This was so not starting out well.
Lifting her head, her gaze slid to her cell phone. She snatched it off the seat, thumbed through her contacts, and quickly hit the call button. After only two rings, someone grabbed the line.
“Maddie? Where in the hell are you, girl?” Her father’s concerned voice exploded. “Your mother’s about to call the state police, and I’m not sure how much—”
“Dad, I’m fine. I blew a tire about ten miles out.”
Over the sounds of laughter and clanking silverware, her father huffed. “You did what?”
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that it was past eleven and she hadn’t had breakfast yet. “I blew a tire.”
“You blew what?”
Madison rolled her eyes. “I blew a tire.”
“Wait. I can’t hear you. Guys, can you keep it down?” His voice got a little farther away from the mouthpiece. “Maddie’s on the phone and she blew something.” The room erupted in male laughter.
Oh. My. Freaking. God.
“Sorry about that, honey. Now, what happened?” her father asked. “You blew a fire?”
“I blew a tire! A tire! You know those things that are round and made of rubber?”
“Oh. Oh! Now I get it.” Dad chuckled. “It’s an animal house in here, everyone eating all at once. Did you remember to get that spare tire of yours replaced since your last flat? You know, dear, you should always be prepared. What if you needed to leave town during an evacuation?”
She was seconds away from smacking her face off the steering wheel. She loved her parents to bits, but she really didn’t want to talk about her lack of planning skills while a room full of men laughed about her blowing anything—while Chase laughed, because she’d definitely picked out his deep baritone in the background. Her belly was already filling with knots at the thought of seeing him soon. “I know, Dad, but I haven’t had a chance to get a new spare tire yet.”
“You should always have a spare. Have we not taught you anything about preparedness?”
Well, wasn’t that a moot point right now? And it wasn’t like a comet had struck her car.
Her father sighed like all fathers do when their daughters need rescuing, no matter how old they were. “Just sit tight, and we’ll come get you, honey.”
“Thanks, Dad.” She ended the call and dropped the cell into her purse.
It was so easy imagining her absurdly large family crowded around the table, shaking their heads. Only Maddie would be late. Only Maddie would blow a tire and not have a spare. Being the youngest in a family that consisted of blood relations and the Gamble horde sucked.
No matter what she did, she was always little, itty bitty Maddie. Not Madison, who oversaw the volunteer services at the Smithsonian Library. Being a history geek growing up, she considered her career choice fitting.
Madison tipped her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes. Even with the air conditioner running, heat from the outside had begun to seep in. She undid the first couple of buttons and was grateful she’d opted for lightweight linen pants instead of jeans. Knowing her luck, she’d get heat stroke before her dad or brother showed up.
She hated knowing she was dragging either of them away from the start of the celebrations. That was the last thing she wanted. And right next to the last thing was the fact there was no doubt in her mind that Chase was probably shaking his head along with everyone else.
A few minutes passed and she must’ve dozed off because the next thing she knew, someone was tapping on her window.
Blinking slowly, she pressed the button to lower the window and turned her head to stare into a pair of cerulean blue eyes fanned by incredibly thick black lashes.
Her heart stuttered and tumbled over itself as her gaze drifted across high cheekbones she was painfully familiar with, full lips that looked tantalizingly soft but could be firm and unyielding. Dark brown hair fell over his forehead, always a shy away from needing a haircut. A strong nose with a slight bump from a break during his college years gave the otherwise flawless male beauty a hard, dangerously sexy edge.
Madison’s gaze dipped over the plain white shirt that clung to broad shoulders, a rock-hard chest, and a narrow waist. Jeans hung low on his hips and thank God the rest of the view was cut off by the car door.
Forcing her gaze back to his face, she sucked in a sharp breath.
Those lips had curved into a knowing half smile that did funny things to her insides. And like a match tossed to gasoline, her body sparked alive and flames licked every inch of her.
She loathed her immediate response to him, wished any other eligible guy in the tri-state area could evoke the same inferno, and yet was thrilled by it. Absolutely undone.
“Chase,” she breathed.
His grin spread and damn, there were those dimples. “Maddie?”
Her body quivered at the sound of his voice. It was deep and smooth like aged whiskey. That voice should be outlawed, along with the rest of the package. Her gaze dropped again. Damn the car door, because no doubt that package was quite impressive.
For a brief, unwanted second, she was thrown back to her junior year of college, to the night she had visited Chase’s club for the very first time and stood in his posh office. Full of hope, full of wanting…
Snapping out of her stupor, she sat up, her spine rigid. “They sent you?”
He chuckled, as if she’d uttered the funniest thing in the world. “I volunteered, actually.”
“Of course,” he drawled lazily. “I had to come see what little Maddie Daniels was blowing.”
