Fallon continued through the store. Every aisle she looked down, she saw Grayson with his wife and their kids. Each instance, she skipped over to the next aisle, afraid the woman might see how much she desired her husband.
Like an addiction, she absorbed the warmth of interest he displayed in his eyes when he met her stare. The softness of his gaze suggested he had a passionate way about him. When he didn’t see her, she watched him affectionately toss the children around for the pleasure of their laughter. Pangs of jealousy stabbed at her. She wanted to be the woman Grayson walked through a grocery store with. No, not Grayson. What was she thinking? Why had John not come to mind?
At the checkout, Grayson’s wife coincidentally followed her into the only open checkout. Fallon avoided looking at her. She turned her head, and there, in another direction, she spotted Grayson standing at a magazine rack. He flipped through the pages of a tabloid and appeared to enjoy whatever he read.
“Thirty-three thirty-four, ma’am.”
Fallon heard the woman, and she nodded. “Yes,” she replied, agreeing with the answer to the question in her mind. How old was Grayson?
She watched him put the paper back on the rack. He stretched his arms up, twisting as if he had a kink in his back. Muscles rippled beneath his shirt. Fallon knew how to relieve that kind of ache.
His skin was taut. She pushed her hands against his shoulder blades, up along his neck. Only he had urges greater than relieving the tension in his back. He turned around so her arms continued to ring his neck.
“There’s another massage I had in mind,” he whispered, pulling up her skirt and laying claim to her wet panties.
She was putty in his hands. He knew how to treat a woman. The skills were natural, genuine, and he made her anxious for the way he’d relieve her stress.
He backed her to the magazine rack and jerked her thong aside. There, amid the tabloids, he stroked her clit. They’d be a headline story if anyone noticed. But did she care?
“Yes,” she moaned, feeling the tingling sensation of an orgasm start.
“Ma’am, your total is thirty-three dollars and thirty-four cents.”
Fallon turned toward the cashier. “Yes, right.” Fallon fumbled in her purse for her wallet, her insides twitching.
A burst of laughter turned her attention back to Grayson.
“Cute, isn’t he?” the woman behind her said. “Just makes a woman tingle to see him act like that.”
Fallon wanted to faint when she glanced back at Grayson’s wife.
“What was that?” She clutched her purse to her middle.
“He’s cute, isn’t he? He loves reading the tabloids. Says they’re the best source of fiction around.”
“Uh-huh,” Fallon mumbled in agreement.
“I saw Grayson talking to you in the hardware store and then in the snack aisle. He could have introduced us if he had half a brain. I’m Janette Peters.”
“Fallon Bannister,” she replied automatically.
“Ma’am, could you pay your bill and maybe carry on the conversation outside?” The cashier glowered at her. “You’re holding up the line.”
“Oh, Margie, hold on to your panties. Fallon was just ogling Grayson. You do it all the time, so give the lady a break.”
“He doesn’t like it,” Margie grumbled.
Fallon kept her disagreement to herself. Grayson appeared just the type of man who liked women eyeing him from head to toe. She’d met many people through the newspaper. Gorgeous men always enjoyed the attention. Grayson showed no difference.
Janette laughed and turned to Fallon. “That man attracts all kinds, even the married ones,” she whispered and jerked her head toward their cashier, Margie.
“You don’t mind?” Fallon couldn’t help asking.
“Sometimes. It’s annoying when the man gets more notice than I do.”
The openness of Janette surprised her.
“You know, we went to Washington DC, one time, and we were in a museum. Two very good-looking guys came along, and guess whose ass they stared at? His.” She nodded toward Grayson. “Can you imagine how insulted I felt? I understand they were gay, but still, my butt ain’t that bad.”
Fallon hurriedly handed the cashier thirty-five dollars. The conversation traveled in an uncomfortable direction, and the cashier appeared vexed.
With change in hand, Fallon started away.
“It was nice to meet you, Fallon,” Janette called.
Fallon did a little hand wave over her shoulder and kept going. She pushed her cart near the others lined up by the door and picked up her bags.
“Margie!” A man came through the door yelling.
He bumped into Fallon, but she didn’t look back as he kept going without so much as a “sorry” for his ill-mannered entrance into the store. The sooner she got away, the better on her nerves.
“Let me give you a hand.” Grayson came up behind her in the parking lot.
His hands slipped into the loops of the plastic bags in her left hand, and he whisked them away from her.
“You should have parked closer.” He walked at her side.
“I hadn’t intended on buying so much.” It sounded strangely familiar.
“Do you always go to the store for one thing and overshop?” He laughed. “Though it doesn’t surprise me. I find many women are like that.”
