Read SweetlyBad Online

Authors: Anya Breton

SweetlyBad (9 page)

BOOK: SweetlyBad
Chapter Eight


A car pulled in front of the house.
Erica didn’t budge from the sofa. It was probably a lost tourist. Or maybe it
was Tina, come to verify Erica had a friend over. That would be perfect timing,
given her “friend” had left
taken her car hours ago.

What had she been thinking? Would insurance pay out if she’d
volunteered her keys to the car thief?

Based on the exhaust sounds, the visitor had pulled into the
driveway rather than continuing forward. Not a tourist. Definitely Tina.

Erica should have said she’d babysit. At least she’d still
have her car if she had. And her sister wouldn’t be able to hold this over her

There was a brief knock against the front door and then
someone stepped inside.

Erica’s jaw dropped open. “Drew?”


Drew glanced down at himself. Everything looked as rumpled
as it had earlier. So why was Erica staring at him with that comically wide
mouth as if she were shocked? And why had she
it as well?

He took a tentative step inside the house. “Yes?”

Erica’s mouth closed. “I…” She didn’t finish whatever it was

He glanced behind him to where he’d parked her sedan and
then back at her. His eyes narrowed. “Why do you seem shocked to see me?”

“I’m not shocked.” Her gaze swiveled away—avoiding his.

A lie. Aer all around, she would explain herself if it took
him all night.

Drew set his suitcase on the floor at his feet. “When you
saw it was me at the door, your jaw dropped open and you said my name as if it
was surprising. Why?”

“Why would I be surprised it was you?” She let out a nervous
laugh. “You said you were getting your luggage. The luggage was in the Ferrari,

“Yes, the luggage was in my Ferrari.”

Erica lifted one shoulder. “I guess I was just surprised you
were gone so long. I thought you’d gotten lost.”

His mouth tightened. “Lost in a town of less than two
thousand with only a handful of roads? I’m not smart but I’m not that

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

He shifted his weight onto the foot braced behind him. “Then
what did you mean it like?”

“I don’t think you’re helpless and I’m sure you’re smart—”

Drew snorted in disgust.

“I mean…” She glanced to the television and then back as
though she’d find inspiration there. “You were really good on the phone today.”

He was good on the
? Had women always stroked
his ego so conspicuously? And he’d
it? “Just tell me the truth,

She exhaled heavily, closing her eyes as she did. When they
opened again she was ready with an answer. “I thought I’d never see you or my
car again.”

He stared at her for five silent seconds. “What?” The tone
that came out of his mouth could only be described as glacial.

To her credit, Erica winced. But she didn’t give an

“Why did you give me your keys if you thought that?”

“I didn’t worry until after you left.”

He slumped against the wall, thrusting a hand into his hair.
It would have been
his hair if his fingers hadn’t gotten caught
in the tangled mess his locks had become. Perhaps that was a metaphor for his
life. Yes, it too was a tangled mess.

He wished he could scoff at her and say she was crazy.
Shamefully, he
considered taking her car to Manchester. It had been
a selfish urge to get his old life back. Then he’d recalled his life—the
constant hopping from woman to woman and the complete lack of meaning.

Above all, he remembered his mother’s simultaneous faith and
disgust. Amanda thought him so beyond reach that she’d resorted to stripping
him of everything to get through to him. The message had been received. He
couldn’t go back to Manchester with or without his Ferrari until he turned his
life around.

So he’d videoed Erica’s ex sabotaging her garage
her work, and then he traveled back so he could share the evidence with her,
only to find her shocked at his return. Here he’d thought she’d be so happy
he’d ferreted out the culprit in her mystery that she’d ask him to stay.

Wait. When had he thought
? Erica wasn’t about to
ask him to stay. She’d met him
. Maybe she’d let him stay the
night—the one-night stand she’d agreed to. But come tomorrow, she’d tow his car
to Boston exactly as she’d said.

