Stern(2)

By: Brenda Jackson


A deep lump clogged her throat. It was hard to believe he had passed away two years ago. He’d suffered a massive heart attack while doing something he loved—working on a car. Her mother had died when JoJo was eleven, so her father’s death had left her parentless. She’d inherited the auto mechanic shop, which had given her the opportunity to come out of the classroom and get under the hood of a car.

After she had gotten the teaching degree her father had wanted her to get, she’d obtained a graduate degree in technical engineering. She had enjoyed being a professor at one of the local community colleges, but owning and operating the Golden Wrench was what she truly loved.

“So are we still on speaking terms?”

Stern placed a tray of tortilla chips and salsa on the table beside her. He then slid into the other rocker.

“Not sure if we are or not,” she said, reaching over and grabbing a chip to dip into the salsa and then sliding the whole thing in her mouth. “I asked you a question and you didn’t answer me because you assumed I wasn’t serious.”

Stern took a sip of beer and glanced over the can at her. “Were you serious?”

“Yes.”

“Then I apologize. I honestly thought you were trying to mess with my concentration.”

A smile touched her lips. “Would I do that?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Well, yes,” she admitted, trying to hide her amusement. “But I didn’t today. I need information.”

“On how a woman could make a man want her?”

“Yes.”

Stern leaned forward in his chair and pierced her with a dark, penetrating gaze. “Why?”

She lifted a brow. “Why?”

“Yes, why would you want to know something like that?”

She didn’t answer right away. Instead she took a sip of her beer and looked out at the mountains. It was a beautiful September day. A red fox flashed through a cluster of pine trees before darting between a patch of woods to disappear.

After she’d gathered her thoughts, she turned back to Stern. “There’s this guy who brings his car to the shop. He’s sexy. Oh…is he sexy.”

Stern rolled his eyes. “I’ll take your word for it. Go on.”

She shrugged. “That’s it.”

Stern frowned. “That’s it?”

“Yes. I’ve decided I want him. The question is, how can I get him to want me, too?”

*

As far as Stern was concerned, the real question was, had JoJo lost her ever-loving mind? But he didn’t say that. Instead, he took another sip of his beer.

He knew JoJo better than he knew anyone, and if she was determined to do something then that was it. He could help her, or she’d find help somewhere else.

“What’s his name?” he asked.

She slid another chip into her mouth. “You don’t need to know that. Do you tell me the name of every woman you want?”

“This is different.”

“Really? In what way?”

He wasn’t sure, but he just knew that it was. Using the pad of his thumb, he rubbed the tension building at his temple. “First of all, when it comes to men, you’re green. And second, for you to even ask me that question means you’re not ready for the kind of relationship you’re going after.”

She threw her head back and laughed. “Pleeze, Stern. I’ll be thirty next year. Most women my age are married by now, some with children. And I don’t even have a boyfriend.”

He wasn’t moved by that argument. “I’ll be thirty-one next year and I don’t have a girlfriend.” When she looked over at him, he amended that statement. “Not a steady one. I like being single.”

“But you do date. A lot. I’m beginning to think that most of the men in town wonder if I’m really a girl.”

He studied her. There had never been any doubt in his mind that she was a girl. She had long lashes and eyes so dark they were the color of midnight. Those eyes were staring straight ahead now, looking out over the thick woods. She had her bare legs lifted in the rocker with her arms wrapped around them. Her pose emphasized the muscles in her limbs. He knew she did a lot of physical work at the shop, but the two of them also had memberships at a gym in town.