Authors: Gail Sattler
Bob gazed into Georgette's blue eyes. Of course he felt badly about the way her father had rejected her, because she wanted to build a life of her own. Actually, he felt proud of her, too.
And yet, he didn't feel at peace with what was happening between them.
Until now, Georgette hadn't had to work. She could have lived a life of leisure, and it wouldn't have been wrong.
But now, all that was gone.
That a working-class guy like him could be her employer was one of life's cruel jokes. For now, having to work and save money to get what she wanted, and even the necessities of daily life, was a novelty. Very soon, that thrill would wear offâ¦.
Falling in love with someone from the other side of the tracks only worked in romance novels and fairy tales.
lives in Vancouver, British Columbia (where you don't have to shovel rain), with her husband of twenty-six years, three sons, two dogs, five lizards, one toad and a Degu named Bess. Gail loves to read stories with a happy ending, which is why she writes them. Visit Gail's Web site at www.gailsattler.com.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Dedicated to my husband, Tim.
Just because I love you.
he electronic tone of the door chime echoed through the shop.
Bob Delanio laid his wrench down on the tool caddy, wiped his hands on his coveralls, then walked into the reception area of his auto-repair shop.
“Need some help?” he asked his newest customer, trying not to sound as tired as he felt.
The phone rang. Both lines lit up at the same time.
“Oops, 'scuse me,” Bob mumbled as he picked up the receiver. “Bob And Bart's, can you hold?” He pushed the button and answered the second line. “Bob And Bart's. Yeah. Hold on.” Bob hit the hold button, walked a few steps, and poked his head around the corner.
“Bart!” he yelled. “Get line two. It's Josh McTavish.”
Bob nodded at the man still waiting at the counter. The chime sounded again. Just as Bob picked up the phone to talk to the first caller, a man who a week ago had ignored Bob's warning that he needed a new head gasket stomped in. Bob glanced through the door to see
a tow truck outside, the driver waiting to be told what bay to back the man's car into.
Bob gritted his teeth. It appeared he was going to spend yet another Friday night working until midnight.
He handled the latest influx, then did his best to juggle his time between the door, the phone, and actually getting some work done.
At seven o'clock, an hour past their posted closing, Bart finally had the time to flip the switch on the sign on the door to Closed. Despite that positive turn, neither of them would be leaving just yet.
“This is nuts,” Bart grumbled as he dropped some change into the pop machine for a cold drink. “We can't keep this up.”
Falling backwards onto the worn couch, Bob stretched out his aching feet. “I know. It's great that business is picking up, but I'm exhausted.” He extended one arm toward the unfinished work orders lined up on the board. “No matter what time we get out of here, we'll have to be back at five in the morning.”
“My wife isn't very pleased about these long hours. At least you're still single,” Bart retorted.
“Maybe this is why I'm still single.”
Bart turned to look outside at the row of cars they had promised their customers they could pick up sometime within the next twenty-four hours. “We have to hire some help.”
The growing pile of invoices and purchase orders on the counter, spurred Bob's reply. “I was just thinking the same thing.”
Bart turned and walked behind the counter. He grabbed a blank piece of paper and pulled a pen out of his pocket. “The newspaper charges by the word,
don't they? What should I say? Wanted. Light-duty mechanic?”
Without leaving the couch, Bob scanned the boxes of orders, requisitions, receipts and charge bills to be submitted, as well as deposit slips from the bank. “We're busy, but we're not busy enough to add another full-time mechanic. If we hire a bookkeeper, then that frees us up to get more done in the shop.”
Bart scratched his head, pen in hand. “But there are decisions a bookkeeper can't make, stuff one of us would have to decide. Besides, we don't have enough paperwork to keep someone busy full-time. When all this stuff is caught up, we can't afford to pay someone just to sit here and answer the phone.”
“We're nearly a week behind even on the small jobs,” Bob said, gesturing at the work orders piled under pushpins on their work board. “I've got an overhaul that's been waiting three days. I guess you're right. We need a mechanic.”
Bart stuck his hand in the closest box and lifted out a handful of papers. “It's almost our fiscal year-end, time for our corporate taxes. Your friend Adrian always needs everything balanced, reconciled and printed out so he can file for us. You're right. We need a bookkeeper.”
