Home > Collision Course (Body Shop Bad Boys #4)(8)

Collision Course (Body Shop Bad Boys #4)(8)
Author: Marie Harte


   A familiar grumble, but this time it hurt Joey. A lot.

   “You know that’s not true.”

   “We’re not hurting for money, I know.” He sighed. “I’m sorry. I just can’t help wondering what would have happened if she’d kept her damn legs closed nine years ago.”

   “Andrew, take that back,” her mother snapped. “I love my grandson, and I can’t imagine a world without him.”

   “I didn’t mean it like that,” he said, his voice gruff. “I love Brandon too. I just meant I can’t stand how she’s screwed up her life. Her choices are so—”

   Joey didn’t wait around to hear any more. Wiping tears from her cheeks, she eased her way out of the house, careful not to make a sound as she returned to her son.

   It never went away. A mistake at fifteen continued to haunt her, nine years later. She’d made her peace with being a young single mother, and though she regretted giving her virginity to Brandon’s father, she’d never regretted having her son since she’d first held him. Not once.

   But her father couldn’t see it that way. To him, Brandon was a sign of his daughter’s massive screwup. She’d spent the past nine years playing by his rules, living on the straight and narrow, having maybe a dozen dates and hardly any sex. And still she could never do right by her father. Never work hard enough, succeed enough, unless she could go back and undo that one night with Felix.

   The only thing her dad approved of had been her decision to have Felix sign away his rights to his son. Her then-boyfriend had wanted her to get an abortion, but she had never considered that a possibility. There were some days, early on in her pregnancy, when she’d wished she had. The straight-A honor student working toward a full ride to the University of Washington had instead given birth to a baby boy, gotten her GED, and taken multiple classes from community colleges ever since to earn a degree in business while also working and mothering full-time.

   But none of that meant anything to her father. And never would.

   She didn’t know why she was surprised. She’d followed the rules her entire life. The one time she’d made an error in judgment, she’d paid for it and continued to pay for it with Andrew Reeves.

   But she’d done something right. She entered her tiny unit and found Brandon in his twin bed across from hers, his Lego night-light on, his book open as he read and smiled at Brownie Bear’s antics. Love swelled for her baby, who wasn’t so little anymore.

   No matter what her father said, Brandon was the best thing she’d ever done. And no amount of rule following or breaking would alter that.

   She read to him before closing the book for bedtime.

   “Good night, Brandon.” She kissed his forehead.

   He surprised her with a hug as he pulled her down and squeezed. “Love you, Mommy.”

   More tears, but these were happy, coming from a very warm place. “You too, baby.”

   He smelled of toothpaste and soap and little boy. She pulled back and stared into brown eyes just like hers. If not for his blond hair, there would be no trace of Felix in the child. But it didn’t matter. Brandon held her heart as surely as if he remained a part of her, body and soul.

   She left the single bedroom, closed the door, then entered the other room in her parents’ unit. A small kitchenette, complete with a tiny sink, mini-fridge, and counter, lay along one wall. A table and chairs separated the kitchen area from the living space. In the compact living room, she sat on the dark-red couch, which made out into a bed, and propped her feet up on the barn-wood coffee table. The place had charm despite its small size, filled with decent appliances and a nice TV and stereo.

   But as Joey put on some mellow music and stared at the blank television, she thought about choices. About what following the rules had ever done for her. She pulled out Lou’s card from her back pocket and sent him a text before she could think herself out of it.

   See you tomorrow at noon. Joey.

   Mistake or not, Joey would live her own life. No more trying to please her father because, as she well knew, nothing she did short of turning back time would ever be good enough for Andrew Reeves.

 

 

Chapter 3


   Lou considered himself a man who could move in many worlds. He worked with a great bunch of guys at Webster’s Garage, tough mechanics who talked a big game but would go to the mat for those they considered friends. He dealt with women day in and day out, his family chock-full of estrogen and issues. But he loved them like crazy, as much as they threatened to erode his sanity.

   And then there was life at Heller’s Paint and Auto Body, a vastly different environment than Webster’s. With Del and the guys, Lou could talk smack, shoot the shit, and bitch about whatever he wanted. At Heller’s, the vibe was all professional all the time. No chaotic stations, not a speck of dust or disorder in the main office. And their coveralls were dark blue and free of holes. Clean of any extraneous substance but paint and/or sanding dust. No personal complaints, no chitchat about who was beating whose ass at darts, woman problems, man problems, nothing. No bullshit.

   When Lou worked at Heller’s, he created, he painted, and like the other guys in Heller’s shop, he kept his personal crap to himself.

   Or at least that’s the way Heller used to run the place. Lately, the guy had started to change. Lou wasn’t sure he liked this new, softer version of the taciturn giant with attitude, who now sometimes smiled.

   “So. Have you been to Ray’s lately?” Heller asked, his German accent always present. He leaned over Lou’s shoulder as Lou sketched out what their newest client wanted to see on the hood of his ’72 Corvette. Allowing for the molding and width of the hood and side panels, Lou was trying to make sure he wrapped flames over the edge while keeping the grim reaper to scale.

   “Sorry. What?” He glanced up and blinked, envisioning a horned helmet atop Heller’s blond head. Heller’s Paint and Auto Body, owned by a Viking born a few centuries after his time.

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