Far From the Usual
He’s her ex’s brother, yet Arden Windham aches to be in Cam Mercer’s arms. The man is rude and obnoxious, his blue eyes cold and unfeeling, but he makes her body melt. Being with ex-con Cam is nowhere in her plans, not if she wants the affection she’s worked so hard to gain from her overbearing father. Still, Cam’s touch is unlike anything she’s ever felt and Arden finds herself having to choose between her wants and her needs.
Cameron Mercer is his family’s black sheep, a man apart. For six months he watched Arden waste her time with his twin and now she’s free, he’s not waiting another minute. He’s on a campaign to get her off the tight rope she’s been walking. There’s a rebel behind that smooth façade and he’s on a mission to set Arden free. Too bad she insists on putting up a fight.
“Damn it!” Arden Windham pounded on the steering wheel of her silver Mercedes. No amount of stepping on the gas, or fiddling with the wheel made the stupid thing budge. The loud pop she’d heard moments before she lost control of the car on the slippery roads did not help her mood.
What use were these expensive-ass cars if those bastards gave up after one bump? Now she had to get out in the damn rain to check what the hell was wrong, messing up her hair and dress in the process.
A fight with her father, dodging phone calls from an ex who blamed her for his cheating ways, now this. All within the last hour. She’d normally paste a smile on her face and grit her teeth, but right now she didn’t feel like it.
“This sure as fuck isn’t my night.”
She unbuckled her seat belt and crawled out the car, wincing at the stinging rain hitting her neck and shoulders. Tugging her mini dress over her ass, she crouched-walked around the vehicle, grimacing as her heel sank into the ground.
When she spotted the flat front passenger-side tire she almost cried. Almost. Because Arden Windham didn’t cry, no matter the despair beating down on her at the moment.
She hurried back into the dry warmth of her car’s interior and closed the door, dripping all over her leather seats. She didn’t have the number for Triple A and no other cars traveled this dark stretch of road.
“Indy probably knows someone,” she muttered. Her best friend certainly knew a lot of people in this blasted town. “No way am I calling Daddy.” He’d only take the opportunity to lecture her yet again about responsibility and accountability.Ugh.
What to do? What to do? She stared through her windshield at the torrential rain pouring down, tapping a finger on her chin.
Memory of the white business card she’d hidden away in one of her purses jerked her upright. Her ex’s brother owned a repair business. At least he did the last time Clark mentioned his estranged fraternal twin brother. That had to be months ago. He wouldn’t be her first choice under normal circumstances, but his shop wasn’t too far from where she was now stuck. Calling Indy and waiting for someone else to come out to where she was on the outskirts of town would take far longer than she wanted to be out there.
She didn’t want to see Cameron Mercer. He unsettled her, but she grabbed her purse from the passenger seat, praying the card was in there as she poured its contents on the seat.
There, mixed in with her lip gloss and gum wrappers. She snatched up the card, staring at it as she swiped her thumb across the name. Mercer’s Repair. A chill rattled her bones, one that had nothing to do with the rain outside.
She didn’t know Cam, not really. She dated his brother, Clark, for six months. In the few instances she’d seen Cam Mercer up close and personal, she’d always felt shaken. He’d eyed her like a bug with those ice-blue eyes, sizing her up and looking through her like a pane of crystal.
Until then she’d kind of prided herself on being hard to read, but she could never shake the feeling that Cam Mercer saw straight through her and found her lacking. Not a good look or feel. She went out of her way not to move in the same circles as him.
She quickly dialed the number and drummed her finger on the steering wheel as the blasted phone rang and rang.
Didn’t that man answer his business phone? Probably not, Cam Mercer didn’t strike her as the most diligent of business owners with all those scars and that permanent scowl.
She jumped at the loud bark in her ear. “Uh, is this Mercer’s Repairs?” Where’s the professionalism nowadays?
The man grunted. “That’s the number you called, right? So again, what?”
Right. Arden rolled her eyes. “I happen to have acquired a flat tire. I’m in need of your services.”
“Acquired, huh?” He snorted. “Who is this and where are you?”
She cleared her throat and thrust her chin out. “This is Arden Windham.” Raising an eyebrow at his swift intake of breath, she quickly gave him her address. “How soon can I expect you, Mr. Mercer? This is Cam Mercer, is it not?” She mentally slapped herself. Should’ve verified the owner of that unsettling growl from the get go.
