Pulling her tow truck onto the gravel shoulder of Highway 94 behind the stalled Dodge stirred up a whirl of dust. Sunday did a check in the rearview mirror. No lipsticknot her style. At least there were no grease smears on her face.
She hopped out into the evening air thick with the promise of rain and sidled up alongside the stalled truck. The radio blasted an old tune by Honeymoon Suite, and the volume was probably why the fine backside bent over the engine didn't immediately notice her.
Sunday licked her lips as she strolled her gaze over to the tight-fit blue jeans that covered a touch-me-if-you-dare ass. Long legs, slightly bowed, ended at well-scuffed cowboy boots. Standard redneck gear. But there was something different about the guy.
Not like most, her conscience whispered. Ignoring the strange sensation of intuition, she tapped him on the arm.
"Whoa! Didn't see you there. Radio's too loud."
Tall, buff and handsome shot upright from under the hood and flashed a dimpled smile that blinded her. A slight chin cleft and barely there five-o'clock shadow emphasized his square jaw. Short brown hair tufted haphazardly upon his head. Waning sunlight glinted in his gold eyes, and he had a thick lower lip marked with a tiny scar along the bottom right.
Sunday exhaled. Talk about a libido tease.
"Let me turn it down." The music was subdued, and he spun around the front of the hood, dimples intact.
"You figure out the problem?" She bent over the growling engine. Smelled like burned syrup; the engine could be running hot.
"Not yet." He leaned in, brushing her long, bleached hair with a tight, muscled bicep that the black T-shirt strained to encompass. "Engine's still running, but the gas pedal up and gave out."
"Might be the throttle cable."
"Think you can give me a tow to the next town?"
"Steele? That's twelve miles off. My place is just up the road. I can tow it and check it out in the shop."
"You have a shop? Well, this is my lucky day. Gorgeous woman drives up to rescue me, and knows a thing or two about cars."
Sunday shrugged and crossed her arms over her chest. The thermometer had hit ninety before ten this morning. Humidity measured on a tropical scale necessitated a tank top, and she never wore a bra. Assuming a shoulder-straight stance, she followed his straying gaze.
He could look all he wanted. She'd reciprocate. It wasn't often fine USDA prime showed up on her stretch of the prairie. The rednecks inhabiting this area were definitely off her radaras she was off theirs.
It only took a time or two for word to get around when a woman wasn't quite right in the sack. The locals avoided her like the proverbial plague.
Catching her gaze on the hug of faded blue jeans low on his hips, she admired the dash of skin that revealed sexy, cut muscles. Her favorite part on a man, that hard, angled ridge that swept from hip to groin.
Bet under the black cotton shirt those abs were rock-hard, too.
Sunday dragged her eyes lower to center stage, and the object of most importance. Nice.
"Wow!" His outburst redirected her attention. "Woman, I don't think I've ever been so thoroughly checked out like you just did. You want me to turn around?" He gestured with his fingers behind his hips.
"Nah, I checked your ass as I was driving up. You'll do." She didn't hide a quirky grin. "Come on, let's get your truck rigged up."
One stranded traveler equaled one much-needed blessing. Business had been poor. Sunday couldn't have given him a ride to town if she'd wanted; the tow truck had just enough gas to make it home.
They'd been listening to the same radio station, which the guy noted as he climbed onto the passenger seat and shoved aside empty root beer bottles on the floor with the side of his boot.
The day had grown long and the sky sepia. Sunday navigated the dusty country roads, edged by four-foot-high cornstalks, to her fifty-acre plot. She lived eight miles out of Steele, and liked her privacy, but necessity demanded she cruise the freeway for broken-down and abandoned vehicles. She certainly wasn't getting any jobs from the locals.
"Drier than a wasteland out there," he commented, holding a palm before the air-conditioning vent. Sunglasses concealed his eyes, but only added to his sexy vibe.
"It's going to rain soon. A lot."
"I know. Can feel it in my bones." She downshifted, but kept her palm on the knob. The smooth steel jiggled in her grip. With tall, dark and dimpled spiking the air with his sensual aura, her imagination was running wild.
