Love story, p.10

Love Story, page 10


Love Story
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  “Yeah, I’ve seen the way you pump. And unimpressive as it is, don’t think I don’t know your plan, that the second I unbuckle my seatbelt you’re going to be behind the wheel.”

  I put a green M&M between my teeth and grin at her, my mood slightly improved by her bad mood. “Luce. Did you just make a sex joke with that whole pump thing?”

  She rolls her eyes, and I lean forward. “So you think about it. The way I…pump?”

  Lucy hisses out a breath, and apparently changes her mind about pumping the gas, because she gets out, slamming the door on me.

  I climb out of the car after she does. I fully intend to walk around the front of the car to get in the driver’s side, but feeling ornery and more than a little horny, I walk toward the back of the car, stepping in front of her just as she’s about to reach for the gas pump.

  She looks up at me, her green eyes unreadable, and that bothers me. I used to know her every thought, but she’s increasingly a mystery to me, part childish brat, part sexy woman, and most vexing of all, part mine.

  “What?” she asks.

  I realize that I’ve crowded her against the side of Horny, more aware than ever just how appropriate the car’s name is for this road trip.

  “You’re making me crazy,” I say, because it’s the first thing that pops into my mind and the truth.

  Her face registers incredulity. “Me? You’re the one running hot and cold! You’re either comforting me with a hug, or snapping at me, or ordering me quesadillas when I’m sad, or putting your hands all over me on the dance floor, or then not even looking at me when we’re alone in the hotel room.”

  I lean in, even as I know I’m playing with fire. “Did you want me to look at you?”

  She looks away. “No.”

  I press my knuckle under her chin, forcing her gaze back up to mine. “Lucy.”


  I look at her lips as she licks them, before meeting her eyes once more. “You think I’m running hot and cold? Two days ago you had a boyfriend you couldn’t wait to see.”

  Her eyes dart to the side and it tells me everything I need to know. I smile. “You were relieved, weren’t you? You were relieved that the bastard cheated on you so that you didn’t have to worry about breaking up with him.”

  “Yes, Reece. That’s just what I was hoping for when I drove all the way to Miami to surprise him—that I’d walk in on him with his tongue in another girl’s mouth. Because that sure worked out well for us, didn’t it?”

  She tries to move around me, but I block her way, my hand finding her hip. “Enough of that. You have to decide, Luce. You wanna be mad at me and hate me forever for something that happened when we were kids, or do you want to grind against me on the dance floor and put it behind us?”

  This time when her eyes come back to mine they’re still angry, but now they’re also filled with tears, and it rips at me. “You think I want to remember? You think I’m clinging to that memory of your betrayal for kicks? It hurt, Reece. It still hurts. Do I forget sometimes? Sure. Sometimes I forget what you did. But only for a little while. Then the memory comes back and it breaks my heart all over again, and no amount of quesadillas or hugs or flirting can fix it.”

  Emotion causes my fingers to dig into her hips, and I don’t know if it’s anger or exasperation or pain, and all I can manage is to exhale, closing my eyes and resting my forehead against hers, just for a moment, trying to get my shit together.

  I step back. “All right then. All right.”

  My arms drop to my sides and I start to head into the store for water or a Coke, or more M&M’s. Anything to get away from her while my blood is still simmering.


  I pause, but don’t turn around.

  “I’m not the only one who’s confused,” she says, challenge in her voice. “You don’t know what you want either.”

  I keep walking, because there’s nothing to say, because she’s damn right.

  I don’t know what I want. I mean, I know that my body wants hers. Fuck, I’m half-terrified that my body will always want hers. Today, tomorrow, ten years from now.

  But my brain knows better.

  And my heart? Shit. My heart’s had barbed wire around it for a good six years now, and there’s absolutely zero chance that the person to slip beneath my protective walls is going to be the one who caused those walls to go up in the first place.

  Chapter 22


  So, update.

  We’re somewhere in Tennessee, and we’re…surviving.

  There’s no other word for it, really. It’s been two days since our whatever in Miami, and it’s been a lot of bickering about the radio, where to stop for lunch, what to eat for dinner….

  Except that gets exhausting, as does trying to keep our hands off each other, so we occasionally slip up. We occasionally slip into old Reece and Lucy, back when we told each other everything. I’m slowly chipping away at the piece of his life I missed while I was away at school, although the guy’s not making it easy on me.

  The second I make any sort of headway, he overreacts by treating me like I’m a bratty little sister he can’t wait to be rid of.

  My head is throbbing from the pounding of his obnoxious rock music. I reach out again to change it, and he knocks my hand away.

  “What’s your deal?” I snap.

  “We each get thirty minutes of radio at a time,” he says, without glancing away from the road. “Been that way the whole time.”

  A few more nights, I think. You can do this.

