Crashed (Entangled Indulgence)

She swore never to trust him again...

Fiery mechanic Alexandra Franco should have known better. Years ago, her best friends’ older brother took her virginity and broke her heart–or rather, doused it with gasoline, lit a match, and then walked away. And Alex definitely should
not
have indulged in another hot night with him after the fact. He’s not the same boy she fell for, and she sure as hell doesn’t want anything to do with the wealthy, ruthless man he’s become.

Walking away from Alex was the biggest mistake of Deacon West’s life. She belongs with him, and if getting her back means playing dirty, so be it. If she’ll grant him a three-month, no-strings affair, he won’t sell the building Alex and his sisters use for their auto repair business. Hell, he’ll even sign it over to them. But will Alex ever entrust her heart to him again, or are they destined to crash and burn?

Table of Contents

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by Sherilee Gray. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Indulgence is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Karen Grove

Cover design by Liz Pelletier

Cover art by iStock

ISBN 978-1-63375-280-1

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition July 2015

For my mother.

Thank you for being awesome. x

Chapter One

Alex Franco planted her ass on a chair that was about as comfortable as a slab of concrete—but no doubt cost more than every piece of furniture in her apartment combined—and pretended to inspect her fingernails. Every pair of eyes in the stylish reception area of West Enterprises had now shifted to her. She knew this because she could feel them like laser beams burning a hole into the top of her head.

Whatever.
Wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last.

She glanced down at her beaten-to-hell work boots and shifted her foot to cover the black grease mark she’d tracked into the carpet, then scowled for giving a shit.

Right then, she didn’t have it in her to feel bad for staining Deacon West’s very expensive carpet. Served the jackass right.

Drying her sweaty palms on the sides of her shorts, she sat back and crossed her arms. God, this was the last place she wanted to be right now. Fridays were busy at the garage. Three cars were booked in for this afternoon, a new record for them. She didn’t have time for this.

Another woman dressed in a pencil skirt and pumps walked in and parked it beside her buddy already sitting behind the oversize reception desk. Did they all dress the same on purpose? Or was it some weird, unspoken law?

The two of them immediately started whispering and giggling. Alex lifted her gaze, narrowing her eyes on the pair of Stepford wife clone-factory rejects. The bitches were looking at her like she was something from another goddamned planet.

Morons.

She could only guess the reason security hadn’t shown up and dragged her out already was because they were hoping for a free show. And the only reason she was stuck out here cooling her heels, and not tearing Deacon a new one, was because the bastard had his office door locked.

She tightened her fingers around the letter in her hand. How could he do this to his sisters? Piper and Rusty loved their brother, trusted him. They’d be devastated if they knew what he was up to behind their backs. She didn’t want to believe he would sell their garage out from under them, but why else would he want the building valued? Alex had met the West girls when she was just ten years old. They’d quickly become best friends—her lifeline. This could tear them apart, could tear apart the business they’d been working so hard to keep afloat, to make a success. She couldn’t let that happen—she wouldn’t.

She shifted in her seat when another leggy blonde sauntered past and tried not to feel self-conscious. Not easy when her tank and cutoffs were grease stained and her hair was a mess.

God, she hadn’t thought this through, had let her temper get the better of her. Again. Maybe she should just get the hell out of here. Call the asshat instead to give him a piece of her mind. This really didn’t need to be done in person, right?

It had been six long months, but she realized, in that moment, she still wasn’t ready to see him.

Crap.

Retreat! Regroup! Run like hell!

She stood and spun on the grubby soles of her boots, getting his carpet good and filthy before she bolted toward the elevators. She’d managed two steps when she heard the click of a door opening behind her.

“Alex?”

Ah, shit.
She took another retreating step.

“Stop right there.”

That familiar voice moved through her, the rough command hitting her low in the belly, lifting goose bumps on her bare arms.

There was no way she could run now and keep her dignity intact. Planting her hands on her hips, she took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself for the devastation that seeing Deacon again would bring.

Then spun around.

Goddammit.

The oxygen rushed from her lungs. Yep, the guy was still as hot as he’d been six months ago. Maybe hotter, if that were possible. It was all still there in mouthwatering abundance. The broad shoulders. The long legs. The rugged good looks and piercing green eyes. That melt-your-panties dimple in his chin.

