Copyright © 2015 by Nancy Corrigan All Rights Are Reserved.
Wyn tapped out a rhythm on the hood of his ’57 Chevy truck. The noise drowned out his brother Kyle as he talked and talked and talked some more. Wyn had listened until the word “wedding” came up. It had killed his attention span, not that he had much of one. Probably why he was the only Sander who hadn’t gone to college. Hell, he’d barely made it through high school.
“If you don’t want the job, I’ll ask someone else,” Kyle snapped.
Wyn forced his fingers to still and glanced at Kyle. “What job?”
Kyle closed his eyes on an exasperated sigh. “Best man.”
“Me? What about Neil?” Kyle’s best friend should’ve held the honor. Kyle and Ronnie had pushed their wedding date back specifically until Neil’s deployment in whatever third-world country he’d been stationed ended. A chilling thought surfaced. “Neil didn’t get hurt, did he?”
“No. He opted to stay longer. He’s not sure when he’ll be home.” Kyle rubbed the back of his neck. “And well, Ronnie and I don’t want to wait any longer.”
“Why not? You two are already living together. It’s not like it matters if you’re husband and wife.”
Ronnie had moved in a couple of months ago while she recovered from a gunshot wound. She’d been lucky the shooter’s aim was off. A couple of inches lower and Kyle would’ve lost the love of his life.
“It’ll matter to Mom,” Kyle said.
Wyn crossed his arms and studied Kyle, an older and rougher version of himself. Kyle fidgeted, and a tinge of red stained his cheeks. There weren’t many things that would make his brother nervous, except a stern lecture from their mother. Eliza Sander was a force to be reckoned with. Wyn went over the possible reasons and chuckled.
“You got Ronnie knocked up, didn’t you?”
A grin spread over Kyle’s face. “First month we were trying too. We thought it’d take longer.”
“Congrats, man.” Wyn smacked Kyle’s back. “That’s great news.”
“Yeah, it is, but we’re not making it common knowledge yet. Ronnie wants to wait until we hear the heartbeat.” Kyle dropped his gaze to the floor. “You know, just in case.”
Wyn tensed. “Do you suspect something’s wrong?”
“No, but I’d hate to get Mom’s hope up, then break it. Besides, you remember how adamant she was about us not having kids out of wedlock. I refuse to be the one who breaks her rule.”
Wyn shrugged. “I think she’d make an exception. She loves Ronnie.”
“Probably, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve set the date for the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.”
“That’s as good a time as any. At least you won’t forget your anniversary.”
Kyle crossed his arms over his chest. Silence stretched.
Wyn’s gaze drifted to the tools on the nearby table. He’d need the box-end wrench. The open-end one left over from the last job wouldn’t do. The rusted bolts he had to get off were already partially stripped.
Kyle sighed again, an annoyed sound that yanked Wyn’s attention back to his brother. “So are you going to take the job or not?”
Best man, right. “Of course.”
Kyle blew out a rough breath. “Great. I didn’t want to have to pick between Jack and Levi.”
Wyn didn’t blame him. As twins, Jack and Levi were close and always had each other’s back, but they argued constantly.
“What do I need to do, other than plan the bachelor party?”
“I’ll get you a list, but the good news is you don’t have to worry about a date. You’ll be seated with Ronnie’s sister.”
Thank goodness. He’d been debating which ex-lover to bring to the wedding. “Iona, right?”
Kyle nodded. “She’ll be arriving in a few days.” He leveled a hard glare at him. “Be nice to her, okay?”
Wyn held up a hand. “Hey, I’m always nice to women. I just tend to lose interest before they do.”
“Iona’s had a rough time of it. Her—” Kyle’s phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket, glanced at the display, and groaned. “Look, I’ve got to go. Ronnie’s decided to cook me dinner. I need to save my kitchen from being turned upside down.” He grimaced. “Or my house from being burned to the ground.”
Wyn waited for his brother to leave, then shifted his attention to his current “girl” and the work he wanted to get done on the truck before he closed up the shop.
He gathered his tools, including the box-end wrench, and slid underneath. Working on cars had always come easy to him. It was one of the few things that had, and getting a job in the only automotive shop in Sander’s Valley had saved him from ending up with a juvie record. In a few more years, he hoped to buy out the current owner, a retired veteran who let Wyn run the shop for him.
The chimes over the door sounded, pulling him out of his thoughts and announcing a customer, except business hours had ended an hour ago. Only one person he could think of who’d walk in: Kyle.
“If you’re back to beg me to come eat your girl’s sad attempt at dinner, you can forget it. Last time I ate the crap she made, I had the shits for days.”
