Man of the Month 5
Fate’s been messing with me. It took my buddies in combat and my wife in a fatal car accident. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let Fate take my beloved bar, The Fix on Sixth, so every bit of my focus is on saving my business.
Or it was. Because all that changed when the first woman who ever touched my heart walked back into my life—along with the daughter I never knew I had.
Eva’s sensual curves and sharp wit still capture my heart and rekindle my senses. Now—for the first time in forever—I’ve found a passion that’s worth fighting to keep other than my bar.
But Fate’s not through yanking my chain, and in one final twist, it pits the bar I can’t bear to lose against the woman who’s stolen my heart.
Each novel in the series is a STANDALONE romance with a guaranteed HEA!
But even so, you won’t want to miss any in the series. Because then you can answer the question…
Who’s Your Man of the Month?
Get It On is Story # 5 in the Man of the Month series.
Get It On - Buy Now
About this StoryPublication Date 03/13/2018 Story Type Book Series Man of the Month Place in Series Story #5 Genre Contemporary Romance
More About This Story
When a group of fiercely determined friends realize their beloved hang-out is in danger of closing, they take matters into their own hands to bring back customers lost to a competing bar. Fighting fire with a heat of their own, they double down with the broad shoulders, six-pack abs, and bare chests of dozens of hot, local guys who they cajole, prod, and coerce into auditioning for a Man of the Month calendar.
But it’s not just the fate of the bar that’s at stake. Because as things heat up, each of the men meets his match in this sexy, flirty, and compelling binge-read romance series of twelve novels releasing every other week from New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner.
“With each novel featuring a favorite romance trope—beauty and the beast, billionaire bad boys, friends to lovers, second chance romance, secret baby, and more—this series hits the heart and soul of romance.” —New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips
Tyree Johnson smacked the monitor of his piece-of-shit computer and glowered at the electronic squiggles that danced across the screen. He stood up so that his large body loomed over the machine. Then he narrowed his eyes as he aimed a stern finger at the uncooperative candidate for the trash bin. “Last warning. You think I can’t have a shiny new computer here within the hour? Just watch me.”
He heard a snicker and looked up to face the two women who stood in the doorway of his small, cluttered office in the back of his bar, The Fix on Sixth.
“You laugh, but I was a Marine. I know how to handle slackers. There’s still life in this hunk of junk. It’s just being obstinate.”
“Are you sure you’re not just being cheap?” Jenna Montgomery asked, her green eyes sparkling with mischief. She wore her shoulder-length red hair in a ponytail, making the smattering of freckles over her fair skin seem even more prominent.
Seeing her, Tyree reminded himself that The Fix wasn’t solely his anymore; he’d recently taken on three partners. And a good thing, too. Only a few months ago, his blood pressure had been spiking daily from the constant worry about losing his beloved bar due to a balloon note that he didn’t have the cash to pay off.
Then Jenna Montgomery, Reece Walker, and Brent Sinclair had stepped forward and not only helped him pay off the note, but were now working side-by-side with Tyree to make sure that The Fix was solidly in the black come the end of the year. That was, in fact, the condition Tyree had set when he agreed to take on his three new partners; if The Fix wasn’t turning a profit by the end of the year, they would put it up for sale and split the proceeds. Because no way was Tyree throwing good money after bad.
Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that. He loved this place with its thick limestone walls and long gleaming bar too damn much.
He’d bought the corner property on Austin’s popular Sixth Street six years ago after digging himself out of a morass of depression and pain. The Fix wasn’t just a job—it was his life. Hell, it was his resurrection. A place he’d worked toward. A business he loved. A dream that had revived him after tragedy had cut him off at the knees.
And not just his dream; it had been a dream he’d shared with his wife, God rest her soul. And it was damned ironic that even after years of scrimping and saving, he’d only been able to afford the place after Teiko’s death—and the payout on her life insurance.
He’d traded one love for another, but not a day went by when he wouldn’t eagerly burn The Fix to the ground if it would gain him even one more day with the woman whose death had left a hole in his heart.
