Preface: To my readers, thanks for all the feedback and encouragement you give me. I hope you like this one.
Thank you to my friend PapaKilo14 for editing this and many of my other stories. He makes them readable. He keeps me on track and all the mistakes are mine.
Sydney was just ten miles from home when her day went suddenly south. She had Mumford and Sons on the stereo and she was singing her heart out. It had been a long drive and a long day. She felt like she had signed a million books and she saw the sign; Pensacola, 10 miles. There was something in the road ahead. It looked like an animal. As she got closer she noticed the familiar sight of a dead armadillo. It was right in the middle of her lane and she was meeting a car. There was nowhere to go so she just straddled it with her car. There was a horrible thump and she thought that she was glad it was already dead. She hated to hit animals! When she heard the ominous thump, thump, thump, she revised her thoughts.
"Stupid armadillo," she thought. "If that thing tore up my car I'm going back to run it over again!"
She thought for a few minutes that it had gotten hung under her car, but the thumping didn't go away. She sighed and turned off her IPod. There was a wide shoulder ahead and she pulled off. Sydney loved her car. She had a two year old Dodge Charger RTS; black with the big hemi. She took meticulous care of it and now she was worried. She got out and knelt beside it, looking under it to see if she could detect anything hanging down. The asphalt hurt her bare knees and it was very hot. She couldn't see anything. She had roadside assistance on her insurance policy and she was looking for the number on her card when she heard the noise of a diesel engine pull up behind her and shut down.
She looked out and saw a red pickup truck with some sort of logo on the side. It was pulling a trailer that had what looked like steel beams on it. A huge man got out. He had red hair and a red beard and he looked very intimidating. She thought about getting her tazer out but he was probably just being helpful. She got out and stood up. He stopped at the back of her car. That reassured her a little and she smiled at him.
"Hey, little lady, are you having problems with your car?" he asked.
His voice was the deepest she had ever heard. She imagined that if a bear could speak, this was what it would sound like. She was still a little uncertain and he sensed that she was afraid of him.
"I know I look scary," he told her. "I won't come any closer. Is everything OK?"
She laughed nervously. "No, I hit a stupid armadillo back there and now my car is making this thumping sound!"
"You want me to take a look?" he asked.
"I'd appreciate it very much," she told him.
"You get back in and lock your door so you feel safe," he told her. "Where is the sound coming from?"
"From the front," she said.
"Ok, I'll just take a look. You get back in now."
She slid back in gratefully and locked the door. He seemed like a really nice guy. He was just so big!
He walked past the door and she saw him disappear down in front. He was down there for a couple of minutes before he stood back up. He motioned for her to roll her window down.
"There's a plastic shield apron torn loose under your car," he called. "It isn't a big deal, but it's noisy because it's vibrating in the wind from you driving. It's rubbed on the pavement a little and you're going to have to replace it. It's a dumb design. I'll get some duct tape and tape it back up so you can drive it. Where are you going?"
"Pensacola," she told him. "I live there."
"Me too," he told her. "We'll just tape it up and I'll follow you to your exit to make sure you get there."
"Thank you so much," she said. "I was just about to call a tow truck."
"No need for that," he laughed. "I'll fix you up temporarily. You can get home and get it fixed tomorrow."
He went back to his truck and came back with a roll of duct tape. He disappeared again and she made up her mind and got out. She walked around and watched him.
"Decided I'm harmless?" he chuckled.
"Yes. You're too nice to be afraid of," she said. "What's your name?"
"Logan," he told her. "Logan Thomas. You got a name?"
"It's Sydney Tate," she told him.
"That's a pretty name for a pretty girl," he said.
He stripped tape off and stuck it up under her car. He did it a dozen times and wiggled out. When he stood up she realized just how big he was.
"You're a big guy, Logan," she told him.
"I get that a lot," he laughed. "You're a pretty tall girl yourself, Sydney."
"Not next to you," she said. "Logan, I want to pay you for stopping to help me."
"Now you're going to make me mad," he told her. "See this red hair? That means I've got quite a temper, so we'll just forget you said that."
