She was worth more than any dream car...
Lily: I’m cleaning out my grandmother’s barn, but there’s an old car here. I don’t know if it’s worth anything or what it would take to move. Would you be willing to take a look at it?
My first inclination was to say no. I couldn’t go to her house. I knew without a doubt I wouldn’t be able to control myself around her.
The phone buzzed in my hand. It was Lily. I took a deep breath before I answered. “Jake here.”
“Hey.” Her voice was soft and soothed the irritation from my conversation with Ryan.
“You have a car for me?” I closed my eyes at my words. I literally couldn’t control my mouth when it came to her. I was supposed to tell her I was too busy. I couldn’t get away from the garage. Instead, I agreed to whatever she needed.
“I don’t know what I’m looking at, but it appears to be in fairly good condition, and I need this space for a wedding reception in June.”
“Wow. You scheduled a wedding?” She’d mentioned it as an option for the future, but I hadn’t expected her to book something so quickly.
“They’re friends of mine. You know Max from Max’s Bar & Grill?”
“That’s right. They’re probably just being nice, but—”
“Don’t do that. If they like the property enough to schedule their wedding, you did a good job selling it to them. You should be proud.”
Silence fell between us, but there was an unexpected goodwill I felt toward her, hearing that she’d had success in her business. Clearing my throat, I returned to the reason for her call. “You want me to tow it to the garage or a used car lot?”
She sighed in my ear, and I could almost imagine we were in bed together, her nails skimming down my torso, to my abs, and lower, her hair tickling the sensitive skin of my thighs as she took my cock into her mouth. Fuck, that image was too enticing.
“I’d really appreciate it if you could just tell me what condition it’s in and what I should do with it. It doesn’t have any sentimental value to me, but it did to my grandparents.”
I tried to loosen my tight grip on the phone I held to my ear. She wasn’t asking for much. I could stop by, give her the information she needed, and get out of there. “You want me to bring the tow truck?”
“Not yet. I’m not ready to decide. I just need the information.”
I let my head fall back, knowing I was doing something I shouldn’t. “You want me to stop by tonight?”
The earlier, the better. Otherwise, I’d be thinking about needing to go to her place and building it up in my head, making it more than it was. I needed to get her out of my head, not embedded further.
“Could you? That would be amazing.”
Her appreciation flowed through me. No one needed me except for Hailey and Nana. Lately, I’d been neglecting both. “No problem.”
“Thank you, Jake. I really appreciate it.”
“See you soon.” I clicked off before she could say anything else. I couldn’t tell this woman no. She was under my skin.
I cleaned up, turned off the lights, and locked up. I’d brought my motorcycle today, so I grabbed my helmet and swung a leg over it. Revving the engine, I took off in the direction of Lily’s farm. I remembered exactly where it was from the night I’d taken her home.
It was just outside of town, in an area that was a mix of developments and farms. Some property owners had succumbed to the appeal of developers, and others held out.
The evening was heavy with the smell of rain in the air as I carefully maneuvered the curves of the tree-lined road.
I pulled down her gravel lane, my heart rate picking up as I eased closer to the house at the end of the lane.
When I shut off the engine, the light illuminated the curves of Lily’s body through the thin white dress she was wearing as she stood on the porch, waiting for me.
I climbed off the bike and rested my helmet on the seat. Lily made her way down the steps and toward me. Every ounce of blood went south, making my pants tight.
She wasn’t wearing anything particularly alluring, just a sundress with flip-flops, but she was the most attractive woman I’d seen. There was something settling about arriving home to find a woman waiting for me.
She stopped a foot away from me. “Thank you for coming.”
I nodded tightly, unable to form any words. I wanted to pull her in to my body and show her how she made me feel. I curled my fingers into fists to resist the urge to touch her.
She smiled, and like always, it felt good. “It’s in the barn.”
I was so focused on her I couldn’t remember why I was here. It was to see a car, not her. This wasn’t a date. I wasn’t looking for a hookup or taking her for a ride. No matter how much I wanted to.
I followed her to the barn, my gaze locked on the sway of her hips. I wanted to grip her hips and pull her back against me, to feel the soft curve of her ass against me. I tipped my head up, feeling the first raindrop.
The barn doors opened with a creak, and Lily moved inside to flip on the lights.
I was drawn more to her each time I was in her presence. It was a disturbing pattern.
“My grandfather took good care of it, but I don’t think my grandmother touched it after he died. I haven’t seen it without the cover on in years.” Lily stood a few feet away from me, her gaze on the vehicle.
When I didn’t respond, she turned to me, her brow raised. “What do you think?”
I ripped my gaze from hers and tried to focus on the gold vehicle parked in the middle of the space. I whistled through my teeth at the sight. “Your grandparents like gold, huh?”
