“If I did, would you believe me?” His voice sounded closer in the dim light.
Keisha yanked the crowbar up, holding it like a baseball bat. She may have been a soft touch for the little match boy and let him inside, but she was not going down like that.
“I’m kidding.” He stepped back, and it looked like he raised his hands, palms forward. “Shit, sorry, I have the weirdest sense of humor. I’m an asshole.”
She eyeballed him as best she could. Her dad might tease her about being too trusting, but nothing about the stranger set off her I’m-about-to-die-and-have-my-murder-made-into-a-Lifetime-movie alarm bells. “What’s your name?”
“Gabe. Gabe Campos.”
Shock loosened her grip, and she almost dropped the crowbar. “What is this, some kind of setup? What the fuck are you doing here?”
He took a step back, keeping his hands up like she was about to mug him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh really?” Even though she couldn’t see him, she could practically taste the lie in the darkness. He’d probably just rolled around in the snow after stepping out of a stretch limo to make it look good when he banged on the door. “You just happened to get stuck in the storm. You just happened to decide to take your chances walking on the road when anyone with half a lick of sense knows to shelter in place? You just happened to seek refuge from the storm at Fix ‘Er Up?”
He stopped under an emergency light on the wall. The red glow was enough to see the soft, cautious smile he wore like a shield. It was the kind of smile people used with territorial dogs and overly tired children so they wouldn’t go totally berserk. “Um…yeah.”
“I should throw you back out on your ass.” The nerves pulled taut throughout her body screamed for her to do just that. This time, he’d crossed the line.
“Look, I don’t know who you think I am, but—“
“I know exactly who you are. You’re the asshole trying to put my father out of business.”
The defensive smile slid from his face, replaced by wide eyes and a slack jaw. “Keisha Jacobs? You look different than the crappy picture on the company website.”
So did he. The tabloid picture hadn’t done him justice—even in the dim lighting and his new beard.
“If it’s not a setup, what are you doing in Salvation?”
“Right now?” He grinned. “Freezing my ass off.”
Damn it, no matter her threats to do so, there was no way she’d make him go back out there. She’d been raised with better home training than that. But that didn’t mean she had to like it.
“There’s a break room over there.” She pointed to a closed door on the other side of the lobby. “I’ll get you dry coveralls to change into.”
“Hey, Keisha, thanks for letting me in.”
“Don’t get too comfortable. I still might change my mind. Let me give you a flashlight.” As familiar with Fix ‘Er Up as she was with her own interior design business or her father’s manufacturing facility, she strode over to the counter and opened the bottom drawer. She pulled out two large flashlights and handed one to Gabe.
The flashlights didn’t banish all of the shop’s gloom, but the narrow beam of light sure slowed her heartbeat down to a steady beat. “I’ll meet you in the break room.”
He gave her a small salute and walked in the opposite direction from the main garage where she was headed.
It took a couple of minutes to find a clean pair of gray coveralls that looked like they’d fit, but she’d finally located some in the supply room. Just in case, she grabbed the First Aid Kit and one of the towels Hud used to protect a car’s interior if he was working inside the vehicle. Better to be safe than sorry.
Taking a quick glance at her reflection in the Thunderbird’s shiny bumper, she pinched her cheeks and puffed her ‘fro. Not that she cared what she looked like. It was habit. Really. Ignoring the twinge in her conscience, she hurried back into the lobby and strode to the closed break room door. She tapped her knuckles three quick times against the wood and turned the doorknob.
“I think this will—“ The rest of the sentence died on her lips.
Gabe stood in the middle of the break room with his shirt off and his jeans unbuttoned. With his fly halfway down, the denim clung for dear life to his hips. The flashlight threw shadows across his bare, muscular chest, but there was no missing his well-defined abs or the brown happy trail drawing her gaze farther down than she had a right to look. But look she did, because he was damn fine, and it had been a long, long time since she’d seen something so yummy. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, and she gave up any pretense of being a normal human being who’d had sex in the past six months.
“Thanks.” He held out his hand. When she didn’t move, he grinned. “Or I can stay like this. I’m feeling a lot warmer now.”
Dressed in scratchy gray coveralls, Gabe tried to get the lay of the land from what his flashlight’s weak beam illuminated. All he could see were flashes of off-white wall, laminate flooring, and old hunting magazines on a worn coffee table. “So, you live here?”
Keisha didn’t bother to slow her pace as she led the way through the dim auto shop. “Not everyone in the world lives in a penthouse, you know.”
He didn’t need the light to imagine the dirty look she was probably giving him. Fuck. Why did he always say the wrong thing around her? It happened on the phone, too. He just couldn’t stop himself. So much for being Mr. Smooth. If the tabloids could see him now, they’d be eating this shit up.
“That’s not how I meant it. It just…” He struggled for the right words. “…seems a little odd for you to live above an auto body shop.”
She jerked to a stop and whirled around, her hand planted on her round hip, and shot him a glare, made even more intimidating by the way the narrow light from her flashlight played off her high cheekbones. “Why? Because I’m a girl?”
Damn. He had sisters. He knew what that look meant. He gulped.
“What you meant.” She snorted. “Of course not, because that would be totally sexist bullshit.”
He opened his mouth but clamped it shut before he could say anything else that would get him in even more shit.
Keisha quirked one eyebrow, the look on her face daring him to say something. Anything.