“Oh God! Oh no! Shit!” The last word was drawn from Angel Sullivan’s lips, sustained and loud as she fought to maintain control of her dying car. Horns blasted around her. Cars whizzed by on her left as she squeezed the last bit of juice from her fourteen-year-old sedan.
“Come on. Please!” she pleaded. The end of the bridge was in sight. Her car bucked forward, jerking her in her seat. Then it rumbled and knocked. She pulled off to the right as far as she could while it rolled to a dead stop. Smoke coiled up from her hood, fanning out against the gray sky as she sat now unmoving on the Zakim Bridge—one of the major arteries in Boston.
Passing cars shook her in her seat. She pressed her forehead to the wheel. “I can’t believe this is happening,” she whispered. Then she held her breath and tried to turn her car over, but only a grating noise reached her ears. “Come on,” she pleaded with her car and the universe. “Please start.”
She tapped her gasoline reader. Supposedly, she still had half a tank.
“Damn it,” she muttered before she reached for her cell phone.
At least, she had roadside service. She did her best to ignore the cars hurrying past just inches from her door as she called the emergency number. It was a man who answered.
“Hi,” she said. “I’ve broken down on the Zakim Bridge.”
“On the Zakim? That’s not good.”
No shit! She wanted to scream. “I realize that.”
He asked for her member number. Then, after a lengthy pause, he said, “Well, hang tight. We’ll have a truck there soon.”
“Thank God,” she breathed. “How long will it take?”
“An hour and a half at the most.”
“An hour and a half! But that’s crazy. This is Boston not Frye Island, Maine. There’s got to be a dozen garages within twenty minutes of here.”
“A truck will be there within an hour and a half,” he repeated.
She laid her head back against the headrest in defeat. “Fine,” she said. After answering a few more questions, she ended the call just as the gray churning clouds overhead unleashed sheets of rain.
“Great,” she whispered, nervously eying the cars whizzing past. She was grateful the morning commute was over, because fewer cars were out on the highway. Still, as the hour approached eleven, traffic could move much faster. And now that the road was wet, all she could picture was a car hydroplaning right into her, smashing her against the cables or forcing her car to somehow plummet off the bridge into the Charles River.
In her rearview, she saw a black Jeep coming up fast behind her. Her shoulders shot up around her ears as she braced herself for her own rickety car to shake as it raced by. But instead, the Jeep slowed as it passed, then pulled off the road in front of her.
“Oh geez,” she whispered. Her heart raced even faster as she watched for what would happen next. Sure, she didn’t like the idea of waiting on the busy bridge for another fifty-two minutes, at least, but she also didn’t want to attract the attention of strangers. She gripped the wheel as the black door opened and a tall man with wide shoulders and short, wavy, black hair stepped out. He pulled the hood of his gray sweatshirt over his head, huddled down against the pelting rain, and started toward her.
“Oh my God!” She snaked her hand out to make sure the car door was locked.
Watching him draw near, she wished he would just turn around and go back to his car. The closer he came, the harder her heart pounded. And then, suddenly, he was beside her. A soft tap, tap, tap accompanied the rain on her driver’s side window.
She looked up at him through the rivulets rushing down the glass.
They locked eyes.
“Oh God,” she said aloud, struck by mesmerizing ice-blue eyes beneath a deeply furrowed brow. He held her gaze for several moments, his face unreadable and hard. She didn’t know what to do. His sexy good looks screamed bad boy, and his present frown was anything but friendly.
He didn’t actually expect her to unlock the door or get out of the car, did he?
Sure, she was young, terrified, and completely alone in the world, but she wasn’t stupid.
She was about to write a note to hold up to the window telling him just that when suddenly his full lips curved in a slight and very sensual smile before his knuckle again lightly tapped the glass. Prompted by his sudden smile and her lack of writing utensil, she took a deep breath and cranked the ancient lever on her door to crack her window.
He rested his brow on his forearm, which was draped across the top of her door, and peered down at her. His eyes quickly scanned over her and the inside of her car. Then he simply said, “Pop the hood.” His voice was deep and unhurried despite the traffic rushing by just inches behind him and the rain hammering down from above.
“I called my roadside service,” she blurted, her hands gripping the wheel in a death lock.
Once more, his gaze traveled over her. Then he angled his head as he looked through her windshield at the smoke rising from her engine, visible even in the downpour. “How long have you been here?” His deep voice sent chills up her spine.
“Ten minutes,” she said nervously.
“Then you still have a long wait. Pop your hood. Let me take a look. If I can get you back on the road, I will; otherwise, I can take you to the nearest garage.”
She gazed into his deep-set, blue eyes. He had a tan complexion, a broad forehead, a strong angular jaw-line, and full, wide lips. God, how she wanted to say yes to him. She had no desire to stay out on the roadway another moment. Still, even gorgeous men could be serial killers.
“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath.
His lips lifted in a sideways smile. “What was that? I didn’t catch what you said.”
She held her tongue a moment longer and continued to meet his gaze, but despite his breathtaking eyes and her desperate, not to mention already dangerous, circumstance, her fear won out, as always. “No…no, thank you,” she stammered.
He lifted a thick, black brow at her. “You know you could get killed out here, right?”
Damn the sluggish and half-assed roadside assistance people!
She swallowed. “I appreciate your concern.”
He looked at her for another moment before he shrugged. “If you change your mind before I’m out of ear shot, beep your horn.” He walked slowly back to his car as if to give her the chance to come to her senses. But all too soon, her would-be savior climbed into his Jeep and drove off.
Dammit! Come back here, she wanted to scream.
