Carter took three steps, standing toe to toe with Chase. “Leave the kid alone.”

“Not happening.” Chase kept his eyes on Beau. “He’s going to accept what’s owed him, whether he likes it or not.”

“How’s that strategy been working for you so far?” Instead of answering, Chase pivoted and headed to his truck. “Why don’t you try talking to Beau, instead of shoving what’s owed to him down his throat?” Carter asked.

Chase gave him a one-fingered salute as he opened the door. “Later, Ambrose.”

Carter shook his head, a small smile playing on his mouth. “Later.”

“By the way…”—Chase paused, halfway inside his truck—“April and I hooked up before the two of you got together. She never cheated on you, not that I know about.” Then Chase climbed inside, shutting the door and starting up his vehicle.

It really didn’t matter to Carter what April might or might not have done, but he appreciated the information. He turned, slowly walking back to the garage. Beau was sweeping the floor, his mouth flat and his brow pinched. Bright green hair stuck out everywhere. Every now and then he’d suck that god-awful lip ring into his mouth. Must run in the family, because Chase had a pierced tongue.

Whatever floated people’s boats, he guessed.

Carter dug the check out of his pocket. “Here’s your check.”

Beau stopped sweeping long enough to glance at him, grab the check and shove it in his back pocket. “Thanks.” He strode to the right side of the garage and hung the broom on a hook, zipped up his jacket and pulled the hood over his head.

“Have a good weekend.”

Beau spun around. “You’re not going to tell me I’m wrong?”

“About what?”

“Taking that ass**le’s money.”

Carter blew out a breath. “Look, kid, you have to do what’s right for you.”

“Uncle Stanley says I should take it, because without it, I’ll be stuck here my entire life.”

“It’s not so bad in Holland Springs.”

Beau snorted. “Then why are you so hell-bent on getting out?”

“I’m not.” Beau shot him a look of disbelief. “Okay, I was, but now I’m not…and I like my hometown. But I also think your uncle’s right. There are a lot of people around here that have never been anywhere.” People like Melanie who had a damn trip jar. His gut clenched. “People who would give anything for the money and the opportunity.”

Beau shook his head, his grey eyes clouded. “It’s not just the money. Remington wants me to come live with them in Forestville. I don’t want to switch schools in the middle of the year again. But I can’t live with Uncle Stanley and his family forever, you know? We had to move because he lost his job, and the one he has now pays a lot less. There are four other kids besides me and we all live in a three bedroom singlewide.” He rubbed the heel of his hand on his forehead. “I hate this. I hate him.”

“When I was little and my mom was still alive, Remington used to come around and give me all this NASCAR stuff. It’s his fault I love racing,” Beau added, as if admitting some deep dark secret.

“He bought your Sprint car?” Carter asked. Remington had made Chase buy his vehicles, had bragged all the time about making his son to start on the bottom rung in his company.

Beau shook his head. “Traded my mom’s old Firebird for it. Guy wasn’t interested in racing anymore.”

The school bus dropped Beau off every afternoon and his uncle picked him up once he got off work. Carter chuckled. “Guess not having a ride makes dating tough.”

“Not for me. Girls pick me up,” Beau said with an expression that made him look like Chase’s twin. “Sometimes I even let them pay—equal rights and all.”

“That’s a pu**y move and you know it.” Carter crossed his arms. “If you can’t afford to pay or pick them up, you need to keep your ass at home until you can.” Jesus Christ, someone needed to school this kid on how to treat women. Or girls. Whatever.

Beau rolled his eyes. “Dude, I was yanking your chain. I always pay and I borrow Uncle Stanley’s truck. My mother raised me right.”

“You need your own ride.”

“Maybe if my boss paid me a little more, I could afford one.” Carter pretended to lunge for his employee and he ducked out of the way.

Laughing, Carter said, “You’re a little shit, you know that?”

“Ladies love it.” Beau smirked, then his shoulders and that cocky grin dropped. “Carter…I can’t take his money. I just can’t.”

“Taking his money doesn’t mean you have to start going to Olan Mills for family portraits, or even family dinners after church.”

“Yeah, but living with him might.” A ghost of smile flickered on Beau’s face. “Seriously, what would you do?”

Carter looked off into the distance, allowing his eyes to focus on the parking lot that was missing her car. “I’d figured out what I wanted most in this life, and start down the path that would lead me to it.”


Carter stood outside of Melanie’s house in the pouring rain, but he didn’t give a damn. For two f**king weeks, he’d given her space. For two f**king weeks, he’d only texted her when necessary, like when he couldn’t find a file he needed. Or when he had wondered if he should get a Twitter account.

Unfortunately, communication with that stubborn ass woman had only progressed to her answering him via his sister.

At least he knew she was reading his texts. Yeah, that made it so much better.

“What the hell do you want, boy?” Louis growled as he opened the door.

Carter shielded his eyes from the porch light. “Where is she?”

Louis leaned against the doorframe. The television hummed in the background and blue flickering lights were the only illumination in the place. “Like I said the other day, Melanie’s not here.”

“I heard you the first time.” Carter swiped a hand over his face. “Look, I don’t know what Melanie told you about me and her, but—”

“Son, you’d better carry your ass, before I put my size twelve boot up it.” Louis stepped down. “Mrs. Gregory told me about that fancy car of yours being here all night long.”

“I respect your daughter, sir. And I respect your right to kick my ass, but I’m not going until I find out where she is,” Carter said, lifting his chin and bracing for the first punch.