Nothing But Trouble

Nothing But Trouble

Trish Jensen

April 2013 $10.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-286-6

He’s gorgeous, rich, sexy, super nice, and head-over-heels for her. So what’s the problem?

Our PriceUS$10.95
Save wishlist

Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover

"Trish Jensen is a one-woman laugh riot."— Sandra Hill,New York Times bestselling author

"Trish Jensen is the undisputed queen of comedic romance." — Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews

Her psychic best friend predicts that Laura Tanner is due to meet a prince—the man of her dreams. Not a likely scenario for a hard-working bar owner who’s better at karate-chopping rowdy patrons than hobnobbing with the silver-spoon crowd. When Ivy League lawyer Brandon Prince (a prince!) strolls into her bar, Laura admits he’s hard to resist. Brandon quickly realizes that this lovely, funny, take-no-prisoners woman is the special someone he’s always wanted.

Brandon is an expert at wooing women, and even a tough cookie like Laura can’t help but fall under his spell. Before she knows what’s happening, he’s lured her on a romantic adventure filled with laughter and desire. Dazzled, she begins to believe that she really can have this prince of a man as her own.

One problem: Brandon’s powerful mother is used to women chasing his family fortune, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep yet another money-grubbing female out of his life. If a man is everything you’ve ever wanted, how can he also be nothing but trouble?


"Easy to read, fun, light-hearted romance that provides the reader with smiles, laughs as well as some sizzle when needed." -- Marsha Kerr, Goodreads

"A real spicy and satisfying read." -- Mariel Hoss, Goodreads

"…clever and entertaining. Not without its sweet moments." -- Kelly Moran, Moran Reviews



"TONIGHT’S the night.”

Laura Tanner glanced up from the margarita she was blending and looked across the bar at her friend and cocktail waitress, Alison Harris.

Ali was squinting intently into the screwdriver Laura had just handed her. That could only mean one thing. Ali was reading the orange pulp again.

Laura garnished the margarita with a lime, then set it on Ali’s tray. "Tonight’s the night for what, Ali?” she asked, knowing she’d probably regret asking.

Besides waiting tables for Laura, and being one of Laura’s two best friends, Ali was a psychic. A bad one, although well-intentioned. But where her extrasensory colleagues went for tea leaves or tarot cards or crystal balls, Ali found her inspiration in fruit juice.

"Tonight’s the night you meet Mr. Right,” Ali predicted with a decisive nod of her blond head.

For one split second, alarm seized Laura. She had no desire to meet any misters, right or otherwise. The two in her life to date had cured her of any romantic notions. She and men just didn’t mix. In fact, if she were to be honest, she sincerely believed she was allergic to testosterone.

Just as quickly as the horror hit her, it disappeared. If Ali, who usually batted zero, predicted she was about to meet a man, Laura was safe as safe could be.

"Do tell,” Hannah Miller said, settling in on the barstool beside Ali. As much as Ali was a starry-eyed optimist, Hannah was a cynical realist. A stockbroker, Hannah had to be the most beautiful woman Laura had ever met. But something in her past had injured her badly—something she refused to share with them. The scars ran deep.

Laura could relate, which was probably why she and Hannah were so drawn to Ali. Something about Ali’s naive optimism was refreshing.

Ali nodded again, causing the five or so sets of earrings in her lobes to set off a clamor. "Laura’s about to meet her life mate.”

"My condolences,” Hannah offered.

Laura poured Hannah a glass of chablis. "I’ve already met my life mate. This bar.”

"A bar can’t love you,” Ali protested.

Neither can a man, Laura thought. This wasn’t a new discussion. Ali, ever the dreamer, wouldn’t rest until the friends she loved were blissfully wed. Poor Ali just didn’t understand that the phrase was an oxymoron.

Ali held the glass over her head and studied the pulp from below with one eye squeezed shut. "He’s in the bar, right now.” She settled the drink back on her tray and sashayed away.

Laura and Hannah both turned to survey the main room of Nothing But Trouble. For a Tuesday night the bar was fairly full, but not a single Mr. Right stood out in the crowd.

"Can you be more specific?” Hannah asked when Ali returned from serving drinks.

Ali pointed to the Budweiser beer tap and held up four fingers. "Not really. But I’ll cruise the place and see if I can’t find him.”

"Don’t do me any favors,” Laura muttered as she pulled four frosty mugs from the cooler.

"Black hair?” Hannah persisted. "Blond? Green? Purple?”

Ali shook her head, setting off another round of earring clanging. "I don’t know. All I know is I have this overwhelming urge to sing, ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’”

"Oh, Lord!” Laura muttered as she passed the drafts across the bar. Good thing Ali was so bad at this.

"Laura’s getting a prince?” Hannah raised one ebony brow. "I’m not seeing this as good news, Ali. Princes make notoriously bad life mates.”

"This is a good prince,” Ali announced.

"Well, thank heavens for that,” Hannah said. "Let’s hope he’s rich, too.”

"Let me ask you this, Ali,” Laura said, wiping down the bar. "Just on the off chance that you’re right. What would a prince want with a drink-slinging divorcée from Red Dog, North Carolina?”

Ali opened her mouth, but a series of shouts from the back room interrupted her. Laura tossed down her towel. "Maybe that’s my prince now,” she said, heading for the billiards room. From experience, she knew she was about to enter a room teeming with testosterone. She hoped she didn’t break out in hives.

As Laura ducked under the bar, Ali warned, "Stay calm, hon. You know what happened the last time you broke up a fight.”

"The guy deserved a one-way ticket to the emergency room,” Hannah opined.

"Use psychology,” Ali advised.

"If that doesn’t work, shoot them,” Hannah added.

Sometimes Hannah gave the best advice.

The billiards room was crowded, and a verbal exchange was going on between two burly men, neither of whom were regulars. Too bad. Usually she could defuse a volatile situation with the customers she knew. Strangers were always more of a pain. Because of her size, they underestimated her, patronized her. They learned, eventually, but teaching them had begun to be a real bore.

