Authors: Tina Donahue
She saw immediate surprise registering in his eyes, their
color more amber than hazel with flecks of green, making his long lashes and
brows seem even darker, erotic, dangerous.
The way he’d looked at her as their eyes first met.
She’d recognized the carnal promise in his expression then,
his arousal as he took in her full length…the slight acceleration in his
breathing, the increasing intensity of his gaze.
Before it went further, he’d checked his response, as if
realizing its inappropriateness. Not because he was married—he wore no ring.
His too-early arrival at the shop further convinced her that he was currently
unattached or divorced.
He’d most likely tamed his reaction so as not to spook her.
She liked that, admiring restraint in a man, being able to control himself
around a female, respecting boundaries until she invited him inside,
understanding the difference between right and wrong.
Joe hadn’t appreciated the distinction, nor had he cared.
Propriety, common decency, her saying “no” had meant nothing to him. And so
she’d had to leave. There’d been no other choice.
Traces of sorrow and fury rose within her, which she pushed
back quickly, not allowing it to wound. Too many years had passed, too many
miles. Sometimes she found it hard to remember the many places she’d been or to
consider where she might be a month from now and at some distant time in the
Until then, she was here.
Again, the female in her responded to Zach’s masculine
allure, her nipples tightening, her body softening at his skin’s clean, soapy
As though he was considering her confession about being
broke, homeless and desperate for work, his expression remained absorbed. With
what appeared to be some effort, he looked from her to the street, no doubt
wondering what had happened to her bike.
She’d tell him in time, when she had no other choice.
Returning his attention her, he asked, “A job?” Giving her
no chance to respond, he shook his head. “Sorry, but I don’t need a
receptionist. I handle all the customers.”
“Who works on the vehicles?”
Clearly surprised at her question, he lifted his dark brows
slightly. “My two mechanics.”
“That aren’t here,” she countered. “I am.”
His brows continued to inch up as his gaze drifted down her,
settling on her breasts. “You’re a mechanic?”
“I can repair cars or cycles.” Her next words spilled out
before she could stop them. “Lucky taught me.”
Zach’s gaze edged to hers, revealing far too many questions
in his golden eyes. “Lucky?”
“Just give me a chance to prove myself.” She rested her
helmet on the cabinet. The metal vibrated slightly from its weight. “I’m the
best damn mechanic there is.”
Before he could challenge her statement, she backed toward
the red Saturn SC2, a two-door she guessed to be eighteen years old. Paint
bubbled on its roof. Part of the rubber molding on the passenger door was
missing. Glancing up, she waited until Zach’s eyes lifted from her breasts.
The second they did, she asked, “What’s wrong with it?”
Turning to face her, he leaned against the cabinet, feet
crossed at the ankles, his arms folded over his broad chest. He seemed
uncertain how to answer. And then, as if something inside him broke loose,
freeing him of restraint, a slow, sexy smile spread across his face. “You mean
the best damn mechanic there is doesn’t know?”
She liked his teasing. She could spend days with his smile,
content to be the cause of it.
Pretending offense, she played along, arching one brow.
“Even though I can fix anything you put in front of me, unfortunately I’m not
He offered no response. His grin began to fade, his caution
She spoke quickly. “Can I see the work order?”
The edges of the papers fluttered in the mild breeze. He
made no move to offer them to her. A song reached its last chords on the radio.
The station’s peppy deejay counted down the artists whose recordings he’d just
played. Finished, he extolled the hearty breakfasts offered at the Last Chance
“Look, I need the job,” she explained. “And you obviously
need the help.” She gestured to the filled bays and in the direction of the
fenced lot she’d seen earlier while awaiting his arrival. Cars filled it too.
He didn’t pull his attention from her.
Not about to give up, unable to, she inclined her head to
the Saturn and asked again, “What’s wrong with it?”
After a moment’s pause, Zach uncrossed his arms and reached
for the clipboard. Flipping two pages, he read from the sheet. “Doesn’t run
She laughed. “That’s your mechanic’s assessment?”
Fighting what looked to be a smile, he shook his head.