She sat there under the constant battery of rain and traffic for another fifteen minutes before the police showed up. At first, the officer told her she couldn’t park there. Again, she was forced to swallow the words—no shit. Instead, she explained her car wouldn’t start and roadside assistance was on the way. The cop looked at her sternly before returning to his car.
Her knuckles somehow blanched even whiter from her grip on the wheel. Was he going to write her a ticket? Was it somehow illegal to break down on the Zakim? She waited, watching the officer, her whole body beginning to ache from the tension. Then flashing blues caught her eye in the rearview. Another cop had pulled up behind her. She watched through her mirror, waiting for the officer to step out of the car, but he stayed put. She realized then that she had earned a police barricade for breaking down on the busy bridge. Her shoulders eased a little. She closed her eyes and rested her head back. What felt like hours later, though in reality was less than ten minutes, a tow truck slowed alongside her car. Now, two of the four lanes of north moving traffic were taken up—all because of her and her piece-of-shit car.
“This is humiliating,” she muttered as she watched the traffic slow to a crawl on the far-left lanes.
She held her breath, wishing for the tall man with the gray hoodie to jump down from the tow truck, but instead an older, ungainly man started toward her. He was certainly tall, but she likely out-weighed him with her one hundred and thirty pounds. Despite the police presence and the choir of car horns, the man walked sluggishly toward her. She glanced at the nametag on his loose, grey jumpsuit as she leaned forward and popped the hood. “Please, let Larry start my car,” she prayed to God, the universe—anyone who might hear the desperate plea of a girl whose account was overdrawn. Then she stepped from the car.
“Pop the hood,” Larry barked at her over the rain, horns, brakes, and sirens. The scent of salt and vinegar chips on his breath assailed her senses, overpowering even the stink of exhaust and oil.
“I already did,” she said lamely, wishing she was anywhere else in the world.
“That dump shouldn’t be on the road,” some asshole shouted as he slowly cruised by, while Larry disappeared beneath her hood with a portable jump starter.
“No shit!” she yelled after him, unable to stop herself. But she paid for her outburst. Immediately, her anxiety worsened. She fought the urge to climb into the backseat of her unworthy car to hide from the world.
A couple minutes later, the tow truck driver motioned for her to come over. “Gonna have to bring it in. Grab your things. You can ride in my truck.”
She could barely see his eyes through the thick lenses of his rain-splattered glasses. She grabbed her bag and dashed from her car to the passenger side of his truck and pulled herself up into the seat. After her car was secured behind them, her less-than-dashing hero climbed in next to her. One of the cops held back the traffic to let them in.
Finally, she and her car were getting off the bridge.
“Which one?” the driver asked.
She cut him a sidelong glance, noticing that he had not cleared the raindrops from his glasses. Resisting the urge to ask him if he could even see the road, she asked, “Which one…what?”
She chewed her lip and looked down, for the first-time noticing her foot was on an empty bag of chips—the source of the offensive smell that was twice as potent inside the cab of the truck. She forced herself to forget the odor and her ever increasing anxiety over how much it was going to cost to fix her car, to think about the man’s question.
She liked the guys a couple blocks down from her apartment. It was where she always went to get her oil changed. The manager was cute and nice and never made her feel like a moron because she didn’t know what a piston was. But she certainly wasn’t going to ask Larry to tow her car to Dorchester.
“Umm…the closest. Right, because the longer you drive the more I pay?” she asked.
“That’s how it works.”
“Then definitely the closest garage.”
Less than fifteen minutes later, they pulled into a freshly paved u-shaped driveway. Above the closed triple bay doors was a sign that read “Calloway Automotive” in shiny chrome lettering, and on top of the flat roof was a sleek motorcycle.
“You go ahead inside while I unhitch your car,” Larry said before he slid off his seat to the ground.
Angel quickly grabbed her bag and jumped from the truck cab, desperate to escape the lingering scent of his pungent snack. Hurrying across the parking lot, she swung open the entrance door, setting off a quick bell. As she approached the desk, a woman came around the corner. Cherry black hair skimmed the woman’s waist like a waterfall, bone straight and glistening. Her trim and clearly enhanced figure was wrapped in a deep purple dress.
“Hi there,” the woman said, a slow, seductive smile spreading across her face. “What can I do for you?”
She was the kind of woman that made Angel feel frumpy, especially after just finishing her shift at the bakery. She was everything Angel wasn’t—full but tight figure, perfectly applied makeup, tits bursting from her designer clothing. Angel pushed a wayward lock of her dark brown hair behind her ear and resisted the urge to redo her messy bun.
Anyway, what would be the point?
Sure, Angel was fit—she worked on her feet all the time, but any curve she had was reserved for her ass alone. Her breasts had always been on the small side. The rest of her was as put together as a demolition site. Her morning routine consisted of slapping a coat of mascara on her lashes and a layer of Vaseline on her lips before running out the door.
Next, to the woman at the counter, Angel felt utterly forgettable.
“My car was just towed here.”
“Okay. Just take a seat,” the woman said before walking away, her hips swaying in a perfectly feminine rhythm. As she disappeared through a polished swinging door, it occurred to Angel what a curious sight the woman was behind the counter. She looked like someone who might be on a poster, draped across a muscle car, adorning the walls of a garage—not working in one.
Angel took a seat. The chairs were comfortably padded. There was a TV suspended in the corner. She looked away from the sharply dressed newswoman predicting more rain for the Boston area. On the table, there was a mix of magazines: fitness, cars, home improvement. She picked up one on cooking, but put it down just as quickly. She was too nervous to even pretend to read. What if her car was a goner? She had recently overdrawn her account renewing her registration. Hell, she couldn’t afford the inspection she needed by the end of the month.
Forget the universe. This time she just straight up prayed. Please, God, let it be a new battery.
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