It Was Always Meant to Be

Milla Page needs a date—three dates, actually—for work. She reviews restaurants and clubs for a hot dating website but can hardly judge the up-close-and-personal potential of a place if she goes it alone. Rather than call on one of her usual suspects when her plans fall through, she dips into the glass vase of business cards left in her office building’s ladies’ room lounge for this very purpose.

The note on the back of the card says the man it belongs to is hell on wheels… in bed, but the name on the front gives Milla pause because it belongs to Rennie Bergen, her college boyfriend’s roommate, and her four-year indiscretion.

Rennie never expected to see Milla again but he can’t say he’s unhappy to find her in the showroom of the garage where his TV show, Hell on Wheels is filmed. The two of them share a hell of a history. Infatuation, wild sex, sneaking around—followed by a painfully explosive breakup. But with the tension between them as hot as ever, could they have a chance to rewrite that very unhappy ending?

“… an unusual setting, a great subplot, hot sex and sympathetic characters. It’s a wonderful read.” — RT Book Reviews

“Yo, Ren. Jin’s on the phone. He says the frame’s got a nickel-sized rust hole on the cross panel support. He wants to know if you want he should haggle the Captain on the price since it ain’t so pristine as he said.”

Son of a barking dog. Rennie Bergen planted the rubber of his heels on the garage’s slick concrete floor and rolled the creeper out from beneath the panel van that had once been an ice cream truck. The water pump was pissing like a baby kangaroo. Story of his life.

He got to his feet and looked for Hector who was halfway across the hangar-sized building and heading Rennie’s way with the phone. If he didn’t find a workable frame and soon . . . aw, hell, who was he kidding?

It wasn’t the frame that was the problem. It was the entire concept. Turning a VW bus into a submersible had seemed like such a good idea when he’d been eight beers under the table and scrambling for new show ideas.

He grabbed the phone from Hector’s hand and yelled at Jin. “You tell the Captain thanks, but no thanks. And if he keeps hitting me with this crap, he can forget seeing another dime of my business, I don’t care how long he’s known my father.”

His voice still echoing, Rennie disconnected before Jin could respond, tossed the phone back to Hector, and headed for the huge stainless steel sink on the wall outside the office and the john. From the exterior, the garage looked like nothing, a big metal building like any other warehouse or shop. Except it wasn’t.

The garage was home to the cable TV phenomenon Hell On Wheels. The show had made Rennie Bergen a star with a cult following few car buffs could claim. That was because few, if any, managed what he and his crew accomplished, turning passenger vehicles into mechanical wonders such as low-rider school buses and rolling techno clubs.

The best part of his success was that he wasn’t a household name. He could still walk down an average city street and never turn a head. He stood a better chance of being recognized in blue-collar neighborhoods where a man’s vehicle of choice was less a reflection of his portfolio or family status and more an extension of his personality.

Rennie had grown up in such a neighborhood. Good people, living and loving paycheck to paycheck, hoping the life they were able to provide their kids would be enough. It had been for Rennie. The summer vacations, the balancing of school and athletics and work, the nightly dinners at seven. The holiday celebrations that included his father’s employees and their families–from salesmen to secretaries to grease monkeys–along with the extended Bergen clan.

It had been an insular world of tightly woven bonds, but growing up in that atmosphere had given him an appreciation for men willing to get their hands dirty while taking care of their own. His first real exposure to the flip side hadn’t come until college. His roommate, Derek Randall, had been all about paying other men to do his dirty work while taking care of himself. And Derek’s girlfriend, Milla Page . . .

Rennie shoved off the water and yanked enough paper towels from the dispenser to dry his arms up to his elbows. Derek hadn’t been a bad guy, just from a world Rennie hadn’t been used to. The fact that they’d butted heads so often had been only the tip of the iceberg Rennie had eventually faced, trying to fit in with that crowd before realizing the futility of the effort.

He’d made his way in the world, and then he’d come home, belonging here, comfortable here, employing men who shared his background and his belief that there was no such thing as a job that was too dirty when a little muscle and degreaser made cleanup a breeze. Still, he had to admit it was a hell of a lot more fun working for the man when he was the man and was rolling in a big fat pile of greenbacks.

“Yo, Ren,” Hector hollered. “Today just ain’t your day, man. Angie called up from the showroom. Some blonde’s here to see you.”

Rennie tossed the towels in the trash and glanced at Hector where the long time Bergen Motors employee who was now Rennie’s right hand man stood in the office door. “This blonde got a name? Better yet. Did she bring me a rust-free frame?”

“She didn’t even bring much in the way of a female frame, Angie’s saying.” Hector frowned as he listened to the other end of the phone conversation. “She’s like a stick figure with white skin and white hair, and eyes like big green double spoke rims. Her name is–”

“Milla,” Rennie said, swallowing hard as his gut drew up into a knot of fiery emotions like he hadn’t felt in years. “Her name is Milla Page.”