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THERE WERE MEN. AND THEN there were men.
Savannah Calloway stared across the gigantic garage at the man who leaned under the hood of the blue and black Chevy race car. He wore faded brown cowboy boots and a snug pair of worn jeans. The denim cupped his tight tush and molded to his muscular legs. A frayed rip near the middle of one thigh played peekaboo with her as he leaned down, giving her a mouthwatering glimpse of tanned, hair-dusted skin. A white T-shirt outlined his broad shoulders. The sleeves clung to his sinewy biceps as he worked the wrench with his strong hands.
While she couldn't see his face because he leaned under the car's hood, she didn't have to. She knew the view would only get better because Mackenzie Briggs had killer blue eyes and a drop-dead gorgeous smile to go with his hunky body.
Yep, she knew that firsthand.
Which was why she made it a point to keep her distance from said hunky body and that drop-dead gorgeous smile and, in particular, those killer blue eyes.
Her stomach hollowed out and panic rushed through her. She became acutely aware of the dimly lit garage and the fact that it was half-past midnight on a Saturday night in December. In other words, it was off-seasonthe last race had been in November, and there was no oneno oneinside the massive building that housed the cars for Jamison Racing.
She swallowed her rising panic.
While she'd always avoided him in the past, things were different now. Savannah no longer worked for Calloway Motor Sports. Not only the largest racing team in the Fort Worth area, but one of the biggest on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit. Much bigger than Jamison Racingasmall, one-car operation whose headquarters sat just north of downtown Fort Worth, only a few miles from the track. Two of the top three drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL seriesher twin brothers Trey and Travisraced for her father's team.
Or at least it had been.
Up until Will Calloway had given her the old heave-ho.
"I know this is upsetting, honey, but it's for your own good. I know you're busy here, so it only makes sense that you should take some time off for yourself. You're not getting any younger. Why, your mother had already had the four of you by the time she'd turned twenty-eight. Of course, she hadn't looked a day over twenty-one, God bless her. Even after four kids, she was every bit as pretty as the day I first married her."
Pretty and smart and perfect. That had been the late Eileen Calloway. The woman had given birth to four kids, loved and cared for them, supported her husband's dream of being a car designer and owner, and looked picture-perfect while doing all of it. Savannah was ten when her mother died of an unexpected heart attack, and she could still remember the attractive blonde flitting about the kitchen in a pink dress and high heels, a twin in each arm and dinner simmering on the stove. She'd always had a smile for everyone and never a cross word, no matter how overworked she'd been or how stressed. She'd been perfect, all right.
Savannah had spent the past twenty-eight years following in her mother's perfect footsteps. Right down to the pink high heels.
She glanced down at the pair of three-inch stilettos she wore. Her toes whimpered in protest, and she wished she'd thought to swing by her condo to change. But she'd been so devastated when she'd left Calloway, pink slip in hand to match her outfit, that her only thought had been "What am I going to do now?"
She was officially unemployed. Jobless. Desperate. Not hormone-deprived, mind you (the kind that had sent her straight into Mac's arms six years ago for a night of unforgettable pleasure). This time it was pure survival instinct that had driven her to Jamison Racing at a quarter past midnight in search of Mac.
And if he says no?
He wouldn't. Because he needed her as much as she needed him. He just didn't realize it yet.
THE SOFT FOOTSTEPS ECHOED IN Mac's head and it took everything he had not to toss the wrench down and turn toward her.
He still couldn't believe it, but there was no mistaking the scent that pushed past the sharp aroma of motor oil and car exhaust to tease his nostrils. Vanilla mixed with light, fluffy whipped cream. Sweet. She smelled so damned sweet. She always had.
Of course, he hadn't had an up-close whiff of Savannah Calloway in nearly six years, but he still hadn't forgotten.
He caught the occasional glimpse of her sitting in the owner's box at the track. But since she was Calloway's marketing manager and, more importantly, since her father had always been so adamant about keeping her out of the garage, she spent more time in the business office than she did in the trenches.
Thus nixing any encounters of the close kind. Lucky for him.