"What’s going on here?” she asked, squinting through the smoke. She resisted the urge to inhale the pungent odor, to savor it. She’d kicked the habit four years ago when she hadn’t had enough money to spend on cigarettes, and she had to keep reminding herself that she was glad to be an ex-smoker. She was a slave to no one and no habit.

One of the two men—who had HOG tattooed on his beefy right forearm—grinned at her, revealing one missing upper tooth. "We’re just having a personal-type discussion. Nothin’ to worry your pretty little head over.”

Laura gritted her teeth, forcing herself not to lay him low instantly. That was the one drawback of being an owner. You had to learn restraint. Not an easy task for Tusslin’ Laura Tanner. But she’d learned over the years that bleeding and unconscious customers tended not to buy beer.

She glanced at the other man. His red bandanna was greasy-looking, his beard scraggly. If either of these men was her prince, she was in dire straits.

Normally Laura’s clientele ranged a whole lot higher on the evolutionary scale than these guys. She’d chosen this section of Manhattan with care, fashionably close to Wall Street. She catered to stockbrokers and lawyers who wanted to unwind at the end of a long, tense day.

Her bar was decorated with them in mind, full of dark, rich mahogany, gleaming brass, and green leafy vegetation. But occasionally a group of Neanderthals found their way inside, either drawn by the name or her reputation for mixing reasonably priced, generous drinks.

"Everything all right?” she asked Mr. Bandanna.

"Will be,” he answered her, glaring at Mr. Hog. "Soon as this jerk pays up.”

Hog took a menacing step toward Bandanna. "I don’t pay cheaters.”

"Who you calling—”

Laura stepped between them. "Enough. You two want to slug it out, go elsewhere. Like, say, New Jersey.”

BRANDON TYLER Prince found himself thoroughly fascinated by the scene playing out before him. A slip of a woman was squaring off against two meaty thugs and holding her ground.

Brandon set down his draft and shifted forward, ready to spring to her aid if things got out of hand. She was very pretty. He’d noticed that the first time he saw her standing behind the bar.

Her hair was the color of rich, dark honey and pulled back in a slightly crooked French braid. Her nose, now high in the air, was straight with just a tiny upswing on the very end of it.

From this distance and through the murky film of smoke, he couldn’t make out the color of her eyes, but they seemed too big for her face.

She wasn’t flawlessly beautiful, but she sure as hell was attractive. Her shape was hidden from view by a pair of baggy black-and-white-striped overalls over a not-so-baggy black tank top. By the delicacy of her bare arms, he could tell she weighed in at around one hundred and ten pounds, give or take a pound.

Brandon glanced at his buddy, Ned McGarry, sitting across the booth. "Brassy little broad, isn’t she?”

Ned cocked his head toward the woman. "Keep watching. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

"Shouldn’t we help her?”

Ned snorted. "Not unless you have a death wish.”

Brandon returned his attention to her. She had lush, pink lips, but the words spilling from them right now did not put a man in the mind to kiss her. In fact, had she been talking to him, he’d have an overwhelming urge to protect some of his more sensitive body parts.

"I don’t tolerate macho crap in this establishment, gentlemen, so if y’all don’t settle up, real nice-like, real quick, you’re outta here.”

The man with a tattoo on his arm gave her a condescending pat on the head, and Brandon held his breath as he watched her bridle. Either the guy was a complete dunce, or he was too looped to spot trouble when it glared at him.

"Go on and fix your lipstick or something,” the loser urged the woman. "This is between us boys.”

Brandon voted for dumb-as-a-tree-stump. He took a sip of beer, his gaze never straying from the scene. His muscles tensed as he prepared to jump to the lady’s defense if she needed him.

The three exchanged more words, the two idiots digging themselves deeper and deeper by continuing to argue over their pool game. The woman said one more thing, but in such a low voice Brandon couldn’t make out the words. Whatever it was, it made the tattoo guy jerk in surprise, then throw back his head and howl with coarse laughter.

Then the fool made a fatal mistake. As soon as she turned to address the guy with the red kerchief wrapped around his head, the bigger man grasped her around the waist and lifted her bodily off the ground. Brandon leapt to his feet, but before he could take a step, the woman instantly jabbed her elbow into the idiot’s considerable gut and kicked back her foot, connecting with his knee.

The kick made a sickening, crunching sound, but the man barely reacted other than to release her. Dumb and drunk, Brandon decided.

The tattoo guy lunged for her. She sidestepped, and he lumbered right on by her. She whirled and faced him, crouching slightly and putting up her hands in a karate fighting stance.

That stopped the man for a moment, and there was confusion written all over his splotchy face. But Brandon saw in a flash that he wasn’t going to back down now. His male pride had been wounded.

"She needs help, Ned,” he said without looking back. "That guy’s too sauced to recognize she probably just shattered his kneecap.”

He started forward, but Ned grasped his arm and jerked him back. "She will not appreciate your help, Bran. She can handle herself, believe me.”

Brandon didn’t want her to handle herself. Even though she seemed expert at self-defense, he couldn’t stop the surge of protective instincts that flowed naturally through him. Having four younger sisters had done that to him.

Whistles and catcalls echoed through the room, and some of the customers started placing bets. The woman ignored the noise, keeping her eyes trained on the thug. He hesitated a fraction of a second, then tried to jump her again.

She grasped his arm and spun, twisting it high up on his back.

"Owwwwwwwwwww!” the man howled. He braced his legs apart and raised up on his toes to try and relieve the pressure on his arm and shoulder.

She brought her knee up between his thighs, not as a hit, but as a threat, and a chorus of audible wincing went up from the roomful of sympathetic males.

"Maybe you misunderstood the name of this establishment,” the woman drawled in a slow, Southern accent Brandon found mesmerizing. "Nothing But Trouble refers to me, not the type of behavior I’m looking for in my clientele.”

She cocked her hip, obviously in complete control. "That was my daddy’s nickname for me growing up, you know. He’d say to me, ‘Laura Jean, you are nothing but trouble.’ Why do you suppose my daddy thought that?”

"Owwwwww! Stop!”

She decreased the pressure on his arm but didn’t let him go. "Now, I think it’s time y’all head on home, and don’t come back ’til you learn some manners. Ya hear?”

