An Unexpected Distraction (Judge # 3) by Catherine Bybee

Jax pushed her shoulder and stood. “I said try on . . . not buy. Besides, you find the dress, I snap a picture and tell Neil and—”

“That’s manipulative.”

Jax held a pair of slacks in her hands and stopped to stare. “Is Neil walking you down the aisle?”

Claire paused, and a smile spread from ear to ear. In a heartbeat her eyes swelled with moisture. “Yes.”

“Is he or is he not loaded?”

Claire shrugged. “I think so.”

Jax rolled her eyes. “He will buy you the dress.”

“We haven’t talked about it.”

She went back to packing. “Talk about it. And then join me.” Jax looked at the time. “The guys are picking me up in thirty minutes. Help me get this together.” She was jumping on the same flight the London team was taking back home. The private plane that Neil, the questionably loaded boss, was paying for.

Twenty minutes later her bags were downstairs, and they were waiting for the van filled with testosterone.

“Call me the second you know more about what’s going on with your brother,” Claire said.

“Harry is never cryptic.” He’d told her there was some significant family drama and he needed his sister and her covert skills. All that did was spark questions that he didn’t want to answer over the phone. When he said that their parents weren’t going to approve, Jax stopped asking questions and committed to going. Harry didn’t buck their parents often, so the fact that he did now gave her enough joy to request time off and jump on a plane.

The van pulled up and Jax turned to hug her friend. “One week. Then we’ll make Europe our wedding planning oasis.”

“Sounds great.”

A sharp knock on the front door broke up their hug.

Sven and James stood on the other side of the door. Their eyes went straight to the two bags at her side. “Only two?” Sven teased.

Jax frowned. “There are five more upstairs.”

For a hot second Sven looked worried. She walked past the two of them. “Kidding.” She didn’t even pretend like she was going to carry the luggage as she marched toward the van.

Heathrow never ceased to be a bitch.

The only thing that made it tolerable was arriving on a private charter. Even thinking about that reminded Jax just how privileged she was.

No matter how long it had been since she’d set foot in Europe, London especially, she found her spine stiffen, her chin lift, and her shoulders pull back. It was the stance expected of her when she arrived.

Jax personified it.

“You’re sure you’re okay?” Sven asked.

“I’m brilliant.” Even her accent snapped together like Lego bricks for a toddler.

“Do you see your brother?”

“He’ll be here.” Jax pushed past her irritation that the reason she flew to London on a moment’s notice wasn’t waiting for her the second she stepped off the plane.

“I’m wrecked,” James said at their side. “We leaving or not?”

Sven gave her a final glance. “You sure?”

“Would you ask that if I had a pair?” she asked him with one final flair of the dramatic.

Sven twisted his head side to side. “All right. You need something, you know where we are.”

Jax offered a two-finger salute as Sven and the others walked out of the airport and into awaiting cars.

She looked left.

Then right . . .

“Damn it, Harry,” she said, her words a whisper.

She could take a cab.

Find a hotel.

The last thing she would do is show up at her parents’ unannounced.

Minutes swept by.

Anyone she recognized was long gone before she started to move.

She kept scanning the men, and occasional woman, holding signs with names.

The drivers for the rich. Not an uncommon way for Jax to travel.

Harry told her he’d pick her up at the airport himself, but the brat wasn’t there.

Resigned to the fact he wasn’t coming, Jax tugged both pieces of luggage out of the line of people. Once she’d moved away from the crowd, she unzipped her purse and reached for her phone.

“Miss Simon . . . Miss Simon?”

She turned to the man calling her name.

The first thing she noticed was the paper with her name on it. Then her eyes scanned the man.

Tall, early thirties, if she had to guess, strong jaw, eyes hidden by sunglasses. He was wearing a damp trench coat. “You’re Jacqueline Simon, right?”