Author’s Note: I don’t know for sure that this is a part of the next book or if I can manage to finish the next book. However, I did start a second one and did write some random pieces for it, so this exists. I’m sharing it in honor of the first one being published.
“You’re staring off into space again. Kind of thought we were all done with that now that you remember everything,” Mackenna said, and Carson looked up at her with a grimace. Maybe she was wrong about that. He knew he feared it, though he hadn’t said anything about that to her. Yes, he finally had most of that terrible day back, not just the scattered pieces that had created so many nightmares for him over the years, but was that actually all of it? He wasn’t sure, and he didn’t know that he was strong enough to find out.
He forced a smile, shaking his head as he did. “I’m just… not sure about this.”
She put a hand on her hip, reminding him that she was in her work overalls again, and he could have groaned when he thought about how he’d mistaken her for someone else—a man—when they first met. She’d been under a car then, but that didn’t change things much.
“This about manual labor again? I know you aren’t above it. You told me you used to help out at your grandfather’s farm, even if you did become a suit with a degree and a stuffy office cubicle later.”
He laughed, though his heart wasn’t in it. “More like… back to thinking I’ve got no business working on cars. Antiques, at least.”
She shook her head. “You are not breaking anything here. You’re sanding a bit of rust off so that we can fix this axle properly. It needs to be rebuilt, and that’s not something you did or that you can avoid. It has to be done if Phantom’s ever going to be drivable again.”
He put a hand on the running board, pulling it back when he realized how close he’d come to the bullet hole. “Yeah, but is that even a good idea? This car is so old, and it was in bad shape before Grandpa hid it for twenty years, and I don’t know that we should—”
She put a finger to his lips, and he grimaced when he thought he tasted grease. “Don’t talk like she’s not salvageable. This car comes from a time when things were built to last, not to be discarded. This is history. Your family’s and the world’s, and it’s worth preserving. Restoring. We can get Phantom running again. She won’t just drive, she’ll fly.”
Carson snorted. “This is not Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
Mackenna grinned, and he almost lost himself to that smile. She was incredible, really, tough as she was, and it wasn’t even in her slightly tomboyish ways or the Scottish heritage Mac would claim it was. That gave her her hair, maybe, but Carson knew the rest of it was her.
She touched his cheek. “All kidding aside, I do believe we should do this. I believe it’s worth doing, and don’t start in on the money or how you don’t have a job or how you have never done this before. None of that matters. Phantom was your father’s last act. His way of returning to your family and rebuilding what he broke when he left. It’s worth it.”
Carson turned away, breaking contact. He took a breath and let it out, putting his hands on the Maxwell’s door. “I’ve never rebuilt anything. Not even myself.”
She shrugged. “You’re a work in progress, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.”
“You have,” he said, looking back at her. “I’m not even talking about the cars. You overcame losing your parents and then what happened with your uncle, with your aunt…”
“Not all at once, and I had help,” she said, wrapping her arms around him and leaning her head against his arm. “Coming here was a big part of that, and Mac was another. The cars, yes, a huge piece, but that wasn’t all of it, either. You gave me one of the pieces, too. Don’t forget that.”
He nodded, though part of what scared him was that she’d given him almost all of the pieces, and if he didn’t know what he’d do without her. He’d be completely lost, and it terrified him.