Authors: Anya Breton
It wasn’t logical that someone built like a pencil-necked
geek standing feet away could choke Drew and make him weigh three times as much
as usual. But everything had gone back to normal when she knocked the stranger
unconscious. Therefore it was only logical to assume he had something to do
with the strange situation.
She’d been close to death. That much she knew. Time to call
the sheriff. Erica trundled to the office for the cordless phone.
Her finger froze over the nine key at the now familiar male
voice behind her. She stomped the remainder of the way back into the garage.
Drew was awake and crouched beside the stranger.
“Don’t call the police,” he said. “This guy…he has
connections that will get him out of custody before the day is through. And
then he’ll come back to haunt you. Let me deal with it.”
More than likely he’d come back to haunt
that wasn’t the operative statement in his response. “
with it? How
are you planning to do that?”
“I can call someone.”
“You haven’t been very successful calling someone up to this
His nose crinkled while the rest of his features puckered.
“This is different.”
“It just is.”
Oh no he didn’t. Erica’s temperature could have blown
through a thermometer. “Some guy just came into my garage to attack
You owe me a better explanation than that cop-out crap.”
He glanced at the unconscious guy on the floor. “I can’t
give you a better explanation.”
“You can and you’re going to or I’m going to weld you to the
lift and let you hang there until I get a better answer.”
“I really can’t.” Drew’s pitch lifted.
Erica took a
menacing step forward, or at least as menacing as she could pull off given he
was taller than and probably as strong as her.
“I let you stay in my
storage room last night. You repay me by getting me embroiled in some vengeance
attack and then don’t even have the decency to explain what’s going on? I swear
to god I’ll hurt you if you don’t give me something better to go on.”
“It’s like the mob,” he blurted out. Drew gestured at the
slumped figure. “He has powerful connections. I can keep you out of this mess
if you let me handle it my way.”
“What exactly is your way?”
you that. You just have to trust me.”
“You can’t be serious. I’m supposed to trust a guy whose own
mother won’t help him out of a bind?” Erica winced the moment the words left
her lips. She considered apologizing when Drew went perfectly rigid.
He spoke before she could. “My mother is trying to teach me
“What lesson is that?”
“I’ll tell you if you let me handle this my way.”
“Okay, tell me and if I decide—”
“No ifs. You let me handle this my way and
“I don’t want to know that badly.”
The guy on the ground moaned, proving that though he’d
looked dead, he was very much alive.
“I don’t have time to argue with you,” Drew grumbled under
his breath as he bent toward the stranger. He hoisted the guy over his shoulder
and started for the driveway.
Erica stared in disbelief. What did he think he was doing?
She was no closer to an answer when he disappeared into the
brush. It wouldn’t be a good idea to follow him. No. Definitely not.
Drew punched Steven in the head for
the third time. He shook the sting out of his knuckles, whimpering at the pain.
Babysitting an unconscious Air witch wasn’t what he’d hoped to be doing
Saturday morning. Not to mention dodging assassination attempts.
He fished his phone out of his pocket, thumbing the number
for their housekeeper.
“Ellen.” Drew rushed the words out as soon as the ringback
cut off. “I need to talk to my mother. Someone just tried to kill me. I really
“You’re not kill-on-sight,” the family’s housekeeper said in
a dry tone to rival his mother’s. “She made sure it was clear that you’re
simply rogue until you clean up your act. No one will try to kill you.”
“Really?” He forced a sardonic laugh. “Strange considering
on the guy who nearly choked the life out of me. He also
used an Air pressure move on me and the helpful vanilla mechanic. We were
! Now let me talk to her or I’ll have the mechanic drive
me there so I can make her listen to me.”
Ellen exhaled noisily into the receiver. “I’ll try.”
“You do that.”
Steven wiggled his right leg. Drew elbowed him in the
He should just kill Steven. The guy wouldn’t have hesitated
to finish what he’d started. But Drew wasn’t a killer. The Cleaners could deal
“Your fiancée called
,” he muttered to the asshole
on the ground. “I was her bachelorette party.”
The muffled words he heard in the phone’s background implied
Ellen had successfully gotten his mother. He sat upright even though she
wouldn’t see him doing it.
“Andrew,” his mother said by way of a greeting. “I’m not
retracting the designation no matter how many grand tales of attacks you come
? It isn’t a story, Mother. I’m sitting
on Steven Brand’s unconscious figure—unconscious because I had to knock him out
before he murdered me.”
She snorted. “No one would dare attack a Haizea. Our family
is too powerful.”
powerful. The Haizea brood had been powerful when
Aston was still priest and in the running for the position of regional high
priest. And when his mother had been relevant instead of the joke she’d become.
