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Authors: Erin McCarthy

Jacked Up

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PRAISE FOR THE FAST TRACK NOVELS

THE CHASE

“Fun and sexy . . . Pick up
The Chase
.”


Romance Reviews Today

“McCarthy’s fans won’t be disappointed.”


Publishers Weekly

“I loved
The Chase
 . . . [It’s] sweet and sexy.”


Fresh Fiction

“A definite scorcher.”


A Romance Review

HOT FINISH

“Sizzling hot, jam-packed with snappy dialogue, emotional intensity, and racing fun.”

—Carly Phillips,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Hilarious . . . If you need a good laugh, this is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.”


Booklist

“Hot and steamy.”


Smexy Books

HARD AND FAST


Hard and Fast
hit me like a ton of bricks and didn’t let up until I finished the last word.”


Romance Junkies

“A thrill ride that’s unexpectedly funny, sentimental, and thoroughly entertaining.”


RT Book Reviews

“Erin McCarthy at her best.”


The Romance Readers Connection

“This book had my heart racing.”


A Romance Review

FLAT-OUT SEXY

“Readers won’t be able to resist McCarthy’s sweetly sexy and sentimental tale of true love at the track.”


Booklist

“A steamy romance . . . Fast-paced and red-hot.”


Publishers Weekly

“This is one smart, sassy, steamy, and flat-out sexy read . . . A fast and fun ride.”


RT Book Reviews

“A new series that sizzles both on and off the field.”


Romance Junkies

“The action starts on page one and doesn’t stop.”


Romance Reviews Today

“A runaway winner!”


Fallen Angel Reviews

PRAISE FOR ERIN M
C
CARTHY’S OTHER NOVELS

HEIRESS FOR HIRE


Heiress for Hire
is a must read.”


Romance Junkies

“Characters you will care about, a story that will make you laugh and cry, and a book you won’t soon forget.”


The Romance Reader
(5 hearts)

“An alluring tale.”


A Romance Review
(5 roses)

“An enjoyable story about finding love in unexpected places, don’t miss
Heiress for Hire
.”


Romance Reviews Today

“Priceless!”


RT Book Reviews
(4½ stars, Top Pick)

A DATE WITH THE OTHER SIDE

“Do yourself a favor and make a date with the other side.”

—Rachel Gibson,
New York Times
bestselling author

“One of the romance-writing industry’s brightest stars . . . Ms. McCarthy spins a fascinating tale that deftly blends a paranormal story with a blistering romance . . . Funny, charming, and very entertaining.”


Romance Reviews Today

“If you’re looking for a steamy read that will keep you laughing while you turn the pages as quickly as you can,
A Date with the Other Side
is for you.”


Romance Junkies

“Just the right amount of humor interspersed with romance.”


Love Romances

“Quite a few chuckles, some face-fanning moments, and one heck of a love story.”


A Romance Review

Titles by Erin McCarthy

A DATE WITH THE OTHER SIDE

HEIRESS FOR HIRE

The Fast Track Series

FLAT-OUT SEXY

HARD AND FAST

HOT FINISH

THE CHASE

SLOW RIDE

JACKED UP

The Vegas Vampires Series

HIGH STAKES

BIT THE JACKPOT

BLED DRY

SUCKER BET

The Deadly Sins Series

MY IMMORTAL

FALLEN

THE TAKING

Anthologies

THE NAKED TRUTH

(with Donna Kauffman, Beverly Brandt, and Alesia Holliday)

AN ENCHANTED SEASON

(with Maggie Shayne, Nalini Singh, and Jean Johnson)

THE POWER OF LOVE

(with Lori Foster, Toni Blake, Dianne Castell, Karen Kelley, Rosemary Laurey, Janice Maynard, LuAnn McLane, Lucy Monroe, Patricia Sargeant, Kay Stockham, and J. C. Wilder)

FIRST BLOOD

(with Susan Sizemore, Chris Marie Green, and Meljean Brook)

JACKED UP

erin m
c
carthy

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

JACKED UP

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / June 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Erin McCarthy.

Excerpt from teaser by Erin McCarthy copyright © 2012 by Erin McCarthy.

