CHARMING YOU

CHAPTER 1

Micky Llewellyn cursed her luck a thousand times in the past nine days.

It started last Wednesday when she was pulled over for speeding, and the cop gave her a ticket for going seventy-three in a sixty-five. Who gets a ticket for going eight miles per hour over the speed limit?

Her dog ran away on Saturday morning. Ophelia the beagle darted between houses and howled ecstatically at her freedom. A neighbor finally discovered her two hours later digging through some trash and wolfing down questionable food stuffs.

On Monday, she met her new boss—a slick-haired, sharp-featured man with an overly white smile who used words like “synergy” and scheduled meetings at seven o’clock in the morning.

She spotted a mouse—or worse, a rat—in her garage, heard a family of birds in her chimney, and possibly broken her toe on the coffee table.

Plus, her stepmother was coming into town this weekend.

Micky thought the cold that flattened her two days ago was just an allergic reaction to recent events…and now this.

Now—on top of everything—her car battery died. She was going to be late to her brother’s house for dinner.

Sweat beaded on her brow. The September temperatures still hovered above eighty, even as the sun faded. Micky looked around the emptying parking garage and pulled her cell phone out of her purse to call the auto club and explain her dilemma.

“Yes, Ms. Llewellyn. We can have a technician there in forty-five minutes to an hour.”

“No chance they’d get here sooner?” Micky questioned hopefully.

“Possibly, but at rush hour on a Friday, that’s the best we can do.”

It was already after six thirty, and it would take her at least forty-five minutes to drive across Dallas to Pete’s house. Being there by seven thirty was way out of the question.

She ran a fatigued hand through her dark chocolate, shoulder-length waves and then wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. She hated to be a kink in her brother’s plans.

Technically, Pete was her half-brother, and her stepmother would no doubt see her tardiness, at best, as a result of chronic irresponsibility and, at worst, as a direct personal attack. Lila Llewellyn-Vanoy didn’t believe in bad luck—just bad planning and malicious intent.

Micky gave up trying to make the woman happy a long time ago. What Lila thought of her didn’t matter anymore. But she didn’t want to ruin Pete’s evening. He planned to introduce his girlfriend to his mother, and it was important. He told Micky that marriage to Clarissa was in his near future, so Micky wanted the evening to go smoothly.

The thought of being late tensed her shoulders as she slid back behind the wheel of her Toyota Camry. She turned the key again and hoped for signs of life. Nothing. Her sigh evolved into a cough. Though she was finally much better today, remnants of her cold remained.

She called Pete.

“Bad news. My car battery died, and I’m going to be late.”

“Shit. How dead is dead?” Micky heard Clarissa Langley, Pete’s girlfriend, inquire in the background.

“I turn the key and hear nothing but clicks and the faint laughter of the gods,” Micky quipped. “AAA is on the way. Is your mother there yet?”

“Not yet,” Pete answered before saying something to Clarissa about Micky’s car. “She’s already checked into the hotel. She wanted to freshen up before coming over.” He paused. “She did tell me she’d be here promptly at seven thirty.”

“Of course.” Micky coughed. “Where’s she staying?”

“The Crescent.”

“Of course,” she said again as she turned her key in vain and prayed for a mini-miracle. A sharp knock on the driver-side window startled her into a loud curse.

Micky looked up into crisp green eyes framed by the longest, darkest eyelashes she’d ever seen. The chiseled angles of his face mesmerized her until she remembered she was in a downtown parking garage. Alone. Lord only knows what this guy wanted.

“Who’s that?” Pete asked.

“I don’t know. Some man.”

“Do I need to call the police?”

“Uhhh.” She paused and surveyed the man leaning over her car. “I doubt it. Do serial killers wear Hermes ties and look like Cary Grant?”

“You never know.”

“It’s fine,” she told her brother. “I’ll give you a call when the auto club guy gets here.”

“Sooner if you think you’re headed for dismemberment and a crawl space. Or later if he buys you dinner.” Micky laughed at Pete’s suggestion before he reversed himself. “Scratch that. I need you here.”

“He doesn’t look like the crawl space type. And I’ll make it at some point.”

They said their goodbyes and hung up. Without power, she couldn’t roll down the window, so she cautiously opened the car door.

“Hello.” The green-eyed man smiled. “Are you having some trouble?”

“Umm…my car won’t start. I’ve already called the auto club. They’re on their way.”

“Oh, well, I’m right here,” he turned and pointed to the dark blue Mercedes parked next to her. “I’ve got jumper cables if you need a start.”

The man tossed his dark blue suit jacket into the passenger seat of his car, removed his expensive silk tie, and began rolling up his sleeves. By now, Micky had climbed out of her car and stood next to him, acutely aware of his height. He had to be at least six foot three. He looked down at her even though she wore three-inch heels that heightened her already tall, five-foot-eight frame.

