Authors: Anya Breton
“Check for the rogue thing,” Erica said at the door. “I’ll
clamp the asshole with the other two.”
His lips curved at her bossiness. But only he could check
the website. And he didn’t know how to use any of her tools.
They switched places. Chains rattled in the garage while he
clicked around on the computer. He impatiently waited for the pages to load.
Slow computer or slow two-bar town internet? He’d need to know for when he
brought his laptop.
he brought it? When had he decided to stay?
Drew glanced toward the garage door as it rattled closed.
It had been before she called his mother. Back when he vowed
he’d become worthy of her if he lived through the attack.
He clicked another link. This was excruciating.
Erica came into the office, boots tapping on the linoleum
floor. She peered over the counter but said nothing.
“It’s still loading,”
She nodded. “I’ve been meaning to try cable now that it’s
Finally the page loaded. Drew scrolled through the names
listed in alphabetical order. There were no H surnames. Had he been removed?
“It’s not there.” He faced her. “I don’t know if it ever
was. But it’s not there now.”
A shrill ring made them both jerk. The cordless phone on the
counter lit up. That number was familiar. He almost reached for it before
recalling this wasn’t his place.
“It’s my mother,” he said.
She snatched it up. “Pearce Auto-body.”
Drew called on the aether so he could hear both sides of the
conversation. His mother’s stiff voice filtered back into his ear.
“This is Erica Pearce.”
“I phoned the Cleaners to verify your report. They confirmed
Drew was attacked earlier. Drew’s rogue designation has been removed.”
Erica’s chest shook up and down, each breath harder than the
last. He didn’t know her well but that looked furious.
Why was she angry? She’d accomplished the impossible—she’d
gotten through to Amanda Haizea. He was no longer kill-on-sight. This was cause
His mother spoke up. “Did my son return from the
Erica caught his eye and mouthed,
Are you here?
“He did,” she said.
“May I speak with him?”
Again she looked to him. He held out his hand for the phone.
She set it in his palm.
Drew released his hold on magic so her volume would be
“You’re no longer marked as a rogue witch,” Amanda said. “No
one else should attack you. If they do, they risk the full brunt of the Aer
He said nothing because though he was relieved he wouldn’t
be attacked, his mother hadn’t apologized for putting him through the ordeal.
“However,” Amanda continued. “I’m not reinstating your
accounts until you turn your life around.”
“I don’t want your money,” he said, hardly believing his
But it was the right thing to do. Taking her money entitled
her to control over his life. She would always expect him to do what she
wanted. After this tribulation, Drew no longer wanted anything to do with her.
“I certainly don’t want to become what you think I should
become,” he said. “That’s how I grew into what I am now.” Drew laughed—a hollow
sound that carried a wealth of meaning. “I should thank you. You opened my
eyes. But it wasn’t my disgrace I discovered—I knew all about that. The
disgrace I discovered was yours, Mother.”
Drew hit the end call button, feeling better than he had in
A sad smile formed on Drew’s lips. “I’m not. I needed that
wake-up call. I’m only sorry you had to be dragged into all that. And I’m sorry
I can’t pay for the tow on the Ferrari.” He waved a dismissive hand at the
garage. “You can sell it to pay my bill and for the damages to the garage.”
your Ferrari?” she squeaked and cast a longing
look at where the wall hid the Italian masterpiece from sight. “Your bill was
eighty bucks! And there isn’t much damage to the garage.”
Drew shrugged in his flippant way. “I can’t afford the thing
anymore nor is it practical out here in the boonies.”
She stared at him, mulling over the words. No, a Ferrari
wasn’t practical in the boonies. But he didn’t live in the boonies. He was from
How did she ask him to explain that statement without
insulting him? Sometimes he was touchy.
Erica nibbled her lip. “You’re…planning to stay?”
He held her gaze. “You said you’d help me find a job stocking
She had said that. But that wasn’t what he wanted. “That car
is worth three hundred thousand dollars. You wouldn’t need to work stocking
groceries if you sold it.” Erica bit her lip, glancing covetously at the
garage. “But it’s such a shame. It’s a beautiful car.”
“Then I won’t sell it. I’ll find a way to make ends meet
even if it means stocking the general store.”
She let out a small moan of frustration. “You’re right
though. A Ferrari isn’t practical at all. You could sell it and buy something
with four-wheel drive for the winter. The boonies don’t get cleared as fast as
the city does.” She hesitated. “But you don’t want to live here. You’d be
miserable. There’s nothing to do.” Erica looked away. “And you’d go through the
female population before the summer was out.”
He was silent for several seconds. Erica didn’t dare glance
over to see why.
“I guess I deserve that,” he said. “I didn’t exactly make
the best first impression. But that was…”
“Yesterday,” she finished for him.
