“We’re in a convertible, with the top down.” She followed him, grabbing his arm. “Look, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I only met Chase once or twice —”


“Whatever.” Letting go of his arm, she flicked her hands in the air. “All I know is that I was trying to flirt with you. Bad me.”

“By saying the only reason you’re going to Charlotte with me is to meet the owner of this car?” He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick straight up in the front. “I already had two years of that shit. Trying to make me jealous all the f**king time. April lied to me about everything. Everything—look lying is a deal breaker for me. I’m honest and expect the same from everyone else.”

“I know.” Boy, didn’t she know it. In high school, he had once told her not to wear her favorite sweater because the knit knots on it looked like ni**les. She’d taken a pair of scissors to that thing as soon as she’d gotten home.

“Which is exactly why this is a big f**king deal to me. I don’t need this kind of drama in my life, especially from you,” he said, his voice harsh. “Jesus Christ, woman. You’re already leading me around by my dick. What more do you want?”

Melanie’s face drained of color, then her pouty lips thinned. “You, Carter Ambrose, are a big jerk. Huge.” She stomped away from him, yelling as she headed to the road. “Ginormous. Enormous. All the words that describe every man I’ve ever tried to please JERK!”

Every man she’d tried to please? He strode after her, grabbing her arm and spinning her around. “Just how many men have you tried pleasing?” Oh yeah, that didn’t sound jerky as hell.

“I don’t have enough fingers and toes, and neither do you to help me count them all.” Tears filled her pretty eyes. “All a man has to do is tell me I’m pretty and I drop my panties. Why, just the other day Mr. Henry said he thought I was cute as a button while I cleaned his house. So I took that eighty-five year old man by the hand and rocked his freaking world. Next week, I’ll get all swoony over the UPS guy telling me how neat my signature is, then let him put his package in my slot.”

Scrubbing his hands over his face, he tried to make sense of her, their situation and came up with nothing. “Dammit, woman. Would you be serious?”

“Can’t. I’m too stupid.” She shoved a finger in his chest. “But at least I’m not mean like you.”

“Arrg.” He almost dropped to his knees and pounded the dirt field in frustration. What the hell had happened in the last five minutes? He’d invited her ass to Charlotte with him, even said she could drive Chase’s car on the way and…oh , shit. “Melanie, did you think that car is mine?”

“Who else’s would it be?” she cried, then ran back to the car. “According to Ms. Leah, you have a whole garage full in Charlotte.”

Son of a bitch. Why couldn’t he actually talk to her like a real person? Oh that’s right, he turn into a certifiable dumbass around her. “Melanie…” he began.

“Don’t you Melanie me.” She snagged her purse, pulled out her phone and walked past him. He grabbed her around her middle and picked her up. She tensed, but didn’t fight him.

“You’re right.” Kissing the side of her neck, he breathed in her coconut scent. “I am a jerk.”

“It’s not supposed to be like this,” she said. “You’re not supposed to be like this.”

Setting her on her feet, he turned her so she faced him. “How am I supposed to be?”

She searched his face. Her eyes were red and her lips were swollen. “Not like the rest. You’re always telling me to quit assuming the worst about myself, but you assume the worst about me.”

A kick to the gut, not that he didn’t deserve it. He’d known Melanie since she was eight years old and he’d always looked out for her while he lived here. But he sure as hell wasn’t being protective of her right now.

She deserved better.

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“That’s what they all say. Anyway, Zoe’s on her way to get me,” she said, her shoulders slumping as she tucked her phone back into her purse. “Things need to go back to the way they were before we made…hooked-up.”

Jerk was too good of a word for him. “Melanie—”

She held up a hand. “Don’t.” Rising to the balls of her feet, she pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. “Thanks for letting me drive.”

That one kiss almost had him on his knees, his arms wrapped around her middle and begging for forgiveness, until she relented. Instead he shoved his hands in his pockets. “See you tomorrow at work?”

“Nine a.m. sharp,” she said with an obviously forced cheerful tone. “Bye, Carter.”

He heard Zoe’s Camaro before he saw it. Slowly turning as Melanie walked past him, he saw the accusation in his sister’s eyes as she got out of her car. She gave Melanie a hug and then Melanie got in on the passenger side.

“What did you do?” Zoe hissed.

Carter stepped back. He’d never seen her so mad. “Shot off my mouth before my brain got in gear.”

“God, it really sucks to know that my brother is just like the rest.”

“First her and now you. I’m human, Zoe.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I screw up.”

Fisting her hands on her hips, she let out a disbelieving snort. “You did more than screw up. Melanie’s always been in lo—sweet on you. Everyone around here knows it.”

Yeah, they did. Hell he knew it, but thought it was a crush. Nothing serious, until now when his sister had almost said love. “Yeah, well everyone should know that I’m not looking for that.” And just when he thought he couldn’t be more of a jackass…he said shit like that.

“Too bad you didn’t tell Melanie,” Zoe snapped. “Stay away from my best friend, Carter, or so help me…”

“What?” He crossed his arms and tilted his head to one side, raising his brows. “You’ll write about it in your books?”

“Still trying to think of the perfect person to base the villain on.” She tipped up her chin. “Looks like you’re edging out the leading candidate.”

“Like you know anyone who’s villainous,” he said, gazing over his sister’s shoulder. Melanie sat with her head facing the passenger side window. Yeah, he was the damn villain, breaking a woman’s heart like some cold son of a bitch.

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