Authors: A.J. Downey
Broken & Burned
Sacred Hearts MC Book II
by A. J. Downey
Text Copyright © 2014 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
All Rights Reserved
To Tracie, for your amazing editing and proofreading superpowers… and, you know, your ability to keep up with me... You’re amazing! And to Andres Delgadillo for being an inspiration when I was stuck on Dray. You’re still my favorite Marine. Lastly, to Clarissa of Yocla Designs, for bringing my characters to life with some amazing cover art! Thank you for putting up with my particulars. You’re always so patient!
It started with me being late to work, cue ass chewing from my manager... I finished my day job burning myself with the steam from the espresso machine only to find out the first aid kit had been out of burn gel. What’s more, I didn’t understand a god damned thing in my statistics class, which I was pretty sure I was going to fail, my boyfriend won’t answer his phone, and now my car was wheezing its death rattle and I was terrified I wouldn’t make it into the mechanic’s lot!
I could barely afford to keep a roof over our heads and me in my classroom, I had no idea how I would afford to fix my car and if I needed to call a tow truck to go two blocks I was going to implode.
The mechanic’s shop was
“Come on baby, come on baby; come on baby…” I chanted under my breath as if it would help anything.
I cranked the wheel and pulled into the lot with a little shout of triumph and my car just died… I stepped on the brake stopping with a little lurch and one of the mechanics, a man about my age, looked up from under the hood of an ancient old brown Ford pickup in my direction.
Tears pooled in my eyes. I was frustrated and embarrassed and stressed out and just
all at once. I took a deep breath and grabbed the strap of my overloaded back pack to heave it off the passenger seat. The zipper gave way at the seam and with a mighty ripping sound my text books, notes, pens, pencils all spilled out onto my shabby if tidy passenger side floor board.
That did it.
I burst into tears.
The mechanic, a Hispanic man with chin length, stick straight, black hair looked on with detached interest as I bent and tried to scoop everything back into my bag.
God Everett get a grip girl!
I thought savagely to myself.
I shoveled everything back into my bag and as I went to straighten, my driver’s side door opened. I jumped and let out a little startled shout. My hand, moving unbidden, pressed to my chest.
I looked up into a pair of intense dark eyes, so dark a brown you couldn’t differentiate where the iris left off and the pupil began. The mechanic raked me once over with that smoldering dark gaze of his from my head to my feet and his lips quirked up on one side. I swallowed hard, my heart doing a somersault in my chest.
“Having a bad day?” he asked and his voice was even and deep without a trace of an accent.
“Yeah.” I nodded.
“Put it in neutral and steer.” He commanded and disappeared around the back of my forlorn little Toyota. I did as he told me to and put the gear shift in neutral, taking my foot off the brake. He pushed, I steered, which was a lot harder without power steering.
“Pull up in front of the center bay!” he called and I put some elbow grease into cranking the wheel in that direction.
“That’s good!” he called and I braked, put the gearshift into first and threw the parking brake.
I sighed. This was going to take the last of my savings and then some. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I would just have to cross that bridge when I came to it.
“Come on into the office.” He started walking that direction and I hung my head for a second. I pulled my permanently open back pack into my lap and holding the overstuffed bag like a toddler in my arms, shuffled to the office dejectedly…
Could this get any worse? Any more humiliating?
I set my messy pack onto one of the old scruffy waiting room chairs. The office was small but neat and smelled heavily of stale engine grease and metal.
“The diagnostic is fifty bucks and includes a full vehicle inspection.” He said and was filling out a carbon copy sheet listing out everything that was included. His printing was neat and orderly, flowing out from the Bic stick pen in block letters. He only used capitals. I fished out my phone and sent yet another text to my boyfriend Jerry.
“Name and address?” he asked me.
“Oh yeah, sorry.” I was kind of blank. I went to my ruined back pack and unzipped the smaller front pocket, glaring at the gray canvas-like material for its betrayal. Although I suppose I shouldn’t be
hard on it, it had served me pretty well since my sophomore year of high school.
I extracted my small black leather wallet and pulled out my driver’s license and handed it to him. He looked down at it and then back at me then back down at the small plasticized cardboard rectangle.
