Reckless (Blue Collar Boyfriends Book 1)

BOOK: Reckless (Blue Collar Boyfriends Book 1)
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


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Sometimes it takes a miracle to find forgiveness

Divorced construction worker Derek has anger management issues. Acting rashly on the freeway, he causes an accident. His truck escapes unscathed, but he can’t say the same for his conscience. Visions of the wreck haunt his dreams, but they’re always followed by the sweet caresses and soothing words of a beautiful woman who calls to everything male in him.

assumes she is dead. With no memory of her past, all she knows is endless fog and the occasional visit to a darkened bedroom where she comforts a man battling nightmares. When she wakes in a hospital bed and regains her memory, she assumes the ruggedly-handsome Derek was no more than a figment of her concussed mind.

Cami recovers, she learns that Derek is not only real but also the driver charged with causing her accident. She should be furious with him, but their inexplicable nights together showed her a tender side beneath his rough exterior. Will she let one reckless mistake drive them apart, or will forgiveness have the right of way?




To be safe, she scooted back, giving him some space. But it was too late.

His eyes popped open, and his gaze locked on hers.

Rusty streetlamp light flooded the bedroom. There was no darkness to blend into, no deep shadows that might offer her cover. He could see her, and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.

Her heart raced and she held her breath as she braced for his reaction.

His firm lips curled into a contented smile. He clasped his hands behind his head, putting his impressive triceps on display. His eyelids went to half-mast. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve had one of these kinds of dreams?”

Her body had so many different reactions at
once, she would have passed out if she’d been alive. Desire unwound in her like a sprung coil at the confident look in his eyes. Relief that she hadn’t scared him kicked her lungs back into action. But he thought he was still dreaming.

Her shoulders sagged with disappointment.

“You’ve got too many clothes on, sweetheart,” he said, jarring her out of her stupor. “And you’re much, much too far away.” He held a hand out to her. “Come here so I can fix both of those travesties.”



By Jessi Gage


To drivers everywhere who exhibit patience and goodwill when those around them make



Writing can be a lonely gig. Thank you, ladies of the Cupcake Crew, Julie Brannagh and Amy Raby, for being awesome enough to tempt me away from my laptop one morning a week (I swear, I show up for you, not the cupcakes). Your critiques are invaluable, your friendship more so.
would still be a short story languishing on my hard drive without your suggestions and plotting help. So, again, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Thank you also to Laura Lee Nutt for your friendship and critiques, and for being a sounding board for this story and many others.

Tea House Writers, Stacey Bennetts, Kirk Boys, Scott Johnson, and Connie Petersen, thank you for sharing your writing talent and your fine company with me over many an evening of tea and sugar cookies. Your critiques of this novel were instrumental in my polishing it into something I felt comfortable publishing.

Thank you John Hayes, for help with research on California laws on aggressive driving and for coffee dates full of wonderful conversation,
writerly support, and for cheering me on as I expanded
from a short story into a novel.

Many heartfelt thanks to my editor, Piper Denna, who helped me overcome a chronic case of

And, as always, thank you mom for hours
upon hours of babysitting, and thank you Shane for your enthusiastic support, your mad proof-reading skills, and for being my hard-working sugar daddy.

Chapter 1

Cami rang Mr. Johansen’s doorbell for the third time. Through the screen door, she heard him turn up the TV. For the third time.

Stifling a chuckle, she squinted through the dusty screen. The angle of the August sun made it impossible to see much of anything in the shag-carpeted living room beyond.

“Mr. Johansen, it’s me, Cami.”

“Bunch of greedy trespassers you lot
are,” he shouted from the direction of the recliner he’d positioned two feet in front of his state-of-the-art-in-1990 entertainment center. “Pushing your cookies on an old diabetic like me. Leave me be. I can’t have sugar.”

“I’m not a Girl Scout, Mr. Johansen. And you’re not diabetic. It’s time for your chemo.”

“What’s that, now? Someone’s going to Reno?”

“Turn down your TV.” When he complied, she tried again. “It’s
Cami. With Helping Hand Transport? I’m here to take you for your chemo.”

“Jesus H. Christ,” he muttered. The squeak-thump of the recliner closing preceded the sound of him shuffling to the door in his slippers. He appeared behind the screen. “My appointment’s not for an hour.”

“It’s in forty-five minutes.”

“So, go sit in your little car, and I’ll be out in twenty. Only takes fifteen to get there.”

“You know I only drive back roads,” she said with the patience that served her well in counseling high-school kids during the school year and volunteering during the summers to drive shut-ins to their medical appointments. “And it never hurts to be ten minutes early. Just bring a book to read or a crossword puzzle to do.”

