Amy turned her back on him, on the both of them, and Matt looked at Ty. “What happened to her?”
“She’s declined to say.”
“A knife,” Amy said over her shoulder. “No big deal. Now go away. No big, bad alpha males allowed in the kitchen.”
Not even a glimmer of a smile from Matt, which was unusual. Ty hadn’t any idea that Matt had something going with the pretty, prickly waitress, which was telling in itself. Usually the affable, easygoing Matt was an open book, not the type to let much get to him. But there was a whole bunch of body language going on, all of it heating up the kitchen.
Then Amy made an annoyed sound and walked to the doorway. For emphasis, she jerked her head, making her wishes perfectly clear. She wanted them out.
Matt waited a beat, just long enough for Amy to give him a little shove. She wasn’t tall by any means, though her platform sneakers gave her some extra inches. Still, Matt was six feet tall and outweighed her by a good eighty pounds. She could push him around only if he allowed it, but to Ty’s shock, Matt acquiesced, and with a softly muttered “fuck it,” he left.
Ty followed him out, telling himself that he wasn’t here to get involved. If he had been, he’d have talked himself into Mallory’s bed tonight—and he could have.
That wasn’t ego, just plain fact. She wanted him. He wanted her right back, more than he could have possibly imagined. Right this minute, he could be wrapped up in her sweet, warm limbs, buried deep. “Shit.”
“Yeah,” Matt muttered as they strode out to the parking lot side by side. “Shit.”
“What was that back there?” Ty asked him.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Why the fuck does that work for you and not me?”
Matt ignored this to stare in appreciation at the Shelby. “You get the suspension done?”
“Yeah, but there’s still a lot left to do. I’ve been busy on your Jimmy. Almost done, by the way.”
“Good. So how’s this baby running?”
“Better than any other area of my life.”
Matt laughed ruefully and slid into the passenger seat of the Shelby. Apparently Ty was getting company for his late night ride tonight. Silent, brooding company, but that suited him just fine.
Eat a square meal a day—a box of chocolate.
On Saturday, the doors of the HSC opened to the public. The town hadn’t exactly been on board, but enough tentative support had trickled in that Mallory had been able to talk Bill into giving her the one-month trial.
Mallory knew she had Ty to thank for starting that tentative support. After the town meeting, a handful of locals had pledged money for certain programs. Ford Walker and Jax Cullen, co-owners of the local bar, had donated money for a Drink Responsibly program. Lucille was donating supplies from her art gallery for an art program. Lance, Mallory’s favorite CF patient, had donated time to help counsel the chronically ill. Every day someone else called. Bill decided it was too much money and goodwill to turn away and had given Mallory approval. But things had to go smoothly or it’d be over.
For now, they’d be open five days a week for services providing crisis counseling, and education and recovery programs. And on Saturdays, the HSC turned into a full-blown medical clinic.
They saw patients nonstop, thanks to their first attending physician, Dr. Scott. As Mallory began to close up at the end of the day, Josh came out from the back.
After a long day, Josh looked more badass ruffian than usual. His doctor’s coat was wrinkled and he still had his stethoscope hanging around his neck. His dark hair was ruffled, his darker eyes lined with exhaustion. But there was a readiness to him that said he wasn’t too tired to kick ass if needed. He’d worked a double shift to volunteer his time today, but Mallory knew his day wasn’t over, not even close. He still had to go home to more responsibility—a young son, not to mention his own handicapped sister, both of whom he was solely responsible for.
“Nice job today,” he said to Mallory.
“Thanks to you.”
He lifted a shoulder, like it was no big deal. He was a big guy, over six feet and built like a bull in a china shop, which made his talent all the more impressive. He might be serious and just a little scary, but he was the most approachable doctor she’d ever met. He was also her favorite because he treated the nurses with respect. Such behavior should be automatic in doctors, but so often wasn’t. This conduct also tended to land him on Lucille’s Most Wanted Single Male list on Facebook far too often, which drove him nuts.
“I’m glad you got approval for this,” he said. “You’re doing something really good here.”
She glowed over that as she locked up behind him. As the last staff member there, she walked each of the rooms, cleaning up a little as she went. They had two exam rooms, a very small staff kitchen, and the front reception area. There was a back walk-in closet being renovated for their drug lock-up, but for now the drugs and samples were kept in one exam room in a locked cabinet. The reception area was big enough to host groups, which was what they would likely have to do during the week.
