She looked up me, green eyes wide with relief, although she was trying not to show it. I had the job, and we both knew it. Too easy.
“Cooper Romero . . . How long have you been in town?”
“Less than a week.”
“And how long are you planning to stick around?”
“For a while,” I said, which was a damned lie. I had a mission to accomplish—then it was home to Coeur d’Alene, because fuck this little shithole of a town. “My old lady and I decided to end things. I needed to get away for a while, and wanted to be somewhere I wouldn’t run into her but close enough to still see my kids.”
Her eyes caught mine.
“Boys or girls?”
“Boys,” I said slowly, knowing I had her. “One’s ten and the other’s twelve.”
“You must miss them,” she said softly. Um, yeah. I’d totally miss them if they existed. You’re a fucking asshole, lying to her like that.
Hell, at least I was consistent.
“Every day. If you want me to get that part, I’d better leave soon.”
She glanced back down at the ancient unit and nodded her head.
“That’d be great. How much cash do you think you’ll need?”
“Shouldn’t be too much—it’s more labor than anything. I’ll bring you a receipt.”
• • •
Fixing the AC took longer than I’d expected. It was nearly seven that night before I screwed the access panel back on, packed up my tools, and started down the stairs to the shop, reeking of sweat and tar. My jeans were ruined, but I’d stripped off my shirt early on, so it was okay. It’d still been hot as fuck up there, but at least I’d been able to catch the occasional breeze on the roof. I felt tired in a good way—not so much that I wouldn’t be able to make my assigned “date” that night, but enough that I felt like I’d accomplished something. Sheer boredom had been the hardest part of the last couple days. You can only sit in a hotel room for so long before losing your fucking mind.
The stairs landed in a narrow hallway outside the main shop. There was a small bathroom in the back—shared with the storefront next door—although it looked to me like nobody had used the space in a long time. I stepped inside to clean myself up. Pointless. I’d have to pick up some Orange GOOP on the way home, otherwise I’d never get this shit off.
Of course, I had a feeling my real target was into dirty hands. Not that I knew Talia Jackson all that well, but I’d seen enough of her in action over the past week to get a feel for her. She was young, stupid, and had a crazy sense of entitlement, all because her brother—Marsh—was the president of the local motorcycle club. Talia was everything I hated in a woman, but the little bitch was my ticket into the Nighthawk Raiders.
None of this should’ve been necessary. They were nothing more than a support club, and they owed a percentage of everything they earned to the Reapers MC—a percentage that had fallen by more than half in the last three months.
Marsh was up to something. It was my job to catch the bastard, which meant that tonight—instead of bending Tinker Garrett over her prissy little counter and banging her until she forgot her own name—I was stuck meeting Talia and her girl posse at a bar.
Christ, I might even have to dance.
The irony wasn’t lost on me—how many dancers had I hired over the years? So many I couldn’t remember. Now I’d be the one performing for a woman, only I wouldn’t be getting paid. I washed as best I could, scrubbing my face and using my shirt as a towel. Then I tucked it into my back pocket and pushed through the door into Tinker’s little kitchen. No sign of her, but I heard music playing softly in the main shop. Where the hell had she gone?
I pushed through the kitchen door and looked down. Ah shit. Tinker was on her back on the tile behind the counter, one leg resting flat, the other propped up and bent at the knee. Her arm was over her eyes and I couldn’t quite tell if she was asleep.
It would take all of thirty seconds to get her shorts off and shove my dick deep inside—she’d never know what hit her. Just like that, I was rock hard and ready for action. Whipping my shirt out of my back pocket, I let it dangle across the front of my jeans. Otherwise I’d give her an eyeful.
Jesus Christ, but I was a masochist, because despite how complicated this was starting to feel, I couldn’t regret answering her ad.
Not even a little bit.
It was almost seven that evening when I felt the AC kick back on. I’d been lying on my back on the (relatively) cool tile floor behind the counter, staring up at the pressed-tin ceiling and trying to remember why I hadn’t already moved back to Seattle.
In Seattle it rained.
Cool breezes blew off the bay and the lush greenery covered everything with its shaded canopy. People didn’t really need air-conditioning, but if they happened to have it and it broke, there were lots of repairmen available.
Of course, Seattle also had Brandon. Not only that, my dad didn’t want to move, and I’d come to realize I couldn’t leave him here alone. It wasn’t safe for him, not since Mom died.
At least the AC was working again, blowing down from the ceiling vent across my sweaty body, reminding me that while the world might not be crawling with perfect men, at least there were still a few useful ones running around. Cooper Romero was a keeper, and it had nothing to do with how sexy he was . . . although the fact that he was sex on a stick—make that sex with a stick—didn’t exactly diminish his appeal.
When I’d dragged him up to the black tar roof to show him the ancient AC, I’d expected him to make a run for it. Any sensible man would. Instead, he’d spent the whole afternoon busting his ass to save my chocolates—Oh God, I wish that were code for something more exciting—officially qualifying him as a superhero in my book.
As for me, there wasn’t much I could do once I got all the sweets safely downstairs into the basement. There weren’t any customers walking in off the street, and seeing as I couldn’t make or ship candy in a 102-degree shop, I’d alternated between attempting to read a book, looking over orders I couldn’t fulfill on my laptop, and bringing Cooper glasses of iced tea. I’d been nervous around him at first, but you can only stay nervous for so long when you’re sweating like a pig—there’s a certain freedom in knowing you look like hell and there’s no saving your hair. I’d thrown my arm across my eyes in a pathetic attempt to block out reality toward the end.