Author: Karla Doyle
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Series: Under the Hood #1; standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Steamy with Explicit Scenes)
Chapter 2 — Dove
My last conference call of the day over, I shut down the computer and head for the kitchen. Dinner alone is nothing new. Tonight, it’s looking like delivery for one, since I never made it to the grocery store.
Granger’s daughter apologized repeatedly about not getting my car repaired today. I assured her it didn’t matter. Since corporate shifted me from an in-office position to working remotely, I barely leave my house.
My house. God, I love saying that. I never could have afforded a detached house in Toronto. The company’s brick-and-mortar downsizing was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Some people have metropolitan living in their blood. I thought I did. Now that I’m here, settled into a community small enough to drive from one side to the other in fifteen minutes or less, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I open the food delivery app, swiping and tapping until my order is confirmed, and a delivery estimate pops up. Forty-five minutes. It might not take long to get across town, but nobody’s in a hurry to get there, either.
Since I can’t save time by picking up my order, I change into my running clothes and head out. Might as well work off the extra calories I’m sure to absorb tonight.
I’ve already developed a route, but today, I don’t make a right at the bottom of the hill. I go straight, instead. Then, left at the stoplights. Sixty seconds later, I veer into the parking lot at Under the Hood.
The shop is closed. The parking lot empty, except for one car, tucked down the side of the gray building. Not just some generic car. A vintage blue Mustang. Granger’s car.
I have my chatty neighbor to thank for this knowledge. Listening to him jabber on and on about Granger Smith while we waited for the tow truck had taken every reserve of my neighborly patience. That patience was worth it when I saw Granger across this parking lot this morning.
Gravel crunches under my Reeboks, the sound amplified by the silence. Quite the change from eight o’clock this morning, when the air was filled with the din of engines, power tools, and the phone ringing off the hook.
At the door, I cup my hands against the glass and peer inside. The office is dark, as is the shop beyond. It’s possible he’s not in there. He shouldn’t be, since they’ve been closed for an hour. But there’s no way he’d leave his car—that car—outside and unattended, afterhours. He seems too cautious. Too methodical. Plus, Sid explained the sentimental value of that car.
The front door is locked when I rattle the handle, so I step back and wave up at the security cameras. Then I knock on the glass, as hard as I can without hurting my knuckles. When there’s no sign of life within, I repeat the process, with more gusto. The result is the same—nothing.
Maybe I should take this as a sign. But I didn’t become a successful, female executive at a national communications company by rolling over when faced with a challenge.
I slip my cell from the holster in my running belt, and dial the shop. Five rings later, I get the answering machine, and a longwinded greeting in Shelby’s chipper voice. Not the voice I want to hear.
“Hi, this is Dove Ellis,” I say, after the tone. “It’s six o’clock and I’m outside the—” That’s as far as I get. I end the call as Granger appears on the other side of the glass, flipping the deadbolt, then opening the door.
“I heard you leaving a message.” A smile tugs at his mouth. “And trying to break down the door. Can I help you with something?”
“Yeah, I—” I laugh while shaking my head. “I was going to say I’d forgotten something in my car, but the truth is, I hoped you’d still be here, and when I saw your car, I decided to do whatever it takes to get your attention.”
“Well, you got it. What do you need?”
“I ordered too much pizza, and I need you to help me eat it.”
Granger’s chuckle is as gravelly as the parking lot. And it’s sexy as hell. So is he, standing there in a faded blue t-shirt and jeans that show off his long legs and lean physique. He was attractive in his black work uniform with the sleeves rolled up, but this?
I’m probably drooling. And not one bit ashamed. “So? Are you in?” Everything south of my equator tingles at the idea of Granger being in. I move closer. Close enough that I have to tip my head up to meet his gaze. “Do you want to come over and eat my pizza?”
If the twinkle in his eyes is any indication, he’s onto my pizza innuendo. “You should share your pizza with someone more suited to you. Someone like my son, Cam.”
My neighbor basically gave me the Wikipedia summary of Granger’s life, so I know he’s unattached. Not by choice, but single, nonetheless. It’s possible I’m not his type. The crackle of connection I felt earlier makes me think his resistance is rooted in something else, and I have a pretty good idea what it might be.
“I’m not interested in sharing my pizza with your son, or anyone else. The offer is only for you.”
“Why?” The single word doesn’t make it a simple question. Hesitation is written all over his handsome face.
“It’s not because I want a discount on my invoice, I promise.” My humor brings a fresh smile to his mouth, so I go with it. “I can sign a disclaimer, if you want.”
“A disclaimer.” He grunts a laugh. “What would it say?”
“That all the hot, mouth-watering, satisfying pizza we enjoy together tonight,” I say, placing my hand on his chest, then trailing it downward, until I reach the top of his jeans. “Has nothing to do with my car repairs.”
“Dove.” It’s a soft name, but it comes out gruff, like a warning.
I’d bet anything that warning wasn’t directed at me. I smile and press my fingers against him, before dropping my hand to my side and stepping back. “I know about your wife’s accident, and I’m very sorry for your loss.”
His lips tighten as he nods.
“Sid told me a lot about you, including that haven’t been involved with anyone since your wife passed. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone you love, and if I’m coming on too strong, or too soon, I apologize. I’ve always been a go-get-it kind of person.”
He holds my gaze, saying nothing as the wheels turn behind his gray-blue eyes.
“To be clear, I’m talking about getting you. Preferably on a hot date, ASAP, because I’m very attracted to you. But if you’re not attracted to me, I’ll respect that.”
“Any man with functioning vision would be attracted to you.”
“How’s your vision?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“20/20.” The deep chuckle that follows sends a ripple of awareness clear down to my toes.
“Does that mean you’ll be joining me for pizza?”
About the Book:
Thirty years of elbow grease and commitment have made Under the Hood one of the busiest garages in town. I live and breathe work since my wife died. My kids encourage me to move on, meet someone new, but they don’t know what I know—soulmates happen once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.
That doesn’t mean my eyes don’t work, and I can’t take mine off my newest customer. The friendly, flirty brunette wants me to do a lot more than fix her car, and God help me, I’m tempted. I’m drawn to her in ways I never expected to experience again.
Dove is beautiful and smart, she’s also twenty years younger than me. Her touch is like jumper cables to my heart, but can she repair all the broken parts of me?
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