Tomorrow night was their first scheduled AA meeting. Monday night would be Narcotics Anonymous—NA. Wednesday nights would host a series of guest speakers, all aimed at teen advocacy programs.
It was all finally happening, and it made Mallory feel useful. Helpful. Maybe she hadn’t been able to help Karen, but she could reach others.
By the time she locked the front door and got to her car, yet another storm was rolling in. Night had fallen, and the lot wasn’t as well-lit as she’d like. She was on the back side of the hospital, the entrance leading to a narrow side street. She made a note to get the lighting fixed tomorrow and slid into her car just as the sky started dumping rain. She inserted her key in the ignition and turned it.
Nothing, just a click. She tried again anyway and got nowhere. A dead battery, naturally. She peered out her windshield and sighed. Walking home would be a five-mile trek in the pouring rain, which she was far too tired for. Plus her feet hurt from being on them all day. With a grimace, she pulled out her phone and called Joe.
“Yo,” her brother said. “Bad time.”
“Bad time for me, too. I need you to come jump my car. I have a dead battery.”
“You leave your lights on again?”
“No.” Maybe. “You owe me, Joe.” She had to put that one out there right away to start the negotiations. Joe was a deal maker and only dealt at all if the odds were in his favor. “I let you and your idiot friends borrow my car, remember?” she asked. “You needed more seats to get to that stupid trail party out at Peak’s Landing. Maybe this is somehow your fault.”
“No, the crack in the windshield is our fault. Not the battery.”
She stared at the small crack in the windshield on the passenger’s side and felt an eye twitch coming on. “Come on, Joe. I could really use your help tonight.”
“Christ. Hang on.” He covered the phone and murmured something to someone.
A muted female voice laughed, and then Joe was back. “Mal, if all you need is a jump, ask anyone around you.” He lowered his voice. “I’m on a date. With Ashley.”
She had no idea who Ashley was but she was assuming it wasn’t his blonde. “What happened to whatshername?”
“That was so last week.”
Mallory let out a disgusted sigh. “You’re a man ho.”
“Guilty,” he said. And hung up.
Grinding her teeth, Mallory called him back.
He didn’t pick up.
“Dammit.” She scrolled through her contact list again. Her mother was out of the question. Ella wouldn’t have a set of jumper cables, not to mention she’d want to talk about Mallory’s social life. Maybe Tammy, she thought, and hit her sister’s number. “Can Zach come give me a jump?”
“Honey,” Tammy said. “He’s a little busy jumping me right now.”
Oh, for God’s sake. Mallory hung up, her usually dormant temper beginning to steam. She would drop everything for any one of her family, and not a single one of them could help her. This depressing thought didn’t change the fact that she was still wet, cold, and stranded in a dark parking lot. Again she thumbed her contacts and stopped at one in particular.
Mysterious Cute Guy, aka Ty Garrison.
She had the stuffed animals he’d won at the arcade sitting on her bed, like she was twelve and in middle school, going steady with the town bad boy.
Except would the bad boy really have stood up at a town meeting in front of everyone and defended her? Would he have stopped and helped a stranded woman on the side of the road? Grace had told her what he’d done. And so had Amy, saying that he’d patched her up with calm efficiency.
Yeah, Ty was far more than just some mechanic, though hell if she could figure him out.
She shouldn’t call him for help. For one, they’d had inappropriate sex without involvement. To compound that mistake, she’d discovered she liked him. A lot. And to compound that mistake, she was dreaming about sleeping with him some more.
All really good reasons not to call him.
But then there was the one really good reason to call him.
He would actually come. She hit his number and held her breath. He picked up on the fourth ring, his voice low and calm as always. “Garrison,” he said.
“Hi. It’s Mallory.”
He absorbed that information for a moment, probably wondering how she’d gotten his number, a conversation she absolutely didn’t want to have so she rushed on. “I’m at the HSC,” she said, “and my car won’t start, and I’m the only one left here, and the stupid parking lot lights aren’t working and—”
“Lock your doors. I’ll be right there.”
“Okay, thanks—” But he was already gone. She slipped her phone into her pocket and put her head down on the steering wheel. So tired…She thought about that and how her feet hurt. She could really use a foot rub. And a body rub. She’d gotten a massage once, last year for her birthday. It’d been a present from Tammy. Her masseuse had been Chloe Traeger, who worked at the Lucky Harbor B&B where there was a lovely day spa. The massage had been fantastic but Mallory wondered what it would be like to have a man rub his hands over her body.