Authors: Christa Maurice
She clenched her fists behind her back. As if that would keep the money from flying out of her wallet. “Will somebody call me and tell me when to bring it in?”
“Oh no.” Michael dropped the worn brake shoe on the floor. “You can’t drive out of here like this.”
“If you put the tire back on, I can.”
“No, you can’t.” Michael folded his arms, which accented those fantastic shoulders and did incredible things to the muscles in his upper arms. “I can’t let you drive this car in good conscience. You’d be a danger to yourself and anyone else on the road.”
“Great.” Maureen stared out the bay door into the waning light, thoughts of fantastic shoulders ebbing. She’d have been better off going on the stupid date. A whole weekend without a car? The price was too high. “How am I supposed to get home?”
“I can give you a ride or you can call a cab.”
Her stomach growled. On the top of her To Do list for tomorrow was buying groceries. Until she could get out to the store, she was eating oatmeal and crackers with jelly. “Great.”
“You know, if you’re hungry we could stop for pizza on the way.” Michael smiled. He had a warm, playful smile that gave her a glimpse of the little boy in this big hunk of man. “My treat since I know Tony is going to gouge you on the repair. I’ll even kick in a ride in the Satellite of Love.”
Well, that did make the bill a little more manageable. “You had me at pizza.”
He nodded. “I’m known for overplaying my hand. Let me clean up and we’ll get out of here.” Switching off the work light hooked to the Satellite, he set it aside and closed the hood. Then he headed toward the little hallway. “It’ll only take me a minute.”
This had to be one of her more irrational moments. Fifteen minutes ago she’d been convinced he was going to murder her and dump her body in an alley and now they were headed out to grab a pizza? In his car yet. Insane much? “Hey, you aren’t going to turn out to be a serial killer, are you?” she called after him.
He turned at the mouth of the hallway. “A what?”
He chuckled, a deep rich sound. “Don’t worry. I’m not a serial killer.” Then he ducked through a door in the hall that was always closed.
She should probably be concerned about the way he emphasized the word
, but somehow couldn’t summon the desire.
No, she was busy desiring something else.
* * * *
Bear stripped off his coveralls and hung them on the door of the extra locker. He’d been hoping to get a little more work done on the Satellite, but this was a lot more interesting. Pulling on the Tesla t-shirt he’d worn in this morning, he wished he’d dressed a little better. Of course, Maureen Donnelly thought he was an auto mechanic, so the old concert t-shirt and jeans might be a better way to sell the illusion.
His phone had five messages. One from Sandy, one from Candy, one from Jason and two from Marc. Sandy was probably mad he hadn’t called in since last week. Going off the radar like he had, especially with a tour looming, must be driving Sandy nuts. Candy wanted him to do some publicity thing. Her job was getting them publicity, but she never had understood the word
. Jason, if Jason was still acting the way he had been for the past couple of weeks since he’d gotten dumped in
, was just calling to bitch. He called Marc and pinned the phone between his shoulder and ear while he scrubbed grease off his fingers.
“Nothin’. When are you coming back?”
“Ten days.” He checked his watch as if it measured days. Ten short days, until he was stuck in a room, and then a series of rooms, with the rest of the band and their melodrama.
“Good. Jason is selling the New York apartment.”
“Beautiful, so he’s going to be in Malibu all the time now?”
“I guess. Ty has taken up grass boarding.”
“What the fuck is that?”
“Just like snowboarding, but on grass.”
“He can still sing when he falls and fucks up his wrists. Did you call for a reason or just to give me a newsy update?”
“Why? You got a hot date or something?”
Bear didn’t answer. He’d hoped to already be tooling down the road with Maureen Donnelly headed for a simple pizza between two people who’d just met. Two totally normal people.
“The suits just want to make sure everything is on track,” Marc said. “The album is still moving up the charts but the single is slipping. The next single is coming out Tuesday and it would really help if you would pick up a little promo.”
“I’m. On. Vacation.”
“I know, but we owe the company a fortune and if this record tanks, we are never going to record another one. The label will drop us and we’ll all end up managing a fast food joint.”
“Yeah, I know. I took Rock Star 101 with you.” His head started to throb. “We did all that promo when the album came out. The thing for MTV and that Canadian show. And we’re doing that casino to kick off the tour. All I asked for was two fucking weeks.”
“And all I’m asking you to do is take two hours out of your vacation and hit a radio station.”
“Marc, they’re getting the next ten months of my life.”
“It’s the job, man, and it’s the best fucking job in the world.” Marc’s tone remained pleasant and even.
“I know. Is that what Sandy wanted?”
“No, Sandy wants to know where you are and that you’re healthy.”
“Tell him I’m right where I was the last time he talked to me and in about the same shape.”
“Great. Jason has been busting his ass on promo.”
The last thing he wanted to hear about was what a superhero Jason was. Not with a sweet thing like Maureen Donnelly waiting. “I gotta go.”
“Oh, that’s right. The hot date. See ya in ten days.”
Bear snapped his phone closed as he pulled on his leather jacket. He should have skipped this whole music thing and gone into business with his brother.
Then both of them could be trying to scratch a living out of this little three bay garage.
He snatched the keys off the locker shelf and hurried out to see if Maureen Donnelly had hung around while he was getting scolded.
She stood in the filthy repair bay behind her car, holding her purse with both hands. Cocking her head, she gave him a little smile.
