May, 2007

Hunkering behind a clump of lilac bushes, Seventeen-year-old Shasta Albright observed her brother climb from his massive, crew cab truck then tramped up the sidewalk toward the courthouse. Once Sheriff Dell Albright crossed the threshold, she counted to fifty to ensure her dear brother was safely established in his basement office then pulled her sweatshirt hood over her ponytail and moving into the open.

Head down and hands in her jacket pockets, she strolled toward the truck, the spare key clasped tightly in her grip. She shivered as the early morning breeze raised goose bumps on her bare legs. Under her cut-off jean shorts and sweatshirt, she wore her bikini. Today was Ditch Day—when juniors and seniors ditched school for party trip to Lake Tahoe.

She cast stealth gazes to her left then right. At six forty-five in the morning, Main Street in the miniscule rural town of Stardust, Nevada stood all but deserted. The only people dumb enough to be out and about this early were commuters heading to Reno or Carson City. And of course her stupid, controlling brother.

Anger seethed her blood. He had no right to take away her truck when she hadn’t done anything wrong. At least not this time.

“It’s for your own good,” Dell had told her while confiscating her keys. “You’re not cutting class to go drinking at the lake. It’s not safe. You’re my responsibility now.”

His responsibility? God…she hated her brother. A smug smile touched her lips. She’d show him…

Once behind the F350, she pressed the door open button and the lights blinked once along with a single horn toot. She peered around the truck bed to make sure brother dearest didn’t come charging from the courthouse. When the only movement remaining was the tree branches swaying in the slight wind, she hustled around to the driver’s side and hoisted herself inside.

Jesus…this thing was big. Way bigger than the Ford Ranger her dad bought for her sixteenth birthday. Though she’d ridden as a passenger in Dell’s gargantuan truck plenty of times, sitting behind the wheel gave her an entirely different perspective. She could barely see over the dashboard while her feet were nowhere near the pedals.

Fumbling for the seat control, she managed to heave the heavy bucket seat forward enough so the front of the hood came into view and the tip of her right sneaker reached the gas. She jammed the key into the ignition and turned it.

Holy shit!

The loud thunder of the engine scared the living hell out of her. All she needed was to be caught in the act of taking Dell’s truck. If that happened, she’d be grounded until like forever.

No one came into view. But Lady Luck was on her side. After buckling her seatbelt, she wrenched the gearshift into reverse and gently pressed on the gas.

The behemoth vehicle lurched backwards. A startled yelp escaped her lips. She slammed on the brakes and closed her eyes. She inhaled a slow, deep breath. Calmer, she put the truck into drive then rumbled out onto Main Street. It was then that she realized she hadn’t adjusted the rearview mirrors. Oh well. Nobody was on the streets at this time of morning anyway.

A block and a half away, she felt sufficiently confident—and more than a little cocky—to pull out her cell. She flipped it opened and hit the speed dial for her best friend, Cassie.

“What up, bitch?” she shouted into the phone at Cassie’s groggy hello. “Still in bed? Slacker.”

Cassie groaned. “Yeah I’m in bed cuz it’s like the middle of the night.” She yawned loudly.

“No it’s not. It’s Ditch Day, remember?”

“I remember.” Another yawn. “I also remember neither one of us has wheels.”

Shasta couldn’t contain her giggle. “Not anymore, girlfriend.”

“What? Your brother gave you back your truck? When?”

“He didn’t give me anything. I took it.”

“How? Thought he put all the keys to your Ranger on his ring.”

“He did, but forgot about his truck’s spare key.”

Silence met her statement.

“What the hell…” Cassie’s voice dropped to a whisper. “You…stole…Dell’s truck?”

“How is it stealing if he’s my brother?”

“Girl…this is one baaaaaad idea. He will fucking murder you.”

Shasta brushed off Cassie’s concern. “Don’t be such a killjoy, will ya? I’m on my way to your house so get ready.”

“Nah, uh. No way, sister.”

Irritation peppered Shasta’s nerves. “Oh, c’mon, Cass. You can’t punk out on me.”

“Sorry, Shay…you’ve really gone off the rails this time.”

A long pause echoed in Shasta’s ear.

“Look, Shay,” Cassie said, “I know things have been rough since your dad died, but—”

“Don’t.” Shasta infused as much fury as possible into her voice. “Don’t talk about my dad.”

