Suppose the solution to all your problems is the one thing you never wanted…
It figures the one time Sabrina Cassidy is determined to do the responsible thing, karma kicks in. After four years on the road chasing her musical dream, she’s stranded six hours from home with no money, a ruined credit history—and morning sickness.
Out of options, she swallows her legendary independent streak and calls the only person who won’t hang up on her. Luke, the man she left behind.
Marc Sterling’s first instinct is to protect his business partner and best friend from another broken heart. That means letting her think she’s talking to Luke, then finding a way to send her in the opposite direction.
When he shows up at her hotel room, there’s something in the air beside their customary insults. Sure, her rebellious attitude, smart mouth—and purple panties—still drive him crazy, but now it’s a different kind of crazy. The kind that has him driving her home instead of to the nearest airport.
And when Luke offers to solve all her problems if she’ll only say “I do”, Marc realizes he’s just crazy enough—about her—to forget whose heart he wanted to protect.
Contains two people who don’t like each other very much, a Toyota that can’t quite handle the road trip home, and a spontaneous proposal. Or two. Or three. And foreplay with—what else—pie filling.
Sabrina Cassidy’s stomach roiled and she quickly nibbled on the corner of a saltine cracker. She held her breath for about ten seconds and the wave of nausea passed.
Definitely the bartender’s fault. Maybe not just him, but he certainly had some responsibility in the whole thing.
For one, he’d made the rum taste so good. He was the one who’d mixed it with the orange and pineapple juices, coconut liqueur and club soda. He was the one who’d poured it into to the cute pineapple glass and put in the umbrellas that had made it seem so innocuous.
For another, he should have looked at her skimpy wrap-around skirt and bikini top, her spray-on tan and her hair highlights and known that she was on vacation.
Women on vacation in Jamaica with their girlfriends, sitting at bars on the beach and dancing with cute guys until the sun came up three nights in a row should be limited to two alcoholic drinks. Period.
But no. He’d poured her a fourth and a fifth, never once thinking that he was changing her entire life.
Her stomach pitched again. She wasn’t sure if it was in response to the memory of the rum that she used to like and would never again touch, the memory of the last guy she’d danced with—Paul—who she wished she’d never met, or the fact that she’d spent every day for the past ten weeks nauseous between the hours of seven a.m. and two p.m.
Or maybe it was that the whole thing was so cliché. She should have known better—she did know better. She’d never done it before—absolutely cliché. She should have been smart—one-night stands were not smart. She should have been safe—unprotected sex was not safe. Or smart.
She started on a third saltine as she watched the mechanic move to the other side of her car, his head still under the hood. She knew next to nothing about cars, but the sound hers had made just before it stopped would have been enough to convince her that it was a lost cause. Then the black smoke had poured out and she knew that she would not be driving the 1996 Toyota home to Justice.
The mechanic—who looked barely old enough to drive a car, not to mention fix one—was still looking at it and not saying a word. That couldn’t be a good sign.
It was just one more thing in a long line of things that proved her life was not going the way she’d intended. Like Caribbean vacations. Tropical vacations should be fun and relaxing. All she should have gotten from it was a tan and some great pictures. Instead she got morning sickness.
“Well, Miss Cassidy, I hate to tell you, but—”
Sabrina steeled herself.
“—your transmission is shot.”
She groaned. She knew what a transmission was and what it did. Sort of. And, as in this case, that it wasn’t good when it stopped doing it.
“And then there’s the…”
“Never mind,” she interrupted, rubbing her forehead. “It doesn’t matter.” Whatever else was wrong with the car was not going to drive the price down, so there was no point in pursuing the conversation any further.
She didn’t even bother to ask how much it would cost to replace or repair or whatever had to be done. She was broke—thank you, Paul—so it didn’t really matter. She couldn’t afford it.
She resisted the urge to scratch her right buttock. The itch on her rear end was nearly unbearable. The sun beating down on the Wyoming highway had also beaten down on her, making her sweat like she couldn’t remember, even at nine in the morning. In fact, she hadn’t been aware that the backs of her legs, including the sensitive area where her thigh curved into her buttock, could sweat. But they could. And the denim of her short shorts had rubbed repeatedly as she walked, resulting in the heat rash from hell.
