His Best Friends Girl (Book 5)
In the Line of Duty book 5
With a little help—and a little kink—from her friend, she might just get her man.
Skylar Redmond’s Sky Bar is regularly wall-to-wall hot soldiers. Yet she is alone—and getting tired of it. Forget about finding a man who’ll rock her world in the bedroom. She’ll settle for a guy who’s stable, kind and compassionate.
Too bad that guy still sees her as the pigtailed girl from their youth, not the strong woman she is today. But maybe, with a little help, that’ll change.
As an ex-military field ambulance technician, Matt James excels at performing under pressure. Pretending to be interested in Skylar to help her capture the attention of his best friend? Piece of cake—because he won’t be faking it. He’s been in love with her since their school yard days, but never pushed it. She deserves someone who can offer her more.
A touch leads to a kiss, and a kiss to a night that throws a kink—or three—into Sky’s plan. Leaving her wondering if she’s going for the wrong man…and letting the right one slip through her fingers.
“What I wouldn’t give for a piece of that.”
Skylar Redmond, owner of Sky Bar in downtown Austin, glanced at Kat Stiller, who was licking her lips and looking at Skylar’s best friend like he was a fresh slab of meat and she’d just come off an all-veggie diet.
“You’ve got a thing for Matt?” Sky asked as she refreshed Kat’s strawberry daiquiri and slid it to her from the working side of the bar.
“Yeah. He’s so hot.” She fanned her hand in front of her pretty face, her big green eyes wide as she admired Matt from afar. “Just look at him. All that muscle, those blue eyes, the hair and those hands. God those hands… I bet he really knows how to use them to get his kink on in the bedroom.” Kat sighed and spun on her padded stool to glance around the room, one filled with hot soldiers who frequented Sky Bar on a regular basis. “Too bad he’s more interested in that book he’s reading than he is in getting laid.”READ MORE
“He’s studying for his MCATs,” Sky explained, stealing another glace at Matt as he focused intently on the pages in front of him, oblivious to everyone and everything around him as he huddled at the far end of the bar. She looked at the jar of peanut butter beside him. Honest to God, if he didn’t start eating properly he was going to get sick. He might be crazy busy seven days a week, switching careers from an army field ambulance technician to a civilian medical doctor, but no man could live off of peanuts alone. She grabbed her iPad and punched in an order that went directly to the kitchen. When Matt wasn’t in class, studying, or helping with the training of service dogs, he worked at the bar with her, and every cent he made went toward saving for med school. But as his best friend since childhood, and current boss, she was not going to let him starve.
“You think that’s all it is?” Kat asked, crinkling her nose.
Pool balls banged and laughter and ribbing could be heard from a half a dozen or so ex-soldiers standing around the pool table. As Sky listened to the camaraderie among friends, she grabbed a cloth and began wiping down the glassware that Dean had brought from the dish pit out back.
“What do you mean?” Sky asked. “What else would it be?”
“I mean, maybe he’s not…you know…into women.” She shrugged. “Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it could account for his lack of interest.”
Sky nearly burst out laughing. Kat was right, there was nothing wrong with that, but she knew Matt. In their teenage years, he was one the biggest hound dogs she knew. He and their other best friend, Caleb Roth, had to fight the girls off with a stick. Those two bad boys from the wrong side of the tracks had their pick of girls. She would know, since they all hung out in Caleb’s basement and she’d accidently walked in on them with their girlfriends a time or two.
“No, you’re wrong. He likes his women. Believe me, back in the day he had his fair share.” Then again, Sky hadn’t seen him with anyone since he returned home from his tour overseas a year ago, and plenty of girls at Sky Bar had tried to get his attention. She could only chalk up his lack of enthusiasm to the important entrance exam he was studying for. Switching careers at this point was no easy task, and everyone knew the MCATs were hard to pass, even when prepared.
Kat took a sip of her drink and toyed with her straw. “Or maybe he’s already into someone else.”
“Yeah, probably the girl in his anatomy book,” Sky said, grinning. “That’s the only action he’s been getting lately.” She placed the polished glass on the rack and reached for another. “Besides, I thought you and Josh Mansfield had a thing.”
“Yeah, Josh is great, and we’ve been having some fun, but…I don’t know, maybe I’m looking for something more, you know?”
