Jay fumbled with the last bolt before slamming the hood of the Cadillac. The dull glow from his work light swung watery shadows across his features, the throb at his temple proof of the tension reflected back from the shiny windshield. Turning away from the cars surface, glittering like grains of sand along an afternoon beach, he caught sight of a tall shadowed figure standing against the dim of the interior bulb. Jay’s long fingers tightened reflexively around the wrench still in his hand, his pulse quickening as the shadow moved forward. A deep voice drifted across the open bay.
Jay released his last breath, dropping his shoulders to relax his stiff defenses.
“Hey Jack What’s up?”
Jay dodged around the car and moved toward the tall lean form, relieved to find himself face to face with Alex’s father. He’d escaped to the garage to avoid his own internal arguments, but the pang in his chest urged him to ask Jack about Alex,
Jackson McConnell strolled into the garage pacing between the car and Jay’s scattered tools.
“It looks like your tool box exploded in here. “ One of Jack’s eyebrows arched. “Or you’ve been throwing wrenches?”
Jay tightened his mouth before closing his eyes. Maybe he shouldn’t ask her Dad about the trip? He’d just come to get some work done. His temper tantrum when he couldn’t find the 16 millimeter socket exploded like a caged animal inside him. The release of tension felt good, but the tools were giving too much away.Jack’s watchful eyes made Jay clench his already taut jaw. He sucked in a breath before collecting the various wrenches , returning them to his toolbox in hopes of avoiding the penetration of the other man’s icy blue stare.
“It’s 3:30 in the morning son, Do you always come to work this early?”
a low chuckle, and His footsteps echoed through the space as Jack began handing tools over to Jay’s shaking palms. When he finished, Jack leaned against the Cadillac, His long arms crossed over his wide chest. Jay ground his teeth scuffing the toe of his shoe against the concrete.
“Only if there’s work to do and its useless for me to try to sleep.”His half hearted attempt at a grin back toward Jack, was the best way to avoid the comprehension of the unspoken truth that lay between them. Jack laughed again and Jay heard the strain in the sound.
“What’s your excuse?”
“Sleep’s not my trouble,” Jack muttered, “It’s getting Trish to let me do it. ”
He rubbed the shadow of whiskers on his chin, the strain now in his eyes as well.“my wife is a bundle of nerves. If she would stop worrying for more than ten seconds we’d both be asleep. As it is, she’s on the computer writing. I went for a drive so I don’t have to watch her go crazy worrying about Alex.”
“insomnia must be in the air tonight,” Jay mumbled.
Jay leaned against the front bumper of the Cadillac, as Jack joined him.
With a scowl into the desert night, Jay folded his arms across his chest to stare out into the dark morning sky. “You’re not worried?”
“Am I worried about my only daughter running off to New York to marry a guy who I think is…less than suitable?” he asked with a raise of his eyebrows. “A little.”
Jay frowned, not looking at the older man. As Jack cleared his throat, Jay lowered his eyes to let them bore into the concrete under his feet while he unclenched his teeth against the word ‘marry’. The single syllable reverberated in his head like an echoing gun shot. When she had gone, in his heart he had known that this was not just a weekend trip through Manhattan for her. The truth of Jackson’s off handed statement was not a surprise, but the force of its sound would not leave its haunting tone silent. Jay shook his head, forcing himself to concentrate on Jack’s words. “Am I worried about her figuring this mess out? NO.”
“What’s there to figure out?”
Jackson’s mouth tilted up on one side. “You know Alex, she won’t marry this guy without picking apart what the right thing is first? “nobody wants to do the right thing as much as she does.”
Jay shivered in the cold morning air. He could feel every raw nerve in his body tighten with Jack’s smooth, buttery tone. The reassurance should have made him feel better, but he flinched at the sound, his face cracking into a scowl.
“The problem is Alex is always so worried about doing the right thing for everybody else. She forgets to think about what’s right for her.”
Jack smiled, the too knowing tilt to his head only making Jay fear Alex's father could see the storm raging behind his Eyes.
“I’ve never seen you this…concerned before.” Jack teased.
“I’ve got a little more invested this time.
“Besides the fact that she’s my best friend?” Jay said with an uncomfortable chuckle. “She’s not having the best of luck with the weather, or the airlines, and we both know she can’t count on…”
Jay’s voice broke off as his mouth twitched and a fire burned black in his eyes for a moment.
He bit down on his bottom lip as he watched Jackson fight to hold back a laugh. “None of her other boyfriends kept you up at night.”
Jay clenched his teeth to keep himself from correcting her father, all of Alex’s boyfriends bothered him. Her tractor beam for wounded birds had always driven him crazy, but after the last time she’d gotten sucked in by one of them it hadn’t cost him $500.
“I want Alex to be happy,” jay said, “but she wants this guy pretty bad and her taste in men doesn’t give me much confidence.”
“She gets that from her mom.” Jack said with a gleam in his azure eyes.
Jay shot a doubtful glance at him. The grin on Jack’s face was a welcome relief to this too serious conversation and Jay was eager for the reprieve.
“What does that say about you?”
Jackson stood from the bumper and pulled his car keys from his pocket. Walking toward the open door of the bay, he grinned again.
“That I am the man who saw the forest through the trees. You might want to try it.”
Jack didn’t wait for a response as he crossed the empty lot outside Galvez Autobody. jay rubbed his hand over his own unshaven jaw. Pale morning light hadn't yet begun to break across the horizon. The seduction of the night called him to his bed now. The day would be lost if he slept though. He couldn’t afford to pass up the income.
He shook the dreariness of the last few hours from his head, just dragging himself toward the door of the garage. Jackson turned from beside his car. “You interested in breakfast?? Its better than being here, alone, in the dark.”
Jay looked away as Jackson scanned the empty parking lot around them.He knew what Jack was looking for and his exhausted mind flailed for an explanation. Instead, he pulled his light off its hook, shutting it off to plunge the door down as he locked up,
“sure, but, I’ll have to follow you in the tow truck or we’ll have to go in your car.”
Jay turned back to face Jack, knowing there was no avoiding his eyes, as he looked around the lot again wrinkling his brow.
“Where’s your car?” he asked in deliberate syllables.
“She’s…not available right now.”
Jay felt the brief flush of his face burned scarlet beneath his skin. .
Jack met the response with a lift of his eyebrows, turning his back. “Donuts or omelets?”