“I don’t even know who that is, but I’d like to take several large bites.” PJ took in the ridiculously badass alpha male across the room from where she and her sister had just been handed drinks at the bar.
“Who?” Julie asked as she paid and they moved to the side. “Point him out. In a non-attention-seeking way!” she added, like PJ was a beast.
PJ blinked a few times before she spoke. “You’re a terrible human being.”
“I get it from Dad.”
PJ tilted her head to indicate the guy whose sheer charisma she felt from across the room. A brunette with a body straight out of a pinup calendar stared up into his face as she stroked a hand up and down his arm.
“She’s all right in a totally voluptuous, drop-dead-sex-bomb way. I mean, for those who like that sort of thing.” Julie’s dry delivery made PJ smile.
“Let’s saunter by that fantastic Camaro over there so I can get a closer look.” PJ started off.
“At the guy or the car?”
“Two birds. One stone,” PJ called lightly over her shoulder.
“Will this end up in some sort of terrible misunderstanding that will embarrass me for years to come? Or, better yet, am I going to have to explain what happened to the police?”
“That only happened once.”
Julie’s brow rose very slowly. Julie was the elegant one. The one who played the piano perfectly. She’d gone to the schools their parents had told her to. Wore tasteful, perfectly tailored clothes. Now had a corner office at their family’s tire company and was set to lead it into the future with their other siblings.
Whereas Penelope Jean Colman had been a “terrible disappointment” because she just never fit anywhere her parents tried to put her. And maybe because she’d gotten her big sister into some trouble once or twice.
“Okay, three times. But I had good reasons for two of them.”
“The other was you being innocent?”
“Heck no. Which isn’t to say how pleased it makes me that I got away with it.”
“He’s standing with Duke Bradshaw. The dark-haired one.”
Julie did a very nice job of looking natural as she shifted to stand next to PJ, giving her an unobstructed view.
“Duke owns Twisted Steel with someone else. Maybe that’s him,” Julie said.
There really was no other word for the man but dominant. Easily six foot three, he stood, feet apart, a beer in one hand as he spoke to Duke. This was a man you could dress in a tux and while he’d look fantastic, you’d know he could punch you in the face without losing a cufflink.
She wasn’t entirely sure why that made him so hot, it just did. There was a sort of barely restrained…something about him that made her take notice.
Dark hair, shaved close at the sides, longer on the top. He had it pulled back from his face, exposing masculine features.
“You have that goofy look.” Julie poked her in the side.
“Ow! What?” PJ asked without tearing her gaze from him.
“You get it at the sight of tacos, too.”
PJ nearly choked on her drink. Thank goodness he hadn’t noticed her almost dying.
Once she could breathe again, PJ glared at her sister through still-watering eyes. “You’re on a roll tonight. Did you take allergy medication before you started drinking?”
Her normally serene sister had a twinkle in her eye. “Someone has to keep me entertained at these things. You seem to like them. I, on the other hand, would rather be home catching up on my Housewives.”
“What a waste that would be. There are handsome single men here. A bar. Food that’s being served from a tray instead of a buffet a hundred people of questionable hygiene have pawed over. Me, of course. All of these things are better than being at home alone watching TV.”
“Witty. That expensive Ivy League education was totally worth it.”
“I need to dumb it down for state college dropouts to understand.” Julie stuck out her tongue.
PJ turned back to look at him again. He was too far away for her to see the color of his eyes, but she figured they’d be brown or green maybe. She took note of the septum piercing and the tattoos on both arms visible from the elbows, where he had his shirtsleeves rolled up. It was necessary, for reasons of some sort, that she get a better look.
“Since he’s standing with Duke, I say you go on over and introduce yourself. This is an industry party. You’re here for Colman Enterprises. It’s your job to network. Give him your card.” Julie got a little closer, lowering her voice. “And it’s good for you to make some connections for your custom work.”
It meant a lot that Julie was on her side, excited about the direction PJ’s life was headed.
“Come with me.”
Julie shook her head. “I see a few people I should at least buy a drink for. Send out a distress call if they’re weird and you need me to mace them.”
With a wave, Julie headed off in the direction of one of their other clients. Well, all right then.
Ever since PJ met Duke Bradshaw nearly a year before at a race, she’d coveted his work. All the people at Twisted Steel were beyond good at what they did, so the cars and bikes they created and restored were absolutely beautiful. It was art..