A woman’s giggle answered him.
The wrench he held slipped from his hand. The clank reverberated in the garage and mixed with the click of heels.
He inwardly cursed. Way to impress, jackass.
Then again, he didn’t have anyone to impress. Like his older brothers, he’d worked his way through the county’s available women. He’d only accomplished the feat in half the time they had.
“Next time, try Pepto-Bismol. It works wonders.”
The woman’s heavily accented voice wrapped around him and tightened his body. He couldn’t place where she was from, but the rich cadence sounded both rough and sensual. A quick glance showed a pair of open-toed, high-heeled shoes on either side of his hips. Pink nail polish covered the nails of delicate toes he had the sudden urge to nibble on. He let his gaze travel higher. Lightly tanned skin stretched over muscled calves he wouldn’t mind licking either.
His cock thickened.
He slid the rolling platform from beneath the truck. The woman didn’t move. His chest ended up between her spread legs. He swept his gaze over her thin but shapely thighs to the frayed denim cutoffs that barely covered her ass. Right above the waistband, a small rose tattoo partially showed. The sight of it there acted as a lure. He wanted to peel her shorts off to see the rest of the design.
He forced his gaze higher before he gave in to the urge that would land him in jail. A plaid midriff shirt was tied in a loose knot under her boobs. Her breasts matched the rest of her delicate frame, but they’d give him enough to suckle on. Or nibble on. Or hell, cushion his head when he fell asleep in her arms. Oh yeah, they were perfect.
The longer he stared, the quicker her chest rose and fell. He couldn’t stop his grin from spreading if he tried. Having a hot woman drool over him was the biggest damn turn-on a guy could get.
She placed a hand on her hip. “Do you like what you see?”
Her voice took on a slight drawl, and his dick reacted to her sultry tone. He ignored the blood giving his penis life and brought his gaze to her face.
His heart skipped a beat. A small nose, plump, glossy lips, and chocolate-colored eyes complemented her oval face. She wore a Phillies baseball hat with a braid of dark-brown hair drawn through the back. He took in all the details and barely stopped his groan from escaping.
The woman was gorgeous. No doubt about it. That wasn’t all, though. She was…
He wanted to lay her out, spread her thighs, and feast. She’d be soft, wet, and yielding. His mouth watered. He swept his tongue out, already anticipating the taste of her arousal. He hadn’t worshipped a girl in a long time, and the one perched over his face triggered something inside him. He wasn’t sure what but felt damn confident he’d never experienced it before.
Her breath escaped in a rush.
He shifted his gaze from the apex of her thighs to her face. Desire-ridden eyes met his. He let his grin spread. “As a matter of fact, I do like what I see. How about you?”
She stepped to his side and perused him as thoroughly as he had her. His skin burned under her inspection. He clenched his hands and willed his dick to behave. It had other ideas. They all involved the brown-eyed exotic woman playing country girl. He’d bet money she’d dressed the part.
Her stance exuded confidence and sophistication. Sure, some of the locals carried an aura of assurance, but the woman scrutinizing him oozed power. He didn’t know how else to explain it. She was the kind of girl who knew when she walked into a room all heads would turn, and she didn’t care.
Her gaze returned to the bulge in his blue, grease-stained pants. She dragged her tongue over her upper lip, slowly. So damn slowly. The groan he’d been trying to keep in check escaped. She smiled and met his eyes. “Why yes, Wyn, I do like what I see.”
“How do you know my name?”
She chuckled and bent over him. Her shirt gaped. His attention dropped to her exposed upper chest. He couldn’t help it. The sight of her creamy skin tempted him closer, much like her tiny tattoo had.
The little vixen leaned over more and tapped his right breast pocket. He vaguely realized what she pointed at—his nametag. The thought came and went as his gaze locked on to her small breasts lovingly caressed by sheer white lace. Her pebbled nipples pushed against the material, and the outline of her areolae showed through, but it was the edge of another inking peeking from beneath her bra cup that held his attention. A butterfly, if he had to guess. He didn’t want to guess. He wanted to know.
“Now…” She sat back so she ended up crouched over him, the heat of her groin inches from his. “I was wondering if you could help me.”
Kiss her. Worship her. Fuck her until she milked him dry. He’d be up for anything. Somehow he suspected that wasn’t what she meant. “What do you need?”
Her eyes twinkled. “That’s an open-ended question, Wyn.”
“I suppose it is.” He let his gaze caress her sweet body, then met her eyes. “How about we start with why you’re in my garage after hours.”
She frowned. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you were closed. The door was open.”
“That’s okay, Miss…”
A sense of trepidation settled over him. “That sounds Russian.”
