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After giving the driver her address, he settled back into the seat. They rode in stony silence back to the hotel. Or at least she did. He spent most of the time trying to figure out the best way to get her to spend the day with him and give her the necklace he had stashed in his coat pocket.

Jesus Christ. He needed to man-up and do the direct approach.

“Come spend the day with me, out at the Speedway.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out the small box. “While we’re there, will you where this for me?”

Delicately arched brows dipped together as she unwrapped and opened the gift. Her eyes flew to his. “What’s this?”

“It’s yours.” He bit the side of his lip. “And it’s my apology, part two.”

“A girl could get used to this kind of apologizing.” Melanie glanced down, pulling on the delicate chain nestled within the box. A small hummingbird dangled from the center, diamond, emeralds and sapphires joined together to form its body. “It’s gorgeous.”

Another first for her, she’d never been given jewelry before. But she felt too silly and too embarrassed to admit it.

“Let me put it on you.” He took the necklace. She turned to the side, staring out the window as they slowly inched up the driveway to the hotel’s entrance. He brushed her hair to one side, his touch making her shiver.

The necklace dropped into place against the back of her neck and she whirled to face him. His emerald eyes looked black in the dim interior of the cab. “Thank you.” Then she leaned forward, intending on giving him a kiss on the cheek, but he turned at the last minute and their lips met.

Neither of them pulled away, so Melanie stayed right where she was, kissing him and letting her hands steal up his chest. His tongue teased her lips and she opened her mouth, taking him inside of her.

Large hands settled on her thighs, but went no further. They stay locked like that, as time seemed to slow down. She focused on him, his taste and smell. How hot and wet he got her just by nibbling on her bottom lip.

How could something that felt so right be so completely one-sided? How could she ever stop kissing him tonight? Blood pounded in her ears as she let her hand drift down, finding his rock hard length. At least her desire for him wasn’t one-sided.

She squeezed and he let out a groan, turning his head. “Stop…I can’t do this.” But he didn’t push her away, instead he gathered her in his arms and held her close. She didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by his rejection.

Then again he had said can’t, not won’t. Hardly a rejection. “We need to take things slow, not jump into a relationship like we did before.”

Take things slow? If she’d waited any longer for him, she‘d be old and gray by the time he came around to her way of thinking. Her head began to hurt. Almost as much as her heart.

The cab finally made it to the hotel’s main entrance. Reluctant to leave Carter’s embrace, she sat until he finally opened the door.

Freezing cold air shot inside, making her teeth chatter. She wished she’d worn something a little more weather appropriate.

“You looked damned sexy tonight,” he said as he helped her out.

“Thanks.” She tugged gently on her necklace. “Thank you for this, too.”

“Don’t thank me for apologizing.” He looked around, then back at her. “It would mean a lot if you would spend the day with me tomorrow.”

Letting out a shaky breathe, she smiled. “What time?”

“Around noon. I know how much you like sleeping in.” He pressed one last kiss to the top of her head. “I’ll wait until you get inside. Text me when you’re back in your room.”

“Should I text you after I brush my teeth, too?”

“And right after you say your prayers.”

Rolling her eyes, she shook her head and shifted from side to side. “Thank you again for my present.”

“Night, sweetheart,” he called out and her heart soared.

Glancing over her shoulder, she said, “Night, baby doll.” She blew him a kiss, nearly doing a jumpy clap at the heated look on his face.

Tomorrow would be interesting, to say the least.

Chapter Thirteen

After they arrived at the racetrack, Carter had introduced her to his buddies as his good friend, which made her only a little sad. Okay, so if she were being really honest, it made her a lot sad. But seeing him back in his element was a sight to behold. Not even fifteen minutes ago, he had decided to take up Jake on the offer to warm up his car. Or something like that.

All suited up, Carter strode onto the track.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She thought that by warming up his car, that they’d go to the place where he hadn’t slammed into the wall. Her knees began to shake.

“Hopefully, he’s impressing his girl,” Jake said with a laugh.

Carter flipped him off, then turned to Melanie. “Want a turn when I’m done?”

“Are you insane?” The car that waited for him cost more than she’d ever make in a freaking lifetime.

“I’m crazy all right.” He gave her a wicked smile and a wink before he put on his helmet and climbed in the driver’s seat.

“How long has it been since he’s last driven?” Fear gripped her heart, sinking its razor sharp claws deep. The last race she’d watched, he’d crashed into the wall and she almost fainted. Seeing him lying in the hospital, so pale and helpless when usually he was sun-kissed and heroic, had brought her to her knees. She’d never prayed so hard for God to not take the one she loved away, not since her momma had died.

“It’ll be okay,” Jake said, his hazel eyes dancing as if he knew a secret. “Come stand beside me and I’ll help you get through it.”

“But you have to promise to quit holding your breath,” he added.

Blushing, she exhaled and adjusted her sunglasses. Carter peeled out of his spot like the devil was after him. She whooped when he made the first lap.

“Told you he’d be okay.”

“He’s more than okay, I think.” She held up her hand, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun.

“So are you,” Jake said. She turned a little, keeping one eye on Carter. “I remember you praying for him at the hospital. Not even his ex stayed around to do that.”

“Not everyone does public exhibitions of prayer,” she said, trying to downplay what she’d done, which in the grand scheme of things was not much.

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