An excerpt from
Nothing But the Best
Book #3 of Sex and the Supper Club

ISBN 0-373-79191-7
Harlequin Blaze
December 2004


“Two hours?” Cilla repeated in astonishment.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” the phone operator responded, “but you’re out in the middle of nowhere and the only tow companies we’ve got in the area are on calls. The first one who finishes will be out to take care of you.”

The sun was dipping below the horizon. When Cilla looked out to either side, she saw only mesquite, sagebrush, the occasional tumbleweed. It had been wonderfully open and free when she’d been driving. Now, it was fast becoming merely empty and intimidating. She wasn’t a woman who was daunted by much, but the last thing she wanted to do was sit by the side of the road for two hours while it turned dark.

“Ma’am? Did you want me to put you on the call sheet?”

Two hours, Cilla thought, plus the time for the driver to change her tire.

Unless she changed it herself.

After all, how hard could it be? She’d seen people change tires before, in the movies, anyway. Her owner’s manual probably had directions. As she told her father regularly, she was capable of far more than anyone gave her credit for. Why be a girl and wait for a tow truck driver to come bail her out? Self-sufficiency, that was the ticket.


“Never mind,” Cilla said firmly. “I’ll take care of it.”

Twenty minutes later, she stood cursing as she tried to get the lug nuts on the wheel to turn. The owner’s manual made it sound simple: take off the lug nuts, jack up the car, pull off the old tire, put on the new and be on your way.

They just didn’t warn you that the lug nuts had been tightened by the Incredible Hulk.

Putting her weight on the tire iron for what seemed like the hundredth time, Cilla gritted her teeth and shoved. It did exactly nothing, and stilettos weren’t exactly the right footwear for stomping. She could feel the bruises forming on her palms. Maybe it was time to reconsider the tow truck, she thought as yet another car whisked by, stirring up dust. Bad enough she’d broken a fingernail loosening the wing nut that held the jack in place in the trunk, not to mention the fact that she’d yet to figure out just exactly where the jack was supposed to go when the time came to raise the car.

That part, of course, wasn’t particularly important just then. If she couldn’t get the lug nuts off, her experiment in tire changing was going to come to a screeching halt.

In time with her thoughts, she heard the chirp of tires on pavement. Cilla whipped her head around toward the front of her convertible and froze. The car that had just passed her was on the shoulder about a quarter mile ahead, and swiftly backing up in her direction.

Her heart began to thud. Maybe--probably--it was a good Samaritan. Maybe it was some nice guy who’d be eager to help. She’d grown up in L.A., though, and was all too aware that there were other types of people who stopped for lone women broken down at the side of the road, especially out in the desert.

She picked up the tire iron and got back into the car. It never hurt to be cautious.

Brake lights glowed red as the car stopped a few feet in front of her. White, late model, American made. Didn’t signify much of anything. Psychos could still drive Ferraris and Hummers, and perfectly decent people drove rolling junk heaps. The door of the car opened and she swallowed. Be prepared for anything, she told herself. The driver could be capable, clueless but well intentioned, or up to no good.

Or, she thought in a moment of stupefied surprise, he could just be the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. Lean and lanky in jeans, he walked toward her in the wash of headlights, a sheaf of dark hair falling over his forehead. His face was all intriguing angles. His mouth looked soft and eminently kissable. If she’d met him in a cocktail bar, she’d have thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

But she wasn’t in a cocktail bar.

He put a hand on her roof and bent down to look at her. “Need some help?”

Up close, he packed a punch. A five o’clock shadow blued his jaw deliciously. His brows drew sharp lines above his dark grey eyes. Who knew Samaritans were so gorgeous?

Of course, Ted Bundy had been good looking and charming, too, she reminded herself, but she still brought the window down an inch. “No thanks. I’ve got a tow truck coming,” she said, holding up her cell phone.

“It kind of looked like you were trying to change it yourself when I drove by. Are you sure you don’t need a hand?”

She could think of a thing or two to do with hands like his, but not in her current situation. “It’s nice of you to offer but I’m sure you’re on your way somewhere.” And if conditions were different, I’d be happy to jump you.

