“You look sexy as hell in that dress, Melanie.”

“Thank you.” She wouldn’t let his compliment sway her. “Too bad you lost your chance to go home with me.”

“Too bad for you, too.” Carter’s head dipped to hers, his mouth dangerously close. “Don’t go home with anyone but my sister.”

“Or what? You’ll cause a scene, maybe kick some good ol’ boy’s butt, just to show that redneck in you hasn’t been completely driven out?”

“All that and more.” His green eyes bore into hers. “I’m feeling mighty proprietary towards you, Miss Smith.”

“Big words suppose to impress me? In case you forgot, I’m a beauty school drop-out,” she said, but her heart wasn’t in it. In fact her heart thrilled at the thought of him feeling so possessive of her.

A soft smile pushed up the corners of his sexy mouth. He brushed an invisible strand of hair away from her face. “You just haven’t found the career that interests you enough, but when you do—watch out Holland Springs. Hell, watch out world.”

“You really think all that about me?” It was true she flitted from job to job, trying to discover exactly what she wanted to do, or be. So far, the only thing that interested her cost too much to invest in, and her camera, the one she’d inherited from her momma, had stopped working two years ago.

“I do.” He searched her face. “I think you’re gorgeous, sexy, smart—” She rolled her eyes. –“smart and thoughtful. Too good for a dumbass jerk like me.”

Tears gathered in her throat. “Stop teasing me.”

“I’m dead serious. Sometimes, my mouth shifts to fifth while my brain stalls in first, and it’s your job to call me out on it.”

The things he said to her. She sighed. “I’ll think on it.”

The song ended, but they kept moving. Carter seemed no more inclined to leave her than she did him. Out of the corner of her eye, the band walked back onto the stage.

“Song’s over.” Lifting her chin, he gazed down at her. Closing her eyes, she waited for the inevitable. For him to kiss her, for her to forgive him and for them to end up hot and sweaty, and tangled up in each other in his bed.

“Carter,” she breathed.

“Thank you for the dance, Melanie,” he said and her eyes popped open. “I’ll be at the bar until you leave with Zoe.”

She gasped. “Of all the high-handed—“

“Still your choice.” He touched her cheek, then walked away, leaving her wanting more.

Zoe sidled up to her. “Carter’s not leaving until we do, is he?”


Carter sat down on an empty bar stool and lifted his glass in salute.

“And you’re okay with that?”

Unable to lie to herself or her best friend, Melanie sighed. “Yep.” Then she grinned at Zoe. “Doesn’t mean I’m leaving anytime soon. Let’s dance.”

Chapter Eleven

After staying until closing time and watching Carter watch her, Melanie made it to work five minutes before nine.

Of course he was already there. The damn man rose with the sun. She didn’t know how he did it, because being a non-morning person meant that ten o’clock felt like five a.m..

“Morning,” she said, come to a halt in the doorway of his office. She blinked. There were roses everywhere. Pink, purple, white and blush. “What’s all this?”

Carter ambled to her, one hand in his pocket and biting the side of his lip. “Part of my apology. I know it’s pretty standard, but—”

“It’s not standard with me.” She walked inside, brushing past him and lifting the closest vase. “These smell so good.”

“You like?” He stood behind her, so close that she could feel the heat his body threw off. In that moment all she wanted to do was touch and kiss him. His hands crept around her waist, pulling her back against his front. “Forgive me?”

“It’s a step in the right direction.”

“It’s nine o’clock.” His hands fell away. “Time for work.”

Eyes opening, she set down the vase and whirled to face him. “Thank you for the roses.”

He grinned. “Welcome.”

“Aren’t you exhausted?” she asked, her voice cracking on a yawn.

“I’m used to going all night.”

Oh dear God. There was so much promise in his words that she was ready to call it quitting time and drag him upstairs. “Can you get that for me?” she asked, pointing to a box on a top shelf on the far wall. “I need to go through those files.”

“Sure thing, Miss Smith,” he said, coming up behind her. His large, lean body pressed against her as he grabbed the box. He set the box right in front of her, his arms around her but not touching. “This good for you?”

Was it good for her? She wanted to whimper at the ache he’d started between her thighs. “Y-yes,” she said, scooting away from him. She could hear him walking behind him and her heart sped up. Thankfully, just as she put the box down on the table by the file cabinet, her phone rang.

“Feel free to answer that. I don’t have a no cell phone policy,” he said from behind her. “Besides it could be your dad.”

“Hope not, because my dad only calls me for two reasons: He’s in jail, or he needs me to come pick him up from Poor Boys.” She answered on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Ms. Smith?”

This couldn’t be good. No phone call that started with a Ms. Anything was ever good. “Yes?”

“This is Jane Ellen, calling from Holland Springs Bank. You had two debits that overdrew your account. Since this is the first time a situation like this has ever occurred during your time with us, we paid the bills anyway.”

Her brow furrowed. Needing privacy, she mouthed, “Be right back” at Carter and headed out the door. “That was really nice of you, but I don’t understand why my account would be overdrawn. I have almost forty-five hundred dollars in there.” And the only two bills she had were car insurance and cell phone, which totaled no where near that amount.

“As of two p.m. you had a balance of twenty five dollars. That is, until the debits hit. “

“I don’t understand. I haven’t taken out any money.” A feeling of dread washed over her. She closed her eyes and leaned against her car, bracing for the bad news.

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