But that was impossible, so he was doing the next best thing; he was working his ass off to improve The Fix, draw in more customers, and sell more food and drink. Anything and everything to keep the bar’s doors open and him standing stalwart over the place that represented a dream she’d once shared.
And if that meant limping along with a crappy computer, then that’s what he was going to do.
With a wide grin, he caught Jenna’s eye and then glanced down at the monitor, where the spreadsheet he’d been going over earlier now filled the screen, all bright and innocent as if it had never been a bug up his ass.
“See there? All good.”
“Uh-huh.” Jenna exchanged an amused glance with Megan Clark as both women stepped all the way into the office.
The second woman tucked a long strand of dark hair behind one ear, then pushed a pair of black cat’s eye glasses up her nose. Both gestures seemed like nervous habits, which seemed out of character for the woman he’d recently hired as the bar’s Girl Friday, gofer, dogsbody, assistant, or whatever the hell you wanted to call it. But before he could find a casual way to ask her what was wrong, Megan shrugged, and said, “Austin allergies. I don’t usually wear glasses, but my contacts are driving me crazy.”
He nodded, realizing that she’d misunderstood his questioning glance. Before he could clarify, though, Jenna jumped in.
“Thanks for doing this now,” she said, dropping into one of the guest chairs as Megan continued to stand, leaning against the rough limestone wall. “I know meeting before the bar opens is more convenient, but I had a doctor’s appointment this morning.”
“Everything okay?” He fought a worried frown as he settled down behind the desk, noting that her cheeks seemed a little hollow and thinking that she’d shed a few pounds. She looked healthy enough on the whole—hell, her skin was practically rosy—but Jenna was a little thing, and if she lost too much weight…
“What? Oh. Sure.” A flush of color crept up her cheeks. “Just a little, you know, nauseous. I’m sure it’ll pass.”
“Hmmm.” He studied her, his mind whirring. “Don’t let Reece catch it.”
Her cheeks burned even redder at the mention of Reece Walker’s name. Reece and Jenna had recently become engaged. And now, as Tyree remembered the nausea that had laid Teiko flat when she’d been pregnant with their son, he couldn’t help but wonder if there was more than wedding bells in Reece and Jenna’s future. About seven pounds or eight pounds more, actually.
Jenna cleared her throat and dug a notebook out of her bag. “We have a long list of things we could go over, but since it’s working hours, Megan and I thought we’d only hit the top ones today.”
She gestured toward Megan, who nodded, then shook her head. “I’m sorry. We need to talk about the Man of the Month calendar and the cookbook, but I just have to say something first.”
She shot Jenna an apologetic look as Jenna rolled her eyes. “Jenna told me that I don’t need to worry, but I wanted to say again how much I appreciate you giving me a job. It’s not as if you have much call for a makeup artist in a bar, and it’s really helping me out. I’ve only had a few makeup jobs since I moved to Austin, and that’s my own fault, since I pretty much came on a whim. And money’s been tight.”
“Megan, come on,” Jenna said. “You know it’s fine.”
Megan kept her attention on Tyree. “I know you were working on the books just now. And I know that The Fix is doing everything to up revenue. I don’t want to be a drain. I don’t feel right taking this job if it’s going to be a problem for the bottom line.”
Tyree nodded slowly as he settled in behind the desk. “Fair enough. You’ve been officially working here for how long? Four days?” At her nod, he continued. “And in that time you’ve worked as a hostess, helped behind the bar, worked with Jenna on this calendar issue I’m about to hear about, made a Costco run for paper products, did a stint of prep work in the kitchen, and spent over an hour on the phone with the HVAC technician. Hell, without you, we might have had to close up. No AC in Austin during the summer? That’s too many sweaty bodies in my book.”
“All true,” Megan said. “It’s just that—”
“And haven’t you been doing Brooke’s makeup before she goes in front of the camera?” he added, referring to one of the two stars of The Business Plan, the reality television show that was also doing a complete makeover on the bar’s interior and whose cameras had become a constant presence at the bar.