“I’ve got time,” he said easily.

Cilla hesitated. Unless she got this stranger, or a tow truck driver, to change the tire, she clearly wasn’t going anywhere. Part of her was ready to open the door and take him up on his offer?how many Ted Bundys could there be? The other part of her, the part that had lived in the city for too long, perhaps, wasn’t about to take a chance. “I appreciate the thought,” she began, “but I’d really prefer to stay in here and wait for the tow truck driver.” No matter how gorgeous you are.

Instead of looking offended, he nodded. “You know what? You’re being smart. That’s exactly what I’d tell my kid sisters to do in your spot. But what’s not smart is for you to be sitting on the side of the road out here in nowhere land.” He gave her a thoughtful look. “How much do you weigh?”

“Pardon me?”

“Never mind. You look pretty small. How about if you stay put and I’ll jack up the car with you in it?”

Cilla blinked. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

A corner of his mouth curved up in a smile. “Not unless you plan to start bouncing around.”

“Are you sure? I can wait for the tow truck driver, or even do it myself.”

His smile broadened. “I’m sure you could, but I bet I can do it quicker. I worked at a garage when I was in high school. And the quicker you say ‘yes,’ the quicker it’ll be done.” He paused, watching her. “The price is right,” he wheedled. “I’ll have you on the road in fifteen minutes.”

Cilla gave up. “Okay, fine.”

“Good call,” he said approvingly. “Okay, let’s get to it. Make sure it’s in gear and put on the emergency brake. Then don’t move until I tell you.”

As he walked to the back of the car, Cilla leaned over and adjusted her side mirror to watch him. If he looked good from the front, he looked even better from the back. Not to mention the fact that he sounded like a genuinely decent guy. She felt the car shift as he pulled the tire out of her trunk. And then he was walking forward to knock at her window.

“What did you do with the tire iron?”

Cilla looked down and realized she was still holding it. She raised her hand.

He blinked and a down-to-his-toes belly laugh rolled out of him. “I see you’re prepared. So much for worrying about a helpless woman at the side of the road.”

“You should be careful about laughing at a person holding a lethal weapon,” she said with dignity, her cheeks burning.

“Damned straight,” he agreed. “Never mind, I’ll get mine.”

And that, of course, treated her to a direct view of him from behind. He rummaged in his trunk for a moment, bending down, she was pleased to see, before getting the crowbar. There was nothing quite like a fine-looking ass on a man, Cilla mused, small and tight and marble hard.

Back at her car, it took him approximately five seconds and one try on each to break loose the lug nuts. It was because she’d loosened them for him, she told herself, trying not to be impressed. The car lurched as he raised the jack, and then the old wheel was off and the spare put on so efficiently it seemed like only a minute or two had passed before the car was back down. There was something immensely sexy about a capable man. Her system buzzed pleasantly.

Sooner than she would have wanted, he was back by her window. “The jack is back in its bracket and I put the old tire in the well but you should get it fixed right away. This is bad country to be driving around in without a spare.”

“Of course.” Cilla hesitated, wanting to be more forthcoming and knowing it wasn’t smart. “You’ve been unbelievably nice. How can I thank you?”

He shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I’m happy I was here to help.” His eyes locked on hers and the seconds stretched out. “So, anyway, you’re all set,” he said finally, as though he really wanted to say something else. “You okay to drive? Do you want me to follow you for a while?”

“Um…” she said helplessly. Offering money seemed tacky. What she really wanted was to see him again, but she knew nothing about him, not who he was, not where he was going. You’ve done well so far, she told herself. Don’t screw up.

As though he were reading her thoughts, he smiled faintly. “The way I look at it, what goes around comes around. It’s your turn next. Keep an eye out and when you get a chance to do something good for someone, do it.” He looked in her lap. “And you might want to put the tire iron back in your trunk after I leave.”

He gave her a wave and walked back to his car. The last thing she saw was the red of his tail lights fading slowly into the gathering darkness.

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