As Hot as It Gets Page 3

Jackson looked ready to protest, but she didn’t give him the chance. She simply hopped in the truck and offered a little wave, then drove off before she changed her mind and accepted his invitation.

But she couldn’t. She wasn’t interested in dating, and as hot as Jackson was, she didn’t want a fling with him either. Sex was way overrated. It was actually kind of boring, if she were being honest. So yeah, dinner with a cute guy who called her “sugar” wasn’t in the cards.

Sadly, it was just another one in the long line of sacrifices she was forced to make in her life.

“Let me get this straight,” Seth Masterson said in bewilderment. “You want to pay for a gardener to fix up our yard.”

Jackson leaned back in the comfortable wicker chair and rested his bottle of Bud Light on his jean-clad knee. “I sure do.”

“Because you have a thing for the gardener.”


“Even though you only talked to her for like five minutes.”


“You’re insane, Texas.”

He didn’t blame Seth for looking so confused. Jackson knew he was going to a helluva lot of trouble to see Mia again, and it sounded incredibly nuts when you said it out loud, but for the life of him, he couldn’t let it end the way it had—with the first woman he’d connected to in eons driving away from him.

For the past couple months, he’d been striking out left and right when it came to the ladies. His friends’ matchmaking attempts had resulted in some of the most disastrous encounters Jackson had ever experienced, and last night had been the final straw. He’d come home to find one of his blind dates naked in his bed, mistook her for an intruder, and almost shot the poor woman with his nine mil. It had been the icing on the crappy cake he’d been eating for months now, and then, just when he’d given up on women altogether, he’d met Mia.

Gorgeous, sarcastic, down-to-earth and most of all, normal. So maybe he was veering toward borderline stalker territory here, but could anyone really blame him for wanting to get to know the woman?

“I think it’s sweet,” Seth’s wife said as she stepped into the small backyard of the Mastersons’ Coronado home.

Jackson glanced at Seth. “See,” he said smugly.

“She’s only saying that because she wants someone to come and clear out that jungle,” Seth retorted, jabbing a finger at the overgrown yard.

“That’s not true,” Miranda protested. “I really do think it’s wonderful that Texas finally met someone he likes.”

“It is about time,” Seth said grudgingly. “After all those horror-movie dates, I guess you deserve it, dude.”

Miranda glanced at the two chairs occupied by the men, then sighed. “We need to buy more chairs,” she informed her husband.

In response, Seth patted his thigh in invitation, and his wife wasted no time settling in his lap, her long, dark hair cascading over one shoulder and onto Seth’s bare arm.

As his buddy rested a hand on Miranda’s hip and stroked absently, Jackson tried not to let his eyes linger on the couple’s visible intimacy. But dang it, he wanted what they had.

He was sick and tired of being single. All his friends had found the women of their dreams, and what did he get? Naked nutcases who broke into his house, and a sore right hand from jackin’ off every night.

Well, it was time to change that. He didn’t know if Mia was the one, but he dang well knew he wanted to see her again. And he was confident that if she spent just a little more time with him, she’d change her mind about her no-dating thing and go out with him.

“I still insist on paying for half of the gardening,” Miranda spoke up, interrupting his thoughts. “We don’t want to take advantage of you.”

Jackson waved a hand. “Don’t even think about it, sugar. I never got to give you a wedding present because you two a-holes decided to elope, so this is my chance to right the wrong.”

She looked ready to argue, but fortunately, two dark-haired tornadoes swirled onto the scene before she could get a word out.

Sophie and Jason, Miranda’s seven-year-old twins, burst out of the sliding door with a degree of energy that made Jackson chuckle. He had no idea how Miranda had managed to raise those two Energizer bunnies on her own for so long. Even Seth, a Navy SEAL who’d had strenuous training in endurance, admitted that there were days he collapsed in bed thanks to the two children he’d officially adopted last year.

“You wanna see my picture?” Sophie bubbled, her brown pigtails swinging around as she hurled herself into Jackson’s lap.

He wrapped an arm around the little girl and peeked at the crumpled piece of blue construction paper in her hands.

“What exactly am I lookin’ at, darlin’?” he said with a laugh.

Sophie pointed to two little stick fingers. “Well, that’s me ’n Jase—see, Jase is wearing his baseball hat. And that’s Mommy in a pretty pink leotard. And that’s Daddy over here. I gave him red eyes because he was really mad this morning because we woke him up by jumping on his head, but I don’t get why he got mad because it was almost noon and nobody should sleep ’til noon—that’s what Mommy always says.”

“Mom always says that,” Jason piped up, nodding vigorously.

Seth made an irritated noise. “I slept until noon because somebody kept me up all night. Maybe you guys should tell Mommy that marathoning crappy TV shows isn’t a productive pastime.”

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