Authors: Christa Maurice
Another component too. One that upped the ante into something he didn’t recognize. This settled quiet, a calm center. There had to be a word for what she had, but he didn’t know it. She knew who she was. Really knew.
That went well beyond the fact that she didn’t know who Rick Allen was. Which meant she might not know who
was. Not that he was in the same league, but she wasn’t going to know anything about his band. She seemed to be clueless about any pop culture that didn’t impact little kids. A quick scan of her living room while she’d been in the kitchen had revealed lots of dinosaur books, a coffee table book on Disney World and a stack of gardening magazines. She didn’t appear to own a single compact disk. Not even a soundtrack.
If he’d told her who he was last night when she walked into the garage, she probably would have cocked her head, told him it must be interesting and asked if he could still fix her brakes. He’d really screwed himself there. If he’d just ’fessed up in the first place, he could have been doing all this aboveboard and maybe had a chance at something real. But no, he’d decided to be a genius and pretend to be someone he wasn’t. Someone ordinary. Now if he told her who he was, she’d think he was either insane or a liar.
Tony and Pam would have killed him if he hadn’t come home tonight. They might anyway. Watching Maureen with that little girl today, Bear could see why they wanted her to be Nicky’s teacher. The kid had come at her out of left field and she’d been nice and attentive. Not at all bothered by them bugging her on her day off. Nicky would shine under that influence. If Bear got in too deep with Maureen, she wouldn’t be teaching Nicky. She’d said dating the father of a student was an ethical violation. Dating an uncle probably was too.
He’d rolled his own loaded dice and still managed to get snake eyes.
* * * *
Maureen peeked down the hall to the garage and tried to figure out what she was doing here. The obvious reason—getting her car tuned up. Important regular maintenance. Then there was the less obvious. Hanging out with Michael. What did she hope to gain, other than the tuned up car, from spending her Sunday at Tony’s garage working on lesson plans while Michael worked on her car? This wasn’t going to turn into a relationship. How could it, after next weekend?
She sat down on the stool behind the counter where she had all her work spread out. Everything was finished and recorded in her grade book. Tomorrow she had recess duty, so she’d need to commune with the copier after school. Unless Michael was free. If he was, she might have to go in early so she could leave right after the last bell.
Michael walked in, wiping his hands on an oily rag. “How’s the work going?”
“I’m done.” She leaned on the counter. Something about being near him made her arch her back and lick her lips. My, he was fine to look at. Beautiful broad shoulders that made her think about hanging onto them. Dark eyes that always made him look ready and willing. Last night’s kisses suggested all kinds of wonders.
,” he said.
“What about it?”
“I’ve been thinking about that. It doesn’t make sense.”
He slouched on the counter and looked at her sideways, giving her a nice profile of his flat abs. Most of the guys she dated were not in as good shape. Desk jockeys a little on the soft side. Nothing soft on him, except his gaze, especially when he looked at her like he was now.
“You don’t like mysteries, but from what I heard
was all mystery all the time. It doesn’t fit,” he said. His gaze traced the jutting curve of her hip.
“Maybe I like my mysteries in small controlled portions I don’t have to live with.”
His gaze traveled back up her body and her temperature rose too. When his eyes met hers, they were dark and warm. “I guess I can take that answer.”
Licking her lips didn’t help. If anything, her tongue was drier than her lips. “So how goes the tune up?”
She nodded, trying to maintain some cool. “That leaves us most of an afternoon free. What shall we do with it?” Bad question. The images blossoming in her mind were not PG.
He smiled like he had the same thoughts. “The first thing I need to do is wash up. I wouldn’t want to get grease all over you.”
The images in her mind went straight through R on their way to X. With grease. On the hood of his car. This counted as a third date, didn’t it? There had been a meal involved. Maureen followed him into the hall. “So I guess the first thing we should do, after you wash up and change, is take my car back home.”
“Sure.” He stopped in the locker room doorway, letting his gaze skim over her again.
Pink sweater, jeans, sneakers. She wouldn’t be winning any fashion awards any time soon. Still, the look in his eyes was appreciative.
He shifted away from the door. “You know, we haven’t discussed payment.”
“No, we haven’t.” Maureen bit her lip and shifted her weight to one foot. “I believe last time it was a kiss on the cheek for a brake job, but a tune up isn’t quite as involved, is it?”
“No, but my rates may be going up.” Michael took a step closer.
“Isn’t that how it always is?” She leaned on the wall. “They hook you with a deal and then jack up the prices.”
“Sorry ma’am, it’s the way business is run.”
His coveralls were filthy. So were his hands. Her clothes would be ruined and everybody would be able to see why. She should be concerned about that. Heat coursed through her as he moved closer. No way she should be doing this.
“You aren’t going to try to haggle me down?” He brushed his lips over hers.
“Quality work comes at a price.” As his mouth covered hers, she closed her eyes. Only his mouth touched her, but she could feel the heat of his body. The wine sweet taste of his kiss made her knees want to collapse so she could slide to the floor and pull him down on top of her.
The dirty floor. She shouldn’t be getting involved in this.
“Michael.” She planted her hands on his chest.
