A deleted scene from Caught, Invertary book 7
“I feel so used,” Mitch told his friends at their weekly breakfast club meeting at the pub.
Lake Benson, owner of Benson Security, cocked an eyebrow at him as his lip twitched. In Lake speak, he was laughing at Mitch. Josh wasn’t that subtle, he was laughing so hard he choked on a mouthful of food and Matt Donaldson, Invertary’s entire police force, smacked him on the back.
Flynn Boyle, ex-footballer and current veterinary student, rushed over to them. He pulled up a chair and sat at their table. “What’d I miss?”
“Jodie’s still using Mitch for sex, and he isn’t happy about it,” Matt told his cousin.
Flynn gaped at Matt. “I ran over here for that? You said emergency breakfast club meeting. Having no-strings sex isn’t an emergency, it’s a gift from the gods.”
“Dude,” Josh said in disgust. “You told him it was an emergency?”
Matt shrugged and reached for the coffee. “As soon as he answered the phone, he started whining about baby spit. The choice was between telling him to get his backside in gear for an emergency meeting or arrange testosterone injections to cure his hormonal mood swings.”
“Dickhead.” Flynn shot his cousin the finger.
“The spit-up phase doesn’t last,” Josh said with the air of authority that came from being father to a toddler. “Once the twins are on solids, it’ll get better.”
“No more,” Mitch pleaded. “Does this look like a mother and baby group? Keep that crap to yourself. We’re men. Men don’t talk about baby spit.”
“I’m with you,” Matt said. “I feel like I’m trapped in baby-land and I don’t speak the language. Caroline’s pregnant with baby number two, Abby had twins, Claire’s pregnant with what looks like sextuplets. Hell, even Jena’s talking about starting a family.”
The men froze. Food hovering mid-air on forks.
“Is that a good idea?” Josh voiced what everyone else was thinking. “She can’t keep herself in one piece, how will she take care of a kid?”
Matt shook his head in disgust, well aware he was married to the most accident-prone woman in Scotland. A woman who also happened to be a DIY addict. There was a betting pool going in the pub over which power tool she’d use to cause the most damage. So far, the lead bet was on her taking out Matt with a nail gun.
“I said that to her,” Matt said, “and she ranted about my ‘lack of sensitivity’ for half an hour, then kicked me out of the bedroom for the night. Didn’t talk to me for a week after it.”
Josh let out a whistle. “Talk about overreacting.”
“Tell me about it.” The cop reached for his coffee.
“You might as well give in,” Flynn said. “There’s no point arguing. She’s going to get what she wants, anyway. Maybe by the time the kid’s here, you’ll have figured out a way to keep her and the baby alive.”
“Bubble wrap!” Josh slammed his mug down. “I’ll get Caroline to do some research, but there must be safety clothes for kids. Something like bubble wrap. At least that way, if she drops the baby, it’ll just bounce.”
Matt looked grim. “Aye, but that won’t stop her walking into a hole with the baby or setting fire to the house while it naps.”
“Life was so much easier when all we did with the women in our lives was bed them and run,” Flynn said wistfully. “Now they’re out of control.”
“Speaking of control,” Josh said. “Let’s get back to the reason for this week’s meeting—Mitch has lost what little control he had over his craptastic relationship with Jodie. She only wants to use him as a sex toy, while he wants more. He doesn’t know how to address this situation in order to get what he wants.” He waved his arms as though conducting an orchestra. “Discuss.”
Mitch glared at his friend, promising silently that there would be retribution in his future. Josh was unfazed. He forked a mouthful of bacon and smiled smugly while he chewed. Casually, Mitch reached for his phone, sneaked a photo of Josh with his fried breakfast, and sent it to Caroline with the caption: Josh eating bacon.
“Is this a joke?” Flynn was affronted. “We can talk about Mitch’s unrequited love, but we can’t talk about baby spit?”
“Get over the baby spit, already. This is serious,” Josh said around a mouthful of food that was going to get his ass kicked when his wife checked her phone. “Mitch here needs suggestions for what to do with Jodie. Who’s got one? Anybody? Seriously, don’t be shy. Any suggestion, no matter how dumb, is better than the nothing he’s working with right now.”
“Thanks,” Mitch said drolly as he pushed away his half-full plate. Suddenly, fried black pudding and sausage didn’t look so appetizing.
“Anything for you, brother.” Josh thumped his fist over his heart.
“Just move in with her.” Flynn tugged Mitch’s plate toward him and proceeded to polish off the leftovers. “That’s what I did. Abby didn’t even notice it’d happened until it was too late.”
“Can’t. Even if I could sneak it past Jodie, her brother would notice. Deke can’t keep his nose out of anything.”
“Pity she’s English. Otherwise, you could marry her to keep her in the country,” Matt mused. “That worked for me.”
“What about a business arrangement?” Josh pointed a loaded fork at him. “I hooked Caroline with one.”
“No you didn’t. I was there, remember? She married you to get her hands on the castle.”
“That was how it started, but she couldn’t resist my charms. That woman is gone for me.” He huffed on his nails then buffed them on his Breakfast Club T-shirt.
“What charms?” Matt said. “The whole town is still trying to figure out what she sees in you.”
“He can sing,” Flynn offered helpfully.
“I’m not sure that’s enough to put up with him,” Matt said.
“Good point,” Flynn agreed.