“But honey—”

Rather than continue the conversation, Shasta snapped the phone shut. She barely resisted the urge to fling her cell at the windshield. How dare Cassie bring up her dad. It’d been just seven months since he’d shot himself in that freak hunting accident. Seven months since she’d talked to him or seen his smile or heard his laugh. Seven months of hell….

Scrubbing an angry hand at the tears in her eyes, Shasta stiffened her spine. She didn’t need Cassie, loser that she was. She didn’t need anybody—not anymore. In less than sixty miles she’d be basking on a sandy, warm Tahoe beach. That’s all she needed.

She turned right onto Road 314 and headed for the Grab-n-Go just this side of the Grant County line to get beer and snacks. It was a badly kept secret that the minimart owner, Felix, had no problem selling alcohol to high school kids.

In less than ten minutes, she maneuvered her brother’s monstrosity of a truck into the tiny parking lot, past the two gas islands and up to the front door. Thankfully no one else was around as she took up almost three spaces. She killed the engine then hopped out of the cab. Retrieving her debit card from her jean pocket, she strode inside. An auto beep announced her arrival.

“Morning, Felix.”

The forty-something owner looked up from his newspaper, and furrows dug into his forehead. “Shasta. Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Not today.” She headed toward the refrigerated section. “It’s Ditch Day.” She pulled out a twelve-pack of St. Pauli Girl, juggled it under one arm and snatched two huge bags of tortilla chips along with a handful of power bars on her way to the register.

Felix stood with his arms crossed, frowning. “You know I can’t sell you beer.”

She placed her items on the counter. “Why not? You sell it to everyone else at school.”

“Not everyone else is the sheriff’s sister.” He shook his head. “Sorry. No can do. If I get caught again, I’m gonna lose my liquor license and probably go to jail.”

She tapped her debit card against her opposite palm and squinted. “I’ll make you a deal. Sell me this and I promise to tell you if I hear anything about Dell setting up another underage sting.”

Felix twisted his lips.

“Please,” she entreated with a small side-to-side sway. The slight movement gave her a certain innocence. Older men were suckers for that. “C’mon, Felix…it’s Ditch Day. Pretty, pretty, pretty please.” She batted her eyelashes with her finest beseeching look.

She knew the second his resolve collapsed. His face crumpled like he smelled rotten fish. “Fine, but not the imported stuff.”

She turned, the German beer in her hands. “No problem.”

“And make it light beer—and only a six-pack.”

Rolling her eyes, she walked down the aisle as the door beeped again, announcing another customer.

She’d just grabbed two sixers of a high-end domestic light beer—no way was she leaving with a single sixer—when a man opened the glass door next on her right.

Shasta immediately recognized the guy’s jacket—and him. Lynch Callan of the 5th Streeters.

Holy shit.

Her stomach did a flip-flop. Everyone in Stardust knew about the 5th Street “motorcycle club,” as they called themselves. Motorcycle club sounded less disreputable, less infamous than biker gang. But they were hoodlums. Criminals. A blight on society, or so her father used to say. Did this guy have a gun? Was he planning to rob Felix?

In an instant, her insecurity dissolved. No way would he try anything like that, not with her in the store. After all, she was the sheriff’s sister. Sometimes that fact came in handy.

Out the corner of her eye, she watched Lynch reach for a carton of milk. What kind of a badass bad guy drinks milk? He shut the refrigerator door with a thump and walked behind her to the far aisle. She closed her own door and stared at his reflection in the glass.

Disheveled dark blond hair stuck out from under his half-helmet while a scruffy beard covered his cheeks and chin. With his sunglasses on he looked hard and menacing. And sexy as hell…

She slowly headed back to the register, her gaze fixed on Lynch. He now stood in front of the shelf of cereals. Milk and cereal? That seemed so…normal for a thug. Wouldn’t cold pizza be his typical breakfast? And where was the hard liquor, or at least the beer? Lost in thought, she placed the two sixers on the counter.

“I told you a six-pack.” Felix’s statement whipped her around. He situated one sixer off to the side, a stern scowl on his face.

She opened her mouth, but her protest died when a container of two percent, a box of honey bran cereal and a package chocolate chip cookies appeared next to her beer. Heat infused her body at the Streeter’s close proximity.

“Gimme five bucks on pump three, when you get the chance.”

Lynch’s low, rolling voice percolated shivers up her arms. He didn’t shop like a notorious gang member…and he didn’t sound like one either.

Felix nodded while ringing up her purchases. She handed over her debit card, trying her damnedest to act cool. She glanced over.

Still wearing his sunglasses, Lynch rubbed a hand across his neck, his head bowed. He looked tired. Exhausted even.

