Read an Excerpt
The outside temperature was brisk and frosty, hovering around twenty degrees. Not fit weather for man nor beast, Mandy Stevens thought wryly, nor for a woman who’s locked her keys in her car.
She stomped her feet a few times out of frustration and walked around the little hatchback, trying to decide what to do. Mandy carried a cell phone, but whom could she call? Her mom kept an extra set of keys but lived two hours away. Sarah Buchanan would freak out if Mandy phoned her. She couldn't call her. I'm twenty-one years old, I need to figure this one out myself.
Her roommate back at the dorm would be no help. Dee Anderson had been Mandy’s best friend since elementary school and they'd been college roommates for the last two and a half years. Neither was particularly mechanically-minded. Dee had three brothers who took care of her. Mandy had been an only child for years until her baby brother arrived, but her step-father was pretty handy, and what he couldn’t fix, her uncle could.
She needed a locksmith, Mandy finally deduced. So, how to get the phone number for one? She could go back into the post office where she’d just mailed a University of Illinois sweatshirt home for her step-dad’s birthday. They certainly had a phone book she could use. That’s what she would do.
Mandy blew on her hands to warm them and took a step towards the building. A sporty black convertible zipped into the parking space next to hers, causing her to jump. The two guys in the front seat watched as the one in back climbed out over the top of his door.
“Right back!” he called, trotting into the post office.
“Hurry up!” the passenger yelled after him.
The driver looked Mandy up and down and gave a small grin. “Hello.”
“Hey." She averted her eyes, surprised at the tingle his voice sent through her. He was gorgeous, but her irritation rankled at his reckless driving, and she refused to smile back.
“Pretty cold to be standing around out here.” He gazed at her, eyes moving slowly up and down her body.
No, leered. Leering was a much better word for his carnivorous gaze. Mandy shrugged, maintaining a cool exterior while his stare steamed her up on the inside.
“Pretty cold to be driving around in an open convertible.”
“It’s exhilarating!” He grinned wider, warming his hands in front of his automobile heating vent.
“Exhilarating?” Mandy snorted. “Try locking your keys in your car. That’ll get your blood pumping.”
He shut off his engine and turned to his passenger. “She’s locked her keys in her car!”
“We don’t have time for this,” the second man grumbled.
“We can’t leave her stranded,” the driver insisted. He opened his door and exited his car the usual way. His fluid movements seemed more athletic than those of the guy who'd jumped out.
Mandy's stomach tingled, and she forced herself to look away. He stepped in front of her, and she couldn’t help noticing how good he smelled. Calvin Klein’s Obsession. The scent was too enticing, and she gazed back at him.
He was better looking up close, with short brown hair and a three-day beard growth. But his fancy car and expensive leather coat spoke volumes about the man—he didn’t travel in the same circles Mandy did. She spotted a fraternity sticker on the window of his car. Shoot, their circles weren’t even in the same hemisphere.
Mandy stomped her feet, ostensibly to ward off the cold. Mentally she kicked herself for the reactions he stirred inside her. I'm such a fool.
He moved closer, and she inhaled again. Oh well. It can’t hurt to look. Her stomach tingled at his nearness.
“Let’s see what we’ve got here.” He looked in her car window. “Oh, no worries. I just need a coat hanger.”
The passenger in his car spoke up. “Coat hangers don’t work anymore. It’s the way they design locks on cars now.”
Mandy glanced at him. He was stocky and muscular looking with shaggy blond hair. Not nearly as attractive as Calvin Klein.
‘Calvin’ looked at his friend and smiled. “It’ll work on this car. It was designed a few years ago. Quite a few years ago.”
Mandy felt her face blush in embarrassment. “I can handle this, really. I was just going inside to call a locksmith.”
“A locksmith?” ‘Calvin’ hooted. “Do you have any idea how much that’ll cost?”
“I have money,” she said icily, still embarrassed by the situation.
“She was going to call a locksmith!” he repeated amusedly to his friend in the car.
“Let her,” the other man replied in irritation. “We can get out of here.”
The first man came out of the post office, shoved his hands into his pockets and looked at them. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t have a frigging coat hanger.” He started to hop in the backseat.
Mandy watched him. He had shaggy dark hair but was thin and wiry, a beanpole compared to the man she’d nicknamed ‘Calvin’.
The driver looked around the block and nodded his head. “Dino, right down there is a dry cleaner’s shop. They’ll have a hanger. Go get one.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Dino made a move to climb in the car and then apparently realised his friend was not joking. “A coat hanger,” he said dully.
“A wire coat hanger.” The driver nodded and watched Dino head to the dry cleaner’s.
“You don’t have to do this,” Mandy insisted, slipping her hands in her pockets. Dino did not look happy as he stomped off. She was embarrassed to be a burden.
Freezing all of a sudden, she just wanted to go back into the post office.
“I told you, no worries.” The man smiled at her. “Once he gets back, it’ll only take me a sec.”
“Well, all right.”
He’d really left her no choice. They stood there awkwardly, staring at each other for a moment. She wanted to say something interesting, but he pretty much left her speechless. Almost breathless. She could only stare and hope her face wasn't beet red.
The man in the car spoke up. “Nick, we’re supposed to be someplace right now.”
“Keep your shorts on,” Nick snapped back at him and then smiled at Mandy. “I guess I should make introductions. I’m Nick Westchester. The impatient one in the car is Karl Browning. And the gopher is Dino Manetti.”
She studied him for a minute, debating if she wanted to give her name or not. For a brief second she contemplated making something up, an exotic name like Vivian Wallingford. She finally decided to go with the truth. “Mandy Stevens.”
“Hello, Mandy,” Nick said with a nod of his head and a bow at the waist. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Yeah, you too.” She tried not to smile at his goofy behaviour, but he made it tough. He was very smooth, a feature that usually intimidated her. For some reason this guy didn't—he was so charming, he made her squirm with unusual, slightly uncomfortable, tingles.
Karl, in the car, obviously wasn’t amused. He scowled at her and kept an irritated look planted firmly on his face.
“Here you go.” Dino returned, tossing a hanger to Nick. “You owe me a buck.”
“A buck!” Nick exclaimed. “For this?” He shook the flimsy hanger in the air.
“I’ll pay for it.” Mandy dug through her purse.
“Absolutely not.” Nick touched her arm. “He owes me a lot more than a buck. Don’t worry about it.” He stood there with the hanger in his hand.
She looked at him and then motioned to her car. “Do you think you could…?”