There are NINE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GOLD TEAM — but there is also a red team, a green team, an orange team, a silver team, a blue team, a teal team, a purple team, and a pink team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
Today, I am hosting the Heather Young-Nichols on my website for the 2016 Spring YA Scavenger Hunt! Heather told me she has 13 gnomes harassing her garden.
Before Alyssum Comes to Town
Since it was Sunday, no customers would be into the shop to pick up or drop off any cars, so we used the time to clear up some of the backlog and get the shop presentable. I mean, yeah, it’s a dirty place to be but everything didn’t need to be covered with a thick coat of grease. Customers would lose their shit if you got a smudge of grease on their car and I didn’t blame them. It was damn hard to get it out of the upholstery.
“Hey, Dad, can I ask you a question?” I didn’t want to get anywhere near the topic. I had to because I couldn’t keep ignoring what was going on because it wasn’t working but it wasn’t something I thought I’d ever talk to my dad about.
I was adopted by my parents when I was a baby. Apparently my birth parents died in a car accident. This wasn’t something my parents probably thought would ever be coming out of my mouth and honestly, I’d gone more than twenty years without this even being a question.
“Course, son. Anything.”
He looked at me. I caught it out of the corner of my eye. I did not look at him. That kind of discomfort had never been a part of my life where my parents were concerned. I didn’t get nervous to talk to them even when I already knew what their reaction would be. Even with Mom. She pretty much hated that I tended to overshare with them.
“Have you…” So much harder than I thought it’d be. Who was I kidding? It was exactly how hard I thought it’d be. “Have you ever questioned that you wanted to be with Mom?”
My tool box was in pretty decent shape and yet I still focused on putting everything in order.
“Come again?” Yeah, I had nothing so that’s exactly what I said. Nothing. “I haven’t regretted marrying your mom, if that’s what you’re asking.”
It wasn’t. And I still didn’t look over even after he stopped spraying down the garage floor because the wrench in my hands had become very interesting.
The water stopped and he turned back toward me.
“What are you asking, Jensen?” He knew. I knew he knew by the sound of his voice but he was going to make me say it just in case he was wrong but he wasn’t wrong. I was losing my fucking mind.
That wrench hit the tool box harder than I meant it to but there was another right there on the bench to keep me busy.
“I mean…” Dear god I felt like I was fourteen years old being told how to use a condom. Yup, that happened. Dad said he’d thought I’d need the information in the very near future. It was another year before I used it. “I mean…you know, that you like girls.”
Dad’s breath caught. My ears burned. Guys figured this stuff out by themselves all the time. Why in the hell did I think I needed to be any different? The words should never have left my mouth.
“No, Jensen.” He drew in a deep breath. “Is that a concern?” I shrugged. He leaned back against the bench in the next bay. “Well, I can honestly say this isn’t something I’ve ever thought about with you. But…you’re mother and I love you no matter what.”
“So, what’s going on that brings this up?”
Trying to figure out what to say so that you don’t freak anybody out is the worst. So instead I decided to skip any further discussion. Dad got it, clapped a hand on my shoulder with a squeeze then headed into the office to do paperwork. That’s the thing about Dad. He knew when to push and when to back off.
I left pretty much right away with a quick bye, intending to head home. Instead I took the bike out for a nice long ride. Even still, eventually I had to go home.
As I got out of the shower, there was a knock on my door. Not thinking about it, I went to answer it with just a towel wrapped around my hips. Before my hand grabbed the doorknob, the hair on my arms stood up and there was a prickling up the back of my neck. What the fuck? Did I want it to be him? I didn’t even know anymore. I ripped the door open with more force than was really necessary. It was him.
“Hey, I’ve been pounding for like five.” Aric was laid-back, looking completely casual in faded blue jeans and black t-shirt. Why the fuck was I noticing that?
“Sorry. Shower.” Obviously. Dickhead. Me not him.
