“Figures, this place is usually crawling with guys ogling me, and now when I need help, no one is around.”
Once when she was a teenager with a new driver’s license, she asked her mother what to do if she had a flat or breakdown on the road. “Get out of the car and look pretty,” her mother answered.
Looking pretty was not a problem for Roxie. A raven-haired beauty with porcelain skin, she had almond-shaped hazel eyes that flashed with her vibrant personality. She was five feet, six inches tall, with long legs and a body that could have easily graced the cover of a Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue.
The problem was that there was no one around to see her look pretty.
“When all else fails, Mother,” she said looking skyward, “women today call AAA.”
Roxie tried to dial for assistance, but she couldn’t get any reception. “Damn! This only happens when I have to be somewhere!”
As if on cue, a worker emerged from the house. She waved her arms to get his attention. As he headed down the long driveway, Roxie had time to size him up. About six feet tall, he had long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. He wore tight jeans, a denim shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest, and cowboy boots. Based on that quick observation, she plotted her damsel-in-distress routine.
When he got close enough for her to establish eye contact, she flashed her sweetest smile. “Can you help me? I must have run over a nail or something, and my tire’s flat. I tried to call Triple A but for some reason, I’m not getting any reception on my phone. I have an appointment in ten minutes, and I’m really in a rush. I was wondering if maybe you could help me and change my tire?”
She cocked her head to the side and gave him another sweet smile. She got a blank stare in response. Reassessing, she wondered if maybe he was one of the South American workers, although he certainly didn’t look Hispanic.
“Do you speak English?”
“Yeah.” He stood there expressionless, except for squinting in the sun.
Roxie shifted gears. She reached in her pocket and pulled out her card. The sweet girl disappeared and the businesswoman emerged.
“I’m Roxanne Stein, Executive Consultant to the Rhinemans. My appointment is with people they referred to me, and…you do know who the Rhinemans are, don’t you? They are the owners…” She could see this tactic wasn’t working either. He looked bored, not impressed.
“Listen, do you have a cell phone I could borrow to make a call? I really have to get out of here and…” She stopped short as she watched him turn and walk away. She could not believe it. What a jerk! She shook her head. The look-pretty tactic was about as useful as the rest of the advice her mother had doled out over the years.
She tried her cell again, but it was dead. She tossed the phone in the passenger seat. “Useless pieces of crap, him and the phone.” Roxie threw her keys on the ground in frustration.
She brightened at the sound of a vehicle coming up the gravel road. Shielding her eyes from the sun’s glare, she could make out a big, black pickup approaching fast. The truck stopped short only inches from her, kicking up a cloud of dust and gravel. Roxie caught a glimpse of the workman who had just left behind the wheel. As he got out of the cab, their eyes locked and her heart raced. As he came toward her, she had a momentary flash of him tossing her Boxster in the back of his truck, picking her up, throwing her in the cab, and driving off.
But instead he scooped up her keys, which still lay at her feet, turned and grabbed a jack from the bed of his pickup and retrieved her spare from her trunk. Without a word, he started to change her tire.
Roxie watched him, not knowing what to think. It wasn’t often that a man surprised her. Most of them were as transparent as windows. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“When you left, you might have told me you were coming back instead of letting me think you were taking off.”
“You’re not the kind of woman a man tells anything. You’re the kind that has to be shown.”
Roxie wasn’t sure if his response was a compliment or an insult. She watched him almost effortlessly jack up the Porsche and remove the flat. She admired the way he worked, and she liked the way he looked.
She usually didn’t care for long hair on men, but on him it was sexy, not feminine. He had a broad back and narrow hips. When he squatted down to tighten the lugs, his jeans stretched taut across a hard, firm butt. A tanned and blonde-haired chest peeked out from his half-open shirt. Even though she couldn’t see his arms under his sleeves, she knew he was muscular. Although it was quite warm in the Florida sun, he was barely breaking a sweat.
“Are you new on the crew here? I know I haven’t seen you before.”
“My first day.” He finished putting on the spare and threw the flat in her trunk. He wiped his hands on his jeans, and handed her back her keys. “You can’t go too far on that spare. Better stop and get that tire patched on the way to wherever you’re going. I know you’re in a hurry, but it shouldn’t take too long to fix. It’ll take a whole lot longer if you get another flat and you don’t have a spare.”
Roxie heard bells. The catering truck was pulling up to the site, letting the workers know it was break time.
“Let me buy you some coffee and breakfast,” she said. “You know, to thank you. I appreciate that you took the time to help me out.”
“You don’t have time to buy me coffee. You’re late for your appointment.”
