Love for Beginners:An Under the Hood Novella

By: Sally Clements

She needs a lesson in love, and he’s the perfect teacher.

Mechanic Melody Swan is looking for a man who can share her hopes and dreams, but she swore she would never lose herself to passion. When sexy Heath Starr agrees to temporarily sub in the Under the Hood garage for his sister, Mel sees the perfect opportunity to enjoy being with a man without becoming attached.

Heath came to Meadowsweet to photograph nature, not find a hookup, especially since his last relationship ended in disaster. He vowed he’d never break another woman’s heart, and in turn, protect his own. Still, when Mel offers to serve as his outdoor guide, he can’t refuse.

Mel may say she’s only looking for right now, but her body is speaking a whole different language. And Heath’s viewfinder is drawn to her time and again. When the two find themselves isolated in a rustic cabin, they could both break their promises if they aren’t careful…

For Pauline, in celebration of her birthday

Chapter One

A scrunched-up five-dollar bill lay on the floor.

Melody Swan bent and snatched it from the stained concrete. For a fleeting moment, her number-crunching brain started to calculate the army of Lincolns needed to stave off the impending disaster. Pretty much instantly, her brain cells revolted. Too many.

This particular soldier had attempted desertion when she tugged a stained rag from her coverall pocket. She knew how he felt, but running away from problems wasn’t an option if it left a loved one facing the firing squad.

Mel tucked the bill into her pocket. Something else had caught her attention. Black crescent moons. She flexed her fingers and peered at their tips. Removing the varnish and trimming her nails had been bad enough. Now, with a sliver of black beneath them, her nails shouted mechanic.

With a sigh, she wiped the grease from her fingers.

The garage had never been so crammed. Cars in various stages of repair filled every inch of gray concrete. Rhythmic hammering synced to the country western tune playing on the radio thudded in the air. Across the floor, Betty was in the pit, working on Penny Jones’s pickup. Getting the backlog of repairs under control seemed impossible.

Her cell phone vibrated, and she tugged it from her pocket. “Hello?”

“Mel, come around the front and let me in, will you? I have news!” Alice Starr, third owner of Under the Hood, sounded perky and excited, no doubt because she’d had plenty of sleep last night.

With a frown, Mel forced the thought aside. It wasn’t Alice’s fault she couldn’t work. “I’m on my way.” She strode to the pit and peered under the car. “Alice is here. I’m going to let her in.”

Betty Smith pushed back her brown hair with the back of her hand, trailing a smear of grease onto her forehead. “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

Mel’s legs were so tired, the trudge across the lobby was like slogging through sand toward an oasis. With any luck, Alice’s mysterious news would be worth the trek.

Even through three-quarters of an inch of glass, Alice’s excitement was palpable.

She started talking the minute the door opened. “So, I…”

“Come in and sit down.” Melody stood back and held the door wide.

Alice maneuvered crab-like through the door, her crutch’s rubber tip squeaking on the polished marble. Her plastered foot hovered a couple of inches from the ground as she edged forward. A skein of white-blond hair brushed over her mouth and she puffed it away, brow creased in concentration.

Mel pulled out a chair and helped settle her friend onto it. “So, what’s the news?” Instinctively she glanced at Alice’s hand. No ring.

Alice propped the crutch close between body and chair. “I’ve found a mechanic.” She glanced at the pile of paperwork on Mel’s desk. “Just in time, too, by the look of it. You’re swamped.”

Mel brushed Alice’s concern off with a wave of her hand. “Once we hire a temporary replacement for you, I’ll be able to get the paperwork under control. Don’t worry.” She forced a smile. Even though she was a fully trained mechanic, when Melody, Betty, and Alice started Under the Hood, a garage that catered to female clientele in Meadowsweet, Virginia, Melody had taken the role of manager while Alice was the garage’s full-time mechanic.

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