“Well, yeah,” she admitted, as Jenna crossed her arms, looking smug.
“I’d say you’re pulling your weight just fine, Megan,” Tyree said. “And I’m happy that when you needed the extra work, we had enough to toss it your way.”
He meant what he said. He didn’t know the details of why Megan left a thriving career as a makeup artist in LA to move to Austin, but he did know that she’d done it at the spur of the moment. And that there’d been a man somewhere in the picture. Presumably a man she was trying to avoid.
He hated the thought that Eli might be in a strange town someday without work or friends to help him. And the thought was doubly potent if he imagined that Eli was a daughter instead of a son. Old fashioned, maybe, but that’s the way Tyree rolled. “We square?” he asked, his attention focused on her.
“Yeah,” she said. Her expression was firm and businesslike, but he saw the smile behind her glasses. “We are.”
“Then let’s get to talking about this calendar. I swear, Jenna, I never expected there’d come a day when part of my job would be looking at beefcake shots of shirtless men.”
She blinked at him, all innocence. “That wasn’t part of your Marine training?”
“Watch it, girl,” he said, but with laughter in his voice.
“Well, you’re off the hook today, because we have a problem. I’d hoped to have a few proofs to show you—just shots of Reece to get an idea of lighting and poses before we schedule the full shoot for Mr. January to Mr. March. But our photographer got hired by some fashion magazine, dropped everything, and moved to Milan.”
Jenna scowled. “He was supposed to be good. Now he’s gone. So Megan and I are interviewing replacements and poring over portfolios. Fortunately, all the guys are easy to get a hold of, so I don’t think scheduling will be a problem. And of course Megan can do makeup, so we don’t have to worry about that. So by the time we hire someone, we can probably knock out Mr. April and Mr. May at the same shoot.”
“We want to get the final, cleaned-up images to the calendar designer as early as possible so that we can stick to a late October on-sale date for the calendar,” Megan added. “And we want all the shots to have continuity. Like writers, photographers have a voice. We don’t want someone who’s going to abandon us midway through the project. We’ll be running contests into early October, right?”
Megan directed the question at Jenna, who nodded. “It’s the best way to keep interest up and folks walking through the doors. At any rate, the point is we’re looking for someone who can photograph both men and food. If we can use the same photographer for the cookbook, that would be sweet. You’re working on the recipes, right?”
She tilted her head as she eyed him, and he was reminded of Mrs. Thibodeaux, his fourth grade teacher in New Orleans.
“Got a stack of them in this pile of junk,” he said, tapping his computer affectionately.
Jenna nodded, the gesture obviously a mental checkmark, and continued. “So that’s the scoop on the end result. Meanwhile, Megan and I both think we need to kick up the real estate on the actual contest.”
Tyree’s brows rose. “Real estate?”
“Male pecs, male abs, male torso. You know. The reason the women come every other Wednesday.”
“We want to lure in some new guys,” Jenna explained, probably in response to his confused expression. “High profile guys. Nolan’s a great start,” she said, referring to a local drive-time radio personality who would be bounding across the stage in two days for the Mr. April contest, “but we want to go even further.”
“You have ideas as to where to find these amazing paragons of manhood?”
Jenna’s lips twitched. “I think you should enter. Megan agrees,” she added, as her companion nodded.
Tyree crossed his arms over his massive chest, leaned back in his chair, and shook his head. “I’ll be forty-six in a few months. I may not be too old to sponsor that shit, but I’m definitely too old to participate.”
The women exchanged looks. “The female point of view begs to differ, but we can table it for right now. The point is, we’re going to go hot and heavy into recruiting. Megan has a few ideas on which local businessmen to approach. The kind who look very fine in tailored suits. And we’re thinking a wet T-shirt contest might be fun.”
Tyree leaned back and lifted his eyes to heaven. “Lord, save me from ambitious women.”
“Funny,” Jenna said, as Tyree grinned.
“Seriously, Jen, this is your concept, your baby. You run it how you want, and I’ll support you. Anything else?”
