The prompt this week is a little more complicated than usual. It was originally Rough, but we just did that a few weeks ago…so through some…interesting discussions we ended up with a special challenge…to use the three words Rough, Hard, and Dirty in any particular order.
So it’s back to Deep Fried Sweethearts with my May/December-ish romance of Michaela and Owen, aka “Tag”. I thought it was time to give them a connection beyond their mutual physical attraction…but first Michaela has to deal with a pleasant awakening…
As always this is un-edited mostly, so forgive any errors:
“Michaela?” A warm hand grasped her shoulder and shook gently.
Michaela jolted awake and blurted, “I’m up, I’m up.” She immediately started to straighten the papers on her desk, as if it would cover the fact she was just dreaming about the young man who’d shook her awake. Naughty dreams the likes she’d never had. Despite her joking with Eve to save face, Michaela considered herself a total prude, but her latest dreams proved her wrong.
Dreams of Owen bending her over this very desk and taking her rough, hard, and oh so dirty lingered in her mind and the trickle of sweat the slipped down the nape of her neck. She normally wouldn’t dare face him while the dreams were still at the forefront, but his chuckle drew her gaze anyway.
He covered his mouth with a hand while leaning against the file cabinets lining the wall.
“I’m awake,” she defended before he could even speak. “It was just a cat nap.”
“Of course you are.” His snort burst from behind his hand and he let out a good loud bark of a laugh. “You have a really cute snore.”
“I wasn’t—I…” Unfortunately, his laughter was contagious and she found herself joining him before she could form a good argument. She rubbed her face with both hands and groaned. “I’m sorry. I never do that, especially when we’re open. I’ve slept on the couch a couple of times when I had to work late, but to snooze during business hours?”
“You’re exhausted. You’ve got to stop killing yourself.” He turned the chair next to her around and straddled it. When he leaned his forearms on the back, she was inevitably drawn to his glorious biceps.
Man, she was so screwed. She gave her head a quick shake to clear it. “It’s my business, Owen. I will never stop killing myself for it.”
“You need rest, or you’ll be no good to the business.” He smiled, and set his hand on her wrist. “Why don’t you go home and take a nap? I’m here now, I’ll keep an eye on things and you can be back well before closing. Maybe tonight you’ll actually let me help settle the numbers.”
Based on all the skill he’d shown in everything she’d thrown at him, she had no doubt he was capable of handling closing the registers and setting the deposit, but the thought still sent a knot of tension right to stomach. She wrinkled her nose and forced a smile. “Maybe.”
“I can’t earn your trust if you don’t let me try.”
“It’s not about that.”
“Yes it is. You don’t trust easily. If you did you’d have team leads that could close the drawers at night.” His grasp loosened on her wrist, and he sighed. “They don’t have to even handle anything other than dropping their money into the safe like they would any other cash drop. We, or you, could handle the deposit yourself then the next day.”
“Then I wouldn’t need you.” Even though the thought of anyone handling the cash turned her stomach, she had to try and cover it with something, even teasing him.
“Yes you would. I’m irreplaceable.”
She grinned and relaxed at his return tease. “I’m not so sure.”
“I think you are, you’re just afraid to admit it, among other things.”
“Is that so?” As much as she wanted to curb the rising blush, she couldn’t take her eyes from his. “Anyway, about me leaving, I really shouldn’t.”
“I think the place will be all right for a couple of hours. You live two blocks away.”
“So what were you up to this morning? You’re filthy.” She couldn’t stop looking at his arms, that’s how she’d noticed the dark smudges near his elbow and wrist. “Grease?”
“Oil. I thought I got it all.” He lifted his arm, his forehead puckering into an adorable hint of a frown. “Damn, don’t worry I’ll get good and cleaned up before I touch food. Maybe I should have you check me thoroughly.”
A task she sure wouldn’t mind for a minute. She managed to laugh to cover the choking lump in her throat and heat the idea sent right to her core. “Cute. Real cute. What were you doing, grease monkey?”
“I was at Cal’s working on my Nova.”
This time she did choke on her own laughter, and she blinked a few times. “I’m sorry, did you say a Nova? As in a No-Go?”
Owen stopped examining his arms and his gaze snapped to meet hers. “What did you say?”
“A No-Go…are you really working on one?”
“Uh, yeah. I mean, um…”
Michaela couldn’t recall a time he’d been at a loss for words, and she liked the change even if it lasted for a second. “What year?”
“A 76 SS. Why?”
Warmth filled her heart and for the first time in a logn time, embarrassment was banished to the edge of her mind. “I just can’t believe it.”
“You have to swear not to tell anyone. It’ll just perpetuate my nickname worse than it already is.”
“Okay.” He might have been thoroughly confused, but at least he’d managed a smile when she’d suggested keeping it a secret.
“Good.” She rose and closed the office door most of the way before heading to the small file cabinet behind her desk. After unlocking it, she opened it and dug through her too-big purse for her wallet. “Okay, this isn’t the best picture. I have several much better ones at home.”
Owen rose and turned his chair around to edge closer. Once they were shoulder to shoulder, she showed him the picture. He gasped and snatched the picture from her fingers. “Holy crap.”
“That’s my dad and me, and my baby. I call her Betty.”
“I have never seen her, where do you hide her?” He ran his index finger along the lines of the black Nova in the picture.
“New York winters are assholes to cars, especially beauties like Betty.” She leaned in close. “I used to take her out in the summers, but when things with Gary got bad, I didn’t want to risk her getting caught in the crossfire.”
“Tell me you didn’t sell it.”
“Technically, I did—but I sold her to Dad. With he and Mom down in Virginia, it wasn’t part of the crap-fest of my divorce and she’s being well cared for.”
“You’ve been divorced five years. Why not get her back?”
“First couple of years, I didn’t care about anything, then this place happened and all my focus has been here.” She sighed and took the picture back. “I guess that’s part of why I wanted to get an assistant manager. Maybe then I’d have time to get her back.”
“Who restored her for you? Looks like an amazing job.”
“No one. Dad and I did it all ourselves. From frame to chrome.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yup. Dad had some rules about driving and getting a license. I had to be able to change my own oil and tires, I had to know how the engine worked, and I had to learn on a stick before I went to an automatic.” She shrugged and offered a smile. With a bit of regret, she slipped the picture back into its place in her wallet. “Turned out, I loved it, but I didn’t like to tell anyone. They already called me Mikey, I didn’t need to add fuel to the tomboy fire.”
“Damn. You just got so much cooler.”
“Cooler?” She giggled and nudged his shoulder with her own. When she turned to say something, she realized just how close he was. Embarrassment started to flutter and flap again, rising from the place she’d tried to bury it. She could kiss him now, he was so close, but she couldn’t dare for so many reasons. “I’m glad you think so.”
“I think more than that.” His trademark grin returned and he edged closer. “Like you should get yourself to bed.”
With you? Please say with you. She’d officially lost her mind. Owen was her employee and so young, both huge red flags against starting something.
“So are you going?”
“You have to start trusting someone sometime. Trust me for two hours. I swear I’ll call you in two hours, but you have to sleep.”
The last thing on her mind at that moment was sleep, but it would have to do for now. She finally nodded, “I’ll try. I don’t do naps well.”
“You just had one on your desk, I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
“Can’t I just sleep here on the couch?”
“Let go, Michaela. Trust me.”
“Easier said than done.”
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