“Wait a minute.” She turned to face him. “You told me my half was three.”

“Yeah, well, I’m still your dad.” He walked inside her room and picked up the lid, then set it back on the jar. “Knew you’ve been trying to save up and all.”

All the self-righteous anger she’d let build up fled her body. She hugged her dad tight. “Thank you.”

He kissed the top of her head affectionately. “No need to thank me.” Then he stepped back and took her money, shoving it in his pants pocket. “Why don’t you keep that in a bank?”

“I do.” She smiled and untied her apron. “I just like to make big deposits with lots of singles and fives. Makes all those stuffy ladies’ eyes get real big.”

“I bet.”

“Especially when I tell them that, despite the down economy, lap dances are still high in demand. In fact it’s my patriotic duty to go down to Jacksonville and make those poor Marines feel better,” she teased.

Louis groaned. “That’s not how I want people to think of my daughter.”

“But I thought that’s how you met momma,” Melanie reminded him.

“She was a cocktail waitress. Big difference in skill set and clothing choices.”

“I don’t do that, you know.”

“Greatly relieved to hear it.”

“But I did get a job as Carter Ambrose’s assistant.”

Her dad raised his brows. “You sure that’s a wise thing? I know you’ve always been sweet on him, but—”

“But nothing.” Melanie lifted her chin. “Aren’t you ready for me to move out?”

“Not really.”


He chuckled. “Yes, I want you to move out and find a nice guy who’ll treat you right. Not like your last two boyfriends.”

She tossed her apron on her bed. “Don’t remind me of those disasters.” However, those two disasters were a positive reminder that she hadn’t sat around mooning over Carter Ambrose. She’d gone on with her life, especially after he’d gotten engaged, and had fun. Now the timing was perfect. Neither of them were in a relationship (that she knew about anyway). It was up to her to make the most of it, maybe even make him fall in love with her.

“Never been so happy in my life when you broke things off with Trent. Heard he’s in prison now, for grand theft auto and assaulting an officer.” Louis rapped his knuckled again the door. “Guess I’ll turn in, sugar. I’m repairing the front and back porches at Rayl”—Melanie narrowed her eyes at him.—“Mrs. Alfred’s house tomorrow.”

There was nothing she could do to stop Louis. He was a grown man. So she had two choices: Stay mad at him. Or love him no matter what. “Night, daddy. Don’t stay too late tomorrow. I’m cooking supper.”

“No, tomorrow’s my turn. See you in the morning.” Louis walked out of her room, shutting the door softly behind him.

With a sigh, she moved to her dresser and began to undress. She needed a shower, else her bed would smell like Jack’s Fine Italian Dining. Plus she needed to look her best tomorrow.

Carter had to stop viewing her as a kid. She rolled her eyes as she thought about his you’re not much older comment.

She might be three years younger than him, but she knew men. Knew what they liked and didn’t like. And she’d known Carter since she was eight, and for dang sure, she knew what he liked: boobs and butts. Both of which she had. Okay so she might have more butt than boobs, but none of her ex-boyfriends had complained.

It was time to bring out the big guns.

Searching through her top drawer, she pulled out the laciest push-up bra she owned and smiled.

Chapter Three

Carter frowned as Melanie walked into his office. It was either that or let his jaw drop to the floor. She was dressed in the sexiest do-me-I’m-the-naughty-secretary outfit he’d ever seen. She had always dressed in themes to match wherever she was going. Hell, it had been something he thought was kind of cute. Until today.

“Morning, Sunshine,” she said with a big smile. She tapped a black pen against the top of her clipboard, drawing his eyes to the deep vee of her shirt.

He blinked. Her br**sts were about to spill out of it.

God help him.

Her smile wobbled a little, then she pressed her shoulders back and said, “Need some coffee to start off your day? If you show me where the coffee pot—Oh, there it is.” She sashayed over to the coffee maker on the file cabinet, black stiletto heels clicking on the floor.

Jesus. His weakness. There was something about a woman wearing heels so high that it pushed out her ass and br**sts. So high that it made a woman look delicate and needy. Ready for a man to catch and do very dirty things to her.

She kicked up one foot as she reached for the mugs hanging on hooks above her. The black, narrow skirt she wore rode up her thighs.

“Stockings and garters? Ah, f**k me,” he muttered to himself and bit his knuckle, willing his very inconvenient erection away while she chatted on, mercifully oblivious. Damn, but he was a sick son of a bitch. He shouldn’t be lusting after anyone who worked for him, least of all Melanie.

Shooting to his feet, he grabbed his coat and held it in front of him. “I have to go. Errands to run.”

Melanie turned to face him, a little frown on her pouty lips. Lips so pouty that he wanted to bite the bottom and—

“But that’s what an assistant is for.”

“Not wearing that get-up you’re not.” No way in hell he’d send her to Frank’s. Not because the boys over there would do anything to her, but because they were boys and didn’t know how to talk to a woman. And he didn’t relish the notion of having to beat anyone’s ass for being disrespectful. Old fashioned—maybe, but he didn’t give a shit.

“You don’t like, I mean, it’s not appropriate for what I’ll be doing for you?” she asked, slowly smoothing her blouse down and then her skirt. “I could go home real quick and change.”

He wanted to groan at the images that formed in his head. Her outfit was very, very appropriate for what he wanted her to be doing for him. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his mind of her straddling his lap, her skirt at her waist and his c**k buried balls deep inside her wet heat, while he sat in his office chair with his face in her br**sts.

Son of a bitch. He had to think of something else. Grasping at straws, he asked, “Do you really need this job?”

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