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Cathy Gillen Thacker
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Plain Jane's Secret Life

Un-be-liev-able, Hannah Reid muttered to herself as she watched Dylan Hart saunter out of the Raleigh-Durham airport terminal, full entourage in tow. His sister Janey's wedding was in less than an hour, and the handsome TV sportscaster was stopping to sign autographs and shake hands. Okay, so the autographs were to beaming kids, the handshakes to their parents and the two airport security men walking beside Dylan. But still, Hannah fumed, as Dylan scanned the pick-up area and finally strode quickly over to the Classic Car Auto Repair van she had idling at the pick-up.

"Where's the Bentley?" Dylan asked as he opened the rear door and climbed inside.

Irked he was treating her more like a chauffeur who was there to cater to his every whim, than an old family friend, Hannah pulled out into the traffic exiting the airport. The least he could have done was issue a personal greeting. If not climb in the front and ride shotgun beside her. "Back in Holly Springs. It's being used to transport the bride and groom to and from the ceremony. Speaking of which--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm running late," Dylan acknowledged cheerfully. "But so from the looks of things are you. Unless you plan to participate in the nuptials with grease on your face?"

Hannah touched her hand to her cheek and then rubbed her soiled fingertips on the leg of her denim overalls. Damn. She couldn't believe she had done that again….

"Not to worry." Dylan caught Hannah's eye in the rearview mirror and winked. "I won't tell anyone where you've been."

"Har de har har." With effort, Hannah kept her eyes on the road. She did not need to be noticing how much more handsome Dylan Hart seemed to get every time she saw him. Just because he was super-well put together-even today he had traveled in a sleekly attractive business suit and tie-and looked mouth-wateringly handsome on the television screen did not mean she had to go all ga-ga over him, too. So what if he had bedroom eyes, a mesmerizingly sexy smile, and dimples cute enough to make her sigh outloud? Or expertly cut, soft and clean sandy brown hair, glowing golden skin, and crinkly laugh lines at the corners of his sable brown eyes? He also had the exceedingly stubborn Hart jaw, and the personality that went with it. Plus a way of standing back and merely observing-rather than indulging in-life which she found extremely irritating.

"Where have you been?" Dylan continued conversationally as he moved around in the back seat, giving her repeated glimpses of his broad shoulders and sturdy compact body in the rearview mirror.

"Emergency call, working on a vintage Jag," Hannah muttered over the rustle of clothing being pulled out of a carry-on garment bag. One of his masculine, nicely-manicured hands accidentally brushed the side of her face. What was he doing back there?

More rustling, as Dylan sat back slightly and shrugged out of his suit jacket and tie. "Today?"

Hannah knew what he was thinking-she was in this wedding, too. "I had time," Hannah said deferentially as Dylan pulled a shaver out of an expensive leather toiletries bag and began running it over his jaw. "Or I thought I did." She spoke above the buzzing noise of the razor and scowled. "Until your flight was late." Now they were all off schedule. And she would have even less time to put herself together, before walking down the aisle-on Dylan Hart's arm!

"Weather delay." Dylan shrugged, as he slapped on some deliciously sexy aftershave. He moved his head toward the window and peered out at the afternoon sky. "Looks like it's clearing up here, though."

"Finally," Hannah sighed in relief, as she took the turn-off to Holly Springs. "After days of rain."

Was that her imagination or was she hearing him undress? "Do you have your seat belt on?" she asked with a frown, telling herself what she was imagining could not be so.

Dylan chuckled and continued to move around behind her on the vinyl seat, much more freely than he should have. "Ah--not at the moment, no."

He sounded distracted.

So was she.

Aware her heartbeat was accelerating and her imagination was soaring even more wildly out of control, Hannah gripped the steering wheel even tighter. She tried not to think about the way her skin had tingled when he had accidentally brushed her face. Hannah reminded primly, "We're on the highway, Dylan!"

Safety, however, seemed the least of his concerns. Dylan moved around all the more. Out of her peripheral vision, Hannah saw the shirt he had been wearing whip past the back of Hannah's head and the starched white tuxedo shirt come off its hanger.

"I trust your driving-- you having a chauffeur's license and all," Dylan replied lazily, the hard, sexy muscles of his chest flexing as he worked his way into the required shirt in the confined space.

Oh, my. Was it getting hot in here or what?

Hannah reached for the AC controls, and turned it to Maximum Cool as beads of perspiration gathered between her breasts. "Even so--" Hannah reprimanded as she heard another, even more telling, zip and whoosh of cloth, moving over skin. "I can't exactly get my pants off with my lap belt fastened," Dylan drawled.

He had to be teasing her. He would not actually be stripping down all the way in her vehicle. Right…?