But what always got to her, the thing that made her chest tight and had the ability to make her forget what a giant asshole he’d become, was the overlong hair. It brushed the collar of his shirt, in need of a serious trim, too long, too casual for the man he was now. That hair belonged on the scruffy teen who’d worked in his father’s garage after school and on weekends. That hair did not belong on Mr. Businessman of the Year.

She let her gaze travel to the reason his office door had been locked in the middle of the day, the tall blonde dangling off his arm like a cheap handbag. Alex bit her lip when the familiar pain socked her in the chest.

Harden the hell up, Franco. What? You think he’s been a monk all these months?

The guy was rich and incredibly good-looking. He could screw whoever he liked, as often as he liked. And apparently during the day in his office wasn’t off-limits.

His gaze moved over her body, but his face gave nothing away. Her palms got sweaty again, and her heart started to pound harder.

“Well, this is a surprise. To what do I owe this rare pleasure?” She didn’t miss the hint of bitterness in his voice, because the bastard wasn’t trying to hide it.

The blonde hadn’t retracted her claws from his arm and looked Alex up and down like she was something the rodent-sized, froufrou dog she no doubt had at home had just dragged in.

“You know why I’m here, Deke. So cut the bullshit.” Gasps came from the receptionists, whose heads were so close together now they could pass as conjoined twins, and Deacon’s blonde narrowed her eyes like she wanted to scratch Alex’s eyes out of her head.

The blonde turned into him and smashed her impressive breasts into his side. “Who is this, Deacon? We’re supposed to be having lunch.” She batted what had to be false lashes and pouted her bee-stung pink lips like a blowup doll.

Alex snorted, couldn’t help herself. The woman was a walking, talking cliché.

Deacon tried to hide it, but she didn’t miss the way he tensed, or the way that muscle in his jaw jumped several times. He was clenching his teeth—he did that when he was annoyed, always had. She tried to shrug it off. So he was pissed she’d ruined his lunch date. Well, tough shit.

What did she expect? That the guy had woken up one day and
boom
, he was no longer a complete and utter asshole? That her feelings would have magically disappeared? If only life were that simple. Her feelings hadn’t diminished, not one tiny bit in all these years. She should have known better, should have left this for Piper or Rusty to sort out.

Deacon disentangled the woman from his arm and took a step back. “Apologies. We’ll have to make it another time, Candice.” And just like that he dismissed the handbag.

Candice’s lips thinned. “You have got to be kidding me?”

He pinned her with a look Alex had never seen before and thankfully had never been the recipient of. God, she almost felt sorry for her.

Almost.

“We’ll catch up another time.”

Blondie stared at him openmouthed for several seconds, then with a huff, flicked her long mane over her shoulder and flounced out of the office.

She noted Deacon didn’t watch his date leave, his gaze remained firmly pinned on her. He stepped back and held the door open for her without a word. When she hesitated, the pissed-off vibe he was already throwing ratcheted up a notch. “You’re here to see me, right?”

She didn’t bother answering and stomped forward, sliding past him into his office.
Too late to back out now.

The room was big, fancy as hell, decked out with all the best crap money could buy. Massive windows covered half the wall space, giving him a spectacular view overlooking the city of Miami. He’d more than likely gazed out at that view while he banged the human Barbie over his desk. She forced those thoughts from her mind. Deacon’s sordid sex life was none of her business.

Crossing her arms, needing a barrier, no matter how flimsy, she turned to face him. It didn’t matter how many times she saw him like this, she still had a hard time reconciling this Deacon in his power suits and big office with the boy who’d helped out in his father’s garage to save for college.

She looked around, took it all in, and her belly clenched. He’d gotten everything he’d ever wanted. He was a self-made man, a success at only twenty-eight years old, just three years older than her. Too young to be so damn cynical.

God, she still mourned the boy he’d been, the one she’d fallen for when she was just fourteen. The boy she’d trailed after like a lost puppy. Unrequited love at its most pathetic. He’d been her knight in grease-stained coveralls, been there for her more times than she could count.

She didn’t know this Deacon, didn’t know if she wanted to.

“What the hell happened to you?” The words slipped past her lips before she could engage her brain.

His jaw hardened, and the muscle jumped again. “I could ask you the same thing.”

“Jesus. Forget it.” She’d been in the same room with him for less than a minute, and already they were bitching at each other.