Yesterday he’d wanted to be away from this two-bar town more
than anything. Tonight was another story. And tomorrow? He could hardly imagine
what he’d think but strangely, he wanted to be here to find out.

At the very least Drew had to stick around until Jared was
behind bars. Then and only then would Erica be safe.


Erica nibbled her lower lip. He sounded angry. Drew had
bitched and moaned yesterday when she picked up his car but he hadn’t been
angry. Even during the conversation with his mother, the many women after and
the attack in the garage, Drew had been defensive, desperate and agitated. But
not angry.

Why was he angry now?

“Whatever you may think of me, I’m not a thief,” he said. “A
playboy, an asshole, a snob—I’m all of these. But I’m not going to steal my
mechanic’s car and strand her miles from her business. If I really wanted your
car, I’d give you a pretty story about why I needed it that would persuade you
to let me have it. But I wouldn’t steal it.” Drew walked to the edge of the
living area and leaned against her stuffed chair. “Like the trip to get my
luggage. It was a story. I didn’t really want my clothes. I would have rather
walked around your house nude so you’d decide you wanted to fuck me again. I
went out because I thought your ex was up to something and I hoped I could
figure it out.” Drew shook his phone at her. “Lo and behold, I got way more
than I bargained for.”

Erica glanced between his face and the phone. “This is about
you thinking he’s sabotaging me?”

sabotaging you, Erica. I have proof.”

She swallowed down the worried lump in her throat. What if
sabotaging her? Who would believe her? Almost two decades,
he’d been in business. People trusted him in this town.

“Do you want to see it?” Drew prompted with another shake of
the phone.

Erica reluctantly nodded.

He tapped around on the device and then held it out to her.
She inhaled a deep breath. And then looked down.

The image was fuzzy as if shot in a steam room. Though it
was obvious from the audio that something was happening on the small screen,
she couldn’t tell what it was.

“I…can’t tell what’s going on.”

Drew dropped onto the sofa beside her, swiping the phone
from her hand. He brought his head low and then, as if recalling he could lift
the phone, brought it up to eye level. Several times he tapped, rewound, tapped
and twisted the thing.

The lens must have fogged up in the
heat. How are we supposed to get Jared thrown in jail without proof?”

“Jail?” Erica exclaimed and hopped to her feet. “I don’t know
if making a few cars break down is jail worthy.”

Drew shoved the phone in front of her face. “That, right
there, do you hear the air compressor tool thingy? He was unfastening a bolt on
. He isn’t just sabotaging your work after the fact anymore.
Now he’s trying to kill you!”

Erica’s breath left her in a rapid gust. If the lift
failed…a customer’s car could fall. It could crash into the garage door or
worse. Someone could get seriously injured.

“Jared wouldn’t do that.” Her voice was small despite her
believing what she’d said.

“He deleted appointments off your calendar on the computer.
He took notes about old ones. He unfastened at least two bolts on the lift.
Then he sabotaged your work in your customer’s driveway! Your ex is bad news,

“You saw him do this?”


Erica sighed. “I don’t know what to do. The police aren’t
going to run fingerprints on my tools. And even if they did, Jared would just
tell them he helped me with something. They’ll believe him.”

“Do you have security cameras in the garage?”

She shook her head. “This is Stoddard. We’ve never needed
security cameras.”

“You do now. We’ll look for something in Keene tomorrow.”

Earlier today she’d have shouted at him for his presumption.
The thought that Jared would do something so evil as
loosen bolts on her
made Erica feel vulnerable. She’d let Drew help her with security

Right after she checked the bolts at the shop.


“I’m a little…on edge. I need to take a drive. It will clear
my head.”

Drew stared, waiting for her to relent and tell the truth.
She was a horrible liar.

“You should take that shower,” she said. “You look…hot.”

His eyes narrowed. She didn’t mean he looked
in mouthwatering, jump-into bed-for-a-marathon-night-of-sex hot. She meant
like an

The prideful part of him acknowledged she was right. He did
need a shower. The new, oddly protective part of him didn’t want her going out
on her own.