"Yesssss,” he hissed.

"Good.” She released him and stepped back. "That goes for all the rest of you, too. Understand, boys?” she said, sweeping her gaze over the crowd. Brandon glanced around and almost broke out in laughter as a room full of men nodded their heads vigorously. The woman splayed her small hands over her hipbones, and Brandon found himself searching her fingers for rings. There were none.

As her gaze moved in his direction, he froze, feeling an odd desire to have her look at him. Really look at him, not through him, the way she seemed to do to everyone else.

But her eyes didn’t rest on him for more than a heartbeat, and her indifferent glance told him she found nothing special about him. He supposed he couldn’t blame her, considering the way he was dressed, the way he looked.

He was three days into a six-week joyride on what his mother called his final act of lunacy. He’d just passed the Rhode Island bar exam, and he’d wanted a break before starting his job in the Newport County District Attorney’s office. Twenty straight years of school—a bachelor’s, MBA and law degree, not to mention studying for the bar—had taken its toll. For six weeks he wanted to think of nothing more taxing than which direction to point his meticulously restored ’68 Mustang.

So it wasn’t surprising the lady hadn’t taken a second look. He was dressed for comfort, and he hadn’t shaved since arriving at Ned’s Greenwich Village apartment two days ago. Still, he wasn’t accustomed to being so readily dismissed by the fairer sex.

He sat down slowly as he watched her haul the two men to the back exit. After seeing them through it, she fluttered her fingers at them. "Toodles.”

Then she slammed the door closed, swung on her heel, glared at the crowd one last time, then flounced out of the billiards room.

"Who—or what—was that?” Brandon asked Ned, trying to pick his jaw up off the table.

Ned’s brown eyes sparkled. "That was Laura Tanner, the owner of this fine watering hole,” he answered, then took a swig of beer.

"Wow,” was all he could think to say. "And here I thought it was a miniature bulldog with a prettier face.”

Ned’s beer bottle thunked as it hit the scratched wood table. "Yep,” he said, grinning. "That about sums up Laura. It’s why I like coming here. She keeps a tight rein, and if things get out of hand, watching her handle them is always entertaining. I think ninety percent of her clientele come just because of her.”

"The men, anyway,” Brandon commented dryly.

Ned shrugged. After a moment he said, "So how’d your parents take the news?”

Brandon forced his thoughts from the bar owner. "About taking the Assistant D.A. job?”


"Not well, at first.”

Chuckling, Ned said, "Why do I think that might qualify as the understatement of the year?”

Brandon grinned at him. He and Ned had met as freshmen at Yale, at a lecture given by Ralph Nader. Brandon had been fascinated by the long-haired hippie type who’d taken the seat beside him and who’d gone on to grill Nader on some tough issues. After the lecture he’d introduced himself and asked Ned to get coffee with him. They’d talked all night and had been best friends ever since.

Ned, his retro hippie attire notwithstanding, was incredibly intelligent and conservative. Brandon still smiled when he thought of Ned, in suit and ponytail, flying around the stock market trading floor. Though they’d parted ways when they’d headed off to graduate school, they’d remained best friends. Ned understood Brandon and his family well—better than anyone else, in fact.

"Well, they finally got that I wanted to start out in a courtroom, not a board room. But convincing them was... work.”

"I’ll bet. I can just picture your mother. ‘But Brandon, darling,’” Ned mimicked in a near-perfect imitation of Priscilla Prince, "‘you must take your rightful place in the family business.’”

"Bingo. My father’s predicting I’ll hold out five years. My mother’s more optimistic. She’s giving me a year to ‘get it out of my system.’”

Ned chuckled. "You rebel.”

"What can I say? Every family has to have a black sheep.”

"Oh, is that what you are?” Shaking his head, he added, "You’ve been doing everything your family has expected of you your entire life. It’s about damn time you did it your way.”

Inside, Brandon bristled. Mostly because Ned was right. He knew he deserved to follow the career path of his choice, but still, he felt guilty for disappointing his folks by not immediately joining Prince Shipping. But this was something he had to do. He wanted to make a difference, accomplish his goals without the almighty power of the Prince name backing him up.

He smiled grimly. "Well, thank you, Frank Sinatra.” He took a slug of beer. "And for your information, I haven’t always done what my folks asked me. Don’t forget, they weren’t thrilled about me dating Beth.”

"Right. That was a real act of rebellion,” Ned retorted, rolling his eyes. "If I remember, her blood wasn’t the requisite shade of blue.” He scratched his temple. "Whatever happened between you two, anyway?”

Brandon was heartened to note that the pain was practically gone and his disappointment over their break-up no longer important. Thank God he was over it. Over her. He shrugged. "She dumped me like a bad apple.”

Ned’s eyes clouded with sympathy for a fraction of an instant, but he knew better than to voice it. "Anyone new?”

Brandon let his gaze wander back to the entrance to the main bar. "You never know. Maybe.”

Ned shook his head. "Don’t go there, buddy.”

"Go where?”

"I recognize that look in your eyes. You’re interested in Laura.”


"You’d have an easier time convincing Rush Limbaugh to vote Democratic.”

"Is that right?” He’d always enjoyed a challenge.

Ned squinted his eyes. "Uh-oh,” he muttered, then pulled out his wallet. "Ten bucks says she’ll chew you up and spit you out.”

Brandon stood, grinning. "Fifty.”

Ned rolled his eyes, then gazed up at his college buddy with a look bordering on abject pity. "Okay, but I’m not paying your hospital bill,” he said, standing too.

"Where are you going?” Brandon asked. "I work alone.”

"Not this time, pal. I wouldn’t miss this show for all the pork futures on Wall Street.”

"Just don’t cramp my style.”

"Oh, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m no fool. I’m watching from a safe distance.” He tipped back his bottle and drained it, then smacked it down on the table. "Good luck, man. Watch your vital organs.”

LAURA PUNCHED the button of the CD player, and the throaty voice of Bonnie Raitt drifted from the speakers. Then she turned and surveyed her domain proudly. Considering she’d been handed lemons most of her life, she considered her bar, Nothing But Trouble, proof that Laura Tanner could make lemonade.

