Ashlin Taylor yanked the door to Taylor and Sons Custom Designs closed. She almost welcomed the lines at the bank and the questions at the title company, anything to escape the animosity between Uncle Mike and Daniel Peters.
She adjusted the messenger bag filled with her deliveries and inhaled the grease-and-exhaust-scented air, sighing as the cool breeze dispelled her tension. She frowned at her uncle’s one-ton truck parked beside her Mazda 3 and slipped her bag behind the driver’s seat. The car rumbled to life. Four cylinders never sounded so sweet, regardless of what her brothers said. She checked her mirror, both directions–like she could see through the bulk of the company truck–and eased backward.
An explosion rattled the coupe.
Her gaze flew to the rear view mirror, green eyes widening. A body bounced off the spoiler and rolled to the ground. Ashlin stomped the brake pedal, shifted to neutral and engaged the parking break. The thrumming of her pulse drowned the slam of her door.
Between the two cars, a body twitched.
She gasped, jaw dropping before she could cover it with her hand, and tripped over her feet to kneel beside the battered bundle. Asphalt scraped against the tights beneath her tweed skirt. When the face turned toward her, she inhaled sharply again, but for a totally different reason.
She had backed over Mr. Drop-Dead Gorgeous.
Eyes the color of a stormy sky blinked at her out of a broad, bronzed face.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Are you alright?”
A gloved hand pushed off the pavement at her feet, the other hand adjusted the stocking cap covering his hair. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I can’t see around the truck.” A smile wobbled her lips when he straightened.
They stood up together, her hand grasping his arm for balance. As if she could help. Her head barely reached his chin. The goose bumps on her arm had to be from the sudden breeze, although gripping his bicep might have contributed.
She followed him to the back of her car and stared at the crumpled bicycle beneath her bumper.
“Looks like my bike got the worst of it.” His tone drew Ashlin’s attention and his jaw jumped.
“I’ll pay to fix it,” she said.
“It’s not your responsibility.”
“I feel terrible.” Ashlin wrung her hands together. “Please.”
He finally met her gaze. His expression was carefully blank, but his mouth relaxed. Was he relieved?
“Let me give you my number,” she said, turning toward her car door.
“My bike isn’t going anywhere.”
“I’m sorry.” Her cheeks heated, negating the bite in the afternoon air. “I’m working now, but I’ll give you a ride when I finish.”
He studied her car and his eyebrows rose. “I can take the bus.”
Ashlin shifted her weight from one foot to another. Why was he being so difficult? She followed his gaze to the fender well on the passenger side of her car. A gouge magnified a dent now marring the navy blue finish. Her hand flew to her mouth and she bit back a squeal.
Three months and the car was ruined.
“It’ll cost more to repair your car.”
She saw regret in his eyes when she returned her attention to him. Dark brown hair peeping out from under the black beanie, fluttered over his forehead.
“But I can still drive it,” she said, swallowing to relieve the tightness in her throat. “Your bike wasn’t so lucky.”