  Then I’ll be in Napa, him in Sonoma. Too close for comfort, certainly, but there’ll be a hell of a lot more space than there is in this stupid car. Obviously my crap brother named it Horny for a reason because even though I hate Reece, I can’t seem to go five minutes without visualizing his hands on me.

  My efforts with the radio thwarted, I opt for rolling down the window instead.

  Reece gives me a look. “Hot?”

  I don’t respond. I’m not hot. Well maybe a little. Mostly it’s that freaking cologne he’s taken to wearing since that night in Miami. I don’t know what the hell it’s called, but they should rename it: Lucy Hawkins’s Cooter Kryptonite.

  It makes me want to jump him every time he gets near.

  To be fair, I’d probably want to do that anyway. But the fact that he smells like pepper and Christmas and bourbon doesn’t help.

  We drive in silence for a few more minutes, and I distract myself by watching eagerly for a rest stop so we can switch drivers. At least with my hands on the steering wheel, I’m not tempted to put them on him.

  Well, less tempted anyway.

  I get excited when I see the telltale blue sign, then wrinkle my nose when I see the big orange notification that it’s temporarily closed and the next rest stop isn’t for forty-eight miles.

  My pissy mood’s interrupted when the car makes a quick and unexpected swerve, and I hear a stream of curses from Reece.

  I sit up in my seat and roll up the window to keep out the dirt that’s flying up as he pulls over to the shoulder. “What’s going on?”

  “Flat,” he says grimly as Horny rolls to a stop on the mostly deserted highway in the middle of nowhere.

  For a moment there’s only silence, then a whoosh as a semitruck whizzes by.

  Reece checks over his shoulders to make sure no other cars are coming up on us before opening the driver’s side and climbing out, giving the door an angry slam.

  I watch as he puts his hands on his hips, chomping on the mint gum he stole from my purse at our last gas stop, coming around to glare at the passenger-side tire.

  Then he glares at me, as though it’s my fault just by being closest.

  I give him my biggest shit-eating grin, and even through the dark lens of his aviator sunglasses, I know his eyes are narrowing.

  He marches toward the door, and after glancing once more at the oncoming traffic (spoiler alert, there’s none), he jerks open the do
or handle. “Get out.”

  “Why? It’s hot.”

  He doesn’t answer. He goes around to the trunk, and I reluctantly follow him, mostly because he turned off the car, and without the AC, it’s sweltering.

  Hmm. Not much better outside. And it’s humid as all heck.

  By the time I make it around to the trunk, I’m already sweating. Reece tosses a bag at my chest before dumping others on the dirt beside my feet.

  “Hey! You’re getting my stuff all dirty!”

  He grumbles something I can’t understand and probably don’t want to. He finally reaches the bottom of the trunk, tugging up on the nasty-looking fabric that separates the stuff in the trunk from, I dunno…car stuff.

  Car stuff, as it turns out, that includes a spare tire.

  He moves slightly to the side so I can see it better. I glance down at it, then at him.

  Reece gestures, as though I’m supposed to pull it out of the trunk.

  I blink. “You can’t be serious. You’ve forgotten how to change a flat tire?”

  His expression is completely emotionless. “Yes, that’s right. I took this car from being a pile of rusty metal into a running automobile to get your ass from Virginia to California, but nope…no idea how to change a flat.”

  I ignore his sarcasm and make a hand gesture of my own, as though to say Have at it.

  He doesn’t move. “Do you know how to change a flat?”

  I purse my lips. “Um.”

  Reece uses his free hand to shove the sunglasses on top of his head, fixing me with an icy blue stare. “You should learn.”

  “Why? My dad gave you a Triple A card. I may not know how to change a tire, but I’m super good at making phone calls.”

  I give him what I know to be my prettiest smile, but he only snorts and uses a finger to flick his glasses back onto his nose. “Come on. I’ll show you.”

  “I hope by ‘show you,’ you mean do it yourself,” I mutter.

  Still, he has a point. I’m hardly a tomboy, but neither do I want to be labeled as one of those princesses scared of breaking a nail.

  (Real truth: if I’d had a manicure in the past two weeks, my stance right now would be different. But as it is, my nails are bare and cut short as a nod to the casual road-trip vibe, so…why the hell not?)

  I drop the bag I’m holding on to the ground along with the others, wrap both hands around the spare tire, and tug.

  It moves, but only a little. I struggle with it. Reece isn’t known for patience, and after about forty-five seconds he reaches down and hoists it out easily with one arm, giving me a waft of that hideously wonderful cologne in the process.

  Crap. Now I’m distracted.

  I’m also really sweating now, and pluck at my blouse where it sticks to my back.

  Reece, for his part, looks only a little bit shiny, and the look is really good on him.

  I want to lick.

  He stares at me. “Grab it, Lucy.”

  “Grab what?”

  My eyes are locked somewhere in the vicinity of his crotch, and I hear him grunt before he points toward the front of the car. “Roll the damn tire up there. I’ll bring the jack.”