“This is pointless.” The whole conversation was just making Mitch feel more hopeless. “Jodie doesn’t want a relationship, business or otherwise. Every time I broach the subject, she shuts it down and gets a look in her eyes that says she’s about to run for the hills.” He sounded pathetic. Any minute now he was going to dye his hair black and start writing emo poetry.
“Are you sure you want a relationship?” Flynn speared a sausage from his cousin’s plate, earning a glare. “Or is it just that Jodie is the first woman who doesn’t come running when you snap your fingers? I mean, you spent years telling us how you’re good with being single. Seems a little suspect that you suddenly want Jodie. Maybe the fact she doesn’t want you is what’s attracting you. The interest will fade when you catch her. You sure you want that to happen?”
“Have you been reading Abby’s Cosmo again?” Mitch asked him and received the same gesture he’d shared with his cousin.
“It was the stabbing,” Josh said. “It changed his life, and he realized he didn’t want to die old and alone. He had an epiphany.”
Matt snorted. “He didn’t have an epiphany. He had morphine. A man doesn’t decide he wants a relationship just because he gets stabbed.”
As usual they were getting off track. Mitch held up a hand to get their attention. “Even though Dr. Phil over there thinks my relationship is some form of PTSD—”
“Dude,” Josh interrupted. “You don’t have a relationship. You have booty calls. That’s why we’re here.”
“—I just want more of a commitment from Jodie than hit-and-run sex.”
“Can’t we Google the answer to wooing Jodie?” Matt said. “There’s got to be a site somewhere that lists ways to romance a woman. I’m sure all you need to do is buy her some flowers and chocolate then declare undying love. Women love that crap.”
If only it were that simple. “Romantic gestures won’t work. Jodie hates them.”
“Women say that, but they don’t mean it,” Flynn said. “It’s a trap.”
“You’re all idiots,” Lake said, and he wasn’t wrong. “Mitch can’t do what you guys did. It wouldn’t work for him. He needs to go with his strengths. He needs to formulate a plan of attack and treat this like another business deal he’s putting together. He’s known for his sharp negotiation skills, and for getting what he wants. Do the same with Jodie. Research. Plan. Execute. That’s the way to go. Preparation wins the war.”
The men stared at him for a few minutes, awestruck by the volume of words that had just come out of his mouth.
“How many sentences was that?” Josh looked around at the others. “Ten? Twelve? I think that’s a record.”
Grunt, or Samuel Dayton to those who took their lives into their own hands by using his given name, strode up to the table. The American was built like a tank, used even fewer syllables than Lake and was wrapped around the finger of Matt’s younger sister Claire.
He slapped a folder down on the table in front of Mitch.
“What’s that?” Josh reached for it, but Mitch smacked his hand away.
“It’s a background report on Jodie. I need all the help I can get.”
“As a cop,” Matt said. “I’d like to point out that you are seriously skirting the stalker laws.”
“As a lawyer,” Mitch said. “I’d like to point out that I have a degree in skirting the law.”
With a shrug that said he’d tried, Matt turned to his brother-in-law. “You staying for breakfast?”
“Claire’s pregnant,” was Grunt’s reply.
“Claire’s been pregnant for months,” Flynn said. “She’ll be pregnant for even more months before the baby pops out. You’ve got time to eat.”
“Priorities,” Grunt said. “Got to look out for my wife.” With that, he turned and stalked back out the door.
“I seriously worry about him.” Flynn watched the big guy go.
“You know,” Josh said as Mitch flicked through the folder looking for an angle to use to get through to Jodie. “You’re missing one obvious play here.”
“What’s that, oh wise one?” Mitch didn’t look up from his reading.
“You have an agreement with Jodie,” Josh said. “Friends with benefits, right?”
“So?” Mitch said.
“So,” Josh said. “Seems like she’s only keeping half of the deal. You need to enforce the other half. How can you be friends with benefits if you don’t have the friends part? And what is dating, but a form of friends with benefits? Just tell her you want to be friends, then hang out, get to know her and worm your way in when she isn’t looking.”
Four men stared at Josh with open mouths.
“What?” Josh shrugged. “I have a brain.”
“Said the scarecrow,” Flynn muttered before turning to Mitch. “The guy who makes a living singing love songs has a point.”
“Could it be that simple?” Mitch felt his heart lurch at the thought. “I just make her spend more time with me? I invoke the friends’ clause?”
“Right now, what you’ve got,” Josh said, “is a booty call arrangement. It isn’t friends with benefits. You needs to up the friends part. And what happens when women become friends with a guy?” There was silence. Josh looked at them like they were idiots. “Emotional attachment. They become attached. The physical stuff becomes confused with the friend stuff and the next thing they know, they’re falling in love. They can’t help themselves. It’s in their DNA.”
“I hate to say it,” Matt said, “but he makes sense. You need to invoke the friends’ clause.”
“Did Josh just come up with a plan?” Flynn said.
The rest of the men stared at Josh, who was grinning widely. “I am the man.” He puffed out his chest—just as Caroline stalked into the bar.
“Josh McInnes, what did we agree about fried food?” She aimed straight for her husband.
And Josh’s eyes flew to Mitch. “Asshole. You sold me out.”
Mitch didn’t even bother to deny it. He just grinned and settled in to watch the fireworks while he plotted how to rope Jodie into a friendship with a man who wanted so much more.