufacture. “No. I’ve only been here a few minutes.”

Jana arranged her coat over the back of the chair opposite him and plopped onto the seat. He didn’t fail to notice the lewd glances and snickering whispers she garnered from the neighboring table of college frat boys. A completely inescapable flash of protectiveness streaked through him, prompting him to offer the ogling boys a cold glare. Taking the hint, they returned to their raucous conversation and beer chugging. He allowed a fraction of the tension to ease from his shoulders.

He knew he had no right to be the slightest bit territorial where Jana was concerned, but it also didn’t stop him from wanting to kick the ass of every punk kid who eyed her like a side of beef while making crude comments to his dipshit friends.

Displaying her typical blasé disregard for the attention she generated in the opposite sex, Jana propped her arms on the pockmarked wooden tabletop and focused the full wattage of her smile on him. As always, it possessed the power to seduce the pants right off him—something Jana would undoubtedly take full advantage of if she knew the true scope of his weakness where she was concerned. For the past ten months, she’d really amped up her quest to take their friendship to the next level. He had no intention of giving in to her and the inevitable fallout that’d result if they slept together, but it didn’t mean his vigilant resistance wasn’t a fierce struggle.

She wiggled in her seat, drawing his rapt, albeit reluctant, scrutiny to her bouncing breasts. His cock swelled, and he mumbled a soft curse.

Tucking a lock of her shiny blonde hair behind her ear, she twitched her nose in a way that was both adorable and admonishing. “I missed you, you jerk. I thought you said you’d call me while you were in Vegas.”

A niggle of guilt worming through him, he situated his pilsner glass on the coaster, taking his time with the task on the off chance she’d grow bored with his silence and move on to another topic.

She didn’t. “Did you have a nice visit with your dad?”

“Yeah.” If you could call enduring three days of awkward tension remotely pleasant. Then again, it hadn’t been anything less than what he’d expected. Tense visits with his dad were standard fare. Not that Jana knew anything about the harsh reality of his relationship with his father. It was yet another facet of his life he preferred to keep locked away in his closet of dirty secrets.

“Do anything exciting while you were out there?”

His thoughts automatically veered to his meeting with the departing executive chef