“Something wrong?” I asked. His intense dark eyes raked over me and I swallowed as the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I felt a slight blush brush my cheeks with a kiss of heat.
“No.” he said simply, but that didn’t stop his stare, so I boldly stared right back at him in a vain attempt to give as good as I got, which of course, only made him smirk at me. It was a sexy smirk and judging by the gleam in his eyes, he knew it too.
He was a couple of inches taller than me. Maybe five eight to my five six. His black tee shirt hugged his muscular shoulders and was tucked into the light blue grease stained coveralls, the arms of which were knotted around his waist. His black hair shone with blue highlights under the bare overhead bulb and I realized that even though it was fall it was awfully dark for it being early afternoon.
I dragged my eyes from his bronze skin noting that his jaw was just barely kissed with the beginning shadow of dark stubble. I turned with some difficulty, I didn’t want to stop looking at him. I looked out the window behind me with some effort. The uniformly neutral colored venetian blinds were in the down position but the slats were open to let in the natural light from outside. The sky hung heavy with dark rain clouds, threatening a deluge. I sighed.
I tried Jerry one more time but after several rings his phone just went to voice mail. I hung up without leaving a message. I would try again when my business with the hot as hell mechanic was concluded.
“What kind of name is Everett?” he grunted.
“It’s where my dad ended up. A city north of Seattle.” I sighed. Not much of a name but my dad had kind of been stunned and when they’d asked him what to put on the birth certificate it was the first thing to come out of his mouth and I was forever branded.
“Long way from home.” He commented. I rolled my eyes.
“Grew up here, well not
specifically, but in the state.” I looked him over.
“What’s your name?” I asked, noting the lack of a name tag. Likely it was stitched on his coveralls but in their current position that wasn’t a lot of help.
“Folks call me Dray.” He said and I tilted my head to the side. An unconscious gesture.
“Dray? That short for Andre?” I asked.
“Naw, short for Draven.” He made a face.
“What kind of name is Draven?” I echoed his earlier question and he smiled.
“My mother’s last name is my first, I carry my dad’s surname. She wanted me to have both names and my dad wasn’t on board with a hyphenate.” He looked up and a flicker of surprise crossed his features.
“Not sure why I just told you that.” He said gruffly, and dare I say, looked a little embarrassed himself.
“Secret is safe with me, so long as you don’t tell anybody mine.” I held out my pinky finger and he looked at it like it was an alien being from another planet. I self-consciously tucked my hand back over the edge of the counter.
“Well Ms. Moran,” he said oddly formal all of a sudden, “You can pay when the diagnostic is complete, should know what’s up with it tomorrow afternoon. Got a number I can reach you at?
I wrote down my cell number on the paperwork and thanked him, handing over my car key. My house keys and key ring I stuffed into my jeans pocket. The spikey metal lump unfamiliar and uncomfortable there, but it was only until I got home. Dray the mechanic handed me back my driver’s license and I tucked it back in my wallet and my wallet back into my traitorous bag.
“Thanks.” I muttered and picked up my torn backpack, attempting to crush it closed at the top. Talk about an exercise in futility. I went back to carrying it like a toddler and walked out to the street. I looked up at the forbidding steel gray autumn sky and scraped my bottom lip between my teeth. I juggled the bag and got my phone to my ear.
“Pick up Jerry.” I swore under my breath and stood at the edge of the shop’s driveway by their sign.
“Hi! You’ve reached Jerry, I’m doing something right now, leave a name and number and I’ll get back to you.”
The recorded voice of my boyfriend of four years played out of my phone and was immediately followed by an obnoxious tone.
“Jerry! It’s Everett, I’m stranded at…” I looked up at the sign, “The Open Road Garage on 39
street. Please come get me? I love you. Thanks, bye.” I ended the call and my shoulders slumped as the first fat drops of cold rain began to fall.
I looked back towards the garage but the open sign was out and the bay door was inches from the ground and closing fast. I hugged my bag to my chest and tried to keep the top closed as the rain fell faster.
Frustrated tears stood out in my eyes as the first trickle of cold water ran down the back of my neck. I was cold, I was tired, having been up since three thirty that morning and my left hand hurt from my thumb to my wrist where it was burned just shy of blistering. I glanced over at my car and sighed… Can’t wait there, key was in the shop. I looked up and down the street for some cover.