Cover art by Craig White.

Cover design by Rita Frangie.

Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-56896-5

BERKLEY SENSATION
®

Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY SENSATION
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

CHAPTER

ONE

NOLAN
Ford wasn’t listening to Eve Monroe as she chewed him out. It wasn’t that he was trying to be disrespectful, but Lord, the woman could start an argument in an empty house.

Besides, the top button on her blouse was straining, and each time she lifted her arm and waved it around, he held his breath, waiting for it to pop. He’d had something of a crush on Eve for years, always aware when she was around the track or the garage, stomping around in her heels and severe office clothes. She thought no one noticed that she was a woman, and seemed to work damn hard to make sure it stayed that way, but Nolan had always noticed.

Eve was hot. Full on, smokin’, jalapeño pepper hot. From that lustrous deep brown hair with a hint of red, to her gold-flecked eyes, down past an amazing chest, to slim legs and a perky behind, she was all that and a bag of chips, in his opinion.

“I mean, seriously, I don’t care what kind of underwear you wear, just wear some!” she said, making a sound of frustration. “I mean really, let’s show a little decorum.”

Nolan fought the urge to grin. She looked so serious when talking about his underwear. Or lack thereof. But he knew if he so much as curved the corner of his mouth up, her head would blow off her shoulders. Eve was not happy about the little incident during the race the other day. “Well, ma’am, it’s hot in those crew suits. Some particular parts need air circulation.”

She drew in a deep breath, obviously struggling for control, but it only made her blouse pull tighter. Nolan stared in fascination as the button slipped halfway through the hole. If that thing gave, he was going to see her bra. He wasn’t sure he was capable of not getting a hard-on if that happened.

And since he wasn’t wearing any underwear today either, she would probably notice.

“Stick a bag of frozen peas in your pants. Just wear them.” Her hands went up to rake her hair back off her head. “Don’t pretend you don’t understand that this is a big deal. You have been in the business for years. Sponsors want a friendly, wholesome image for the sport their name is attached to. As do the team owners, and the powers that be in stock car racing. When a jackman goes over the wall and rips his suit, the whole world doesn’t need to see his back end.”

Nolan had to agree with that. He certainly hadn’t intended to tear the seat of his pants going over the wall into pit road when Evan’s car had stopped for a tire change. Or for his ass to end up on YouTube. But it had. So what were you going to do about it? That was his philosophy in life—don’t sweat the small stuff. Or bare butts.

“I do understand, Eve. I’m proud to be a member of Evan’s crew and I take my job seriously. It was an accident. I believe they even have a term for that—wardrobe malfunction.”

She started talking. He stopped listening again. As her arms waved, the button gave up the good fight and parted ways with the hole it had been in. Her blouse sprang apart. He was assaulted with the sight of lots of pale creamy flesh bursting out of a hot pink bra, the cleavage high and perky. It was a gorgeous surprise, all that breast she’d been hiding under her crisp tailored shirts.

But then that was what he thought of Eve in general—that she was hiding a whole lot of woman under the attitude. It was a thought that had intrigued him more than once as he’d seen her typing furiously on her smartphone, clipboard tucked under her arm. What would it be like to see every inch of her naked body, to get her to totally come undone . . .

“That’s just an excuse,” she was saying. “Wardrobe malfunction. Give me a break. Are you even listening to me?”

Nolan nodded. “They do happen, you know,” he drawled, really savoring the moment of triumph. Forcing his eyes off her chest, he let his grin win out. “You seem to have one happening right now.”

He pointed to her blouse, wide open and catching the breeze.

She glanced down and turned as pink as the lace bra she was wearing.

“I think they call that tit for tat,” he told her.

Her eyes narrowed.

A wise man would have run.

But he was more the type of guy to play chicken with a rattlesnake, so he stood his ground.

Her hand covered her cleavage. “That better have just happened, or I will erase your birth certificate.”

Why did he have the feeling that was no idle threat? “Didn’t you feel the breeze?” he asked. “At least I knew my pants ripped. There just wasn’t anything I could do about it.”

Eve buttoned her shirt again. “Don’t be a smart-ass. I’m not in the mood.”

