Authors: Anya Breton
It shouldn’t have bothered him that Erica lied to him. But
when one of the things he’d liked best about her—her
forthrightness—disappeared, it didn’t please him. He certainly shouldn’t have
been irritated that she’d intentionally hid her problems.
By doing so she’d unintentionally admitted she didn’t think
him capable of helping her. And
Drew glanced around her garage, hoping for inspiration on
how to help. He knew fuck-all about cars. But he knew women. And this one
needed help even if she wouldn’t admit it.
He shook himself. Why in the hell should he help her? He
couldn’t help himself.
Yet she’d given him a place on a cot in an air-conditioned
room when he’d done nothing but insult her. She’d only asked him to clean up
after himself. When was the last time anyone had helped him simply to help?
They’d always wanted to get closer to him so they’d have a
better chance of making Adept level from his brother. Or they’d wanted diamonds
and a ticket to a show. There was also the game of seeing who could keep him
interested the longest. His recent fiancée had held that title only because his
mother and brother forced him to keep his engagement for political reasons. He’d
known he wouldn’t last a year with her.
“Can I sweep or something?” he asked.
had come over him? He didn’t sweep!
She glanced up at him from over the computer monitor. A
quiet sigh slipped from her mouth. “You can just stay out of the way.”
“Am I in the way now?”
“No, but you’re distracting me.”
He doubted he was distracting her the way he
to distract her. “Um, okay,” he said before stepping back into the garage and
out of the way.
Drew returned to the storage room with the intention of
sleeping. But the hopelessly bent cot didn’t look comfortable. A back door he’d
barely noted last night looked like the best bet for removing the mangled
contraption. Drew grabbed hold of the sheets and blanket he’d flung on the
thing. He balled them up and hurled them toward a spare plastic chair. Then he
dragged the stripped bed to the door.
It took two shoves to get the back entrance open, as if it
had been sealed shut for ages. Drew brought the cot around the garage to where
he’d seen bags of trash piled against the building. He paused at the corner for
a look inside. Erica stared at the front of a truck, facing away. Her shoulders
were hunched. Each breath she took was heavy and obvious. She looked like a
woman with many worries.
A pickup pulled into the drive behind him. Drew stepped
inside and hid around the corner where he wouldn’t be visible to the customer.
Erica cast a glance at the parking lot. Her frame stiffened.
“Maybe you should just have me work on that,” a man called a
moment before a car door closed. “I’ll have to fix it later anyway.”
The ex-boyfriend. Drew reached for magic—visualizing a
finger slicing through the aether. He snagged a thread of Air magic from within
the swirling energy coating everything, hardly thinking his actions through.
Drew positioned his palms just so and thrust. A dull thud echoed back into his
ear. Satisfaction spread his lips broad. A smack in the ass with a gust of
focused air was exactly what the douchebag had needed.
?” the male griped from the ground.
Erica faced her ex. Her eyebrows drifted to the middle of
her forehead. “Are you okay, Jared?”
okay? Drew wanted to shout at her. The guy had
insulted her. He didn’t deserve her concern.
Yet…she’d given Drew her concern when he’d insulted her as
well. It was part of why he liked her.
.” The guy came into view beyond the
garage’s outer doors.
Erica took a step back. “I hope you came here to do more
than taunt me.”
“I came to renew my offer.”
“No,” she cut in before Jared could say anything else. “I’m
not selling Daddy’s garage.”
“Your father has been dead for two years. It’s not his
garage any longer. It’s yours. Besides, he would want you secure and happy.”
“I am happy—”
“You can’t be happy having to get up every morning and come into
The derisive pause in his speech made his opinion obvious.
The guy wasn’t a fan of the garage. Clearly he didn’t intend to buy it so he
could keep it. He wanted to be rid of the competition. But if the competition
was screwing up cars, why was he worried? Unless…
Drew focused on Jared’s face, looking for evidence of
treachery. While it wasn’t readily visible in the rugged features, Jared didn’t
look the part of a charitable benefactor.
