It's Now or Never by Jean Brashear

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It's Now or Never by Jean Brashear

This was one of the most fun stories I’ve ever written. Gavin is so relentlessly well-adjusted and unfazed by every obstacle Steph throws at him, throwing her off-balance as the one who usually calls the shots. Watching how he barges past all her walls and finds his way to the tender heart of who she is and what she fears—plus all the bantering between them—was endless fun for me and, I hope, for you! Here’s an excerpt:

No one in the Sweetgrass headquarters of Enigma dressed up, but Steph had today because—

She wasn’t sure, exactly. Couldn’t explain it even to herself. Some attempt, she supposed, to regain control of her life. To return to the footing she’d once thought natural.

But all she had to do was walk outside on the town square to know she wasn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. Actually she probably was in someplace as provincial as Kansas—but she was the witch with the flying monkeys, dropped down into the land of cowboys and barbecue.

“You all right, darlin’?” asked a very familiar voice.

No. No freaking way. Wyatt’s crew wasn’t supposed to start work for Jackson until—

Crap. Today was Tuesday. She was shaking her head as she turned.

And there he stood, Gavin O’Neill in the flesh. Looking far too delicious for her piece of mind in dusty jeans and beat-up work boots, a t-shirt that molded his fine upper body too well and…oh, man…a tool belt slung at his hips.

No fair.

“What?” he asked. But he was grinning as if he could read her thoughts.

Blast the man, he probably could. “Don’t you have work to do?”

“And don’t you make a picture?” he asked. “All slick and sleek and shiny.”

Her spine went ramrod stiff. “I’m dressed for work.”

His brows rose. “Jackson Gallagher has on a t-shirt and jeans.”

“Jackson owns the company.”

“You own your own portion. Does that make you a rich woman, darlin’? In need of a gigolo, perhaps?” He grinned as he opened his arms wide. “You could have both, your own personal man of all work and a love slave to boot. What do you say, sugar?” His eyes glowed with mischief.

She burst out laughing. “You’re ridiculous. Go back to work.”

“It’s time for lunch. Would you prefer to have me escort you to Ruby’s, or shall we have a picnic at the spring?”

“I don’t eat lunch.” Or she hadn’t before she came to Sweetgrass, where Ruby and Scarlett fed her so well she was in danger of needing to let out seams.

“A pity.” He clucked his tongue. “You need some meat on your bones, my mama would say.”

“Do you actually have a mom? ”

“I do, and she adores me the way you will soon.” He took her elbow and began to escort her to Ruby’s.

Steph tried to dig in her heels, but the man was ox-strong. “No. I’d rather not—” She wasn’t up for the questions she’d get if they were seen together. Sweetgrass had a gossip mill that worked overtime.

“Fine, then. You can share my lunch.”

“You’ll need your strength. I—”

“Well, I have to admit I like the sound of that.” His eyebrows waggled. One hand spread over his heart, and he patted it. “That gives a man a reason to live.”

“You are such a jerk.” But she laughed as she said it. “I’ll grab something from Spike’s cantina. You go on.”

“Oh, no. I’d find myself eating alone, and that won’t do. Not when a much more tantalizing option has presented itself.”

He followed her into the cantina Jackson had established for his employees. The place was open 24/7, since his geeks worked all hours, and when it wasn’t staffed, Spike kept plenty of food in the coolers.

When they entered, Spike and Big D were arguing over which Marvel superhero was best.

“Oh come on, now,” Big D complained. “Cap is just too white-bread. Give me some Black Widow any day.”

Spike rolled her eyes. “Of course you’d like the black catsuit.”

“You think Thor’s long hair is hot. He’s only an over-muscled egomaniac.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“Superbrain here,” he said, tapping his temple. “Brains beat brawn.”

“And it’s her…brains you admire? Not the boobs?”

“Oh come on—don’t be a sexist. Nat is wicked smart. I’d think you’d like how kickass she is.”

Steph went to the cooler and grabbed an apple and some yogurt. She turned back to get Spike to put it on her tab.

Gavin was buying two enormous cookies.

“I don’t eat desserts,” she said.

“Oh, you thought these were for you?” Gavin grinned.

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