“Yesterday is worlds away from today.” He came around the
counter exactly as he had last night. Drew leaned in as though he would kiss
her. But he stopped short. “Yesterday I’d have slobbered all over you and
assumed you’d fuck me simply because I was hot, rich and owned a Ferrari. Now I
know how to kiss you properly and that you’re far too independent to give me
the time of day.”
“Plus you stink like the pigsty up the street when it hasn’t
been cleaned for a week.”
“Why did you give me the time of day, Erica?”
Erica shrugged with nonchalance she wasn’t feeling. “It was
a one-night stand.”
His gaze darkened. “The night isn’t over yet.”
No. It wasn’t over. But she couldn’t handle being with him
again. Not without risking her heart. She forced a smile. “By the time your Cleaner
friends get here and we both shower, it will be.”
“It will be at least a half hour. That’s plenty of time to
sneak into the backroom. I’ll even let you stuff tissue in your nose so you
won’t have to smell me.”
“I can’t,” she blurted out. “I’m sorry. You’re just…” Erica
couldn’t bring herself to say the words on the tip of her tongue.
“Bad? An inveterate womanizer who can’t provide for himself
let alone you?” He sounded as bitter as he had while he’d spoken to his mother.
Erica’s bleeding heart kicked in. She set her hand atop his
on the counter. “I don’t think you’re bad. But you’ve met Jared. I can’t deal
with another asshole ex.”
He knitted his fingers through hers. She made the mistake of
looking back. His hazel eyes ensnared her. “I’m not going to be your ex,
Her stomach dipped at the intensity of those words. A thrill
shot through her.
Logic won out over silly emotion. No, he wouldn’t be her ex
because they’d never make it to the dating part of a relationship. He’d leave
her in a few days when he got tired of her. Or when he realized she was a cow
compared to every other woman he’d ever been with.
“I’m going to be the man you deserve,” he went on in that
grim voice that sent shivers along her arms. “I have a long way to go but one
day I’ll be worthy of you. Until then, there’s no one for me if I can’t have
Headlights pulled into the parking lot. A colored light bar
caught on the interior glow. Erica jumped at the chance to avoid Drew. She
dislodged the bar they’d placed over the office door. Quickly she twisted the
bolt and then headed outside.
Please let it be a deputy instead of Sheriff Kevin.
While she’d need a visit from the sheriff about Jared’s
sabotage, now was the absolute worst time. She wouldn’t be able to explain the
three unconscious witches chained to her lift post, hidden behind the closed
A smile of relief took up residence on her face when she
spotted Kevin’s little brother Keith leaning out the driver’s window. Erica
started across the parking lot as she silently spun a tale for why the garage
was lit up at ten o’clock at night.
Drew squinted out the window.
Was that an extra sway to Erica’s hips? Didn’t she know what
that did to a man? It hadn’t been meant for him but already he was experiencing
He slumped against the counter where he could still see her.
Unfortunately he caught a whiff of his underarms in the
pose. Dear Aer, he
. She wasn’t kidding. And she’d fucked him in
the garage earlier? He couldn’t have smelled much better a half hour ago.
They’d been desperate for each other then. Nothing had
mattered except being together. How could he get that back?
He sank further as she leaned closer to the car and exposed
more of her generous breasts. She was distracting the guy away from the
captives they had behind the garage doors, wasn’t she? She wouldn’t flirt in
front of him and
it…right? Unless she wanted to get back at him for
calling twenty-three witches yesterday.
Yet Erica had called his mother on his behalf. Considering
Amanda had actually listened, Erica must have been damn persuasive. She might
not want to admit it but she cared about him—at least enough to worry about his
Was it enough to begin something more?
Fuck that. Drew didn’t want
more. He wanted
the rest of her life.
He shot to his feet, shocked at himself.
But it felt right. For the first time.
He’d proposed to Elizabeth months ago when he’d been drunk,
because she came from a wealthy family that could set him up in style for life
and because the match would please his mother. This time was different. He
hadn’t met Erica’s family and Amanda sounded as if she’d sooner share a room
with a carnival of giant mutated fleas than meet Erica. Drew wanted Erica for
himself. He had no interest in her garage or her house. He only wanted her—in
her big bed beneath the crisp cotton sheets, in the Shaker rocking chairs on
her front porch with glasses of lemonade in hand and on sultry nights spent
lazily watching television.
No matter how much he wanted to fuck her, he had to wait
until she was ready.
This was one wait that would be well worth the effort.
Erica was exhausted. The Cleaners had finally taken the
witches away. They’d lingered for an hour, scrutinizing the garage and
surrounding landscape—she assumed for inexplicable things.
There’d been a heated exchange between Drew and one of the
men who had stepped out of the white panel van marked with a logo for
Roto-Rooter. Several times they’d glanced her way—implying the exchange had
been about her. No doubt because she wasn’t supposed to know of their
Well too damn bad. She’d earned the right to know.
“I need a hot shower and to sleep until Monday,” she said as
she brought the garage doors down for the final time.
