Chapter One

His doctors had it all wrong: another 190 mile per hour crash into the wall wasn’t going to kill him. Oh, no. Melanie Ann Smith was going to be the death of him.

Carter Ambrose grimaced at the socket wrench in his hand, then bent over the engine and began to ratchet the bolt.

For the past three weeks, Melanie had been coming over to his garage to check on him or in her words, “make sure he didn’t go insane from lack of company”. While he was trying to take some time to clear his head, she was driving him insane, with her short skirts, patterned tights, platform heels and glossy lips.

Damn unnerving if anyone asked him.

Although no one ever did, mostly because he wouldn’t tell anyone that he’d started noticing a damn thing about Melanie Ann Smith. She was off-limits, forever on the list of women he had no business entertaining lustful thoughts about. A man just didn’t do that with his sister’s best friend.

The side door to his garage opened and closed.

The sound of her heels had him thinking of her mile long legs wrapped around his waist while he tasted her strawberry-flavored lip gloss. Something he knew, because he’d covertly watched as she coated her pouty lips with the stuff at least a hundred times.

He gritted his teeth and thought of stats, of his crew chief balling him out when Carter let his tires marble. Of having to let his teammate, Jake Henley, permanently race without him, because Carter had totaled his car during a friendly competition back in September.

A total rookie move, and one that he was still recovering from. Unfortunately, racing wasn’t an option, not anymore. He wasn’t one of those hardcore guys, willing to gamble on his health. Besides, he’d actually like to settle down and have kids one day.

Only he wasn’t sure how soon he wanted to pursue that avenue. And he wasn’t sure where he wanted to live or start his classic car restoration business—small town Holland Springs, with his entire family, or Charlotte, with his racing friends and extended family.

That’s why he’d come home. Usually being in Holland Springs cleared his mind and put things in perspective. Usually.

“What are you working on today?” Melanie asked, sidling right up next to him and pulling him out of his thoughts. She was the wrench in the clear-his-head plans.

Her hip bumped his as she leaned over and he dropped the socket wrench. Then the bolt fell through the engine and hit the concrete floor with multiple pings as it bounced. Son of a bitch. “Same thing as yesterday,” he muttered and hair the color of sunshine filled his vision, along with the smell of coconut tantalizing his senses. Damn if she didn’t make his mouth water, and damn if she didn’t bring to mind sitting on the beach with a six-pack.

“I’ll get it!”

Carter turned to tell her no, got a glimpse of a white bra with cherries on it and bumped his head hard against the hood of the Jeep. Only years of his dad’s ‘don’t-curse-in-the-presence-of-a-woman’ speeches made him bite back every cuss word he knew. He blinked, rubbing the top of his head.

Melanie stared at him, her chocolate brown eyes wide with concern, as she held out the socket wrench. Across the bridge of her nose was a smattering of freckles that should’ve made her look like a little girl, except he thought those little golden dots were sexy. Lately, he had been thinking everything about her was sexy.

God help him.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

Taking the tool from her, he set back to work. “Fine.” He hoped like hell she’d get the hint and leave before he did something stupid. Like kiss her senseless.

She shook something by his ear. “Thought you might be hungry.”


Glancing out of the corner of his eye, he watched her green platform shoe wiggle from side to side. “But it’s your favorite: chicken salad and crackers with a slice of Daisy’s famous German chocolate cake. I had her add some extra coconut to the frosting.”

So that’s what was making his mouth water, not her. Relieved, he moved to his work bench and carefully placed the socket wrench in the third drawer, then turned and smiled. “You’ve convinced me.”

Her smile lit up the room. “Great.” She joined him at his work bench, setting the large brown bag down and pulling out the contents. “Hope you don’t mind if I join you.”

Thing was he didn’t; he actually liked Melanie. Always had, even when she was being a pain in the ass, along with his sister, Zoe. “Sorry for being so short with you.”

“That was the hunger talking,” she said with a wink. She hopped on one of the four barstools he kept near the worktable, crossing those mile long legs and making him swallow hard.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” he asked, moving to the sink and washing his hands. Then he ambled over to her and sat down. Melanie had opened all of the containers and fixed them both a plate. “Jen’s place, right?”

Taking a bite of chicken salad, she held up a finger and swallowed. “Jen didn’t need me anymore. Whose Jeep?”

“Rose Holland. She needed something reliable and asked me to find something for her.”

Melanie’s eyes lit with genuine warmth. “She certainly asked the right guy to help her.”

Maybe so, but it hadn’t stopped some of the guys around here from asking if he was doing her or her older sister, Summer. Perverts. He shrugged. “I think Rose’s taking care of her little sister all by herself. No one’s seen their mom in a while.”

“Poor kid,” she said, popping a grape into her mouth.

“You’re not much older,” he pointed out, earning a look of annoyance from her.

“I’m twenty-four.” She leaned forward to snag one of his grapes, once again flashing her bra and amazing cle**age.

He choked down a half eaten cracker. Grabbing the bottle of water she’d brought, he drank down a third of it before he came up for air. “Yeah, I saw pictures on facebook of your drunk tail celebrating your twenty-fourth birthday at Poor Boy’s. My sister’s, too.”

“Why, Carter Ambrose, I can’t believe you’ve been looking at my tail.” She unscrewed the cap of her water bottle. “What would your momma say?”

His momma would tell him to get the hell away from a woman like Melanie. Then again Leah Ambrose warned all of her sons about staying away from every woman that didn’t meet her standards. So far that had meant all of them, but one—his ex-fiancé.

“Are you looking for another job?”he asked, trying to steer their conversation away from her ass and his mother. Two things that would never be in the same sentence ever again.