“Just that we’ll keep bugging you about entering. You’ve got some serious pecs, bossman. And the broadest shoulders I’ve ever seen. You’re almost as hot as Reece,” she teased as she pushed herself up out of her chair.
He just shook his head and chuckled.
“Eventually we’ll wear you down,” Megan promised. Or maybe it was a threat.
“And one day hell will freeze over,” Tyree shot back. “Doesn’t mean either of us will be around to see it.”
She laughed, and the two women hustled out leaving Tyree shaking his head, amused.
Since he’d managed to scare his computer into cooperating, Tyree worked a bit more on the accounts, and found that his mood had improved. Probably a little bit because of Jenna and Megan’s company, but also because the books were showing a consistent increase in revenue over the past few weeks. And that was a hell of a thing.
He shut the machine down before it had the chance to get cranky again, then headed into the kitchen to make sure things were running smoothly, and the team wasn’t getting backed up with the lunchtime rush.
During the first four years that The Fix had been open, Tyree himself had run the kitchen, experimenting as he finalized what he now considered to be a damn perfect menu. But with the increasing competition on Sixth Street, the heart of Austin’s tourist-and-college scene, he’d made the decision to be a front-of-the-bar owner, getting to know the customers and having a presence in the place. That was something a corporate bar could never replicate. That true down-home feel of a genuine local bar.
Since Jenna had come on board as the bar’s marketing guru, she’d seconded his decision. And although Tyree missed being in the kitchen trying to replicate and expand on the southern flavors of his childhood, he couldn’t deny that he liked the sense of being at the center of life at The Fix.
“Easton,” Tyree said, clapping the local lawyer on the back as he nodded toward the beer. “I’m guessing no court this afternoon.”
“You guessed right. I’m about to head back to my office, let my paralegal load me down with folders, then grab a taxi to the airport. Three days of depositions in Lansing. It’s going to be brutal.”
“At least you won’t have to come up with an excuse for Megan as to why you’re not entered in the Mr. April or Mr. May contest.”
Easton’s eyes widened. “She’s on a rampage?”
“Be wary, my friend,” Tyree said, chuckling as he moved down the bar to greet some other customers, then say a few words to Eric, the bartender working the lunch shift. He was leaning forward to ask Eric if he could pick up an extra shift when something—or rather, someone—snagged his attention.
It was just a feeling. Just the oddest sense of familiarity. Hell, he hadn’t even been looking toward the door, so the girl was only at the edge of his periphery.
It didn’t matter. She compelled him. And he stopped what he was doing, then turned toward the entrance.
But no, that was absurd, and the ridiculous moment passed as quickly as it had come. Of course it wasn’t Eva. How could it be? She was halfway across the country and more than two decades away. Even if she’d walked through that door, they were separated by time and space. By pain and death. By life and dreams and family and loss.
The current of life moved on, and his current had pushed him past Eva a long, long time ago. And that was a good thing, too. Otherwise he never would have met Teiko, the wife he adored. The mother of his son.
And yet the girl by the door had captured his attention…
Not a doppelgänger—not identical at all. But damned if there wasn’t a striking similarity. The same shade of dark skin, like coffee with just a few drops of cream. The mouth that flashed a wide, easy smile. The close-cropped hair with deliberately placed curls at her forehead and in front of her ears. A sleek, sophisticated style that accentuated those wide eyes and high cheekbones.
Pushed forward by both curiosity and trepidation, Tyree took a step toward her, only to find his path blocked by Tiffany Russell, one of his best waitresses, who was looking both frazzled and uncertain.
“Tiffany? What’s the matter?”
“I need—” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Oh, hell. Can I talk to you? Maybe over in the back bar?”
The Fix on Sixth boasted two bar areas. A front area with more seating and a stage that played host to local bands. And a smaller back bar, with just a few tables and a much more intimate feel. Since she was clearly agitated, he followed her to the back, his concern mounting.
“What’s going on?” he asked, as soon as they were standing near the windows in the back bar. They were out of earshot of the customers, most of whom were sitting on stools at the polished bar, chatting with Lori, one of The Fix’s first shift bartenders.
