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Carter looked out through the French doors at his backyard. Pool lights gleamed under the water while steam rose from the top. “Definitely don’t have that in Holland Springs.” Unless he counted spending time with Melanie as his social life. He really should have invited her over to swim in his pool. Then he would have been able to watch her splash around, her br**sts bobbing as she floated on her back.

He gave himself a mental shake and turned to face Jake, only to spy April standing in the doorway, looking like a cat that had caught the canary.

“Need something?” he said. How much had she heard?

“Looking for the ladies room.”

“What are you doing here? I thought you couldn’t be torn away from my mother.”

“Had an appointment with my hair dresser.” She let out a little huff. “Bathroom?”

Shaking his drink, he listened to the ice rattling around. “You picked out the house, April. I’m pretty sure you know where everything is located.”

“That I do.” Blowing him a kiss, she sauntered away.

“Damn good day when the two of you broke up,” Jake said from behind him. “Anyway, how about going into business with me? I know my way around cars and finances.”

“Don’t I know it, Mr. MBA,” Carter said, bumping his fist against Jake’s. “I’ll give it some serious consideration, but in the meantime, let’s get rid of my guests and get the hell out of here.”

Chapter Twelve

The minute he stepped foot into King’s, Carter knew Melanie was here. A cute waitress, wearing all black, led him and Jake to the club’s VIP section on the second floor. From up here he could survey the entire dance floor, but the flashing lights and columns made it difficult for those on the lower level to see him.

A flash of sunshine-colored hair caught his eye and he found his girl in the center of the dance floor, shaking her cute ass with her arms in the air. Dressed in a flirty skirt and hot pink halter top, she had the attention of every man in the place. A slow grin kicked up the corners of his mouth as she wagged a finger at the guy who’d come up behind her and scooted away.

Jake joined him at the railing.“Is that—”

“Yep.”

“Damn. She’s really filled out since last I saw her.”

“She looks the same and you keep your damn eyes to yourself,” Carter growled.

Melanie pulled a laughing woman out on the floor and the two began to dance.

Jake laughed. “How’s your sister, Zoe?”

“In a relationship.”

“Dude, I’m just yanking your chain.” His buddy ambled over to the long silver sofa and sat down, spreading his arms along the back. “Mind if I invite some ladies to join us?”

That’s exactly what he needed. Or so he thought.

Jake ticked up his chin and two women, dressed to kill, sauntered over. One joined him at the balcony. She opened plump lips and he held up his hand.

“Hi, I’m Carter and I’m seeing someone.”

A little smile played on the woman’s lips as a cocktail waitress handed each of them a beer. “Hi, Carter. I’m Kelly and why aren’t you with her?”

He tilted the beer down toward the dance floor. “I am, only I really messed things up. So here I am, up here and relegated to the friend zone while I watch over Melanie.”

“You’re stalking her?” Kelly’s brow furrowed as she brushed back a long strand of blond hair.“FYI: I’m a self-defense instructor and I’ll totally kick your ass if you so much as try to go all—”

“No, nothing like that. I’ve been protective of her since we were kids. Kind of a habit now.” One he liked and had missed while he dated April. He took a long pull from the bottle. “Initially, I asked her to text me when she got back to her hotel room. Wasn’t planning on see her at all tonight. My buddy, Jake, picked out this place and she just happened to be here.”

Kelly didn’t look completely convinced but held up her drink. “Here’s to getting her back.”

Here’s to him not f**king things up again. He finished the last of his beer and joined Jake on the sofa, shrugging out of his coat. He kept one eye on Melanie while he and his buddy discussed strategy for Jake’s next race.

A little after midnight, Melanie waved good-bye to the group of friends she had apparently made and began to push her way through the throng of people. He jumped up, intent on catching her before she left.

“Where’s the fire?” Jake called out, his arms around the very lovely Kelly and her friend, Sharon.

Carter headed for the stairs. “Need to make sure she gets to the hotel safe.”

“Bring her with you tomorrow.” Jake threw Carter’s jacket at him. “I could use some inspiration.”

Catching his jacket, he flashed his buddy a grin. “Planned on it, but you can find inspiration elsewhere.”

“Holler at you later.”

Taking the stairs two at a time, Carter snagged Melanie’s arm just as she walked outside. A sharp elbow came flying back just as her foot stomped down on his toes. “Arrg!” He stumbled, nearly toppling her over.

“Carter,” she gasped, her brown eyes round. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were some random guy trying to cop a feel.”

Of her elbow? “Nope, just me.” He blinked, trying not to wince at the pain as he rubbed his stomach. “Wanted to give you a ride back to the hotel.”

“That’s nice of you, but I already texted a cab.”

“Good, we’ll share it.”

She let out a thick sigh. “Carter you don’t have to end your date just to take care of me.”

Raising his brows, he tilted his head to one side. So, she had seen him and maybe, just maybe she’d been dancing out there for his benefit. “I’m not on a date. Don’t get me wrong-I enjoy Jake’s company, but he’s just not into me.”

“So your love is unrequited, bless your heart.” Her lips twitched, then thinned. “Hopefully one of those girls you had up there can make it all better.”

“Rather be with you, making sure you get home okay.” The hopeful expression that had appeared on her face disappeared faster than the smoke on the water. He wanted to smack himself.

“I don’t need your misplaced sense of watching out for your sister’s best friend. I’m fine on my own.”

“Humor me anyway.”

The cab pulled up to the curb and Melanie moved toward it. Carter beat her to the door, opening it for her and sliding in once she was settled.

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