I stared at my phone in confusion, reading my auntie's text again and growing sick with her vague words.
Something came up. Need you to collect my car - M
She sent me the address. No explanation, no reassurance but just an order. Thank god, the address was near so I had no problem sparing a little change for the bus ride. I was a little nervous because it was right off the edge of Miami which had a reputation for its rundown buildings where drug dealers and addicts hung about. Or so I’d heard. It was my first time being so close to uncharted territory.
“Thank you,” I said to the bus driver and he tipped his hat in acknowledgement before driving off. I stared up at garage beaming bright neon lights against the darkening sky.
I’d never heard it before. Out of every other mechanic shop, she had to choose this one? It was a large building, standing adjacent to the road for any possible customers to get their vehicles fixed. In fact, it was so far off the city, it appeared convenient, almost eerie as there were no other buildings near within a mile from where I stood. From the distance, I saw cars hanging in the air as a few men (and woman, though they were walking about) worked on the wheels which came in various sizes. They also worked on motorcycles.
An evening chill passed and I welcomed it after hours facing the blistering heat that came with Miami. Tucking a loose tendril behind my ear, I headed straight in, ignoring the stares of some of the men as I searched for some kind of receptionist. There was none. How the hell was I supposed to get my auntie’s car? There should be someone to check in for my name and evidence for a receipt, right? She’d sent me the receipt via email, just in case they didn’t believe me.
My frustration grew and my skin prickled as the stares intensified. It was only then I realised that I was the only girl here. Being surrounded by men, especially when they stared as if I was a lamb wandering into the lions’ den, was unnerving. My natural instinct was to spin on my heels and run for the hills but my aunt wouldn’t appreciate it.
I bit my bottom lips, my steps faltering as I searched around, trying to feign some confidence and seemed unfazed by the amount of attention heading my way. Not knowing how long I could pretend, I almost gave up when a deep gravelly voice shot through me. Actually, I wasn’t expecting the deep baritone and my soul fled my body in fright.
At first, I froze and frowned in confusion. Was he talking to me? Too many times I’d been a victim to answering to people who weren’t talking to me. It sounded like the voice was directed towards me but I wasn’t sure. Better to stay put than to embarrass myself. I already have enough humiliating moments to last be another good decade. Besides, who the hell was named Bambi? After a few seconds of silence, he called out again but with slight annoyance.
“I’m talking to you, girl,”
Shit, definitely me! Slowly, I turned around and came face to face with the most peculiar eyes I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring at them; I couldn’t stop staring at him. Hands down, he was the most beautiful man I’d ever met.
He was tall, really tall, with dark curly hair tumbling around his sharp facial features. Up close, one eye looked slightly greener than the other but from afar, you wouldn’t notice. In fact, they would appear more brown than green. From his bronze complexion, I couldn’t pinpoint his ethnicity exactly. I was left completely dumbstruck and I licked my bottom lip to make sure I wasn’t drooling like a dog in heat. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for me, his eyes dipped to my lips.
“Me?” I squeaked, pointing to my chest.
“You’re the only girl I see,”
“Uh...” I wasn’t the only girl but I wasn’t gonna say that to him. I lowered my gaze to my shoes, my chest tightening as my face heated. When I gathered the courage to take a peek at him, he waved me over and he walked away. I took this as a sign to follow behind.
He headed towards a door by the corner of the building. It almost seemed hidden with the cars around catching my attention. I felt the eyes of the others boring holes through my thigh length summer dress. I winced, not liking the unwanted stares I was getting, and scurried behind his heels. The guy opened the door, stepping aside to let me in first. I barely made it in when I caught the hard looks he sent to the guys from my peripheral vision. Immediately, the whistles quietened. It didn’t matter that they were gone, my embarrassment burned deeply in my chest that I felt too aware of my surroundings... of him.
Him, he needed a name. He didn’t introduce himself and I was too shy to ask. From the tension rolling off him and the scowl marring his handsome features, he didn’t seem to have a warm personality. Cold personalities set me on edge; I didn’t feel at ease around them. One move and I would feel like I’d do something wrong even if I didn’t. For fuck’s sake, he didn’t even smile when he saw me.
