Josh gave him a long look, then stood and shut his office door. Back in his chair, he steepled his fingers, studying Ty like a bug on a slide. “Problem?”
“No. I’ve just got a little pain is all.” He straightened his leg and winced.
“No doubt,” Josh said dryly. “I was at the gym this morning; you never even noticed me. You were too busy wiping the floor with Matt. Who, by the way, is the best street fighter I’ve ever met. And you kicked his ass. How much pain can you be in?”
“I pulled something.”
Josh’s smile faded. “Yeah?”
Josh was quiet a moment. “Then maybe you should give it another week,” he finally said.
Ty nodded his agreement and left. He left the back way, which meant he stood in the bright sunshine in the hospital parking lot staring at Mallory’s POS car. He wondered what the hell was wrong with him, but since that was probably way too big a problem to solve in this decade, he went home. He fiddled on the Shelby until he realized it’d gotten dark. He was just getting out of his second shower of the day when he heard the knock at his door.
He’d been off the job for more than six months, and still the instinct to grab his gun before answering was second nature. But this was Lucky Harbor. The only real danger was being killed by kindness.
And nosy-ass gossip.
Shaking his head, he grabbed his Levi’s up off the floor and pulled them on, then opened the door to…Mallory.
She gave him a small smile, a sweet smile. Clearly she hadn’t yet heard through the cafeteria grapevine that he was single-handedly ruining her life. “Hey,” he said. A chronic idiot. That was him.
“Hey yourself.” Her gaze ran over his bare torso. Something went hot in her eyes as she took in the fact that all he wore were Levi’s, which he hadn’t yet buttoned up all the way. He did that now while she watched, and the temperature around them shot up even more.
She stepped over the threshold, and since he hadn’t moved she bumped into him. He thought it was an accidental touch but then her hands came up and brushed over his chest and abs. No accident.
Nor was the fact that she was wearing a halter top, low-riding jeans and a pair of really hot heels that brought her up four point five inches and perfectly aligned their bodies. Her pulse was beating like a drum at the little dip in the base of her throat. Lifting a hand, he ran a finger over the beat, watching her pulse leap even more.
Her hand came up to join with his. “In the name of full disclosure,” she murmured, “you should know that I talked to Ryan this afternoon.”
Ty lifted his gaze.
“He landed in the ER,” she said.
“What happened? Is he all right?”
“Someone on the highway caught sight of him wandering around and brought him in. He had a bottle of Jack and some dope he’d scored off some kids.”
“Yeah.” She kept her hand on his, squeezing his fingers reassuringly. “He’s fine. He’s currently sleeping it off, but before that…he was talking.”
“You took him to NA.”
That was a statement of fact so he let it sit between them.
“You…went into the meeting,” she said. “You stayed.”
Another statement of fact.
“Was he…unsteady?” she asked. “Did he need the assistance?”
Ah, and now he got it. She was on a fishing expedition. “He wasn’t that bad off, no.”
She nodded, and he waited for her expression to change but it didn’t. There was no leaping to conclusions, no trial and jury, no pity, nothing.
Hell, he didn’t know why that surprised him. She never did the expected. She was the warmest, most compassionate, understanding woman he’d ever met.
“Did you need something there?” she asked.
And she was also one of the most curious.
“Why don’t you just ask me what you really want to know, Mallory?”
“Okay.” She drew a deep breath. “Are you an addict, too?”
Unable to resist, he again stroked his thumb over that spot at the base of her neck before slipping his hand into his pocket to finger the ever-present Vicodin bottle. It was a light weight. Empty. And both those things reassured him. He’d fucked up plenty, but at least not with that. “Damn close,” he said.
“Oh,” she breathed, and nodded. “I see.”
No, she didn’t. But that was his fault. “After the plane crash, I wasn’t exactly the best of patients. I was on heavy meds. A wreck, basically.”
“You’d just lost your team,” she said softly.
Something warm unfurled in him at that. She was defending him. To himself. “When I went back to work, I gave up the meds.” He paused, remembering. “It sucked. Christ, it sucked bad. I liked the oblivion, too damn much.”
