Not My Type: Felicity Ch. 01byfirstkiss©
My dearest readers: thanks for waiting so patiently for this next storyline! I can't wait to hear what you think! Cheers ~ firstkiss xo
The last dregs of oil dripped from the oil pan and into the discard container. I had wiped the drain spout with a rag and was recapping it when the sound of footsteps caught my attention. I didn't have to slide out from under the car to know who was walking across the garage towards me; I'd recognize the casual gait anywhere.
I knew what came next. With my legs sticking out from beneath the sedan, he wouldn't be able to resist. Sure enough his foot nudged my calf.
"Oi, Flick. What the hell are you doin' under there?"
"Oil change," I replied through gritted teeth. Oi? Not even so much as a, "Good morning, Felicity. How are you today Felicity?" Typical.
"Why isn't the car up on the lift?"
I braced my hands against the front bumper and propelled myself out from underneath the car. The wheels of the old wooden dolly I lay on squeaked in protest.
Matthew Tanner towered over me, his dark auburn hair like a rusty halo in the morning sunshine that streamed through the open bay doors. He clutched a big brown paper bag in one hand and a tray with two take-out coffee cups in the other. His morning greeting was forgiven.
"Like hell, I fixed it yesterday," he said while he scowled down at me. Naturally, he looked handsome even when he scowled. But then Matthew Tanner looked handsome all the time.
I sat up and wiped my dirty hands with an equally dirty rag. "Yeah, well that was yesterday. It's not working today." I sighed and resisted the urge to run my grimy fingers through my short hair. "I'll look at it later."
We both glanced over at the temperamental piece of equipment in question. The hydraulic lift was supposed to make a mechanic's life better; it was much easier to work on a vehicle high overhead than being jammed flat on your back beneath it. Unfortunately, I spent more time repairing the lift than I did the cars and trucks I wanted to put on it.
"Bloody hydraulics," Matt grumbled. "Haven't you asked your dad for a new lift yet?"
The damn thing was twenty-five years old. Half the parts needed to repair it weren't even manufactured anymore so like many things around the shop, I tried to find a way around the problem. Lately, however, my varied attempts had been for nought. Matt didn't understand it though. To him the matter was simple—the lift didn't work and I couldn't fix it, which meant only one thing - replacing it.
"Money doesn't grow on trees," I told him. "Those things cost a fortune. I don't have that kind of cash and neither does Dad. Do you?"
Matt considered me for a moment before his gorgeous face broke into a grin. "Hell no! I work for you remember?"
It was meant as a joke, but it struck a nerve in ways he couldn't imagine. Stewart and Sons Automotive had never been a lucrative business, but we'd really been struggling ever since my father hurt his back over a year ago. The Island could be a backward place at times and plenty of people didn't believe the words female and mechanic went together.
Business had dropped off noticeably since Dad went on disability leave and I'd taken over. I wanted to keep the rates the same as my father had charged but the garage was really hurting for money. If I didn't fear higher prices would drive away the few remaining customers we had, I'd have raised them months ago.
Parts didn't come cheap and neither did a mechanic the calibre of Matthew Tanner. He didn't know what a struggle it was some weeks to make enough money to cover his salary. But that wasn't the only secret I'd kept from him.
"And it goes from bad to worse," I confessed as I rose to my feet. The hood of the car was up and I reached for a quart of oil and began filling the now empty oil pan with the fresh 10-W40. "Penny told me she's moving out. She got a job on the mainland, she starts in two weeks."
Matt's face wrinkled in concentrated thought. "Penny? The chick who lives upstairs?"
I nodded. The apartment above the garage was nothing fancy, but I depended on the rent to help pay the mortgage on the building. I always fantasized that once the current tenant moved out I'd be able to move in. I never had a place of my own before, but Dad still needed me to keep an eye on him and anyway I needed the income the rental brought in more than I needed a place of my own.
Once the quart of oil had been emptied, I checked the level. There was room for another quart or two, easy. I glanced over my shoulder to find Matt watching me.
"Got anyone lined up for it yet?"
I couldn't very well tell him I wanted the place for myself. He'd convince me to take it and I couldn't afford it. Matt could talk me into just about anything.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," I admitted. "I can't afford to leave it empty but finding a tenant takes time—time I don't have."
