Zoe snorted, the familiar sound chasing away her blues. “Well, as my momma says, the Hollands are an institution, and should be respected.”

“Your momma and her sayings.” Amazing how Leah Ambrose would defend a whole family of women who supposedly preyed on men—married to another or not. “Bet she’d never say that about me. I’m not “from” here.”

“As long as you stay away from her boys, you should be fine,” Zoe said, then Melanie heard her friend smack herself. “I didn’t mean that. Oh, God, I am so sorry.”

“It is what it is,” Melanie said as she looked around Carter’s office. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. The entire room needed to be cleaned from top to bottom. “Look, I need to go. Work and all. Talk to you later?”

“I could bring you lunch?”

“You’re a doll, but I brought it with me.” She’d be bringing all of her lunches from now on. After saying goodbye, Melanie hung up the phone and laid her head in her hands.

Maybe she’d celebrated victory too soon. Carter had all but run away from her. At the time she could have sworn it was because he had realized what he’d said and what he’d almost done, but now it most likely because he wanted to get back together with April Billingsworth, daughter of the current governor.

Really, who would chose trailer park over gated community? Rising from the chair, she moved to the radio by the window and cut it on, tuning it to her favorite country station. Pistol Annie’s ‘Bad Example’ filled the room.

Yep, that was her.

Sighing, she moved to the filing cabinet and opened the top drawer.

Chapter Four

“Shouldn’t you be at work or something,” Heath said as he tossed him a beer and a game controller.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” Carter shot back, then pressed the START button. Call of Duty III flashed on the screen.

“If I were in class, then you wouldn’t be able to hide out in my apartment.” Heath killed his player before he had time to blink.

“I’m not hiding.”

Heath snorted, his dark blue eyes rolling. “Yeah, right. You’ve been home for almost a month and this is the first damn time you’ve stepped foot in my apartment.”

Another kill and Carter threw his controller down in disgust.

“Hey, the game’s not over, chicken shit.”

“You kiss your momma with that mouth?” Carter shot back. He had no idea why he’d chosen to hang out with his eighteen year old brother of all people.

“Hell no. I stopped kissing her when I was fourteen and in love with Rose Holland.” Leaning back in his chair, Heath smirked. “Got over that when Isabella Edwards kissed me two months later. Then there was—”

Carter held up a hand. “Don’t need a f**king list of all the girl’s you kissed, but please text me when you finally become a man.”

Heath flipped him off, then his face grew serious. “Can I ask you something?”

Now this was interesting. His baby brother was never serious, only concerned about having a good time, women and playing baseball. “Shoot.”

“You ever done something that you regretted?”

Taking a pull of his beer, Carter nodded. “Yep. Matter of fact, I did something really stupid today, but—”

“I don’t mean with your cars; I mean with another person. Something so big that you and she, er- that person had to keep it a secret.” Heath didn’t take his eyes off the screen. “And now you wish you could have a do-over, only the other person involved won’t give you the f**king time of day.”

Carter set his beer down on a coffee table made of plywood and cinderblocks. “Are you in trouble, Heath?”

“No, but I’d like to make things better with the person I hurt.”

“That’s good start.” Ah, hell this was hard. He had no clue what his little brother had done, but he was almost a hundred percent sure that it had something to do with the preacher’s daughter, Isabella Edwards.

“That’s the problem. She won’t answer my texts or my calls. And she’s going to school clear across the country, so it’s not like I can just hop on a plane and show up on her doorstep,” Heath grumbled, then paused his game to grab a handful of chips.

His brother had all but confirmed it involved Isabella. Damn. “Look, if you need to talk about something, anything, I’m here for you.”

Just as his brother was about to answer, two of Heath’s roommates burst through the door and the moment was lost. No way in hell they could talk now.

Heath flashed him a grin. One that didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Nah…I’m good.”

“You need me…call me, text me—whatever works for you,” Carter said before he left. His little brother had it right though: Sometimes, you needed a do-over in life. All he had to do now was make sure that Melanie would accept his apology.

Should be as easy as nailing Jell-o to a wall.


Now this was familiar, Carter thought as his ex-fiancé smiled at him. This was something he could handle. There wouldn’t be any half-confessions or outfits meant to tease a man to the point of leaving his own damn garage.

He frowned.

His date cleared her throat and he forced a smile back on his face. April’s had never left, perfectly white and full like a toothpaste commercial. Her hair was perfectly made up, just like the rest of her. No extraneous emotions, no outbursts…at least not in front of her daddy’s constituents.

This was a woman in control of her wardrobe, her life and her career. In bed. Unfortunately, that hadn’t translated into I’m-in-control-of-my-man and you’d better make each orgasm better than the last one. Too bad, because he wouldn’t have been opposed to that in the least.

No, every move was calculated. Every sigh and moan. Eventually, great sex had become stale for him, because it felt like she was checking off a list. As in football season has started, guess it’s time to break out the cheerleading outfit that’s three sizes too small.

Even their breakup had been polite. A perfectly orchestrated scene in one of Charlotte’s finest restaurants. She’d cried and told him how sorry she was for wasting his time, but she wasn’t ready to settle down. Or any kind of commitment. Amazingly enough he’d been okay with that, not that he hadn’t loved April. He had, but it was a toxic kind of love.

There had also been the little digs she’d like to get in, the flirtations she liked to start with other men to make him jealous and the angry sex…lots of angry make-up sex, too. Damn near exhausting.

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