My heart clenched as I thought about younger versions of Luke and Duke trying to take care of Molly.
Opal gave me a smile. “Anyway, I didn’t mean to bring down your evening. Just thought you might want to give them a fair shake before you wrote them off. And their full names are Lucas and Daniel,” she added. “Luke and Duke are just nicknames they picked up along the way.”
“Morning, Wayne,” I said as I stepped inside the repair shop bright and early Monday morning, greeting the old bastard with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I knew he was about to screw me on the price of a new hose for the Chevy. Damn truck had been in my family for two generations now, and was showing her age.
“Where ya been?” he asked, pulling his head out from under the hood of a fancy foreign car. “I’ve had your part waiting since Friday.”
Sleek lines, perfect curves . . . the car had to be Charlotte’s. The brazen little minx had been on my mind since my run-in with her yesterday. Wanting to avoid a repeat performance, I came to the garage early to pick up my part. Didn’t peg her as an early riser.
“I got tied up with a leak in one of the drums,” I told him. “The entire place was a mess before we found it. Took me and Duke all weekend to get it cleaned up.”
“That’s a damn shame,” Wayne said. “I hate it when good liquor gets spilled.”
“You and me both.”
It was more about the dollars that were spilled than anything. Duke and I were so close to being in the black that we could practically taste the profits. It would be a nice change since our father had done his best to run Wilder Whiskey into the ground.
“Whatcha got here?” I asked, walking over to take a peek under the hood. I thought I knew the answer, but damn it if I didn’t ask.
What was it about this girl that had me so curious? I knew enough about her to know that I didn’t particularly enjoy her company, but I hadn’t been able to shake those blue eyes from my head. Or the sweet curve of her ass as she walked down the sidewalks I’d practically worn out over the years.
It’s because she’s shiny and new, dumbass.
Charlotte was the first fresh blood we’d had in this town in a long time. My ex-girlfriend was the last, and I always hoped she would stay that way. The last thing I needed was a repeat performance of that shit show. I knew for damn sure I couldn’t handle it.
“Something I never thought I’d see in this place.” He moved over to give me room and pointed at the engine. “You know anything about Audis?”
“I know they cost way too much,” I said with a smirk. “A hundred grand, I think.” I tried to recall exactly what Charlotte had spouted off at What the Cluck.
“Well, shit,” Wayne said. “I’d better put on some gloves.” He wiped one of his greasy hands down the front of his overalls.
“It was actually a hundred twenty thousand,” an all-too-familiar sarcastic voice offered. “If you want to be specific.”
“I’d say you paid too much,” I said, turning to find the early riser.
Charlotte stood there in a simple white T-shirt, ripped-up denim jeans, and Converse tennis shoes. At first glance, it almost looked like she fit in here in our small town, but I had a pretty good idea that her outfit cost more than the Chevy part I was here to pick up.
“Good thing I didn’t pay for it,” she said with a smirk.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
She crossed her arms across her body, inadvertently shoving a pretty spectacular set of tits up even more than they already perkily sat. The deep vee of her T-shirt wasn’t hiding much, and I was appreciative of that.
I looked over at Wayne. He was pretty appreciative of the view too.
“Are you saying that I couldn’t buy myself a car like that?” The steam rolling off her was just as sexy as the cleavage.
“Relax, Charlie,” I said, feeling my cock twitch behind the zipper of my Levi’s. The hold this girl had on my attention was as frustrating as hell. “I’m not saying that. I just figured that it was a gift.”
“Oh, so you were assuming. You know what they say about that?” She laughed, repeating my question from the day before.
“You’re right.” I held up my hands in surrender. “It was wrong. I apologize.”
The satisfied smile on her face was enough to earn my apology. In fact, a string of ideas ran through my head about all the ways I could earn a few more of those smiles. I’d use a whole lot more than my words. I’d start with my mouth and hands, and then work down to the part of my body that was currently bogarting more than its fair share of my blood supply.
“Glad we could work that out.” She breezed by me and extended her hand to Wayne. “I’m Charlotte Freemont. You must be Wayne.”
“I am,” he said, grabbing her hand with his greasy paw.
Both Wayne and Charlotte dropped their gaze to the connection between them, and I couldn’t help but laugh. One was mortified that he’d forgotten about the grease, and the other had probably never been dirtier in her entire life.
“Oh, this is great,” I said, leaning up against one of the other cars that Wayne had in the garage. All I needed was popcorn.
“I’m real sorry.” Wayne quickly pulled a clean-ish rag from his back pocket and handed it to her.
“It’s fine.” Charlotte frowned as she swiped at the grease on her hand. She glanced back at me, and I sensed she was doing her best to rein in that stick-up-her-ass New York attitude. “Just tell me you can fix my car.”
“I can,” Wayne said proudly.
“That’s great.” She beamed at him as she returned his rag. “Today?”
“Well . . .” Wayne shoved the rag in the back pocket of his overalls and rubbed a hand on his neck. “’Bout that . . .”
“Come on,” she pleaded. “I’ll pay you extra if you have it done today. I really need to get out of here. I’m supposed to be in LA.”
Of course she is.
Wayne shook his head. “Honey, even if I wanted to, I don’t have the part I need.”
“Where is it?”
“On its way from Amarillo. Should be here tomorrow. Wednesday at the latest.”
“Not quite. Then I have to put the part in.” He glanced skyward as he considered. “With this new engine component, it’ll probably take me a while, and then I have to put the whole thing back together. Maybe Friday.”
“FML.” She let out a huff and rolled her eyes.
“Oh, come on, Charlie,” I said, hoping to defuse the tension. “This place isn’t that bad.” That statement in itself earned me a glare.
“It’s Charlotte,” she reminded me.
I knew exactly what her name was, so I just shrugged.
“You seriously can’t have it done any faster?” she asked Wayne after she finished shooting daggers in my direction.
I knew as well as Wayne that if he really wanted to, he could have her car done by Wednesday. I could see the dollar signs in his eyes. If he stretched this job out long enough, he could charge a pretty penny for labor. Maybe it would serve her right for owning such an expensive car. There was nothing modest about it and clearly screamed she had money to burn.
“You can work faster than that,” I told Wayne, stepping up by her side. “Just because you can take till Friday doesn’t mean you have to.”
“What are you doing?” Charlotte frowned at me, her confusion now laced with agitation.
“Helping you out.” I flashed her a grin. See, I can be civil. Helpful, even.
“I don’t need your help,” she snapped. “I can buy my own damn cars, and I can surely negotiate a deal to get them fixed.”
“I just thought—” I started to tell her that I knew a guy in Austin who could have the part in and installed well before Friday, but the girl just couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
“I can take care of myself. I have a degree in marketing from Yale,” she spat out. “And my family runs one of the largest firms in New York City. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks.”