I checked the oil level again. She'd taken two more quarts with no trouble. Perfect. I recapped the oil pan and let the hood fall shut with a bang.
"Will I do?" Matt asked.
I looked up from cleaning my hands, surprised beyond words.
"Can't live with Mom and Dad forever; it cramps my love life," he joked. He handed me a coffee from the tray. It didn't matter which one of the two it was, we both took it the same way. "And I won't mind the garage-ish smells and noises."
Matt winked at me and my stomach fluttered. I had to remind myself he wasn't flirting with me—he was just being Matt. He was, by nature, a charming and flirtatious guy. Every woman within a thirty kilometre radius between the ages of thirteen and seventy was fair game for his dimpled grin and good humour. I, however, was the exception to the rule and didn't qualify for the same smiles as the rest of the female population.
"Boss and landlord," he teased. "Think you can handle that?"
I couldn't help but laugh. No matter how dismal things got, Matt always found a way to make me laugh. Just having him around made my days brighter—not that he could ever know that.
He waved the paper bag at me. "We can discuss the particulars over breakfast."
My stomach rumbled so loud, I blushed. When had I eaten last? Dinner the night before? Lunch? Matt ignored the sound and led the way to my office, took his usual seat across the desk from mine, and unpacked the paper bag.
I watched the methodical procedure with veiled amusement. There was enough food in the bag for six people although most of it was just for him. There was only one thing in the bag that interested me anyway, especially since it was from Tony's, the small restaurant across the road. I eyed the bag for the small Styrofoam bowl and broke out into a grin when it emerged. The lid was sealed but I already imagined the heavenly smell.
I popped off the lid with a satisfied "Ah." Breakfast from Tony's meant only one thing to me. Oatmeal.
"I don't know how you can eat that horse feed," Matt muttered. He fished about in the bottom of the bag and produced a plastic spoon, which he presented with flourish. "Even with all the brown sugar on top it's still gross."
"You've never even tried it!" I plunged my spoon through the top layer of melted brown sugar to the thick oatmeal below. I moaned out loud with the sheer pleasure of the act. Tony made his oatmeal from scratch every morning—none of the instant stuff for him—and it was always smooth, comforting and full of flavour. Coupled with the coffee at my elbow and the man across the desk from me, I couldn't imagine a better way to start the day.
Matt shrugged with characteristic nonchalance. "It's so heavy. I don't know how you can move after eating that."
I eyed the line of open take-out containers covering my desk. "That's rich coming from a guy who is about to eat three eggs, six slices of bacon, four slices of toast, three sausages, hash browns, and a stack of pancakes."
His broad shoulders flexed under his coveralls when he shrugged again. "A growing boy needs to eat."
I laughed. "Boy? You're twenty-seven!"
Matt gifted me with a smile which in all fairness couldn't be called anything but boyish. "Twenty-eight. And still not as tall as my dad or my brothers."
I giggled. "Matt, I think you're done growing."
"But a fellow can always dream."
I savoured my first mouthful of sweet, creamy oatmeal. Then I sat back in my chair, pulled my feet up to sit cross-legged and leaned back, cradling my precious bowl of breakfast between my knees
"Is that what Matthew Tanner dreams about? Being six-foot-four?"
He grinned. "Yup. That and owning a garage of my own some day." He started in on the hash browns. "You already pretty much have a garage of your own, so what do you dream about Flick?"
I faltered with my spoon half-way to my mouth. My hands shook but Matt didn't notice my hesitation.
"I don't set my sights quite as high as you. Six-foot-four? It'd settle for being five-foot-four... hell, I'd settle for being five-foot-two."
"And stop being pocket-sized?"
"Pocket-sized? That's the most interesting euphemism for being short I've heard in a long time."
Matt grinned at me over the rim of his coffee cup. "You're like a wee little pixie. Pocket-sized for convenience. Easily portable—can be taken anywhere."
"Yeah, I can just see you carting me all over the Island in your back pocket, beside your wallet."
The grin grew. "It'd be nice to have you around all the time..." Matt paused and my heart literally skipped a beat. "You know, in case anything broke down."
I didn't trust myself to keep the disappointed look of my face, so I ducked my head and pretended to contemplate my breakfast. I poked at the contents with my spoon but my appetite had vanished. I plunked the half-empty bowl on my desk. Matt's expression turned wary.