“I don’t overshop. I have a perfectly good reason for buying these items,” she snapped. “I needed them, and shouldn’t you be helping someone else?”
She looked back at the store entrance. Janette came out pushing her cart of groceries while managing the two children. It galled her to see him ignore his wife.
As flirtatious as John could be with women, he never abandoned her.
“What is it that irritates you about me?” Grayson stunned her with his directness.
She snatched her bags from him. One broke and a carton of orange juice hit the sidewalk. Luckily, it didn’t open, and she quickly picked it up to tuck under her arm.
“You don’t irritate me.” She took the other bags and avoided his gaze. “I haven’t given one thought to you.”
“No? Then you’re just generally mad at the world, and it’s my imagination that you’re always checking out my pants?” He helped her position everything on her arms until she was in control of her groceries again.
“I’m not mad.”
“I meant angry.”
“I am not angry, and I most certainly haven’t been…” She glanced to see if his pants were tenting against his cock again.
He snickered. She wanted to kick herself for letting him lure her into looking. A coil of erotic stimulation flowed through her.
“Maybe I did look, but only because of the way you strut. It made me --”
“No! I wondered if you didn’t have some enormous cock that was too big for your britches.”
“And that would excite you, wouldn’t it?”
Even the word no
wouldn’t come out with her disgruntled sound. Heat spread to her cheeks. This conversation was much worse than the one about his butt with his wife. She did far too much talking about his genitals.
Fallon wondered about his wife’s assessment of her husband stalking a woman before her eyes. Looking back at Janette, she saw her watching. Not horrified, but happy. Janette waved at her with a smile.
“Thank you for the help. I can manage from here.” Fallon marched away from Grayson.
The horrible, extremely horrendous, and blatant consequential facts attacked her conscience -- a married man captivated her. It should have been a terrible feeling. With John not out of her life by more than a couple of weeks, the last thing she should have thought about was another man.
“I’ll be seeing you, sweet pea.” The sincere sweetness wrapped warmly around her soul.
. She shook her head to get rid of the idea of using Grayson as a hidden revenge against John. The only way it would work was if she had the illicit affair and then told John, and that wasn’t about to happen.
Fallon sat the groceries on the front seat of her car and walked to the opposite side. Over the top of her small car, she saw what appeared to be a silent movie of an argument. Janette swung her arms as she talked. She gave an occasional smack to Grayson’s arm and then one of her flailing limbs pointed at Fallon. It wasn’t hard to guess the rest of the mimed performance. Janette had to be scolding him for his bad behavior.
She felt sorry for the woman. He’d not change. Janette must have known because she pinched his cheeks and shook his face, as if she forgave his incorrigible actions.
Yes, forgive him
. If she could have been as lenient with John, she probably wouldn’t be so miserable.
Fallon got in the car and turned the key. It didn’t start, and she tried again. A groan, a sputter; the engine sounded bad.
She recalled the distance it would be to drive down the street to the old garage. Not far, the building stood as old and worn looking as the last time she had seen it. Yet she knew the old man from her childhood who ran the place had to be dead by now.
Fallon put the car into reverse and backed out into the lane. The strange encounter with Janette in DeVinchy’s left her rattled, so she hesitated in the street and waited until the woman pulled out of the parking lot, heading in the same direction she had to go. A light toot
from a car behind her made Fallon shift into drive and push on the gas pedal. She glanced at Grayson standing in the parking lot and then looked ahead at Janette’s car disappearing down the road.
You go girl, Fallon cheered mutely for the woman leaving her husband and his roaming gaze behind.
She managed the two blocks to the garage and pulled in front, away from the pumps near the bay doors. The place appeared deserted. Only the dim light inside the office indicated that someone must still run the place. She got out of her car and walked up to the door. A crooked sign that said GONE TO LUNCH, WILL BE BACK IN ONE HOUR hung on a nail. However, since the hands of the little plastic clock on the sign were missing, it was impossible to say if the man had just left or would soon return.
She turned her attention to the street that continued to run out of town where her grandmother lived. The half-mile walk would be easy if she didn’t have hardware supplies and groceries to take with her.
“Car problems?” Grayson’s voice startled her.
She turned around and looked at him, sitting in his car.
“No. Well, yes. Do you know when the attendant gets back?” She looked at the sign again, wishing it would magically amend itself and Grayson would go away.
“Monday? But he has a sign…”
Grayson opened his car door, and she watched one long leg emerge and then the other. The denim hugged his narrow hips and muscular thighs. She continued down the rest of his legs where the denim stopped at his semiworn athletic shoes.