“Do enough of those during the chemo.” Despite his grumbling, he lifted his flat cap off the peg and grabbed his keys and wallet off the cluttered divider between the living room and kitchen.

“Slippers,” she said as he opened the screen door.

“Oh, for the love of...”

She bit back a laugh as he shuffled back inside to put on a pair of white patent-leather loafers that took his plaid-shorts and gauzy, short-sleeved shirt from trailer-park casual to old-man chic.

“Don’t ever get old,” he said as he locked up. “It sucks.”

“I’ll remember that.”

The drive from Mr. Johansen’s trailer park to downtown Redding would have taken about fifteen minutes if she could have stomached driving on the interstate. But she’d been wending her way through back roads and rural routes all her adult life, and scheduling accordingly had become second nature. Most of her clients understood, especially since many of them shunned the too-fast world of freeway driving as well.

Mr. Johansen was an exception. “Pass this yay-hoo.” He gestured at the white car in front of them.

“And why should I do that?” she asked in her best counselor’s tone.

“Because they don’t know how to drive.” He crossed his arms over his chest as if his judgment settled the matter.

“The driver seems to be doing just fine to me. They’re not speeding, they brake around the corners, they stop for yellow lights, and they don’t tailgate. In fact, they seem to drive safe as can be.”

He grunted with distaste. “Probably a woman driver.”

“The nerve.”
She winked and got a snort out of Mr. Johansen.

Twenty minutes later,
she pulled smoothly into the half-circle drive of Solace Cancer Care.

Mr. Johansen hoisted
himself out of the bucket seat and waved as he shuffled into the building. She’d be back to get him in three hours. In the meantime, the stack of home-décor magazines in her backseat was calling to her.
Read me! Read me! Dream of the day you can afford a house of your own.

She angled
her car to pull across Hartnell into the strip mall where her favorite coffee shop was. While she waited for the light, her cell phone rang. Since no one was behind her, she carefully reversed into an empty space and answered the call.

“Oh, good.
I’m so glad I caught you.” It was Ellen, the dispatcher from Helping Hand. “Ben called in. He sprained his ankle at ultimate Frisbee this morning and can’t get Mrs. Emory to Sacred Heart. Can you do it?”

She cast a longing glance at the colorful
magazine cover on top of her stack. “What time is Mrs. Emory’s appointment?”

“Um, three thirty.”

“What! That’s in fifteen minutes!”

“I know. Please tell me you’re running early as usual. Do you have Mr. J dropped off?”

“Yes, but I can’t possibly make it all the way up to Mountain Lakes and back down to Sacred Heart in fifteen minutes.”

“Not fifteen, I know. But if you leave now, get to Mrs. E’s in ten then down to Sacred in ten, she won’t have to reschedule. I’ll call the clinic and let them know she’ll be running a few minutes late.”

released a tense breath. Helping Hand’s motto was,
We’ll get you there on time and
with a smile
. It killed her to fail Helping Hand and Mrs. E, but even worse, she hated to disappoint Ellen. She pictured the dispatcher at her desk, headset askew over her gray curls, a frazzled expression on her normally cheerful face. She didn’t want to make things difficult for Ellen, but to do what she asked would mean the unthinkable.

“Ellen, you know I don’t take the freeway.
Ever. Can’t you call her a cab?”

“It’s the end of the month. Our stipend is bottomed out. Please?
Just this once? It’s not like it’s rush hour or anything.”

Every hour was rush hour on that death-trap stretch of concrete. “Are you sure there’s no one else who can do it?”
Please, please, please let there be someone else.

“You and Ben were the only ones available today. I know you don’t like the interstate, but
hon, lots of people use it without any problem. Look at me. I’m no spring chicken and I do just fine.”

At her silence, Ellen sighed. “Look, I don’t want to stress you out. I’ll call the clinic and let them know we’ll do our best but Mrs.
E will likely be quite late. You take whatever route you need to and get her there when you can. Okay?”

Ellen had pulled out
Cami’s Kryptonite. Guilt. By being sweet and understanding, she guaranteed Cami would respond with her absolute best. “Tell Mrs. E I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

I-5 ran north to south through Redding, California and was the best way to cross town, if a person didn’t have a crippling fear of merging at high speeds. But Ellen made a good point.

Lots of people used the interstate without thinking twice about it. Didn’t Cami always counsel her kids that facing their fears was healthier than running from them? Maybe she should take her own advice.