Late night breaking the law?

Shasta bit her tongue to keep the snarky comment locked in her mouth. She might be the sheriff’s sister, but she wasn’t a total imbecile.

She punched in her pin number then waited as Felix bagged her chips and power bags. Bag and beer in hand, she moved toward the entrance, putting an extra swing in her hips in case Lynch checked out her ass.

She tossed the items onto the truck’s back seat then clambered behind the wheel. She clicked her seatbelt, started the truck and put it in reverse. She turned the wheel, only to realize she still hadn’t fixed the rearview mirrors. In the next instant, she heard the horrible crunch of metal. Instinctively, she slammed on the brakes, rocking the truck to an abrupt halt. Several moments of deafening quiet surrounded her before…

“What the fuck…my bike…

Suddenly her door swung open, and she found herself staring at an infuriated Lynch Callan. With arms akimbo, wide stance and his mouth bowed down in a vicious frown, she’d never seen anyone look so angry—not even her brother.

“Get out,” he commanded.

She recovered enough to scoff. “What? No freakin’ way.”

If anything, he looked more furious. He stepped onto the truck’s running board, reached over the steering column and twisted the key from the ignition. In one smooth move, he unfastened her belt and jumped to the ground. “I said out.”

“And I said no.”

He wrapped his large hand around her arm and none too gently dragged her from the cab.

She yanked away. “Let me go.”

He tightened his hold and lugged her to the ass end of the truck.

She stumbled behind him. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

“Yup.” He didn’t even slow down. “You’re the idiot who just backed into my bike.”

He whirled her around. Her sandal caught on his boot and the asphalt quickly rose up. Only his grip on her arm kept it from meeting her face. She swiped flyaway strands of hair from her eyes, ready to set him on fire with her best scathing glare.

But his sunglasses were now tucked into his t-shirt’s neckline. And he glowered at her with the  most enthralling blue eyes she’d ever seen. They were blue. A pristine, crystal blue, just like the water at Lake Tahoe. Her attempt at being scornful died abruptly.

If Shasta thought him sexy and ominous before, he positively oozed sensuality—and danger—now.

He pointed to a giant Harley lying on its side next to his bag from Felix’s store. “Look.”

She gave the scene a cursory glance and hitched her shoulder. “Sorry.”

His eyebrows lifted as his jaw dropped. “Sorry? You’re sorry?” He crossed his arms. “You’re paying any damages.”

“Damages? What damages? I barely tapped it.”

Now he scoffed. “Barely tapped it…you toppled it over.” He waved his hand at the downed bike. “The left mirror’s busted and the paint’s scraped. And that’s just what I can see. You’re paying for that and anything else you wrecked.”

She faced him square, her fists on her hips. “How do I know those things didn’t happen before today? You could just be trying to extort money. That’s what people like you do, isn’t it?”

His eyes became shards of ice. “People like me?” An unspoken warning clear in his tone.

“Uh, excuse me.”

Felix’s hesitant voice turned both their heads. “What?” they demanded in unison.

The store owner’s gaze rifled between Shasta and Lynch. He held up a police scanner radio. “Just heard there’s a BOLO out for the sheriff’s truck. They say it’s been stolen.”

Air thickened in Shasta’s throat. She’d hoped to be on a beach before Dell realized his precious ride was missing. And she never expected him to put out an all points bulletin. Maybe Cassie had been right about this being a bad idea.


She stared at the ground, thinking. Maybe she could put the F350 back without Dell knowing she took it. That was a mother-fucking-big maybe. Still…she should at least try.

“I gotta call it in, Shasta.”

Her head snapped up. “What? Why?”

“This isn’t selling beer to minors. I could get charged as an accessory to grand theft.”

“That’s ridiculous. Dell would never—”

“Yes he would and you know it. In any case, I can’t take that chance.” Felix turned to go back into the store. “I’m sorry.”

“But, Fe-lix,” she whined. “You can’t do that to me.”

Lynch stepped forward. “Hang on, man,” he said to Felix. He looked at her. “You stole the sheriff’s truck?”

She threw her hands in the air. “It’s not stealing if he’s my brother.”

Lynch blinked, his eyebrows squished together like he didn’t quite understand her words. Then his face split into an enormous grin, showing off perfectly straight and blindingly white teeth. She thought only lifeguards and male models had such flawless teeth.

He laughed. A huge laugh. A-throw-your-head-back-and-howl-at-the-moon kind of laugh. Just like his teeth and his voice and his shopping choices, Shasta didn’t think criminals laughed like that. She and Felix exchanged confused looks.