“Yeah, it’s me and you can expect me when you see me.” The phone clicked, ending the call.
Arden stared at the phone in her trembling hand. Never had she met such a rude man before and they technically hadn’t even met. Now she had an idea as to why Clark didn’t socialize with his brother.
Cam had rejected his family’s money and power, choosing to do his own thing after a short stint in prison.
Arden didn’t know the details, but gossip labeled black sheep Cam a troublemaker with anger issues. Definitely not someone who moved within Arden’s circle nowadays. She’d sworn off bad boys and didn’t care to know the full story behind Cam’s absences from Mercer family functions and conversation.
All I need is my car fixed and he can go on about his business. She laid her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes.
A knock at her window startled her awake. Arden winced at the creak in her neck and peered at the face looking back at her. He’d grown a scruff and with his dark hood pulled low over his eyes, Cam Mercer looked dangerous.
An involuntary shiver rattled her spine and she frowned. Was she afraid of him?
“Are you gonna stare at me all night or what?”
Nope, she wasn’t afraid. She lowered her window and scowled at him. “It is customary to introduce yourself, Mr. Mercer.” He simply looked at her like she was a nuisance. All right. She affected her haughtiest expression. “As you can see, I’m not properly dressed to leave the safety of my vehicle so I’ll stay in here while you do your thing.”
He mumbled, “Whatever,” and wandered away.
Arden gritted her teeth and folded her arms. He really was infuriating. On her lap her purse buzzed and she fished out her phone while eyeing Cam’s movements in her rearview.
“Hey, Indy.” She greeted her best friend with a long suffering sigh.
“Where are you, bitch?” Indy wasn’t one for small talk. “The pizza is getting cold.”
“I have a flat tire and the rudest man alive is fixing it.”
“Oh, you’ll never guess. Cam Mercer is here with me in the middle of nowhere, working on my tire. The man is simply unprofessional.”
“Cam Mercer?” Indy’s tone perked up. “Ah, Bad Boy Mercer. I saw him get into a bar brawl with two men and win. All those muscles.” Indy whistled. “He can get it.”
“What?” Arden’s stomach knotted. “You think he’s sexy?” She did not want her friend lusting after the man. He was bad news. Even if he was sexy—which Arden didn’t at all think he was.
“Have you looked at the man? And all that ‘fuck you’ attitude.” Indy sighed. “You just know there’s some deep story behind it.”
Arden didn’t like the direction of the conversation so she changed the topic. “Wipe the drool of your mouth. Don’t forget you’re already spoken for.”
“I happen to be a free as a bird.” Indy refused to admit how she felt about the man she was attempting to have a sex-only relationship with.
“You’re a cold bitch. You love Reno and he loves you, but you insist on fronting.” Arden laughed. “You’re not fooling anyone.”
“Whatever. Shouldn’t you be ogling some rude, bad boy with family issues?”
“What? I’m not ogling that man and besides, it’s tasteless. I was involved with his brother until a week ago.”
“Sounds like a suitable mourning period to me,” Indy said. “You don’t owe Clark anything and I can bet money Bad Boy Mercer knows ways to make you forget about past unpleasantness.”
“Speaking of past unpleasantness. Clark called me this evening. He wants us to come to an understanding. Maybe get back together.”
“Oh, my God!” Indy screeched. “Are you freaking serious?”
“Unfortunately.” Arden moved over to the passenger seat and peered out. Cam was crouched on the muddy ground, doing something that required grunts. Sexy grunts, but she immediately dismissed the ludicrous thought. Bringing her attention back to her phone conversation, she said, “Can you believe him? He breaks up with me, talking about he wants to see other people, and then a week later calls me like nothing happened.”
“That bastard! Are you okay, do you want us to slash his tires or something?” Indy’s voice dropped to a whisper. “You know I have the perfect outfit for it. Remember that black cat-suit zippered to the crotch? Of course, I’ll have to get new heels for the mission. Just tell me when.”
Arden giggled. “Thanks, but no. I just want him to take his own advice, you know? Move the hell on.”
“I can’t tell you why men are idiots, but I can suggest you pick your hurt pride up off the floor, shake it off, and make moves. Preferably on that sexy Cam Mercer.”
“I’m not—” A knock sounded on her window and she looked up into Cam Mercer’s cold eyes. “Indy, I gotta go. We’ll talk later.”
“Remember what I said.”
She ended the call on Indy’s parting shot and raised an eyebrow. “All done, Mr. Mercer?”