He couldn’t say any of that. Instead he said, “Steven
doesn’t care about our family’s power—”
“Steven Brand did not attack you. This is a cry for
attention. I’m not falling for it. Turn your life around, Drew, and then you
can come home. Until then, you’re rogue.”
“Can’t we work out—”
Drew nearly threw his phone again. Instead he got to his
feet simply so he could kick Steven.
Where were the Cleaners? How long did it take to drive…
To the middle of nowhere.
He slumped. It would be another twenty minutes at the
earliest before they arrived. Until then he had to keep Steven quiet or the
mechanic would ask more questions than she already had.
There was nothing to do but think while he waited.
His mother had discounted everything he’d said. She’d marked
him as rogue and then refused to believe he was in danger.
How in the hell had Steven even found him? Had his mother
broadcasted his location to the covens?
barely knew where he was!
“Did you kill him?”
His head snapped toward the female beyond the tree line.
Erica. What was she doing? He’d told her to let him handle this his way.
“Go back to the garage,” he called out.
“I can’t let you murder someone, Drew.”
“I’m not going to murder anyone—”
“Then how are you going to ‘deal’ with him?”
He could hear the quotations in her voice. “I called someone
for help. But you can’t be here when they get here.”
“They? Is it a group, or a woman you don’t want me to know
“You insisted we could only have a one-night stand. So why
would you care if I called a woman?”
“I wouldn’t.” Her reply was falsely light. “But you said a
one-night stand didn’t have to happen at night and it didn’t have to happen
only once. You’re not getting it more than once if you called another woman.”
But he’d get it more than once if he hadn’t?
“I don’t know if it’s a woman,” he said.
“You called for help but you don’t know if it’s a woman?”
“They could send someone male or female or multiple
someones. I don’t know.” He’d never had to call the Cleaners before, had never
to. His life had been about money and sex until now.
“So why are you hiding in the woods?”
“I don’t know what these someones are going to do to this
guy but I do know I don’t want you to have to witness it.”
That had sounded strangely benevolent. Altruism wasn’t
Drew’s way. So why was he sitting on an uncomfortable rock, dripping with sweat
and desperately trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his knuckles? He could
be comfortable in the air-conditioned office.
going to murder that guy?”
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.
“You should bring him back to the garage.”
“It’s not safe.” Steven hadn’t cared about collateral damage
on his first attack. The dickhead wouldn’t hesitate to take Erica out of the
picture if he got the chance to deal with them both.
“I can chain him up.”
Steven Brand strapped in chains was not the image that
flared in Drew’s mind. Had the situation not been grave, he’d have suggested a
little bit of role-playing. It was a bad day when Drew chose the right answer
over the sexy one.
“Just go back to the garage, Erica. They’ll be here soon. I
don’t want you to be around when they get here.”
“I see,” was her stiff reply.
Oh, now he’d gone and hurt her feelings. She hadn’t been
hurt when he made that stupid crack about her figure, yet his worrying about
her safety upset her. Drew shouldn’t want to find out why. But he did.
Her footsteps started away.
Drew opened his mouth to call her back but recalled that
her to leave.
“Whu—” Steve got a single syllable out before Drew
coldcocked him with all the frustration that had built since Erica pulled up in
front of his Ferrari.
That would keep the dickhead unconscious for a while. And if
it didn’t, there’d be plenty more frustration where that had come from.
Erica was so tired of Neanderthals. She could take care of
herself. She didn’t need Drew protecting her. Especially considering
saved his ass, not to mention everything else on him, less than a half hour
Witness or no, she had knowledge of an attack. She’d be
complicit in any crime regardless of whether or not she actually saw these
mysterious helpers of Drew’s do anything. The smart thing would be to call the
There was one problem with that—she couldn’t explain what
had happened in the garage. She’d have two choices—lie or sound like a crazy
person. If she was going to lie, should she bother calling the police at all?
Erica gnawed on her lower lip. This was drama she didn’t
need. Not with customers demanding refunds on jobs and Jared threatening
lawyers. Stoddard was supposed to be quiet.
She popped the tab on a fresh can of Coke, chugging it as if
it were the first beer of the night at a frat party. Caffeine and sugar
wouldn’t settle her nerves but the familiar taste on a hot day reminded her of
her dad. Memories of fixing up the hot rod and working on cars together
Erica grabbed a Channellock wrench and got to work. She
settled into her groove after five minutes. Unfortunately that groove was
thrown off twenty minutes later when a panel van pulled onto the side of the
road across from the garage.
Erica stepped to the edge of the bay, contemplating going
out to meet them. But this was Drew’s problem. And Drew wanted to deal with it
his way. Maybe she’d luck out and they’d take him with them.
Her stomach dipped at the thought. She tightened her grip on
the wrench, reminding herself of what was important—the garage, her future. It
would be better if Drew left.