The two men stared at each other in silence.
“We need both,” Bob mumbled, “But it would be too hard to hire two part-timers. I don't want to invest all our time and money to train someone, then have them quit for a better job elsewhere that can give them more hours when they get enough experience. Maybe we should forget about it.”
Bart shook his head. “The baby is three weeks old. I never see her except when she's up in the middle of
the night crying. And that's when I should be sleeping, too. I can't keep this up.”
Bob felt his whole body sag. Neither of them could continue working eighteen-hour days, six days a week. Lately, the only time Bob wasn't working was when he took off a few hours Wednesday evening to practice the songs he would be playing on Sunday with his church's worship team. Up until recently, he refused to work Sundays, but they were so far behind, he'd started to work a few hours on Sunday, too.
He didn't know when control had first eluded them, but they'd reached their breaking point. Soon they were going to start making mistakes, which, where cars and people were concerned, could not happen.
It had to stop.
“You're right. We both need to slow down. Let's hire two part-timers, a mechanic and a bookkeeper, and we'll see what happens.” The stack of work orders lined up for Saturday, was well beyond what they could accomplish, even if both he and Bart worked twenty-four hours nonstop.
Dropping his pen suddenly as if at a thought, Bart turned to the computer. “I just remembered something. I don't have to write out that ad. I heard that you can do it online. I can even put it on my charge card.”
Bob stood. “You've probably missed the deadline for tomorrow's paper.”
Bart found the right Website, and started typing in his usual hunt-and-peck, two-finger mode. “Maybe I haven't.”
Suddenly Bob's head swam as the magnitude of the process hit him. “I just thought of something. What about all the phone calls, and the time it's going to take to set up and do interviews?”
Bart's fingers stilled. “What are you trying to say?”
“We don't have that kind of time. People are going to start taking their business elsewhere.”
“Have you got a better idea?”
Bob walked to the counter, and reached for one of the boxes containing incomplete purchase orders. He tore off the flap to the box, picked up the black felt pen, and began to write.
HELP WANTEDâAPPLY WITHIN
Part-time light-duty mechanic
Part-time office assistant
Hours and wages negotiable.
He dug a roll of black electrical tape out of the drawer while Bart watched, and taped the cardboard to the window.
“What are you doing?”
Bob turned around. “Saturday is our busiest day, and lots of people come in. If any of them are interested, we can take care of interviewing right there. We should forget about the ad.”
“You're kidding, right?”
Bob raised his hand toward the sign, which was slightly crooked. “Do I look like I'm kidding?”
“I guess you're really not kidding,” Bart mumbled.
Bob sighed. The business had supported both him and Bart for years, and now there was also Bart's family. They couldn't fail now. There was too much at stake.
“God will provide,” Bob said softly. I've always believed in God's timing, and I still do.”
Bart resumed his typing. “You're crazy. Certifiably crazy.”
Bob spun around. “Don't you believe God can send us the right people?”
“I doubt God will have the right people simply fall from the sky. But I do know one thing. If we don't get McTavish's 4X4 finished, we'll be in trouble when he comes to get it at 7:00 a.m. I'm putting this ad in the paper. I'm sure God will have the right people fax in their rÃ©sumÃ©s.”
“I still think we'll do better with the sign in the window. We don't have the time or the energy for millions of faxes and phone calls. Besides, there's more to hiring than just looking at rÃ©sumÃ©s.”
“But that's where we have to start, and the only way we're going to get qualified people to send us those rÃ©sumÃ©s is through the paper.” Bart hit Enter. “Done. The ad's in.”
Bob crossed his arms over his chest and turned his head to look at his sign. “And the sign is up. It looks like the battle is on.”
Bart killed the browser. “Yeah. May the best man win. Now let's get back to work.”
“Daddy! This dress is horrible!”
Georgette Ecklington's father flashed her a condescending smile. “The girl at the store told me you would look great in it.”
Georgette gritted her teeth and pressed her lips together so hard they hurt. The “girl” in question was thirty-five years old. Because her father was one of their best customers and always paid full price, the woman happily told him anything he wanted to hear.