Ali dropped her tray on the counter and heaved a huge sigh. "The Booker twins are back.”

Laura looked out over the room, searching for the infamous sisters. "Who are their targets tonight?”

"Jimmy Raye and his cousin,” Ali grumbled.

"Uh-oh, this is trouble,” Hannah predicted ominously, swiveling on her stool to take a look. After a moment she swung back. "Well, the good news is, he looks annoyed.”

Ali gave Hannah a grateful smile, then swung back to Laura. "Dry Rob Roy, martini up with a twist, and a glass of chablis.”

Laura spun to mix the drinks, withholding judgment. As far as men went, Jimmy Raye wasn’t the worst of the lot. Not that he was a saint, either, especially when he came in on Ali’s nights off. But Ali had a real thing for the flirtatious firefighter, and Laura had no desire to burst her bubble. That was, unless Jimmy hurt her. In which case, Jimmy would answer to Laura.

After shaking the martini, she strained it into a stemmed glass, rubbed a lemon peel along the rim, twisted it, and dropped it in the drink.

Suddenly the hair on her nape prickled, and she went still. Then she heard Hannah say, "Well, hel-looo there,” under her breath. "Come to mama, baby.”

Laura glanced up at Hannah, who whistled softly. Both of her friends were ogling someone—a man, of course—to their left. She followed their lust-filled gazes down the length of the bar. And stared right into a pair of the greenest eyes she’d ever seen.

She went still, mesmerized. She recognized the man as one who’d sat in a booth in the back room, but he’d been too far away from her to see his eyes then. They were the color of a midsummer leaf and sparkled with... humor.

Laura dragged her gaze from the man’s eyes and checked out his mouth to see if it was curved in a grin. It wasn’t. His lips were firm and straight and very, very sexy.

At least a two-day growth of beard shadowed his jaw, and his jet-black hair was a little long and shaggy. He had proud cheekbones, a solid chin, and a really nice nose.

All in all, every woman’s fantasy. Perhaps he was a mirage.

Laura blinked. Twice. But the man didn’t disappear like a mirage. He sat four stools down from Hannah and just stared at Laura. And Laura felt helpless to do anything but stare right back.

A droning noise began in her head, and it took her a moment to recognize it as Ali humming, "Someday My Prince Will Come.”

"Laura?” she heard... from far, far away it seemed.

"Hmmm?” she managed.

"Earth to Laura.”

The fog that had momentarily enveloped her dissolved. She shook her head and glanced back at Ali, embarrassment pinking her cheeks. "I’m sorry, can you repeat that drink order?”

Ali grinned. "I didn’t give you a drink order.” She cocked her head the tiniest bit toward the man. "But I bet he has one.” She winked. "And you know what they say. ‘What the customer wants,’ and all that.”

Laura ran her hands down the sides of her overalls and tried to right her suddenly off-kilter world. She fell back on their old game. "What do you say? Actor?”

Hannah tossed in her opinion. "A guy that good-looking has to have something wrong with him. Convicted felon.”

Ali glanced at the man, then back at Laura. "Royal prince.”

Laura snorted, tossing down her rag. "You’re nuts, Ali. Royal princes shave and wear designer clothes, not Planet Hollywood T-shirts.”

Putting a cool, efficient expression on her face, Laura made her way to the man. "Hey. What can I get you?” she asked briskly.

The man’s eyes gleamed with that secret humor. And an open, easy honesty that had to be fake. "What’s your specialty?”

Laura cocked her head. "Anything you want,” she said, then almost groaned. "Any drink, I mean.”

His lips did tip up then, and she was startled to see two deep dimples on either side of his mouth. She’d always thought that dimples made a man seem less masculine somehow, but she quickly revised that misconception. This man’s dimples were sexy as sin.

He raked his hair back with long, elegant fingers, and she absently noticed his nails were clean and well cared for. Somehow that seemed a little odd, considering his casual attire and stubble.

"How about a Lite draft?” He indicated the man sitting beside him, who’d completely escaped Laura’s attention before. "And one for my buddy, here.”

Flustered, Laura nearly whimpered. "Oh!” She took a breath. "Hey there, Ned. Didn’t see ya. How’s it goin’?”

"Hey, Laura. Same old, same old,” her regular replied, but his eyes seemed to be gleaming with mischief for some reason.

She nodded, then went to pour two beers. Setting them down, she was proud her hands didn’t shake uncontrollably. There was something unsettling about the man’s intense gaze. As if he could see right into her soul. "Your first time here?”

"My very first time. I’m just here on vacation.”

"Oh!” she said, trying desperately not to let that news disappoint her. "Where are you from?”

"Rhode Island.” He slid a ten-dollar bill toward her. When Laura picked it up, he hung on just a heartbeat too long before releasing it. Their fingers didn’t touch, but she felt a tingle nonetheless. A very annoying tingle.

She shot a look at him to see if he’d felt it too, but he’d already returned his attention to Ned and a discussion about the hockey game playing out silently on the TV behind her.

Okay, so it was a one-way tingle. And the intense gaze he’d bestowed on her earlier had been a figment of her obviously overtired imagination. Why she found that even more annoying than the tingle, she couldn’t say. After all, she generally got good and ornery when customers paid too much attention to her. The fact that he didn’t pay a speck shouldn’t bother her in the least. Didn’t bother her in the least. Not a bit, dang it.

Laura noted the way he popped peanuts in his mouth, and it suddenly occurred to her that she should probably refill the snack bowl for them. After all, Ned was a good customer, and he deserved the best service she had to offer.

While she filled the bowl she cast a sideways glance and found his attention once again directed her way. He smiled his thanks, and Laura’s head went a little fuzzy. She resisted the urge to shake it clear. His smile wasn’t promising or lecherous or anything but real friendly. She should be grateful. She hated male come-ons more than just about anything else.

Dropping the large bag of nuts back into the lower cabinet, she took the ten and went to make change, grateful for the respite from those deep green, friendly eyes.

While she rang up the beers on the cash register, Laura tried to figure out her mixed emotions. When she did, she blew out a disgusted breath.

