She slowly lowered it to the plate. “Did you pay for it?”
He shook his head and lied through his teeth. “No. The guy who owns the garage is a friend—he owed me a favor. It was nothing.”
The corners of Maddie’s mouth tightened. Eyes narrowed, she met his gaze in a good old-fashioned stare-down. Leaning back in his chair, he gave her his best lazy grin. He’d played this game his whole life: she could scrutinize him all day and he’d never break.
“What kind of favor?” Maddie asked. Her tone was filled with doubt.
“I drew up a will for him and his wife,” Mitch said, coolly.
“I thought you were a bartender now?”
Mitch shrugged. “What’s a little legal work among friends?”
None of the distrust cleared from Maddie’s face. She opened her mouth, presumably to grill him some more, but before she could speak, Gracie cleared her throat. “I can vouch for him, I was the witness.”
It didn’t surprise him that Gracie had picked up his lie and run with it: that was how she was. He might not understand why she was invested in having Maddie stay, but he was grateful.
“So you didn’t pay for the tow?” Maddie asked.
“No.” He didn’t have the slightest compunction about lying. He’d learned enough about her last night to know that being taken care of rubbed her the wrong way, and paying the tow fee didn’t help his case. If she was determined to leave, he couldn’t stop her, but he sure as hell didn’t want her decision made because of money.
Maddie’s head tilted to the side, sending her long ponytail waving. With her hair pulled back and her face free of makeup, she looked about eighteen.
“How much did you charge an hour?” Maddie asked. “I’ll pay you back.”
“You will not,” he said, his tone taking on a decided edge. “I had no out-of-pocket expenses and you do not owe me one cent.”
“But your time—I insist.” Maddie’s expression took on a decidedly stubborn edge he’d already learned to recognize.
“No.” As if he had a right to the final say.
She strummed her manicured nails on the table, her wheels spinning as she stared off to a spot over his left shoulder.
Gracie nudged him under the table, then jutted her chin toward Maddie.
He shook his head.
She scowled and kicked him.
Ignoring her, he moved his calf out of the line of fire. Instinct told him that it was better to let Maddie think it through than talk her into his way.
Fifteen seconds passed before Maddie straightened in her chair and shifted her attention to him. “As you know,” she said, her tone taking on a professional quality as though she were about to give a presentation, “my funds are rather . . . limited at the moment.”
Mitch nodded seriously, pressing his lips together to repress his smile. Damn, she was cute.
“However,” Maddie continued, her chin tilting even higher, “I will write you a check for your time and trouble when I return home. How much did you charge an hour?”
Mitch scrubbed his jaw with his hand, contemplating. While he wanted to argue, he decided that letting her win this round helped his overall strategy. He’d never cash the check anyway, so there was no point in the debate. His lips quirked. “I charged four hundred dollars an hour.”
She blanched, her skin turning a shade whiter. “Oh, well, I can see why you’d leave that behind. It must have been horrible to make that kind of money.”
He laughed. If she only knew. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gracie looking at him with avid speculation. “You asked, Princess.”
“Yes, I did.” Maddie blew out a breath. “Let’s back up—how much does your friend charge to tow a car?”
“Only about a hundred bucks,” Gracie chirped helpfully.
One-fifty was more like it, but Mitch wasn’t about to volunteer the information.
Maddie’s gaze narrowed. “Okay, so that’s a hundred for the tow, and I’ll call and find out the going rate at the motel. There’s food.” She turned to