“Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He took the coat, their fingers brushing against each other and sending a bolt of electricity dancing across her skin. “We’ll have to catch dinner one of these days when you move to Harbor City.”
She flexed her fingers, trying her best to ignore the belly flop-inducing attraction he always caused as well as the chest-tightening sadness settling in her stomach. She knew a blow-off when she heard it. “Sure.”
“Okay.” He swallowed hard and rammed his long fingers through his thick hair. “I’ll see you then.”
Limbs as heavy as waterlogged lumber, Keisha stood in the middle of the driveway as the Aston Martin pulled onto the main road and headed for the interstate and Harbor City beyond. The wind’s icy fingers clawed at her skin, but she couldn’t go in. Not yet. Not while there was a chance his brake lights would flash cherry and he’d come back.
She shoved her icicle hands deep into her pockets and shivered alone as the taillights shrank in the distance, growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared. Keisha stared at the empty road and chewed the inside of her cheek until the physical pain matched the figurative ache in her chest from the beating her heart had just taken.
The wind whipped against the closed bay doors at Fix ‘Er Up, making a whump-whump sound as the metal doors accepted the pummeling. If only she could do the same. But the same honeyed voice kept playing in her head, stuck on repeat since Gabe said goodbye after the big reveal at the Beauchamp’s new house three days ago.
“We’ll have to catch dinner one of these days.”
Then—poof—he was gone. What had she expected? The extra key to his penthouse? An invitation to cruise the world on his yacht? More wild, hot, make-you-forget-the-rest-of-the-world-existed sex? Okay, that last one would have been nice. But she was a big enough girl to recognize a polite blow-off when she got one.
So flicked the latch and raised the Thunderbird’s hood. Some people did yoga. Others drank. She found nirvana when she had grease under her nails and an unobstructed view of a carburetor. With only a few days to go before she drove the packed U-Haul to Harbor City to start her new job, she needed to take advantage of the opportunity to commune with her baby while she still could. The view of shining metal and a carefully restored engine should have made her giddy with pride.
She pulled the rolling toolbox nearer. This blue funk was nothing a little valve stem replacement couldn’t kick in the ass. Hanging her hand towel on the hook attached to the toolbox, she eyeballed the cylinder heads. The valve stems didn’t need replacing. She glanced under the hood, searching for something—anything—to keep her hands busy. She’d adjusted the valve lash last week, and the timing was as spot on as it could be.
“I’d offer to help, but what I know about cars wouldn’t fill the gas tank.” Gabe stood in the doorway, his broad shoulders taking up almost all the space.
Her heart fluttered in her chest. Damn, he looked good in a navy blue suit, checked shirt, and gold tie. The man wasn’t shy about his style, and she liked that. Almost as much as she liked how his tailor managed to highlight every muscle in Gabe’s chest without showing any skin. Or the way his black frames brightened his blue eyes. Or his sexy smile, half hidden by his trim beard. Or…well…everything.
Her muscles went all wonky, and she stumbled, even though she’d been standing perfectly still. K., get it together. She ran her suddenly damp palms over her coveralls as if she could straighten out the loops her stomach was traveling at the moment. “I hear you have trouble keeping your gas tank full as it is.”
“Hud ratted me out, huh?” Was that a blush on his cheeks? Who’d have thought it possible?
She didn’t try to disguise her amusement. “The story of the billionaire who can’t remember to gas up his expensive car did make the rounds at The Kitchen Sink diner.” She giggled and shrugged. “It’s a small town. People talk. But, I promise we were laughing with you, not at you.” She paused. “Well, mostly.”
He nodded and raised a red, plastic gas jug. “That would explain why Hud gave me this on his way out the door and made me promise to fill it before I left.”
“Hud’s gone?” Wings flapped in her abdomen as her gaze searched the dark lobby behind him.
“Yep, it’s just us.”
Nerves jumbled her system, leaving her jittery. “Why are you here?”
He let out a wry chuckle. “You might as well know the truth now. I’m an impatient asshole. I couldn’t wait any longer.”
There was no way he was going back on his deal. The Barrington Inn had returned to the Jacobs Fine Furnishings client list, along with the addition of several other small hotels and even a few wealthy families wanting customized pieces. Just like he’d promised. She may not know Gabe as well as she could, but she didn’t doubt his word for a second. “For what?”
“Our dinner.” He stepped to the side, revealing a large, insulated bag at his feet, which he picked up. “I hope you like Chinese. I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I brought a little of everything from my favorite place in Harbor City. Don’t worry, it’s still warm. I took the helicopter.”
Her heart dipped down to her toes before rebounding back into her chest where it started to pound against her ribs as if trying to make an escape. “You actually have a helicopter?”
He left his post in the door and prowled over to her like a jungle cat stalking its prey and stopped within arm’s reach. Every fiber in her being yearned for his touch and demanded her to reach out, but uncertainty at his reaction held her back. After all, people like him probably jumped in their helicopters all the time without a second thought. It didn’t necessarily mean what she really wanted it to mean.
That this time he was in Salvation for her and only for her.
“What kind of self-respecting rich dude would I be without a helicopter?” Gabe asked, his self-deprecating humor undercut with a hard, desperate note of desire.
She looked up into his brilliant blue eyes that couldn’t be lessened by the barrier of his glasses. Lust, warm and enticing, hit her blood stream like the world’s most potent drug. “A richer one?”
“True.” His fingers grazed her waist before trailing downward and coming to rest on the curve of her hips like they belonged there. Like he belonged with her. “But money isn’t everything.”