Still, the woman was probably right. Georgette knew she would look “good” in yet another overly frilly, fussy,
pink dress with enough lace to choke a horse. If that was the way she wanted to look.
Which she didn't.
“Don't disappoint me, Georgie-Pie.” Her father's stern gaze belied the familiarity of the nickname.
Georgette stifled a scream. She hadn't been five years old for twenty years, but whenever her father wanted something, he called her the childish nickname to remind her of something she could never forget.
She was William Ecklington's daughter.
And William Ecklington was in control. Always.
He'd picked that particular moment to give her another dress she hated because the household staff were in earshot. She couldn't disobey his orders in front of the staff or any of his peers. He would never forgive her for any act of defiance, or anything that might diminish his public image.
Tonight, at yet another Who's Who function, Georgette was expected to stand at her father's side and smile nicely, showing her support of everything he did. Besides his financial empire, the next most important thing to her father was the respect of his peers. After her mother had left him, he'd refused to marry again. He never dated because he was certain that women were only after his money. So, his younger daughter became second-best.
Georgette's only escape from her father's tyranny would be to do what her sister had doneâto get married. But God said that marriage was forever. Georgette didn't want to be under the thumb of a man who was a younger version of her fatherâa man so critical and demanding he had driven their mother away. Her influential father also sabotaged every attempt she made to
find a job, completely nullifying all her attempts to become independent. Not that she needed to worry about money, he gave her a generous allowance in exchange for her work on his charity projects. But Georgette wasn't happy.
“Be ready at five-fifteen. Karl will be driving.” With that lofty pronouncement, her father turned and left.
Georgette crumpled the dress in her closed fists, and raised her head to the ceiling in a silent prayer. She needed to escape, and she had only one place to go, the only place her father left her alone.
The garage. The garage was her haven. Some women made crafts or baked when they needed something to do. Rebuilding an engine was Georgette's respite from “society.” She detested being involved with the social climbing of her father's shallow world.
Working on the car, she didn't have to be Georgette Ecklington, socialite. She could simply be, as her friends at the pit crew of the local racetrack circuit called her, George. Today it would help her prepare herself for the ordeal of another taxing night.
She walked out of the room and handed the dress to Josephine, the housekeeper. “This needs pressing. I have some shopping to do, and then I need to be left alone until it's time to get dressed.”
Josephine smiled and nodded. Josephine often covered for Georgette when her father was looking for her.
Soon Georgette was on her way to an out-of-the-way, but spectacular, auto shop she'd discovered, where the owners frequently found salvaged items from auto wreckers for her. She needed parts for her current projectârestoring an old pickup truck she'd bought from one of the families in her church. The man had lost his
job and the family needed money. They wouldn't accept charity, so instead, Georgette had bought the family's derelict pickup truck for many times more than it was worth, a sum that would keep their mortgage at bay for at least six months. She was now working to restore the truck. Perhaps someday the thing would even run again.
As she pulled into the shop, Georgette formulated her priorities. In three hours she had to be showered and ready, so she needed to make good use of her time.
Her thoughts cut off abruptly when she approached the store and saw a cardboard sign in the window.
Georgette's breath caught. She quickened her pace, able to read the smaller print when she stood beside the door.
She could do that. Fixing and rebuilding engines might just be a hobby, but she did it well. The pros at the race track confirmed it again and again. She'd never tackled a project she couldn't complete. And unlike the other times her father had ruined her job chances with a phone call, her references could be her friends at the race track. Her father didn't even know about this place, not that he'd deign to go to an auto shop any way. Georgette said a short prayer that they wouldn't ask for more, and pushed the door open.
The phone was ringing, and two customers waited impatiently ahead of her. Bob was behind the counter, taking notes as a woman listed the problems with her
car. The voice of Bart, the other proprietor, echoed from the shop, over the noise of the hydraulic hoist, as he called for another customer to come out. Help certainly was wanted at Bob And Bart's Auto Repair.
While she waited for her turn, Georgette watched Bob a little more closely. Even though she'd been there before, she'd paid more attention to the spectacular finds he'd made for her than what either of the men looked like.