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“I can be anything that I wanna be…”

I closed my eyes and shook my head, in a pointless attempt to clear that inept platitude from the recesses of my brain. It had been stuck there all morning, courtesy of a little kid’s tablet blaring a cartoon while her mother ignored her in favor of whatever was happening on her cell phone.

That had been a long ass oil change.

I couldn’t figure out why it stuck with me – couldn’t figure out why itrankledme. It was just some stupid faux-inspirational bullshit aimed at children, and yet… It wouldn’t let me go.

Wouldn’t stop fuckingtauntingme.

Maybe cause I couldn’t beanythingthat I wanted to be.

I could beanyonethat I wanted to be – that was a very specific specialty of mine, in fact, but when it all came down to it, there was this one thing I was, this one thing I was bred to be, this one thing that wouldneverlet me go.

No getting around it.

The sound of a male voice resonated through the tiny auto shop, drawing my attention from the vehicle I was currently working on. I turned my music off, stepping around the raised hood of the Cadillac to see who it was.

A stranger…

We didn’t get many of those around these parts.

Especially not tall, handsome ones, with smooth, praline-colored skin and broad shoulders, wearing expensive mirrored aviators. It was closeenoughto Vegas, but… far enough too. His presence was an anomaly. The way he whipped off his shades to peer at the building, his expression an even mixture of exasperation and disgust, confirmed that.

“What do you want?” I asked – hollered – taking a few steps toward the open garage doors of the empty bay next to where I’d been working.

His gaze shifted to me, narrowing with mild interest before a smirk curved his full lips upward. “I want you to point me to Jake, sweetheart,” he said, with a slight nod toward the words painted in block letters along the back wall. “Or, whoever it is that’s in charge around here.”

“Not your fuckin’ sweetheart,” I corrected him, making no attempt to hide the irritation he’d ignited with that term. “And Jake isn’t here. I’m in charge.”

“You’rein charge?” the stranger countered, taking a step toward me.

I crossed my arms, and his eyes followed to the cleavage revealed by my white ribbed tank – something that would never usually be on this kind of display. Today though, it was hot as fish grease outside, and the top half of my coveralls were off, with the arms tied securely around my waist.

“Look, I have somewhere to be, and not a lot of time for games – where’s Jake?”

I propped a hand at my waist, and used the other to point to the ground.

Jake was long gone.

Whoever this asshole was?

He was dealing with me now.

The shop was a good thirty miles from Las Vegas, where he’d probably come from, and another six from the little town where he was likely headed. He could walk, sure, but in this heat?

He’d pass out first.

So he corrected himself, and I got the tow truck to gather his piece of shit car.

Back in the work bay, it took several tries to get the old-school droptop to come to life, but then it cut off again. “So,” he said, climbing from the driver’s seat. “You see the problem?”

My head bobbed in acknowledgement. “Mmmhmm. Sit down,” I told him, gesturing toward the little waiting area where the little girl and her exhausted mother had been earlier. Because of his attitude, I was in no particular hurry to get to him while I had other vehicles ahead of him.

I returned to the next bay, intending to finish up with the car I’d been working on when he arrived. At least… until something caught my eye.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one affected by the oppressive desert heat – the stranger lifted his hands, peeling his stylish leather jacket off his shoulders to reveal a plain white tee shirt underneath.

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