"Full already?" He shook his head, his auburn hair flashing. "You hardly eat enough to keep a bird alive. I dunno how you do it." His cobalt eyes twinkled at me from across the desk. It was a friendly expression, a welcoming one and unfortunately a rather fraternal one. "I'm going to have to bring you home to my mom sometime. She'll fatten you up, round off some of those corners."
I stood. How I would have loved it if Matt was actually serious for once. He'd been giving me the same line almost every day for the past three years but he never once actually invited me to his parents' for dinner. Hell, in all that time I'd never even met his mother.
"We've got a tire rotation coming in half-an-hour," I reminded him. I waved my hand at the litter of take-out containers on my desk. "Have that out of the way before then please."
For a moment I thought Matt looked a little hurt at the abrupt change of topic but then his expression lightened. He saluted me as he said, "Yes, sir" and laughed.
I crossed to the door, no longer in the mood to joke around.
I paused but I didn't look back. I felt tired. Tired of worrying about the shop. Tired of worrying about my dad. Tired of worrying about money. But mostly I was tired of worrying that one day Matt would open his eyes and realize how I really felt about him. Hiding it was getting harder and harder.
"About the apartment upstairs?"
I thought about what it would be like to have Matt living upstairs, knowing he was there all hours of the day and night, wandering about half-dressed or sleeping in just his boxers or maybe sleeping in nothing at all, waking up rumpled and warm and sexy, in the shower, wet and steamy, naked and slick with soap.
I pinched the inside of my wrist. The sharp sting snapped me back to reality. It took me a moment to swallow and then form words from my dry throat. It would be torture but I had no reason to say no, at least not one I could admit to.
"Penny moves out at the end of next week. You can have the keys then."
I didn't look back. I didn't need to. I had memorized every one of Matt Tanner's expressions and knew he was grinning from ear-to-ear. I barely heard his words of thanks. All I could think about was not being able to escape him. I liked having the shop to myself at night and on off days when he wasn't around. It was then that I was able to distract myself from thoughts of him. Now with him living upstairs, the only place where I could do that was at home with my dad and being there came with a whole other set of problems. Bigger problems.
We heard the car coming down the road well before we saw it. Both Matt and I raised our heads from our respective projects in time to watch the little white sports car pull up in front of the open bay doors.
Matt laughed. "Think she needs a new muffler or what?"
We didn't have anyone lined up for an exhaust job and even though Matt and I were both busy, I sure as hell wasn't in a position to turn down extra work.
I watched in stunned silence as a tall, slender brunette unfolded from the parked car. It was hard to tell if her skirt was too short or her legs were too long, but at any rate, she was drop dead gorgeous. She made a bee-line straight for Matt. I don't think she even realized I was there.
He straightened and gave her his signature dazzling smile while he wiped his hands clean.
"I think my car is broken," she pouted in a weird babyish tone that made the word think sound like fink. I wanted to gag. Instead, I just rolled my eyes and pretended to go back to fixing the transmission on the car I was tending to.
Matt chuckled as if she'd said the funniest thing he'd ever heard. I tried to ignore the sound.
"I think you might be right."
From the corner of my eye I watched as he gave her a sly, crooked smile.
"Can you fix it?"
I rolled my eyes again—I couldn't help it. Of course he could bloody fix it, he's a freakin' mechanic and he works in an automotive repair shop. I didn't say it out loud but I really, really wanted to. And actually, exhaust systems were more my sort of thing than Matt's, but the beautiful brunette still hadn't looked in my direction.
"Sure," Matt told her without even consulting me. It wasn't as if our day was booked solid with jobs, but he didn't know that; and anyway, all work was supposed to be approved by me.
"Right now?" she purred in the silly, childish voice that set my last nerve on edge.
Matt didn't even glance down at the job he was only half-way through, the job which was scheduled to be done within less than an hour. He just continued to smile at the brunette while she simpered at him. My breakfast sat like an unhappy lump in my stomach.
"Yeah, I would love to make time for you. We aim to please here at Stewart and Sons," Matt said as his dimples creased his stubbled cheeks.
I snorted with derision but Matt either didn't hear me or he had decided to ignore me. His eyes never left the face of the overly made-up brunette.