After what seemed like a full minute of chortling, Lynch’s hilarity finally faded. “Whooo.” He wiped his fingers over his eyes, still chuckling. “Goddamn…that’s funny shit.” He cleared his throat, but his grin remained. “Tell you what, I’ll take care of this.”

“You?” Shasta said. “What are you gonna do?”

“I’ll take the truck someplace where the cops can find it.”

“But I gotta call it in, Lynch,” Felix said.

“I know. Just gimme fifteen minutes to get to the other side of Stardust.” He picked up his groceries. “I’ll gas up when I get back and keep my milk cold, will ya?”

Felix’s mouth flattened as he reluctantly took the bag. “All right. But fifteen minutes, Lynch. No more.” The owner stalked back into his store.

Shasta stared at Lynch. “Why—”

He bent over his Harley. Seeing his faded jeans stretched tight across his butt stole her ability to speak. He hefted the machine upright like it was a bicycle instead of a motorcycle.

He looked at her. “Why what?”

She frowned with a head shake. “What?”

A furrow appeared between his eyes. “You said why. I simply asked why what.”

“Oh, right. Why help me after I supposedly busted up your bike?”

“There’s no supposedly, you did bust up my bike.”

“Then why?”

“Because I’d give anything to see your brother’s face when he realizes his truck is missing. Since I can’t do that, I can at least make sure he doesn’t know who took it.”

“But why do that?”

“Cuz it’ll eat the shit outta him.” He squatted down for a closer inspection of his Harley.

“I still don’t understand.”

His shoulders stooped on a heavy sigh. He shoved to his feet. “Look, I’m beyond tired right now. If you don’t want my help, just say so.” He dug the truck fob from his pocket and held it out.

She shifted her weight, torn between wanting to go to the lake and needing Lynch’s help. “If you take the truck, how will I get back?”

“I’ll drop you off at school.”

“School? I’m not going to school today. I’m meeting friends at Tahoe.” She pulled back her shoulders. “Today is Ditch Day.”

However, the appeal of Ditch Day had lost its luster. It sounded so…juvenile now. So childish. Maybe the combined drama of Cassie bailing on her, being reminded of her dad and Dell knowing his truck was gone before she managed to get out of town had soured her on the time-honored tradition. Or maybe it was the man standing before her who made her rethink her plans. She didn’t want Lynch Callan to think her juvenile and childish …

“Okay then.” He tossed the fob at her and pushed his bike off to the side. “Go.”

Shasta barely managed to catch the key because the way the material of his jeans rippled as he manhandled his bike again distracted her. A funny zing—like electricity—hit her low in the belly, making her feel achy and restless.

She’d experienced a similar feeling a few times with some of the guys she’d dated, but nothing this strong. She had chills while sweat beaded on her forehead. She licked her suddenly dry lips.

Lynch set the kickstand and turned. “So what’s it gonna be?”

She bit the inside of her cheek. With her father, and then her brother being the sheriff, none of her boyfriends ever had the stones to do more than kiss her. No heavy petting. Definitely no sex. Nothing passed a little light necking. But maybe a biker—an outlaw biker—would have the stones to do…more.

She graced Lynch with her most beguiling smile and cocked her hip. She wished she wasn’t wearing this dumb sweatshirt. While her boobs weren’t all that impressive, her bikini top made them appear bigger. “On second thought, going to the lake doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.” She pitched the fob back at him.

He held her gaze for a long heartbeat then shrugged. He stuffed the key in his pocket then retrieved a large wrench and screwdriver from the pack behind his seat. “Okay.” He walked to the driver’s side. And promptly smashed the window.

Ice water splashed through her belly. “What the fuck, dude? Why the hell did you do that? You have the key.”

Lynch opened the door. “Yeah, but how would a thief have gotten it?” He climbed inside and took the screwdriver to the steering column, splintering it open. “It has to look like the truck was broken into and stolen, right?”

She blew out a breath. Damn, she never thought of that.

He pulled out some wires and tapped them together. The engine roared to life. “C’mon. If you’re not going to school, I’ll take you home.”

She hoisted herself into the passenger seat. “Oh…I think we can come up with a better plan than that.” She placed her palm on his forearm. Her chest fluttered at the sinewy feel of his muscles. “Don’t you?”