Hannah glanced over her shoulder, sure she would find she had been imagining things. Instead, her eyes widened at the long muscular legs, the sinewy chest, visible through the unbuttoned halves of his crisp white shirt and the sexy lines of his broad, muscular shoulders. At six foot even Dylan Hart might be the shortest in stature of the five Hart brothers, but there was nothing small about him.

Hurriedly Hannah turned her gaze back to the road. Her palms were trembling. Her emotions ran riot. "What are you doing?" Hannah demanded in a strangled voice, trying without success not to remember the rest of what she had seen. Black silk bikini briefs. Clinging to….

Never mind what the fabric was molding!

She had a job to do here and that was to get them both to Janey and Thad's wedding!

"Someone needs to ask Hannah Reid to dance," Mac Hart said.

Dylan looked at his oldest sibling. Somehow, he wasn't surprised Mac would be the one to bring this up. Mac had always been the law and order member of his family, even before becoming sheriff of Holly Springs some five years prior.

"Yeah," Fletcher chimed in. Having recently discovered romance himself, with florist Lily Madsen, the vet in the family was now into chivalry, big-time. "The reception is almost over and no one has asked Hannah to dance." "No surprise there," Dylan muttered, looking around for the town's premiere mechanic, relieved to find her nowhere in sight. Athough Hannah was often reserved in what she had to say to him, anyway, she had a way of looking at him that made him think she always expected more from him. More what, exactly, he didn't know. "Hannah's like a--" Dylan had been about to say 'sister', but that notion had gone out the window the moment he had seen Hannah duded up in the sexy black and white dress, black stockings, and heels, his sister Janey had chosen for her bridesmaids.

"--like one of the guys," Dylan finished, forcing his mind back to the way he had always thought of the auburn-haired beauty, with the creamy skin and vibrant green eyes. It wasn't that Hannah didn't have a very remarkable set of curves on her. Just that they were usually hidden beneath a pair of grimy coveralls, or equally shapeless and masculine attire. On the job or off. "The way she is always talking sports and hanging out to drink beer and watch NASCAR and swap stories with the guys and stuff."

"She doesn't really watch NASCAR anymore," Mac interrupted.

"Yeah," the very married Joe Hart chimed in.

Dylan turned to Joe, amazed at the changes in his baby brother. Three months ago, all Joe had cared about was the sport he played. Then he had joined lives with boss's daughter, Emma Donovan. And now-much to Dylan's aggravation--the pro hockey player considered himself the authority on wedded bliss. When, unbeknownst to all of them, it was really Dylan who had the 'score' on that.

"Not since Hannah and Rupert Wallace broke it off," Joe pointed out casually, helping himself to a last slice of wedding cake.

That had been two years ago, Dylan recalled, glancing around, wondering where his brother Cal was. Since Cal's wife Ashley had called to say she wouldn't be coming to the wedding after all-the pretty doctor was stuck in Honolulu, working on her OB/GYN fellowship-Cal had been in a funk and kept mostly to himself. "And it doesn't matter how much she's one of the guys," Fletcher continued sternly. "She's a bridesmaid. She ought to get at least one dance. And since you're the groomsman who escorted her down the aisle at the church, it's your responsibility."

Dylan tried not to think what it would feel like to hold Hannah Reid's surprisingly soft-and feminine looking body in his arms. Or see that knowing look in her eyes once again. Too much one on one time with her and he might do something really foolish-like kiss her. "All right, all right," he muttered in exasperation, giving in at last, telling himself he could manage to keep his secret desire for her at bay during one, brief dance. "Where is she?" he demanded bad-temperedly, determined to get this over with as soon as possible.

"Last I saw she was headed upstairs," Mac said.

"To help Janey change into her going away outfit?" Dylan asked, aware that the groom-Thad-had just come back down to rejoin the two hundred or so guests, left in The Wedding Inn ballroom.

His brother shrugged as out on the dance floor, one song ended and another began. Aware time was dwindling, and he'd never hear the end of it if he didn't ask the bridesmaid he had been paired with to dance, Dylan headed out into the marble floored hallway, and up the sweeping staircase that led to the second floor.

The door to the bride's changing suite was closed. He could hear a gaggle of laughing female voices emanating from behind it. The groom's changing suite, on the other side of the staircase, was empty. Thrusting his hands in the pocket of his black tuxedo pants, Dylan strolled that way, killing time, as he waited for the women to come out. And that was when he heard it, the voices a little further down the hall. Coming from the dressing suite usually reserved for the groom's parents.

"Got any tips on dealing with-what's his name again?" Dylan heard Hannah ask.

Curious, and wondering just who she was with, he strolled soundlessly closer.