He wondered what she was in the mood for. He could pretty much guarantee it wouldn’t be him asking her out or, even better, taking a kiss. Which he found himself really wanting to do.

“The point is, shit happens and you can’t do anything about it. No point in getting all worked up.” He chanced a glance back down at her blouse. “That’s not going to hold, you know. Your hole is compromised.” Which sounded kinda dirty now that he thought about it.

God, his mind was just looping around sex today. It had been a while, and he had always been intrigued by Eve. She was just so uptight. There had to be moments in her life when she totally let go, and he had a feeling that would be the bedroom. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

“Excuse me? Are you trying to piss me off?” Her voice rose so high that several other heads in the garage swung their way, clearly curious.

“Well, no, not really.” Nolan hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and gave her a smile. “I was hoping you’d reward my gallantry. There are some men who would have let you walk around with your assets on display and not said a word.”

She fussed with the button, which was slipping again. “I’m going to reward you with a can of whoop ass, is what I’m going to do.”

Nolan fought the urge to laugh. He tried, he really did. But she looked so damned indignant, her bra peeking out from behind her hand, her words so damned ridiculous, that he couldn’t help it. A laugh escaped. He tried to cover it with a cough, but she wasn’t buying it.

He didn’t mean to laugh. It wasn’t nice to laugh when someone was clearly upset, but if she only knew how stinking adorable she was, she’d see where he was coming from.

It was clear she didn’t feel adorable when she clenched her fist tighter around her shirt. “Do you think that’s funny? Do you think it will be funny when I fire you?”

If he thought she had that kind of authority, Nolan might be a little concerned. But as PR rep, she didn’t. “I don’t think there’s a mandatory underwear clause in my contract. But we can check it together if you like. Over a beer would be great.”

He’d like to see her on a bar stool, next to him, away from all the prying eyes of the garage. She wouldn’t go for it, he knew that. She was out of his league with a capital L, but it didn’t hurt to try.

Though given the expression spreading across her face, it just
might
hurt.

Eve couldn’t believe he was serious. Was he really just standing there smiling at her, all sexy and nonchalant, mocking her concerns? She hated when men laughed at her. Despised, loathed, detested it. It was a throwback to growing up with two brothers who had made it their life’s mission to annoy her. Well, primarily Evan. Elec had been easier to deal with, but nonetheless, she hated being teased. Really, really hated it.

She was trying to do her job, something no one ever seemed to respect.

Clearly Mr. Naked Butt was yet another one of those.

“How about I bust a beer bottle over your head?” Okay, so that wasn’t the most professional thing in the world to say, but if she didn’t release some of her rage, her head was liable to explode right off her shoulders.

“I don’t think I would enjoy that.”

His casual attitude made her nuts. Why wasn’t he getting upset? Why wasn’t he embarrassed? Pulling out her phone, she punched a few buttons. “Look at this.”

Just seeing the video still clip on her phone made her blood pressure increase. She hated her job, she really did. Every day it was like navigating a mine field of morons. It was an industry of ego and big money, an intricate web of drivers, team owners, and sponsors. No one understood or cared how much pressure she was under being responsible for her brothers’ public images.

Nolan moved in alongside of her and dutifully stared down at the screen with her. She was tempted to give commentary as the video started, but he had been there and the announcer at the race could be heard loud and clear.

“So Evan Monroe has chosen to pit, which we expected. After that last caution flag came up, we heard him on the radio with his crew chief.”

There was a view of Evan’s car along with a half-dozen others pulling into pit road. It was all normal race day activity. It was lap 275 out of 500, and no one was anxious yet, they were all just strategizing and jockeying for position on the track. The camera zoomed in on Evan’s car.

“It looked to me like there was a bit of a drag on Evan Monroe’s car, and we thought we heard mention of debris.”

That’s when it all went horribly wrong. Eve fought the urge to wince as Evan’s crew went over the wall.

“But we see his crew going out now for the usual fuel and tire change. Doesn’t seem to be any concern about debris now, whatever it was.”

Then the announcer couldn’t swallow his guffaw. “Woo-hoo, good grief, did you see that?”

