Jackson Ramsey was a man on a mission. He marched into the bar, scanned the room, and once he’d locked in on his target, he moved toward it with military precision. He didn’t pause to smile at a passing waitress, didn’t break his stride to approach the three lovely females waving at him from a nearby booth. He simply strode to the table where his teammates were hunkered down, stole Cash McCoy’s beer right out of his hand and planted his ass in the last empty chair.
“Well,” Cash said dryly. “Looks like Rude Randy is here. Gimme back my beer, asshole.”
Jackson took a long swig before relinquishing the bottle. “Trust me, I need it more than you do right now.”
Across the table, Seth Masterson checked his tactical watch with a frown. “It’s only nine o’clock—I thought you were picking her up at eight. What were you trying to do, set a record for the fastest date on the planet?”
“Honestly, I think that was the longest hour of my life,” he answered with a heavy sigh.
“That bad, huh?” Dylan Wade spoke up.
“That bad,” Jackson confirmed.
The waitress he’d bulldozed past approached the table to take his order, and though he didn’t usually drink anything other than good ol’ fashioned Bud Light, he opted for two shots of whiskey, which caused his three fellow SEALs to raise their eyebrows in surprise.
Seth grinned. “Going for the hard liquor tonight, eh?”
“All right, let’s hear it,” Cash said with a laugh. “What happened on the date?”
Growing up, Jackson had never been much of a talker. The long line of Texan cattle ranchers he’d come from had no doubt programmed a whole lot of silent, brooding cowboy into his genetic code, but from the moment he’d met Seth, Cash and Dylan during SEAL training, he’d turned into a dang chatterbox. The boys were so easy to talk to, and he had to admit, it was nice to have confidants he could trust, who didn’t judge him the way everyone back in Abbott Creek did. He’d discovered at a young age that small towns were rife with judgment and disapproval.
“Well, everythin’ was going okay at first,” he told the guys, leaning back in his chair. “I picked her up at her place, we were chattin’ in the truck, she was all dreamy-eyed when I opened every door for her and pulled her chair out in the restaurant.”
“This is the Southern chick we’re talking about, right?” Dylan interjected. “The one you met at Savannah’s shop?”
Jackson nodded, his mind returning to that sunny afternoon when he’d encountered the beautiful Kelly Ann in the flowershop owned by a teammate’s fiancée. The blonde’s Southern drawl had immediately drawn him in, reminding him of back home, but it had been her easygoing smile and earnest demeanor that won him over. He’d asked her out right then and there, and had been looking forward to this date all week.
Another sigh lodged in his chest. “Anyway, we sit down and order, everything’s going great. We’re talkin’ about our families, our jobs, the usual sh**, but then I ask her about growing up in Georgia and suddenly she tells me she has a confession to make.”
Seth snorted. “What, did you find out she turned tricks in Georgia or something?”
“I doubt it, considering she’s not from Georgia.” He let out a groan. “Turns out she’s never even been to the south. She was faking the accent.”
His buddies hooted.
“So she starts apologizing and going on and on about how she heard my accent when I was talkin’ to Savannah in the shop and how she thought that if she pretended to be Southern it would be a good way to approach me. You know, ’cause we’d have somethin’ in common.”
Dylan’s green eyes twinkled with amusement. “That’s totally nutso, but kinda sweet, if you think about it.”
“Yeah, not the end of the world.” Cash hooked a thumb at their resident smartass. “Masterson faked a Russian accent with that chick from the club a couple years ago, and she still banged him again even after he confessed that he wasn’t Dracula.”
“Dracula wasn’t Russian, dumbass,” Seth said, rolling his eyes.
Cash waved a hand. “Same diff.”
“Don’t worry,” Jackson assured them. “I didn’t abandon ship when she told me.”
Nope, he’d been willing to overlook the teeny little fib because Kelly Ann had been so dang cute. And besides, it really was sweet that she’d gone to such lengths just to meet him.
“Here you go, honey,” Roz the waitress announced, interrupting the discussion by dropping two full shot glasses in front of Jackson. “Enjoy.”
He reached for one of the shots. “Thanks, darlin’.”
As she darted off, Jackson threw his head back and inhaled the first shot, followed immediately by the second. The whiskey slid down his throat in a nice, slow burn and warmed his insides, but it didn’t succeed in vanquishing the frustration gathering in his body.
He promptly picked up where he’d left off. “So our food shows up, things are good again—”
“Did she keep doing the accent?” Seth cut in, chuckling.
“Naah, all traces of the south were gone. Replaced with a northeastern accent. Boston, she says.”
Dylan snickered. “‘She says’?”
Jackson released a glum breath. “We keep chattin’, order some dessert, and then she cuts me off midsentence and says she has another confession to make. Boston accent—poof. It’s gone. She’s actually from North Dakota.”