Resisting Her Rival

By: Sonya Weiss

Icy claws of trepidation grabbed him by the goods and squeezed. It was true being with Abby would help polish his reputation, but he’d wanted her since high school and that troubled him. He knew better than to let himself care.

Friends with benefits was the best way to go. And he’d definitely like to benefit again with Abby. But it looked as though that was over before it even started. He needed to undo whatever he’d done.

Well, hell.

If there was ever a time he needed advice, it was now. He glanced at his cousin. If any guy understood women, it was Keith. He’d been married to the same woman for eleven years. After quickly explaining the situation, Nick waited a second while his cousin thought it over.

Expelling his breath on a heavy sigh, Keith shook his head. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“You’re constantly giving me advice, and now you don’t have any?”

Keith pushed back his ball cap with the tip of his thumb and grinned. “I mean it’s kind of surprising to me. You and Abby Snyder? I don’t know what to make of that.”

“Yeah, I don’t even know how the hell we ever got together—or how the building argument happened,” Nick muttered. He hadn’t known she’d wanted the place because he really hadn’t listened, but that didn’t stop him from feeling guilty. Or from needing it himself. More than one customer had experienced trouble trying to climb the steep stairs leading to his office. Plus he’d outgrown the somewhat rundown space.

He needed to fix that, and he needed to fix the situation with Abby, especially if he wanted a repeat of that night, which he did. And he needed the town to see him differently.

Two hours had passed since she’d had driven away. But before she’d turned her back to him, he’d caught a quick flash of disappointment tangled with the anger in the look she’d aimed his direction.

In his defense, he’d been caught off guard; his brain zeroed in on how good she’d looked. He knew that he shouldn’t have gotten defensive, but she’d ambushed him with those accusations.

His brain had gone into deep freeze, and before he could thaw it out, he’d challenged her. Bet she was still stewing about that.

“I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen you this worked up over a woman. You’ve always been careful not to get involved.” Keith wiped his grease-stained hands on a rag and stuck one end of it in his back pocket. His eyes danced with amusement.

“We’re not involved. Anyway, Abby’s different.”

“She wasn’t one of your high school girls?”

Nick could almost hear the wheels turning in his cousin’s head, and he shot him a look. “I didn’t cross that line. We were never involved in high school.”

“Not from lack of trying on your part, I’m sure.” Keith grinned again. “That’s because Abby’s a smart one. She knew better than to get anywhere near the backseat of your car.”

“You’re not helping.” Regret surged through Nick at the memory of how he used to behave. If he could go back in time, he’d try to mend some of the mistakes he’d made.

“You want my advice, I’d suggest you see what your girl wants you to do.”

“She’s not my anything, and I already know what she wants,” Nick said flatly. “But I can’t give up the building, either. I can’t afford a different one any more than she can. I’m splitting every penny of profit I make between the business and building my house.”

“It’s going to be a beautiful home, Nick, and I know what that house means to you after what you and your brothers went through,” Keith said, clasping a hand to Nick’s shoulder. “But only one of you can win in this battle. Try talking to Abby and get her to see your side.”

“Reason with Abby about that building? I’d have better luck selling Hello Kitty purses to the Hell’s Angels. When her mind is made up, Abby is…” Nick hesitated.

Keith nodded. “I’ve known her since she was in diapers. You don’t have to tell me what she’s like. Stubborn. Determined. Doesn’t need anyone.”

That sounds like Abby. Yet, when she let down her guard, I was one lucky man.

Nick looked through the open bay doors when a car pulled up. He nodded in greeting when his friend Eric Maxwell joined them.

“Engine light’s still coming on. You got time to look at it again?” Eric asked.

“I guess so.” Keith brushed past Eric, muttering as he walked, “I keep telling you this sorry piece of junk isn’t worth restoring.”

Eric shrugged. “I like restoring old cars. It relaxes me.” He swung his gaze to Nick. “What’s up, bro?”

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