She flashed him a smile that did something funny to his chest. It made it tighten while his heart raced.
“It is Russian. Very good, Wyn. You’re not only handsome but smart too.”
If she only knew the truth. He cleared his throat. “Your first name wouldn’t happen to be Iona, would it?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes, yes it is. How—”
“My brother is marrying your sister.”
She stood and eased away from him as if he’d suddenly contracted a contagious disease. “I’m sorry. Ronnie didn’t mention much about Kyle’s family. I never would’ve…I mean, I didn’t know you were…and I’m not normally…”
She clamped a hand over her mouth.
He pushed from the ground. Her eyes turned to saucers, and she stepped back. At six-seven, he towered over most people. Even with the heels she wore, he had over a foot on her and probably a hundred pounds, maybe one-thirty. He’d learned to expect a range of reactions to his size, but the fear in her eyes cut at his heart.
Slow steps brought him to within inches of her. He lifted a hand. She flinched. He dropped his balled fist to his side. “Don’t be afraid, Iona. I won’t hurt you.”
Another smile spread over her face, but it didn’t come close to touching the terror in her expression. “Of course you won’t. I was just surprised at how very tall and”—she dropped her gaze to his chest—“wide you are.”
“Am I still handsome?” Why he asked, he didn’t know. He held his breath for her answer though.
She blinked and whatever had upset her vanished. The hint of lust returned, making her eyes more black than brown. “Of course. I’m sure your girlfriend would agree.”
Cautious of her reaction, he raised his hand. No cringing. He breathed a sigh of relief and brushed his knuckles over her cheek. “I wouldn’t have been mentally undressing you if I had a girl in my life.”
“Then the women in this country are fools.”
Or, more accurately, he was. Every time a girl brought up exclusiveness, he ran. “Just haven’t found the right one yet.”
It was the same excuse he’d been giving his mama for years. Iona’s cocked brow suggested she didn’t buy it either.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll meet her someday.” She stepped back, breaking their slight contact. “Now, I hope you’ll be able to help me with my car.”
He shrugged off the disappointment. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I just bought it yesterday.” She caught her bottom lip and worried it between her teeth. He had the sudden urge to nibble on it for her. “And I ran out of gas.”
He stared at her for a long moment, then snapped his mouth closed. “Did you put any gas in it?”
She studied the floor. Her shoulders slumped. He inwardly cursed his callousness.
“No, I should’ve, but”—she peeked at him from beneath her lashes—“I just didn’t think of it. The gas gauge read full.”
Her embarrassment slashed him like a whip. He tried to come up with an apology. None came to mind. He sucked at them. Any girl he’d dated would attest to that. “Why didn’t you call Ronnie?”
She blew out a rough breath. “My cell died before I hit Pennsylvania.”
“Okay, let’s go take a look at your car.” He motioned her forward.
“You might want to lock up. It stopped running outside of town.”
He pointedly glanced at her heels. “Don’t tell me you walked all the way here.”
She gave him an incredulous look. “I certainly wouldn’t get in any of the strange men’s cars who stopped.” She planted a hand on her hip. “Do I look stupid?”
“No.” Drop-dead gorgeous, cultured, and sexy. He’d guessed right. She was different from the local women. “You remind me of a princess.”
She cleared her throat. “A princess?”
“Yep, I remember Ronnie saying something about her birth father having ties to the Russian royalty.” Learning about the affair her mom had kept hidden had been a shock, but not as much as when her real dad’s wife arranged for Ronnie’s murder.
Iona gave a slow shake of her head, pulling him back to the present. “No, I’m not a princess.”
“Too bad.” He laid a palm against Iona’s lower back and led her to the door. “I could’ve pretended to be your prince.”
She stopped walking. Her back went ramrod straight.
She flashed him an overly bright grin. “Yes?”
“Are you okay?”
She blinked. “Certainly. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious is all.” He opened the door and motioned her outside. “I think I’d make a horrible prince anyway. I’m more of a knight, ready to come to your rescue.”
Her expression softened. “Yes, you are.” She rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. “I’m truly grateful too. I could use my own protector.” She cleared her throat. “From shady car salesmen, I mean.”
With that, she strode across the parking lot, head held high. His gaze drifted to the sway of her slim hips. He felt an answering awareness in his dick, but her words captured his attention and stirred his curiosity.
She needed a protector, huh? He couldn’t help but think she meant that literally.
Normally, he’d shrug her comment off as not being his business. With Iona, however, he didn’t. For the first time in his life, he wanted to take the time to find out what she was hiding and fix it. Then he’d get her to refocus her passion on him, not whatever frightened her.