About a second after those words left his mouth, Chase realized his mistake, but damn, he didn’t regret them. A fierce, hot, and downright sinful flush stole across her cheeks and down her throat. There was a part of him—a ruthless fragment—that would break legs and crush hands to see how far that blush travelled.
But like he’d learned before, at the last possible second, Maddie Daniels was a line not meant to be crossed.
Her pouty lips thinned and anger flared in her hazel eyes, turning them more green than brown. Her eyes shifted colors based on her emotions, and lately he’d seen them green more times than not.
“That was kind of crude, Chase.”
He shrugged. Civility wasn’t his middle name. “Are you going to stay in the car or get out?”
Maddie looked like she would have to be torn from the car. “Am I supposed to just leave it here, along the side of the road?”
“I called a tow truck, and they’re on their way. If you pop your trunk, I’ll get your stuff.”
Her gaze finally moved past him, and he felt his chest ease. “Nice car,” she said.
Chase looked over his shoulder at the black Porsche gleaming in the sunlight. “It’s a car.” One of three he owned. He wished he’d brought his truck instead, but the thing guzzled gas like nothing else. Turning back to the little problem at hand, he stepped aside. “Maddie, are you coming with me or not?”
She stared up at him, almost defiantly, which was laughable. Maddie was all of five foot three and probably weighed a buck ten. He towered over her and could easily throw her over his shoulder with one arm.
Their eyes locked.
With each passing second, pulling her out of the car and throwing her over his shoulder seemed more likely. Maybe he’d give her a spanking he damn well knew she deserved.
Cock said yes by swelling almost painfully in his jeans.
Common sense said no with the punch to the gut.
If Chase was anything in life, he was his father—successful at a young age, determined, wealthy, and carrying the family gene enabling him to fuck up any serious relationship within ten seconds.
And everyone, even Maddie, knew he was just like his father.
So it’s definitely time for a better tactic, he thought, taking a deep breath. “There’s a slice of cheesecake your mom put aside with your name on it.”
Maddie’s eyes glazed over. He’d seen that look a few times before. Chocolate and desserts had given her that post-sex-bliss look ever since he could remember, and that wasn’t helping with the problem in his jeans.
The car door flew open without any warning, and he narrowly avoided accidental impotency by jumping out of the way.
“Cheesecake,” she repeated, grinning. “Does it have strawberry topping?”
He fought a grin. “With a side of chocolate for dipping, just like you love.”
She popped her hands on her curvy hips and cocked her head to the side. “Then what are you waiting for?” She pushed a button on her keys, and the trunk popped open. “Every second that passes between me and that cheesecake, the more dangerous this trip will get.”
This trip was already dangerous.
He stalked to the back of her truck while she grabbed items from the backseat. Only one suitcase rested in the trunk. Maddie was always a light packer. He’d dated girls who couldn’t stay a night away without three outfits and a dozen pairs of shoes. Maddie was low maintenance, a product of growing up with a bunch of rowdy boys probably.
Grabbing her luggage, he slammed the trunk, then rounded the rear of her car and drew up short. Jesus Christ…
She was bent over, tugging a long garment bag from the backseat. The thin linen of her pants stretched over the round ass he knew she worked hard for. How many times had he watched her on the elliptical at the gym? Too many times to count.
He really needed to start working out at a different time.
But he couldn’t peel his eyes off her for the life of him. Maddie may be tiny, but she rocked some hellish curves, and even though she wasn’t the type of woman he usually went for, she was beautiful in her own way. Perky nose and plump lips, cheekbones covered with a speckling of freckles. Long hair, currently pulled up, normally reached the middle of her back.
The kind of hair—the kind of body—a man could easily get lost in. Aw, hell, it was more than that. Maddie would make some son of a bitch a happy man one day. She was and always had been the complete package: smart, funny, strong-willed, and kind.
And that ass…
Chase pivoted around, inhaling through his nose, half tempted to drop Maddie off, drive into town, and pick up the first chick who looked his way. Or grab Maddie’s rear.
She brushed past him, casting a weird look over her shoulder. “Are you dazing out on me? Let me guess. Bambi or Susie kept you up late? I can never tell them apart.”
“You’re talking about the Banks twins?”
Maddie cocked her head to the side and waited.
“Their names are Lucy and Lake,” he corrected.
She rolled her eyes. “Who names their kid Lake? Oh! If you have kids, you can call them River and Stream.” Shaking her head, her eyes narrowed. A knowing look crossed her face. “So you’re still dating them?”
Honestly, dating wasn’t the term he’d use for the tall, lanky twins. “I’m not dating them at the same time, Maddie. Nor have I.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard.”
“Then you’ve heard wrong.” But that look of hers spread. Clamping his jaw shut, he followed her. No point in correcting her assumption because his reputation was probably right up there with his father’s already.