Resisting Her Rival

By: Sonya Weiss

Except for the one next to her diner. That one, she could afford a down payment on. The exact one Nick was trying to take.

He’d approached the owner to tell the guy he wanted to buy it. The same day she had. They’d missed each other by fifteen minutes.

Because Oscar, the elderly owner, had known both of them since, in his words, “Y’all were knee-high to grasshoppers,” he wouldn’t sell to either of them unless they could work something out amicably between themselves.

Abby reached over and pushed the button for the air conditioning. With a sputter, hot air halfheartedly spewed from the vents, making the heat inside the car worse. Giving up, she shut it off and rolled the windows farther down. The sweet scent of freshly made cinnamon rolls assailed her as she passed the bakery, but her nerves were stretched too tight to think about stopping to get one.

A knot of desperation curled in her stomach. Something had to work out in her favor. She needed a car. She needed that building. She needed a one-night stand do-over so she could erase the fact that it had happened.

Since she couldn’t have the latter, Nick would have to back off the building. Once he did that, Oscar would be willing to sell to her, and she’d be on track. She’d move on with her life and that night would become a distant memory and—

Her thoughts abruptly screeched to a halt when she rounded the curve in the road and spotted Nick.

She sucked in a breath. Holy ooh rah.

Nick was bent slightly forward at the waist, one hand on the raised hood of an old Dodge Charger while he looked at the engine. His faded blue jeans hugged him as if he were a lifeguard that had just rescued an exhausted swimmer from a riptide. His dark T-shirt pulled across his chest, paying homage to the muscles visibly defined beneath it.

Abby gulped. She eased through the four-way and slowed the car until it coasted to a stop.

The sun touched the skin on the back of his neck above the T-shirt collar, and she remembered the light sunburn he’d had the night they’d spent together. How warm his skin had felt beneath her fingertips as she’d rubbed soothing lotion on him.

Good grief.

If she wasn’t careful, between the anger at Nick and the unwelcome desire she felt at seeing him, she was going to spontaneously combust.

After shoving the gearshift into Park, Abby opened the door. She stepped out and straightened her shoulders. Mustn’t drool over the enemy or I’ll short-circuit my brain.

She recalled the last time she’d felt this cheated, and once again, a man had been involved then, too.

Whatever Nick said, however he tried to defend himself, he had no excuses. He’d undermined her. Still, she wouldn’t let him or his sneaky, underhanded behavior impact her life a second longer. She’d become accustomed to going around obstacles when her family needed her. Buying that building was her chance to finally do something for herself, and she wasn’t about to let Nick Coleman stand in her way.

When he heard footsteps approaching, Nick looked over his shoulder and saw Abby. The day came abruptly, sharply into focus and all of it on her, the one woman he’d never been able to get out of his mind.

He liked the way her hips swayed oh-so-gently as she moved, but he especially liked the way the hot sunlight streamed through her skirt, outlining a figure he knew too damned well. The sight put his body on high alert, and he shifted, his heart beating like he’d just out-skied an avalanche. Down, boy.

He’d seen her a few times since the night they’d spent together in Florida, but she’d brushed him off each time. There was a definite challenge in her eyes when she stopped in front of him. His gaze roamed her face.

She had girl-next-door beauty combined with a down-to-earth personality that had caused more than one guy to chase after her. As far as he knew, she’d refused them all.

When he continued to observe her, she crossed her arms defensively. He couldn’t help but think of the balcony where she’d rested her head against his bare chest. She hadn’t been defensive then. Hadn’t kept him at arm’s length. He’d covered the both of them with a sheet from the bed, positive that he’d rocked her world as much as she’d rocked his.

The next morning, he’d planned to tell her that he wanted to keep seeing her, but the bed had been empty, her tantalizing perfume lingering like a sad, regretful sigh on the empty pillow beside him.

So much for rocking her world.

He tensed at her current expression. She certainly didn’t look welcoming, and there was only so much rejection a man could take.

Looking past her at the car that he knew had to be held together by hope and not much else, he said, “Are you here to have the station wagon looked at?”

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