She rounded her shoulder and hugged her belly. “I think my biological clock is ticking. Every time I hold Tallulah’s sweet baby girl Lexi, all I can think about is having my own child.”
Sky nodded as the kitchen bell sounded behind her. “I know what you mean.” She grabbed Matt’s sandwich from the serving shelf and slid it down the counter to him.
It hit his textbook with a thud, and his head lifted. He took note of the sandwich, then his glance went to her. He gave her a big smile and Sky just laughed, pointed at his plate and said, “Eat.”
She turned back to Kat, who was studying her carefully.
“So if you know what I mean, does that mean you want to be in a serious relationship too?” Kat asked.
“Sure,” she said, then closed her mouth, not wanting to admit that she was approaching thirty and the one guy she wanted she couldn’t have. But she didn’t want to go down that depressing road. Instead she redirected the conversation and asked, “I take it Josh isn’t the settling-down kind?”
“No, but Matt sure seems like a forever kind of guy, doesn’t he?”
She turned and looked at Matt as he bit into his sandwich. He followed it with a swig of soda, then licked his fingers clean—an action that seemed to have Kat squirming on her stool. Honestly, she’d never thought about Matt in that sense before. He’d just always been Matt to her. Playful, laid-back and easygoing most times, yet serious when he needed to be, like when he was studying.
“Yeah, I guess he could be a forever kind of guy,” she said with a shrug.
“You guess?” Kat arched a perfectly manicured brow. “Shouldn’t you know? You are best friends, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, we are.”
Kat gave her a once-over, a sly smirk spreading across her face. “Unless there is something more going on between you two that I don’t know about. I mean, you are constantly together and he’s always giving you piggyback rides.” She planted her elbow on the table and opened her palm toward the ceiling. “Like I said, he’s a guy who knows how to get his kink on.” She went quiet, thoughtful for a moment, then wagged her index finger back and forth between Sky and Matt. “Is there something I should know? Are you two…you know…getting your kink on?”
Sky nearly laughed again. “Hardly. We’re just friends. We go way back.” Matt, Caleb, her—the three musketeers. “We’re not getting our…” she paused and did air quotes around the words, “…kink on.”
Kat wagged her eyebrows. “But you want to, right?”
“No! And for the record I’m not into kink.”
“Well I am, and I want the whole package. A good, stable guy who knows how to rock my world in the bedroom.”
Sky would settle for the good, stable guy. She’d never had anyone rock her world in the bedroom, and a kind, caring man was more important to her than that. “And you think Matt is that man?”
“You tell me. You’re his best friend.”
“To be honest, I’ve never thought about Matt and marriage in the same sentence before.” Nor did she ever think about Matt and kink, but for some strange reason now that Kat had planted that idea in her head, she couldn’t quite seem to get it out. “I guess I just never pictured him wearing a tux and standing at the altar.”
Kat frowned into her drink. “That’s because you didn’t see him at the wedding last year.”
“What happened at the wedding?” Matt was the best man at Jenny and Ving’s wedding last summer, and Sky was still upset she had to miss the ceremony. She’d come down with a serious stomach flu and no way would she fly to Mississippi under those circumstances and risk giving her germs to anyone in the bridal party. Jenny had sent her a copy of the video but she’d yet to find the time to watch it.
“He looked so good. Definitely like he belonged at the altar. Women were throwing themselves at him, and he was always so kind, polite and gentlemanly when he declined.”
As Sky eyed Kat, and took in the gloom on her face, she guessed the girl was talking from her own personal experiences with Matt. “He’s different than most guys.” Kat twirled her straw around her mouth and angled her head to see him. “He’s not a player, at least not anymore. And he was so fiercely protective of Jenny and Ving, making sure they had everything they needed and stayed stress free during the entire time. I just bet he’d be crazy possessive of his woman too, inside the bedroom and out.” She gave a wistful sigh and added, “The stories he told at the dinner party were funny yet so sweet, you know? I really think he is the whole package.”
Sky couldn’t help but smile, because Kat was right. Matt was funny and sweet and extremely protective of those he cared about. With no mother to raise him and an abusive father who continuously told him he’d never amount to anything, Matt was anything but a chip off the old block. In fact, he swore he’d never be anything like his old man. He’d spent many nights sleeping in Caleb’s basement when his father went on a rampage. Caleb’s parents might not have had much to offer, but they opened their hearts to Matt and gave him whatever they could.