“That’s what Amy Dobson said. Tucson address. Must be a tourist.” He ran his
finger down the sheet, adding, “The engine’s hard to start and it runs rough.”
“It’s older than a ninety-six, right?” she asked.
His eyes widened, showing his surprise. “Ninety-three.”
With a shrug, she made an educated guess. “Needs plugs.”
Zach’s brows didn’t lower.
“Spark plugs,” she clarified.
“Yeah, I know what they are.” He tossed the clipboard back
on the cabinet. The metal vibrated loudly. “Lucky teach you about spark plugs?”
She cursed her big mouth. “Care to make a bet that I’m
He ran his thumb over his bristly jaw. “Thought you didn’t
have any money.”
“I don’t. I’m willing to bet my job here if I’m wrong, which
His thumb paused.
“Scared you’re mistaken about me?” she asked, a smile in her
Color rose to his face. He turned his head at the sound of a
car racing down the otherwise placid street. “It’s not a matter of that.”
“Then let me show you what I can do.” Not waiting for his
response or rejection, she unzipped her leather jacket, pulling it off.
Instantly, he stared at her black tank top. The tight,
stretchy material clung to her, stopping just short of her waist, showing a
sliver of skin above her pants. With his attention fully on her, she approached.
He watched as she folded her jacket inside out and draped it over her helmet,
close to his side.
“Where do you keep your ratchet wrenches and rags?” she
Renewed surprise played across his face.
“I just want to take a look,” she coaxed. “I won’t hurt it.”
Curiosity seemed to get the better of him. He pushed away
from the cabinet and pulled open a drawer.
As she grabbed the tool, he tossed a rust-colored rag on the
“Thanks.” She smiled. “Excuse me.” She leaned past him to
take the rag, hearing his slow intake of breath as their biceps touched.
She turned her face to his. They were close enough for her
to see the light brown color ringing his irises, enhancing the gold and green.
He wore the look he had upon first seeing her. Purely male. Nearly predatory.
Her heart thrummed in appreciation, enjoying it.
He must have noticed her reaction and sensed his own. He
stepped back, breaking their contact.
She spoke quickly, easily. “Is it always so hot around
Zach cleared his throat. “Only after the sun rises.”
“Tell me about it.” She kept her voice breezy. “At dawn, I
was freezing. Now though…” Giving him no chance to comment, she returned to the
Saturn, addressing it. “Okay, let’s have a look under your skirts, sweetheart.
Don’t worry, mama won’t hurt you.”
Opening the hood, she glanced at the motor.
What in the fuck are you doing? Tell her to leave.
Zach’s lips parted, but only a sigh poured out as he stared
at her slender well-toned arms, as pale and dewy as the rest of her.
When she’d taken off her leather jacket, a wave of lavender
had drifted over him, making him damn near dizzy. Who in the hell was she? What
was she doing here? In Indulgence of all places?
He stepped closer, barely aware of the pain in his leg.
Gaping at her seemed to have comforted his battered muscles better than a
fistful of Advil.
Her head remained bent to the motor. Carefully, she wiped
the area around the plugs.
“What’s your name?” he asked, surprised at how husky his
She continued working, not bothering to glance over.
However, a smile colored her voice as she said, “Look at my jacket.”
Confused, Zach returned to the cabinet and lifted the
garment. Another cloud of lavender, mixed with leather, washed over him. The
muscles in his chest tightened and his cock pressed against the barrier of his
fly, wanting out.
Doing his best to ignore his body’s escalating demands, he
searched for and found her jacket’s inside label.
She laughed…a deep, throaty sound that tightened his balls
“Not there,” she said, “look on the outside, the back.”
He preferred watching her. A moment passed with their eyes
again locked. She broke the contact first. Head tilted to the engine, she used
the ratchet with skill, as though it had always been a part of her hand. She didn’t
appear to mind the grease, oil and muck that’s a part of any garage.
“Do you see it?” she asked.
Zach had no idea what she was talking about, and then he
remembered…her name. Turning the jacket, he grinned at the black rhinestones.
