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Authors: Anya Breton

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BOOK: SweetlyBad
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“You’re not going to answer it?”

“She probably wants me to babysit.”

“You just babysat last night.”

Erica shrugged. “She doesn’t care.”

“Just tell her you aren’t going to do it.”

“It’s not that easy. She’ll lay a guilt trip on me—” She cut
herself off as though she’d been about to explain what her sister had to hold
over her.

Drew shouldn’t have been disappointed that she hadn’t
finished.

Without warning Erica snatched up the phone. “Hello?”

He tugged a little Air magic out of the aether and used it
to sharpen his hearing so that both sides of the conversation were audible.

“Brad is going bowling tonight and I have a girls’ night,”
the woman on the other end said. “I need you watch the kids.”

“I just watched them last night.”

“I know but this is an emergency. We’ve had this planned for
weeks.”

Erica exhaled quietly—a sound of frustration if Drew had
ever heard one. “Tonight isn’t good for me. Ask Sally.”

“It’s girls’ night, that means Sally is going
with
me. C’mon, Erica, I know all you’re going to do is watch that CSI marathon.
It’s your short day. Don’t be so selfish.”

Drew grabbed the phone out of her hand. Erica’s jaw dropped
as he set it to his ear and announced, “Actually, tonight she’s going to do me.
Find someone else.” He flicked his thumb over the disconnect button then set
the phone back in the change compartment. “Problem solved.”

“You had no right to do that!”

“Someone had to. You certainly weren’t. Why do you let her
call you selfish?”

“You—” Erica halted on whatever angry response she’d been
about to give. She released a small puff of air out of her nose. “It’s easier
than listening to her whine.”

“What does she whine about?”

Erica shot a look at him. “Why do you care? You’re just a
one-night stand with a contact list larger than the Stoddard phone book.”

Why
did
he care?

Drew cleared his throat. “You helped me out. I’m trying to
help you.”

Her wary gaze settled on him as she waited at a stop sign.
“Our father left me the garage and the house when he passed. Tina got money in
the will. She feels like I got the lion’s share.”

“Your father’s decision makes
you
selfish?” Drew
laughed. “She has no idea what selfish is.”

“I bet you know all about it.”

He might not have heard her statement if he hadn’t magically
shored up his hearing. But he had. And it made him think.

Did
he know about being selfish?

His world had crumbled when he discovered every woman he’d
been with had only been after his money or his clout. But the truth was that
he’d used them for his pleasure every bit as much as they’d used him.

Yes, he knew about being selfish. He’d written the book on
it.

Chapter Seven

 

Erica didn’t dare let on that
she was pleased Drew had gotten her out of babysitting.
Thanking
him was
out of the question. He shouldn’t have butted in like that, especially given
she’d have to explain it to Tina.

Drew wouldn’t stick around past tonight. He’d use her
shower, eat her food and disappear in the morning.

“I’d offer to cook but I don’t know how,” he said. “We have
a housekeeper who does all that. I never had to learn.”

She needed the reminder of their insurmountable differences
after all the help he’d given at the shop. For a yuppie, he’d been shockingly
good at manning the garage’s phone. His explanation had made sense—he was good
with people. A player would have to be.

“Do you know how to cook?”

“I know a little. Enough to keep me fed,” she said as she
resumed the drive up the hill.

“I wasn’t allowed to take any classes in culinary arts.
Amanda wanted me to concentrate on sports and service.”

Erica stiffened. Had there been a woman long ago who made
decisions for him? One he resented now? That could explain why he’d thrown
himself fully into being a playboy. “Who is Amanda?”

“My mother.”

Erica’s brows lifted. “You call your mother
Amanda
?”

“It’s her name.”

“Yes, but…most people call their parents Mom and Dad or
Mother and Father. They don’t use their given names.”

Drew shrugged rather than give a response.

She recalled what it was that he’d said. “Why wouldn’t your
mother let you study what you wanted to study?”

“I guess she was grooming me for something specific.”

“What was that?”

“I don’t know.”

“So your mother wouldn’t let you study what you wanted
because she wanted you to do something else but you don’t know what that is?”

“I guess I was supposed to help position my brother
politically.”

Finally something that made sense—yuppies in the government.
Drew
had
looked like a president’s snooty brother when she pulled up in
front of his Ferrari. “Your brother is in politics? What is he? A senator?”

“Something like that. But he quit and ran off with the
housekeeper’s daughter. I no longer have to position him politically. So I
don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself now.”

“Is that why your mother cut you off?”

“She claims she cut me off because I disgraced the family.”

“Did you?”

Drew stared out the window for several silent moments.
“Yes.”

