Ainslie Paton romance author

A Little Blinking Teaser for Floored

The back door went thunk, and she opened her eyes to see Grizzly Adams slide into the backseat.

“I’m not a taxi.”

He leaned between the seats and slapped a fist full of cash on the console.  “A thousand bucks says you are.”

He’d been in some kind of an accident or more likely a fight, his cheek was grazed and bloody.  She looked at the money.  She saw a bathmat and new curtains.  He was a passenger like anyone else, even if he looked like his job was to officially frighten small children.  And she could only really see his scratched up face in the rear-view mirror, tucked in between a lot of hair and sunglasses.  God knows what the rest of him looked like.

“Where to?”

He wanted to go to three suburban addresses, two close by, and one further afield and for her to wait at each.  Then he wanted be dropped off at home.  Simple.  She checked the addresses on her GPS and headed out.

Unlike Dr Wonderful, Grizzly wasn’t talkative.  He sat slumped in the backseat, head turned to watch out the window.  The first stop was a house in a quiet street.  Front lawn needed a good mow and a coat of paint would’ve done wonders for it.  She parked, and he got out and went to the front door.  He carried a saddlebag over his shoulder, and he limped, favouring his left leg.  When he disappeared inside she closed her eyes.  There was no way to know how long he’d be.  He hadn’t said a word after giving her the addresses.  She could’ve asked, but there was something about him that made her want to keep to herself.  She pulled her hat down further over her eyes and smiled.  This was a take the money and run situation if ever she’d seen one.

Caitlyn sighed audibly when the back door thunked again.  He’d been gone less than a single Adele song on the radio.  She switched it off and started the engine.  He was settled back in the seat again, but now he had a bunch of tissues held against his cheek.  She had tissues in the car; she should’ve thought to give him some.  She had antiseptic too—a full first-aid kit.  She’d been so worried about Grizzly being a bear and eating her, she’d completely ignored the fact he could do with some kindness.

“I have Detol for that if you’d like?”

His chin came up.  She met his glasses in the rear-view.  “Thanks.  I’ll be right.”

She bit back the ‘are you sure’ that hovered in her throat.  He didn’t look like a man who was unsure.  Now she’d seen him full length she realised he was a bikie.  A fair dinkum Hell’s Angel, except the back of his leather jacket said Black Pariah.  It was impossible to tell how old he was.  The full Santa beard, the shoulder length dark hair, the row of piercings up his ear, the sunnies.  He was tall filled out his dirty jeans with the promise of strength, and had a broad, square shoulder line and a deep resonant voice.

By the time they arrived at the third address, she’d decided he was up to no good.  He wasn’t on a visiting spree because the stops were too short and no one appeared to greet him or wave him off.  He was some kind of delivery boy, but there was no way to tell what he was delivering, other than it was relatively small and valuable.  He never left the saddlebag in the car.  He carried it to and from each ordinary looking house they went to.  This really was a take the money and run job in more ways than one.  The sooner she dropped him off at this last address the better.

“Driver, do you mind if we add another stop?”

She lifted her eyes to the mirror.  He was sitting forward.  “It’s on the way.”

He’d paid her a thousand dollars cash for three hours work that would ordinarily have earned her about two hundred and fifty, less if there’d been a booking fee on top.  He looked fearsome, but he’d been no trouble and spoke politely.  He was up to something, but it couldn’t be anything too terrible.  And who was she to judge anyway.  Yes—he could add a stop.

She drove him to a small shopping centre and parked in the adjoining car park to wait for him.  He got out, then tapped on the driver side window.  She’d already turned the engine off.  She cracked the door and got out, standing in front of him, the door held between them.

“I’ll be a bit longer this time.  You might want to go for a walk, stretch your legs.  Can I bring you back anything?”

He smelled of old leather and petrol up close.  His cheek had stopped bleeding, but it was savagely grazed.

“What happened?”

He looked surprised she’d asked, his eyebrows shooting up over the frame of his sunnies.  But not as surprised as she was.  What happened to keeping to herself?  “I mean to your face, and you’re limping.”

He smiled for the first time.  Made him look younger.  “I had a little run in with some bitumen.  Came off second best.”

“Oh, God.  Are you okay?  Should you see a doctor?”

He hooked a finger over the nose piece of his sunnies and pulled them down.  He looked at her with startlingly blue eyes, surrounded by thick black lashes no decent man deserved to own.  But then he probably wasn’t a decent man.  He was probably a drug courier.  And she was consorting with a criminal.  Wouldn’t be the first time.  She’d been closer than consorting.  She’d been virtually conjoined twins.

“No, thank you I’m good.”

He blinked at her, dropped his chin.  “Sure?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He pushed the sunnies back up his nose and nodded.  “I’ll try not to be too long.  You look tired.”

“Me?”  The way her voice squeaked was embarrassing, the blush that heated her cheeks was more so.  He wasn’t supposed to notice anything about her.  And under her hat and with her own sunnies on what could he possibly see to give him that impression?

He laughed.  “Yeah, you.  You’ve tried to have a catnap at least three times now.  I keep interrupting.”

“Oh.  I promise you I’m perfectly safe to drive.”

“Hey, I was kidding.  I didn’t mean to suggest you weren’t safe.”

He was smiling, and trying to put her at ease, but she didn’t think he was kidding.  He’d picked up on her weariness with deadly accuracy.  In her new pants she was covered neck to toe.  She was almost as camouflaged by her work costume as he was, by his gang one, but he made her feel naked.

“How about I bring you back a coffee?”

“I have a thermos. I’m fine, thank you.”

“Now you’re kidding me.  Thermos coffee!”  He shook his head.  “That wouldn’t keep a fly awake.  How do you take it?”

A real brewed, hot coffee sounded wonderful.  She turned to rummage in the compartment where she kept change for meters.

“My treat.”

She looked up.  He’d backed off to stop her handing him the coins.  “A flat-white would be fantastic.  Thank you.”

He gave her a salute, turned and walked towards the shopping centre doors, stepping to the side when he got there to let a woman with a stroller go through first.  It made her smile.  Mr Black Pariah looked like trouble but he spoke well, paid attention and had pretensions to be a gentleman.

Hello, what are you thinking?

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