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Chere Palmer has had enough of boys who only think they’re men, of blind dates and being polite to everyone’s cousins. She’s certainly had enough of the cell phone company that gave her an infamous phone number. She’s ready for a life of celibacy or an honest-to-goodness mature man, whichever way it works out. Right now, it’s late and she wants to go home – alone.
Luke Fisher has had a bad day. The electric was off, he overslept, the computer network bombed and he had to stay at the office until midnight to restore it, and on a Friday, no less. Now, to top it all off, he’s got a flat tire. Luke calls the number on his roadside assistance card and instead of help, he gets an angry female. He tries to convince her he really needs a tow truck, but she’s convinced he’s out for some fun calling a phone number made famous in a rock song.
As to how the tire had gone flat, Luke didn’t want to give in to conjecture. It had been fine when he’d parked the car. Dwelling on it meant delving into his past and he didn’t have the energy for that right now. He’d worry tomorrow, in the daylight, when his speculations were more manageable.
Climbing into the Mustang, he dropped the seat back and settled in to call the tow truck and maybe snap a nap until they arrived. At least he could run the engine and create a cool breeze with the air conditioning system and avoid the humid night air and the mosquitoes. He keyed in the number on his roadside assistance card and waited for someone to answer.
A silky smooth voice, with just the barest whisper of the South said hello. He rattled off his name and roadside assistance insurance number and waited for her to ask all the usual questions for filling out her forms. There was silence on the other end of the connection.
“Did you get all that?” he asked her. Her reply startled him.
“I’m sure you think you’re funny, but you’re not. Don’t call this number again.”
The connection went dead with a click. What the fuck?
He dialed the number again and the same voice answered, only a little less pleasant this time. Well, he was feeling a bit less pleasant, too. He paid a lot of money for roadside service and he expected to get it when he called for it. He was too tired, too hot and sweaty waiting for the car’s air conditioning to get up to speed to tolerate games.
“Listen, whoever you are, I need roadside assistance. Just stop playing your little game and send the tow truck. You got that?”
“Me? I’m playing games? Listen, bucko, I don’t know who you think you’re calling, but I’m not a tow truck driver and you’re bloody well on your own.” The connection broke.
He looked at his phone, dismayed. Could he just have one thing go his way between now and dawn? He hit the redial. When she answered this time, she was hopping mad.
“Now you listen to me you smarmy son-of-a-bitch. You call me again and I’ll have the cops on you so fast you won’t know what the hell happened to you. Do you hear me?”
Well. Maybe he’d better try to be very nice and see where it got him. He felt more human since the air conditioning finally blew cool air at him.
“Ma’am, I hear you. I need a tow truck and I dialed the number on my roadside assistance card. I’m really sorry to be bothering you if you’re not the agency listed.”
Nothing but complete silence. Had she disconnected again? “Hello?”
“Mister, are you telling me the truth?” Some of the anger left her voice.
“Lady, I don’t have the energy to be jerking your chain and I wouldn’t lie unless there was a sub-machine gun pointed at my head. I need a tow truck.” He gave her the name of his insurance company. “Are you someplace you could maybe look up that number for me?”
He looked over at the only other car left on the lot, parked under a bright pole light. A pretty woman with long dark hair sat behind the wheel talking on a cell phone. She turned her head just enough that he could see most of her face.
“I’m sorry but I don’t have a phonebook in my purse. Call information, why don’t you?”
His mouth dropped open. He snapped it closed.
“Ma’am, I’m sitting in the parking lot of O’Malley’s with a flat tire --”
The woman in the other car started then turned to face him fully. Even across twelve dark parking spaces he could see the surprise on her face. He got out of his car and walked around to the passenger side and pointed at his front tire.
“See? It’s really flat.”
“Um, I see that.”
Luke hopped up to sit on the hood of his car and waved at her. “Hi. I’m Luke.”
She held up her hand and wiggled her fingers at him, waving back. “Hi. I’m Chere."
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