But his luck seemed to have finally run out because she was here. Now. Here.
He stiffened as she came to a halt next to him, but he didn't turn toward her. Instead, he concentrated on unscrewing the massive bolt that held part of the carburetor in place.
"Mac? Can I talk to you for a second?"
"The answer is no." He twirled the wrench a few more twists until the nut rolled off the bolt and into his palm.
"No, I can't talk to you?"
"No, I'm not driving for your father again. I like driving for Jamison. It's a small team, but we're family and the owner is committed for the long haul."
"That's nice, but I'm not here about your driving skills. Even though you did make an impressive showing this past year."
"So why are you here?"
"Because I need you."
He looked at her then. He couldn't help himself. Her words rang in his ears and his head swiveled.
Her soft brown hair streaked with blond hung past her shoulders in soft waves that made his fingers itch to reach out. She had hazel eyes as rich as hot caramel and just as addictive. She wore a pink blouse, fitted pink skirt and a pair of high heels that made her legs seem endless. The small spot of grease near her collar was the only indication that Savannah Calloway liked to get down and dirty in the pit when no one, especially her father, was looking.
He knew then that she hadn't changed much from the twenty-something who'd come down to the garage every day to spend her lunch hour changing spark plugs or tightening pins. Before her father walked in and chased her back to the office, that is.
"What I mean is" she licked her full, pink lips
"you need me. We need each other."
He set the wrench aside, leaned one hip against the car and folded his arms. "How do you figure that?"
"Let's face it. You're good, but you're not better than my brothers." Trey and Travis were the only twin brothers racing the circuit and they'd all but locked down the first and second positions since they'd hit their stride two years ago. "But you could be."
"You let me make a few adjustments to your car in time for the New Year's Eve charity race. I've been watching you. You're close, Mac. You just need a little something to push you up to the next level. I'm that something. You want a championship? I can set you up to win one. The New Year's exhibition race will be next season's predictor. Whoever wins will set the pace for next year. It could be you."
"And what do you get out of it?"
"A chance to prove to my father that I belong on his team. Specifically, in the garage." She stiffened.
"I should have stood up to him years ago, but he's always been so adamant about keeping me out of the garage and I've always been so busy with everything else..." She swallowed, and sadness flashed in her eyes. "Too busy to argue. But all that's changed now. He let me go."
"He really fired you?"
She nodded. "He wants me to get a life. Settle down. Find Mr. Right." She shook her head. "But that's not what I want."
"You have something against living happily ever after?"
"Not at all. But who says happily ever after involves a man?" When he arched an eyebrow, she shook her head. "I like men, but that doesn't mean I need one. Besides, men don't like women who can change a tire faster than they can."
"Maybe you're going out with the wrong men."
"That's the problem. They're all wrong and I'm tired of wasting my time. Better to focus on something I can actually fix, like my career. Or lack thereof." She motioned around. "I want to be here. In a garage. Doing what I love. He won't take me seriously unless I do something serious. Something drastic."
"Like help the competition."
"Exactly. He can't dismiss it as tinkering if you win the race and then tell everyone that you couldn't have won without my expertise. He'll realize that I'm a valuable member of the team and he'll give up this crazy idea about me getting married and having babies. Not that I don't want to get married someday. But not today. Or any time soon. I know I'm not getting any younger, but I'm only twenty-eight. That's not old."
"Hell, no. And neither is thirty-two."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far." She grinned and his heart skipped a sudden beat. "So, can we do this?"
This and anything else you have in mind. That's what his body said. But Mac had been pushing himself far too long to give in to his ungentlemanly urges. Even when it came to Savannah Calloway.
Especially when it came to her.
He eyed her. "How do I know this isn't just a setup? A way for you to get the inside scoop on me?"
"I wouldn't do that."
She wouldn't. He could see the sincerity in her gaze. The determination. The desperation.
Even so, he wasn't about to let just anyone touch his car. "I finished fourth this past year. Calloway has four drivers. I'm sure your father's itching to dominate the top positions."