“That’s been there for years, and Charlie never uses it.”
“Then he should take the sign down. It’s misleading and…” She saw his humorous eyes water with laughter. “This isn’t funny. Is there somewhere else in this godforsaken town I can get my car looked at?”
“I’m sorry. Everyone around here knows Charlie is closed on the weekend. No one pays attention to that sign.”
He leaned on her car and lifted one leg to cross over the other. The sexy heartthrob had no right to look at her with the hunger of a single man.
“You know, you’re very beautiful.”
“Pardon me?” She looked frantically from the sign to the frozen foods in the car and then to him, sizing her up.
“You heard me.” He pushed off the car, and it forced his chest out.
Fallon swallowed past the dryness in her throat. The dark brown T-shirt conformed to his muscles. Her focus locked onto the small, hard points of his nipples. She rolled her tongue over her dry lips.
He smiled wickedly as he stepped closer.
“I said you’re beautiful. I thought I should tell you that before you send me off. That is, since you can manage things on your own.”
“I think it’s highly inappropriate for you to tell me that. Don’t you have somewhere to be, like a job, with your family, someone else to stalk?”
“Anything at all that doesn’t include annoying me?”
She leaned in the car window and grabbed her purse. Rummaging in the bottom, she retrieved her cell phone.
“That won’t work here. There’s no tower for miles.” He moved close to her. “We sit right in the middle of a dead spot for cell phones.”
“What are you doing?” She stepped aside.
He leaned into the window, and a second later, the hood of her car popped open.
“If you get a signal, you’ll lose it.” He walked around to the front of her car.
“Now what are you doing?” she asked when he lifted the hood and ducked under it.
Fallon tried the phone. She pushed the buttons, waited, and got nothing. She pursed her lips and gave him a threatening look not to say “I told you so.”
“I’m looking at your car.” He reached around, pulled, poked, and fingered everything.
She imagined him touching her with the gentle inspection. What would it really feel like to have his long, warm fingers examining her, bringing her sensations she longed to feel again? The fantasy in the store didn’t have concrete details to the physical touch.
Suddenly, he closed the hood.
“See, you don’t know anything about cars,” she said.
His old car didn’t give her the impression he knew what he was doing.
He walked over to the door of the garage, reached to the transom, and then took a key down. The clothes he wore stretched tighter, agreeing with his contours. She watched with interest. Journalistic observation, she told herself when she found everything to her liking and began writing headlines in her head for a feature story.
WHY MEN CHEAT.
WHY VERY SEXY MEN BREAK WOMEN’S HEARTS.
She didn’t know what he had in mind, until he went inside and rolled an overhead door open.
“Drive it in here.” He waved his arms.
“Should we be doing this?” It couldn’t be legal.
She got in the car, feeling a little naughty and a whole lot guilty for the crime of being attracted to the man. The engine made a series of funny noises, and her heart held the fear it would blow up, throw up, or collapse. Grayson waved her forward.
The car rolled under its own volition when she took her foot off the brake. Each inch took her closer to the trap she saw ahead. She stepped back on the brake pedal.
“What’s wrong?” A puzzled expression wrinkled his brow.
Her hands were sweaty, her face beaded with moisture, and she had a strange tinkling sensation tickling her insides. She raised her foot, and the car crept into the garage.
“Pop the hood, sweet pea, and I’ll see if I can fix your problem.”
Fallon whimpered, relating the comment to sex, and how desperately she wished he meant her instead of the car.
He lifted the hood, and it relieved some of the anxiety of her standing alone with him in the empty building.
“I’m going to have to go shopping all over again,” she moaned, glancing at the groceries on the front seat.
“Charlie has a fridge.” He looked around at her. “It has a freezer too. Put your stuff in there.”
Fallon didn’t bother to ask if that too would be all right. She took out the important items and carried them into the back room that served as an office. The weather had a chill in the air but not enough to keep ice cream frozen.
She stood next to Grayson and watched him tinker with hoses and belts. He turned a wing nut on the top and took off what she knew was called an air filter.
“It’s just clogged. I can have you fixed up shortly.” He twisted, turned, and wrenched on another part.
He strolled around the garage looking in cabinets and boxes. She watched. He carried something and went back under the hood.
“What are you doing?”
That told her a lot.
“Hand me the socket wrench.” He held his hand out without looking at her.
Fallon studied the tools. She knew what an ordinary wrench was, but there wasn’t one. Thinking of a light socket, she picked up the tool with the thingy on it that appeared to resemble a socket.
She put it in his hand.
“Good guess.” He laughed.
“It wasn’t a guess.”
He turned his head and the expression on his face made her laugh.