“Yeah, you’re good to go.” He held her gaze, heating her skin under all that ice as he quoted his price.
“Great.” She broke eye contact and fumbled with her purse. “I assume cash is acceptable?” At his curt nod she counted out the appropriate amount plus a nice tip and handed it over. “Thank you for your prompt service.”
He stared at her then flipped his gaze to the money in her hand and backed away without taking it.
“What the hell?” Arden scrambled out of the car, cursing those damned heels as they sank into the soft ground. Rain pelted her in the face as she yelled after Cam. “What the fuck is your problem?”
He ignored her and she kicked off her heels and raced after him. Grabbing his arm, she tugged.
“What the hell is your problem with me, Mr. Mercer?” She brushed wet hair from her eyes and glared up at him. “Did I kill your puppy or something?”
He shrugged and her gaze darted to those shoulders.
“I don’t like you,” he said.
What? Arden gaped up at him. She would never cop to how her chest felt like he’d sliced her open. “Everybody likes me.”
He laughed in her face. “You’re a spoiled, entitled rich kid.”
Where the hell did he get off? “You don’t know me.” She poked him in the chest. “You don’t know shit about me, so you have no right to judge me.”
Water dripped from his hood and down his chin. “My brother knew, right? And it seems he had enough of you.”
“Motherfucker!” She lifted her hand to punch him in the freaking nose, but Cam grabbed her wrists. She fought him, kicking at his shins.
“Get your hands off me, you son of a bitch.”
He lifted her off her feet and brought her down on the hood of his truck. Arden struggled as he grabbed her nape and brought their heads close.
“Does daddy know how dirty his little girl’s mouth is?” His lips brushed her ear and Arden shivered.
Damn. She struggled harder but his vice grip held her immobile. Rain poured, wetting her tight white dress, molding it to her skin.
“Did my brother get any of those dirty words or are they all for me?” His fingers at her nape tightened. His bulky frame covered her vision and Arden inhaled his scent of clean soap and anger. Her nipples beaded.
She tried sliding out from under his hold, but only succeeded in sprawling backward on the truck’s wet hood. Lifting her hands, she clutched his arms.
“Cam.” She heard the whimper in her voice, but rejected it. She didn’t whimper.
He lifted his head, met her eyes, and her tremors started. His fingers at her nape flexed. The coolness in his eyes bled away, leaving only heat. Leaving only flames.
“No.” She shook her head. It wasn’t right, but her cunt was all slippery. He didn’t like her, but she tightened her grip on his forearm. “You don’t like me.”
His lips curved, his hold on her slackened and Arden scrambled away, nearly falling to the ground in her attempt to get away.
Cam grabbed her hand, yanked her into his chest.
Arden held her breath to avoid breathing in his musk.
“I don’t have to like you to want you, Princess.”
She was burning up, melting, but Arden gathered her strength and pushed at his chest. “I don’t like you, either, Mr. Mercer. Nor do I want you.” Oh, God. She couldn’t even convince herself.
He chuckled, blue eyes flashing. “Liar. I’ve seen it in your eyes, Princess. You think I don’t know you’ve been avoiding me?”
“Shut up! Shut up!” She squeezed her eyes shut, panting. He knew. God. She should leave, walk away, but there was a strange buzzing in her ear, her heart thudded in her chest, and her pussy was all kinds of hungry.
Wet fingers grazed her cheek, cupped her jaw. His hot breath fanned across her face. Arden forced herself not to inhale, not to move, not to moan. Soft, firm lips brushed against hers, feather light. Barely there. She sucked in a breath, reached for him, but he’d already moved back.
Away from her.
His gaze was hard, inscrutable. “If you want it then I’ve got it, Princess.”
She swallowed, coughed. “No.” Arden shook her head, the lie burning her tongue. “I don’t want it.” She straightened her wet dress and turned her back, walking back to her car.
Cam raced after her. “I’m not alone in this attraction, Princess. You can’t hide from it and me forever.”
She heard the words but chose to ignore them. He had no idea what the hell he was saying. This wasn’t an attraction, merely a lack in judgment. Arden bent over, digging out her heels from under a pile of mud with a grimace. “I have to go.”
He grabbed her arm. “The road is blocked because of an accident. No one is coming down this way, you’ll have to take the long way home.”
She stared down at his hand on her arm. “I should thank you, I guess. Right now, I just need to get dry. And drunk.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What are you trying to forget?”