Home > Joy Ride (Big Rock #5)

Joy Ride (Big Rock #5)
Author: Lauren Blakely

Prologue

Here’s something I want to know. Why the fuck does the term guilty pleasure even exist? If something brings you pleasure, don’t feel guilty.

Case closed.

But let’s be perfectly clear—I’m not talking about stuff a dude should feel ten tons of remorse about, like being a dick to your boss or cheating on your woman. If that kind of shit brings you pleasure, may all the guilt from the skies rain down on you, along with golf-ball-sized hail and toads, too.

What I don’t get is why people feel bad about enjoying the good stuff in life. Buying that pool table just because it looks fucking awesome in your living room. Or drinking eighteen-year-old Scotch after a long day fixing an engine on a Mustang, instead of waiting for a special occasion to crack open the bottle.

Life is short. Savor it now.

Hell, if it floats your boat to sink into a steaming hot bubble bath every so often, turn the water up high and toss a bath bomb into the claw-foot tub.

Not that I do that. Hell, I barely even know what a bath bomb is. And I absolutely, positively did not use the zingy lemongrass-scented one the other night. The type that fizzes. I don’t have a clue why it’s missing from the cabinet.

In any case, I say indulge. Yeah, my pool table rocks, and so does the Scotch. But hands down, my favorite indulgence is the one-night stand.

What? Like that’s such a crime? Nothing wrong with a night of round-the-clock fun of the X-rated variety. Besides, when I take a woman home for a one-and-done fiesta of five-star fucking, I’m honest about my intentions. I never promise more than I can deliver. But what I do serve up—in extra large quantities, thank you very much—is a fantastic time between the sheets with no strings attached when the sun comes up.

I’ve never felt guilty about this pleasure either, and that’s because I maintain a few key guidelines when it comes to my favorite horizontal hobby.

Don’t be an asshole.

Always be a gentleman.

And never sleep with the enemy.

Now, about that last rule . . . don’t break it. Don’t bend it. Don’t even dip your toe on the other side.

Trust me on this.

I went on to shatter that last policy in spectacular fashion, leaving me wanting a helluva lot more than one time with a certain sexy brunette. That’s how I wound up on the side of the road with a new tattoo, a wrecked electric-blue roadster, and a pet monkey to show for it.

Yes, I said pet monkey.

And that’s a big fucking problem for the King of Pleasure.

1

Cars are like ice cream.

There’s a flavor for everyone.

Some auto enthusiasts opt for vanilla. For them, a basic sports car will do just fine.

Others want a sundae with everything on it, from the badass paint job to the jacked-up wheels to the sound system that registers on the Richter scale.

Then, you’ve got the car buffs who gravitate toward a dark chocolate gelato, forking over big bucks for a sleek Aston Martin outfitted with an engine that kills it on the autobahn.

Every now and then, though, you’ll encounter the fellow who doesn’t know what he likes so he goes for rainbow sprinkles, bananas, chopped nuts, and a cherry on top. Like this guy I’m talking to right now at a custom car show just outside Manhattan.

The bespectacled man strokes his chin then asks in a smooth, sophisticated voice, “Could you make an armored car?”

That’s the latest question from this thirty-something guy in tailored slacks and a crisp, white button-down. Wire-rimmed glasses slide to the bridge of his nose as he gestures to an emerald-green, fully customized sports car that holds center stage.

“Armored cars are in my arsenal,” I say, since I’ve made a few beasts designed to outlast a zombie apocalypse, courtesy of some survivalist clients.

He arches an eyebrow. “Could you add in some sleek tail fins?”

Ah, tail fins. I have a hunch where he’s going now, and it’s not to the land of the undead. “I can do that, too.”

“And maybe it can even ride low and respond to commands?”

I stifle a laugh, since I have his number for sure now, and I fucking love the enthusiasm of the newbies. “Absolutely. I assume you’d want it in black?”

His blue eyes light up. “Yes. Black would be perfect.”

For the Batmobile. Because that’s what the dude just described. I’m not knocking him or the Batmobile. That vehicle is absolutely at the top of my bucket list, too. What self-respecting gearhead wouldn’t want to tool around town in a superhero’s tricked-out ride?

This guy’s nowhere near done, though, as he peppers me with a new set of questions. “Would you be able to make a car that—just for the sake of argument—can jump incredibly far distances?”

I don’t need precognition to know where he’s going with this new scenario. “Would you want it to play a little song when you hit the horn?”

His eyes twinkle. “Oh, that’s a nice feature indeed.”

I wonder where I came up with that idea. Could it be my vast knowledge of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard?

The guy is rolling through the greatest hits of cars on TV or film. And you know what? There’s not a damn thing wrong with that. If he learns about cars from the tube or the screen, so be it. Maybe he’ll ask me to make a VW Bug that talks. My sister has begged for that for years, and if I ever figure out how, I’m delivering it to her first.

“What about wings for doors?” he asks.

“Like a DeLorean?”

He nods in excitement. “I love that car so much.”

“I haven’t met a DeLorean I didn’t want to marry, either. That’s the reason I got into this business in the first place.”

“Are you a Back to the Future fan, too?”

I hold up a fist for knocking. “You know it.”

“Any chance you could put a flux capacitor in it for me?”

“Absolutely. And I promise it’ll hit 1.21 gigawatts when you crank the gas,” I say, and as we laugh, the click clack of many pairs of high heels against asphalt surrounds us. This show is swarming with women in heels, working the booths, posing seductively on hoods or beside doors. Can’t say that bothers me. Nope, I definitely can’t say I’m annoyed by the proliferation of female flesh one bit.

Cars and chicks—that’s all I need for sustenance.

But now’s not the time for checking out the scenery, because business always comes first. I extend a hand to the Back to the Future fan. “Max Summers of Summers Custom Autos.”

He shakes with me. “David Winters. And I know this may shock you, but—confession—I know nothing about cars.”

“Nothing wrong with that, since I know a ton.”

He smiles and shrugs sheepishly. “Excellent. I’m looking for a builder who can make the best. Like this one, I presume?” he asks, pointing to the sleek green beauty I’m keeping watch over at the show. I’m here with a client. I customized this baby for Wagner Boost—an NFL lineman who’s off signing autographs somewhere nearby. Wagner is a mammoth man. At six foot eight and 350 pounds—that’s his morning weight, since he jokes that he shoots up to 360 after breakfast—he needed a car tailored to fit his frame. I made it for him, and he likes to show it off.

“Let me tell you something,” I say, patting the hood of Wagner’s prized possession. “If you can dream it, I can damn near make it. If you want aftermarket tires, a new engine, or custom upholstery, I’ll take care of it. If you want to marry parts from a roadster you’ve seen in a gangster flick with a futuristic prototype, I’ll find a way. I’ll deliver on your vision because that’s what I do.”

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