An Unexpected Distraction (Judge # 3) by Catherine Bybee

“Harry sent a car.” It wasn’t a question . . . more of a complaint.

“He had an unavoidable distraction, I’m afraid.”

Jax shook her head and let her expression show her disappointment. “Are you at least driving me to his flat?”

The man shook his head. “He’s arranged a room at the Connaught.”

“Damn it, Harry.” She zeroed in on her phone once again.

“I take it you’re not happy.” The man’s British accent chipped his words.

“Brilliant deduction.” She pressed Harry’s number and put the phone to her ear. “Where’s the car?” she asked as the call rang through to Harry.

The driver lifted his hand to the exit.

Jax used her one free hand to grab the smaller roller bag while he managed the larger one.

Harry took his own damn time answering the phone as she followed the driver out of the airport into the car park.

Harry had warned Andrew that Jacqueline was a fireball of energy and wit. But so far all he saw was a ticked-off female with her claws out.

“Goddamn it, Harry. Was it too much for you to pick me up after a ten-hour flight?”

Andrew was happy he wasn’t on the other end of the line.

He approached his car and clicked the button, unlocking the doors while Jacqueline continued to yell at her brother.

She left her roller bag at the boot and helped herself to the back seat.

“Uhm . . .” Andrew started to suggest she take the passenger seat and then realized how this all looked.

Jacqueline Simon thought he was a paid driver.

Wasn’t that fabulous.

Instead of correcting her, he wrangled her bags in the back of his car and circled around to the driver’s seat.

“. . . I know the Connaught is a nice hotel. That isn’t the point.”

Andrew adjusted the rearview mirror, managed a better view of the woman in the back seat.

The picture Harry had given him didn’t do her justice. Her long blonde hair was swept up in a simple ponytail. Jacqueline didn’t appear terribly out of sorts for such a long flight. Her deep blue eyes sparkled, her makeup looked perfect, her traveling outfit unwrinkled. Perhaps she’d changed clothes before getting off the plane. Even though the flight from the West Coast to Great Britain wasn’t the worst trip, it still left you feeling pretty hammered. Jacqueline wore it well.

He pulled out of the garage and wound his way to the airport exit.

“Tomorrow . . . you’re serious?” She pulled her cell phone away from her ear, glared at it, and mouthed a few choice words.

Andrew chuckled as he maneuvered onto the motorway.

“Tea? Good God, you sound like our mother. Why not happy hour?” She paused. “Fine. But you owe me a proper bender after putting me through this. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll make use of the martini bar with or without you.”

Andrew lowered his sunglasses to look at her without the shade. A woman who enjoyed martinis . . . nice.

Harry failed to say exactly how beautiful his little sister was.

And older. The way his friend had described the woman was more like a girl. One spending time in America to find herself.

The woman in his back seat was completely settled in her skin. Not a backpacking teen on a gap year.

“I will. Cheers.” She disconnected the call with a dramatic sigh and leaned her head back.

Andrew opened his lips to comment.

He didn’t get a word in and she was back on the phone. “Hey . . . yes. No. The son of a bitch didn’t even come to the airport.” A pause in the conversation. “You’ve met my mother, it’s an accurate statement.”

Andrew couldn’t stop himself from laughing.

Jacqueline looked up, saw him in the rearview mirror, and frowned. The next words out of her mouth weren’t in English. Russian, if he had to guess. Not that he understood a word. And then, as if she sensed his concentration on her, she offered a slight smile before turning toward the window and continuing to talk.

While she rattled on in a language he didn’t speak, red lights stacked up in front of him.

Traffic heading into the city was thickening up, which put his foot on the brake more than the gas.

His favor to Harry was moving out of the friendship zone and into the “you owe me” zone.

His phone rang.

In the mirror he saw Jacqueline glance his way.

On the third ring he looked to see who was calling.

Harry’s name flashed.