The sound of a hundred empty tin cans being dragged across the asphalt along with a resounding backfire echoed inside his auto garage. James Foley couldn’t help but look up from the order form he was going over with a customer to see the piece-of-shit car that sat clicking away outside one of the open bay doors.
It was a maroon Honda Accord. It was rusty and loud. And from what James could see, it should have been put through the incinerator years ago.
Returning his attention to his customer, who was tapping furiously on his smartphone, James continued going over all the services one of his guys had just finished up on a one-year-old Mercedes S-Class.
“Per your request, we replaced the entire ignition system, consisting of spark plugs, plug wires, coils, and other electrical components.” James turned the page on the order form. “Again, per your request, we replaced the oil, fuel, and air filters, and the cabin air filter. We replaced all belts and hoses and topped off your coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. And we changed the oil and replaced all four tires, as you requested.”
The young executive nodded, not bothering to look up from his phone. “Sounds good.”
“That’ll be two thousand, one hundred and twenty-five dollars.”
The guy didn’t even balk at the completely outrageous and absolutely unnecessary price tag. The car was only a year old, for Christ’s sake.
After a minute of furious clicking with his thumbs, the customer finally put his smartphone in his back pocket and got his wallet out. “Okay. Here,” he said, handing over his American Express.
James processed the card, thinking how his clientele had changed dramatically over the past fifteen years. It had shifted from blue-collar to white-collar. The cars shifted from American muscle to foreign speed. All the imported cars meant big expense for the customer and longer labor times for his employees. They’d become more familiar with the foreign-brand engines, but it had taken some time. Now his guys could change out the alternator on a BMW just as quickly as they could on a Ford or Chevy.
He’d started working at the auto shop as a teenager and bought it from his father, Abel, when he got out of high school. His dad had loved working on cars but had hated dealing with the customers. Abel had offered him a pretty good deal on the place. A fat down payment was sent to the bank, the shop’s title was transferred to James, and that was the end of the story. Abel had continued to work at the garage until he’d finally retired about six years ago.
After finishing up with his customer and clearing off the reception desk, James was just about ready to head to his office in the back when he heard high heels clacking against the tiled floor of the front office.
“Hello,” came a quiet, feminine voice behind him.
He turned and recognized the woman standing across the desk: Megan Dempsey.
She was married to one of the most prominent commercial real estate executives in Chicago. In fact, his whole family was real estate royalty. Mrs. Dempsey was also about five feet, nine inches of long, lovely legs, flowing blond hair, a pert pink mouth, and dreamy, hooded, bedroom eyes that always looked as if she’d just been thoroughly fucked.
As usual, she was dressed impeccably in a pair of navy trousers, a white silky tank top, and a long navy cardigan, which was pretty fucking ridiculous because it was August in Chicago.
Still, she’d make any red-blooded man pitch a tent in his pants…even though she was a complete ice princess.
He and his guys called all the wives of their rich and famous clients that. They usually dealt with the husbands, but occasionally the wives would stop in to drop off or pick up their Mercs, BMWs, or Audis, and they all acted like just being inside an auto garage might permanently stain their precious designer shoes forever.
It was a shame the ethereal blond beauty in front of him was married to such an asshole like Niall Dempsey. James had only met her once before, so he probably shouldn’t be too hasty to judge her. But from his experience, all these Stepford types were the same: ice-cold and pretentious.
“Hi,” he said. “How can I help you?”
She smiled timidly. “I just bought a new car, and I’d like you to take a look at it for me. I think it needs some repairs.”
What? The windows weren’t tinted enough for her? The hum of her Porsche didn’t sound hummy enough?
He looked out into the parking lot but didn’t see a new car.
“Umm.” She sounded embarrassed. “I think it needs a lot of repairs, actually.”
James followed Mrs. Dempsey’s gaze to the maroon tin can sitting outside the bay door. “That’s your car?”
She looked him directly in the eye. “Yes.”
Her expression dared him to say something about the car as she held her gaze steady and composed. He was curious as to why she was driving that piece of shit, but instead of asking her about it, he just nodded.
“Okay. Let me get some information from you.” He turned around and grabbed a new car form off the back wall. “Do you know the year of the car?”
She dug a piece of paper out of her purse and scanned it. “It’s a 1994 Honda Accord EX.”
“How many miles?”
“Ah.” She looked over the page. “It says 222,044 miles. Well, 222,045 if you count the one I put on it driving it here from the dealership.”
James noticed that she forced an awkward smile at him from across the desk.
“All right.” He ticked off some boxes on the form. “I’m assuming it’s front-wheel drive, a 2.2L engine. Is it manual or automatic?”
James nodded. He moved over to the giant scheduling book that his receptionist, Janie, kept so tidy for him. “Can you leave it here for a couple days? Depending on the extent of the repairs, I’ll probably be able to get it back to you by the end of the week.”
“Sure, that sounds fine. Thank you.”
He could see her smile slip a little. She probably knew her car was pretty beat up, but she hadn’t put much thought behind how long it would take to make it drivable.
“Do you have a number I can reach you at, Mrs. Dempsey?”
She looked like she was about to say something before quickly shutting her mouth. Instead, she gave him her cell phone number and added, “And please call me Megan.”
“All right, Megan. We’ll give you a call when she’s all done.”
“Great.” Her smile didn’t reach her eyes, but it was still fucking gorgeous. “Thanks again.”
James watched the tall, leggy blonde leave the shop. She slipped on a pair of sunglasses and looked at her watch before walking toward Jackson Boulevard. Even over the pungent odor of oil and grease that permeated his garage, he could smell the light note of her perfume in the front office. He looked down at her paperwork and then outside at the sad maroon Accord, which had caught the interest of a couple of his guys. They were currently giving it a 360-degree review.
There had to be a story behind why Megan Dempsey was driving a car like that. He sure was glad she was loaded and could handle the immense amount of work it would require to fix it.
Hell, he was going to work a miracle to have it ready in two days. But something told him she might be able to use a little miracle at the moment.