Need You Now: Cameron and Mina (Man of the Month Book 3)J. Kenner
Need You Now
About Need You Now
Preview: Start Me Up
J. Kenner Series In KU
Also by J. Kenner
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Need You Now
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About Need You Now
Charming smile. Wicked skills.
Meet Mr. March.
With his tousled hair, cocky grin, and surprising abs hidden under a conservative button-down, bartender Cameron Reed is no stranger to the attention of women.
He dates, but never gets serious, claiming that he’s too focused on his studies. But it’s not really school that preoccupies him; it’s sensual fantasies of his best friend’s sister.
Mina Silver might be absolutely off-limits because of her overprotective brother and father, but that doesn’t stop Cam from imagining the feel of her in his arms, the brush of his lips over her soft skin, or the sparks that would fly between them if he ever got her into bed.
But for Cam, the bonds of family and friendship are sacrosanct, and there is no way that he’d ever violate his friend’s trust. Or would he?
Because with love on the line, maybe it’s time for Cam to break a few rules.
Taking a risk never felt so right.
Each book in the series is a STANDALONE novel with NO cliffhanger and 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?
Down On Me
Hold On Tight
Need You Now
Start Me Up
Get It On
In Your Eyes
Turn Me On
Shake It Up
All Night Long
In Too Deep
Light My Fire
Walk The Line
and don’t miss Bar Bites: A Man of the Month Cookbook!
Visit manofthemonthbooks.com to learn more!
Want your own Man of the Month calendar? Grab it now! (While supplies last!)
Need You Now Copyright © 2018 by Julie Kenner
Start Me Up excerpt Copyright © 2018 by Julie Kenner
Cover design by Covers by Rogenna
Cover image (original bar cover) by Perrywinkle Photography
Cover image (color pop cover) by Annie Ray/Passion Pages
Published by Martini & Olive Books
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.
“You, my friend, have got some big, sparkly balls.”
Cameron Reed took a long, satisfied swallow of beer as he stared at the finger pointing straight at his face. He was seated at a four-top near the front window of The Fix on Sixth, a popular Austin bar where he worked as a bartender when he wasn’t at the University or, like today, enjoying a day off.
The finger in question belonged to Nolan Wood, a local radio personality and frequent customer at The Fix.
Darryl Silver sat in the only other occupied chair. Cam’s best friend since before puberty, Darryl had just arrived back in town after graduating from law school. “Someone going to tell me why we’re praising my buddy’s cojones?” Darryl asked.
“Duh,” Cam said scooting his chair back and cupping his package. “Because they are worthy of some serious praise, didn’t you know?”
Darryl snorted, then turned to look at Nolan. “How about you tell me? Our boy’s ego’s getting in the way of my edification.”
“There he goes again, talking like a baby lawyer,” Cam quipped as Darryl shot him the finger.
Nolan ignored the jibes, his attention on Darryl. “Because even though Cam didn’t win the contest for Mr. February, he and his cojones definitely made a splash.”
Cam grabbed a Loaded Hush Puppy out of a paper-lined plastic basket and popped it in his mouth. It might be Cam’s day off, but The Fix was as much a home as his room near campus or the tiny South Austin house where he and his sister had grown up, and he’d come here to hang out, have lunch, and enjoy life in front of the bar.
A few tables over, Tiffany, one of the waitresses caught his eye. He lifted his beer to signal for another, and she gave him a nod in acknowledgment as she delivered drinks and burgers. Even though the crowds were the biggest at night, The Fix had a steady lunchtime clientele.
Cam leaned back again, mimicking Nolan’s relaxed posture. “You know,” he said, “I don’t think I made a splash. More like a statement.”
“Ha!” Nolan practically barked the word. “That’s the truth. Comic relief,” he said, shaking his head as if reliving a happy memory. “I mean, you gotta love it.”
“Maybe you do,” Darryl said, putting down his rum and Coke. “But I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Comic relief? Mr. February? What does—Oh, wait.” He turned to Cameron. “This has something to do with that Calendar Guy contest, doesn’t it? Mina told me a little about that.”
At the mention of Darryl’s twin sister, Cam felt the familiar tightening in his gut, as well as parts further south. He’d had a crush on Mina Silver for half his life, and he’d known her longer than that. She was his best friend’s twin sister, after all, so she’d been a constant presence. The girl they teased, the pest they shooed away.
Or she had been, until Cam had begun to notice her sweet smile, her quirky sense of humor. Until he realized that half the time when he went to Darryl’s house during summer break, his motive was less about playing video games with his buddy and more about catching a glimpse of Mina.