He’d admitted it. That was surprising. Drew struck Erica as
the type who would rather lie than admit he was wrong.

This was good. If he could admit it to her, then he could
admit it to his mother. He could get his life back. Erica wanted him to be
happy. He wasn’t happy without his housekeeper and his money.

“Have you tried apologizing?”

He snuffled. “I’m really good at apologizing but not good at
meaning it. Amanda knows that. She’s won’t accept anything less than proof I’ve
changed.”

“What kind of proof do you need?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to change.
She just said I had to turn my life around.”

“Maybe you just have to show that you can take care of
yourself.”

He heaved a sigh but didn’t argue.

Perhaps he realized using her cot and her shower as well as
eating free pizza wasn’t exactly taking care of himself.

“I could see about finding you a job.” She pulled the
vehicle into the old house’s driveway. “They might need someone to stock over
at the general store.”

Drew snorted. “I’ve never worked a day in my life. I
wouldn’t know how to stock or what stocking is.”

She turned off the engine and twisted in the seat. “Drew,
you worked today. You did a really good job on the phone. I’d hire you myself
if I could afford to pay another person. But with the refunds I’ve had to
give…” Erica brushed her palm over her forehead. A sigh slipped from her.

“You shouldn’t have given her a refund without looking over
the car.” Drew’s hard tone put her on the defensive.

Erica popped the door. “She’d already brought it to Jared. I
didn’t have a choice.”

He opened his as well, standing when she did. “Convenient,
don’t you think?”

She peered over the roof at him. “What are you saying?”

“Your ex wants to buy your garage. You won’t sell. So your
customers’ cars start breaking down after they’ve left the shop.” Drew patted
the top of her car. “It seems obvious to me.”

Erica started for the house. “Where else would they break
down? I wouldn’t let them leave the shop if something was wrong with them.”

“Exactly.” He stepped up behind her at the front door to the
two-story Cape Cod. “Nothing was wrong with them.”

She tugged her keys out of her purse. “But they broke down.”

“You’re missing the point. If your work were as bad as Jared
claims it is, he’d sit back and let the shop close on its own. But he’s not.
He’s hassling you daily.”

Erica pushed the door in and stepped onto the slate tile.
“Are you implying Jared is sabotaging my work?”

“Yes. And the next time someone’s car breaks down and Jared
already has it in his shop, you need to demand to see…it.”

Her attention flew to him. He glanced around the ground
floor with wide eyes.

“What?” she asked.

“Hmm?”

“You hesitated. Why?”

Drew gestured around the living room. “Your house—it’s
nothing like what I’d thought it would be.”

The muscles in her shoulders went taut. “What did you think
it would be?”

“Small, cramped, dilapidated,” he said. “But this is
spacious.”

What about the dilapidated part?

“I like it.”

Well now. A yuppie liked her house? She shouldn’t have been
pleased. But she was. “I’ll give you the tour.”

 


No one visits so all the soap
and everything is in the master suite shower. You’ll have to use it.”

Drew followed Erica into the master suite—a room cluttered
with cast-off clothing and more books than his brother’s library. “Like to
read?”

He picked up the nearest novel on the table beside her
queen-sized bed, noting the couple caught in an intimate embrace on the cover.
Romance? He would have pegged her as a murder mystery fan.

Erica snatched the book back and turned the cover over
against her thigh. “The bathroom is through there.” She gestured with her free
hand. “Don’t use up all the hot water. I need a shower too.”

She fled with her paperback before he could comment. Drew
picked up another book, flipping it over so he could read the blurb.

A young woman gets caught up with the wrong witch—sparks
fly and lives are changed forever.

She read romances featuring
witches
? Did she believe
in their existence?

Drew let out a hollow laugh. What would she say if he told
her what he was? That
she’d
gotten caught up with the wrong witch?

He tossed the work of fiction aside then strode into the
bathroom. It smelled strongly of her—the whole house did. It was torture.

He wanted to fuck her again. He’d wanted to since she
stormed back into the storage room complaining about him sleeping the day away.
If he was awake, he was thinking about fucking her. Which was why it was
absolutely insane that he wasn’t going to let himself.

Before yesterday he would have wallowed his troubles away in
the supple flesh of a willing woman until someone else did something to help.
But Amanda and Aston weren’t going to sort his problems this time. Only he
could sort out his life.

And that meant helping someone other than himself for a
change.

 

Erica smelled Drew before she heard him. He was ripe. He
hadn’t taken a shower yet?

“I forgot my luggage,” he said from the kitchen door. “I
don’t have anything to change into. I need to go get it.”

It was a six-mile hike down the hill into town and the
garage. While the trip wouldn’t be terribly difficult for a guy in his physical
condition, finding his way without getting lost would be.

