Since when do you take advice from that pompous windbag Tad Whittinberg? Savannah O'Brien chided herself, glancing to the left and right after turning the corner. She'd never had a car before six months ago, so when Tad had asked her how "Corvette life" was treating her, she'd admitted it had a few clunks--literally. Tad had recommended a garage on the Upper West Side. Instead of asking the name of it, she'd asked for directions.
And now you're lost, she concluded. Amazing to have lived in New York City all her life yet she had no clue where this place was. The truth was, about all she'd seen lately were her apartment in Greenwich Village and her law firm in Midtown, Fifth Avenue. She couldn't remember the last time she'd gone out with anyone, let alone friends. When her mind drifted to the novel little restaurant in SoHo she and old friends used to frequent, she shook the thought off before it could become an actual memory.
Savannah had no idea what to expect of this garage, precisely because of who the recommendation had come from. Tad's mind attached importance to everything he said and did. Any grease-monkey shop became the white palace emporium if Tad Whittinberg deigned to frequent it.
Shaking her head in disgust, Savannah sat back against the stiff leather seat. Then she saw it. A sign so familiar, déjà vu reached out and grabbed her right by the heart.
Before she could give it a second thought, she yanked the steering wheel hard in that direction. Until she heard the screech of tires and at least a dozen blaring horns, her instincts ran on one-cylinder focus.
With her cheeks flushed hotly, she parked in front of the white painted, brick building, then glanced over her shoulder in chagrin at the near accident she'd caused. A few drivers gave her final, sharp rebukes with their horns.
A man in dark blue coveralls rushed out of the garage, clearly wondering if an accident had happened right outside. The man wasn't the man--the one she'd almost killed herself, and maybe a couple other motorists, over a moment ago; the one whose logo topped the building looming in front of her. A brightly painted fox with its bushy tail curved around its feet and a sly grin looked down from the sign. She knew that fox. Brett Foxx. He'd had the same logo on the back of his leather jacket with the word FOXX in studs beneath last she'd seen him. Back when he'd been a highwayman in Savannah O'Brien's heart.
Could it be him? Had he really settled down enough to own a business? It had to be. His name was on the sign: Foxx Body Shop. Had Tad known Brett owned the garage he recommended?
"Hey, lady, you okay?"
Other than being a little blindsided by the past? Savannah laughed to herself. "I'm fine. Who owns this garage?"
The barrel-bodied mechanic leaned down to glance in at her from the passenger window. The patch on his uniform read "Mikey." She instantly remembered him from the times they'd all hung out together as a group. Obviously Mikey didn't remember her though.
"That'd be Brett Foxx, ma'am."
Savannah's heart-rate went into triple cadence at the confirmation. Her mouth dry, she asked, "Is he here?"
The towheaded mechanic grinned at her. "You know anything about Brett Foxx, ma'am, you know he's where he likes it best--under a wicked honey who takes dangerous curves."
For a stunned second, Savannah just stared. But how could she be jealous? In all the time she'd known Brett, he'd had a steady girlfriend, someone she'd genuinely liked. Savannah had never had a shot with him anyway--and part of her hadn't really wanted one. Infatuation was better than true love. And fantasy was infinitely better than reality.
"Sounds like the Brett I knew." She smiled and got out of her car. "I need my car looked at..."
"Well, come on in. If you're a friend, he'll wanna do ya personally."
Savannah felt a rush of heat flood her face at the image the mere suggestion created, but the mechanic was already striding toward the door he'd emerged from.
Now's the time to be cool and calm, she lectured herself, resisting the urge to fan her hot face as she followed Mikey inside. The aroma of warm oil, gasoline and antifreeze hit her sharply, surprising her when she realized she kind of liked the scent.
"Yo, Brett! Got one for ya!" her escort shouted.
Savannah expected Brett to come out of an office somewhere with a "honey" following shortly after. Instead she heard the scrape of steel on concrete as a creeper rolled out from under a bright red Testarossa Spider, a car that by all appearances could definitely be called "a wicked honey who took dangerous curves". Savannah's first instinct was to laugh because of what she'd assumed, but the way Brett looked at her stalled her completely.
