I banged my head on the hood of the aging Chevy I’d been attempting to resuscitate. Rubbing the knot already forming, I pulled myself out from under the steel and straightened.
“I’m sorry.” The deep voice pulled my gaze to its owner.
In a charcoal suit with a pacific blue tie that matched his eyes, the man had every inch of my attention. “Umm...it’s okay. How can I help you?” Painfully aware of the grease under my nails and how I’d piled my hair into a sloppy bun that morning, I tried to sound professional.
He winced and pointed toward a black sports car parked against the curb. “I think I need another battery. Is the…” he stopped, coughed, and tried again…”are you the mechanic?”
“I’m one of them, yes. Name’s Charlie.” I didn’t stick out my hand even though I wanted to feel the touch of his.
“Nick.” The way he smiled, he didn’t seem to mind my messy look.
Suddenly nervous, I swiped a rag from the doorknob behind me and wiped my hands. “Let me take a look.”
I walked toward the sleek machine. “When is the last time you replaced the battery?”
“Last year, I believe.” His gaze lingered on mine a little longer than necessary, but I didn’t complain. “Had to call roadside assistance for a jump just to get here. It’s not holding a charge.”
“It’s probably the alternator. I’ll check, but I can already tell you we don’t have those in stock, not for this baby.” I patted the side of the car like it was a friendly dog.
“How long would it take to get it in stock, provided that’s the problem?” He’d regained composure and now leaned against the driver’s door like he had all the time in the world, which was a good thing considering how long it would take to get an alternator here.
“About a week.” I headed back to the garage and snagged the voltmeter. “It won’t take long to install it once the alternator’s in, provided that’s the problem. If this checks out, I’ll put it up on the rack and run a diagnostic. You’re welcome to wait inside.”
“I think I’d rather watch if that’s okay.”
I wondered if he wanted to watch me or my work. I hoped his interest leaned more toward me which was ridiculous considering he probably lived in a fancy city so many miles away from my small town. “No problem.”
Nick didn’t just watch. He hovered. Close enough for me to smell his aftershave and see the stubble on his chin. Which was why I dropped the voltmeter. Twice. Finally, I stepped back to breathe. “Yep. It’s your alternator. I can get that ordered for you unless you have another shop in mind.”
He gave me a full throttle smile, and I caught my breath. “Something tells me I’m not going to mind hanging around town for a week.”
Heat rose up the back of my neck, and I scurried toward the shop with him right behind me. “You might change your mind when you see how little there is to do here.” I rang up the charges, and when he handed me his credit card, our fingers touched. Lightning zipped up my arm.
“Well, I already know one thing I’d like to do.” He lifted those perfect blue eyes to my face.
“I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with fancy cocktails or trendy nightclubs.”
“Don’t judge a man by his car. I like small towns. Been thinking about taking a long vacation to a town just like this.”
“Oh, yeah?” I might need CPR any moment.
“So what time does this garage close?”
“Six.” I couldn’t hear my voice over the rapid beating of my heart.
“Think I could buy you a cup of coffee?”
Be calm, Charlie. Act like you’ve had a date before!
“Sure. I’ll need to go home first and wash off the grease.”
“I hadn’t noticed it.” His gaze had dropped to my lips.
“Oh. Okay.” I came around from behind the counter. Trying to watch him and where I was walking didn’t work. The toe of my sneaker caught on a chair leg, and I pitched forward with a surprised yelp.
Nick’s arms surrounded me before I could hit the floor. For a moment, neither of us spoke. Or breathed. “About that cup of coffee…”
“Let’s make it dinner.”
While the butterflies in my stomach did a crazy dance, I smiled back at him. “How long is this vacation you’re planning?”
“My schedule’s flexible. I work mostly online.”
“I didn’t think I could love the internet more.”
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