An Unexpected Distraction (Judge # 3) by Catherine Bybee

Claire and Cooper found her as they were headed out. “You about ready?”

“You’re leaving?” Wess asked, disappointment on his face.

“We have an early day tomorrow,” Jax told him.

Cooper lifted his chin. “I’m Cooper, this is Claire.”

Wess was polite, shook Cooper’s hand.

“Give us a few minutes. Meet you outside,” Jax encouraged her friends.

Wess set his beer down as the others walked away. “Any chance I can see you again?”

She lifted her hand, palm out. “I’ll give you my number. Like I said, I live in Tarzana. It’s not exactly down the street.” And she wasn’t entirely sure she was interested enough to make the drive.

He handed her his phone and she typed in her number. Under the contact information she typed “Hot Blonde in Bar.”

Wess laughed, and when he took the phone from her, he slid his fingers along her wrist. “Enjoy your team-building weekend.”

“Thanks for the beer.” She set the empty bottle on the table and turned to walk away.

The guys Wess had come to the bar with had walked closer, blocking her way. “You’re leaving? The party is just getting started.”

Wess pushed his buddy’s shoulder. “She has to work tomorrow.”

“On a Saturday?” The shortest of the group of three was the most vocal. “Sounds like you’re getting blown off, Wess.”

“If he was getting blown, he’d know it,” Jax said, purposely leaving the word off out of her sentence.

The three of them howled.

Jax looked over her shoulder to find Wess blushing. Yeah, he was a little too young and innocent for her taste.

Too bad . . . he was cute.

“If you’ll excuse me, boys.” She moved to push her way through them.

“Men, not boys. Fighting for your country.” The short one was letting the liquor speak for him.

“Ease up, Mendez.”

Jax did a quick look around, caught a glimpse of Sasha on the other side of the bar.

“The men I’ve known in the Marines never boast.” Jax put a finger to Mendez’s chest and pushed him back for her to squeeze through. “The boys, on the other hand, always do.”


“Ohh . . .”

Mendez put a hand to his chest with a smile. “The Barbie has claws.”

She walked past them. “Be careful out there.”

She heard one of them whistle.

It seemed to take forever to make it to the exit.

The cool ocean breeze put a nip in the air that hit her the second she stepped outside.

She looked around, expecting to see Claire and Cooper by the entrance.

Jax rubbed her bare shoulders and peered through the dark.

She stepped into the parking lot to make her way to where they’d parked the car.

The lights that were working in the back of the lot flickered. She couldn’t help but wonder if the ones that were out were a sign of neglect or by design for Neil’s team.

An itch on the back of her neck brought up the hair on her arms as she walked in the dark lot.

The car wasn’t there.

She pulled her phone out of her back pocket to text Claire.

The moment she pressed Claire’s name she read the last text.

I’m going to stay for a while and catch a ride with Sven.

Jax read the message twice.

A message she hadn’t sent.

Which could only mean one thing.

The footsteps beside her shot her to full attention, right as a bag went over her head.

“Damn it.”


Even though Jax knew she wasn’t in any real danger, that didn’t stop her nerves from firing as her “kidnappers” forced her into a van and sped off.

The rules were pretty simple.

Make no real fuss if abducted in public since they didn’t want any Good Samaritan getting the wrong, or right, as it stood, idea.

Once she was secured where they wanted her, she could do whatever she needed to in an effort to get away. Though in the years she’d been doing this drill, no one kidnapped had escaped on their own.

When someone on the team used the safe word, it meant they tapped out.

The goal was to work together to release the victim, not to get hurt.

“You okay back there?” It was Sasha’s voice.

The bag over her head was unnerving, but Jax decided to close her eyes and pretend it wasn’t there.