“My happiness isn’t your problem anymore,” Erica said. “I’m
not selling the garage. Stop harassing me about it or I’ll have no choice but
to file a restraining order.”
Good girl. Drew smiled in the corner, where neither
individual had noted him.
“This was just a friendly conversation, Erica.” Jared’s
droning was thick with condescension. “I’m sorry you feel it was harassment.
I’ll just have to do this the official way. You’ll hear from my lawyer with an
offer—one I’m sure you won’t want to refuse.”
That was it.
Drew stepped out from the corner. “Can the theatrics, buddy.
She’s not selling even if you leave a horse head in her bed. And she asked you
to stop harassing her. Now I suggest you go before I have to help you go.”
The guy twisted. He eyed Drew up and down. A slow smile
spread across his lips. Drew had been measured and found wanting. But what
didn’t know was the ace he had in his back pocket.
Jared sent a disgusted look behind him at Erica. “You’re
having your customers fight your battles for you now?”
“Is this a battle, Jared? I thought it was just a friendly
Score one for Erica.
“It became a battle when you brought others into it,” Jared
“He’s acting on his own. Just like you. Now please leave.”
“What makes you think I’m a customer?” Drew put in before
the guy could move. “I could be her boyfriend.”
The snort the guy gave made Drew angry for Erica. And then
Jared made it worse with his follow-up. “She could never get a guy like you.”
Strange. Considering she’d already
Drew resisted the urge to blast the guy back to his truck.
The only way he was able to speak without growling was at a cautious pace. “Why
“C’mon, buddy. Can’t you tell? She needs to lose a few
pounds. You should have seen her when I was banging her. She was smoking then.”
“She’s smoking now.” Drew would never have admitted it
unless he’d been goaded into it. His reputation was such that he always went
for models. But he’d always had a soft spot for women with a little meat on
Jared let out a raucous laugh. “Are you blind, man? She’s a
“I’ve lost twelve pounds since we were together, Jared,”
Erica said, as calm as calm could be. “So you were porking a porker all along.
And need I remind you how you used to smack my ass and tell me I needed to
weight? You bought me ice cream weekly. So shut the hell up and get the
out of my garage before I call the sheriff.”
“You keep threatening me with the sheriff. I’m on his
payroll now, darlin’. He ain’t gonna help you.”
A southern twang from a Granite Stater? Drew had enough of the
dick. He called on Air once more, focusing another high-powered blast at the
guy’s slight paunch.
Dust puffed out of Jared’s T-shirt when the magical Air
strike hit. He careened onto his back in a sprawl of long, jean-coated limbs.
The guy spent two seconds blinking up at the blue sky.
Drew walked across the garage to the button he hoped would
lower the door. He bashed the big red disc, smiling when the metal began its
crawl down the tracks.
“Hey!” Jared jabbed a finger at the thing as if to say it
was on course to cut him in half.
“Might want to move, buddy,” Drew said.
Jared crab-walked back in time to save his knees from
getting bashed. He popped to his feet, glaring through the windows. Drew turned
his back on the guy and found Erica glaring. Her closed-off pose hinted she was
angry. He was tempted to peel her arms from her sides simply to lower her
luscious breasts to a level that wouldn’t have him fantasizing about them nude.
There probably wasn’t a single pose she could hold that would save him from
“How in the hell…” She shook her head as though suffering
That was when Drew realized he’d used magic in front of two
vanilla humans. Twice. If either worked out what had happened, he’d be in
serious trouble. Then again, his mother had already marked him as a rogue
witch. There was little more serious than that.
There was something not quite right about what had just
happened. Erica was sure of it. Jared had spontaneously fallen. Twice. The guy
had never fallen the entire time she’d known him. Not even in love.
