(Due to serious subject matter and mature content, please be aware that this book might be an emotional trigger for some readers.)
Wiping the motor oil from his hands, the mechanic looked over my shoulder to the BMW in the parking lot, then refocused on me. “You lost?”
Lost? The man had no idea.
“My car is smoking.”
The corner of his lip quirked. Something about me amused him.
“In that case, let me grab a beer and switch over to Marley.”
I rolled my eyes. My time, and patience, with this small-town country-boy was rapidly waning. “I meant—the hood is smoking. Under it, the engine, whatever, and trust me, I’m not laughing about it.”
“No, I can see that. Did you hit something? Run over anything?”
“Aside from the handful of potholes in this Godforsaken road?” I gestured past the trees to the red dirt road.
“Where in the middle of the road?”
“I don’t know.”
“What were you doing down Rattlesnake Road?”
“Ma’am, I can do this all day.” Unfazed by my impatience, the man sauntered over to a rolling toolbox and picked up a Coke. Sniffing at it, he scowled and set it aside—but not in the trash can. He picked up another and sniffed with the same result. Then he grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and chugged.
“Home.” I fisted my hands on my hips, annoyed with not only his aloofness, but also how unaffected he was by me. “I was driving home.”
The man lowered the bottle from his lips. It was the first time I saw a flicker of something other than amusement behind his blue eyes. “You live down Rattlesnake Road?”
“Since not long ago.”
“I’m not sure that’s your business. Can you help me or not? This is a mechanic shop, right?”
He gestured to the dismantled cars.
“Then why don’t you have a sign out front?” Careful not to bring attention to my foot that was still stuck to the cement floor, I curled my toe around the thong of my flip-flop and tried to lift it from whatever the hell had stuck it in place. No luck.
“Don’t need a sign.”
“All businesses need signs. People don’t realize it’s a mechanic shop.”
“What’s your name?”
“Declan. What’s yours?”
“Are you a mechanic?”
“Where are you from?”
“What does that matter?” I asked. “You gouge prices on tourists?”
He took another sip of water, eyeing me over the rim. A thin trail trickled from his chin, wetting his T-shirt. He didn’t bother wiping it.
“How do you know I’m not from around here?” I asked.
“Because a local would’ve already unwedged themselves from the gum that’s got you stuck in place.”
“This is no ordinary gum.”
“You’re right. It’s watermelon Bubblicious.”
“I didn’t know six-year-olds worked on cars.”
He grinned. “You’re a Yankee, aren’t you?”
“As much as I’m enjoying this little tit-for-tat, can you help me or not?”
“I don’t know.” Declan downed the rest of his water, then tossed the plastic bottle into an overflowing recycle bin in the corner. “Oil leak, yep, I can fix, but it depends on what else I find under that hood.”
His eyes narrowed with the first sign of disapproval of my attitude. He picked up a towel and wiped his hands, then grabbed a handful of paper towels from a roll sitting next to a tin cup oozing with something. He strode toward me, his gaze on mine.
The man truly was massive. My instinct was to back up, but thanks to the damn gum, I was stuck in place. My stomach tickled as he knelt at my feet. A waft of air enveloped me, scented with fresh soap and that musky scent of man, with a motor oil finish.
The tickle turned to butterflies.
A strong grip slipped my ankle from my shoe, sending a wave of tingles over my skin. After sliding the paper towel under the shoe, Declan pried my flip-flop from the floor, then twisted the gum and rolled it into the paper towel.
As I balanced on one foot, he carried the shoe to one of the many sinks and dabbed a towel in something that resembled nuclear waste. After a few scrapes of the bottom of my shoe, he returned, kneeling again to grab my ankle and slip my gum-free flip-flop back onto my foot.
I felt like a redneck Cinderella.
Heat mixed with the tingles this time—followed by total humiliation when I remembered I hadn’t shaved my legs in a week.
“My, uh, razor’s . . . broken.”
He pushed to his feet. “I’ve got a bush hog out back.”
My jaw dropped.
He grinned widely. “All right. Let’s have a look-see at this smoking silver car of yours.”
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
Winking, Declan strode past me and I got the feeling I’d just met my match.