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“You’d be surprised who I met out in California,” she said.

His gaze sliced to hers. Zoe had been different since she’d moved back home. “Something I need to take care of?”

“Nothing to it.” Zoe was lying, but if she wasn’t going to tell him, then there was nothing he could do. “See you later, Carter.”

“I promise to never hurt her again, Zoe.” Even if it meant staying away from Melanie, which he realized wasn’t something he wanted to do. He had to make things right.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, big brother,” Zoe said softly, then she walked back to her car and got in.

He held up his hand in good-bye, but Melanie still refused to look his way. Not that he could blame her. But he could make it up to her.

Starting tomorrow.

***

Melanie found her dad sitting in his usual spot, like he’d never been gone. Unfortunately, he was on his fifth beer and cursing at the television. A sure sign that he’d lost all twelve grand and then some. “Where have you been?”

“With Zoe,” she lied, jogging to her bedroom. Okay so it wasn’t exactly a lie. Technically she’d spent the past hour with her best friend, until Zoe had convinced her to come spend the night. They’d planned on going to Poor Boy’s tonight to dance their cares away.

“Mrs. Gregory said there was a car parked here all night.”

Searching her closet, she found the perfect quasi-breakup revenge dress to wear out tonight. “Mrs. Gregory also said there were little green men line dancing on Ms.White’s roof last month.”

Louis chuckled as she walked to into the living room. She bent down to kiss his scruffy cheek. “Don’t wait up for me. I’m staying at Zoe’s place.”

“I plan on going out of town for about a week, sugar. Got another job lined up in Wilkesboro,” he said as she straightened. If she didn’t stay as far away from anything that remotely resembled gambling, she would have bet the bank that he was headed up to Cherokee.

Biting back a sigh, she clutched her bag tighter. “That’s good, Daddy. Be careful.”

“Don’t you worry none.” He nodded, his eyes never leaving the television screen. “I’ve got a feeling that our luck’s about to change. Raylene will see that I’m the man for her.”

Yeah and some things never changed, she thought as she headed out the door and got in her best friend’s car.

An hour later, Melanie was downing another shot of Jose Cuervo. She slammed the shot glass down on the bar and headed for the dance floor. A live band had begun to play their version of Big and Rich’s Party Like Cowboyz.

She linked arms with Zoe, pulling her along. They shuffled, kicked up their heels and stomped to the beat, shouting the lyrics.

“Nothing like shaking your booty to chase away a man,” Melanie yelled over the music.

Zoe grinned. “Or have them panting for your attention.” She nodded at two men making their way over to them. “I’ll be your wingwoman.”

“Wouldn’t want anyone else by my side.”

Face turning pale, Zoe’s eyes grew wide. She grabbed Melanie’s arm. “Carter’s here and he looks pissed as hell.”

Melanie whirled around, smiling at the guys, and then frowning at the jerk glaring at her.

The song changed, bass hitting hard as she was surrounded by tall, hot and male. Sandwiched between them, she tossed her hair and slowly rolled her hips.

“Been staring at you all night, babe,” the one behind her said, his hands settling on her waist.

“Have you now?” She leaned back, then looked up at the one in front of her. “What about you, cutie?”

He shrugged. “Had to flip a coin on who got to dance with you first.”

“But you’re both dancing with me.”

“We play well together…on the dance floor and the bedroom.”

Melanie blinked. That was kinda hot, but not her thing. Just as she opened her mouth to turn them down, Zoe grabbed her arm. “Carter’s heading this way.”

“Your brother can kiss my—”

“Excuse me, gentleman, but I need to have a talk with my girl.”

“I am not your girl,” Melanie snapped and began to drag her dance partners away, but the two hotties were more interested who’d just walked up.

“Holy shit, bro. You’re Carter Ambrose.”

“Damn shame you’re not racing anymore,” the guy behind her said, his hands leaving her waist.

Melanie rolled her eyes.

“Nothing’s a hundred percent,” Carter said, shaking their hands. “But I can tell you this: Jake Henley is one to watch.”

“I’m Royce and he’s Van.” Of course they were, Melanie thought. Only she could attract two guys named after automobiles. “It would be our honor to buy you a couple rounds of beer”

Carter grinned, confident yet humble. “I’m going to take you gentlemen up on your honor and enjoy every last drop.” He leaned into Melanie, whispering in her ear. “Be back later, baby, then you can tell me exactly what I can kiss.”

“I’m not waiting around for you.” She crossed her arms, ignoring how happy her body got with him around. Two plus one didn’t turn her on as much as Carter Ambrose.

Stupid happy body.

“Yes, you will.” He sauntered off and she stared after him, knowing he was right. Knowing she was allowing him to dictate what she would and wouldn’t be doing, but only because she wanted to tell him off again. Or at least that’s what she told herself as she found the table she and Zoe had claimed when the first arrived.

Anticipation grew to epic proportions as Melanie waited for him. She drummed her fingers on the table and tapped her foot on the floor. She sneaked a peek at Carter and found him staring at her, then he set down his beer and strode toward her.

The band took a break and the bar’s jukebox kicked on. The Civil War’s Dance Me Until the End of Love began to play.

As he neared, her heart sped up so fast that she was sure it was about to run out of her chest. It knew what her brain refused to believe. She wanted to dance with him.

Wordlessly, he took her hand and led her on the dance floor, wrapping her arms around his neck. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, she lay her head on his chest. They moved slowly, bodies turning and swaying with the beat.

His hand coasted down her arm, sending shockwaves throughout her nerves, as it traveled and found a home on the small of her back. The heat of his palm was like a brand on her skin. Holding her away from him, he spun her around and pulled her back again.

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