For about ten seconds, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. The minimal makeup she wore accented the simple prettiness of her features instead of them being obliterated under raccoon eyeliner and some wild shade of lipstick. Her brunette hair was cut in a bob and pulled back off her face. He hadn’t seen what with yet, but he bet it was a bow or some kind of flower. The dark blue dress crisscrossed over her perfect, unenhanced bust, creating some really intriguing cleavage.
Really intriguing. He couldn’t see her legs around the bumper of the car, or her shoes. He wanted to check out her shoes and, more importantly, the legs that led into them. As he recalled, the hem fell right to her knees.
“Sorry I took so long.” He tore his gaze away from where he could have seen her legs if he had x-ray vision, and met hers. She didn’t seem to be on to him. “I had to make a call.”
“No problem.” She shook her head and her cute little bob bounced around her shoulders.
“I’ll lock up and we can go.” He ducked into the waiting room to lock the door and turn off the lights. The sooner he got out of here, the sooner he was going to get a look at her legs. “Which pizza place do you like better? Napoli or Mama Lena’s? I like Napoli’s.”
“So do I, but I don’t like to eat there.” She sounded sorry as she followed him to the car door.
He glanced over his shoulder. Her pretty, small mouth was drawn into a frown. “Why?”
“They’re always screaming at each other, did you notice? The food is wonderful, but the brothers who own the place are always arguing or yelling at the kids waiting tables.” She shivered. “It just makes me uncomfortable.”
“Tony always gets carry out. I guess there’s a reason.” He opened the passenger door of the Satellite. “Mama Lena’s it is.”
She sat down on the seat sideways and twisted forward like a lady. His mom used to get into cars that way when she wore a dress and he’d never seen any other woman do it. Swallowing at the unfamiliar rush of mixed heat and uncertainty, he opened the bay door so he could back out. This woman was not a score-seeking groupie. Maureen Donnelly qualified as a nice girl.
And he was already lying to her.
Not lying really, but not filling her in on a few details. Like he wasn’t an auto mechanic and in a couple of weeks, he’d be off on the one ring circus currently known as the Bayonet Ball Tour. Like the next time she saw him after this, he’d probably be on MTV. If she even watched that. She struck him as a History Channel type.
Did it really matter? He was taking her out for a pizza, not marrying her. For one night, he could just be Michael, the guy who was buying her a pizza, taking her home and maybe getting a kiss on the doorstep instead of Bear D’Amato, drummer for Touchstone.
He backed the car out and closed the garage door. “So what is it you do?”
“I’m a teacher. I teach second grade at Wilson.”
“Really?” Teacher. Little kid teacher yet. That fit. “You like it?”
“Yeah, it’s great, but I’m looking forward to summer vacation.”
“February is kinda long and Spring Break is late this year so we’ve had this really long stretch with no days off. It gets a little tiring, for the teachers and the kids.”
“I always thought the teachers were annoyed when we had days off.” He glanced at her. She had half turned toward him with her purse in her lap, as if she were interested in the conversation, not as if she were amortizing him.
“Nope. We’re all shooing the kids out the door and making plans for our days off.”
“And what do you like to do on your days off?” What did regular people do on their days off? Most of his time was spent in the studio, on tour or in between and in between was only a couple of days here and there. Not that it was bad, he did have the greatest job in the world, but it was a twenty-four seven gig. Even last year’s sabbatical had been spent analyzing what had gone wrong with the previous album so they could avoid it this time.
“The usual stuff. I read, watch TV, garden a little.”
“Go out on blind dates.”
She groaned. “Yeah. I should have given that up for Lent. My friend Linda means well, but she’s not very good at it. I think next time I’m going to be washing my hair or something pressing like that.”
“So it is an excuse.”
“Like you’ve ever gotten it.”
“Once or twice.” A long time ago. Now all he had to do was pick a girl from the line up, which was frustrating in its own way.
Her laugh was light and musical. “So what do you do, other than fix cars?”
Damn. How to answer this question without flat out lying? “I travel and play music.” That sounded good. Like they were two separate things.
“Travel. I’ve always wanted to travel, but never had the money. Where have you been?”
“All over.” He clenched the steering wheel. He’d never seen much of the places he’d been. Travel, perform, sleep, repeat.
“That sounds wonderful.”
Not the word he’d use. “So you have a garden?”
“Yeah. I bought a house last year so I spent last summer gardening. I’m really looking forward to my tulips and daffodils coming up this spring.”
He pulled into the parking lot of Mama Lena’s. The place was jammed. Great, now he had to use his fame to pull a few strings for a table, blowing his cover, or stand around like a jerk waiting for one. “Here we are.”
“Wow, they’re busy tonight.” She checked her watch. “Let’s hope the theater at the mall has a showing time soon so we don’t have to wait long. I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”
Oh yeah, she would
to wait for a table. She wouldn’t be disappointed when he couldn’t magically make one open up for her. Man, he was so out of practice for this regular dating thing.
She climbed out without waiting for him to open her door and strode toward the restaurant, giving him the chance to fall back and check out the rear view, what he could see of it above and below her black raincoat. Her calves were slender and well shaped, practically insuring fantastic legs. The three-inch heels she wore put a beautiful glide in her stride. Her hair clip wasn’t a bow or flowers. It was a gold Mickey Mouse. Mickey freakin’ Mouse. This woman was so real, she was surreal.