He stared at her hand like it was an alien creature before lifting his gaze to hers. The blue of his eyes seemed brighter. More intense. He grasped her hand, bringing it to his mouth where he brushed a chaste kiss to her knuckles. The whiskery sensation of his stubble erupted a geyser in her belly. He then squeezed her fingers and released her. Wordlessly, he put the gearshift into drive and maneuver the truck back onto the road.

Shasta settled into the seat, her hands clasped together to hide their shaking. She fought to calm her unsettled stomach.

Oh God…was this really going to happen? Was she really prepared to let it happen?

Her unsettled stomach turned riotous as excitement warred with caution. What would it feel like to be kissed by Lynch Callan? She’d bet he was a great kisser. Not like her wimpy boyfriends who were too afraid to even French her.

And how would Lynch’s callused palms feel on her skin? A shiver danced along her spine. Then cold fingers closed around her heart.

What if she changed her mind? Would he allow that or would he…she swallowed hard…make her?

She inhaled a breath and looked out her window. There was only one way to find out…


Lynch drove the dirt roads which skirted the perimeter of Stardust. He kept his gaze straight ahead, but remained acutely aware of every move the sheriff’s sister made beside him.

Shit. He did not need this right now. He was too worn out to think clearly. Having just finished a grueling thirty-six hour run, escorting three separate shipments of primo weed for distribution to the Bay Area, he’d gone into the Grab-n-Go for something easy to eat before crashing. That’s all. He never expected to play savior, especially to such a damn fine damsel.

He knew who Shasta was before she dropped the bomb about Albright being her brother. But the Shasta he remembered had been all gangly legs and lanky arms. Not the curvaceous creature with burnished brunette hair and root beer eyes who seemed to suck the oxygen out of the cab interior.

Despite the bulky sweatshirt, which covered a good portion of  her body, his imagination worked overtime imagining how pert her breasts would be and how her sleek, sexy legs would feel wrapped around his waist…

He wrenched his thoughts away from that temptation. Fucking with a man’s truck was one thing. But fucking his sister—his underage, kid sister—was a whole different kettle of fish, as his mom used to say. And having that sister be related to the sheriff…

He sighed. As much as he reveled in being a rebel, that didn’t make him suicidal.

Still, the way Shasta kept rubbing her thighs together made his cock twitch. There was little doubt she been flirting with him earlier. But no way could she be truly aware of who she was messing with. She probably thought it was just harmless teasing. Right. Harmless. Until the rubber was forced to meet the road.

In any case, nothing was going to happen. Lynch prided himself on not being a complete hound dog. He wouldn’t take advantage of an innocent girl.

He knew the instant Shasta realized where he was taking her. She sat upright, her head swiveling around to stare at him. He eased the truck to a stop behind a small stand of elm trees on the backside of Albright property.

“Why are we here? I don’t need anything from my house.”

Without putting the F350 into park, he reached across her lap and opened the passenger door. “But I need to sleep.”

She undid her seatbelt and curled toward him, her fingers tripping down his arm to where his hand gripped the steering wheel. Tightly.

“Sounds perfect,” she purred.

“Sleep alone.”

She straightened slightly, her eyebrows furrowing. “Alone?”

“Yup. Like I said, I’m tired.”

“I’m sure we can think of…something that’ll keep you awake.”

He squinted out the windshield. “Sorry. Not interested.”

She snatched her hand away. “Why?”

“Guess you’re not my type.”

“Bullshit. It’s because my brother’s the sheriff, isn’t it?” She sniffed. “I woulda thought a biker would have bigger balls than that.”

Her churlish tone clenched his jaw. He turned and drilled her with his glare, holding her gaze, allowing the silence to grow. Expand. A blush made a slow creep up her neck to her face.

Leaning over, he seized her chin between his finger and thumb in a firm, but not painful grip. “Do you honestly think you’re ready for something like this?” He dropped his voice to a sinister whisper. “Ready for me?”

Her pupils dilated as her delicate throat muscles labored to swallow. To her credit she didn’t avert her eyes. In fact, she narrowed them slightly. “I’ll never know unless I try.”

A humorless chuckle gusted past his lips. Damn, talk about balls. This girl had a pair.

His hand fell away. He didn’t have the mental strength to tangle with her right now. Hell…tangle with anyone. He rubbed his neck and sighed. “Why are you doing this? Does it have anything to do with me being a biker? A 5th Streeter? What am I to you? A thrill ride? Just another way to poke at your brother, like taking his truck?”

The rosy stain on her cheeks turned crimson and she lowered her gaze. “None of the guys I’ve dated ever did more than kiss me.” She hitched her shoulder. “It’s kinda sad being the only seventeen-year-old in town who’s still a virgin.”