"R.G. Yarborough," Dylan was stunned to hear his brother Cal reply in a crisp, matter of fact voice. "And it's important to start out on the right foot with him," Cal added, somewhat impatiently. "So wear a skirt." Dylan frowned. Did she even have one? Aside from the bridesmaid dress she had worn tonight, and the gowns from the various other weddings she had been in? What was it women said about that? Always a bridesmaid, never a bride?

Hannah's beleaguered sigh whispered out into the hall. "What else?" Hannah asked Cal reluctantly. Trying not to think why his brother-whose own decade-long marriage to his high school sweetheart seemed to be having trouble-although Cal kept denying this was so-would be advising one of the most beautiful tomboys in the area whom to see or what to wear, Dylan leaned against the wall. Just because this sounded… at first listen… like a…. well, it wasn't. It just wasn't, he reassured himself firmly.

"He's probably going to be difficult," Cal continued advising, as if he were a coach before a game, Hannah one of his players. "But if you use all your charm. Show Yarborough you really know what you're doing--" Know what you're doing? Dylan's eyes widened as he thought about the various interpretations of that sage--and okay, he couldn't help it-- somewhat sexual--sounding advice.

"How old is he again?" Hannah interrupted, sounding as if she could barely keep track of the conversation at hand. And no wonder, Dylan thought, given the sound of what his brother was asking her to do here! He'd be flummoxed, too!

"Forty-five, fifty, near as I can figure. And married," Cal said, his voice dropping another warning notch. "So--"

"I'll keep that in mind," Hannah promised, reassuring.

"Good." Cal sounded relieved. When what his orthopedic-surgeon older brother really ought to feel, Dylan though resentfully, was guilty. Guilty as hell. For arranging anything with Hannah and a married man who was way too old for her. For heaven's sake! Didn't Cal think about the fact Hannah was not exactly experienced when it came to men? Hell, Dylan couldn't even recall Hannah even dating anyone save that NASCAR driver, Rupert Wallace, if you could even call those dates. Mostly, Dylan recalled the two of them with their heads bent over some car engine… Hannah, up to her elbows in grease and wrenches….

"So where is this guy going to be?" Hannah asked.

"You're to meet him in an hour at Sharkey's Pool Hall. In Raleigh."

Not the best neighborhood, Dylan thought protectively. Or the classiest establishment for a woman to go into. With or without a date.

"If the preliminary goes well, maybe he'll take you back to his house from there."

Preliminary, Dylan thought, feeling more shocked and incensed than he had in all of his twenty-eight years. Preliminary what!

"Yarborough's wife won't mind?" Hannah asked, sounding both concerned and skeptical.

"Out of town." Cal's voice held a dismissive shrug. "She took the kids to California to visit family for two weeks." Never dreaming what was going on behind her back, Dylan was willing to bet, recalling with chilling accuracy how he had felt when similarly betrayed.

"So basically I've got that amount of time--" Hannah speculated thoughtfully.

"Or less," Cal warned.

There was another pause, rife with meaning.

His curiosity killing him-none of this sounded like the compassionate older brother or the affable mechanic he knew--Dylan hazarded a discrete glance around the open doorway. There were no lights on and the room was shrouded in shadow, but through the semi-darkness he could see Hannah with her back to the wall, staring up at Cal. The expression on her face was the same one she wore when was trying to figure out a particularly thorny mechanical problem on one of the expensive automobiles she worked on at the business she owned, Classic Car Auto Repair. She narrowed her eyes at Cal. "You said the guy is loaded?"

Hands thrust in the pockets of his tuxedo pants, Cal scoffed, and shook his head in disgust. "Yarborough's got so much money he doesn't know what to do with it," Cal replied in a voice that was equally calculating. Cal took his hands out of his pockets and spread his hands wide. "Which is, of course, part of the problem. Had R.G. Yarborough a little less--"

Hannah nodded in understanding. "You'd be able to deal with him a lot more effectively," she said.

"Right," Cal agreed, as Dylan, wary of being seen ducked back out of sight again but remained within earshot of the low, urgent voices.

"Well, don't worry. I'm sure I can manage him." To Dylan's mounting dismay, the smile was back in Hannah's voice.

Even as Dylan's brother got grimmer…

"And one more thing, Hannah," Cal warned, upset. "No one and I mean no one can know about what we've got going here." His voice caught momentarily. "If Ashley were to get wind of it--" No joke, Dylan thought, aware what Cal's semi-estranged wife might think. The same thing he was thinking right now!

"I understand completely, believe me," Hannah promised in sweet sincerity. "And you don't have to worry for one red hot second, Cal. No one-and I mean no one-- is going to hear about this from me."

The Brides of Holly Springs Book Series by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Cathy Gillen Thacker is the bestselling author of witty romantic comedies and warm, family stories whose books are published in 17 languages and 35 countries.