(Axle Alley Vipers #2)
Author: Sherilee Gray
Length: 197 pages
Rating: 5 Stars
He'll rev her up and drive her to the edge...
Rusty West swore she was done with men. Instead, she channeled her passion into West Restoration, the car shop she runs with her sisters. But Rusty's aloof composure fades when the owner of the competition comes striding into her shop, over six feet of sexy, rough-edged confidence…hot enough to send Rusty's motor into overdrive.
Reid Parker worked his ass off to get what he wants—and what he wants is West Restoration and its crew. He never expected to find a shop of all-female mechanics…or the stunning redhead who ignites a lust that threatens his cool. But Reid plays carefully. He never, ever gets involved with a woman beyond one night.
And no matter how hot the sparks, Rusty will never compromise her business for a man… -Goodreads
by Sherilee Gray
Copyright © 2015 by Sherilee Gray. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter One“What the fuck?” Slamming out of his office, Reid Parker strode onto R.I.P. Classic’s parking lot in time to watch the Ford Mustang—the same damn one he’d put in a quote to do bodywork on two weeks ago—peel out onto the road, sun glinting off its newly chromed rear bumper. A bumper they sure as hell hadn’t worked on.
Law, his friend and manager, turned to him, rubbing the back of his neck. “Did you see that shit? Said he decided to take the car somewhere else.”
“Where?” Someone had stolen another job out from under them, and Reid intended to find out who the hell was doing the stealing.
“Not a clue. Just said he was taking his business elsewhere from now on.” Law crossed his arms over his black leather cut. “That Mustang was gonna bring in some serious bank, but losing the other jobs he was bringing our way?” He shook his head. “That’s not just about losing money. It’s about hurting our rep.”
This was true. R.I.P. had a stellar reputation. They weren’t the biggest car restoration business in Miami by chance. They knew their shit, did excellent work. Losing business to someone else was not cool, especially when that customer had been coming to them for fucking years. Worse? This was not the first. Someone had been steadily taking work from them for the last couple of months. “How did it look?”
“Mint. The body work was slick, and whoever rebuilt the engine was a goddamn magician. That bitch purred, brother.”
“Leave it with me.” Reid strode to his office. No way would he sit by and risk damage to his good name. He didn’t appreciate someone encroaching on his turf, stealing his customers. It didn’t matter how much money, how many shops he had. It made no damn difference, not to him. Every job lost was a hit.
Through sheer pigheaded determination, he’d turned his love of cars—and when he was a kid, his escape from the reality of his shitty life—into ten thriving shops across the country.
The reason he had what he did, was that he did not let shit slide. Ever. Dragging yourself out of the gutter, having to fight tooth and nail for every damn thing you wanted tended to have that effect on a person.
There were only a handful of quality electroplaters in Miami. One of them had re-chromed the Mustang, and he intended to find out who’d booked the job.
Thirty minutes and several phone calls later, he was in his car and headed to the other side of the city. Axle Alley, for shit’s sake. The road had held that name for as long as he could remember—lined with businesses that catered to anything with an engine. But these were not high-end businesses. This was where your average Joe came with his average paycheck to get average work done.
At least that’s what he’d always thought.
He’d never heard of West Restoration. But from what he’d managed to find out, the small garage had been doing the occasional restoration job for years, though its main focus had always been your usual, run-of-the-mill mechanical work. Now with a new name, and new ownership, it seemed that focus had changed.
He’d expected it to be one of the short-lived garages that popped up in South Beach from time to time, only to close within the first two years. Building a steady and—as he’d found out recently—loyal customer base wasn’t easy.
How they were drawing people over to this side of the city, the fucking asshole of Miami as far as he was concerned, was a goddamned mystery.
West Restoration wasn’t hard to find. Bizarrely, it was right next to a cottage that looked like the Big Bad Wolf might pay it a visit, the only residential property on this stretch of road as far as he could see. The garage had a newly painted sign that stood out against its faded neighbors like a freakin’ beacon, all shiny and new and—purple.
He shook his head in disgust and drove past the parking area in front of the main workshop, and down the side of the building, making sure to park his black ’61 Plymouth Suburban—a hearse in its previous life—out of eye-shot of the roller doors. R.I.P. Classics was emblazoned on the side, and he didn’t want them tagging him right off the bat. This mission was all about stealth, at least until he’d had a chance to check the place out.
A black Ford pickup with green flames coming up over the hood and down the sides was parked next to his car, and he took a moment to look it over. It was good. Really good. If the rest of their work was anything like this, these guys had talent, and lots of it.