Her eyes were on his, absorbing his words, taking it all in without judgment. So he gave her the rest. “Six months ago, I got hurt again. In the ER they got me all nice and drugged up before I could refuse the meds.”
Something flickered in her eyes, and he knew she was remembering how he’d refused drugs the night of the storm.
“Then I was released,” he said. “With a ‘take as needed’ prescription. I found myself doing exactly that and living for the clock, for the minute I could take more. That’s when I stopped refilling.”
“You went cold turkey?”
“I never understood that saying, cold turkey,” he said with a grim smile. “It’s more like hot hell, but yeah.” He blew out a breath. “And I still crave it.”
She was quiet a moment. “I think the craving part is normal. We all have our cravings. I gave up chocolate once. The cravings sucked.”
He choked out a laugh. Christ, he liked her. A whole hell of a lot. What was he supposed to do with that? “I don’t think it’s exactly the same.”
“True. I mean, I can’t be arrested for hoarding chocolate cake,” she said. “But it ruins my life. Costs money. And it makes my scrubs tight. You know how bad that is, when your drawstring pants are too tight? Pretty damn bad, Ty.”
He was smiling now. He rocked back on his heels and studied her. “You’re looking pretty damn good from where I’m standing.”
“Because I only let myself have it once a week. Or whenever Amy calls. She’s a very bad influence.”
“Still crave, huh?” he asked with genuine sympathy.
“I’d give up my next breath for a piece of cake right now,” she said with deep feeling. She sighed, as if with fond memories. “I think it helps to keep busy. Distracted. I know that much.”
“I’ve been distracted plenty,” he said, and her cheeks flamed. He loved that she could initiate sex in a storage room above about five hundred of her closest friends and family and still blush.
“Were you working on a car?” she asked. “I heard you’re the new go-to mechanic guy.”
“I was working before I showered.”
“The shower? Sure. I might have used all the hot water though.”
She gave him a little laugh and a shove that took him back a step. He could have stood his ground but he liked the way she was letting her hands linger on his chest. He took one of those hands and guided her through to the kitchen and out the back door to the garage.
She looked around, taking in the cars and the slew of tools scattered across the work table. “What were you doing?”
“Brake line work on my Shelby.”
“Show me,” she said again.
“You want to learn how to put in new stainless steel brake lines,” he said, heavy on the disbelief. “Mallory, those shoes aren’t meant for working on a car.”
“What are they meant for?”
“Messing with a man’s head.”
She smiled. “Are they working?”
“More than you can possibly imagine. Listen, this car shit, it’s messy.”
“So?” she asked, sounding amused, and he had to admit she had a point. She saw blood and guts and probably worse every single day. A little dirt wasn’t going to bother her. Shaking his head at himself, he popped the hood. He grabbed a forgotten sweatshirt off the bench and handed it to her.
“I’m not cold.”
His gaze slid to her breasts. Her nipples were poking at the material of her halter top. If she wasn’t cold, then she was turned on. It would seem hard to believe since he hadn’t touched her, but every time they got within five feet of each other he got a jolt to the dick, so who was he to say? “It’s to keep your clothes from getting dirty.” He pulled the sweatshirt over her head, unable to stop himself from touching as much of her as possible as he tugged it down her torso, only slightly mollified to hear her breathing hitch.
Yeah. They were on the same page.
The sweatshirt came to her thighs. She pushed back the hood. “It smells like you.”
He felt that odd pain in his chest again, an ache that actually had nothing to do with wanting to get her naked. “And now it’s going to smell like you,” he said.
“Is that okay?”
It was so far beyond okay he didn’t have words. Fucking sap. He kicked over the mechanic creeper, then his backup, and gestured her onto it. When they were both flat on their backs, she grinned at him. “Now what?”
“Under the car.”
She slid herself beneath the car, and he joined her. Side by side, they looked up at the bottom of the chassis.
“What’s first?” she asked.
He looked at her sweet profile. What was first? Reminding himself that he’d been cleared to leave Lucky Harbor. He handed her a roll of brake line. “You bend it to fit the contours of the frame as you go.” He pointed out the route, and she began to work the brake line.
“It’s peaceful,” she said. “Under here.”