Underneath the axle grease and tatsHe’s a gentlemanFoley Sanders figured he’ll always be content with a life of cars and casual hookups. Until a run-in with Cyn, a statuesque firecracker with a hate-on for men, leaves him bewitched and intrigued—much to her annoyance.Maybe Cynthia Nichols was a little hard on Foley, that muscular, tattooed, super-hot mechanic next door. But she’s tired of feeling defensive about her size and has sworn off men. She’s got a new job, new life, perfect plan. Foley has trouble written all over him—no way is she going to fall for his charms.Foley might look like a bad idea, but underneath, he’s all gentleman. Too bad Cyn’s not buying it. What’s a bad boy to do when the goddess of his dreams won’t give him the time of day?
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She unlocked her car door and opened it, immediately regretting the cold wind that swept her. “My battery died. The car’s been giving me issues, but then the issues disappeared, so I thought I was okay.”
“Dumb.” Foley looked big, handsome, and tired. “Get out so I can get in.”
She did, and he gently nudged her aside, then entered the car. When he turned the key, nothing happened.
“I told you. My battery died.”
“Yeah, but why? How old is it?”
She frowned. “I don’t know. I’ve had the car for two years.” She shivered when some snow drifted down the back of her neck.
Foley must have noticed, because he frowned. “Come on. Lock up, and I’ll give you a ride home. We can fix this tomorrow.”
He looked up at her, brows raised. “Unless you’d rather change out the battery right now? Got a spare in your car? Some tools?”
“Well, no, but—”
“Then there’s the fact that there might be more wrong than just the battery. Next time I might not be in the neighborhood to save your pretty ass.”
She glared. “Speaking of which, what are you doing here?”
“I can tell you here, now, in the cold and the dark. Where muggers are probably waiting to take advantage… Or we can go back to your place, where you can make me some nice hot chocolate, and I can explain.”
“Maybe I don’t have any hot chocolate.”
He just looked at her.
“Fine. I do.” Her weakness, chocolate in any form. Well, that and sexy assholes, apparently, as evidenced by her body’s reaction to seeing Foley again.
After grabbing her purse and keys, she locked her car and followed him to his SUV. He opened the door but didn’t help her step up and in, for which she was grateful. She really didn’t need to be any closer to him than she had to be. For some reason, he smelled good. Even after what must have been a full day’s work, the man didn’t stink.
And his car… “This is neat.”
“Glad you think so.” He entered and started them toward North Beacon Hill. “Address?”
She gave it to him. “I meant your car is tidy. Neat. For some reason, when I see you, I think hot mess.”
He clenched his jaw. “You’re welcome for the rescue.”
“I could have called my brother.” But she wouldn’t have. The roads were getting worse, and she’d rather he stayed with Nina and the boys. Her father, maybe?
“Are you going to be this bitchy all the time?”
She blinked at him, then smiled against her will. “Probably.”
He shook his head and muttered something under his breath she couldn’t understand.
They pulled in front of her cute cottage in no time, their drive unbroken by talk or music. She knew she should thank him. What was it about the guy that brought out the worst in her? She’d never tolerate the attitude she’d been giving him from anyone else. Around him, even she didn’t much like herself.
“Foley, I’m sorry. Thank you for the rescue.”
He seemed mollified. “You’re welcome.”
“But I was about to call my dad to come and—” His narrowed eyes had her swallowing the rest of what she’d planned to say. “Thank you.”
“How about that hot chocolate?”
She nodded, and they left his car and entered her house. She hung up her jacket and his and removed her shoes. “You too. No shoes if you want cocoa.”
He removed his boots while she set the kettle on the stove. He joined her in the kitchen, the small island separating them, and glanced around. “Nice place.”
The cottage had room. Three bedrooms, two baths, and a nice-sized open kitchen/living room floor plan. Cyn kept it clean and clutter-free. A buttery-gold painted the walls, adorned with artwork from places she’d visited. Fresh flowers sat on the dining room table that shared space with her open living area. Her television she kept in a spare bedroom, making the fireplace the focal point.
She smiled, proud of her home. “I like it.”
“Who’d you get the flowers from?”
Foley sounded jealous, and she loved it. Man, I really am a bitch. “A lovely florist named Joey.”
He frowned. “Yeah?”
“Joey prefers roses, but she also likes a nice Christmas bouquet. She happens to be my go-to when I’m buying flowers.”
He relaxed. “Oh.” He stuck his hands in his pockets. A sign of nerves, she realized, intrigued.
“Now tell me how you just happened to be in the neighborhood when my car died.”
“Yeah, well, this is tricky.”
“You already think badly of me. I don’t want to add to it.”
“Might as well.”
“Thanks.” He huffed. “Okay, I’ve been trying to find the right way to apologize for Tuesday.”
Watching him squirm pleased the vindictive “big girl” in her, but him bringing up their disaster of a date also reminded her why it had been a disaster. Now she felt uncomfortable as well.
“Never mind. It’s over with. We’re friends.”
“Bullshit. I gave it a few days, then figured, you’re stubborn. Thorny. Might as well let you rip into me so I can get my two cents in.”
“I’m sorry. Thorny?”
He gave a surprising grin. “My mom’s description of a woman with issues. Thorny. It applies to you, honey.”
“Honey? Forgotten my name so soon?”
Instead of taking issue with her tone, he laughed. “Oh yeah, thorny. For the record, Cynthia, I am not into ‘big girls.’ I like women of all shapes and sizes. And yeah, I like them pretty, I’ll admit.” He walked around the island and closed the space between them, forcing her to back into the counter so he wouldn’t be on top of her.
“No.” He cupped her cheeks, startling her. “I love redheads. I love a woman with curves, and more, a woman with a brain who’s not afraid to use it.”
She swallowed, loudly.
His grin grew. “I also love a woman who’s a little bit mean.”
“A little bit?”
“Or a lot,” he added, his gaze settling on her mouth. “I know you said you don’t want a relationship. You don’t want sex.”
“Um, yes. I said that.” But I didn’t mean it, her reproductive organs shouted.
“How about a kiss, then, to apologize for hurting your feelings?”
She felt small, having made so many assumptions about Foley when she’d once again been reacting wrongly due to her own screwed-up issues. “It’s okay. I’m the one who’s—”
He leaned closer, his lips almost brushing hers. She looked directly into bright gray eyes so clear they looked like diamonds. “Just a little kiss,” he whispered.
She nodded without thinking and closed her eyes when he pressed firm lips against her mouth.
Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author MARIE HARTE is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking or biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. She lives in in Central Oregon.
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