“Yes.” Lowering her eyes, she stared at the ground for a moment and then peered up at him through lacey, black lashes. “Zoe said you needed a temporary assistant.”

“No, absolutely not.” He couldn’t get the words out fast enough. Yes, he needed someone to organize his office, answer emails and a slew of other tasks that he didn’t have the time or inclination to attempt to do or finish. But there was just so much temptation a man could take.

“Oh come on, Carter. You’ve been here for almost three weeks and haven’t hired one person.” She held up her hand and began to tick off her fingers. “Not Kelsey Greggs, Maisey Perry, Bernice Waters or—”

“How in the—”

“Evangeline told Zoe, who then told me,” she said, gathering their trash and placing it in the bag she’d brought. “Where did you move the recycling bins?”

“Over by the door.” He watched her cute ass shake as she walked over to the bins. He hadn’t hired any of those women, because they had been looking for a man. And by man he meant a groom. Bernice had even brought a bridal magazine with her to the interview. “Did Zoe also tell you not to repeat what you heard to anyone?”

“I didn’t repeat it.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, he said, “You just told me, honey.”

“You don’t count, baby doll.” Glancing over her shoulder, she gave him a look that made his c**k start to harden. “What are your office hours?”

Still stunned by that heated look, he blurted, “Nine to five. Except on Fridays.”

“Great! See you tomorrow.” With a backwards wave, she left his garage.

What the hell had just happened? Oh right, he’d just hired Melanie to be his new assistant. Glancing at the clock, he uncrossed his arms and ambled over to the fridge. Opening it, he grabbed the first bottle and twisted off the cap.

“It’s five o’clock somewhere,” he muttered, then toasted the framed print of The Intimidator. “Cheers, Dale.”

Chapter Two

“He hired you? Just like that?” Zoe Ambrose asked with a snap of her fingers. Astonishment shone in her dark green eyes.

Pleased with herself, Melanie nodded. “Just like that.”

A grin curved the corners of her best friend’s mouth. “Good for you.” Zoe’s grin fell. “Carter wasn’t mad at me for telling you, was he?”

“Nope,” Melanie lied. Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie. Carter hadn’t looked mad. He’d looked like he normally did when she talked to him— sexy as hell. Lately, that look had turned into sexy as hell and oh-crap-she’s-here-again. And for a woman who’d been in love with him for as long she could remember, it stung. “Anyway, I report for duty at nine o’clock sharp.”

“Then you’d better be there at 8:45,” Zoe said, snagging a breadstick and tearing it in half. “He’s a stickler for punctuality.”

“You sure you’re related to him?”

Giggling, Zoe said, “Fairly certain. Anyway, will it interfere with taking care of Mr. Henry’s dog and house?”

Shaking her head, Melanie dipped her own breadstick into marinara sauce. “I’ll let Cody out at seven, then check the plants, tidy up the kitchen and be back home in time to get a shower and be at Carter’s by 8:50 at the latest.”

“It’s so sweet of you to help Mr. Henry out like you do,” Zoe said. “Cody is a menace to society.”

Cody was a yippy, two-pound Chihuahua that thought himself to be a one hundred and fifty pound attack dog. “You mean it’s so sweet to let eighty-five year old Mr. Henry ogle my butt for twenty bucks a day?” Melanie asked, innocently batting her lashes.

“Well, when you put it that way…”

Melanie snorted. “I swear, you should hear the beeps of his heart monitor when I walk in. One day, I’m going to forget to not bend at the waist to pick up Cody and the man’s gonna keel over from a heart attack.”

“At least he’ll die with a smile on his face.” Zoe pulled out her phone, then looked at the screen and sighed. “Another rejection. Maybe I should give up this writing thing?”

“I’m sorry, Z. One day you will get a yes.” Melanie pushed Zoe’s wine glass closer. “But in the meantime, have another drink.”

After taking another sip, her best friend eyed her. “Is that what you hope will happen with Carter?”


Zoe’s face fell. “But I thought—”

Melanie snorted, then wriggled her eyebrows. “I want more than one yes from him. In fact I want a lot of yeses followed by oh God and more.” Really, who wouldn’t want six foot two and two hundred pounds worth of a man on top of them? Who wouldn’t want to run their fingers through dark brown hair and stare into sexy emerald-colored eyes? A man with a gorgeous face and a hot body that filled out jeans as well as he did boxer briefs in major ad campaigns.

“Despite being majorly squicked out at the thought of my brother saying those words to anyone, I totally support your efforts.”

“You’ve always supported my efforts.” Melanie laughed, brushing a loose chunk of hair over her ear. “It’s why we get along so well.”

“When we were little, it was the only time I got in trouble,” Zoe reminded her, tucking her phone back into her purse.

“Yeah, yeah. Melanie Ann Smith, Troublemaker Extraordinaire. That’s me,” she grumbled. “I’m surprised your momma ever let us be friends in the first place.”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “She’d hoped I would be a good influence on you.”

“Bless your momma’s heart,” Melanie sighed dramatically, placing her hand on her chest. “Her hopes have been dashed to pieces by now.”

The owner of Jack’s Fine Italian Dining, Jack Macpherson, strode to their table, smiling at Zoe, then giving Melanie a pointed look. “Smoke break’s .”

Melanie pushed up from the table and grabbed her tray. “Yes sir!” She gave him a salute.

The sound of dishes breaking in the restaurant kitchen captured her boss’s attention. “What the—”He stomped to the kitchen, yelling at everyone in his path. Good thing it was a very slow Monday night. Three out of twenty tables were filled.

She frowned. That wasn’t good at all. Tips would be scarce and she always managed to give back the tip Zoe left for her. It didn’t feel right taking money from her best friend, even if Melanie had earned it.

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