He rounded the desk that was filled with piles of paperwork and stacks of empty pizza boxes were littered across the ground. His dark gaze darted to me and he jerked his chin at the chair on the other side of the desk. Without hesitation, I sat down and crossed my legs and waited for this torturous silence to end.
With a sigh, he straightened his posture and the familiar sound of my auntie’s keys chimed in the air. He played with them with his pointer finger and tossed it my way. My reflexes kicked in and I caught them with ease.
“Thanks,” I murmured lowly.
“You needed a new set of tires. I caught a few other things wrong with your car and I got that fixed, don’t need to pay extra,”
He tossed the file in front of me but I didn’t look down to see what he repaired. We held gazes for a split second before I looked away. Pretending to look over the page, I stood to my feet, hiking my bag over my shoulder while clutching the keys tightly as if they’d disappear. They couldn’t disappear because I was gonna high-tail the fuck out of here.
“Thank you, I should get going,”
I turned around but paused when his deep voice reached my ears.
“You can’t leave yet.”
I paused and glanced over my shoulder. We locked eyes again. Unlike mine, which was expression my confusion, his didn’t reveal anything. I couldn’t read him and it was unnerving. The muscles in his forearm tightened and flexed as he stood to his full height. I followed his movement as he headed for the door.
“W-what do you mean I can’t leave?” I stuttered and felt my heart rate accelerate.
I did, again, and when I walked out of his office, this time none of the guys glanced my way. From the way they were acting, you’d think I was invisible. I stared at the back of his head curiously. They feared him and I couldn’t blame them. The aura he exuded was intimidating and yet... I didn’t know. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one feeling apprehensive around him. Who was this man?
He guided me around the corner of the garage and two guys were by my auntie Melanie’s car, washing it down... why? Were they part mechanics and car washers? Melanie always washed her own car, every Sunday after church, and she enjoyed it. It was her form of therapy. I felt his presence close to me, too close I could feel electric currents pass between us.
“You came a little early. Another thirty minutes more and I promise you can leave,”
The corner of his lips quirked up in amusement and I sent a nervous smile.“Thanks.”
“You say thanks a lot,”
I blinked at this and turned to him fully. He wasn’t facing me but watching his men wipe down the car. Wants wrong with saying thank you? In all honesty, that word wasn’t being said enough these days.
“I’m just being polite,”
“So you are...”
I detected sarcasm in his tone and I didn’t like it. It almost sounded condescending. “Do you have a problem with me?”
At my question, he watched me from the corner of his eyes, his irises so hazel, so bright under the drowsy sun, my breathing hitched a fraction at his intensity. “Do I need to have a problem?”
I stared at him in disbelief. Scoffing, I turned away but not without muttering. “Arrogant asshole.”
I said it loud enough for him to hear. That sounded like the perfect name for him – Arrogant Asshole. It had a nice ring to it. When I noticed the guys stepping away, I started for the car but a hand gripped my forearm before sinking to catch my hand. I stiffed and scrutinised our joined hands. I stared at him, perplexed, and he drew me closer. He didn’t let go of my hand after that. Bolts of electricity sizzled through me, travelling through my body before building right to my core. Shocked by my reaction, I tore my hand from his.
He tilted my chin up a little and the muscle in his jaw ticked as the silence grew between us. Eventually, he spoke.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feeling,”
My feelings weren’t hurt. With the shit I’d been through, I didn’t let myself have feelings, let alone catch them. He was bringing out these emotions in me and I’d already been burned enough to not let myself get too far.
Not saying another word, I spun on my heels, pressing the button to unlock the car doors and opened the driver’s side. I tossed my bag far enough for it to land in the passenger seat. I didn’t give him another look when I entered and slammed the door shut with enough force I was sure his thick skull could get the message.
Twisting the ignition, the car hummed to life and looking through the rear-view mirror, I caught him standing there, his eyes pinned on me and still, I couldn’t make out what he was thinking. Again, the stare off began and he shoved his hands into his pockets in a relaxed manner in an ‘I can stand here all day and do this’ type of way. After what felt like forever, finally, I looked away.
I drove out of the parking lot, probably a little too quickly that would give notice.
I, Vanessa Anne Davies, have sworn off relationships for the meantime and focus on myself.
And I would not let some fine ass get in my way.