Sunday mentally cautioned her libido. Bad things happened when she got so hot.
"You live around here?"
"Nope, headed home to Minnesota," he offered. "I was passing through from Montana. Had to survey some land for a client. I buy up abandoned tracts and auctioned land for environmental-preservation efforts."
"Mighty responsible of you. So what's your name?"
"Ah, sorry. Dean Maverick."
"With a name like that, sounds like you should be riding a mustang through a cigarette ad."
"Yeah? Horses don't like me. I'll stick with the Dodge." An easy charm relaxed his lean frame on the seat and he tapped his fingers on a knee to the music. "What's your name?"
"Really? Just Sunday?" Those sexy white teeth could render a woman undone. "Does that come with a cherry on top?"
"Mister, if I had a nickel for every time a guy used that line on me "
Well, she'd have a nickel. Guys didn't make passes at girls who were more trouble than a tornado on a chicken farm.
But a nickel would get this one a lot more than a tune-up, if he played his cards right.
Dean kicked the snack machine posted at the front of the huge, three-story Quonset garage. The four-car-wide electric door was rolled open, exposing one side of the building to the weird brown sky.
A green-shingled rambler fronted by a faded wood porch sat a hundred yards off. No flowers or yard decorations. Not a single tree for miles. Nor were there visible employees. The chick must live out here alone. She'd explained she took in custom vehicles and anything the boys in the closest town of Steele couldn't handle.
She seemed to like her privacy. Which struck him as odd, because, damn, he'd never met such a gorgeous mechanic in his life. Long and lithe, with a head full of chunky, white-blond locks
that twisted haphazardly down her back. The thin blue tank top covered in grease smears made him guess she was about a 36C, and her nipples were constantly hard.
One hand pressed to the snack machine, he glanced over his shoulder. Yep, still hard.
Toeing the base of the machine, he shook his head to clear the licentious thoughts. He so didn't need this right now. He was on a schedule, and hoped like hell she could fix the truck and send him on his way before sundown.
Because the werewolf did not like to be kept at bay.
Pressing the selection button again resulted in no candy bar. He gave the machine one last kick, then strode over to the truck.
"Your machine sucks."
She curled a look up at him from over the engine. Blue eyes surrounded by ribbons of white hair. Mysterious and sexy. And those lips. Dean knew exactly where on his body he'd like to feel that mouth.
"So." He scanned the walls, cringing at the birch-tree wallpaper that decorated the garage interior from floor to ceiling. "You like trees."
"That I do."
"Me, too. Wild, free and forestedthat's how I like the world. So if you like trees, why are you here, in the middle of hell knows where, far from any forested land I've seen for hundreds of miles?"
"This is just where I am right now." She stretched forward, groping deep in the engine. The move tugged her shirt high to reveal a taut abdomen. Dean pursed his lips and nodded in appreciation. "I've got a few maples up by the house. Thinking about planting some pines around the garage," she said.
"Good luck with that."
He smoothed a hand over his abs. Should have eaten in Bismarck. But was it hunger for food, or something more visceral? Like flesh on flesh.
She nodded toward the open door. "There's sandwiches up in the house. Why don't you run and grab us a few. Root beer's in the fridge."
"Hospitable of you."
"Just lazy." She chuckled and swiped a hand over her cheek to push back the hair.
And still those nipples called for some dedicated licking. Saliva wet Dean's mouth. "Sandwiches? Right." A necessary distraction. "Unlocked?"
"Boyfriend gonna chase me out?"
She smirked and reached down near the manifold. "That's a chance you'll have to take."
"Can't promise I'll leave him in one piece," Dean said as he strode off.
She called, "Don't get caught in the rain!"
"Don't like rain," he muttered, his boots shuffling over the pea-gravel path up to the house. "And I don't like being stuck alone with Miss Sunday Best when what I really need is to get laid to calm the werewolf."
She had sent him a few I'm willing signals. Hadn't been able to drag her eyes from his body when she'd picked him up.
