I gazed, distraught at the dented bumper in my dad's open-top Porsche. My dad's beloved Porsche. Damn.
I had decided to go for a drive to clear my thoughts of that horrendous nightmare and also to reassure myself that my life wasn't immediately at risk from him. I had hurriedly poured myself a bowl of cereal and ate it at lightning speed, pulled some random clothes on and brushed my hair and teeth before searching for Dad. I had found him in the garden and told him I was borrowing his car.
He had nodded, half-asleep in his deckchair, and I had grabbed the keys and my licence before walking out.
On my way back, I had passed a garage in which a handsome guy who looked just slightly older than me and like the sort of person who was quite full of himself was lounging on a chair with a gleaming Bugatti behind him.
‘How did he get the money for that?' I had thought to myself, staring before crashing into a streetlamp.
And now there was a massive dent in my dad's bumper. It was minor damage, in my opinion, but if I didn't get that fixed, I would be grounded for at least a month.
There was no choice but to ask that cocky-looking mechanic for some help.
I jogged back the short distance towards him and said "Um, excuse me?" I squirmed a little as I noticed he was drooling.
He whimpered, sounding oddly like a dog, but he didn't wake up. He batted his hand around as if to shoo me away.
I stared at him, my brow furrowing at the strangeness of this.
"Excuse me," I said a little louder.
He awoke with a ... bark and then stared at me. A slow smile spread across his features as he looked me up and down appraisingly.
"Stop that!" I cried indignantly.
He wiped his eyes tiredly and nodded, rising from the chair slowly and stretching.
"So, what can I do for you, hun?" he asked, in a smooth American accent.
I unwittingly found myself biting my lip in suppressed pleasure at the sight of the movement of his muscles but evenly replied "I drove into a street lamp."
"That wasn't very smart," he said, laughing. "What happened?" He smirked and if I hadn't been in desperate need of his help, I would have scowled.
"I ..." I began but trailed off, feeling stupid. My eyes moved to his Bugatti and I blushed. "I wasn't looking where I was going."
"Beauty, isn't she?" He grinned. I didn't respond. "I'm guessing you want me to look at the damage?" He yawned, stretching again. I looked away this time, in case he noticed me staring and made cocky remarks.
"Yes please," I replied quietly, still quite embarrassed about the reason for the crash.
He walked languidly over to the car, looked over the damage before nodding, which didn't really help me in any way.
"So, ... can you fix it?" I asked hopefully.
"'Course I can," he replied. "You know who I am?" He laughed. "Should be a quick fix, you wanna wait in shop?"
"Um, I don't know who you are," I told him, frowning at his fullness of himself. "And yeah, I'll wait. I can't go anywhere until it's done."
He nodded and began pushing the car into his shop.
"I. Am. Alex Falcon," he said slowly and deliberately. "The best mechanic in Miami." He grinned. "And who are you, angel?"
"I'd rather you didn't call me angel," I said, still frowning. "And do you have a certificate or something? Because otherwise, you sound awfully arrogant."
He dodged my question and continued smiling.
"What's your name?"
I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow.
"So you are awfully arrogant. My name's Flora Turpentine."
"Pleasure," He grinned and pulled up a chair for me before lying on the floor, looking at the dent in the bumper. "Apologies for you catching me snoozing - the sun... she tires me out."
I felt the sudden urge to kick him but suppressed it and said "You're fine. I think it's quite soporific too. And I once had a boyfriend..." I clamped my mouth shut, alarmed at what I'd nearly told him.
"Oh...did. You're single?" he asked, sounding intrigued and slightly amazed.
"I'm sorry," I said, pretending to have imagined the latter feeling in his tone. "I thought I heard a hint of surprise in your tone there. I'm sure you didn't mean to be insulting. And yes, I'm single." I spoke the last words carefully, trying to convey I was happy that way.
"Mmm, just expected a beauty like you to be snapped up is all," he murmured, bending the metal back into shape with his hands, astonishing me - I was sure that no normal mechanic could do that. "So where you from, gorgeous? You're not from here, that I can tell."
I was able to forget my surprise as he went too far with the complimentary names, though.
"I'm afraid flattery won't get you very far with me, Alex. And I'm from England. Cambridge, specifically."