Then I stepped closer, not really believing what I was seeing. A limited-edition Tiger Gold Pontiac GTO. I’d always wanted a GTO for myself. The first muscle car ever made, it was rare in its own right, but the Tiger Golds were more limited.
The closest I’d ever gotten was at my old shop. The suit ruined it with red leather racing seats and a black paint job, but this one was the original color.
“It’s just been sitting here?” I asked her, wondering if she knew what she had here.
“Grandpa would take it for a drive a few times a week, but as he got older, it sat more. When he died, I don’t think Grandma could bear to look at it. It held too many memories for her.”
“Kind of like how Berta does for you?” I asked her absentmindedly as I circled it, my excitement growing as I realized what good condition it was in. Sure, the tires needed to be replaced, and probably a few other things, but otherwise, it was perfect.
“My grandmother always talked about the first time they met. How he’d pulled up to the local hangout—a soda fountain shop—with this crazy gold sports car. Everyone thought it was over the top, but she thought it was perfect. She was immediately drawn to him but worried he’d be cocky. He told her he won it in a contest at a shoe store.”
I swung my head in her direction. “You’re kidding me.”
She laughed. “That was the story. It’s so crazy, isn’t it? Who wins a car in a contest?”
“At a shoe store no less.”
“Anyway, she said he wasn’t cocky at all. He’d grown up on a farm, and he was as humble as they got. She loved him immediately.”
“That’s a good story.” I didn’t even know how my grandparents met.
Lily shook her head. “What do you think I should do with it?”
I stopped and looked at her. “Do with it?”
“Yeah, it can’t stay here. Zoe and Max want to hold their wedding reception in this space.”
For the first time, I looked around at the large space. It was a newer barn that had clearly never been used for any farm-related activities. The floor was wood, everything in good condition, if not dusty. There were boxes and things with tarps thrown over them, but otherwise, it would be a good space.
“You want me to tow it for you? Get it running again?” I asked carefully.
“That would be amazing, Jake. Do you think someone would buy it? Maybe you could get the word out, or I could post flyers. What do you think it would go for?”
I moved closer to her, knowing the going rate on the top of my head. I’d seen them for sale for a hundred thousand dollars. Should I tell her that when I wanted it for myself?
She was fiddling with the skirt of her dress like she was nervous or unsure.
Her face fell. “You don’t think it’s worth anything, do you? God. I was so hopeful when I saw your face.”
I stepped closer to her. “She’s gorgeous.”
I wasn’t exactly talking about the car. Lily was too. Her hair was braided and curled over one shoulder. Her dress was sweet, yet a little see-through. I could see the lace cups of her bra, and I wondered if she wore panties underneath.
Her brow raised.
I decided to show her my cards. She was worth more than my dream car. “Anyone who knows anything about cars would love an opportunity to own this one.”
Outside, the rain had begun to fall. But inside, we were warm and dry.
She let out a breath. “Oh good. I wasn’t sure.”
“Are you sure you want to sell it?” She’d been so adamant about keeping Berta.
“I just don’t know what I’d do with it. I wouldn’t drive it. I don’t need it for the business, and I have nowhere to store it.”
My fingers itched to touch the tip of her braid. Was her hair soft like her skin would be? “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to keep it outside in the elements.”
“What other choice do I have?” Her gaze flicked from the car behind me to my face.
I wanted to say I’d take it, but I wasn’t sure I could get together the cash I’d need for it. Everything was wrapped up in the garage or in investment accounts. I hated touching my savings. Growing up poor, I was very cautious about what I spent my money on. The GTO would be an impulse purchase.
But it wasn’t the car that was drawing my attention as Lily tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear.
I wanted to unravel her hair from the braid to see what it would feel like in my fingers. I wanted to touch her, kiss her. I wanted everything, but I didn’t deserve it. I’d screwed things up so royally already, and what did I have to offer her? One night in the barn?
“Jake?” Lily asked, but I was too far gone. The thread of conscience that kept me in check snapped. I knew it would come back at me like a rubber band, but I’d take my chances.
I gripped her chin, tilting her face until it was the way I wanted it, and then dropped my lips to hers.
She gasped into my mouth, her body swaying toward mine.
I gripped her hip with my free hand, anchoring her in place. Her body pressed against mine from thigh to chest, and I was lost. I had to have her.
The only sound was the steady beat of the rain on the roof. The inside of the barn was cozy and intimate. It felt like we were in our own world.
Nothing could penetrate this tiny bubble we’d created. I needed to hurry because the magic of the moment might disappear with the rain.
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Always and Forever by Julia Jarrett
When I left Dogwood Cove eighteen years ago, Ethan Monroe was nothing more than my best friend’s older brother.
Over that time he went from the boy who played hide and seek with us, to the seriously hot, plaid-wearing, scruff-bearing, mayor of the small town we grew up in.
But I’m only back to figure out what to do with the run-down beachfront resort my estranged father left me in his will.
Not to fall in love.