Eight hours later, Destiny sat beside Richards as they studied the screen of the Pale Dawn’s cargo hold. They’d stowed all but one remaining salvageable part from the Yeoman’s Paradise there.
She rose from the console. “I’m going to check the scanners.”
He swiveled in his chair and satisfaction rippled through her with the knowledge he was watching her take the three steps to the remote console. She reached up, drawing her skin-tight leather pants tighter about the curve of her buttocks. His low exhale of breath in the silence told her he liked the view. They’d been together three years. A lifetime in space. He’d never told her he loved her, but she figured if he didn’t—or if he got tired of her—he’d leave.
Did he know she loved him? She couldn’t help a private laugh. When did a man ever know what a woman was thinking? Destiny turned. Richards now faced the console. She smiled. Some cool customer he was.
She returned to her seat and sat down. “Why don’t you rustle us up something to eat while I chop up the last piece of the hull?”
He grinned. “Stealing a Kirsoval ship works up an appetite, doesn’t it?”
She gave him a dry look. Debris left to drift in space was fair game. But the Kirsovals wouldn’t see it that way, and Richards figured that was funny.
“I’d say my hunch to set course for Caldox Prime was a good one,” he said.
That’s right. She’d forgotten. He’d been insistent they head for the asteroid. Richards seldom cared where they went, and he’d never been as sure about a destination—or a particular route—as he had been with this one. She looked back at him. He was still grinning.
“Go on,” she said. “I don’t need any distractions.”
He studied her and, for a moment, she wondered if he was considering taking action based on his earlier perusal of her ass. She had just about decided to take the decision out of his hands when a shadow darkened his eyes. There, but not there. She thought about the Kurse for one weird instant, then he waggled his brows, and the look passed.
He swiveled in his seat and gripped the arms of the chair in readiness to push to his feet. Destiny had the unexpected impulse to grasp his arm and tell him she’d changed her mind, she didn’t want him to go the galley, but wanted him to stay right there with her. Before she could act, he was on his feet and she couldn’t resist the urge to look over her shoulder at his retreating back.
No doubt he thought she was examining his ass as he had hers a moment ago—tit for tat was his philosophy—but it was his hair that grabbed her attention. The coal black locks brushed the nape of his neck in a tangle that would be unruly in another day or two, as if he was a week overdo for a haircut, something she had never known him to let happen. Richards’s biggest vanity—he had quite a few—was his hair. He kept a perfect cut at all times. How had she missed that until now? Only last night she’d had her hands tangled in that soft mass when he’d brought her to climax while his cock stroked the sensitive walls of her channel. The faint squish of his rubber-soled boots on the floor as he stepped over the metal lip at the doorway jolted her from the memory.
A chill passed over her, a strange contrast to the warmth now pooled inside her. She shook off the flushed heat with some effort and faced the console as her fingers closed around the joystick. Destiny shifted her attention to the monitor and startled at seeing a face out there. The image of a hefty man hiding behind the remaining piece of hull that hung in space in front of the Pale Dawn. In vacuum? Then he was gone. She blinked and he was there again, behind a twenty-by-three meter piece of crystal-steel that had once been the window of the ship’s bridge. A figure stood at the window as if standing on the nonexistent metal floor, staring out into space…straight at her.
“When do you expect the new mechanic?” he asked, eyes fixed on the photo. “I want to start testing the new Yates engine we bought for Daytona.”
“We’ve already started.”
Rex jerked his attention back to Duff. “You know I like to be around from day one. Emerson would have called.”
“Rex, you need to know Jimmy is—”
“I haven’t even met this guy and you’ve got him working on my car. Since when?”
“Since Wednesday. Look, there’s something—”
“Four days? I want to see what he’s done.” Rex tossed the photo onto Duff’s desk and turned.
“Rex—” Duff jumped to his feet and started around the desk. The phone rang and he cursed. “Rex,” he called as he grabbed the phone. “Winston. Yeah, I got the pictures. In fact—”
Rex took a left out the office door and strode past Emerson’s office, then past the office of the new accountant, Gary Blackeagle. The last office belonged to Brent Douglas, the guy who’d had Rex’s job for six years before he got caught with his pants down and a barely legal aged girl jammed between him and his locker.
Rex pushed open the door to the garage and stepped onto freshly waxed concrete. Despite last year’s sting, his heart raced as it always did at the start of the season when he first laid eyes on the immaculate eight thousand square-foot garage.
A dozen red, five-foot-tall toolboxes stood guard beside the uncluttered workbenches that lined the cinderblock walls. No. 14 sat in the first assembly area on the right, awaiting paint and window netting. Rex slid his gaze along the trunk and over the top of the car. The new Chevy was his ticket to owning a crew next season.
He started forward, then halted when a shapely figure in powder blue coveralls shifted into view. She bent over the engine like a real mechanic. What idiot had left his girlfriend to roam the garage alone? Rex dropped his gaze from the red ponytail to the feminine undercarriage on her fine frame and angled his head to get a better look. He couldn’t see her face, but judging by her body, her boyfriend had taste.
She pressed against the fender and in closer to the engine, straddling the front tire like Daisy Duke at her finest. Ouch! The fabric of the coveralls stretched across the lovely curves of her buttocks, complete with bikini brief panty lines. Rex shook off an unexpected need to hook a finger under those panties.
