The Last Good Liar (Carolina Kisses #3) - Sylvie Stewart

Prologue

PONCH

Bran looks like he’s puzzling out the answers to the New York Times Sunday crossword as we both check out the damage to the bumper on the sleek white Mercedes S-Class coupe. It’s little more than a scratch—a perfect match for the one on the right exhaust pipe of my Harley.

“I’m so sorry, man. I don’t know what happened.”

I glance back at my bike. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got a guy who can fix her up for me, no sweat. But we’re gonna have to find whoever’s ride this is.”

Bran bites the inside of his cheek and stares down at his boots. It’s cold as a witch’s tit out here, causing our breaths to crystalize in clouds of condensation around us as he hesitates for some reason. I should have believed him when he said he’d never ridden a bike before, but this really isn’t a big deal. “Let’s get this over with,” he finally says before striding to the front door of the beach house where voices shout in unison at what I assume is one of the traditional New Year’s Day bowl games. As the sounds drift toward us on the winter air, I follow close behind, smiling to myself at Bran’s trepidation.

I’ve only known him for a short time, but Bran’s a solid guy—and a damn amusing one too. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t hesitate to share whatever’s on his mind, even if it makes him the butt of his own joke. But it lets a person know they can trust him to be upfront from day one, and that’s something I find invaluable in a friendship. I don’t have time for liars.

Since I’ve yet to meet the owner of the house—or anyone else for that matter—I follow Bran’s lead as he opens the door and walks in without knocking. Sure enough, a group of people lean forward in their seats, directing their full attention to the game on the TV at the far side of the room. But before I can even determine which game it is, my attention is captured by an attractive brunette wearing tight jeans and an equally tight sweater.

“What did you do now?” Her hands hit her hips as she addresses Bran, who, from his posture alone, I can tell looks guilty as hell.

Bran scratches the back of his neck. “Well, uh, I kind of backed his bike up into the white Mercedes out there.”

This confession manages to solve the mystery in approximately .02 seconds as another woman comes tearing around the corner, red hair flying in a riot around her face and her mouth set in a fierce frown. “What the hell?”

My allegiance to the bro code combines forces with my natural appreciation for beautiful women, and the next thing I know, I’ve inserted myself between my friend and this pissed-off vixen. I’ve got this. “Is it yours?” I ask her, letting my mouth relax into a friendly smile.

This brings her to a halt, as I knew it would. I’ve used this same smile to disarm people my whole life, and it’s rarely failed me. There’s the classic, “I apologize, officer, my mind was somewhere else and I didn’t realize I was speeding. What a beautiful day.” Or, “Oh no. Are you sure you can’t find a table for us somewhere? We’ve heard amazing things about this place.” And then, of course, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to stare, but you are simply gorgeous. Can I buy you a drink?”

This woman is young—probably mid-twenties—with classic features, high cheekbones, and ice blue eyes. Her clothes are expensive in a way that tells me she uses them to put people in their place before she even opens her mouth. Combine that with the Mercedes and the immediate hostility and she has spoiled rich girl written all over her. And there’s nothing more women like her prefer to talk about than their expensive toys and themselves. She’s still trying to decide what she thinks of me, but she can’t get past my relaxed openness.

“Maybe.” Her lips barely move as she responds to my question with a non-answer. Clever. She’s putting up some token resistance, but it should only be another ten seconds or so before she’s putty in my hands and apologizes for trying to come at Bran.

“Sweet ride.” I nod and extend a hand. “Name’s Nick Amante, but you can call me Ponch.” I let her know from the jump that we’re going to be friends. She glances down at my

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