by Tara Mills
Some sparks will catch. Some will consume.
Cocky Charley Jensen doesn't mince words. She knows how to handle herself, doesn't shy away from hard work, loves tinkering with her pickup, and is far more comfortable with a tool belt hanging off her hips than an apron. However, Charley's a failure at personal relationships, with more experience throwing punches and insults than her arms around someone. She's way out of her comfort zone when she strays across a clean cut babe, emphasis on babe, stranded in the woods. Her immediate cool and dismissive assessment of Drake Carver is entirely wrong - though correcting someone this opinionated isn't easy.
But don't let this biologist's Oxford shirt fool you. Drake's tough, used to roughing it, and not afraid to be tested. He's just never encountered a woman quite like Charley which, in his opinion, makes her ideal for his purposes. Unfortunately, she's not easy to win over. It will take an act of heroism to prove his mettle. However, time is running out and theirs aren't the only sparks flying in the woods.
An hour later, Charley ambled into the Tavern and hopped onto her stool. For once she was serene, relaxed, and she didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
Dink moseyed over with a question. “Hey, Ugly. You want a rum and Coke?”
Unperturbed, she smiled serenely. “Yes, thank you.”
Doing a double take, his brow was pinched when he said, “Tell me you don’t want food.”
“Why?” Her calm slid a titch.
“Abby’s going to be late. The babysitter’s sick, and now she has to wait for Stacy to get off work before she can get here.”
“So what kind of time frame am I looking at here?”
Closing one eye, he did the mental calculation. “Thirty minutes, maybe more.” Then he groaned. “Shit, you do want something, don’t you?”
He sighed. “Fine, but you have to watch the bar if I’m going in back to cook for you.”
“I can do that.”
“So what do you want?”
“Burger. You know how I like it.”
He went into the kitchen and she picked up her drink, finally looking around as she took a sip. She nearly choked when she spotted Drake and Heidi Chapman all nice and cozy at a back table. Their heads were tipped close together, and their voices were nothing more than an intimate hush.
Her good mood dissolved like an Alka-Seltzer tablet.
How wonderful, how precious—she hated him.
Drake looked up and noticed Charley. He waved and she gave him a cool nod in return. Audibly excusing himself, he rose and brought their empty glasses back to the bar.
He set them down and looked around. “Where’s Dink?”
“Making me something to eat.”
“I guess I can wait.”
She resented having to help him, but she did promise Dink. “What do you need?”
“Two more pale ales.”
“I’ll get ‘em.” She dropped off the stool and went behind the bar. Setting the dirty glasses in the bus tub, she grabbed two fresh ones.
Drake’s gaze locked on her deep purple fingertips when she pulled the tap back. She glared at him defensively. “What?”
The guy looked alarmed, stunned, grossed out? She couldn’t quite tell.
“Geez, what happened?” he asked.
“Yep.” She slid the first glass at him and started filling the second.
“You should have come with us instead.”
Like she needed the reminder. She shot an aggravated glance at Heidi and said, “Maybe I should have.”
One eyebrow cocked, he glanced back and forth between the two women then slowly grinned. “Aren’t you going to warn me away from Heidi too?”
Charley scowled up at him. “Why would I?”
“Well, you were kind enough to steer me away from Randi. I wondered if you have anything important to say about Heidi.”
She thrust the second glass across the bar at him and tried not to sound grumpy. “Nothing. She’s a perfectly nice and interesting woman. She should suit you very nicely.” Damn it!
He leaned closer and whispered, “You wouldn’t consider talking me up a little, would you?”
Her temper rumbled inside her like a volcano with indigestion. “I hardly know her. Besides, from what I can see, you don’t need my help.”
He gave her a careless shrug. “Your decision. You could have played a major role in my love life, but you chose not to get involved.” Picking up the second glass, his eyes swept over her with warm appraisal. Then he smiled. “You look really nice today, especially your hair.”
Then he walked off, leaving her staring after him, stunned by the compliment. Charley only came back to herself when Drake sat down and winked at her from across the room. She jerked to attention and scrambled out from behind the bar. Hopping up on her stool, she turned her back on him.
I write stories I like to read--contemporary romances with identifiable characters and themes. Life is hard. Love makes it bearable. If you enjoy stories with heat and humor, I have a title for you.
I'm a pampered wife, lucky mom to three amazing sons and one wonderful daughter-in-law, and I recently became a very young grandma. I should probably underline the word very. Oh heck, why not the word young too? Nah, you get the picture. I'm also the daily monitor of one naughty dog with attitude.
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