She suspected Drew had something to do with it. Was it
possible that people really could move things with their minds? Because he
looked furious right before Jared fell on his ass. If looks could kill…
Blah. Erica had work to do. She didn’t have time to ponder
wild theories about her customer.
She ignored the thunk of Jared closing his truck door.
Though her confidence was shaken by both visitors, she wouldn’t let it affect
her work. There was a brake line to fix. Erica needed her entire concentration
to make sure it was done properly. She couldn’t afford another broken-down car
and unhappy customer. She got to work.
“About Boston.” Drew. She’d forgotten about him while she
checked the car’s fluids. “Like I said, I can’t pay you right now—” Drew’s
words cut off in a strangled choke.
Erica whirled around and found his eyes bulging out of their
sockets. She bounced into action, charging across the garage. Though he
couldn’t breathe, he wasn’t grasping at his throat. Instead he lurched toward
the garage door. That made it easier for her to grab him beneath the rib cage.
She gave a good heave, hoping to dislodge whatever he’d eaten.
His palm came up. “Stop,” he said, wheezing. “Not. Choking,”
Drew slammed into her as if he’d been pushed. They went over
in a tangle of limbs. Erica’s head impacted against the concrete as Drew’s
weight bore down on her, his limbs rigid like plaster casts. Though she saw
stars, she was coherent enough to hear the garage door rise.
How had that happened?
“Haizea,” an unfamiliar male growled at the edge of the
room. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for
Drew’s weight somehow increased as though he’d ingested a
he landed on her. Erica struggled for air. Footsteps
stomped menacingly toward them.
“I’m not even surprised it was your own mother who put the
hit out on you.”
“Err-rrica,” Drew stuttered in between gasps. “Lift.”
? She couldn’t move with him
. The pressure on her rib cage
would surely puncture something tender and important if she didn’t escape.
“This is for fucking Hannah four hours before our wedding.
,” the unfamiliar male ground out.
,” Drew repeated, his breathing more
constricted than ever.
Black spots obscured her vision. Erica’s mind was sluggish
from the pain. Between the dark blotches she could just make out a scrawny male
two feet ahead and a foot to the right. He rolled onto the balls of his feet,
toward them as if he were a rocking horse. The maniacal gleam in his eye was
fixed on Drew.
Erica didn’t know how he was accomplishing it but the
stranger appeared to be doing something to Drew. And in turn doing something to
Frantically she searched for a way out of the situation. She
couldn’t budge Drew. Not even to roll him off. And he didn’t seem capable of
doing anything apart from gasping for air and weighing her down. If only there
was a way to lift him off her. With how much he weighed her down, she’d need
hydraulics to do it…
must be what Drew meant by
Their attacker stood on the left arm of garage bay three’s
hydraulic lift. She only needed to reach the button to send him on a little
ride. Erica tossed her head about, searching for something to throw. Pliers lay
discarded inches to the left.
She worked her arm out from beneath the insane weight of the
ordinarily trim guy. Stretching her limb against the resistance pulled at least
one muscle but the discomfort was worth it when she curled her fingers around
the metal. She slipped it to her side and eyed the distance to her target.
She’d never pitched a softball flat on her back with a monstrous weight bearing
down. But something told her this was literally life or death.
Erica pitched the pliers. The tool hurdled through the air.
The pliers grazed the button before falling to the floor with a clank. The lift
started up, knocking the stranger off balance. His arms pinwheeled three times
as he fell. Each revolution of his flailing limbs was closer to the ground
until he smacked his head on the lift’s right arm. Down he crumpled, landing
atop her flux welder with a dull thud.
Erica drew in a long breath. The action was much easier…
Probably because Drew didn’t weigh as much as King Kong any longer.
She nudged him off her, careful not to rattle any more bones
than necessary. He didn’t so much as snuffle. Had he passed out? Or… Erica
checked his neck for a pulse and found it pounding against her finger.
Cautiously she got to her feet, half concerned she’d broken
something of her own and half worried the slumped male under garage bay three’s
lift might wake up.