Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(5) by Susan Mallery
“I’m not going to tell you.” Ha! That should stop him.
“Fine. I’ll go where I want.” He tossed the tire into the SUV and slammed the back shut.
“Wait! Stop.” When, exactly, had she lost control?
He turned to her. “Are you really worried I’m going to disappear with your tire?”
“No. Of course not. It’s just…I don’t…”
He waited patiently.
“I don’t know you,” she snapped. “I keep to myself. I don’t want to owe you.”
He surprised her by nodding. “I can respect that. Where do you want me to take the tire?”
So he wasn’t giving up. “Randy’s Brake and Tire Center.” She gave him directions. “But you have to wait a second. I need to get a pair of earrings.”
“For Randy?” He raised his eyebrows.
“For Randy’s sister. It’s her birthday.” She drew in a breath, hating to explain. “It’s how I pay for the work.”
She waited for the judgment, or at the very least, a smart-ass comment. Instead Walker shrugged.
“Go get them.”
THE TRIP TO RANDY’S Brake and Tire Center took three minutes and when Walker parked, he found a short, beer-bellied older man waiting for him.
Randy himself, Walker would guess as he opened the car door.
“You got Elissa’s tire?” the man asked.
Randy eyed Walker’s BMW X5. “Bet you take that to the dealer,” he said.
“I haven’t had to yet, but I will.”
“Nice wheels.” Randy walked around to the rear of the SUV and opened the back. When he saw the tire in question, he groaned. “What is it with Elissa? They’re doing construction across from where she works. I swear, she finds every loose nail hanging around on the road. Always in this tire, too. There’s more patch on it than rubber.”
More patch than tread, Walker thought as he stared at the worn tire. “She should replace it.”
Randy looked at him. “You think? Thing is, you can’t get blood from a rock. Hey, times are tight with everyone, right? Got my earrings?”
Walker took the small envelope out of his shirt pocket and handed it over. Randy looked inside and whistled. “Very nice. Janice is gonna love them. Okay, give me ten minutes and I’ll have this ready to go.”
Walker hadn’t wanted to help his neighbor in the first place. He’d taken a short-term lease on the apartment to give himself time to figure out what to do with the rest of his life in quiet and solitude. He didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood and he didn’t want anyone to know him.
Except for a brief but surprisingly effective interrogation from the old lady living downstairs, he’d kept to himself for nearly six weeks. Until he’d seen Elissa struggling with the lug nuts.
He’d wanted to ignore her. That had been his plan. But he couldn’t—which was a character flaw he needed to work on. Now, faced with a crappy tire that was likely to blow the second she hit sixty on the 405, he found himself unable to walk away again.
“Give me a new one,” he muttered.
Randy raised his bushy eyebrows. “You’re buying Elissa a tire?”
Walker nodded. Best-case scenario, he would replace both rear tires. But he only had the one wheel with him.
The older man puffed out his chest. “How, exactly, do you know Elissa and Zoe?”
Zoe? Walker blanked for a second, then remembered the kid he’d seen around. Elissa’s daughter.
He owed this guy nothing in the way of explanations. Still, he found himself saying, “I live upstairs.”
Randy narrowed his gaze. “Elissa’s a friend of mine. Don’t you go messing with her.”
Walker knew that even after an all-night bender, he could take the old guy and have enough left over to run a four-minute mile. Randy’s posturing would have been almost funny—except it was sincere. He cared about Elissa.
“I’m just doing her a favor,” Walker said easily. “We’re neighbors, nothing more.”
“Okay, then. Because Elissa’s been through a lot and she doesn’t deserve to be messed with.”
Walker had no idea what they were talking about, but anything to move the conversation along. Randy picked up the flat and carried it toward the garage.
“I’ve got a couple of good tires that’ll be a whole lot safer than this one. Because it’s for Elissa, I’ll give you a good deal.”
“I appreciate it.”
Randy glanced at him. “I’ll even throw a little dirt on it so maybe she won’t notice what you did.”
Walker remembered her defensiveness about not having a spare. “Probably a good idea,” he told the other man.
“YOU’RE POUNDING, DEAR,” Mrs. Ford said calmly as she sipped coffee. “It’s not good for the crust.”
Elissa slapped the rolling pin onto the dough and knew her neighbor was right. “I can’t help it. I’m annoyed. Does he really think I’m so stupid I wouldn’t notice he replaced my old tire with a new one? Is it a guy thing? Do all men think women are stupid about tires? Is it specific? Does he just think I’m stupid?”
“I’m sure he thought he was helping.”
“Who is he to help me? I don’t know him from a rock. He’s lived here, what, a month? We’ve never even spoken. Now suddenly he’s buying me tires? I don’t like it.”
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