“Kat?” she asked, unable to get Kat’s assessment of Matt out of her head.
“What makes you think Matt is into kink?”
A small, knowing smile curled up her lip. “I have a knack for these things, and believe me, he’s the kind of guy who knows how to hold a girl down hard and give it to her good.”
Oddly enough, a fine shiver moved through Sky, even though she wasn’t into that kind of thing. In an effort to disguise her sudden interest, she pointed to the door when it opened. “Tallulah and Garrett are here.”
Kat smiled and waved Tallulah over as her husband, Garrett, made his way to the pool table. Like Sky and Matt, Tallulah and Kat also went way back to childhood. Kat had only recently moved to Austin and started working at the hospital as a physical therapist so the two could be closer—and also because, according to her, the guys were way hotter in Texas.
Garrett joined his comrades as Sky went to work on making Tallulah a daiquiri. Tallulah slid onto the stool next to Kat. “What’s up?” she asked. “You two looked like you were in a serious conversation.”
Kat twisted on her stool and gestured with a nod toward the end of the bar. “Oh, I was just questioning Matt’s sexual preferences.”
“His sexual preferences?” Tallulah’s dark lashes blinked rapidly as she rolled her eyes. “Is this because he never paid you a lick of attention at the wedding last year and keeps himself holed up in that corner studying?”
“Can we not talk about Matt and licking in the same sentence?” Kat groaned. “And if you want to know the truth, then yes, it is because of that. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get that man’s attention.” She frowned. “I’m starting to think I’m losing it.”
Sky looked at the flamboyant, gorgeous woman with the long, thick, chestnut hair that never went frizzy in Austin’s humid weathers. “Losing it? Hardly. You’re gorgeous, Kat. I wish I had…”
Her words fell off as the heavy oak door opened once again and Caleb Roth sauntered in. Sky’s body warmed all over when he shot her a panty-dropping smile that traveled all the way to her toes, stopping in a few erogenous areas along the way. Unable to help herself, she let her gaze slide downward to take in his easy gait and the familiar way he kicked out his long legs with the same lazy ease Sky remembered from their youth. When Caleb had joined the army years ago, he left their hometown of Austin a boy, but he came back a man. A hot, sexy man who would never think of her as anything more than the pigtailed tomboy who used to climb trees with him and Matt.
“What?” she asked, turning back to her friends as they both looked at her with wide-eyed curiosity. She resumed wiping down the glasses, busying her hands and pretending Caleb’s mere presence hadn’t thrown her off her game.
Tallulah tapped a manicured finger on the oak bar top. “Don’t what us.”
Sky reached for another glass, avoiding Tallulah’s raised eyebrows. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, what the hell was that all about?” Tallulah asked.
“I’ll tell you what that’s all about,” Kat piped in. “Sky here has the hots for Caleb.”
Tallulah’s brown eyes widened. “Oh my God, it’s true, isn’t it? When did this happen? Tell me everything.”
“What’s true?” Amber, Sky’s head waitress and good friend, asked as she came back to the counter with her tray in hand.
Sky’s mind raced as three sets of eyes stared at her. She could lie, but what was the point? They’d all see through it anyway. “Okay, fine, it’s true. I have the hots for Caleb. It started when he returned home from overseas last year. There, I said it. Are you happy?”
“Like hell I’m happy,” Amber said, planting one hand on her hip in usual Amber fashion. For a minute Sky thought Amber was upset because she wanted Caleb but then her friend’s lips quirked and she pointed a finger directly at Mr. Hottie himself as he walked over to talk to Matt. “I’ll be happy when you go over there and do something about it.”
“No way.” Sky grabbed Amber’s wrist and lowered her hand as she shot Kat a glance. “You’re not the one losing it, Kat. I am.” She gave a disgruntled shake of her head. “Honest to God, I swear the only way I can get a guy to look at me is to tie a pork chop around my neck.”
Her friends laughed and she couldn’t help but laugh along with them, even though it was the sad truth. She hadn’t been with a guy in ages, and if things didn’t pick up soon, she was going to give up hope and start hoarding cats.