Their work had one more thing, the most important thing as far as PJ was concerned. It wasn’t just the money or even the art. It was that they loved cars. And motorcycles and racing and engines.
It was that passion that she wanted more of for Colman Enterprises. Her family was great at selling tires. But it wasn’t the same as it had been when her grandfather had founded the company. He’d raced, too. He’d understood the heart of his customer in a way no spreadsheet ever could.
For PJ, it was a belief system. It was a love of cars, of speed and chrome and the rumble of engines that was the heart of Colman. That would never change, even if the products and services they offered did.
PJ shook that off as she approached, hearing his voice before she got close enough to say hello.
Mmmmm. Deep and gravelly.
Dark brown eyes—and she bet that when he had his hair down it slanted over them so he’d look hot and mysterious all at once—took her in.
His gaze locked with hers and a smile marked a mouth so carnal she probably would have to light a candle in penance for her very naughty thoughts.
She smiled back and the moment between them heated and slowed. He was holy shit hot damn and wow sexy. One of his brows rose. Confident and not a small bit cocky.
He was older. Probably late thirties, early forties. Which was absolutely okay with her. Didn’t matter though, because all it took was a close-up view of this male to know he was totally out of her league. He’d rock her world. Maybe set it on fire.
Just having his full attention left her a little shaky. What would sex with him be like? Wrong. Wrong thing to start to wonder right then. Her cheeks heated and she hoped it was dark enough that he missed her blush.
And yet there she continued to stand, finally breaking that moment and turning to Duke. Also ridiculously hot.
“PJ Colman, how are you?” Duke showed perfect white teeth. The dimple to the left of his mouth made PJ bet it tasted sweet.
“I’m doing all right. You?”
“As well as you can be at one of these things.”
“Asa Barrons,” Manly Man said as he held out a hand.
A big hand that engulfed hers as he shook it.
Duke grinned, making him look like a charming wayward boy. No one could stay mad at that face, she bet. “Sorry about that. I figured you already knew PJ Asa, this is PJ Colman. PJ, this is Asa; he co-owns Twisted Steel with me.”
“Colman, as in Colman Enterprises?” Asa let go of her hand slowly and she was proud she didn’t gulp audibly.
“Yes.” She looked back over her shoulder toward the Camaro and then back to Asa and Duke. “That’s one seriously delicious machine.”
Asa used that moment to take her in, from the pointed toes of her black heels, up shapely legs, over mouthwatering curves at her hips, to one of the finest racks he’d ever beheld.
The neckline of the dark blue dress she wore—a dress that lovingly caressed her body and yet stayed pretty and feminine—showed off her collarbone and the uppermost curves of her breasts.
And she had good taste. That Camaro was a project they’d finished just a few weeks before. The owner was taking it home to Oregon the following day, so Asa and Duke figured it’d be a good idea to show it off while they could.
PJ stepped to the side to allow a server to pass with a tray of something, and without thinking Asa reached out to take her elbow to steady her. Her skin was warm and soft, and with her so close it wasn’t a struggle to breathe her in. Spice and heady flowers.
“Thanks,” he said, referring to her compliment about the car. “I’ll be a little sad to see it go.”
“We argued about the racing stripe.” Duke grinned.
“What do you think about the racing stripe?” Asa asked her.
He’d liked her smile, but the smirk she gave in response to his question made his cock hard. Christ.
She walked to the car and he followed, barely conscious of anything but the metronome switch of her hips and the long braided rope of her hair hanging to her waist. Purple hair. Light at the top and then darker at the ends.
“I think it’s always more about the car.” Her voice dropped so that only he could hear. “In general I like racing stripes well enough. My car has them. Though my car is purple, so it’s not all stock.”
“That so?” He wanted to brush an errant tendril of her hair away from her face, but he resisted.
This was a work event. She was the granddaughter of one of the most influential men in racing, and she couldn’t have been any more than twenty-five years old. All of that should have been an ice-cold slap of reality.
But his cock didn’t give a shit. His cock agreed with his brain that her freckles were fucking hot and wanted to see if she had them all over. And she liked cars. He could tell by the way she looked at his Camaro. Her gaze seemed to caress the curves and lines.
A woman who liked cars on the same level he did was hot. Even if she was totally off the menu.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
Oh yes, yes she could.
“Go on ahead.” He tried to keep the grin off his face.
“I’m kind of a rebel.”
He laughed. “That so? I figured, given your hair, that you just liked purple a lot.”