"I feel like I owe you," she said.
"You don't, but I'll let you buy me a cup of coffee," he said.
"OK," she said. "There's a Starbuck's at my exit. I'll get you a cup of good coffee."
"It's a deal." He held out a big hand that looked like a shovel to Sydney. He noticed that it was black and grimy from being under her car and he drew it back with a laugh. "Don't guess you want that on you."
"Well, it shows a lot more on you than it would me," she smiled.
"You mean on account of I'm so white and you're not?" he grinned.
"Exactly," she said.
"Well, I suppose they have a restroom at Starbuck's and I'll just wash up. You ready?"
She was and they got back in their vehicles. She pulled out and he pulled in behind her. She breathed a sigh of relief when the thumping sound made no appearance. She kept to the speed limit and when she came to her exit he pulled off too. He had to park in the back of the lot to find a place for his trailer and she waited for him. They walked in together and he went away to the restroom to wash his hands.
She ordered herself a cappuccino and when he got back he ordered a triple espresso. She paid and they took their cups to a booth. She had never heard anyone order a triple espresso before and she was intrigued.
"What does that taste like?" she asked.
He offered her his cup and she sipped a little. It made her shiver and he laughed. "It's an acquired taste," he laughed. "Lots of long hours cramming for tests at the last minute."
"Why didn't you study earlier?" she asked.
"Well, two reasons," he said. "I'm a procrastinator and there was always practice or a game that got in the way."
"Football?" she guessed.
"Volleyball," he said.
She gaped at him and he burst out laughing. "Yes, football. I got you there, Sydney."
She laughed. "I just thought I was sitting across the table from the biggest liar in Florida! You are tall enough though. Do you know; I actually did play volleyball in college?"
"I believe it," he said. "You look very athletic."
"Thanks," she smiled at him. "Thank you for helping me too."
"It was my pleasure," he told her. "I'm very glad to meet you Sydney."
"So, what do you do?" she asked him. "I saw metal beams on your trailer."
"That's what I do; metal," he told her. "I build metal buildings. I sell metal to people that are builders or people that want to build their own building. Anything metal, I've got it. You don't need a metal building do you, Sydney?"
"Would you build me a garage?" she asked. "I just have a carport and I'd like a garage to keep my car in."
"That's pretty small for me," he told her, "but we're friends, right? Sure, I'll build you a garage."
"How much would it cost?" she asked.
"I'll build it for cost," he told her. "You pay my guy's labor and I'll charge you what the metal costs me."
"Can you afford to do that?" she asked.
"Yes, I can. Can you afford the metal?"
"Is it really expensive?" she asked.
"No, it's the cheapest garage you can build," he said. "Are you on a tight budget?"
"No, I just signed a pretty good book deal," she said. "This is my third book and I'm selling a lot of them."
"You're a writer!" he exclaimed. "How cool is that? Will you give me one of your books?"
"I'll even sign it for you," she said. "It should be worth at least, say, 25 dollars!"
They both laughed for a long time. "Well, I know a famous author," he said.
"Yes and I know a guy that's a whizz with duct tape," she giggled. "He's also a very nice guy. You were pretty scary when I first saw you, Logan."
"Yeah, but I'm a gentle giant," he said. "That was always my problem in football. I just wasn't mean enough unless someone pissed me off. I really do have a temper; it just takes a lot to get me going."
She shivered. "I wouldn't like to see that. I can imagine. Listen, Logan. I've got to get home. Will you give me your number so I can call you about the garage?"
He gave her a business card. "Husband anxiously waiting?" he asked.
"No, I'm not married," she said. "I do have a boyfriend though. He isn't waiting or anything. We don't live together or anything like that. Why am I telling you this?"
"I have an extraordinarily honest face," he said. "People find themselves telling me things."
"I'll bet," she said. "We'll see how honest you are when I get the bill for the garage. Will I see you there?"
"I doubt it, Sydney; I've got a couple of big jobs to work on. This is kind of going to be a when I get around to it thing. I have a pretty tight schedule but I'll work it in, I promise."
.... There is more of this story ...