Pride and Papercuts (The Austens #5) - Staci Hart Page 0,1

behind the bar, carrying ice buckets and loading liquor onto the shelves. Beau walked up with a crate of bottled beers wearing little more than a loincloth and a leather strap across his outrageous chest. Harrison dumped ice into the well in a pair of leather pants. That was it. Leather pants and combat boots, his pecs that outrageous shape that was not quite round, not quite square, but some strange in-between that made your fingers itch. Greg had donned a billowing pirate shirt, unbuttoned to the belt of his very tight, very black flat-fronted Victorian-looking trousers.

The three of them smiled at Cam in unison, but I didn’t hear what they were saying. There was just too much top-shelf man-titty on display for functional thinking.

I decided then that I was a big fan of Fabio night.

When I came back to New York a year and a half ago to help my family out, I had no plans other than to help save our flower shop, Longbourne. But now that the flower shop was on its feet again—and doing better than ever—Jett and I moved to the Upper West so he could get back to work managing Wasted Words, and I could start my new gig.

Honestly, I had no real desire to go back to a big firm, content to freelance, thankful for the freedom it gave me. And I wasn’t lying when I said they made it easy to work at Wasted Words. The book bar was the easiest thing I’d ever sold.

Somehow, I tore my eyes away from the trio and turned around, taking stock of Wasted Words. Once a warehouse, the high industrial ceiling was marked by a maze of exposed duct and pipework. Shelf after shelf of books stood proudly on one side of the bar, and on the other stood table after table of comics, graphic novels, manga—the works, everything from brand-new releases to collector finds.

When my gaze wandered back to the bar, the most unladylike snort ripped out of me at the sight of my brother.

Jett cut me a look, his blue eyes hard but always glinting with humor. “Don’t,” he warned.

I circled him when he approached, assessing his studded leather boots and fur loincloth. “Are you supposed to be Viking Fabio?”

“I’m not a Barbie doll, Lane.”

“Of course not. You’re a Ken, all the way.” I flicked the leather belt that crisscrossed his chest, eyeing his wig, which covered the inky-black hair all the Bennets possessed. “I don’t think I like you as a blond. It’s unnerving.”

“You’re dressed like Fabio, and I’m the one who’s unnerving?”

“Well, listen, Jett—if you can’t get a date in this”—I gestured to the entirety of him—“I don’t know that you ever will.”

He made a face. “I’d say thank you if you weren’t my sister.”

“Ha, ha.” I nailed him in the bicep hard enough that he winced. Or at least pretended to.

“Here they come!” Cam called over her shoulder as the line began to form at the door.

“Seriously. It’s singles night, and I’m making Cam find you a lady,” I insisted.

Jett rolled his eyes so hard, I couldn’t see the irises for a second. “I don’t need help finding a lady, especially not from Cam. A match made by Cam is the kiss of death. It always turns out exactly opposite from what she intends—the last girl I let Cam hook me up with ended up engaged to her ex-boyfriend halfway through the night.”


He laid a hard look on me. “I mean it. Don’t.”

I put my hands up. “Okay, okay, fine. I’ll do it myself.”

With a laugh, I dodged him when he tried to grab me, spinning away.

Jett was the last of my brothers to pair off. The other three were well on their way—one engaged and one married with the third married and expecting. Worse than that, Jett and I were the oldest. Dusty, old spinsters, if our mother was to be believed. If Mrs. Bennet desired anything, it was seeing her children married and breeding. She’d take breeding alone if given the choice between that and the alternative.

Thankfully, Jett and I had escaped her designs by moving a hundred blocks away.

Either way, Jett had been unlucky in love. In his case, I didn’t quite understand why—the guy was smart, funny, and cut like granite. He was well over six feet tall, with a sharp jaw, Roman nose, and brilliant blue Bennet eyes. He was handsome by societal standards—even by admission of a sister who got a little urpy at