“Oh, no,” she gasped. “I forgot about the appointment!” She glanced at her watch. “Crap, I’ve missed it.” She reached in the car to retrieve her phone, but it still wasn’t working. She sighed. “I’ll call them later to apologize and reschedule.”
She turned her attention back to the workman. “In the mean time, I want to buy you breakfast. I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Anyway, I’m starving, and I hate to eat alone. So, what do you want…? You know, I don’t know your name.”
“Daryl Johnson. D.J.”
The catering truck had set up, and the workers were gathering to place their orders. “Come on, D.J. Let’s see what the Greasy Spoon has to offer.”
D.J. shrugged and followed her.
“I’ll have an iced coffee and a lemon cream donut,” she told the attendant. She turned to D.J. “You look like a ham-and-eggs guy to me. What’ll it be, D.J.?”
“Fruit cup and a water.”
Roxie laughed. “You are full of surprises. Watching your weight?”
“No. I’m a vegetarian.”
“Well, you look healthy.” Roxie signed for their meals and they walked back down the driveway.
“It’ll be hot sitting out here or in your car with the top down,” he said. “Would you like to eat in my truck, Mrs. Stein?”
“Sure. It’s Ms. Stein, but call me Roxie, please.”
“Let me get the door for you, Roxie.” He helped her into the cab.
Roxie didn’t have much experience with trucks, and she had never seen one like this before. It was as elegant as a luxury car inside. D.J. got in on the driver’s side, started the motor, and turned on the air conditioning. He pulled out a tray from the console, which provided them with cup holders and a place to set down their food. Then he turned on his CD player. “What kind of music do you like, Roxie? You don’t seem like a country western fan to me.”
Roxie smiled. “No, but go ahead and put on what you like.”
She relaxed in the plush seat, took a sip of her iced coffee and listened to Harry Connick, Jr. “Again you surprise me. So, exactly what job am I keeping you from here on your first day?”
“Oh, I’m finished here for the day. But I’ll probably come back about 4 p.m. to make sure everything’s been done right.”
“It’s only 9:30. What do you do that you’re finished for the day?
“I said I’m finished here. I have other locations to check out. I’m co-owner of the company that landscapes most of the estates in this area.”
“In Fort Lauderdale, you mean?”
“In South Florida. Our accounts are located from the Keys to Palm Beach, for now.”
“Right.” D.J. took out the card she gave him earlier. “Tell me, Roxie, exactly what does the Executive Consultant to the Rhinemans do?” He exaggerated each syllable of her name and title with a slight Southern drawl.
“Pretty much everything they don’t want to do for themselves.”
D.J.’s phone rang. While he was distracted with his business conversation, Roxie had a chance to observe him closely. He had dark brown eyes that gave the impression you’d better be straight with him. An unexpected dusting of freckles across his cheeks softened the severity of his heavy brows and long, straight nose, adding a boyish quality to his masculine features. He had a square chin and full lips that showed straight white teeth when he spoke. She noticed he didn’t smile much and that he wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
While Roxie was watching him, he was observing her. She took a bite of her donut and let the cream squirt into to her mouth. She rolled it around on her tongue, seeming to enjoy the sweetness, and then licked her lips with the tip of her tongue. When their eyes met, she smiled slightly to let him know she was doing it for his benefit.
Just as he finished his conversation, her phone rang.
“Oh great, now it’s working. It’s probably my office,” she said and brought her phone close to her face to answer. “Roxanne Stein.”
Roxie quickly pulled the phone away from her ear as Elaine, her assistant, shouted, “Where are you? Mr. and Mrs. Miller have been waiting for almost an hour. I have given them a complete tour of our building, and they’re floating from all the coffee and water I’ve served them.”
“Elaine, I had a flat and my phone wasn’t working. Everything’s fixed now, but I think it would be better to reschedule. Please apologize for me and get them tickets for a show or something. Check with Public Relations. They always have stuff to give away. Tell the Millers I will spend an entire day with them next time, not just an hour.”
Roxie caught sight of D.J. eating his fruit salad. He purposefully pulled the spoon from his mouth very slowly, watching her intently. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something move on the seat. She glanced down and saw the bulge in his pants becoming much more noticeable.
“Listen, Elaine. Something very important has come up. Reschedule all my appointments to tomorrow and Thursday. I’ll call you later. Bye.”
Roxie took another bite of her cream donut, letting the filling ooze onto her tongue. After swallowing, she took a sip of iced coffee and sucked on an ice cube, keeping eye contact with him all the while.
“So, what are you doing for lunch, D.J.?” She gave him her best sexy smile.