Nothing. All the buildings were industrial and warehouse like with flat fronts in brick or stucco, not an awning to be seen. I sighed and hugged my bag tighter. I was soaked through to my skin in a couple of minutes but longer than that dragged by.
What the hell was Jerry
? He didn’t have any afternoon classes and it was his scheduled day off from his non-existent job. I rolled my eyes. I loved him dearly, I really did, but he couldn’t stay employed for longer than a couple of months and when he lost whatever piecemeal dead end job he’d had, it was always someone else’s fault. His mother coddled him, and honestly, at least his dad paid his portion of the rent, that was something… I sniffed. My nose was starting to run from the chill. I was going to kill him when I figured out how to get home. I tried his cell again. Voice mail… again.
A sleek and shiny, black, fully restored 70’s Trans Am, complete with gold firebird on the hood pulled up beside me. The engine was growling in that rumbling purr that declared
‘I am a mechanical bad ass, just step on the gas and I’ll prove it.’
The passenger door popped open and I bent. My lip was trembling with the chill and I gritted my teeth to keep them from clacking together.
“Get in. I’ll take you home.” Dray, the sexy as sin mechanic, was leaning over the center console. His dark and burning gaze straddling the line between brooding and angry. I swallowed hard.
“That’s okay my boyfriend Jerry will be here any minute.” I forced a smile onto my face and he scowled.
“You can’t bullshit me Sweetheart, get in the car. You’re freezing and your boyfriend ain’t comin’.” I debated for one heartbeat, then two. The man made a harsh, impatient noise and I got in, shoving my bag on the floor between my knees and shutting the door firmly on the cold downpour outside.
“Thank you.” I murmured.
“No problem.” He said as I fastened my seatbelt.
I turned to look at his profile as he drove. He’d taken off the coveralls and he wore butter soft light colored blue jeans that clung to his muscular thighs, falling straight legged, the frayed cuffs covering the tops of the laces of his well-worn steel toed work boots. The leather pitted and scarred from use, a patch of the shiny steel showing through a ragged hole in the leather.
Watching those worn boots work the gas and clutch suddenly became really fascinating if it meant I didn’t have to meet those deep dark eyes that were casting sidelong looks at me. His hand interrupted my view of his feet as it reached out and hit the switches on the heater console. Warm air blew over my feet and legs and the feel of wet denim against my skin made me grimace. I hated being in wet clothes. The sensation bothered me, the clinging dampness just… ewe.
His hands were clean, I noted and the leather of his jacket creaked with the movement. My eyes traveled up the well-worn black leather sleeve, the leather turning brown and scaly with too much time spent in the elements. He had a vest on over the jacket, hiding the shiny silver snaps and zippers behind equally well-worn leather bearing patches for a motorcycle club. I shifted nervously in my seat and my eyes continued flowing up that sleeve, past his elbow to his shoulder to his smirking sensual lips.
“She’ll warm up in a sec.” he said but his lips twisted and I just knew he knew that little shiver hadn’t been from the cold.
“I live in an apartment above Vale’s dry cleaning with my boyfriend. He should be home, I don’t know why he didn’t answer the phone.” I swallowed. Dray’s presence was, in a word, intimidating as he steered the growling muscle car through the rain slicked streets.
“Yeah. I know where you live.” He muttered and I blinked. The sound of the pounding rain and the
sound of the windshield wiper blades filled the sudden silence in the interior of his car.
“You gave me your license, I just wrote it down, I have a knack for remembering things I read.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Oh.” I said.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to make it all creepy and awkward.” He gave me a lopsided grin that made his face go from harsh to endearingly boyish and handsome and I couldn’t help the shy answering smile of my own.
We lapsed back into silence and it was comfortable enough that I didn’t feel a need to fill it if he didn’t. He piloted the old muscle car deftly through the streets and I felt myself stealing glances at his vest, secretively trying to read some of the patches nearest me. One over his breast declared him the vice president and I felt my eyebrows raise. He was young… Maybe twenty five to my twenty, wasn’t vice president usually a position reserved for a grizzled older biker with a big beard who was going soft around the middle?