The outside of the place was nothing special, but it’d been treated to a makeover as well, given a fresh coat of paint in the same migraine-inducing, retina-searing purple.
“Jesus.” Shoving his keys in his pocket, he strode through the doors and into the workshop.
At this point he hadn’t decided on a game plan other than sizing up the competition, and that’s what they were. He could see that now. Yeah, they were small and they were out of the way, but they weren’t amateurs playing around. They knew their stuff, and if they were stealing his customers, they were a threat regardless of their size.
A guy in coveralls sat on a crate on the other side of the workshop, full welding mask covering his face, welding a patch of steel over a spot that had rusted almost all the way through. He knew this because he knew that car. The powder blue, ’55 Ford Customline had been in his garage a few weeks ago. He’d been the one to look it over and had done the quote himself.
He scanned the rest of the workshop, spotting an English Wheel, rollers, and various other tools you’d use if you did things old school. These guys worked hammer and file, from the ground up. These weren’t rush jobs.
They made their own custom panels, weren’t buying them in, and they were doing it well. Folks didn’t mind paying extra green for this kind of workmanship. It took longer, but if the end results were anything like he’d seen so far, the extra time would be worth it for a lot of people.
This, he hadn’t expected.
He looked around again, took in the place with fresh eyes, mind ticking over. Hell, excitement pumped through his veins, something he hadn’t experienced in a long time.
The determination he’d felt on the drive over shifted, becoming something else entirely.
As R.I.P. had grown, gotten busier, he’d moved away from this kind of detailed, hand-tooled work. They bought in rather than doing it themselves, to save time, to get more cars through the door. Not many did it like this anymore. This is what he wanted to bring back to his own business.
There was a hole in the market—he knew this, had known for a while—but training staff in this type of work took time, time he did not have. Man, if he could offer both options, this being higher priced and fully customized…
It took him all of ten minutes to decide he wanted West Restoration—and the staff that came with it.
The crackle and bright flickering light of the MIG welder stopped suddenly, and Reid turned to the guy across the room. He stood from the low crate he’d been sitting on and flipped the mask up, then pulled it off completely.
Long, fiery red hair fell free, thick and wavy. His gaze shot up and landed on the most exquisite face he had ever laid eyes on. Wide almond-shaped eyes, like fucking clear emeralds, met his and held.
A woman. An unbelievably hot woman.
She walked toward him, and his gaze was drawn to the serious sway of her slim hips, her long legs, and back up to what had to be an amazing rack hidden under those coveralls.
What in the hell?
Planting her hands on her hips, she stopped in front of him, tilting her head up so she could meet his stare. She was tall, but nowhere near his six-foot-four.
And yeah, there was no other word for it. She was stunning. Full lips, made to wrap around a man’s cock, high cheek bones, a perfect little nose, and those eyes, those bend-me-over-and-fuck-me eyes had his tongue stuck to the roof of his goddamn mouth.
“Yo,” she said in a loud voice. “You want something?”
Was she for real?
Her eyes narrowed, and she clicked her fingers in front of his face. “Yo, dude.” Then, shaking her head, lips twisted in disgust, she muttered, “Shit…seriously?”
The woman had the face of an angel, and he’d go out on a limb and guess she also had the cussing abilities of a sailor. He found that such a fuckin’ turn-on it wasn’t funny. With effort, he pulled himself together enough to smile down at her.
“What do you want?” she said slowly, punctuating each word like he was dim-witted.
Biting the inside of his cheek so he didn’t laugh, he arched a brow at her. “You work here?”
This earned him some serious eye rolling. “No, I get off on wearing coveralls in the middle of freakin’ summer.” With that she yanked down the zip at the front, slid them off her shoulders, and knotted the sleeves around her waist.
What she revealed was a skimpy, clingy, white tank, and the amazing rack he knew she had hidden. And when she crossed her arms—which were covered in bright ink from shoulder to wrist, flowers and leaves and birds all twined together beautifully—there was no way to miss the grease under her fingernails and smearing her forearms.
This woman was the physical embodiment of every fantasy he’d ever had….and that included the attitude.
He crossed his arms as well. “Nice way you talk to your customers.”
Her spine straightened, eyes narrowing. She was itching to tear him a new one, it was written all over her face. He’d managed to piss her off just by opening his mouth, and he was enjoying the hell out of it. “Your boss around?”
She uncrossed those beautifully inked arms and planted them back on her slim hips. “Yep.”