He was hot. There was no denying that, and it made Micky immediately suspicious. Not that he meant her harm, but in her experience, good-looking, charming men were often times up to no good.

Slightly shaggy, dark brown hair fell in his face when he leaned over, framing startling green eyes. His smile was warm and gentle. Micky took note of his lean but muscular body with its broad shoulders and masculine, athletic grace.

Heat washed over her, and not from the weather. His tan hand extended toward his car, and she wondered what those strong fingers would feel like on her body.

God, he’s a complete stranger. Her throat went dry. She pursed her lips and shook her head like an Etch-a-Sketch to erase the images springing up in her mind.

“So, do you want a jump start?”

Her body screamed, “Yes!” But, she managed to pull it together enough to answer about her car.

“I think I do.” Her voice was husky from the surprising rise of desire within her as much as from her previous week’s illness. “No harm in trying. If that’s not the problem, the AAA guy will figure it out when he gets here.”

He popped his hood, then his trunk, and pulled out an emergency kit much like the one she kept telling herself she should get.

“I keep telling myself I should get one of those,” she confessed, stepping between their cars.

“You should. I bought them for my mom and my sister.”

“Just the women?”

He laughed and walked back to the front of his car. “All I have is women.”

“How gallant,” Micky replied.

“I try. Do you have brothers and sisters?”

“I have a brother,” she said. “That’s who I was talking to on the phone.”

“Are you close?” he asked, shouting as he opened the hood of his car. Micky climbed into her car to pull the lever by her knee and pop the hood.

“Yes, actually,” she shouted back. “It would have been nice to have a sister.”

Reflecting on her childhood she realized how often she’d felt alone. Micky had gone with her mother after her parents’ divorce, which meant leaving Pete as well. She would have loved to have more siblings around while she was growing up. People who understood what she was going through and could share the painful experiences of her parents’ divorce and subsequent remarriages.

“I can see that. I always wanted a brother,” her handsome savior said, standing in front of her car and reaching inside for the release hatch to fully raise the hood. He fiddled for several seconds, but couldn’t get it open. “Hey, do you know how this thing works?”

Micky walked up beside him. Her fingers probed under the hood, brushing against his in the small space. He smelled incredible – tangy, salty spice. She found the latch and quickly released it.

“You just have to know where to push,” Micky said, looking up at him.

She inhaled his scent, and the heat of his strong body next to hers triggered an acute awareness of his proximity. His brilliant, emerald eyes sparked as he looked down at her. Micky wasn’t vain, but she knew men often admired her statuesque frame. She avoided his eyes and gazed down, noticing the top button of her blouse had come undone, and she was revealing a bit more cleavage than she intended.

He grinned at her. “Well, isn’t that always how it is.” With that, he quickly hooked the cables to each car battery and commanded her to try her key again. She turned the ignition and her car rumbled to life.

“Fabulous,” the sexy stranger exclaimed, leaning over her open car door.

“Thanks so much…?” Micky trailed off, not knowing his name.

“Nick.” He presented his soiled right hand then withdrew it. “Nick Halden. I work at Winston Stratford.”

Micky recognized the first two names on the long list of partners in the law firm occupying the top four floors of the building. Now she understood how he afforded the Hermes tie.

“We’ll shake hands another time,” she responded after a brief pause. “I’m Micky Llewellyn. I work in marketing at Azur, the tech firm on the fifth floor.”

Nick raised his eyebrows. What did he think she did for a living?

“Pleased to meet you, Micky.”

“I’d better be going. If I leave now, I can be slightly rather than egregiously late.” She rolled down the window and closed her car door.

“Big Friday night plans.”

“Not especially. Just dinner with family.”

“The brother?”

“Yes. And my stepmother, who is a real stickler for promptness.”

“Lovely.” He said with a deep, rich laugh. “Well, I won’t keep you, but I will ask you a favor.”

“What’s that?” Micky asked.

“I think you owe me a drink. How about tomorrow?”

“Owe? That doesn’t sound like a favor.”

“A favor in return for services rendered.”

“I can agree to that. But, I don’t know about tomorrow. Give me a call on Monday.” She lied. As she dug a business card out of her purse, she knew she should have just agreed, but she didn’t want to appear too eager or to rush into anything. That had bitten her in the past.

So what if she’d probably spend the whole weekend working instead of allowing herself the distraction of drinks with a handsome, successful man who looked like sin in a suit? He was probably used to getting whatever woman he wanted, whenever he wanted.

“I’ll definitely call you. It’s not every day I get to be the white knight for a beautiful woman.”

Nick gave her a charming smile that quickened her pulse. Suspicion inched up her spine even as the warmth of his gaze invaded her belly. Micky had horrible luck with charmers. The last one made her week from hell seem like a hangnail. She smiled at her well-dressed white knight and backed out of her parking space.

As she drove off, she couldn’t help but take another peek at him in her rearview mirror. Jesus, he’s hot.

Maybe her luck wasn’t so bad after all. At least she hoped so.