She was insulted.

And not a little disappointed.

And entirely too close to pouting.

Well, that would never do. So what if for one teensiest second she’d considered that maybe Ali had finally hit the jackpot, psychically speaking, and that maybe, just maybe, this guy was her prince? What a crock! And worse, it hurt her pride that she had to remind herself she wasn’t in the market and wouldn’t be for a good long time, if ever. She didn’t have the time or inclination to get involved in an affair right now. And she would never, ever marry again.

Pushing away all her emotions except the angry one, she decided to go on the offensive and direct it at him for making her almost crazy for a moment.

With an aloof look on her face, she turned back to him and dumped his change on the bar.

He slid all of it right back at her. "Keep it.”

Normally Laura considered overtipping a sign that a man was looking for more than good bar service. But she’d always figured that if they wanted to be suckers that was their problem. Yet somehow, just by the lack of guile in his incredible eyes, she had the feeling this guy was just being generous.

She made a point of picking up two quarters and dumping them in her tip jar and leaving all the bills right in front of the guy.

To her surprise, he laughed and thrust out a hand. "Hey, I’m Brandon Prince. And you are... ?”

Laura’s heart stopped. For a moment she went still before looking at him suspiciously. Obviously, she was having trouble hearing correctly.

He didn’t drop his hand, and real interest sparkled in his eyes. "Laura Tanner, right?” he said. "Nice to meet you.”

Still she made no move to take that hand. Manners be damned. She was not going to touch him. "What did you say your name was again, mister?”

He grinned and finally gave up on the handshake, dropping his hand to the bar. "Brandon.”

She liked that name. Help. "And the last?”


Laura rolled her eyes, but her heart was racing. Prince Charming. Pure coincidence. Has to be. "Not charmed, I’m sure.”

He laughed a full, deep laugh. And though she continued to scowl at him, inside her hardened heart melted for a moment before she came to her senses.

Get a grip, Tanner. You don’t like men, remember. And you sure-as-shootin’ know better than to let one with lush, green eyes and dimples to die for and a sexy laugh affect you.

He continued to smile, and Laura’s heart flip-flopped.

Well, okay, so he was gorgeous. But all she was feeling was lust. Normal, everyday lust. She didn’t have much use for men, but she had to admit they were good for one thing. The one thing she hadn’t had in a good, long time. Apparently too long, she decided, as she felt the heat of his gaze in every cell of her body.

Ali was waiting for a drink order—unfortunately—so Laura was forced to face down her friends.

"Well?” Ali asked.

"Sorry, Ali, your pulp’s feeding you wrong information,” she said, deciding not to elaborate on just how close Ali’s fortune-telling had come. The man might not be an honest-to-goodness royal prince, but he was certainly a prize.

While she tried to keep busy, she remained utterly aware of the man fifteen feet away. She could even tell when he looked at her, because her neck hairs sent up signals that made her shiver inside.

Another customer waved for a second round, and she had no choice but to pass Brandon Prince to deliver the beer. The bartender and owner in her forced her to check on him as she passed him. Sure enough, his mug was empty.

After depositing the beers, she stopped in front of him, gazing directly at his chest. "Another one?” she asked, her voice coming out raspy. She cleared her throat and tried again. "One more?”

"Did you know you’re going to fall in love with me sometime tonight?”

Laura just gaped at him for a moment before breaking out in startled laughter. Sure enough, Brandon’s eyes had gone smoky with more than just humor. Now there was unmistakable sensuality lurking in their depths. She ignored the burst of pleasure that gave her and concentrated on relief that he was just like every other male in the species. This, she could deal with. "No, can’t say that I do know that.”

He nodded, and a lock of hair fell over his forehead enticingly. "It’s true, you know.”

"Right. And frogs have wings.”

She noticed Ned watching the conversation with avid interest. Flustered at this sudden change in the guy, she couldn’t help but ask Ned’s friend, "What happened, bucko? That beer getting to you? Five minutes ago you paid about as much attention to me as a fly.”

"The quiet yet friendly approach wasn’t working,” he answered solemnly.

Little did he know. "Neither is this one.” She glared at Ned. "Maybe y’all better head on home. I think your friend has reached his limit.”

Ned grinned and shook his head. "Nope. He’s only had two.”

"Maybe he’s a lightweight.”

"Not unless he’s changed drastically since Yale.”

This gorgeous creature in jeans and T-shirt was an Ivy Leaguer? Ohhh, she didn’t like them. Except Hannah, of course. They reminded her too much of all she’d never had, but yearned for. Like a college education. Any college education.

"I’m sober as a judge and just waiting patiently for you to fall for me,” Brandon added.

Her heart did another exasperating little lurch. She snorted. "You won’t live that long, mister.” She cocked her head and gave him a once-over she hoped wouldn’t reveal her honest appraisal. "You know, we have a saying about folks like you where I come from.”

She noticed that as he answered, his eyes were seemingly locked on her lips. "What’s that, beautiful?”

"Your ego’s ’bout as big as a skunk’s tail and don’t smell as sweet.”

He grinned. "I thought I heard somewhere that women find self-confidence sexy.”

"Your sources are sadly ill-informed.”

"Darn,” he said, but didn’t seem all too upset, nor any more humble for that matter.

"You havin’ another, or not?” she asked impatiently, a little irritated that she couldn’t shake his confidence. She was slipping. She could usually cut a man down in six words or less, walk away, and leave him there to bleed. She couldn’t even prick a drop of blood from this guy, and her usual reserve of swift comebacks seemed to have deserted her.

"How about something different this time?”

"Whatever you—” She stopped. Why had she never noticed before how sexual bar talk could be? "What’ll you have?”

"Surprise me.”

She’d like to surprise him, all right. She’d like to look him in the eye and say, "Did you know you’re my prince?” And because she knew he wasn’t and never would be, she got irritated—with herself for succumbing to his hot stare, and with him for having the audacity to keep it up, even after she’d told him to back off.

So she went to work. Keeping her back to him, she prepared the drink, then with the most innocent smile she had in her repertoire, she carried it to him and set it down. "Fourteen ninety-five, please.”

