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Maverick (North Ridge #2)(5)
Author: Karina Halle

I give her a wry smile and raise my brow. “When I find a good reason to.”

She shakes her head. “All playboy types eventually settle. Even George Clooney. If you stopped being so damn picky, perhaps you’d end up married with babies one day too.”

I laugh. “I don’t know, I think being picky worked in Clooney’s favor. His wife is not only insanely hot, she’s a lawyer too.”

“Well we both know you lack his looks, charm, and money, but it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?”

“Vernalee, are you picking on Mav again?” Delilah asks from the bar as she pops open a few beers for customers.

“Thank you, Del,” I tell her. “Always looking out for me.”

Fox laughs, appearing behind me. “Yeah, she’ll have you believe that but she’s the first one to throw you under a bus.”

Del shrugs, popping limes into the neck of the Coronas and sliding them down the bar. “Maybe you deserve to be thrown under a bus. All you Nelson brothers are obstinate. Shane is the only one with half a brain, marrying someone as lovely as Rachel.”

“Oh, Rachel was just the first girl he saw,” Vernalee jokes.

“Hey,” Rachel chides her mother, pulling Shane over to us. Apparently she has superhuman hearing. I think all women do.

I give Rachel a hug and kiss on the cheek and Shane a loud whack on the back. “Sorry I’m late,” I tell them.

“It doesn’t matter,” Shane says, his voice rock steady. “You’re here now.”

“And missing most of the party, it seems.” I look around. “You’re so composed,” I point out, nudging him with my elbow. “I would have thought after the proposal and committing yourself to one woman for life, you’d be drunk off your ass.”

“It’s an illusion,” he says with a wink but I know that’s a lie. Shane’s always had a good head on his shoulders, barely anything rattles him. By contrast, Fox is short-tempered and impulsive. Me, I’m somewhere in between.

“Aren’t you going to ask to see the ring?” Rachel asks, fluttering her fingers in my direction.

“Hate to break it to you, but I’ve already seen it. The rest of us knew about this way before you did.”

“You’re so good at keeping secrets,” Rachel says to Shane, leaning into him. Then she looks at me with bright blue eyes. “I’m not though. Guess who we saw tonight.”

I frown. “George Clooney?”

She frowns right back. “No,” she says slowly. “Your new employee.”

“Riley Clarke?” I ask.

She nods, a teasing smile on her lips.

“How did you know it was her?” I ask. “I haven’t even seen her picture.”

Shane bites back a smile. “You haven’t even seen her picture? I thought you hired her yourself.”

“You don’t submit photographs when you apply for a job, we’re not a fucking modelling agency.” I pause. “And I’ve searched for her all over social media. She’s practically a ghost.”

The moment I took over as head of the North Ridge Search and Rescue (or SAR), I was immediately tasked with help in hiring new talent. The BC government specifically wanted me to hire a woman or minority so they could meet their quota. So I looked through the resumes and applications that had been sent in over the last year or so when we last put out a job ad and Riley was pretty much the only qualified woman who applied.

On paper, she was almost perfect. Born in Washington state, then working at resorts and volunteering at SARs in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, Riley was twenty-five years old and had dual citizenship, which meant she could legally work in Canada and expressed interest in relocating to North Ridge. Why, I have no idea.

The only problem I found was that she was involved in a rather traumatic event at her last position in Aspen, an avalanche that left one of her colleagues in a coma. But if she was still wanting to work in SAR, then I wasn’t going to stop her. I passed her information onto the government higher ups and through a series of emails and phone call interviews they conducted, she was hired.

Now she’s here in town, and though I have yet to officially meet the woman I’ll be working beside, I do have a meeting with her tomorrow to get her oriented before she starts and break the ice.

But how they knew about her, I have no idea.

“It was Del,” Rachel tells me, raising her voice to be heard above the music which had suddenly gotten louder. “She said she’s come into the bar a few times and they got to talking.”

“You really haven’t seen her?” Shane asks again.

“No. Why? Does she look like sasquatch?”

“Only if sasquatch’s mother was Kim Basinger.”

“Interesting,” I say, getting a strange picture of sasquatch with a blonde wig in my head.

“She’s a fucking babe,” she says emphatically. “Shane couldn’t stop drooling.”

“Oh come off it,” Shane says, rolling his eyes. Then he looks to me. “But she’s right. She’s hot. You’re going to go crazy, Mav, I’m calling it now.”

I shrug and take a sip of my beer. “I’m sure I’ll be able to handle myself. We have a rule about screwing around anyway.”

“Yeah, you say that,” he says. “But just you wait.”

I roll my eyes. I appreciate a gorgeous female as much as the next guy, but I’m pretty good at keeping it in my pants when I have to. And I’m not about to fuck up my new position by getting involved with someone I work with. Besides, how hot can she be? I couldn’t find a single Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page for her. All I found was her LinkedIn, and that didn’t have a photo. Most hot chicks have their pictures floating all over the damn internet for the world to fawn over.

“We’ll see about that,” I tell him. “Enough about me anyway, let’s talk you and wedding plans.”

Rachel levels me with her gaze. “Do you really want to talk about our wedding plans?”

“Nah, I’m just bullshitting you guys. How about we all just get drunk instead.” I raise my beer to them. “Cheers, brother. Future sister. Here’s to you. Here’s to family. Here’s to what’s next.”

“Here’s to what’s next,” they say in unison.

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