She will grit her teeth and smile at the snobby and suspicious CFO if it means landing the contract. But she won’t put on a dress and definitely not heels.
Event planner Jane Beckett has big dreams for her small company and is bending over backward to accommodate demanding clients. Jane doesn’t have to like them. She doesn’t have to spend her free time with them. But she wants to tease the grumpy pencil-pushing executive who always seems to be in her way, muss up his hair and show him that there’s more to life than boardrooms and bottom lines. That is, when she doesn’t want to yell at him. Or punch him.
Liam Cross believes every woman has a hidden agenda, one that involves taking advantage of big hearted, clueless billionaires like his best friend and co-worker. He’s watching Jane and her sister to ensure that party-planning is all that’s going on. Even though she manages to steal his assistant, he likes what he sees in the smart-mouthed brunette, admires her stubborn independence, and wants to help her fledgling firm succeed despite his misapprehensions.
Paintballs, punches, and sparks fly when inflated egos and miscommunication threaten relationships between friends, family, and partners.
With whiskey warming his belly and muddling his mind, signing up for a paintball session seemed like a great idea, in the light of day and with a pounding headache, not so much. He intended to argue his way out of the non-refundable fee he’d paid in his drunken state. Settling his sunglasses firmly over his eyes, Liam hauled his sorry ass out of the car. His back hurt, his head hurt, and his hands hurt.
Fingering a fresh blister on the palm of his hand, he cursed himself for not wearing gloves at the batting cage the night before. He’d gone directly from the office to the sports field in Magnuson Park. For two hours, he’d slugged away at balls. Personal day. Liam had never taken a personal day. Other than dental and medical checkups, he never took a day off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done anything fun without Chuck. He’d whacked the ball time and time again, thinking about his best friend potentially getting his heart stomped on. Again. Worn out from swinging the bat, he’d stopped for booze and takeout, then headed home to stalk Jane Beckett online.
Bullseye Paintball was located in an old salvage yard off Aurora. Whooping with glee, kids erupted out of SUVs and mini vans in the parking lot. Wincing at the noise, Liam made his way to the office and pulled open the heavy door.
“What are you doing here?”
Wearing black cargo pants tucked into combat boots and a black hooded sweatshirt, Jane Beckett lounged against the registration desk. She flicked her bangs out of her eyes with a toss of her head and smirked at him. “You’re not playing, are you?”
Her dismissive tone rubbed against his raw nerves. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I?”
Sipping from a travel mug, Jane’s gaze roamed up and down his body, taking in his khaki shorts, fresh white collared shirt, and sneakers. Her lips twitched. “Oh, no reason at all.”
The door opened, and the small office filled with kids, backing Liam into a corner and saving him from having to reply. Jane shifted her attention to the kids and raised her arms in the air.
“Who’s ready to have fun?” she yelled.
“Yay!” the kids replied at the top of their lungs.
“Who’s ready to get dirty?”
They yelled louder.
“Who’s ready to plant a garden?”
The kids looked confused.
“I’m just messing with you!” Jane grinned and opened the door to the playing field. “Head out and find Jason. He’s going to fit you with safety equipment and guns.”
The kids stampeded out, leaving two dads dressed in camo-chic, looking both excited and nervous. One of whom wore an air cast on one leg. “Oh dear,” Jane said, “you’re not going to be able to play with that.”
The man in the cast replied, “Stan and I discussed strategy. I figured I’d prop myself up in a corner and shoot from behind cover.”
“Yeah,” Stan said. “You and I can run and juke, draw their fire, and Carl can pick them off. He can as well.” He looked toward Liam. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Whose dad are you?”
Three pairs of inquisitive eyes turned toward him. “Nobody’s. I’m not part of the party.” He felt like a fool. How the hell to get out of this while saving face?
“Liam’s never played before. He’s here to scout the place for a team-building event for his company.”
Carl and Stan nodded at Jane’s remarks. Liam shot her a quick smile of thanks.
Then she cocked one hip, crossed her arms, and threw him under the bus. “We’ve got tactical gear you can borrow for firsthand experience, Mr. Cross. How about it?”
“Yeah,” Carl said. “You’ll be able to see how much fun it is. And help us out. There’s twelve of them, and with my bum leg, they’ll make mincemeat out of us.”
Stan nudged Carl’s shoulder. “Don’t scare him.” He turned to Liam. “It won’t be that bad. The girls are experienced. We’ll tell Jessica, that’s our daughter, to tell them to go easy on you.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Liam caught the grin Jane was attempting to hide behind her hand. Great. She was laughing at him. There was no way he could get out of this and still keep his man card. “I’m in.” He extended his hand to Carl but glared at Jane.
Thirty minutes later, he found himself cowering behind a stack of wooden pallets with a barrage of paintballs coming at him. What the holy hell?! This was not fun. This was terrifying. He looked back and spotted Carl wedged between empty oil drums, cackling maniacally as paintballs pinged off the metal. What was wrong with these people?
Lynne Hancock Pearson writes fun, flirty, feel-good fiction set in the Pacific Northwest. Stories of people finding their way, even if it takes a while to get there.
She lives near Seattle with two and a half finicky felines and one long-suffering husband. She is a left-handed middle child who grew up in the Great White North.