He took a step back. “Yeah. I’m gonna go change.” He walked into the locker room without turning back.
Maureen went back to the front desk and gathered up her stuff. Her head spun from their brief encounter. When did he say he was leaving town? Next week? How in heaven’s name would she resist him until then? If only he was going to be around.
Or if she could go to where he’d be. He said he lived in California. They had schools there.
Was she honestly planning to move to the other side of the country based on the fact that she couldn’t keep her hands off a man she’d just met? Crazy. She couldn’t sell her house and switch jobs for a guy she’d met two days ago. The long gap between Christmas and spring break was obviously getting to her. She slid her planning book into her book bag. Time off, that’s what she needed. Maybe she should take a personal day.
Before Michael left town.
A locker door banged closed. Should she tell him she was taking a day off? If things got weird before then, she’d had a long weekend to recover and if they didn’t, she’d have a long weekend to enjoy him before he left.
Michael came out still wiping his hands. He tossed the paper towel in the trash. “So what would you like to do with the rest of the day?”
“I think first we should get my car to my house. I’m going to need it in the morning.”
He nodded. “I’ll follow you. Are you sure you got everything you needed to do done?”
“Sure.” She sucked her teeth. “Why are you so worried?”
“I don’t want to take up all your time.” He laced his fingers through hers. “I don’t want to leave town and have you all pissed off at me because you’re way behind on the rest of your life.”
“It’s not like you’re ever going to see me again. Why do you care?” Why did he care? Even if he came back it wasn’t like they had a chance in Hades of anything developing.
“I’m trying to be a good guy here.” His phone started to ring. He pulled it out of his back pocket, glanced at the screen and shoved it back into his pocket. “I don’t want to screw up your life.”
“Don’t you need to get that?”
“No.” His phone stopped. He pulled her closer. “So after we take your car home, what do you want to do?”
“It looks like you might have a plan.”
His phone started ringing again.
“Are you sure you don’t need to get that?”
“Positive. It’s not important.” He wrapped his arm around her waist. As soon as she was pressed against his hard chest, she forgot everything beyond him.
Until his phone rang again.
“Fuck.” Michael yanked his phone out of his pocket. “Give me just a minute.”
Maureen hung onto the counter so she wouldn’t slide to the floor as he walked down the hall. Everything moved way too fast with him. Hadn’t she said something about ethical gray areas the other day? Yesterday. That had been yesterday. Yup, things were moving way too fast with Michael.
“Vacation,” he said loud enough for her to hear from the garage. He wasn’t shouting, but he had a hefty roar. She’d never heard him get mad before. Of course the last three days had been all wine and roses. Well, pizza and museums. With nothing to lose, what did they have to fight about?
“I told you I’d do it and I will. Just fucking back off.”
Maureen peered down the hall. He was pacing between their cars, his face an alarming shade. Maybe he was concerned she was blowing off work because he was. Well, he’d have plenty of time to do whatever he was supposed to be doing while she was in school tomorrow. No way she could tell him she’d be taking Friday off. At least not until she ascertained whether she’d be spending a long weekend with him, or spending it licking her wounds.
Still on the phone, he came toward her. “Relax. Sales will pick up. Give me a couple of days and stop acting like an old woman. I’ll be back soon enough. See ya then.” He snapped the phone closed, all his annoyance disappearing. “So, what do you want to do tonight?”
“I’ll go get lunch.” Bear pulled open the door of the Satellite.
“You buying?” Tony grumbled.
“Sure.” He backed the car out of the garage. Lunch was a small price to pay to escape Tony’s endless foul mood. Friday’s irritation had become Saturday’s grouse, which turned into Sunday’s growl. By the end of the week he’d be spitting flames. And why? Because they wanted Maureen to be Nicky’s teacher next year. What exactly was stopping them? By the time Nicky started second grade, he’d be touring Europe and Maureen would be dating some damp sponge like Conner.
Bear glared at the light, considering the guy Maureen might be dating next fall. He wouldn’t appreciate her. How could he? Conner didn’t have any basis for comparison, while
had a great one. Between the girls he’d dated and the girls the other guys had dated and the mobs of groupies he’d met, he had an excellent basis for comparison. Maureen came out head and shoulders above them all. She had this sweet hot thing going on that threatened to cook his engine every time he got near her. And she was smart and so practical. Most women seemed to think he had at least a twenty percent stake in the moon and they expected their expense account to reflect it.
Too bad he couldn’t box her up for take out.
Passing the elementary school, he caught sight of her car. He turned around at the next intersection and went back. The three story red brick building looked like it had been popped out of a mold in the early fifties. He and Tony had gone to a school a lot like it in a different state. Switching the radio off, he cruised through the parking lot. Definitely her car.
The playground behind the building overflowed with screaming kids. They seemed to feel obligated to burn up as much energy as possible before the whistle blew. Bear parked the Satellite at the end of a row and peered through the windshield at the two teachers standing on the steps. One of them was a hot pink puffball in a knee length parka. The other was Maureen.
A hundred feet away in a coat and hat and he knew it was her. Damn, she was hot.
His phone rang. He dug it out and checked the number. Marc. “What now?”
“I wanted to know if you’d scheduled that drop-in.”