So why did her heart skip a beat when the van pulled away
from the curb and Drew came walking out of the woods? He was disheveled, sweaty
and grimy. He shouldn’t have looked hotter than ever. But he did.
“No women,” he said with his sloppy smile. “No murder in
“They’ll probably drown him in the lake instead,” she
He settled by her tool cart. The jingling of something
implied he’d lifted one of the tools. “You’re not hiding a shower somewhere in
the garage too, are you?”
“No, but I have one at home.” Erica held her breath and hid
her face behind the bumper. She’d not meant to invite him home but that had
certainly sounded like it. Maybe he wouldn’t hear it that way.
“When do we get to go home?”
She’d not been a “we” in a long time. And she
wasn’t sure she wanted to be a “we” with Drew. A laundry list of faults made
him quite possibly the worst male she could have hooked up with. The only
things he had going for him were his looks and his car.
Criminy, how shallow could she possibly be?
It was a one-night stand. Shallow was the name of the game.
Erica stepped away from the bumper, facing him. “Saturdays are a short day. I
close at noon.”
His handsome face split into a larger smile. “Nice.”
“But I have a few things to do before I can go. If you want
out of here faster, you could help.”
That smile twisted but rather than refuse her as his
irritated expression implied, he gave a small nod. “Okay, what?”
* * * * *
“Who is this?” The sharp question caught him off guard.
Women didn’t respond to him warily…until recently. Damn his mother.
Drew turned up the charm. “This is Drew. I’m helping Erica
out at Pearce Auto-body. Your Saturn is due for an oil change in the next few
weeks. While you don’t have to bring it here, we
offering an oil and
hot mechanic he wanted to help oil and lube.
His gaze strayed to where she was bent over the battery on the car she worked
on—whatever its make and model was. Her full breasts pushed at the tank top.
His mouth watered.
“And?” the woman on the phone prompted.
“Thirty percent and a nipple rotation.”
Drew’s head heated from more than lust. He let out a
self-effacing laugh. “Sorry about that. I’m eating a donut and got distracted
with how delicious these
are. The special is for thirty percent
off the service plus tire rotation.”
“Oh. My tires
use rotating. What kind of
Golden brown with a stiff little peak.
“Cinnamon,” he lied. “Can I schedule you for this week?”
“We’re going north this week—”
“Then an oil change before your trip is a perfect idea. We
can get you in on Monday at 7:30. Will that work?”
“Well…I suppose we could fit it in before we leave. How long
will it take?”
“Erica is a whiz at this car stuff. It shouldn’t take more
than a half hour for the oil change—longer if you have the tire rotation. You could
be on your way north before the morning shows get to the celebrity interview.
I’ll put you down for 7:30.”
“You have yourself a deal as long as you provide a few of
Drew chuckled nervously. “I’ll make a note for Erica. We’ll
see you at 7:30 Monday, Mrs. Kimball.”
“Thanks, Drew. I can’t wait to see the body that goes with
the voice,” the woman purred before disconnecting the call.
“You’re actually good at that,” Erica said from the door.
He set the phone down then typed the appointment into the
computer. “I’m good with people. It’s the only thing I’m good at besides sex. I
may have promised Mrs. Kimball cinnamon donuts.”
There was a silent beat. She was going to yell at him or
tell him he was shit in bed. He stiffened in preparation.
“I guess I’ll make a trip into Keene tomorrow,” she said
instead. “I could use a few things.” Erica gestured behind her. “I’m just about
done. Why don’t you shut the computer down?”
He nodded but wondered how long it took a computer to shut
down. Sure enough, she was ready at the door when the dinosaur of a PC finally
went dark. She walked to the beat-up sedan Drew had assumed was junk. He
followed close behind, hoping the car at least had working air-conditioning.
Everything worked, including the radio blaring music off a
CD. Erica jerked and turned the volume down, sending him a guilty look for
having had it so loud.
“You’ll blow out your eardrums like that,” he said.
Erica put the car in gear. “I know but I like to sing along.
It burns off frustration.”
“I know something else that burns off frustration.”
She ignored him.
He slumped fully into the bucket seat. He must have been
shit in bed otherwise she’d have been all over him. Was that why she didn’t
want to talk sex with him—she didn’t want to offend him on the off chance he
got his accounts back?
Three days ago he wouldn’t have cared why a woman wanted to
fuck him, simply that she did. Now it was the only thing he could think of.
Something rang. Erica jerked as if it were a siren. Her gaze
shot to the mobile phone in the change compartment beneath the stereo. The name
lit up the LCD screen. She exhaled—a grumpy sound.
“Your sister?” Drew asked.
She gripped the steering wheel tighter and pointedly ignored
the phone by glaring out the windshield. “Yes.”