Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(4) by Susan Mallery
“Move!” she yelled at the lug nut on her very flat tire. Nothing. Not even a whisper of budging.
She dropped the lug wrench onto the damp driveway and swore.
This was completely her fault. The last time she’d noticed the tire getting low, she’d driven to Randy’s Brake and Tire Center, where Randy himself had patched the nail hole. She’d sat in his surprisingly tidy waiting room indulging herself in gossip magazines—a rare treat in her world—not even giving a thought to the fact that he was using some stupid machine to tighten the lug nuts. She always asked him to tighten by hand, so she could take off the flat herself.
“Need some help?”
The question came from nowhere and startled her so much, she wobbled and sat down right in a puddle. She felt the wet seeping through her jeans and panties. Great. Now when she stood up, she would look as if she’d wet herself. Why couldn’t her Saturday start with an unexpected tax refund and an anonymous chocolate delivery?
She glanced at the man now standing next to her. She hadn’t heard stealth guy approach, but as she looked up and up farther still, until their eyes met, she recognized her semirecent upstairs neighbor. He was a few years older than her, tanned, good-looking and at a casual glance, physically perfect. Not exactly the type who tended to rent an apartment in her slightly shabby neighborhood.
She scrambled to her feet and brushed off her butt, groaning as she felt the wet spot.
“Hi,” she said, smiling as she carefully took a step back. “You’re, um…”
Damn. Mrs. Ford, her other neighbor, had told her the guy’s name. Also that he had recently left the military, kept to himself and apparently had no job. It wasn’t a combination that made Elissa comfy.
“Walker Buchanan. I live upstairs.”
Alone. No visitors and he didn’t go out much. Oh, yeah. Good times. Still, she’d been raised to be polite, so she smiled and said, “Hi. I’m Elissa Towers.”
Under any other circumstances, she would have found another way out of her dilemma, but there was no way she could loosen the lug nuts herself and she couldn’t just sit here praying to the tire gods.
She pointed. “If you could be burly for a second, that would be fabulous.”
“Burly?” The corner of his mouth twitched.
“You’re a guy, this is a guy thing. It’s a natural fit.”
He folded his impressive arms over a rather impressive chest. “What happened to women wanting to be independent and equal in the world?”
Hmm, so there was a brain behind those dark eyes and maybe the potential for humor. That was good. Neighbors of serial killers always said the guy was so nice. Elissa wasn’t sure Walker qualified as nice, which was, in a twisted way, a bit of a relief.
“We should have worked on our upper body strength first. Besides, you offered.”
“Yes, I did.”
He picked up the wrench, squatted down and in one quick movement that left her feeling both inadequate and bitter, loosened the first nut. The other three followed just as fast.
“Thanks,” she said with a smile. “I’ll take it from here.”
“I’m already involved,” he told her. “I can put on the spare in a couple of seconds.”
Or so he thought. “Yes, well, that’s a funny story,” she said. “I don’t have a spare. It’s big and bulky and really weighs down the car.”
He straightened. “You need a spare.”
His statement of the obvious irritated her. “Thanks for the advice, but as I don’t have one, it’s not very helpful.”
“So what do you do now?”
“I say thank you.” She glanced pointedly at the stairs leading to his apartment. When he didn’t move, she added, “I don’t want to keep you.”
His gaze dipped from her face to the large nylon bag on wheels, lying next to her on the driveway. His mouth tightened in disapproval.
“There is no way you’re going to carry that tire somewhere yourself,” he said flatly.
Definitely not nice, she thought. “I don’t carry, I drag. I’ve done it before. The tire place I go to is less than a mile from here. I walk there, Randy patches it for me and I walk back. It’s easy. Good exercise, even. So thank you for your help and have a nice day.”
She reached for the tire in question. He stepped between her and it.
“I’ll take it,” he told her.
“No, thank you. I’m fine.”
He topped her by at least seven or eight inches and he had to outweigh her by a good sixty pounds…every ounce of them muscle. As he narrowed his gaze and glared at her, she had the feeling he was trying to intimidate her. He was doing a good job of it, too, but she couldn’t let him know that. She was tough. She was determined. She was…
“Mommy, can I have toast?”
Why was life always about timing?
She turned to her daughter standing at the entrance to their apartment. “Sure, Zoe. But let me help. I’ll be right in.”
Zoe smiled. “Okay, Mommy.” The screen door slammed shut.
Elissa glanced back at Walker, only to find that stealth guy had used her moment of inattention to pick up her tire and walk toward his very expensive, very out-of-place-for-this-neighborhood SUV.
“You can’t take that tire,” she said as she hurried after him. “It’s mine.”
“I’m not stealing it,” he said in a bored tone. “I’m taking it to be fixed. Where do you usually go?”
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