Belonging to Them - By Brynn Paulin
“Ma’am, to tell you the truth, I really don’t know how that car got you this far.”
Rayna Halliday bit her lip and listened to the darkly handsome man on the other side of the garage’s service counter as he explained her sedan’s problems in Irish-accented car-speak. She’d stopped for gas in this little dirt farm town two hours ago, and her car had refused to stay running for more than a few minutes afterward. She’d made it three feet before a huge plume of white smoke had billowed from the tailpipe, and the car had sputtered to a teeth-rattling stop.
Fortunately, the gas station was part of the town’s only car repair place, O’Keefe’s Gas and Repair. Two of the men had immediately come outside and offered to take a look. The third, this one with the embroidered nametag proclaiming him to be “Patrick” had given her a voucher and sent her across the street to the town’s diner for coffee and pie while they determined her vehicle’s problem.
She’d known it wasn’t good. She’d been babying the thing for over a week. Stopping to get it fixed just wasn’t a luxury she had.
“The head’s shot,” Patrick said. “Ye have three belts about to bust, your radiator’s leaking, so are the brake lines, your transmission and your oil—in several places. And that’s not the worst, actually. Your fuel well is leaking, as well. Onto your muffler. To tell the truth, you’re lucky ye haven’t blown yourself up. And if ye don’t mind me sayin’, what the hell have ye been doin’? Drivin’ across land mines. Your car’s undercarriage is a wreck.”
She smiled wanly and pushed her hand through her bangs as she sighed. “Well, crap. It shakes like crazy getting to second gear, so you might as well add that.”
“Might have somethin’ to do with the leak,” he said.
Dread balled in her stomach. The bill would be huge. She had the money—it wasn’t that—but accessing it would alert him and she hadn’t gotten this far to send up a flag that yelled here I am! Unfortunately, she didn’t have much choice.
“How much?” she asked.
“I still have to add it up. Frankly, I wasn’t sure you’d want to do all the work on such an old model. Off hand, I can guess close to four.”
“Hundred?” That was doable. She had that much with her.
“Okay…” Well, fuck. She’d driven clear across the country only to tell that rat bastard in North Carolina exactly where she was.
“Since the repairs are so extensive, I’ll need to bill for the major parts before the work, then charge incidentals and labor afterward.”
“You take MasterCard?” She tapped a red-lacquered nail on the counter until she noticed it was chipped and hid her hand in her pocket. Oh how the pampered had fallen. Oh well. A few more days and she’d be back in the seat of luxury and safe from him.
Flipping the card from her wallet, she slid it across the counter at Patrick. Hopefully, they’d get the repairs done quickly and she could get out of here before her jerk ex came trotting after her.
Patrick made a face and twirled the credit card through his fingers as he looked at the machine in front of him. “Um, ma’am, ye have another card? This one’s declined.”
“What? That can’t… Are you sure?”
She knew immediately what the problem was. The jackass had messed with her account. Snake. And since he was a bigwig at the bank, he could get away with it even though it wasn’t his account. She pulled out her cell phone. Hopefully, she could get someone on the line who was enough under the radar to sort this out.
Flipping open the phone, she glanced at the screen and swore. “God damn it! God damn it. God damn his slimy soul to hell!” Shaking with anger, she snapped shut the useless thing, cursing a blue stream under her breath at the invalid SIM card message she’d read. He’d gotten her phone shut off. That jerk had shut off her phone! Reining in the need to start crying, she bit out, “I’ll be right back,” and slammed out the front door.
Through the mirrored window behind the desk, Jamie O’Keefe watched his brother, Patrick, and the little ball of energy who owned that piece of crap car. She could possibly be the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her glossy brown hair hung in sleek waves to her waist and her brown eyes flashed as the gravity of her situation