He looked at it speculatively. "Looks dangerous. What is it?”

"My own special drink. Try it.”

He brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply, never taking his eyes from hers. "Mmmmm,” he murmured in appreciation. "Almond-scented. Amaretto?”

Laura set her crossed forearms on the bar and shook head. "Cyanide,” she told him, batting her lashes. "I call the drink, ‘Drop Dead.’”




"SHE WANTS ME,” Brandon murmured to Ned.

"What was your first clue?” Ned answered with a snort. "The poisoned drink or the ‘drop dead’ comment?”

Brandon watched Laura Tanner move, and desire stirred in his belly—and lower. She had a feminine grace he found incredibly sexy, especially when she contrasted that with a mouth that could strip hides. He’d love to hear what kind of things she said when she was aroused beyond reason.

Her eyes were nearly the same color as her hair, a soft, honey brown that could bring a man to his knees. She could scowl and bluster all she wanted, but her eyes spoke a different language. In the few minutes he’d spent talking with her, he’d seen a zillion different emotions shimmering in those big, brown depths.

"A minor setback,” he responded, shrugging. "She’ll come around.”

"Double or nothing,” Ned challenged.

"You’re on.”

"What’s your next move, Casanova?”

Brandon admired the way Laura’s small hands efficiently performed what seemed like ten tasks at once while she talked and laughed with two women at the end of the bar. By their easy camaraderie, he’d guess they were good friends.

Certainly an eclectic bunch, he thought. Laura: no nonsense, tiny, restless. The waitress: blond and tall, with a dreamy expression on her face that softened otherwise sharp features, and more jewelry in her ears, on her wrists and fingers than he’d ever encountered before. And the woman seated at the bar: a dark, exotic beauty, but wearing a tailored black suit that said she was all business.

Brandon grinned as he watched Laura joke with another male customer while she fixed him a drink. She was, on the surface, extremely friendly with her customers. Most likely because they all knew not to get personal. A lesson Brandon had no intention of learning himself.

"Just watch.” Brandon waited until Laura glanced in their general direction, then waved her over.

The reluctance in her expression was endearing. Brandon couldn’t help but chuckle softly.

"Oh, yeah,” Ned said sarcastically, "you have a chance.”

Laura’s eyes darted around the bar, as if searching for any distraction she could find. Then with a sigh she headed back over to them.

"Want something else?”

"I’m fine for now,” he said, holding up the surprisingly delicious drink she’d fixed him.

She nodded and turned away.

"Wait!” Brandon said, trying desperately to come up with something clever.

She turned back, her eyebrows raised.

"What are the odds of talking you into going out with me?” he finally said, deciding to stick with the direct approach.

She cocked her head to the side, in a gesture already becoming familiar to him. "What are the odds of Elvis playing pool in the back room?”

"That low, huh?”

"On a good day.”

Brandon grinned and let her go.

Ned snorted into his beer. "That was real smooth, buddy. Like I said, you don’t stand a chance.”

Tossing some singles on the bar as a final tip, Brandon stood and slapped Ned on the back. "Oh, ye of little faith.”

"Oh, ye of little sense. The lady isn’t interested.” He held out his hand. "Pay up.”

"The night isn’t over.” Brandon stuffed his wallet into his back pocket. "What was the name of that bar we passed about a half block back? The Heartbreak Hotel?”

Ned frowned up at him. "Yeah. Why?”

"No reason. I’m taking a walk. Be right back.”

"HE’S MANNA from heaven,” Ali breathed when Laura returned to her friends.

"He’s manna from Rhode Island,” Laura corrected her.

"He’s the one,” Ali said. "Definitely, he’s the one, Laura.”

Laura glared at her friend. "He’s not a prince.”

"You asked?” Hannah said with disbelief.

Laura bristled. "He’s American. Last I heard we don’t have a royal family.”

Ali rubbed her temples, a concentrated frown furrowing her brow. "Maybe we shouldn’t take the prince part literally.”

"I think we should,” Laura insisted.

"Prince or not, he’s certainly a hunk,” Hannah added. "Has he asked you out yet?”

"What makes you think he’d want to go out with me?”

"Because he looks at you like he wants to throw you down on the bar and have his way with you.” Hannah glanced down the bar again, then said, "Where’d he go?”

Laura’s head snapped up. Under the guise of needing to freshen her condiment tray, she turned toward the small refrigerator and risked a quick glance toward Brandon Prince’s bar stool. Brandon Prince’s former bar stool.

Why her heart dropped to her stomach she didn’t know. Ned was still there, so a reasonable inference would be that the man in question had just gone to the rest room.

Except for the crumpled bills tossed down beside his empty drink glass.

Brandon had gone. Left. Bugged out. After one slightly strong rejection, the toad had disappeared. Jeez, she thought, annoyed for no good reason, ifall men gave up that easily, the human race wouldn’t have survived this long.

Well, who cared? So the man had awakened some long-slumbering hormones inside her. Big deal. Any really good-looking guy could probably accomplish that much. After all, she wasn’t dead, just dormant. It was inevitable that eventually she’d find herself sexually attracted to a man. In fact, her long-range goal depended on it.

Why couldn’t he have swaggered into her bar a couple of years from now when she was ready for him? Other than his poor timing, Brandon Prince was perfect. He seemed to have all of the qualifications she’d decided the father of her child would have to possess.

She began cutting up some limes as she ticked off his assets.

The man was attractive. Whack. Now there was an understatement. He was tall and lean and gorgeous.

He looked healthy. That was extremely important to her. She wished he’d stuck around enough so she could examine his teeth more carefully. Whack.

He possessed a certain charm. Of course, she, herself, was immune to charm—whack!—but still she’d like for her child to inherit some.

He had enough intelligence to attend college. And an Ivy League college at that. Laura knew that Yale was one of the best.

He seemed to have a sense of humor. That was a must. The world was too hard as it was, without being able to laugh at it. Definitely, the guy donating his sperm—whack!—would have to be able to laugh at life.