He again captured her chin, but this time his hold was gentle. The angst in her caramel brown eyes pinched his heart. When was the last time he cared about something so simple as teenaged peer pressure? “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.” He released her. “And you’re too young to start gathering regrets.”

“Do you have regrets?”

He quirked a grin. “Only a million or two.”

Her expression became one of amazement. “Really?”

“Why is that so hard to believe?”

“I guess because you’re a…” Her shoulder did another hitch as she stared at her hands.

“Gang member?”

She peeked up. “Yeah. Is being in a gang something you regret?”

He shook his head. “Nah.” But that was a lie. If it weren’t for his mom being old lady of the Streeters VP, he doubted he’d be in the MC at all. Doubted he would’ve dropped out of school when he was a year younger than Shasta. Doubted he would’ve been the youngest member to be patched into the Streeters. Doubted a lot of things…

“What do you regret?”

Her quiet voice brought him back. She looked so earnest, as though she truly wanted to know, he had a hard time ignoring her question. He draped his hand over the steering wheel and sighed. “For one, not staying in school.”

Her face scrunched up like one of them just cut the cheese.

He laughed. Her reaction was so typical of a teenager. Funny…he wasn’t really that much older than her, maybe eight years. It felt like eighty. “Hey—you asked.”

“You sound like Dell.”

“As much as I hate agreeing with your brother, in this case, he’s right. School’s important. I know you think it’s lame right now, but if I could have one do-over, it’d be to take school more seriously and not drop out.” He sighed again, switching his gaze out the windshield. “I sometimes wonder what my life would’ve been like…”

Lost in thought, several moments passed…

The tips of his ears heated and he cleared his throat. “Anyway, that’s my opinion. I’m sure you’re gonna do whatever you want.” He glanced over. “Right?”

A shy smile touched her lips, “Probably.”

Lynch felt sucker-punched in the gut. He’d always thought her pretty, but right now she looked way more than simply pretty. She was beautiful. No. Not just beautiful either. Exquisite. Perfect. Like a rare gem.

Something shifted in his chest. Tightened, then released. His head swam with sudden dizziness. When he realized he was staring, he glanced away with a rough cough.

She turned to exit the cab, then pivoted back onto the seat. “You like cookies, don’t you?”

He tilted his head. Where the hell did that question come from? “’Scuse me?”

“Cookies. I saw you buy some at Felix’s.”


“I bake a mean chocolate chip. I have a secret ingredient that my mom showed me when I was a kid. It’s cinnamon. It gives the cookies an extra little zip.”


“And would you like me to bake you some? Cookies,” she added when he didn’t answer.

“Why would you want to do that?”

“As a thank you for…you know…helping me with the truck.”

“You don’t have to—”

“But I want to. You really saved my ass. And I appreciate that you didn’t lecture me…you know…about school.”

He shrugged. “I never found lectures to be very useful.”

“Tell that to my brother. All he does is lecture.”

“Yeah, well, he’s just looking out for you.”

“Yeah…maybe…” She swiped her hand over the seat cover. “So what about the cookies?”

“I won’t turn down homemade cookies.”

She beamed a huge smile. “Great! I’ll make them this Friday after school.” She lowered her gaze, but her smile remained. “I don’t suppose you’d let me bring them to your place on Saturday.” She peeked up at him. “Will you?”

He smothered his grin. “No.”

Her nose wrinkled slightly. “That’s kinda what I figured. Okay if I drop them off at your mom’s salon?”


After opening the door, she jumped to the ground.

“Hey…” He pulled the truck fob from his pocket. “Here.”

“Oh…right.” She stepped onto the running board and took the offering, gracing him with another smile. “Thanks.”

“And what about your stuff in back?”

“Keep it. I wouldn’t be able to explain the beer anyway.” She hopped down again then paused. She shifted and licked her lips. “Guess I’ll see you around.”

He stared at her mouth for a moment then met her gaze. “Yeah. See ya.”

She heaved the door shut and headed for the underbrush surrounding the elms. He tracked her movement. Fuck she had fine legs. Probably a fine ass too. But he couldn’t be sorry he’d turned her down. She was just a kid, and a confused kid at that. She needed to be protected from making some very bad decisions. If she wasn’t going to listen to her big brother, maybe she’d listen to him.

She looked over her shoulder with a smile and a wave. His lips kicked up as he lifted his hand from the steering wheel in farewell. Then she disappeared…

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