“I thought I’d see if you’re going to watch the game tonight.” His eyes narrowed on me. Was I supposed to invite him in?
“Nah,” I was but not after that question. “Going out tonight.”
“That’s cool. See you at work tomorrow?”
I nodded and shut the door. Didn’t even say good-bye. My fingers rake over my face because I’m a guy and we don’t care if we say good-bye. Christ. I decided I was in fact going out. And finding Britney. She always provided a nice distraction.
It worked for a while. A few hours with Britney, a hot redhead I graduated with, and Aric didn’t cross my mind. At least until I got into work the next morning. I tried; I really did, to work as if everything was normal. He toiled away in the next bay and I kept to myself as long as I could. Once the truck I’d replaced the transmission on was done and sitting out waiting for pick up, I headed in, just to get away from him.
Not once in my life had I even considered that I was anything but supremely heterosexual but whatever being near Aric was doing to me had me asking myself things like never before. And it was pissing me off. Dad stood at the counter filling out an order invoice but glanced up quickly when I came in. I may have been a little aggressive.
“Hey, can I get the rest of the day off?”
He didn’t even look up at me. “Nope.”
“Come on. I finished the truck. There’s nothing else.”
“Are you sick?” I didn’t answer because I wasn’t. “Do have an appointment?” Again no. “Then there’s you’re answer.”
“Dad, seriously. I bust my ass around here and at your place. I deserve a day off.”
He stopped, pushing the papers into a pile. “It’s Aric, isn’t it?”
“What’s Aric?” I knew what he was talking about but did not want to address it head on like this.
Dad shifted uncomfortably. “What we talked about yesterday.”
“I just don’t want to work with him anymore. We don’t need him around here. I’ll work extra.”
“Really, the kid who just wanted to leave early is going to take on extra hours. I don’t think so.”
Now he was pissing me off. Gripping the edge of the counter behind me, I leaned even harder against it. And yet, I had to fight a laugh once I figured out he was messing with me. I knew he was by the way he bit the inside of his cheek to keep that stupid smile off his face. I did the same thing and shook my head.
“He’d make an excellent son-in-law. And you guys could adopt so you’re mother won’t have to miss out on being a grandmother.”
When he started to turn his attention back to the papers, we were both surprised to see a small blonde standing in the room. I didn’t hear her come in and I started to worry how much of that she heard. She was so small. I could’ve just picked her up and put her in my pocket. And she was hot with curves in all the right places. Perfectly proportioned, too. Not a fake thing about her.
“Hey, young lady, what can we do for you?” Dad said he was a big hit with the ladies in his day. A direct result of an innate ability to flirt. Even with younger women and if he was just trying to be nice, it was flirting.
“My car is steaming,” she pointed out the window. Her blue eyes were wide. “I was just driving around when it started. I was hoping someone could look at it for me.”
Don’t do it, Dad. He put his hand on my shoulder. “I think my son here can handle that.”
“Sure.” Realizing I sounded very unfriendly, I asked, “Can I have your keys?”
She handed them over as I walked out to figured out which one was hers. Pushing the button on the remote starter, I should have predicted hers would stand out amongst the others. A mini cooper the color of copper. I didn’t even know that color was available.
After squeezing into the pint-sized contraption, I could see why she would’ve chosen it. For her it was a perfect fit but I had to slide the seat all the way back just so I could move it into the bay. Inside the garage, it was a no brainer. Driving, steam, the car was overheating. Cars overheat when small blonde girls forget to check the antifreeze.
“Your radiator’s bone dry,” I said before the door to the waiting area closed behind me.
“It that bad?”
I smiled because really? Is that bad? No it’s fine to let the damn motor blow up. No big deal.
“Yeah, that’s bad. But easy to fix.” Dad came out just then. We’d run out of some supplies earlier that morning and antifreeze was one of them. Hence Dad working on purchase orders all morning. “Tyler’s bringing back more antifreeze so it’ll be about twenty minutes.” I told him. “I’m going to check the radiator for a leak while we wait.”