His cock filled, hardened, started to throb behind his fly. The more attitude she threw his way, the more turned on he got. The urge to kiss that smart mouth was nearly overwhelming. He mimicked her stance so he wouldn’t tug her closer despite the go-crawl-under-a-rock-and-die vibe she was throwing his way. What he wouldn’t do just to watch her unleash the fiery temper he suspected matched all that gorgeous fucking red hair. “Can I speak to him?”
“You’re speaking to her right now. How can I help you, sir?”
She smiled, a shark’s smile, showing off straight white teeth, and yeah, that turned him on as well. She could take a bite out of him any damn time she wanted. “You own this place?”
“On your own?”
“I have partners.”
“Ahh what? What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
He shrugged. “They here?”
“Alex will be back in a few minutes.” Her lips lifted on one side, and he noticed how the top one was fuller than the lower. Plump and bitable. “Maybe that would suit you better, sir?”
It would, but only because he couldn’t think past the throb in his groin with this hot piece of ass throwing all that attitude his way. “Sure.”
“Go park it over there, then.” She pointed to the other side of the workshop, where a couple chairs sat against the wall. “You won’t have long to wait.”
Then she spun on the heel of her steel-toed boot and continued to go about her business like he wasn’t there.
He chose not to sit, and instead leaned against the wall, unable to take his eyes off her. Lifting those toned, inked arms, she gathered her red hair up off her shoulders and tied it in a messy ponytail, revealing more ink at the back of her neck, one perfect red rose. The skin there glistened with a fine sheen of sweat, and he groaned under his breath, then tried to subtly adjust his cock, so it didn’t look like he had a freaking heat-seeking missile down the front of his jeans.
She went back to the Customline and started working on the headlights. She was frenching them by the looks. When she finished, they’d be set in rather than stick out, giving the car a sleeker appearance. The fine muscles in her arms and shoulders moved as she worked, sexy as hell, and proving she worked hard. He already knew she didn’t mind getting her hands dirty.
Screw the Playboy channel. Watching her work was the hottest thing he’d ever seen.
The sound of car tires crunching on gravel had him turning from the firecracker on the other side of the room. A silver Mercedes pulled in, and a guy in a suit climbed out, followed by a petite brunette from the passenger side. She wore denim cutoffs and a black tank. She also had ink, red roses as well by the looks of it, similar to the one on the back of the redhead’s neck, but the brunette’s covered the top half of one arm.
“Here’s Alex now.” He looked down at Miss Attitude, who was suddenly right beside him, a smirk front and center.
He straightened, about to go introduce himself to the suit, but the guy stopped in his tracks, pulled the brunette into his arms, and after planting a wet one on her, climbed back in the Mercedes and drove off.
You have got to be kidding me.
The other woman strode in, taking in the pair of them standing there. “What’s going on?”
This was a male-dominated industry. Of course he’d come across female mechanics before. Still, he couldn’t help being a little surprised. He guessed they were both in their early to mid-twenties, young. And male or female, to get where they were, the age they were, would not have been easy. Would have taken a determination to succeed he understood all too well.
He stepped forward, offered her his hand. “I’ll take a wild guess. Alex?”
Instantly on guard, she left him hanging midair and stared him up and down. “Who wants to know?”
This was Alex all right. “Do you have any other partners? Or is it just you two?”
“There’s one more,” Alex said.
“And are they getting here any time soon?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Piper’s running errands. She won’t be back till later.”
Real people in romance!
OMG! How great is that?
Yes. Reid and Rusty have issues, tats, tempers, and bodies that put Greek gods to shame.
Yes. Their story is one that is filled with more drama than a Maury Povich marathon, sex hot enough to set one's Kindle on fire, and enough emotional ups and downs to render readers positively motion-sick.
While it may be true that all of the above mentioned elements do a world-class romance make.The one thing that sets Revved apart from the afore mentioned hypothetical romantic "gold standard", and that will continue to put it miles ahead of the competition, is the real-world feel of every single aspect of this read.
There is not one scene in this book that comes off as forced or contrived.
Rusty and Reid do and say things, and react to situations in ways that readers can relate to, and in a way that makes them people that their audience wants to know.
Spending time in the world created in this story is like spending time with your best friends. Friends that you see as sisters, brothers, businessmen and women, lovers, and those not afraid to put their everything on the line for those they love. Friends that you love because you have seen both the best and worst of them.
Friends who you want to see together, happy, and whole.
Sherilee Gray is a kiwi girl and lives in beautiful New Zealand with her husband and their two children. When she isn't writing sexy, edgy contemporary romance or fueling her voracious book addiction, she can be found dreaming of far off places with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of Cadburys Rocky Road chocolate in the other.