And then one day, he’d seen her at the mall making out with Tony Renfroe, a high school quarterback whose picture was all over the local paper.
That’s when the monster had stirred inside Cameron. A wild, craving beast that had wanted to lash out and knock Tony right off his pedestal—and out of Mina’s arms.
Except he hadn’t given in to that monster. Not then. Not later.
And Mina had dated Tony. Then Alex. Then Roger. And God only knew who else.
Never Cam, though. And over the years his crush had ramped up, escalating past the warm, gooey thoughts he’d had as a teenager to the current line-up of full-color, X-rated dreams that had him waking up twined in his sheets with the kind of painful boner that even a cold shower couldn’t tame.
“Yeah,” Nolan said, in response to D
arryl’s question. “The Mr. February contest was this past Wednesday. I gotta say, The Fix has only had two contests so far, but I’m already hearing a lot of buzz around town. I think they really have something here.”
Darryl opened his mouth, apparently to point out that he still wasn’t entirely up to speed, but Cam jumped in first, explaining about the contest and the other changes being implemented at The Fix, all designed to up the bar’s revenue.
As a bartender, Cam only knew the high points that Tyree, the bar’s owner, had told him. The bottom line being that The Fix had run into some financial trouble—mostly because of competing corporate chain bars that had moved in, offering discounted drinks and scantily clad waitresses.
The bottom line? If the bar’s revenue didn’t increase significantly by the end of the calendar year, then The Fix would have to close its doors.
That situation had been spelled out to Cam and the other employees at a staff meeting, along with the fact that Tyree had partnered with Reece Walker, Brent Sinclair, and Jenna Montgomery to make it happen.
Reece, the bar’s manager, had been Cam’s immediate boss since he’d signed on. A former cop, Brent was in charge of all the security. Jenna hadn’t been an employee before coming on board, but she had a marketing background and had implemented a whole slew of changes and promotions designed to increase revenue, the customer base, and the bar’s overall reputation around town.
From Cam’s perspective, the biggest coup for the bar was the fact that it was home base for The Business Plan, a remodeling reality show that was focusing solely on scaling up The Fix on Sixth. Not only did Cam think that was a freaking brilliant way to get free publicity, but the very existence of the program meant that Mina, who’d wheedled her way into an internship on the show, was in the bar almost every day, her bright smile and just-tight-enough jeans right there in front of his eyes.
The show hadn’t aired yet—it was stockpiling episodes before the six-episode run launched. But one of the reasons that the producers had been keen on The Fix was the chance to include the calendar contest as a kind of backdrop to the ongoing renovation project. And, frankly, the contest had been going over like gangbusters with the regulars.
Not only were several of the male customers signing up to compete, but local fitness gurus, actors, and models were jumping on the bandwagon, too. And for the first two contests, the women had come in droves to fill the tables, drink, and cheer on the contestants.
In fact, the contest was so popular that there’d been a line around the block, and Cam had never worked so hard at his job than when he’d been behind the bar on both those Wednesdays. Honestly, he was tempted to make another more serious go at the contest, just because last Wednesday’s run got him away from the bar for a solid hour during the actual competition.
“You really did that?” The shock in Darryl’s voice was genuine. Prancing shirtless across a stage might be in Darryl’s repertoire, but until last Wednesday, Cam had never thought it was in his. “You?” Darryl repeated. He cleared his throat, then continued in a low, booming voice. “Cameron Reed. Mild-mannered librarian by day. Internet porn star by night.”
“Porn star?” Cam repeated, nodding sagely. “You know, I think it’s my sparkly balls that bring in the viewers.”
Nolan laughed so hard he almost spewed beer over all of them. “Librarian?”
It was Darryl’s turn to laugh. “Oh, that’s not part of the joke. Well, maybe the mild-mannered part.”
Cam rolled his eyes. “Rare books and manuscripts,” he explained to Nolan. “And Darryl loves to give me shit about it.”
Like most of their friends, Darryl had assumed that Cam would take the LSAT and follow Darryl into the land of objections and depositions. But instead, Cam and his shiny, new degree in history had taken the GRE, then applied for graduate school, working toward a dual Masters in history and library science. Maybe not as sexy as trial work, but he loved the detail of it, not to mention the smell of the past, all leather and dust and paper. He’d finish at the end of the summer, and he’d already been accepted into a Ph.D. program on a really sweet scholarship.
“—can’t picture you in a calendar guy contest.”
Cam looked at his friend. “Sorry, what?”