Most importantly, the man hailed from another state. Surely he’d be returning home sometime, and couldn’t possibly interfere with the raising of her child. Their child, a voice inside her niggled, but she quickly shoved that thought aside. She wanted nothing from the father of her baby, save his Y chromosome.

Brandon Prince would have been perfect. Absolutely perfect. Except that he seemed to tuck tail and run—whack!—the moment he didn’t get what he wanted.

And there was the fact that he was a few years too early. Whack! Whack-whack-whack-whack!

"It’s just as well,” Laura mumbled to herself as she dumped the lime slices into the tray.

"What’s just as well?” Ali asked, passing a tray of dirty drink glasses across the bar.

Laura needed to find herself some half-deaf friends. She tried to come up with a reasonable answer, so she stalled by busily dumping the glasses into the soapy water in the sink.

That done, she raised a brow at Hannah, who nodded, so Laura filled her wineglass, too. By the time she’d accomplished that, as well as filled another order, she was hoping Ali had forgotten the question. She hadn’t. She just repeated it patiently.

Laura rolled her eyes and shoved her hands deep into her pockets. "It’s just as well the guy took off,” she finally admitted.

"Why?” Ali asked.

"Because he’s not part of the game plan.”

"Which game plan is that?” Hannah asked.

"The one that says I don’t have the time or desire to get involved with a man right now.”

"Smart woman,” Hannah said. "I knew you were my friend for a reason.”

But Ali just shook her head and pointed to another citrus drink Laura had just prepared. "It’s all right here. He’s the man for you.”

Hannah and Laura exchanged amused glances. Ali took her psychic ability very seriously, even as she came in night after night to sheepishly admit she’d missed big on another one.

Laura still chuckled over the time Ali had come into the bar, totally glum. She’d done a tarot reading that afternoon for a man with marital troubles. Ali had read his cards and confidently assured him that he and his wife were going to work it out and enjoy a long life together, filled with laughter and love and a host of children. That was about the time the man stood in a huff, called her a fake, and informed her that his "wife’s” name was Steven.

Laura and Hannah had one hell of a time making appropriate sympathetic noises. They loved her too much to ever laugh at her, but some of her stories were hard to resist. Only the fact that she completely believed her ability had been passed down to her through the generations kept them from gently trying to steer her in a new direction.

Like selling Tupperware.

Now Laura clucked, slightly exasperated. "How can the pulp in someone else’s drink reveal my fate?”

"Don’t you see?” Ali said. "You’re the one who poured it.”

"Well, that makes sense,” Hannah muttered.

"It does,” Ali agreed, bobbing her head. "And what your pulp is telling me is that you’re meeting the man of your dreams tonight. And since it was obvious right off the bat that you and that man had some serious chemistry, he must be the one.”

Laura opened her mouth to protest.

"Sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” that man said, to her right.

Laura’s head whipped around, and she felt her cheeks catch fire. Her heart pounded uncomfortably. Her palms grew slick. That dimpled grin of his literally stole her breath.

He seemed to take her speechless shock in stride. "Ms. Tanner? May I have the pleasure of your company for a moment?”

"I’m busy,” she said.

"We’re all caught up,” Ali blurted.

"This won’t take more than a moment,” he said, crooking his finger. "I just need to show you something.”

Ali quickly stepped aside to give Laura room to come out from behind the bar. "Go. I’ll watch out here.”

Laura shot Ali a look that promised retribution. Ali smiled, all innocence. Hannah just looked back and forth between them, her amusement evident in the twitch of her lips.

With an irritated shrug, Laura wiped her hands on a towel, then tossed it on the counter. "This better be quick.”

He held up a hand. "A few seconds, tops.”

Laura ducked under the bar then straightened, hands planted firmly on hips. "Well? What is it?”

He took her arm lightly, and that damn tingle started again, only high enough up that she felt it all the way to her throat and down through her chest to her tummy.

With warm, gentle fingers, he guided her to the billiards room. She didn’t have a clue what he wanted from her, but she was damned if she’d play pool with him or settle an argument between him and an opponent.

They entered the room, and Laura looked around from one table to the next and to the... Elvis?

Laura’s mouth dropped open. She stared at the white body suit, the sky-blue cape, the big, big, big pompadour. The man—obviously an older version of Elvis, considering his girth—was bent over the pool table setting up his shot, his not-so-slender buttocks swinging in rhythm to "Hound Dog.”

Beside her, Brandon Prince chuckled softly, and she craned her neck to stare up at him. The laughter in his green eyes warred with the triumph. "You ask for Elvis, you get Elvis.”

Realizing her mouth was still open, she snapped it shut and pursed her lips to keep from smiling. This was outrageous! She had no idea what he’d had to do to find an Elvis impersonator and get him here in record time, but she refused to appreciate the gesture.

"Sheesh, you don’t know the meaning of the words ‘give up,’ do you?”

"Nope. Now will you go out with me?” he asked, still grinning.

"When donkeys fly.”

He wrinkled his nose. "That one might be a little more difficult to arrange.”


"But trust me, I’ll find a way,” he said, then swung on his heel and walked out to the main room.

Laura glared after him. The scary thing was she didn’t doubt those words for a moment.

TWENTY MINUTES later when Brandon returned from his errand, he couldn’t spot Ned, so he slid onto the stool beside the professionally dressed woman at the end of the bar, dropping a small paper bag on the counter. She directed a cool, assessing gaze at him, and Brandon had the feeling she was sizing him up and finding him wanting. These New York females were beautiful, but tough as nails.

He smiled at her. "Hello.”

She nodded in return, gave him one more size-you-up look, then turned back to the magazine she was reading. Vogue. Figured. She was an attractive woman, more classically beautiful than that feisty little barkeep, but there was a definite chill surrounding her. In contrast, Laura Tanner tried to act tough, but there was a softness and vulnerability in her eyes and definite heat waves rolling off that petite body of hers.

Brandon shrugged and glanced down the length of the bar. Laura wasn’t there. He risked being sliced in half by the woman beside him. Clearing his throat, he asked, "What happened to Lau—er, the bartender?”

"She’s on her break.”

The waitress with too much jewelry materialized out of nowhere. "I can help you!” she chirped, with a warm smile.