Drew leaned against the door, giving her a sloppy smile.
“Unless you want me walking around nude all night.”

Erica snatched her keys up from the counter. “Take the dirt
road down to the paved road. At the bottom of the hill, take a left. You’ll
reach the garage after a mile.”

His fingers brushed over hers as he took the keys. She
shivered from the touch.

“I’ll be back,” he said. The screen door slammed behind him.

Criminy. She was an idiot. She’d voluntarily given him her
keys! He wasn’t coming back. He was going home.

How could she be so dim?

She slumped down into one of the wooden chairs at the
kitchen table and dropped her head into her palms. At least she had a photocopy
of his driver’s license. She’d know who to send the police after. First, she’d
give him a few hours to prove her right. At least she’d stop lusting after him
if he stole her car.

There was always a silver lining.

* * * * *

The garage was up here somewhere. Had Drew passed it
already? Her directions implied it was impossible to miss. And yet…

Ah!

He spotted the sign for Pearce Auto-body…and the extra
vehicle in the parking lot. That pickup truck hadn’t been there when they’d
left. And it looked familiar. As did the asshole peering through the garage
doors.

Jared—Erica’s ex.

Drew kept driving past the business and pulled into the next
side street. He parked the car where he had a view of Erica’s parking lot
without being
in
view. There he remained until the guy crouched in front
of the garage and began
lifting
.

Drew turned off the engine, lamenting the sudden smack of hot
air that rushed the cabin without the competing air-conditioning. But there
were bigger problems than sweat. What did Jared think he was doing, sliding
under the garage door? And why wasn’t it
locked
so he couldn’t do that?

A little magic was in order. Drew lassoed energy from the
aether and filtered back the sounds from the garage. He also softened his
footsteps so Jared wouldn’t hear him creeping closer. The garage computer’s
internal fan kicked on as Drew quietly stalked forward. Hidden by an exterior
wall, Drew watched around the corner as Jared waited for the old machine to
boot up.

“Piece of crap,” Jared said and then stomped into the
garage.

The guy lifted a large tool off the floor. He brandished it
as though he’d smash the windshield on the Ferrari. His attention shifted to
the side—either to the lift or something outside. Had he heard Drew?

Drew tensed, readying for a fight.

Rather than vandalize the foreign car or attack Drew, the
guy examined the metal lift post for several seconds. He then turned and
surveyed the garage around him. An air compressor caught his notice. Jared
exchanged his tool for another—this one connected to the compressor by tube.

Drew gripped the garage door when Jared positioned the tool
over a screw on the lift post. Surely Jared wouldn’t put his ex-girlfriend at
risk like that.

The smack of metal against metal and the whine of the
compressor said otherwise.

Drew pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, hoping he
hadn’t broken the camera function when he’d thrown it. He started the video
recorder app and pointed the phone at the window. Jared provided juicy action
for the camera. Now all Drew needed was a shot of the guy’s face so there would
be no question who had sabotaged Erica’s lift.

But when Jared set the tool down and set his grimy hands on
the Ferrari, Drew had difficulty remaining motionless. The guy tried the doors
and the bonnet. Finding them both locked, he headed back to the office,
presumably in search of keys. Jared stopped off at the computer, where he
scrolled back in Erica’s calendar and scribbled a few notes on a notepad.

Was that how he’d known which cars to sabotage?

Drew used the zoom feature on the phone to catch the guy’s
next clicks on the computer. He
deleted
entries Drew himself had
entered. That really burned his balls.

Fortunately Erica had locked the cars’ keys in a lockbox.
Unfortunately Jared managed to pick the lock. Sifting through the customers’
keys, the guy quickly found the fob with the Ferrari logo. He flipped off the
computer and then started back to the garage.

Drew remained still as Jared unlocked the Ferrari and popped
the back. He managed to hold his tongue while the guy disconnected hoses and
generally messed around inside his engine block. It took everything in him not
to press Jared to the ground exactly as Steven Brand had done to him.

A part of Drew wanted to punch the guy in the face the good
old-fashioned way. This guy deserved to have his nose broken rather than simply
being knocked onto his ass with Air. Drew was almost willing to mangle his
knuckles to do it.

But this was more serious than a punch. This man needed to
be behind bars where he couldn’t put Erica or her customers in danger. That
meant making it back to her place without incident.

Maybe it was the coward’s way out but Drew didn’t know any
other way to be. He hid in the tree line that edged the parking lot as Jared
slipped out. But he continued recording the video, making certain to get the
guy’s license plate number in case none of the profile shots would be enough.

Then he sprinted for the car so he could make chase.

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