“How do you do that? Is there an instrument you use or something?” A curl fell over her shoulder. She started twirling it absently with an index finger. That was kind of hot and she probably intended it to be. Dad’s face broke out into the biggest smile. He saw what was happening there. One flirt recognizing another. Maybe they had a secret handshake.
“You can go back and watch if you want,” his dad said smirking behind her.
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to get in the way,” she said with a small grin.
This girl wanted me to say I wanted her to go with me. Can’t say that I’d hate having her around.
“You won’t. Go on back with Jensen.” He winked at me. What the hell? I knew I shouldn’t have said anything to him. I mean, he was just being Dad and thought it was his way of telling me I was worrying about nothing but come on.
As soon as we got back to her car, I was on auto pilot, doing all the things I was supposed to, filling the radiator to make sure there wasn’t a leak. There wasn’t. For whatever reason the antifreeze was just gone. I was in the zone until Aric interrupted.
“Hey, Jensen, stupid question.” I waited until he continued. “Why don’t we have any oil filters?”
I laughed but even that made me feel uneasy. After telling him that and that some would arrive in the near future, I had to get out of there so, I said I’d check in the back just in case one fell behind the shelf or something. “Oh this is Aric.” I threw the introduction back as an afterthought because honestly, I wasn’t so sure I wanted them to meet at all. Not knowing the why behind that feeling was taking my pissed off to a whole new level.
There weren’t any hidden in the storeroom and I couldn’t hide forever. Seriously, I had no idea what the hell was going on with me. Instead, I went back to her car, getting everything ready so I could fill the radiator then go back to working on my dad for the rest of the day off.
“So what’s that?” She asked.
I couldn’t help the dumbfounded look that I was sure sat firmly on my face.
“The engine,” I said slowly.
Her smile was so beautiful. Full, genuine and her giggle might have touched my soul. That sounded so lame. But it made me join in.
“I know. Figured I should ask a question. I feel stupid just standing here trying not to get dirty.”
Tyler, the high school kid Dad brought on the help with scut for the summer, finally made it back. I quickly filled her up then sent her inside while I pulled the car back out.
“So, how much do I owe you?” We stood in the cool air and dear god, I needed to find out how old this girl was before I let my imagination run wild because it was starting to.
“No charge,” Dad said back. I was surprised he hadn’t gone out of business with the number of times he said those words. Not that adding antifreeze was a huge money maker in the first place.
“Oh, I can’t do that.” That voice…
“I insist. Just write down your name and phone number,” he slid an invoice across the counter. “Just for customer records and inventory of the antifreeze.”
“Are you new to town or just passing though?” That was starting to piss me off. Maybe it was that kind of day. An ef the world sort of thing that anyone and everything would get under my skin to make me want to tear it off. Except her. Looking at her my first instinct wasn’t to tear off anything of mine. And If I were a less trusting person, I would’ve thought he was looking to step out on Mom. As I leaned back against the counter, I tried glaring at the back of his head. I hoped he felt it.
“Just exploring.” The smile went with the voice. “I drove until somewhere looked like a good place to stop.”
“Well, it was nice to meet you and hey if you’ve got nothing to do, there’s a town picnic and fireworks display for Memorial Day.” He turned the paper, “Alyssum Bracken. That’s unique.”
“It’s a flower,” I offered at the same time she did. I had no idea where I’d picked that information up. She smiled right freaking at me.
“Most people don’t know that,” then added, “thanks again.”
She threw a glance over her shoulder that made my knees what to buckle, her blue eyes burning into mine.
At that very moment I was surer than ever that whatever was going on with Aric was not of the sexual variety. Because what I was feeling for the blond who let the antifreeze run dry was very sexual.
I’d have to figure out what the hell was going on with him but focus right then was on the girl that had just swept into my life.
And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Heather Young-Nichols, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 13! Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the gold team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!