“Your ex sabotaged your garage while I watched. What will he
do if he catches you out alone?”

“The same thing he’s done for the past seven months—taunt me
for dumping him.” She shrugged as though to say it was no big deal.

Drew settled his weight evenly between both legs and folded
his arms in front of him. “Why don’t you tell me why you’re really going out?”

Panic shot her eyes wide for a bare second before she got
control of her expression. “I’m going out to clear my head. Like I—”

“Has anyone ever told you that you suck at lying?”


The pink flush that built in her cheeks told him everything
he needed to know. “Just tell me.”

Erica’s chin came up. “I’m going to check the lift for
evidence that it’s been tampered with.”

His spine stiffened. He didn’t want to ask the next question
because he feared the answer but he couldn’t stop himself. “And if it looks
like it was?”

“Then I’ll go from there.” There was a slight, flippant
motion of her shoulders.

“You’ll go from there,” he said bitterly. “You don’t believe

“All these bad things started happening when you showed up.”
Erica smacked a hand over her mouth.

The meaning of her words slowly came together. Drew stumbled
a step back, flailing his arm out to stop himself from hitting the wall.

“I see.” The words came out croaked.

Her head sank to the right. Remorse filled her eyes.

For what? Hadn’t she been telling the truth? Finally?

“In that case,” he said, turning and grabbing hold of his
suitcase, “I’ll leave so the bad things stop happening.”


Drew tugged her door open, stepping through.

She was close on his heels. “Where will you go?”

“I’ll figure something out.” He let out a hollow laugh. “I’m
sure some woman will want to help me. Even if I do look…

It must have been exactly what she needed to hear because
she didn’t stop him. No matter how much he wished she would.

Drew started down the gravel road.

He’d thought being stranded in a two-bar town as a rogue
witch was the worst. But he’d at least had Erica’s help. Now he had nothing.

The only thing he had going for him was that there was
nothing left to lose.


Drew, come
back,” Erica called from the front door.

He was nowhere in sight. He couldn’t have gone far, not
lugging a large suitcase. Erica darted back in, grabbing the keys he’d dropped
on the side table. She paused for her purse then ran headlong for her car.

Though he was taller than her, he hadn’t changed her mirrors
or seat. Or if he had, he’d set them back before he’d gotten out. Had he been
dangerous or polite?

She twisted the key in the ignition and then backed out.
There was no sign of him on the gravel road. Was he walking in the woods?

Drew seemed like the kind of guy who would remain near the
road on the off chance someone would take pity on him. But there was no doubt
about it—he wasn’t on the road. She peered closely in the rearview mirror but
saw no figures heading in the opposite direction either.

Erica rolled the window down so she could try once again.
“I’m sorry, Drew. Come back…or at least let me give you a ride wherever you
want to go.”

She hit the brakes, listening for an answer. There was none.

Erica took the first block slowly, scanning the woods for a
gorgeous blond. If he
out there, she should have been able to spot
his suitcase moving, even in the thick shadows cast by the sinking sun. Had he
disappeared into thin air?

She shook the strange thoughts out of her head. What was it
about him that made her think fanciful things?

At the end of the rural block, Erica called out one last
time. “I’m going to the garage, Drew. I hope you’ll be at my place when I get

As she rolled the window back up and pulled forward, she
she hoped he’d be there. He’d insulted her and
generally been surly. The only reason he helped her make a few phone calls was
because he’d hoped it would get him out of the garage earlier. And then he’d
taken her car so he could investigate Jared instead of suggesting they do it
together. Yes, she would have refused him. But that wasn’t the point. He was
just like every other guy—just another male who thought she was a helpless
female in need of coddling.

So why in the world did she hope Drew was at her house when
she got back? The sex had been adequate. Having more would be nice. But it was
more than that.

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