With her you get a lifetime.
With me you get six weeks.
Give me the six weeks.
The quieting of your soul when you’ve found home.
His words do things to me.
A thousand tugs of my heartstrings.
A sweetening of the air I breathe.
A hum of electricity through me.
800 Word Excerpt:
I approach my car, and everything around me is echoey and out of focus. I just have to take one step at a time, the first being to get this car out of the ditch.
A windowless white van slows to a crawl as it swerves around me. Nerves clench in my gut as the driver pulls onto the shoulder just up ahead. A stranger driving a kidnap van in this desolate place? Hell no! I already have a raging fear of the woods.
When the driver steps out, I grip the pepper spray on my key ring. So what if he’s got a killer bod and shock of black hair? Who cares if he’s wearing a faded t-shirt and rugged jeans, like some Hallmark movie hottie? I know better than to be fooled by looks.
I check the highway, scanning for other cars. Of course, this country road is empty. When he gets closer, I see the oily black streaks on his face, the filth on his hands, and the dirt on his clothes. And he’s wearing mismatched neon socks. That has to be ironic, no? But his smile is wicked sexy when he says, “Can I help you, ma’am?”
Ma’am? Is he for real? I force a smile and a wave when I say, “No, thank you. I’ve got it.” Translation: don’t come an inch closer.
“You’ve got it?” His voice is incredulous.
“Yup. All good.”
His eyes bulge as he stops and glances at my stuck tire. “All good? Looks like you’re in a bit of a pickle.”
On closer inspection, he has muscles everywhere, and the light scruff on his carved jawbone is annoyingly sexy. Which again, will not stop me from pepper spraying his fine ass. Hello, stranger danger—in the middle of nowhere. “Pickle? Nah.”
He rakes a hand through his hair. “Look, this isn’t a sexist thing. I have a mother and three sisters who could kick everyone’s ass. But this road doesn’t see much action, and I can’t leave someone out here.”
“I appreciate that, I really do. But I won’t be stuck long—I’m handy.” That’s a stretch. I restore homes, so I am handy, but with cars, I only know the basics.
He raises a brow as he studies my face. “Handy or not, getting a car out of a ditch is a two-person job. At least.” He cocks his head and hitches up his voice a notch when he adds, “Out here, there’s no Triple A.”
“I don’t need Triple A. But thank you.”
His lips quirk up as they appear to search for a response. “Once I leave, you might not see another car for hours.”
“I’ll figure it out. I’m a New Yorker.”
“Ah. That explains it.”
My hand lands on my hip. “Explains what, exactly?”
“Nothing.” His mouth curves in a patronizing grin.
His amusement pisses me off. It’s really hard not to sound condescending when I say, “I’m sure you’ve got places to be.”
He hesitates before he hitches his thumb over his shoulder. “Okay, then. I’m leaving.”
Our gazes lock, like we’re in a game of eye-chicken. That’s fine, bring it—I don’t mind studying his. They’re part ocean, part storm cloud—sparkle tinged with despair. Like mine. I don’t look away, don’t blink when I say, “I see that, and good for you. Enjoy your day.”
He steps away in defeat. “I’m really leaving this time. You’ll be out here in the backwoods. All by yourself.” Another step back. “When you could have a mechanically inclined, super handy guy give you a hand.”
I put my palms up. “Again—mechanically inclined, super handy hands right here.” I wiggle my fingers and paint on a smile. “Sir.”
“All righty, then. Good luck.” That grin is back. “Ma’am.”
I hate to admit it, but damn it, smug is sexy on him. Our gazes lock again, and I enjoy looking at his smile, looking at him. Forget eye candy—this country boy… or man, with distinguished light creases on his temples—is more of an exquisite eye confection.
And now, I’m staring. I attempt to run my fingers through my auburn hair, which I’ve forgotten is bobby-pinned. My hand gets stuck, and I try to play it off as a head scratch.
He waves. “I’m Owen Brooks, by the way. It was nice meeting you.”
“You too.” I’m not giving him my name. I point at his feet and say, “Nice neon socks, by the way.”
That smug grin is back when he runs a hand over his dirt-stained tee. “Pulling this look together wasn’t easy.”
I smile, and for the first time, it’s genuine.