“I mean the walking across the stage part. You I can picture,” Darryl continued, obviously not realizing that Cam had lost the thread of the conversation. “Because we both know you’re hot.”
He swiveled to face Nolan. “Cam’s my best friend—and we have a strict hands-off policy ever since I told him that I’m an equal opportunity kinda guy—but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to comment on the quality of the merchandise. I mean, those broad shoulders? And his ridiculously tight abs? Not to mention that ass? Am I right?”
“Can’t argue,” Nolan said. “And I say that with a lifelong hetero record, and a tight grip on my Man Card.”
“Exactly.” He turned back to Cam, who was shaking his head at the ceiling as if begging help from the gods. “No question that you’ve got the goods. God knows you get hit on enough by customers of the female persuasion. But we both know you don’t have the personality for being Mr. Pageant Guy. So what exactly made you grow those sparkly balls we’ve been talking about?”
“Honestly?” Cam said. “That would be your sister. She kept giving me so much grief about not entering that pretty soon everyone in the bar was asking why I didn’t rip off my shirt and strut across the stage.”
Darryl snorted. “Yeah, Mina can be a force of nature when she sets her mind to it. Damn hard to resist.”
He had that right.
When Mina had first suggested that Cam enter, he’d let himself believe that she was imagining him the way he thought of her—shirtless and sweaty and tangled up in the sheets. Or, at the very least, the way Darryl was describing Cam—the kind of guy that women pinned up on their walls.
But that wasn’t it, and Cam knew it. Mina saw him as a friend—and all she’d been doing was yanking a friend’s chain. Goading him to get out there and go a little wild. But, sadly, not with her.
Once he’d realized that there was nothing personal as far as Mina was concerned, the idea of strutting shirtless across the stage really had seemed daunting. But he couldn’t back out without everyone at The Fix labeling him a damn pussy.
So he’d taken the coward’s way out—and pretended to be a smart ass.
“Strolled down the red carpet just as smooth as you please,” Nolan explained, “and then when he got up on stage, he whipped that shirt off. And there it was, spelled out in what looked like red lipstick all across his chest.”
“Comic relief,” Darryl said, then sat back and clapped his hands together in a long, slow applause. “Fucking brilliant.”
“Hey,” Cam said, more than willing to suck up the praise rather than confess that his balls had shriveled, not sparkled. “Sometimes you gotta go for the laugh.”
“Like I’ve been saying, big, sparkly balls.” Nolan ran a hand through his hair. “And I need you and your balls to come on my show. That is just the kind of thing I can turn into radio gold. Especially since we can also send the show out live on social media. My fans will go nuts.”
“The hell with that.” A significant number of Austinites tuned in to Nolan Wood’s morning drive-time radio show, Mornings With Wood, and Cam wasn’t inclined to share his moment of lust-fueled insanity with each and every one of them.
“Where is Mina, anyway?” Cam asked, as much to change the subject as because he wanted to know. “I thought she was supposed to be running the second camera today while Brooke and Spencer work on the overflow bar.”
He nodded to the far side of the room, past the maze of tables and chairs and customers, to where Brooke Hamlin and Spencer Dean—the two on-camera hosts of The Business Plan—made adjustments to the placement of a free-standing bar they’d finished constructing the previous evening. One of the show’s two cameramen hovered nearby, filming. The second was off today, havin
g flown back to LA to take care of a family emergency.
As the show’s intern, Mina was going to be running that second camera. Except she wasn’t there. And considering how much Mina had wanted this internship and how hard she’d been working, Cam couldn’t quite swallow the knot of worry that had settled at the base of his throat. And when he saw the way Spencer casually stroked the back of Brooke’s neck in a gesture of both affection and possession, Cam’s craving to see Mina increased all the more, even though he had absolutely no right to touch her in that same gentle manner.
“Darryl?” he pressed. “Do you know where she is?”
His friend just shrugged. “I’m lucky if she remembers to send me a Christmas card. We may be twins, but the last time we were attached at the hip was—let me think—never.”
But Cam wasn’t listening any more. Instead, he was looking out the window as the late May sun illuminated the pedestrians hurrying along the street, most of them probably heading back to work after lunch. And there, standing out like a goddess among the peasants, was Mina.
Her creamy skin seemed to glow in the sunlight, giving her an unearthly quality. She wore her dark hair short, in a pixie cut that highlighted those incredible cheekbones, and with her green eyes and long limbs, she reminded him of a young Audrey Hepburn. Growing up, his grandmother’s favorite movie was Sabrina, and he still watched it over and over, only now he imagined himself in the role of Bogart, winning over the woman who—at first—barely even knew he existed.