In slow motion, his gaze traveled from her feet to her head. She was a hundred percent certain he'd missed nothing. Not the barely-there scuff on her right pump, not the faded scar just below her left kneecap, not the purple lace intentionally peeking out beneath her tailored suit, and certainly not the goofy, near-tears, how-long-has-it-been? grin she couldn't control. "Savvy O'Brien," he said under his breath.
"Thought I'd finally lost that nickname." She said it with tears in her throat. He surely knew she'd accepted his personal nickname for her, since they'd spent so much time together in the past...and he'd said it so often during that time. He couldn't know that she liked it, not so much because of the embedded compliment, but because she loved the way he spoke it in that deep, bedroom voice of his. He said it like he enjoyed wrapping his tongue and lips around her name. He said it like she was special to him.
He sat up on the creeper, a slow grin lifting the corner of his mouth. "Guess you never know what fate's got in store."
While he stood, she couldn't decide whether to step back or step closer. Something about this man had always intimidated...and attracted her.
Despite the fact that, when she wore heels, he was a half inch shorter than she was, his sheer presence made him appear to tower over her. She stood her ground.
Wiping his hands on a rag, he moved in on her in that unleashed, animal stride that set her heart racing once again.
"Baby, did you look this good last time I saw you or is the lighting in here playing tricks on my eyes?"
She could barely breathe. The warm scent of the garage filled her lungs; this beyond-sexy man did the rest to render her dizzy and incoherent inside her own head. Had he looked this good the last time she'd seen him? Everything about him was familiar and yet she might have been struck by lightning, based on her reaction to him now. He hadn't changed. He was still Brett Foxx--lean, mean, untamed and personifying reckless sex in a mere glance. "Light must be playing tricks on my eyes, too," she murmured.
Someone dropped something nearby, an echoing clang of metal on the cement floor that jolted Savannah out of her reverie. She wasn't here to renew an old friendship, even if Brett wanted the same. "My car--"
He cut her off with another lopsided grin. "Was that you out there?"
"That"--the accident she'd almost caused out front. She flushed as if he'd seen it and knew why it'd happened.
"Some old boy must've caught sight of those mile-long legs." He glanced down for an instant, giving every indication he meant her legs. Then he started out of the garage, to her car, presumably.
He'd always been a flirt. Not necessarily in terms of oozing charm, but in honesty. Brett Foxx never had any trouble saying what was on his mind. Even those impulsive thoughts most people chased out of their own heads before they could reach verbalization, he said out loud. No regrets.
Savannah followed him out of the garage and found him eyeballing her Corvette. "Since when did you get a car, Savvy? Weren't you the one who said New York City needed cars like dogs need fleas?"
She smiled at the fact that he'd remembered. "When you're all over town during the day, it becomes necessary." And when the only feeling you get is from revving a car, you compromise, she added to herself.
"She's a honey," he said, speaking real low. "What's wrong with her? She can't be more than six months old and she's already giving you problems?"
He could have been describing a child...or a lover. She'd never understood men's attachment to cars. She'd bought the Corvette from a professional basketball player who'd decided the car was too low-slung for him, class or no class. Every time he hit a pothole, he'd risked creating a sun roof in it--the hard way. "It...she clunks."
"Front or back?"
He glanced at her, and she raised a shoulder in uncertainty. "I'm afraid cars are your area of expertise. It clunks underneath. That's as specific as I can get."
As if the heat was getting to him, he shucked off his coverall so the top part hung down his back. Beneath, he wore a wide arm-hole tank that followed every muscular ripple of his torso. Savannah had a difficult time concentrating on anything he said when he squatted at the rear-end of her car.
She'd seen men twice his size, but she'd never seen anyone who could match the power emanating from Brett. If he'd picked up her car and looked under it right now, she wouldn't be surprised. He seemed that powerful to her. Imagine being in the arms of a man that powerful. She bit gently on the corner of her lip at the thought.
