Someone like Jake Henley.
After texting his friend and former teammate, Carter checked in on Melanie.
How’s it going?
She texted him a picture of the pool on the fiftieth floor. Good thing it was heated, else her cute ass would be freezing right about now. He had to force himself to not ask Melanie to text him a picture of herself, wearing one of those tiny bikinis she favored.
Join me and Jake for drinks tonight?
Already have plans. Thanks anyway. Tomorrow?
“Plans,” he muttered. Who did she know in Charlotte? It didn’t matter, because he hadn’t earned the right to be nosy about her personal life. Despite his little talk with her at Poor Boy’s, she was keeping him firmly in the friend zone.
Pick you up at five. Have fun. Friend zone or not, he couldn’t stop himself from adding, Be careful and call me when you get in.
Motioning for the clerk, he indicated the necklace he wanted to see. Smiling, the woman gently removed it from the case and displayed it on black velvet. Diamond, sapphires and emeralds gleamed under the store lights. The gold chain was delicate, like the pendant.
“I’ll take it.”
“Would you like for me to gift wrap it, Mr. Ambrose?”
Melanie would probably like that. “Please.” He’d give it to her tomorrow as a thank you for putting up with him and cheering him on between meetings. She’d worn a pencil thin skirt, with a fitted suit jacket, her hair in a soft up-do as she sat at his side. Each little under-the-table pat on his knee made him feel ten feet tall and bullet proof.
He was really going to miss that when he moved.
Pouring himself a glass of Southern Comfort, he wandered around his house. April had been the one to pick out the floor plan, the neighborhood and the interior designer. It was perfect, or it had been.
April had taken her favorite pieces of furniture and all the artwork. The rest, she had said, he could sell on eBay or donate to Goodwill. He hadn’t done either, yet.
He sat down on the leather sofa in the media room, grabbing the remote. For almost forty five minutes, he watched his old races—the times he’d won and lost. And crashed.
Then he watched his last race, the one where he’d hit the wall so hard that his car had crumpled around him like an accordion.
Wincing, he clicked off the television. Yeah, he missed racing, but he did not miss the recovery time or the look on his mother’s face when he first opened his eyes in the hospital. Come to think of it, everyone he’d known had visited him, including Melanie.
Then again, Melanie had been a part of his life in some way, shape or form since he was eleven. Smiling, he leaned his head back and thought about his earliest memory of her.
He could see her clearly: Sunshine-colored hair, face full of freckles and big brown eyes. He’d been playing football on the playground and she’d asked to join in. The other boys had said no. Then she’d looked at him, batted her lashes, and he’d felt sucker-punched.
Hell, he still felt that way around her.
The doorbell rang, pulling him out of his memories. Rising from the sofa, he set his drink down on the way to answer the door.
A grin kicked up the corners of his mouth as Jake Henley walked in. “Hope you don’t mind, but I brought along an old friend and his guest.” Then Jake’s voice dropped, “Didn’t have choice. Chase beat my ass at the last stoplight. Told him where I was going, before I knew who was with him. Sorry.”
Carter shrugged. “Maybe he can contribute.” While breaking his balls.
Chase Montgomery stepped inside, shaking Carter’s hand. “Thanks for having me.”
Just as he closed the door, April breezed through. “Fancy seeing you here. Love what you’ve done with the place.”
Shit. No damn wonder Jake was sorry. “Come on in. Make yourself right at home,” Carter muttered to himself as he joined the threesome in his kitchen.
April cozied up to Chase, batting her big blue eyes at him. Nearly two years ago that same move had sent him chasing after her, pursuing April like she was the two million dollar purse at Daytona. A year ago, watching her do that would have sent him into a jealous rage. He would have shot off his mouth, then they would have had angry make-up sex.
Tonight, however, it didn’t even register. He smiled and reclaimed his drink, he took a long pull.
Despite April’s over the top flirting, Chase didn’t seem interested. Then again, Racing Royalty could have any woman he wanted around here. Hell, last year the man had dated the Princess of some European country he couldn’t remember the name of, their images splashed on every magazine and online gossip blog.
“A toast to my man, Carter, for knocking it out of the park today,” Jake said, lifting a glass. “Charlotte’s restoration car business won’t know what hit ‘em.”
Piercing grey eyes met Carter’s. “Finally made up your mind, huh? Thought you’d stay in Holland Springs.”
“Actually, that’s what I needed to talk to Jake about. Mind if we go in the other room?”
April tossed her hair. “I’ll be happy to keep Chase occupied.”
Just as Carter and Jake left the room, Carter bumped a picture with his hip. He stopped, picked up the frame and set it back in place.
“Already been occupied by you, darlin’. Or did you forget that time I showed you how to drive stick? Practiced in every car I owned until you got it right,” Chase said, his voice low, but Carter heard every word.
“You’re a bad boy, Chase Montgomery,” April cooed.
Still he felt nothing and kept walking. That’s really what had driven him and April apart, at least on her end. She wanted a bad boy twenty-four seven. Only once Carter committed to a woman, the bad boy took a backseat to the dedicated boyfriend.
Jake waited in Carter’s office, standing near the French doors that led outside.
“I’ve been thinking—”
“A dangerous pastime for you, man.” Jake grinned, his white teeth flashing the million dollar smile he was known for. He ran a hand through his hair, blue eyes gleaming with humor. “So what’s on your mind?”
Carter relayed his dilemma, then waited for Jake to mull it over.
After a few minutes, Jake said, “You should definitely open your business in Charlotte.”
“That much I already knew, but I’m not sure if it’s the best option.”
“Charlotte’s where you have the contacts, the social life and clients,” Jake pointed out.