They caught the light, winking it back, spelling out a series of letters in a
“Toni Starr,” he read, thinking the name sounded comfortable
on his lips, though not entirely real.
Sure. No woman he knew wore head-to-toe leather along with a
possibly fake name printed out in sparkly letters on the back of her jacket.
She had to be some kind of performer. A stripper?
Yeah, right. A stripper who knew auto repair. “What’s your
line of work?”
“Auto mechanic, once you hire me.”
Zach didn’t even try to stop his smile. “What was your line
of work yesterday?”
“I was looking for a job. I went through two of the towns
north of here.”
The names of those garages flashed in his mind. He lowered
her jacket to the cabinet and pinched the bridge of his nose as he imagined her
walking the five or so miles between those two places, unless she hitched a
ride. “What was your job last week?”
A suggestive laugh bubbled from her, telling him she enjoyed
dodging his questions. “I’m a motorcycle performance artist.”
Zach dropped his hand, looked over and completely forgot
what he’d intended to say.
Bent at the waist over the motor, her slender fingers on the
fender, Toni turned her face to him, while her sweet ass…
He swallowed. She’d assumed the perfect position for him to mount
her, just like in a horny male fantasy or a triple X-rated film about a garage
owner and a motorcycle performance artist.
His balls began to hurt and his cock lengthened a bit more
with nowhere for his erection to go, no place to find relief except in his
mind. There, all hell broke loose as he imagined standing behind her,
unbuttoning and unzipping her leather pants, peeling them from her plush hips
and succulent cheeks.
The leather would surely resist, clinging to her flesh, not
wanting to leave its fragrant home. She’d wiggle slightly, helping him. The
movement would deliver more of her sweet, sultry scent.
He’d push the pants to her knees and run his fingers over
the furrow between her buttocks, slipping his fingers beneath her thong. He
pictured it as being black to match the rest of her clothing, unless it was
red. Yeah, that was much better—red silk bordered with black lace. His pounding
heart liked the image his mind presented. Perspiration prickled the back of his
neck. A stray bead ran down his spine.
More pictures unwound in his brain, creating scenes of
irresistible lust. His hands caressing her hot, moist flesh. Her damp pussy,
slick with arousal. Her vaginal lips plump with need. The decadent aroma of her
female musk beneath the lavender and leather. Him mounting her, burrowing his
cock into her narrow, heated sheath, tunneling as deep as he could go. Burying
himself. Losing himself.
In a woman who wasn’t anything like Meg.
Memories of his late wife drifted close. Zach saw her long
blonde hair, brown eyes, the dimples on either side of her mouth as she
laughed. He braced himself for the all too familiar pain that always
accompanied his thoughts of her. This morning, it was on the mild side. Time
had blunted the emptiness and his guilt.
Not certain whether to feel relieved or guiltier than
before, Zach stared at Toni. A stranger who wore her name—fake or otherwise—on
the back of her jacket, was flat broke and had worked as a motorcycle
performance artist. The job title nearly made him grin.
“You’re a what?” he asked.
“Daredevil.” She spoke casually as most would as they
explained being teachers, waitresses or convenience store clerks, not
daredevils. “Next month, when the circuit starts up again, I’ll be following it
as I always do.”
But until then, she needed a job here, walking to reach it.
“What happened to your bike?” he asked. “Someone steal it?”
Immediately, her expression grew cautious, her playful mood
at an end. Turning back to the motor, she said, “In a manner of speaking.”
Zach wondered just where she’d learned to dodge questions so
well. “If someone took it, shouldn’t you be talking to the sheriff or the local
police and your insurance agent?”
On a sigh, she looked over, meeting his eyes. “My insurance
agent doesn’t exist since I can’t afford it. And the sheriff’s the one who has
my bike.” Straightening, she gestured to the car’s guts. “It does need a new
set of plugs. There’s a nasty oil leak in there that’s going to cause them to
fail eventually. They’re coated with the stuff.”
Zach’s gaze dropped to the motor, not really seeing it, then
returned to her. “Why does the sheriff have your bike?”