Then again, it wasn’t like she’d been putting herself out there. After finishing four years of college, switching from an English degree to a business degree so she could successfully take over her father’s bar when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack a few years back, all she did was work. Her mom died during childbirth and it had been just her and her father growing up. They were very close and keeping the bar a success was important to her. Not only because it was his pride and joy and he’d named it after her, but because he’d entrusted her with it. That meant everything to her. Someday down the road she could get her English degree and write the book she always wanted to, but right now she needed to put all her energy into the bar and making it a success.
Her heart ached as she thought more about her late father, who she missed dearly. He was one of a kind: smart, successful…a man who started out working in the dish pit, saving every penny he had until he could buy the bar and make it his own. He was kind, giving and cared a great deal about others, even offering his friends odd jobs when they were down on their luck. Her whole life she knew she wanted to marry a man who was as compassionate as her father.
She stole a quick glance at Caleb as he walked to the pool table and picked up a stick. She suspected he was that man. He’d come from very little and had worked hard to get where he was. Now he was an army doctor working up in the San Antonio clinic, giving back to the community and caring for the sick. He usually traveled to Austin on the weekends to hang out with her and Matt. When the weather was good and everyone could get the time off, they all often took off to his cottage at the lake.
“If you like him, then do something about it,” Kat said, like it was just so simple. If only it were. “Wouldn’t it be worse if you never tried?”
Sky lowered her voice, not wanting anyone to overhear them, even though no one else was sitting near them at the bar and Matt was at the other end, out of earshot. The last thing she wanted was for Matt to know how much she wanted their other best friend and make him feel like the third wheel, uncomfortable and out of place.
“He doesn’t see me as anything more than a friend,” Sky said. “And he never will. He still calls me Skywalker. As in Luke Skywalker. You know, like I’m one of the guys.”
Tallulah leaned to her side and nudged Kat with her shoulder. “Then make him see you as a girl.” She shared a smirk with Kat, like the two had a dirty little secret. “Believe me, if anyone can school you on seduction and teach you how to get a guy to notice you as something more, it’s our Kat here.”
Kat grinned. “You’re not opposed to bending over a lot, are you?”
Sky sucked in a quick breath as her mind envisioned her doing just that. God, how naughty, wicked and…kinky that sounded. “You’re joking, right?” Sky asked. Both girls knew her well enough to know she wasn’t bold, like Kat, and had never come right out and seduced a guy before. But dammit, she was tired of going unnoticed.
“No. You have a great ass and it’s time he knew it.” Kat slid a napkin across the bar top. “Go over to the pool table and drop this in front of him. When you bend to pick it up, be sure to arch your back and let that little skirt you’re wearing ride up.” Kat winked. “Then you’ll have him right where you want him. And believe me, girlfriend—” she snapped her fingers, “—he’ll be hard as that stick he’s holding.”
Sky laughed along with her friends. While that sounded devious, and getting him hard would be nice, she truly wanted him to like her for more than her “great ass”. She wanted what Kat wanted and Tallulah had—a forever kind of guy—because settling down with a family someday sounded just about right. While sex was nice, it wasn’t her main priority. Finding the right man to settle down with was.
“Well, are you going to go for it?” Tallulah asked.
Sky let loose a long, slow breath and planted her hands on the bar top. “So let me get this straight. You want me to go over to the pool table, drop this napkin, and bend over to show off my ass because you think that’s what it’s going to take to get Caleb to finally notice me as something more than his tomboy friend.”
All three girls inched back a bit, a strange look coming over their faces. Kat and Tallulah turned their attention to their drinks and Amber scurried off to attend a table.
“What?” Sky asked, wondering if she’d said something offensive. Then again, that whole scandalous setup was their idea, not hers, so she had no clue as to why they were all of a sudden acting aloof.
“Thanks for the sandwich,” Matt said from behind her, his mouth near her ear, his warm breath fanning over her skin.
She spun around and when she came face-to-face with her childhood best friend, she knew in an instant he’d overheard their private conversation.
With an almost tortured look on his face, Matt looked down and said, “I…ah…I think you dropped something.”
She followed his gaze to the floor to find the napkin lying across her shoes like it was some clandestine clue in a secret, devious plot—which of course it was.
And now Matt knew about it!