Which was just, what, number seventy-two on the list of things not going her way?
The mechanic wiped his greasy hands on the rag he pulled from the back pocket of his faded blue jeans. “You want me to write up an estimate?”
There was no hope of a second opinion. The car was kaput. She should know. She’d been the one walking along the highway waiting for someone with enough decency to stop and offer to help—and not murder or kidnap her—for half an hour.
She fought the urge to laugh and lost. “Do you think the repair will cost less than nineteen dollars and—” she dug in the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out the change there, “—thirty-six cents?”
The young man frowned, seeming puzzled. “Um, yes, ma’am. I think it will be more than that.”
He wasn’t even going to joke around with her. “Then, no, I won’t be needing an estimate.”
He tipped back his greasy cap and scratched his head. “Okay.” He seemed more puzzled now.
She sighed, realizing that it was probably the first sigh of many. Her cell phone was dead on the front seat of her dead car, her water bottle was empty, as was her wallet. She was out of options.
“Can I use your phone?”
“Is it a local call?”
She glanced around, looking up and down the Main Street of Muddy Gap, Wyoming, which was even shorter than the one in her tiny hometown. She could walk to anywhere that was local in five minutes. “No. It’s not local. I’ll have to add that to what I owe you.”
He led her to a tiny, stuffy office inside the shop that smelled of motor oil. She briefly wondered if the station would hire her to pump gas and wash windshields but quickly discarded it. She was sleep deprived and stressed out.
She noticed that the mechanic’s shirt had Dan stitched over the left chest. He handed her the cordless phone. “Thanks.”
She smiled at him and waited for him to leave. He didn’t.
“What’s up, Dan?” she finally asked.
“Is someone going to come get you?” he asked.
She certainly hoped so. “Yep.”
“What do you want me to do with your car?”
The sting of the rash intensified as she shifted her weight and the denim rubbed. She had no idea what to do. She had several hundred miles to go yet. Suddenly she felt like crying.
“Any chance you could use it for parts?”
He looked out the window, puzzled yet again. “I don’t know.”
One little emotional breakdown, even a few seconds long would be such a welcome release. But that would accomplish nothing.
So she sniffed once and opted not to sit down.
“Then I’ll have to get back to you.”
Another car pulled up in front of the shop and Dan left her alone.
The dial tone buzzed in her ear as she lifted the heavy black mane of hair from the back of her neck. The dark tinted window inside the shop didn’t give her a clear reflection of the rest of her face, for which she was grateful. The dark blue of her eyes would bring out the even darker circles that hung underneath, she was sure, and her make-up, what little there had been to start, was a day old.
On the bright side, her stomach seemed to have calmed down.
The dial tone turned to an annoying computerized beeping, signaling she’d been standing holding the receiver without doing anything with it for too long.
She frowned at the phone for its impatience.
A few minute later she frowned at the phone for its inability to deliver what she’d needed—a conversation with someone she knew who would be willing to come and pick her up.
She was closer to Justice than Seattle, so she’d called Nebraska first.
Her best friend, Kat—Dr. Katarina Dayton—was not answering her cell phone and was, according to the receptionist at the clinic, in Kansas City for the next few days at a medical conference. No, the receptionist didn’t know to get a message to her and no, Kat was not answering her pager because Dr. Hanson was on call for her.
Sabrina had never even heard of Dr. Hanson.
Her friend Chase, who was approximately nine hours away in the other direction from Kat, didn’t even have his cell on. Chase didn’t have another phone at home. Or work. He was a private construction contractor so his cell was for personal and business. And it was off, at least at the moment.
She’d known Lori and Jen, her companions on her ill-fated trip to Jamaica, for a month and getting on the plane with them had been more a spontaneous what-the-hell kind of thing than something borne of a I-can-depend-on-you-for-anything friendship. It wasn’t just anyone who would drive nine hours one-way for her.
She didn’t have many options for help.
It was times like this when a woman realized not only who her true friends were, but that she didn’t have all that many of them.
She mentally weighed how desperate she was.
She wouldn’t call her father. She’d placed a collect call to him once since she’d left home. He had refused the charges.
Which left her with one option. There was one person she knew would come for her for sure. She held her breath as she started dialing.