"Ooo, smart," he nodded, growling a little as he bent the metal smooth. "Damn... it...Argh! There," he smiled as the bumper snapped into place.
"So, how can I get far, Flora?"
I didn't reply. I was staring at the perfect bumper which showed no sign that it had been dented at all in the first place.
"Um, ... can I show you something?"
I pulled at a ring on my finger. If I was wrong, I would merely be a bit embarrassed briefly. I could stand that for what I suspected was the situation.
He stood, and took her hand in his, examining it with a smile, "yeah, I thought so. I noticed it when you first came into my shop. Got quite a gleam on it there - beautiful"
"But ... you know what that flower means, ... don't you?" I whispered, trying to disregard how I felt from the contact of his warm skin on mine.
"You're a witch, I do," he nodded, his warm smile not faltering.
"You need to be more careful," I said, pulling my hand out of his grasp. "Anyone can tell there's something slightly strange about you. I hope you've not come close to breaking any laws."
"Nope, I noticed your ring back when we met, remember I said? I knew what I was doing." He stood, his eyes glazing over coldly as he stood in a defensive stance. "I've never once broken a law. Never." He shook his head, "I need to go fill out some paperwork on this. Wait. Here."
"You barked when you woke up," I called.
Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. I mean, he couldn't help that: could he? But still, I didn't like the thought of his life being extinguished like a candle. Even if he was full of himself.
"I was dreaming!" he shouted back, instantly revealing that my concern hadn't appeared in my tone, "I can't help it..." He whined, almost like a wounded puppy.
"I'm sorry," I murmured, averting my gaze. I felt awful. I should've just kept my mouth shut.
He appeared again in a flash with the paperwork.
"Aww don't worry about it," he said, noticing my expression. He smiled, tilting my head up with a finger under my chin. "C'mon, you should smile more, y'know?" He grinned warmly, his eyes shimmering with life again.
I pushed his hand away.
"Don't!" I said, angrily. "If that's how you react to sympathy, I won't show you any more."
"God, I was just trying to cheer you up. You've been moping ever since I saw you!" He put his hand by his side. "I wasn't trying anything!" He bit back a growl and swallowed hard. "Just, sign here," he murmured, thrusting a pen into my hands.
I signed the paper and handed him back the pen.
"Of course you weren't trying anything," I muttered to myself.
"I wasn't. I'm a mutt. You're a witch... you're positively beautiful - I wouldn't even bother. You're clearly better than me." The resentment in his tone stung as if a bee had just flown into my heart. He took the clipboard back and gave me the keys. "Go on, I gotta close up." He shook his head, walking over to his tools where he just stood there for a while before arranging them in size order.
"I never said I was better than you," I said, feeling sorry for him. Not quite sure why, I walked over to him. "And ... thanks for saying I'm beautiful. Look, ... if you want to get far with me, you're might want to try to be a gentleman." I turned, blushing at what I'd said. "Less arrogance. No contact till I say so." I hurried back to the Porsche.
"Well, you owe me anyway. I don't do work for free," he shrugged, a remnant of his grin still tugging at his lips as he turned to face me.
"You didn't give me a price," I said, turning around. "I've got cash on me. How much?"
"Call me," he smiled, gesturing to the contact card tucked under her windscreen wiper.
I stared at him in indignation.
"No way!" I said. I walked back over to him. "Look, give me a price. Or I'll just give you something random, like $50."
He shrugged, "well, I tried. Can't blame me for trying." He smiled. "Call it $5 then."
"Are you sure that's enough?" I asked, searching his face suspiciously.
"I got to meet you. It's enough," he replied, nodding.
I pulled $20 out of my pocket.
"Meeting me won't pay your bills," I told him. "And neither did it gain you an admirer. Here. If it's too much, the rest is a tip." I handed the notes to him before returning to the car. I took his card off my window, calling "I'm only keeping this if I break down again," before climbing in.
He sighed and nodded, waving as I pulled out his shop.
"See you later."
"Bye," I called back.
I drove back home, wondering at guys. But the thought reminded me of him and his stark difference to Alex, which made my heart hurt before pulling fear from its prison in the pit of my stomach and filling me with dread. So much for escaping it.