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“Jesus Christ that’s a sweet sight.” All at once, he pivoted and her back hit the brick wall of the restaurant. He sealed his mouth over hers and cupped her br**sts. For long, sweet moments, there was nothing but his mouth on hers. Nothing but tasting and pleasure. Nothing but Carter.

Then his head dipped, lips wrapping around a taut nipple. She cried out when he began to suck, deep pulls followed by slow swirls of his tongue. “You taste so damn good.”He sandwiched a thigh between her legs, pressing against where she throbbed the most. “There you go…grind down on me.”

Shamelessly, she rolled her hips and rode him. Moan after moan sang out. At this moment she didn’t care who heard her.

From a distance she heard the squeaky hinges of the back door of the restaurant open. “That’s it—you’re fired.”

Carter jerked away from her and she opened her eyes. “Oh my God.” Her body ran cold, then hot with embarrassment. They’d been like two alley cats, in heat and going at it.

Light from the interior of the restaurant shone on him. His cheeks were flushed and he was breathing hard, but desire no longer flared his gorgeous eyes.

His gaze moved lower. “Fix your clothes before someone sees.”

Trying not to flinch at his harsh tone, she refastened her bra and smoothed down her shirt. “Someone already saw.” Us, she wanted to add, because she knew that was what he had meant to say.

His jaw worked. “I’ll make sure Jack keeps his mouth shut.”

Fisting her hands on her hips, she lifted her chin. “Worried about your reputation?”

“You’ve said and done some dumb things, Melanie,” he said with a shake of his head, “But that blows them all out of the water.”

If it had been anyone but him calling her dumb, she would have rolled her eyes and laughed it off. But this was Carter, the man who never said anything he didn’t mean. “That’s me: the town dummy,” she said, tears gathering in her throat.

“You’re twisting my words.”

“Whatever.” Pulling his coat from around her shoulder, she threw it at him and started for the door. “You always mean what you say.” Her purse and fleece pullover were inside, under the utensil station. Maybe she could get in and out of there before anyone saw her.

He grabbed her arm, but she shook it off. “Don’t touch me again. You know I have a good left hook and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Carter let go. Actually, her left hook was great and he’d been the one to teach her how to make a fist properly. The rest came naturally. But none of that mattered, because he’d hurt her. “Would you stop and listen to me?”

She tossed her ponytail and crossed her arms. “Why—so you can tell me how smart I am?”

“No.” A little gasp left her mouth and she spun on her heel. Son of a bitch. Way to go, Carter. He strode after her. “Let me finish.”

Ignoring him, she kept walking and he kept following.

“Melanie Ann Smith, with God as my witness, if you don’t quit acting like a child, I’ll turn you over my knee and spank your ass.” That got her attention. He smiled in grim satisfaction as she froze in place. Unfortunately, it also got the entire kitchen staff’s attention.

All conversation stopped. Eight pairs of eyes stared at the two of them. Only the radio blared and pots of noodles bubbled in the background.

“I have to get my things,” Melanie said, her voice hoarse. She knelt in the floor and pulled out her purse and pullover. “We can talk tomorrow morning, unless you’re firing me, too.”

He scrubbed his hand over his face. Her job. It was all his fault. “Tomorrow’s fine. Don’t be late.”

“I’m always on time,” he heard her say before she marched out the way she’d come in, face scarlet and head held high.

What was wrong with him? First he’d all but screwed Melanie in the parking lot, up against a building for Christ’s sake. Then he’d humiliated the hell out of her when they’d gotten caught. He had to fix this for her. It was the least he could do before he apologized.

Carter nodded at Jack, who’d just walked in. “We need to talk.”

“She’d already been warned about taking too long of a break,” Jack said, wiping his hands on the apron around his hips.

“This is was my fault, not hers,” Carter insisted, hoping to get the man to listen to reason. He’d known Jack since first grade. They’d played high school football together and sneaked six-packs of beer on the activity bus after games.

Jack grunted. “Maybe so. But I’ve got a business to run.”

“I know you do and I respect that, but she needs this job.” Carter shook out his coat, then put it on.

“Then you hire her.”

“I did.”

A slow smile kicked up the corners of Jack’s mouth. “Problem solved.” He turned his attention to the cooks. “Get back to work. I’m not paying you to stand around.”

“Thanks for your help, Jack,” Carter called over his shoulder.

“Consider it payback. I lost ten grand on you last year.” Jack grabbed a plate, inspecting it before sending it out. “Now that you’re a has-been, I can recoup my money on your teammate, Jake.”

Has-been? He was twenty-seven years old and could beat anyone in a race, blindfolded. Done it once too. Although it hadn’t turned out so well on the victory lap.

Carter started to tell Jack to go f**k himself, then shook his head and strode outside. People like Jack were exactly why Carter should open his business in Charlotte. Small towns bred small minds.

***

Forty-five minutes later, Carter found himself crossing the Johnston county line. To his right he spied a sign advertizing a Sprint Car Race and it just so happened to be tonight.

He glanced at the clock on the dash and grinned. It was almost seven, plenty of time to catch the last few races. Downshifting, he headed to his old stomping grounds.

Turning down a dark, bumpy road, he headed to the brightly lit track where he’d gotten his start. A man with a light baton pointed to a semi-full row of vehicles. Carter found the closest empty space and parked, his heart pumping with adrenaline.

The roar of Sprint Car engines had him pick up his pace, until he jogged to the entrance. He paid admission, bought a beer and ambled over to the stands. He climbed up to the back of the bleachers, where he wouldn’t have to wear protective eye-gear or ear plugs. Men and women covered in a sheen of dirt nodded at him, some widening their eyes and whispering.

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