Yes, she had seen it. It was right in front of her, the camera zooming in on it. As Nolan went over the wall, his jumpsuit ripped at the seat. He didn’t even pause but went straight to the front right tire and started pumping his jack. Eve cleared her throat at the sudden realization of just how dirty that descriptive sounded.

The motion of working the jack to lift the car had Nolan bending over. Which had his butt clearly displayed through the tear in his pants.

“It looks like Evan Monroe’s jackman has had a bit of an accident with his uniform out there. I commend the man for doing his job under adverse conditions but I think I see a penalty in his future. That’s not exactly a family-friendly view.”

No, it wasn’t a family-friendly view to say the least. It was a whole lot of tight, sexy butt, the muscles in his thigh and rear flexing as he worked the jack. Eve swallowed hard, suddenly aware of how perilously close to her Nolan Ford was while his buns moved around on her phone.

“See?” she told him, needing to exert a bit of control in the situation. Unfortunately, her voice wavered just enough to make her cheeks flush with heat. She hoped he was looking at her phone and not her.

“I see. I was there, you know. Like I said, I felt the breeze. But what was I supposed to do?”

There was the rub. She wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to have done at that particular moment. But she just knew that staring at his naked backside wasn’t providing her with any answers.

“If I had stopped to duct-tape my pants together, we either would have lost a huge amount of time or Evan would have ended up with no tires on that pit stop. That would have been disastrous. You know that.”

She did know that. One or two seconds slower in a pit stop could alter the course of the race. Not taking fresh tires could drop you back twenty spots. He was right and she knew it, but that didn’t make the result any less horrible. It was a lose-lose situation that she wasn’t sure how to fix and it was giving her a headache.

Finally she snapped, “You’re supposed to wear underwear.”

“They’re constricting.”

He was leaning even closer to her now, and Eve was desperate to shift away from him, but determined not to give him the satisfaction of thinking she was nervous or had backed down. She wasn’t sure why she was having the reaction she was other than the fact that it had been approximately one thousand years since she had last had sex and there was something casually hot about Nolan Ford.

Plus there was no denying he looked good not wearing underwear. At least from the back. She nudged him with her elbow, but kept her view on her phone.

“Oh, so you have that much to constrict?” Sarcasm was her best defense against the discomfort she was feeling. It was a trick she had perfected throughout her life.

He gave a low, sexy laugh. “Who wants to know?”

There was no way to really answer that without it sounding like she was actually interested in the size of his penis. Damn. She’d walked right into that one, which was annoying as hell.

“No one.”

“I think maybe you do or you wouldn’t have asked.”

She wanted to sigh. She wanted to rub her temples. She wanted to run away to a remote Pacific island where demigods would worship her.

Evan always insisted she created her own stress. But how could she have created a scenario where one of his crew members flashed his butt on camera? She had the ability to complicate things, she’d own that, but this was not her doing.

The video had stopped playing so she closed the screen and put her phone in her pocket, moving away from him. “Just. Wear. Underwear.”

“That’s fun to wear?” He grinned at her.

Eve blinked, debating how much jail time she would get for reaching over and ripping his face off.

“No sarcastic response? I’m disappointed.”

He had no idea the control she was exerting at the moment. “I’m afraid if I open my mouth I’ll start screaming and never stop.”

Whatever his response would have been was prevented by her brother’s car chief yelling from Evan’s car, “Hey Eve, you done hollering at him? Clock’s a-tickin’ while you’re a-bitchin’.”

That pretty much summed up the utter lack of respect she got. She wasn’t talking to Nolan for shits and grins. She was doing her job. Did no one understand that?

She didn’t bother to answer Jim.

“Pay your fine on time,” she told Nolan in a cold voice, turning on her heel, hand still holding together her gaping blouse. She felt . . . defeated. Tired. Overwhelmed.

In the past eighteen months she had navigated two pregnancy scandals her brothers had been embroiled in, the loss of a major corporate sponsor, Evan’s spontaneous marriage and breakup and then reunion with the first female driver to compete in the Cup series, and being fired and rehired herself.

BOOK: Jacked Up
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