Underneath the axle grease and tats
He’s a gentleman
Foley 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?
Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, MARIE HARTE is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit marieharte.com and fall in love.
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She’d just finished clearing the last of them when a familiar sense of anticipation and annoyance broke out over her. She wasn’t surprised to turn around and see Foley Sanders staring at her. She swallowed hard and forced a polite, “Hello.”
His wide smile did nothing but stir her ovaries into happy leaps of joy. She glanced at his equally large and scary mechanic friend standing next to him. Talk about presence. The pair had a combination of sexy danger and charisma that attracted and repelled Cyn in the same breath. Tatted, muscular, and wary—as if they would attack anyone who came too near—the men seemed more lethal than anyone she’d ever met. At the same time, Sanders had a softness in his eyes that invited her to look closer and peel back the layers of the man.
“Hi, Cyn.” He held a coffee and bag of goodies in one hand and motioned to his companion. “This is Sam. You met him yesterday at the shop.”
“We didn’t actually meet,” Sam said in a low, gravelly voice. “She was bitching you out about the cars.”
Not nice of him to bring that up, was it?
Good Lord, but Sam might as well have had the word “menacing” tattooed on his forehead—in addition to the wealth of ink she’d seen over his forearms and biceps the other day.
“That’s right,” she replied, all sweetness and cream. “I came in to correct a fucked-up situation.”
Sanders sighed. Sam blinked then grunted at her and sat at the table she’d cleared.
“Yeah, well, it’s all good now, right?” Sanders gave her a subtle once-over and sipped from his cup, joining his friend at the table.
“It is.” She decided to be pleasant. Not his fault his friend had the manners of a goat. “Enjoy your coffee.”
“Cocoa.” Sam lifted it in toast to her. “And it’s damn good. You might have attitude, but you’ve earned it. The drink and food is fuckin’ amazing.”
She tried not to but couldn’t help it. She found Sam’s honesty charming. “Thanks. Appreciate the fuckin’ compliment.”
That earned a laugh from them both. Before Sanders could draw her into conversation, she left them to return to the back, where she planned to try to get some work done away from temptation. And she didn’t mean the food.
After half an hour dithering online, looking at memes on Facebook, she gave her spreadsheets a disinterested glance and yawned. It had just passed noon, and by the sounds in the shop, the crowd continued to remain steady.
She’d finally delved into progress on a small candy store in Issaquah she’d invested in when someone knocked at the door.
“Yes?” She didn’t glance up, finishing her calculations. Awesome. They’d finally turned a profit.
“So you busy?”
Having expected Gino or Nell, she jerked her head up to see Foley Sanders occupying her doorway. “Um, what?”
He tucked his hands into his front pockets, filling out a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt like the clothes had been made just for him. “I really am sorry about yesterday.” He grimaced. “And about Sam.”
She grinned. “Yesterday’s over. And Sam is fine. I appreciate honesty.”
“Actually, yes. Why? Does that surprise you?”
“Not really.” The look on his face unnerved her, because she couldn’t read him. “You seem like a smart woman. I already know you’re not afraid of confrontation.”
“True enough.” Her palms felt sweaty. Waiting for him to get to the point while trying to seem blasé took energy. Man, he was good-looking. And way out of her league.
“So you want honesty. Okay. You’re beautiful. I want to go out with you. How does dinner sound?”
She blinked. Talk about direct. On the one hand, she liked him the more for it. On the other, now she had to respond in kind. “I thought I told you yesterday I don’t date.”
“I didn’t ask for a date. I asked you out to dinner. I don’t see why we can’t be friends who happen to eat together.”
He looked awkward, standing in an odd way. “Are you hunching your shoulders for some reason?”
“Do I look smaller? Less threatening? Sam said you’re probably scared of me, so I’m trying to look easygoing.” He sighed and straightened to his full height.
She snorted. “Yeah, right. And for the record, I’m not scared of you. I just don’t know what you want. I told you before. I’m not into one-night stands. Or sex of any kind.”
“Now that’s just a shame, but okay. I get it. Look, I’m not into forcing women into anything.” He shrugged. “Frankly, I don’t have to.”
“Nice ego you have there.”
“Hey, you want honesty. There it is. I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot yesterday.”
Shoot. He sounded sincere. Nothing cut through her defenses faster than a real apology. It took a person of worth to recognize his or her fault and atone. Especially when she’d been the one with the “attitude,” as Sam had said.
Her cheeks heated. “I am too. But I don’t want to lead you on in any way. No sex. You want to be friends. That’s what you’re saying.”
“I’d like a lot more than friendship. But if friendship is all you’re offering right now, sure, why not? Never hurts to have a friend who makes killer cocoa and muffins.”
She had to hand it to him. Despite not looking the least bit smaller or less threatening, he’d disarmed her. “How about lunch next week instead of dinner?”
“Lunch works. And I understand. Seriously. No sex, no hint of sex, not even a glimmer of it on the horizon.”
She wished he’d stop saying “sex,” because she kept envisioning him without his clothes on. In bed. Right next to her. So much for her bid for celibacy.
Cyn cleared her throat. “Right. Okay. Lunch. And we’ll go dutch.”
“My treat. I’ll probably end up annoying you, so at least if I’m buying, you’ll feel like you have to be nicer than normal to me.” His sly grin made the temperature in the room rise. “I know it’s tough. But I’ll grow on you.”
“I prefer to think of myself as a creeping vine. And hey, if after lunch you haven’t changed your mind about jumping my bones, at least you’ll like me by then. I’m a charming guy.”
She had to a laugh. “Persistent and honest. Okay. Lunch it is.”
He winked. “Talk to you next week, Cyn.” Sanders turned on his heel and left.
Cyn stared blankly at her monitor until Gino interrupted with a question about their new scones’ ingredients. Pulled back into reality, she dealt with allergy issues and a few finicky customers, all the while wondering if she was woman enough to withstand Foley Sanders’s lethal charm.