A glance toward the garage spied the shapely figure stretched over the truck engine. Maybe his luck would turn.
She'd spoken true. The only human scent Dean detected upon entering the house was female. No lingering odor from another male. Hell, hers was the only scent he could scavenge, and that was tinted with something spicy? He couldn't place it, but it would come to him.
There were indeed sandwiches in the fridge. Egg salad. Dean gobbled one down and put back a root beer, then grabbed four more plastic-wrapped sandwich halves and two bottles of pop.
He closed the fridge, and a fifties-style pinup girl winked at him from the calendar taped to the door. He'd seen the same one on the office window in her shop.
"I like a chick into pinups," he decided. "Sunday Best out there can pose over an engine in nothing but high heels and a smile any day. Heck, I'll take her on a Tuesday."
A glance at the clock over the antique gas-burner stove startled him.
"Already seven in the evening? I couldn't have been stalled more than half an hour on the highway. Hell." The sky outside had grown much darker since he'd entered the house ten minutes earlier. "I hope this chick is good. I don't have time to waste."
Arms loaded with sustenance, he pushed open the squeaky screen door with a boot heelavoiding the built-in cat door and stepped out onto the warped porch boards.
The sky opened up. Sudden, relentless rain beat down upon his head and shoulders.
Turning back to peer through the screen door, Dean shook his head, sucked it up and made a dash for the garage. He wouldn't tuck his tail between his legs and hide in the house. It wasn't him who hated the rain.
Arms loaded with snacks, Dean sprinted across the yard to the garage. Propping one ankle over the other, Sunday leaned against the Dodge and crossed her arms. She smirked. The fellow had poor timing. She had told him it would rain.
Soaking wet, he looked eatable. The rain-doused shirt clung to impressive pecs, and muscles across his shoulders and arms she hadn't names for. Oh, baby, there was that tight six-pack she'd been wondering about.
The sandwiches dropped from his fists in soggy piles near his boots. He set the pop bottles down. "It's coming down cats and dogs out there!"
Cats and dogs coming? Sunday knew for a fact that cats came hard. But that was another subject entirely. And one she would do best to put from her brain. Mustn't get her hopes up.
Okay, so her hopes were already so high they'd burst through the stratosphere. Sexy stranger stranded in her garage? The fantasy possibilities were endless. Too bad most men didn't go in for paranormal fantasies.
Weird was not a requirementall Sunday needed was flesh on flesh, hot and sweaty and furiousbut often weird was inevitable.
Still cussing about the rain, the man shook himself off. Methodically. Working from head down to hips he shimmied efficiently and expertly. Sunday had never seen a person shed rain in such a manner.
He glanced at her, and his eyes caught the overhead lights and reflected
"Oh, hell, no."
It wasn't something she would have picked up about the man on sight. But she'd seen the shake, the mirrored eyes and now noticed that his five-o'clock shadow had actually grown to become stubble.
Sunday marched across the cement floor and lashed out. A threatening hiss accompanied her defenseclaws across his square jaw.
The man growled like a dog and snapped his jaws as Sunday swung through the move. Blood pooled in three thin lines.
"What the?" He touched his bleeding jaw.
Then his eyes changed. The gold orbs grew darker and the pupils widened. An animal snarl preceded his lunge for Sunday.
Pushing her against the wall and pinning her wrists by her head, he then shoved his entire body against the length of hers to contain her struggles.
She hissed again, not caring that it sounded animalistic. Instincts reacted before common sense, always. "You're a damn werewolf!"
"Ah." He tilted his head and those dimples deepened. "How'd you guess that one?"
"Normal men don't shake themselves off like that. Your eyes are wild. And your beard's growing faster than mold on cheese. Let me go!"
"Oh, no." He pressed closer. She felt his erection against her mons. Mercy. "You always greet your customers with a kitty-cat scratch like that? Oh, wait one moonlight minute. You know about me because
Excerpted from Midnight Cravings by Michele Hauf Copyright © 2009 by Michele Hauf. Excerpted by permission.
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