No, she couldn’t. Not in the way Laura could. He was going to be out one hundred dollars to Ned if Laura didn’t get back here soon. He only had a couple hours left until closing time. Speaking of Ned, where the hell was he?

Brandon sighed. "How about another draft?”

The woman frowned. "Wouldn’t you like something more healthy? Like a screwdriver? Or maybe a lime rickey?”

Health food alcoholic drinks? Now there was a new concept. "Well, I don’t usually mix too many kinds of liquor.”

"Besides, Ali,” the woman beside him piped in, "once you add the vodka, all the vitamins die a quick, painful death.”

"Right,” Brandon agreed faster than a speeding bullet. "Just a draft.”

The woman’s hopeful smile collapsed like a soufflé. "Are you sure?”

He was damn sure. He really didn’t like drinking hard liquor. But that crestfallen look on her face tore right into his heart. He hated disappointing people. Absolutely hated it. "Okay, then, a—”

"Screwdriver?” she corrected quickly.

"Right, a screwdriver sounds good,” he lied.

The woman named Ali positively beamed, and she turned with what almost looked like a skip of victory and began filling a tall glass with ice.

"That’s a mistake,” came the opinion of the woman to his right.

"Why?” he asked with a desperate chuckle.

She began to answer him, but she was interrupted by Ned’s return. "Where’d you go this time?” Ned asked.

"Had to run an errand,” Brandon answered, while out of the corner of his eye he saw the woman beside him stiffen perceptibly and scowl. "Where in hell were you?”

"Playing eight ball with Elvis,” Ned answered, tapping the woman on the shoulder. "Well, look who’s here. Hello, Hannah.”

She didn’t turn around. "If I ignore you, will you go away?”

Ned grinned, but Brandon knew him well enough to see a spark of irritation flash in his eyes. "Don’t you wish?”

"With all my heart and soul,” she drawled.

"You two know each other?” Brandon asked. Stupid question. The ice princess was suddenly giving off Fourth of July sparks. This was interesting.

"Unfortunately,” they said in unison.

He raised a questioning brow, but Ned’s only reaction was to shrug irritably and shake his head. Brandon made a mental note to grill Ned later.

Ali returned then with the glass filled with ice and vodka, and a jug of orange juice. She plopped them down right smack in front of him and smiled again. "You pour the juice.”

This was getting stranger by the second. "Me?”

She nodded. "Just shake up the juice as much as you want, then pour it right in that glass.”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the woman named Hannah glance heavenward, but she said nothing.

Ali nodded her encouragement, and Brandon hesitantly reached for the jug.

"What’s going on here?” he heard Laura Tanner squeal as she popped up behind the bar.

"This man has decided to have a screwdriver,” Ali said firmly.

Laura grabbed for the jug, her hand landing squarely over his. He would have taken the time to appreciate the surprising softness of it and the contrast in her milky white skin compared to his ruddier coloring, if she weren’t glaring at him as if he’d just tried to rob the place.

"I don’t think so.”

This was becoming more confusing by the second.

Ali tried to pry Laura’s hand loose, but she dug her nails into his flesh and hung on for dear life. He forced himself not to wince.

Through gritted teeth he said, "I’d be happy to let go of the jug if you’d let go of my hand.”

"No!” Ali shouted. She glanced around sheepishly, then back to him. "You have to pour the drink.”

"Why?” he asked, truly baffled.

Beside him, Hannah sighed audibly. "Ali wants to read your fortune.”

"Oh?” Now this was intriguing.

Ali gave one decisive nod, still trying to unlatch Laura from his hand. "I’m a psychic, and I want to read your pulp.”

"My—” Brandon choked, but cut it off with a forced cough. "What?”

"Your juice pulp,” Ali elaborated, as Laura’s cheeks pinkened adorably, even if they clashed with the tawny fire in her eyes. "You have to pour it for me to read it properly.”

"Give it up, Laura,” Hannah said, then swiveled to face him. "Ali’s sure that Laura’s meeting her prince tonight, and she’s trying to decide if you’re him.”

Brandon sat speechless for a minute, but then couldn’t help the laughter that spilled out of him. It took him long, long moments to stop. "Is that right?” he finally managed to say.

"What’s so funny?” asked Hannah.

Brandon grabbed harder on to the jug and, as gently as he could, pried Laura’s hand from his. Ignoring her sputter of outrage, he shook the jug gently. "By all means, read my pulp,” he told Ali. Then, just for fun, he held out his other hand for a shake. "It’s nice to meet you, by the way. If you’re going to read my pulp, we should at least be introduced. My name is Brandon. Brandon Prince.”

Laura growled a heartfelt, "Damn, damn, double damn.”

Ali whispered a wide-eyed, "Oh, my!”

And from beside him Hannah muttered, "Well, golly gosh.”



Please review these other products:

'Twas the Night

Sandra Hill - Trish Jensen - Kate Holmes

$14.95 November 2010
ISBN 978-1-61194-002-2

Laugh-out-loud, holiday romance

Now available in audio book from or wherever fine audio is downloaded.

Our Price: US$14.95

click to see more

Stuck With You
Trish Jensen

January 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-086-2

Fun, Sexy Romance
Our Price: US$13.95

click to see more

The Harder They Fall
Trish Jensen

April 2012 $11.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-126-5

Food fight, love match, or both? She's a lovable klutz trying to save her family's restaurant chain. He's a stuffed shirt angling to buy it.

Who will trip up and fall in love first?

Our Price: US$11.95

click to see more

Against His Will
Trish Jensen

August 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-170-8

They tried to resist each other, but it was impossible. Soon their passions were unleashed, and their self-control went to the dogs...

Our Price: US$13.95

click to see more

For a Good Time Call
Trish Jensen

October 2012 $10.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-210-1

A mysterious prank brought them together for sizzling-hot romance...

Our Price: US$10.95

click to see more

Send Me No Flowers

Trish Jensen

February 2013 $10.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-254-5

When she was known as an overweight kid from a "loony" family, he often rescued her from bullies. Now she's come back home all grownup and gorgeous, and he's the one who will need rescuing.

Our Price: US$10.95

click to see more