“Idiota.” That took care of Portuguese.
He trudged forward, his Italian dress shoes sliding whenever he hit an icy patch, which seemed to be every other breath.
“Mjinga.” And Swahili.
A frigid blast stole the Swedish translation out of his mouth. Since he’d left his car along the side of the road and begun this half-baked trek, enough snow had fallen that his ankles were soaked. He’d kept to the center of the road, the snowdrifts making it hard to figure out where the highway ended and the shoulder began. The last thing he needed was to fall ass-first into a mound of snow because he’d misjudged. Again.
Wasn’t that just typical of his life lately?
If he hadn’t been so overly confident in his ability to steal Jacobs Fine Furnishings from under Dell Jacobs’ nose, he wouldn’t have made the drive from Harbor City to Salvation in three hours less time than his GPS had predicted. Right in time to be stranded on the side of the road in a blizzard. Because the boy genius, as the Harbor City Times had called him a few years ago, didn’t take advice from anyone. Not even electronic direction givers.
Who the hell was he kidding? Sixty percent of the reason he was trudging through the icy muck was so he could finally see Keisha Jacobs in the flesh after battling her via phone for months. The low resolution photos he’d found of her online hadn’t sated his curiosity. They were small and fuzzy, not to mention she was always hiding in the background. Still, he wasn’t the kind of man to let a question go unanswered, even if that meant driving to small town America when he could have issued his ultimatum via certified letter.
Up ahead, a neon sign flickered, and he stumbled toward it.
The Fix ‘Er Up Auto Shop sign glowed yellow one hundred yards ahead, the light acting as a beacon as the snow swirled fast and furious around him. The cold air burned the inside of his nose, but he’d stopped shivering as violently. Not a good sign.
Snow mixed with icy sleet soaked his socks. He wriggled his toes, noting he could only feel six of the ten. Refusing to give up, he dug deep for the survival instincts he normally only used in the boardroom and shuffled forward.
He was practically at the auto shop’s glass double doors before he realized he’d arrived. If his blood wasn’t half frozen in his veins, he would have fist pumped the air in celebration. As it was, he didn’t push the door so much as collapse against it.
The door didn’t budge.
God, he was an arrogant asshole. He should have stayed in the damn car and waited out the storm.
“Too little, too late numb nuts,” he said, the words escaping from between his chattering teeth.
In an act of impotent frustration, he wrapped his stiff fingers around the metal bar used to open the door and banged it back and forth, hoping the lock would give.
But a light snapped on.
A person emerged from a back room and strode toward the door. Man? Woman? Alien? He couldn’t tell by the outline since he, she, or it was backlit, but he didn’t care as long as they opened the damn door. Relief thawed out some of the ice in his veins. The person flipped on the light in the shop’s lobby.
Crowbar in hand.
She stopped three feet from the door and eyed him warily.
“Please,” he shouted against the glass. “Let me in.”
Ten very long seconds later, the door opened, and he stumbled inside, warmly welcomed by the auto shop’s heater, if not the woman wearing grease-covered coveralls.
Keeping a tight grip on the crowbar, Keisha gave the man a once over. Wet, a wool cap pulled low, a beard covering the bottom half of his face, and covered in snow, he looked more like Jack Frost than the kind of moron who went for a walk in a blizzard. So much for spending the evening elbow deep in grease while she brought her baby, a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, back to life.
There would be hell to pay if the abominable snowman dripping all over the lobby floor turned out to be a burglar. The guy was tall, at least half a foot bigger than her five-feet six-inches—not counting her hair—broad shouldered, and shivering as much as a Southern Belle in a bikini at the North Pole.
If he was up to no good, he picked a shitty night to try to rob the auto shop. The owner, Hud, had taken the cash and receipts to the bank hours ago.
“Th-th-thank you for letting me in.” Even through his cold stutter, there was no missing that he was an out-of-towner.
Big city accent. Perfectly groomed beard and mustache, both of which matched his chocolate-brown wool cap. Ruined shoes that had probably cost more than her monthly rent. The brightest aquamarine eyes she’d ever seen, so brilliant that they almost glowed against his dark olive complexion. Even with his skin tinted blue, he presented a package that would have girls sighing all over the county.
Yeah, if he was local, she would have found an excuse to meet him a long time before he showed up half frozen in the middle of what passed for a blizzard in Virginia. Still, who went for a walk during a snow storm? “What were you doing out there on a night like this?”
“My c-c-car broke down.” He crossed his arms and rubbed his palms up and down his biceps.
The man tried to cover it, but she could see his teeth chattering, and if the tip of his nose got any more red, she’d have to call him Rudolph. Her gut hitched, but her granny would smack her with a wooden spoon if Keisha failed to offer some Southern hospitality to someone so obviously in need.
“Come on, let’s get you out of your clothes.”
He quirked an eyebrow.
Heat steamed up from her toes. My, her foot sure was tasty tonight.
“I’ll grab some mechanic’s coveralls for you before you make more of a mess on the floor. Hud’s gonna kill me as it is for even letting you in to his shop.” She took a few steps down the hall toward the garage, spurred on by the embarrassment burning her cheeks. “You can change in the—“
The lights flickered.
Keisha’s pulse skyrocketed.
The florescent bulbs in the ceiling buzzed and came back on in full force.
Thank God. Being stuck in the dark in the middle of a snow storm with a stranger while she hyperventilated was not her idea of a good time.
“You can change in the break room, and I can take you up to my apartment above the shop afterward for something warm to eat. The break room is right over—“
Darkness engulfed the auto shop.
It wasn’t so black she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face, but the man was a blob of an outline lit only by the red haze of the emergency lighting. Sucking in a deep breath, she swallowed past the panic that dark or confined spaces always ignited. She tightened her grip on the crowbar until the metal bit into her palm. “Please tell me you’re not a serial killer.”