Home > A Hero's Surprise (Baytown Heroes #5)

A Hero's Surprise (Baytown Heroes #5)
Author: Maryann Jordan








The game playing on the widescreen over the bar only marginally held his attention. Jose Martinez had gone to the Sunset Restaurant in Baytown for a blind date but now sat alone. He’d received a text apology from the woman pleading a headache and canceling at the last minute. Reading between the lines, he discerned she had as little interest in the blind date as he did. A wave of relief washed over him now that he didn’t have to feign interest.

He sipped his water, relaxing for the first time all day. He hated blind dates and rarely accepted them, but his mom had twisted his arm.

“Jose! You need to find a good girl. Settle down and make babies. And this girl… I just met her mother at church, and I’m sure she’ll be perfect for you!”

A chuckle escaped as he shook his head in amusement. His mom was good at twisting the arms of her children even though they were all adults now.

Glancing at the time on his cell phone, he debated what to do. Most of his friends would be at the pub watching the game or at home with their families. Still hungry for dinner, he decided to order at the bar. It might not be the evening he envisioned or preferred, but he never minded his own company. As the oldest growing up in a small house with a large family, he’d learned at an early age to spend time alone whenever he got the opportunity.

By the time he’d enjoyed the meal, the game was over and replaced by another one he had no interest in. Sighing, he leaned back on his stool and sipped his beer. Looking into the mirror behind the bar, he viewed the restaurant behind him. It was a quiet night with several couples and families enjoying themselves. It wouldn’t be long before the vacationers descended upon Baytown for the warmer season, and the restaurant would be packed most evenings.

Raucous female laughter from upstairs met his ears, and he wondered if a bachelorette party was in full swing. The Sunset Restaurant often hosted wedding events. The nearby rental houses made it easy for people to cut loose and drink too much while still making it to bed without getting behind the wheel.

Tossing back the last of his drink, he reached for his wallet, ready to signal the server to bring him his bill. Instead, his attention was snagged when a pretty dark-haired woman slid into the bar seat two down from him. Her blue dress was fitted but modest with a skirt that flared out, hitting her almost at her knees. Black heels completed her outfit, giving her legs length even though she was petite.

Her eyes were not on him, but as he watched her in the mirror behind the bar, she sighed and pushed her hair away from her face. At the sound of more laughter from upstairs, he caught a grimace crossing her expression.

Just then, she glanced over at him and offered a pinched smile as she shook her head. “If you’ve been down here listening to that noise, I should apologize.”

“I just assumed some people were having a good time,” he said. “Bachelorette party?”

She nodded and sighed. “I really wanted to get away from it. I don’t even know the bride very well. She’s a coworker who asked me to be in her wedding, but we’re not close. I think she needed someone else to even up the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. I agreed, which was more to being raised to be polite than a desire to be in the wedding party.”

An image of his mom drilling manners into him and his siblings raced through his mind, and he chuckled. “Believe me, I understand.”

She turned slightly on the stool to face him fully, and he did the same. “Isn’t it weird how we were raised as children can be so ingrained that even as adults, we respond to situations that go against what we want just because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do?”

He nodded slowly, thinking about why he was in the restaurant tonight. “You’re exactly right. Do you want to hear something funny?”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, cocked her head, and smiled. “Absolutely.”

“I was here tonight for a blind date that my mom insisted on. Now, mind you, my mom had never met this woman. She simply ran into the woman’s mother at church one time, and they decided to set this up.”

The woman’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. “So you accepted a blind date even though your mom didn't know the woman?”

His brows lowered, and he shifted uncomfortably on the stool. “Yeah, that’s right, but now that I hear it stated from someone else, it’s not very flattering for me, is it? Especially since I had no desire to have the date in the first place.”

She threw her head back and laughed. “Please, don’t feel bad! I swear that sounds like something I would do!”

He inclined his head toward the bar. “Can I buy you a drink?”

She held his gaze momentarily, and he wondered if she would deny his offer. Finally, her lips curved upward, and she nodded. “Sure. Thank you.” She glanced toward the empty stool between them. “May I?”

“Please, allow me.” He moved to the seat closer as the bartender brought their drinks and placed them on the polished wooden bar.

She stuck out her hand once he was settled. “I’m Karen. Karen Anderson.”

He took her hand in his. “Jose Martinez. It’s nice to meet you, Karen.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Jose.” She picked up her drink and lifted it for a toast. “Here’s to lone drinkers celebrating how our parents raised us to be extra polite. If it wasn’t for me saying yes to a bachelorette party that I had no interest in and you agreeing to a blind date you weren’t thrilled about, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “You’ve got that right!”

They clinked glasses, then each took a sip.

“Are you just visiting Baytown for the wedding?”

“Yes. I was born and raised in the Northern Virginia area and have never been to the Eastern Shore before. The bride read about Baytown in a magazine and decided it was perfect for her bachelorette weekend.”

As they continued to chat, he discovered she worked as an office manager in a real estate office. After admitting she’d lived with her parents for years to save money, she expressed excitement over moving into her first apartment.

As soon as he said he worked for the Virginia Marine Police, her brows lifted in surprise. “I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never even heard of the marine police.”

“We provide law enforcement on the water, specifically around here, for the Chesapeake Bay. Everything from search and rescue, boating safety, enforcing recreational and commercial fishery laws to responding to accidents and emergencies.”

“So if I’m ever on the water out here and have trouble with my boat, you might be the one who rescues me.”

“I promise if I ever saw you needing assistance, I’d be there.”

She threw her head back and laughed, her hand resting over her heart. With great drama, she exclaimed, “My hero!”

They continued to chat for the next hour, and while he couldn’t say he felt a spark, there was definite flirtatious interest. And if he read her signals right, she was interested, too.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here,” Karen said. She sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly while tucking her hair behind her ear. Her fingers fiddled with the cocktail napkin, now wet from the condensation on her glass. “Um… I’m not staying with the other bachelorettes since I'm not acquainted with any of them. But I do have a room in the small downtown hotel.” Her gaze darted up to his, and she swallowed audibly. “Any chance you’d like to come back with me?”

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