Drew hovered near his Ferrari. He looked like a lost pup.
She hadn’t the heart to leave him behind.
“I bet you do too,” Erica said. “Come on. Let’s head back to
“Are you sure?”
She hesitated beside the office. “I was until you asked me
that.” Erica swung back toward him. “You can come home with me as long as you
understand our one-night stand is over.”
His lip pursed but he nodded. “I understand.”
“And you’re sleeping in the guestroom.”
He said nothing.
A part of her whimpered.
Didn’t he want to sleep with her now? Or had he been using
her all along?
She clenched her fists at the thought. He had to get a job
and a place of his own as soon as possible. She couldn’t have him freeloading
forever, no matter how adorable he looked.
She’d tell him in the morning.
Drew could sleep for days. But first he needed one helluva
shower. His stench filled the cabin of Erica’s beat-up sedan.
She’d been quiet since she invited him back and she’d
avoided looking at him. It was easy to guess why. She’d been attacked several
times because of him. The smart thing to do would be to insist he leave. Why
hadn’t she done the smart thing?
She hadn’t acknowledge what he’d professed earlier, had
avoided him ever since. That bothered Drew more than he liked. It wasn’t often
that he took chances like that.
At least she hadn’t outright rejected him.
Maybe that would have been better. It certainly would have
told him where he stood. Now…now he was stuck waiting and tiptoeing around her
when all he wanted was to fuck the last of her energy away so she couldn’t
think of turning him out.
Up the graveled hill she drove. Her stereo played something
soft and sentimental. He glanced at her, recalling the romance novels in her
This badass mechanic hid a tender heart.
Aer, how he wanted it.
She pulled into the driveway in front of the Cape Cod. After
rubbing her fingers between her eyes, she popped the door. Drew joined her on
the blacktop. He trailed her to the door with his hands shoved in his pockets
so he couldn’t reach for her.
Erica disappeared inside. She plunked her purse down on the
nearest chair then started across the living room in the darkness. Her
“I almost forgot I wasn’t alone.” Her rueful tone dug into
hadn’t forgotten she was with him. “You can shower first,” she
said. “I had one this morning.”
He strode toward where she’d been. Her buttercream scent
undercut by smoky sweat told him he was in the right place. “I don’t know where
Erica’s hand gripped his. “I’ll show you.”
The sweet scent increased as they entered her bedroom. It
alone seized his balls. His mouth watered from the memory of her sugary taste.
Harsh light blinded him from inside the dated bathroom.
Erica drew aside, making room for him to pass. “Towels are in the cabinet in
there. There’s shampoo, conditioner, soap and razors but they’re all feminine.
I don’t mind if you use them…” She shrugged as if to say
“Feminine is better than stinking,” he said.
“Yeah.” She sidled by, careful not to touch him. “The
guestroom is the next one over. I’ll make sure it’s ready by the time you’re
done so you can sleep.”
Erica started for the guestroom. He opened his mouth to call
her back. They both needed a shower. Why not share it?
Because she wasn’t ready.
He stepped into the bathroom and began shucking his reeking
clothes without closing the door. Let her look if she liked. Let her join if
He twisted the shower knobs in the faux-marble tub and
opened the towel cabinet. The bathroom looked as though it had been built in
the seventies though the house was much older. It wasn’t the opulence he was
accustomed to but it had small-town charm.
Drew slipped behind the shower curtain, beneath the hot
water. He moaned as it washed away the stink. Soap. Heavenly soap. He snatched
it up and lathered up his hands. The water sluicing over his sensitive organ
reminded him of something else caressing him.
His eyes closed to sharpen the image of Erica spread before
him. He needed her, now, tomorrow, next month. But it had to be her decision.
He gripped his cock, imagining it was her. Their desperate
sex replayed behind his eyelids. He pressed the wall, bracing himself even as
he worked his other palm over his organ.
Too soon, he came alone against the faux marble. He exhaled
a grumpy sigh. Yes, it needed to be Erica’s decision to let him stay in
Stoddard but he wasn’t going to be able to wait long before he swayed that
decision with sex.
Drew straightened, grabbing the shampoo off the shelf. He
massaged it into his scalp while pondering his next move. The Ferrari had to
go—after all, it had caught fire. He’d find the money to have it towed to
Boston for the fix then he’d sell it. Normal people were able to survive on
less than a hundred thousand dollars a year.
Normal people had jobs.
He didn’t want to stock groceries. What
Drew dug his fingers into his scalp. He’d not stuck with
anything long. His degree was in business yet he had no interest in getting a
stuffy desk job. Would she let him stay if he gave her the Ferrari?
lusted over it more than she had him.
That was it. He’d give her the car. Maybe that would be his
invitation to stay.
The faint moan that carried through the wall could only be
because of one thing. Erica pursed her lips. He was
Clearly he’d decided she was too disgusting to screw now
that he wasn’t going to die.
And after she’d helped save him too.