Gripping the wheel, she steeled herself to do something she hadn’t done since she was eighteen. She pulled her Civic out of Solace Cancer Care and headed for I-5’s entrance ramp.

“Hang on, Mrs. E. Here I come.”


* * * *


Yo, Summers!” The shout stopped Derek from pulling the door to his pickup truck shut.

Leaning a forearm on the ledge of the open window, he looked at the trailer to see his construction engineer jogging toward him. Fred had one hand braced on his hardhat, keeping the thing from bouncing off his head-full of graying hair, and the other snagged on his tool belt to keep it from sliding down around his knees. The CE had skin the color and texture of leather left out in the sun, and the personality of a contemplative sea captain. Whenever Fred said anything, Derek had a hard time not imagining him with a corncob pipe and a colorful bird on his shoulder.

Fred put a dusty boot on the runner of the truck and puffed a few wheezed breaths. “Glad I caught you, boss.” Fred always had a twinkle in his eyes when he called him that. They both knew Derek had only been promoted to site manager three years ago because Fred had turned down the position, claiming he’d miss being outdoors. Sometimes Derek missed the fresh air, but not today. The temperature had soared to triple digits. He wouldn’t have traded his air-conditioned office for anything.

“Make it quick, old man,” he said.
“Got a Little League game to get to.”

“Rather be old than getting soft at a desk job.” Fred’s grin flashed a lot of
sun-baked wrinkles and a gold tooth.

“Soft, my ass.”
He worked out every night to make sure he didn’t get soft.

“That’s the first place to get soft, sitting in a chair all day.” Fred winked,
then slapped the window ledge, getting down to business. “I know this ain’t a good time, boss, but phone for you.” He stabbed his thumb toward the trailer. “It’s the Trane rep. Something about a delay on the chillers.”

“Shit.” He glanced at his watch. 3:01. His daughter
’s game started in twenty-nine minutes, and the field was all the way up in the Mountain Lakes neighborhood. Even if he got on the freeway now, he’d be lucky to make the first pitch—traffic through downtown always sucked on Fridays. But the chiller installation had already been shoved back twice. If they didn’t get those frigging banes of his existence installed by the walkthrough next week, he’d have a shit storm of angry engineers on his hands.

Resigned, he headed for the trailer. At least Haley’s
team was the home team. If he hurried, he’d be able to make her first at-bat.

Fifteen minutes later and with steam shooting out his ears, he punched the gas pedal to make the light at the I-5 entrance ramp. Giving a covetous look to the HOV lane, he wove his way north until the density of traffic and the size of his F-350 forced him to adopt the same snail’s pace as everyone else.
Forty-five frigging miles per hour in the fast lane. Frigging Fridays.

Finally, the brick and glass of downtown Redding gave way to tall pines and expansive parks, and the exit for Mountain Lakes came into view. He checked his blind spot to merge, finding a tiny red Honda in his way. He hit the gas to zip in front, but the Honda sped up too.

That’s when he noticed the Honda’s turn signal blinking away. The driver also wanted to merge into the right lane, but wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Derek had to slam on the brakes as the traffic in his lane slowed. The Honda came up alongside him, all but invisible out his window except the tip of the antenna. “Goddamned idiot!” he shouted. If he didn’t get over right now, he’d miss his exit.

Pressure built in his lungs. No one was going to stand in the way of his getting to Haley’s game, especially some idiot who ought to have his license revoked. He hung back to give the traffic in front of him a chance to gain some ground. When he had enough room to work with, he hit the gas, trusting his 255 horses to power him past the Honda. The second his rear bumper cleared the nose of the matchbox car, he whipped his truck into the middle lane with a well-calculated yard to spare. Without wasting another thought on the driver in the Honda, he zipped into the right lane and exited.

A crash sounded behind him. His eyes darted to the rearview mirror.

The green Cherokee behind the Honda had rear-ended the little car and sent it careening into the fast lane. The Honda skidded sideways and a blue Outback smashed into the driver’s side without braking. The Honda lurched into a roll. The roof collapsed as it rolled once, twice, started a third roll.


The Honda’s windshield broke out.

He glimpsed the white of an airbag.

Cars swerved to avoid the catastrophe. The traffic behind the accident ground to a halt.

He’d come to a stop on the exit ramp, his boot grind
ing down on the brake pedal, a kneejerk reaction. The momentum of the crash brought it up even with his window. It looked bad.

He should get out and see if everyone was okay.

There was no way everyone was okay.

“Shit.” His foot moved to the gas.
He floored it, heart pounding.

BOOK: Reckless (Blue Collar Boyfriends Book 1)
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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