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Joy Ride

By´╝ÜLauren 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?”

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