“I just thought you should know that Steven Kane—you know him, right? The manager at Bodacious?” At Tyree’s nod, she continued. “Well, he cornered me at Starbucks the other day and started chatting me up about how it was to work here, and if I got paid enough, and how much is the door on the nights we do the Man of the Month contest.”
Tyree said nothing. He was too busy fuming. Not about the fact that Bodacious—one of the corporate bullshit bars that had moved in down the street with watered down dollar drinks—was asking about the competition and earnings. No, what pissed Tyree off was that they were trying to poach his employees.
“I didn’t tell him anything,” Tiffany said, looking a little taken aback by Tyree’s silence. “And honestly I don’t care what you pay me. I love working here, and I’m not dressing like a damn hooker just for better tips.” He chuckled, and she frowned. “Just don’t, you know, knock my wage down by a dollar.”
“Wouldn’t do that,” Tyree said. “And I appreciate the loyalty.” Which was true. Even though he suspected that she was more loyal to her not-so-secret crush on Eric than she was to him.
“You’ve got it in spades. But here’s the thing.” She bent in closer, as if the patrons at the bar might give a rat’s ass about their conversation. “I think they’re hitting on Aly, too. And I know she’s hard up for cash. I think she might bail on us.”
Aly was a waitress who Tyree had recently trained and promoted to bartender. And goddamn Steven Kane if he poached her away from him.
“I don’t know for sure,” Tiffany said. “I just thought you should—”
Since she looked to be on the verge of tears—and Tyree really couldn’t handle any tears today—he put his hand firmly on her shoulder. “It’s okay. You just take care of those customers and let me worry about it, okay?”
She nodded, drew in a breath, and started for the main room.
She looked back over her shoulder.
“You did right letting me know.”
He saw the relief wash over her face, and felt a bit relieved himself. That was one good deed he’d done today. If he killed Kane, would that erase all his good karma? He scowled, considering. Probably better to let the little prick keep breathing. But it was a damn close call.
As he headed back into the main bar area, he found himself casting his gaze around in search of the woman who looked so much like Eva. She wasn’t there, and as he continued toward his office, he couldn’t shake the lingering disappointment.
Back at his desk, he tried to concentrate on all the mundane tasks that needed attention, but he couldn’t focus. Instead, all his attention was taken by the framed photo on his desk. A silly shot of a nine-year-old Elijah goofing around with Teiko in the backyard.
Tyree had been on the back patio fighting with the camera, and when he’d finally gotten the settings right, he’d called her name. She’d looked over at him, her arms around the squirming boy and her eyes filled with so much love he’d almost frozen instead of clicking the shutter.
It was one of the last photos he’d taken of her.
His chest tightened as the memory crashed hard over him. Christ, he loved her.
Gently, he brushed a fingertip over the image of her face. “I miss you, babe,” he murmured, then pushed away from the desk and stood.
According to the clock in the shape of a beer bottle that was mounted on the office wall, it was earlier than he’d planned to leave. But Tyree had a good team. A loyal staff. And the pull of home was overwhelming. He needed his son beside him. A few quiet hours.
And then tomorrow…
Well, tomorrow would come like it always did.
This time when Tyree stepped out of the employees-only area and into the large main room, Reece was behind the bar, relieving Eric. He nodded in acknowledgement, his expression sober and a just a little sympathetic, as Tyree headed toward the front.
He was almost to the door when Megan hurried up. “Hey,” she said. “I don’t want to hold you up, but could I grab you for a couple of minutes tomorrow before opening? I just want to go over some—”
“Sorry, sugar. I won’t be back until Wednesday.”
“Oh.” He understood the surprise on her face. Tyree hardly ever took an entire day off. “Where are you—”
“Wednesday,” he repeated, then walked away. And as he did, he heard Megan ask, “Where’s he going? Out of town?”
And in the moment before the door to The Fix closed behind him, Tyree heard Reece’s gentle reply. “He’s going to go see his wife.”