His wide shoulders stiffened as he walked to his desk, then rested his ass on its surface. “Why are you here, Alex? I have work to do and now, thanks to you, I won’t get lunch.”

Ouch.

She ignored the coldness in his voice, the way his displeasure at seeing her made her want to crawl into the nearest hole and curl into the fetal position, and focused on her anger. She slammed the now rumpled letter on the desk beside him. “What the hell’s this?”

He glanced down but didn’t pick it up. His expression didn’t change, remained smooth and unaffected. “I own that building, which includes the garage and the apartment you live in upstairs. As your landlord, I’m only required to give you forty-eight hours’ notice to enter your apartment. You’re lucky I decided to be generous and give you two weeks before I brought the valuer in.”

She gritted her teeth. “Why the goddamned valuer, Deke? Are you selling the garage out from under us?”

He shrugged. “I’m thinking about it.”

Her stomach flipped; she hadn’t wanted to believe it. She curled her fingers into tight fists, fighting back the hurt and the feeling of betrayal. Fear settled in the pit of her stomach, heavy and cold. “How could you do that to your own sisters?”
How could you do that to me?
“Have you told Piper or Rusty you plan on selling our livelihood out from underneath us?”

“It’s time to stop playing shop, Alex. The sooner I get rid of that place, the sooner my sisters can move on with their lives.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “That garage
is
our lives. Me, Piper, and Rusty. It was a big part of yours once, too.”

He didn’t react.

So damn cold.

“You’re a good mechanic. You’ll find another job easy enough.”

“My God, Deacon. Do they remove your heart when you graduate business school?”

He laughed, the sound so bitter it chilled her to the bone. “I wish.”

Alex tried to think fast—she had to stop this. They couldn’t lose everything they’d worked so hard to build. “When your dad died, he left the business to us…he wanted—”

“But he left the building to me.”

“—to make sure your sisters always had security.” The bastard must love this, love making her beg. “Give us time to prove we can do this. We can make it work.”

The business had been a thriving one, but after Deacon’s dad died, they’d lost customers. Men who thought girls made crappy mechanics decided to take their business elsewhere. “We just need a bit more time to build a new client base.”

“Don’t you think you’ve had long enough? How long has it been? Since we buried Dad? Hmm, let me see, six months?” His voice was so emotionless it sent shivers down her spine.

He knew exactly how long it had been. Like he could forget the date of his father’s funeral. Her face heated, and she dropped her gaze from his, unable to hold it any longer.

Not when images best forgotten filled her mind. The way his powerful body had strained above hers, the sounds he’d made as he’d pounded into her, the look on his face right before he’d come, the way he’d trembled in her arms afterward.

The way he’d looked sleeping right before she crept out of his room without so much as a
see you around
. The worst part was, she’d wanted to stay—God, so much—but she’d already been there, done that. She knew what staying would have gotten her—another dose of heartache and humiliation. Something she actively tried to avoid.

When she was eighteen, after years of wishing he’d love her back, Deke had finally made a move. Believing he was
the one
, she’d fallen all over him like the desperate idiot she’d been. But he’d made it clear she wasn’t the type of woman you settled down with. No, she was the type of woman you fucked and left behind. Which made falling back into bed with him again, six months ago, all the more stupid.

She shivered, hated that despite everything, she still wanted him. Her heart squeezed, body heating like it always did around him. “I know how long it’s been,” she rasped.

A hard smile turned up the corners of his lips. “I thought you might’ve forgotten.” He pushed away from the desk and walked right up to her, invading her personal space. Suddenly trapped in his force field, she was unable to step back. “Maybe I’ve been wrong all these months. Maybe you haven’t forgotten after all. Have you thought of that night, Alex? Thought about how good we were together?” His gaze darkened. “What it was like to have my mouth on you, my cock moving inside you?”

Oh, God, she had. Every goddamned night since. She shivered, a delicious ache building steadily between her thighs. He wasn’t playing fair. The bastard knew how much she loved his dirty mouth, how much it turned her on. How she loved it when he used that impressive body to corner her, pin her down, take control.

He smirked, reading her so easily. “That’s what I thought.”

What had she been thinking coming here? Her temper got her into trouble more times than she’d like to admit, but this lack of judgment had to be some kind of new low even for her. She shrugged out of his invisible hold, which wasn’t easy, and took a step back. “Wrong. I try to forget my mistakes.”

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