"How much time you got?" He stood, moving toward her, forcing her to abandon an oldie-but-a-goodie fantasy.
"Oh. Ah, I don't know. How long do you think it'll take?"
Something about his expression left her feeling exposed. He couldn't know what she'd been thinking...but he could have noticed the lapse in her attention.
"Fifteen, twenty minutes, if even. Muffler's still good. Just needs to be reattached."
Savannah nodded sheepishly. "I can wait." When she held out the keys, she wanted to tell him to take his time...as much time as he possibly could.
* * * *
She was a honey, all right. Brett had to acknowledge he'd been down for a long time, but he wasn't dead. He'd have to be dead not to react to Savannah O'Brien. Sophistication, sensuality, smarts--she had it all. But he planned to let her walk out of his life because he'd made a vow--no more first moves. Women were a hell of a lot easier to handle when they made all the rules.
"Well, that didn't take long," Savvy said, once the car was back out of the garage, clunk-free. He caught the note of disappointment in her voice. She's outta your class, man, and you know it. One glance know it.
Take away the five hundred dollar suit, the upswept, cinnamon colored hair, the diamond studs sparkling in her ears and on her wrist--and the lady was down-to-earth real, with a wild streak a mile wide. As warm and friendly as Savvy was, he'd seen how she kept men at a distance. And he didn't need his heart broken beyond repair more than once this lifetime.
Brett stepped closer to her, just to see the flash of anticipation claim her whiskey-colored eyes.
"How much do I owe you?" she asked.
Brett wouldn't accept money from her and was sure she knew him well enough to know that. "I charge by the hour, not the minute."
Unable to help himself, he drew a strand of the silky hair framing her face through his fingers. He wanted to ask her how she was doing, what she was doing, who she was doing it with. Instead, he chucked her under the chin and said, "Careful with those legs in the future, Savvy. Or you're gonna send some poor guy to the emergency room claiming it was worth the injury."
Before he turned and walked away, he saw her grin and figured, since it had to end, it was a good place to end it.
"Who was that?" Mikey asked him.
"Used to be my lawyer."
Mikey nodded, still looking after Savvy though she'd gone. "She's class. Think maybe she can make you revoke your vow to stay away from women?"
Brett wasn't looking to break his vow, but he couldn't see how Savvy fit into his multi-leveled promise to himself not to use sex anymore to fill the emptiness or loneliness he felt a lot of the time. Savvy'd been his lawyer. Still..."She's gone--"
The words barely emerged from his mouth before he heard her voice again and turned toward the door.
"Since you won't let me pay for the work you did, how about having dinner with me tonight?"
They met each other halfway across the garage. "You can bring Rori or--"
"What time should I be there?"
She gave him a little, almost shy smile. "Seven o'clock? I haven't moved, if you still remember my address."
They'd had a lot of good times together in the past, with his friends--Doobs, Darlene, Rox, Diane, Mikey and Jace. His friends had become her friends. Her friends, her boyfriend, had never become his. But he and Savvy had never been completely alone together in the past.
Brett guessed he could sit through a meal alone with her. He might be tempted to have her for dessert, but he figured wanting was a stretch from taking. Rori had taught him all about caution when she walked out on him.
"I remember it."
Behind her huge smile of pleasure, he saw something that gave him pleasure. She was nervous. In all the years he'd known her, they'd never had the opportunity to explore the thread of tension between them. He'd blamed that tension on her. Men made her nervous somehow, yet she still liked to play with them.
Was she attracted to him? Or was it just her streak of wildness looking for another playmate? He wouldn't be that playmate. For the first time in his life, he'd rather have friendship than mind-blowing sex. Friendship rarely ended with a heart-breaking sendoff.
"So I'll see you at seven."
He nodded, then thought as she walked away, What is it about her? No other woman except Rori made me think it could get heavy and I could be letting myself in for a world of hurt.
Savvy had been here for twenty minutes, and he'd flipped out six ways to Sunday. Shaking his head, he turned away. Mikey chuckled. Brett ignored him.