“Maybe that too. As for this particular car? The racing stripes are exactly what it needed.”
“Duke likes racing stripes on American muscle. The client is a friend of his.”
“The paint is fantastic. Perfect work.” She walked around, peering closely here and there. “No skimping or cut corners.”
“Were you going to judge me harshly if there had been?”
She ran her tongue over her bottom lip before she sank her top teeth into it briefly. He felt it to his toes.
“Absolutely. Paint is a serious thing. Do you need to be reminded of that?”
He liked to do the reminding. And he surely would like to remind this woman while she was naked and in his bed. There was something striking about her. An air of confidence that grew as they flirted over machines. Her energy was vibrant. Sensual.
And still, not for him.
He probably should be breaking away to go back over to where Duke stood. Instead he kept talking. “So what do you do at Colman central?”
“I manage accounts. Which is a fancy way of saying I sell tires to people like you and Duke. They send me to industry events like this.” She cocked her head and paused before speaking again. “Who does your paint work?”
That was a quick change of topic. “We have paint done on-site. Specialty stuff goes out to contractors. Are you looking for any kind of work in particular? I could give you a better idea if I knew more.”
She laughed and…it surprised him. Low and sultry. Not what he expected at all. A brief touch of her hand to his forearm. “I do custom paint work. Just wondering who my competition was.”
An image of her bent over, breasts heaving against the front of a very tight shirt as she worked on one of his cars, settled in, and he let it.
“This a new service Colman is offering?”
“It’s a way to do what I like to do and to expand our reach into new sectors of this business.”
Young? Yes. He probably had wrenches older than she was. But she had intelligence to go with the looks. It wasn’t as if he thought Colman was the huge success it was without a lot of smart, hardworking people at the helm. But he’d taken one look at that face and body and misjudged her as spoiled, pretty, and rich, and therefore totally useless.
“At some point I’d like to talk with you and Duke about that direction.”
“Give the shop a call and set something up.” At least he’d get another chance to see that face.
“All right.” She looked up, and the upward curve to her lips urged his own to do the same.
Neither of them spoke. It felt as if she waited for him. That hit hard. Unexpected to be so moved by this wisp of a woman he’d just met minutes before. It wasn’t until she hummed low in her throat, a sound of pleasure, that he realized he’d taken a step closer.
“Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt, PJ, but do you have any of Shawn’s cards?”
Asa wrestled back his instinct to shove this guy away and have PJ all to himself again.
And was doubly glad when she turned with a smile that was totally different than the one she’d just given Asa. That’s when he took in the strong resemblance between her and the guy who’d spoken and figured this had to be one of her brothers.
“Jay, this is Asa Barrons. He’s one of the co-owners of Twisted Steel.” She looked back to Asa. “This is my brother Jay, CEO at Colman.”
Duke dealt better with guys like this one. Asa kept his head in his machines as much as he could. He loved gear with a passion, but people? Not so much.
“Nice to meet you. PJ sings the praises of Twisted Steel frequently.” Jay shook Asa’s hand.
PJ handed her brother a few cards.
“She was just educating me on her view of racing stripes.”
Jay appeared apprehensive, but PJ just laughed and patted her brother’s arm. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s not going to stop doing business with us. I didn’t tell him I thought they were boring or overdone.”
It was Asa’s turn to laugh. “Boring?”
Her eyes seemed to light up as her laugh continued to drive him nuts. “Oops, cat’s out of the bag now. Please continue to buy our tires.”
Jay’s eyes widened and Asa wanted to tell the dude to lighten up.
Asa gave her brother a look and made an X over his heart. “I promise we’ll continue to buy your tires even though your sister is so irreverent. Maybe because.” He winked at her and she poked her brother’s upper arm.
Jay looked back over his shoulder and then to them once more. “I need to get back to my conversation. It was nice to finally meet you, Asa.” He held the cards up. “Thanks.”
Before Asa could say anything else, the woman he’d actually been planning on taking home came back through the room looking for him.
“I need to get back to it as well.” He held his hand out, shaking PJ’s, and then he handed her a business card and took hers.
“Have an excellent evening, Asa Barrons.”
The buxom brunette making her way over to him would probably guarantee that. But he couldn’t deny the pull as PJ walked away.
He really couldn’t deny it when she was stopped not even half a room away by Scott Elroy, one of the guys in town who custom-built bikes. And by the looks of it, Asa wasn’t the only one who found PJ Colman rather delightful.