by Renae Schroeder
“Genie, hurry up!” Alice urged impatiently. “We’re going to be late!”
Genie rolled her eyes at her overly anxious friend. Alice and Genie had been best friends since the third grade. Genie was the laid back, practical half of their friendship, while Alice supplied the impulsive, wild part.
They’d graduated from college two weeks before and the road trip had been, naturally, Alice’s idea. They’d packed up and left their hometown of Yuma and a mere day and a half into the trip, the car had broken down on the desert highway leading into Apache Junction. Being it was the weekend, there were no mechanics open until Monday morning. To pass the time, Alice had goaded Genie into checking out the local Goldfield Ghost Town.
“Yippee…” Genie muttered under her breath as Alice gestured like a madwoman. They’d preregistered through the motel’s computer, so they just had to be directed to the meeting spot for their group.
Alice was excitedly babbling about the history of the surrounding Superstition Mountains, while Genie scowled politely and pretended to be interested in the conversation.
Genie loved Alice like a sister, but sometimes Alice really needed to take a chill pill. Alice already had a cushy job lined up with the district attorney’s office, so she had nothing to worry about.
Genie should be pounding the pavement with her resume’, not running around the state of Arizona on some hair brained road trip like it was the last hurrah. Why in God’s name had she let Alice talk her into this?
The thought was interrupted by a man carrying a clipboard, wearing tan cargo shorts and a royal blue shirt with a monogrammed name on it. Julian. Alice’s monologue took a backseat in Genie’s brain as she drank in the view of the stranger. He reminded her of Antonio Banderas, only younger, cuter, and sexier. His deeply tanned skin was a startling contrast to his dazzling white smile. The five o’clock shadow on Julian’s square chin absolutely screamed masculine. His midnight black hair fell over one eye in a boyishly endearing manner.
Genie wasn’t a drooler, she was way more mature then that, but she had a hard time dragging her eyes from this fine specimen of a male. As she came back to her senses, she realized he was calling names off his list.
“Jason Morgan. Alice Barksdale. Genevieve Lewis. Allen…” Genie lost track of a brief swatch of time. She’d always hated her full given name of Genevieve, but the way it rolled off Julian’s tongue in his softly accented voice made her knees go weak. A shiver ran down her spine and it had nothing to do with the specters of Goldfield Ghost Town.
“Hellooooo? Is anyone home?” Alice waved her hand in front of Genie’s face.
“What?!” Genie snapped, her daydream lost as Alice resumed her one-sided dialogue.
Genie sighed. What had she been thinking anyway? Julian saw about a million pretty girls all year round. One more average American, hazel-eyed blonde was not a big deal to him. All Genie really wanted to be was out of Apache Junction. Still, she hung on his every word during the tour, although she couldn’t remember what was specifically said. Just listening to him speak was an aphrodisiac.
Monday morning, Alice had the car towed to a place called Mendoza and Sons Automobile Repair, a convenient three blocks away. At noon, Alice and Genie walked to the establishment to see what the news was.
An older Hispanic man sat behind the front desk. Alice explained who they were and he nodded.
“Ah, yes, the Honda Accord. We have to order a part, but it should be done by Thursday.”
Genie and Alice looked at each other and shrugged. At least Apache Junction was a big enough place that they wouldn’t be bored stiff.
“Would it be OK if I get into the car?” Genie asked. “I left my laptop in the trunk.”
“Sure, it’s right through there,” the man pointed.
She went through a side door into the shop area. As she stepped around the other vehicles, Genie’s sandaled foot slipped on a spot of oil and she went down hard on the concrete floor.
Another man quickly came to her side and offered her his hand. Genie was so embarrassed that she didn’t look at his face until she was on her feet again, trying to gauge if she could save her new white shorts. There was a reason she didn’t normally wear white and seeing the dark oily stain on the hem was one of those reasons.
“Are you hurt?” He gently grasped her elbows to steady her.
The deep timbre of his voice made her freeze. The first thing she saw, because it was at eye level, was the name tag on the man’s chambray work shirt. Julian Mendoza.
“I was at your 1 pm tour on Saturday,” Genie whispered. A blush crept up her cheeks as the memory of a rather adult-themed dream involving her and Julian sprang unbidden to her thoughts.
Julian’s eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled down at her. “I remember. Did you like it?”
“L..like what?” Genie stammered, clearing her brain of the steamy dream, feeling like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
“Oh! Yeah, I had fun.” Genie groaned inwardly. Julian probably thought she was an idiot.
“Glad to hear it. Are you OK?”
“ I’m fine.” Genie glanced ruefully at her clothes. “Except for my shorts.”
“I’ll buy you a new pair. It’s the least I can do since it’s my oil spill,” Julian offered. Genie became conscious of the fact that he still held her arms and that barely an inch separated their bodies.
“You don’t have to do that!”
“How about I buy you dinner then, Genevieve?” Her name flowed like fine silk from his lips.
Speechless, Genie could only nod acceptance. Maybe Apache Junction wasn’t such a bad place after all.