"How many sons do you have Stewart?" she asked with mock seriousness.
Matt had to have heard me this time because I didn't even try to hide my laughter at her ridiculous tactic. I never understood those women who felt they had to play dumb just to land a man. For a brief moment his gaze flickered over the brunette's shoulder to meet with mine and I could have sworn his smile turned sarcastic before he shifted his attention back to her.
I rolled my eyes again. Men.
"Actually, my name is Matt," he drawled. "And I don't have sons. Or daughters for that matter, although if you're offering to help me with that..."
He trailed off mischievously and the brunette laughed at his stupid joke. I hated her for it.
I focused on the transmission, watching as my hands automatically performed the many miniscule motions required though I couldn't really feel myself really doing it. All my awareness centered on the husky, intimate cadence of Matt's voice as he chatted her up and led her to my office to take down her name and phone number.
I couldn't blame her for wanting him though. Matt was the best looking guy on the North Shore hands down. With broad shoulders and muscular arms, Matthew Tanner was clearly a man who worked with his hands for a living and added to that his thick, dark auburn hair, blue eyes, and flirtatious, dimpled smile along with stubble... well there wasn't much hope—for her or for me.
I made myself scarce on moving day. It was probably cowardly of me, but it wasn't as if Matt needed my help to move furniture up the stairs—that's what his two large brothers and large father were for. He also didn't need my help to unpack boxes. The Tanner women had arrived en-masse to take care of that chore. I would have been underfoot, so I holed myself up in the office before I took a tow call from a stranded customer. And yes, I took the long way back to the garage.
I was just lowering the winch on the tow truck when a sharp whistle drew my attention. I looked over my shoulder to find Matt standing in the open bay door of the garage with his arms crossed over his broad chest. He wore jeans and a t-shirt instead of his usual coveralls, but still looked sexy and rumpled nonetheless. Matt was always a little rumpled.
"I know it's my day off," he said as he sauntered towards me. "But I kept hearing the phone ring, so I came down and answered it. It was your dad. He wants you to pick up some medicine for him."
If I hadn't been in the middle of lowering the broken-down mini-van to the pavement I would have closed my eyes in horror. Matt had seen very little of my dad since the accident. I made sure he had no idea just how bad things had gotten.
"I'll call him back when I'm done here."
"If he needs his meds right away, I can take them over," Matt offered. "Anything to escape Mom and Lilly arranging my kitchen cupboards for me. Just tell me what he needs and I'll get it."
I wasn't going to tell Matt that medicine was my dad's code for alcohol—rye whiskey preferably, although he had gotten less and less picky lately. If he ran out already then he'd burned through the last bottle I bought him. Much, much too quickly.
"He'll last until I'm done here," I assured Matt. "I was going home for lunch anyway; I'll grab it on my way." It was an outright lie, but Matt didn't notice my flustered tone. I never went home for lunch. I rarely ate lunch unless Matt brought it to me. But if Dad had it in his head that he needed more medicine, he wouldn't stop calling me until I delivered it to him and then I'd never get any work done. It was easier to oblige him than to reason with him.
I glanced up to find Matt pouting. "I was going to ask you to have lunch with the lot of us." He gestured over his shoulder at the steady stream of Tanner men laden with boxes and furniture as they traveled up and down the exterior stairs to the second storey. The three large redheads were punctuated by Matt's sister Lilly's bad-boy looking fiancé, Adam. All four joked and jostled loud enough to be heard over the din of the idling tow truck.
"Mom always makes enough for an army."
"I've seen the way you eat," I reminded Matt. "If the rest of them are as bad as you she'd need to cook enough to feed an army."
"Maybe that's why you're so small," Matt teased. "You don't eat enough."
"I've seen your mother and your sisters," I shot back, feeling a little defensive. I was well aware of how small I was I didn't need him to point it out. "They're not exactly giants."
"Yeah, but they're not exactly going to be blown away by a strong wind either -- unlike you. Lilly's the littlest and she's easily got three inches and twenty-five pounds on you."
I unhooked the broken-down car from the tow truck and winched the cables back. I didn't have the time to stand around and debate eating habits and genetics with anyone, especially Matthew Tanner. The tow-truck sucked up the diesel, even when it was idling. I couldn't very well leave it to do so, not with the current price of fuel.