He crept to the car with panther-like stealth. She hadn’t emerged from the open hood when he leaned a hip against the fender beside her and drawled, “What fool left you alone in my garage, darlin’?” She stilled, and he ran his gaze the length of her five foot four body, then back to her taut rear end. He laughed softly. “You better come out before you get dirty.” Rex shifted his attention to the sparkplug wire she gripped. He straightened in shocked anger. “What the hell are you doing to my car?”
He seized her arm as she started to straighten and yanked her from under the hood. Her head struck the hood with a thunk. She gasped and Rex released her.
“Ouch!” Her hand flew to the top of her head and vigorously massaged the spot. “Why did you do that?”
“No one screws with my—”
She jerked her head around and Rex’s mouth went dry when his gaze met gorgeous brown eyes tinged with fury.
“That hurt!” She shoved back a lock of hair that had fallen loose from her ponytail and glared at him.
Those were the eyes a cowboy found only in a dream—and in midnight encounters in front of a wood-burning fire.
The sprinkling of pale freckles across her cheeks scrunched up when she wrinkled her nose. Her eyes narrowed. “Here, hot-shot.” She shoved the sparkplug wire into his chest. “You put the plug wires on. You know the firing order of your Chevy V-8?”
Rex raised a brow. “As a matter of fact—”
“Let me get you started,” she snapped as she gave her head another vigorous rub, “one, five, two, eight…”
“Look,” Rex retorted, “no one touches—” A hand clamped down on his shoulder and he whirled to find Duff standing behind him.
“I see you’ve met Jimmy James, our new mechanic,” Duff said.
Rex stared at the buxom figure, then faced Duff. “Mechanic? What the hell were you thinking? Even in those coveralls she doesn’t look like a mechanic. She looks like a…like a…hell, like she belongs on Sex in the City.”
“Hey!” she exclaimed.
“Her qualifications are top notch,” Duff interrupted.
“Why didn’t you just paint her on the hood hugging the damn Cozy fabric softener rabbit?” Rex shot back. “That’d get Cozy to renew their sponsorship for the next ten years.” He pictured her, sheet thrown across breasts and hips, one leg sprawled over the rabbit’s belly. “We’ll get nothing done with her around,” he added tightly.
“Winston doesn’t concur.” Duff turned Rex to face Jimmy. “Jimmy, this is your driver, Rex Henderson.”
“I know who he is.” The lock of hair had fallen across her eye again. She jammed it behind an ear. “You ought to keep him in his cage.”
Duff chuckled. Rex gave him a thin-lipped scowl, then leaned against the car and crossed his arms over his chest. Jimmy flicked him a withering glare. His groin pulsed.
He ran his gaze down her body before meeting her fiery brown eyes again. “Only if you’ll be my cage-mate.”
She drew a sharp breath and a camera flash lit the garage behind Rex. He whirled in time to catch a second flash in the eyes. Spots raced across his vision, but he made out the figure straightening from a crouch behind a workbench near the side door. The man lifted the camera to his eye and Rex jammed his eyes shut an instant before the flash penetrated his eyelids.
Rex snapped open his eyes and started for the paparazzo. “I’m going to kick your ass!”
The man pivoted toward the side door.
Rex accelerated to a sprint with Duff close behind.
The photographer bolted through the door. “Sex in the City!” He laughed, adding before the door banged shut behind him, “Cage-mates.”
Rex slammed into the door a second later and flung it open as the photographer dove into the passenger seat of a beat up blue Subaru. Rex hit the asphalt at a sprint as the car leaped into gear, passenger door ajar. Rex picked up speed. The Subaru slowed at the end of the building and Rex thought he had him, but the car rounded the corner and accelerated toward the open gate at the entrance.
Dammit. During the off-season, no guard manned the front gate. Rex cursed again and picked up speed. The paparazzo had probably followed him onto the property. He should have closed the security gate after he entered.
The car leaped over the parking lot speed bump and hit the street, tires squealing as it hung a right and zoomed away. Rex slowed and stopped at the curb. The blue compact had reached the end of the block and took a hard left toward the freeway. Damn. He didn’t get the license number.
Duff halted next to him, breathing hard.
Rex glared at him. “What do you say now, Duff?”
Duff’s gaze locked on the direction the car had taken. “I say all of Dallas will know what Howard Motors has up its sleeve by tomorrow morning, the rest of the world by supper time.”
Inside the garage, an engine starter whined. Rex turned toward the garage and stared as the engine caught, followed by the roar of exhaust when Jimmy pumped the accelerator in short, quick stabs.
“Strip him,” Jimmy said.
Mr. Pockface slugged Brent in the back of the neck with a forearm. Brent dropped to his knees. Fontana started toward him.
“Uh-uh,” the Bull warned.
Brent held up a hand. “It’s okay, Fawn. Won’t be the first time I’ve been stripped in this fantasy.”
“Fawn,” Jimmy said with amusement. “I’ve got something special for you.”
“Take off your jacket and pants,” Pockface ordered Brent.
Brent pushed to his feet. He stripped off his jacket, then pulled open the fasteners on his waistband and pushed the trousers past his hips. If not for the revolver pointed at her, Fontana would have laughed. It seemed Brent just couldn’t help ending up naked in his fantasy. Though she couldn’t complain. His legs were a work of art. He abruptly paused in shucking the trousers from his second leg, and Fontana realized he was staring at the splintered doorjamb.
His gaze shifted to the gun Jimmy pointed, then to her, his eyes suddenly dark with anger, and Fontana realized he’d heard the shot but hadn’t known real bullets had been involved. Laser-beam Man appeared in the door, and crossed to him and Pockface.
“Strip her too,” the Bull said.
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