Perfect Together(Serendipity's Finest)By: Carly Phillips
There was something about being a Marsden that made people think if they asked him for a favor, Sam—the younger brother and the good cop—would be nice and accommodating. Take how his sister-in-law, Cara, was looking at him with big, pleading eyes, fully expecting him to agree to her beyond-unreasonable request.
“There is no way in hell I’m going on a date with Margie Simpson.” Sam Marsden glared at Cara, a woman he usually also called his best friend, from across their respective desks at the Serendipity police station.
“Her last name is Stinson, not Simpson, and you know it.” Cara frowned back at him. “Come on, Sam. Her parents are the biggest donors for the Women’s Heart Health fund-raiser, and the Serendipity Police Department is a co-sponsor. Do you want to be the one to tell the hospital, who will be the recipient of that shiny new medical equipment, that the Stinsons pulled their donation because one of our finest wouldn’t escort their daughter?”
“She’s more like a pit bull,” Sam muttered. “And isn’t there another single cop you can get to take her? What about Hendler?”
“He’s too old.”
She shook her head. “Too young. Besides, Margie wants to go with you.”
He shuddered. “All the more reason for me to say no. I don’t want to give her the wrong idea.” Margie was one of those women who assumed that just a look implied male interest. Sam didn’t want to go there. No way, nohow.
“Are you giving my wife a hard time?” Sam’s brother, Mike, strode over to Cara’s desk and placed a possessive hand on her shoulder.
“More like she’s giving me one. Call her off, will you?” Sam asked.
Mike laughed and shook his head. “I like my life just the way it is. Sorry, bro. You’re on your own.”
Sam rolled his eyes. Ever since his bachelor brother had fallen—hard—for Sam’s sometime partner, Cara, he was now wrapped around his wife’s cute little cowboy boots—when she wasn’t in uniform, that is. Where she went, Mike followed. Sam was happy for him. Problem was, Sam’s single friends were dwindling fast. First Dare Barron, then Mike, and even their sister, Erin, had fallen.
Sam wasn’t jealous, but he could admit that his life and the routines he’d always enjoyed were growing stale around him. But that didn’t mean he was open to marriage, let alone escorting the female from hell, even for a good cause.
Cara rolled a pencil between her palms. “Do you already have a date?” she asked.
“Hell, no,” Mike said, before Sam could answer. “He hasn’t dated anyone in longer than I can remember. In fact, the last woman who remotely interested him—”
No, he would not let his brother go there. “Don’t you have an office to get back to?” Sam pointed to the police chief’s workroom at the back of the stationhouse.
Mike grinned. “Not when this is so much more fun.”
Cara elbowed him in the stomach. “Go. I’ll have more luck if you aren’t here poking fun at him and making this worse.”
Mike shrugged. “Hey, it’s not my fault he’s such an easy target.”
“Now that you’re happily married, you’re an even bigger pain in the ass,” Sam muttered.
Mike smirked and kissed his wife on the lips, lingering way too long before he finally walked—make that swaggered—away.
“Get a room.”
“You too could find true love,” Cara said, leaning closer. “We all want that for you.”
But Sam didn’t want that for himself. He’d tried, come close, and failed in the biggest possible way. As a cop, he trusted his instincts, but when it came to women? To relationships? To personal choices? Not so much.
His so-called gut instinct had hurt one good friend, and his gullibility had led to him being betrayed by his fiancée and best friend. His family knew only some of the reasons he remained wary of trusting his personal instincts, and with his siblings settled down, Erin with a husband and a baby, they’d all turned up the pressure on him.
Cara leveled him with a serious stare. “I’m not asking you to marry Margie, just accompany her to the benefit. Make nice and go home. Can you do that for me? For Mike and the police station? Please?” Cara batted her eyelashes over her big blue eyes.
She’d been his best friend long before she became involved with Mike, and he’d have thought he was immune—except now she was also his family and he didn’t like turning her down. Besides, as she’d pointed out, the fund-raiser was for a good cause and he’d be representing the police force.
He blew out a disgusted breath. “You’re only doing this because I can’t say no to you,” Sam muttered, shuddering at the thought of accompanying the one woman in town who sent fear into any single man’s heart.
“Is that a yes?” Cara tapped her pencil against the blotter on the desk, her expression almost gleeful.
“Yeah,” he muttered, knowing he would absolutely live to regret the decision.
“Yay!” She jumped up and hugged him tight before resettling herself into the chair behind her desk. “This is perfect! One huge problem taken care of. I knew I could count on you.”
Yeah, perfect, Sam thought, hating that word even more than usual.
“Hey, I promise Mike and I will stick by you all night. I won’t leave you alone with that leech.”
Sam narrowed his gaze. “So now you admit she’s a leech.”
Cara didn’t look up or meet his gaze, but the red flush in her cheeks gave her away. Yeah, he was a patsy for his sister-in-law and a good cause.
“You know,” Cara said, peering out from beneath her long fringe of lashes, “you could avoid this whole kind of thing if you’d just—”
Find a woman of his own. “Let it go,” he said in response to her unspoken words.
“Okay, but Mike’s right. The last woman who interested you was—”
“Let. It. Go.” Sam set his jaw.
“Fine. I won’t say her name.” Cara buried herself in work at her desk, but she’d accomplished her mission.
She’d brought up the one female in more than a decade who’d made Sam want to drop his guard and rethink his vow not to get emotionally involved with any woman ever again. But Nicole Farnsworth, the raven-haired beauty who’d triggered his current state of discontent, had left town months ago and she wasn’t coming back.