“Okay, so I don’t know anything about mechanical tools. Is that a crime?”
He returned to his tinkering, and she continued her examination of him. His muscles moved under his shirt as he stretched into position. The ripples shifted and flexed, and her mind indulged in a decadent vision of him in the nude. A god in tanned flesh suited her fancy. Slabs of muscle that traveled to the span of his shoulder blades were her weakness. She loved a man fit and sculpted.
“Here’s the one giving you the most problem,” Grayson spoke from under the hood.
Fallon joined him by leaning in and looking.
He held up a spark plug. “See the burned tip.”
“Uh-huh,” she mumbled.
The soft scent of his cologne, seductively discreet, teased her. The grease from his hands worked a few streaks to his face when he brushed at a fly. She gazed into his eyes. The blue darkened and gave her a chill. Alarmingly pensive, and intently fixed on her, his stare made her nipples tighten.
“And that’s it?” She breathed heavily. “Just these little things can make my car sound like a tank?”
“Hard to imagine, isn’t it? This one small thing could be so important.”
She felt him watching her, and she feared meeting his stare again.
“You know, this is our third date.” He stood up and wiped his hands on a rag. “Generally, it’s customary to kiss on the second date, but I’m a patient man.”
“I’m not going to kiss you,” she exclaimed, shocked by his forwardness.
Grayson tossed the rag to a workbench and put his hands on her arms.
“Ah, sweet pea, don’t tell me you’re just a tease.” His touch slid up to her shoulders and back down to her elbows in a soothing fashion.
“I don’t even know you.” She jerked from his grip, rattled by her true feelings. “And this was hardly a date.”
She continued back from his slow gait toward her.
“My name’s Grayson.”
“That’s nice.” She took a quick look around outside the open bay doors. “I should get home.”
With no one in sight, she needed to get her groceries and leave. She rushed to the refrigerator in the office.
She heard him follow.
“I don’t know what gives you the idea that you can kiss women you don’t know. It’s just not done,” she nervously explained.
“It is when the heat between two people is this powerful.”
“I don’t feel any heat.”
He stood close behind her. The heat she denied intensified against her back. Cool air hit her in the face from the open fridge door. The chilly breeze of the old icebox made her nipples harden with the worst ache.
She gathered her bags.
“I think you lie,” he challenged.
“I’m a strange woman.” She stumbled over her wording.
“I find you sexy, not strange.”
“I meant I’m a stranger.” She took long, swift strides to her car.
A bag fell, and she stuffed the others into the car window, dropping them on the seat. She turned to get the other bag from the ground and found Grayson holding it. She extended her arm and held her hand out.
He grinned wickedly.
“This is ice cream.” He looked inside the bag. “Chocolate.”
“Would you give me the ice cream and shut the hood of my car, please?” Escape. She had to leave before something awful happened.
His gaze dropped to the front of her shirt. For some bizarre reason, she looked too. The cold from the refrigerator had caused her nipples to pucker. They appeared to swell to the size of grapes beneath the shirt and bra.
Grayson reached over and, with one hand, slammed the hood down on her car.
“Now the ice cream.” She snatched the bag from his hands and clutched it to her chest. “Oh, it’s melting.”
“I guess the freezer wasn’t working.” He grinned.
“You guess?” Chocolate oozed from the paper bag and wet the front of her blouse. She sat the bag on the car and wiped at the cold mess.
Grayson’s hands drifted up, and before she could get words out for him to stop, he was wiping the chocolate. His long fingers curved over her one breast, and she turned from him and the titillation. His other hand swept up her side, circled to her belly, then pulled her back against his solid body.
“Stop.” She tried to push his hands away. “You’re married.”
Both his hands moved simultaneously and cradled the undersides of her breasts. “I’m not married, sweet pea.”
He lied. He had to be. She had seen his family for herself.
“You’re sure?” She grasped for a reason to strengthen her dwindling defenses.
“I’m sure.” His palms slipped up, and she accepted the warmth over her frigid nipples.
She should have asked about Janette and the kids. Yet Grayson’s strokes tenderly soothed her thoughts. She wanted to believe him. He wouldn’t lie to her when he knew she’d seen the woman and the kids. He had to be helping them in some way. It was in his nature, similar to the way he kept coming to her rescue. Maybe they were relatives. Yes, that’s it.
Fallon dropped her head back against Grayson’s shoulder in surrender. She shut down her brain and the overtime it did on working at refusing his attention because of a misunderstanding. Rolling her head to the side, she moaned at the delicious way his breath fanned her cheek with each imprint of his lips against her skin.
“I like ice cream,” he whispered.