  I giggle, because the word jack combined with the fact that I was just thinking about his…

  I clear my throat. Anyway.

  I do as he says, awkwardly straddling the tire between my legs and rolling it forward until I reach the totally deflated passenger tire.

  I look over. “Now what?”

  He drops a nasty, hundred-year-old bag thing on the ground. “There should be a flathead screwdriver in there. Use it to pry off the hubcap.”

  I got this.

  I couple minutes later, I look up victoriously, hubcap by my feet.

  He remains unimpressed.

  “Wrench,” he snaps.

  Wrench. I can do wrench. I helped my dad with a handful of odd jobs back in the day. I dig around until I come up with the wrench and hold it up for praise. He gives me only the slightest of nods.

  “Now use it to remove the lug nuts, but don’t remove them all the way.”

  I giggle again. I know. I know. But jack and nuts? Come on.

  I listen as he points out the lug nuts, then use the wrench to loosen them, trying to ignore the fact that it’s like a million degrees and the temperature only seems to be heating his cologne to intoxicating levels.

  “I hate you,” I mutter, as a trickle of sweat runs between my boobs.

  “You’ll thank me someday.”

  “When? After the apocalypse when the Triple A turns into an iceberg, or something?”

  “I think the icebergs are melting.”

  “I’m melting,” I snap, throwing my weight against the wrench to loosen the last of the lug nuts, remembering his instruction to not remove them all the way yet. “I don’t suppose you want to help?”

  “Nah. I’m hot.”

  I flip him the bird, and he takes a little bit of mercy, and hunches down to squat beside me, pulling a weird-looking thing out of the bag. “This is a jack. Don’t make it juvenile.”

  I don’t respond. Too hot.

  I watch and listen as he shows me how to position it, then cranks it to lift the car a few inches.

  “Now you can take the lug nuts off all the way,” he says.

  “Oh wow. Can I?”

  Still, I admit there’s a weird sense of satisfaction in all of this, and I do as he instructs, noticing the way he stands back, keeping an eye on the occasional car that whizzes by. I mean, I don’t know what he’s going to do if one careens our way, but it’s nice that he cares. Sort of.

  Ten minutes later, the old wheel is off, spare is on, lug nuts put back in their place.

  Other than doing a cursory tightening of the lug nuts using his man muscles, or whatever, he lets me do the whole thing myself, and when I finally stand back up, I’m sweaty and dirty beyond belief, and no small amount of proud.

  Even his impassive expression can’t keep me down, and I grin up at him.

  To my surprise—and okay, pleasure—he smiles back.

  Not a grin, but a smile. It’s slight, but it’s also a little bit proud, and my heart catches in my throat as I realize how much I want to make him proud. At how much I want him to want me, not just as a piece of ass, but as someone important. Someone worthy of him.

  Someone worthy of his loyalty.

  I tug at the hem of my jean shorts and pretend to curtsy at my tire-changing performance. He’s staring at me hard, as though contemplating something.

  The second I straighten back up, I know exactly what he was debating.

  To kiss me or not to kiss me.

  The heels of Reece’s hands push into my ribcage as he pushes me against the car.

  My breath comes out in a whoosh as I collide with the hot metal of Horny, but Reece captures the gasp with his mouth. I forget all about my sweat, all about the fact that my hands are grimy, and that he was hardly a gentleman in making me change the tire myself.

  My hands are greedy on his shoulders, the back of his head, his waist, and his hands are equally greedy, touching me everywhere.

  His mouth tastes like the mint of his gum, his lips a little bit salty from the sweat.

  The kiss turns fast and hungry, and also somehow a little bit sweet for all its spontaneity.

  We both ignore the honk of a passing car. Then another honk. It’s finally the long, irritated honk of a semi that reminds us that the side of a highway isn’t the smartest place to make out.

  “What was that?” I ask, slightly out of breath.

  His gaze drops to my swollen mouth, flicking briefly over my body, before returning to my eyes.

  “You want me.”

  I blink. “That’s what you have to say? You kissed me.”

  “You kissed me back.”

  I touch the corner of my stubble-grazed mouth and scowl at him. “So? What are you going to do about it?”

  Reece tiredly runs a hand over his face. “Hell if I kn
ow, Lucy. Hell if I know.”

  Chapter 23


  “Hold on!” Lucy called, scooping another bite of chocolate pudding from the little cup, and with the spoon still in her mouth she opened the front door.

  She blinked. “Reece! Um, you’re knocking now?”

  He smiled and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking sheepish. “Door was locked. Not used to that this time of day. Forgot my key.”

  “Ah,” she said, gesturing him inside. “Yeah, I lock it when I’m home alone. Rapists and murderers and whatnot.”

  “And yet, you opened it without knowing it was me,” he said, following her into the kitchen.

  She pointed her spoon at him before dipping it back into the chocolate pudding. “You bring up a good point. I’ll write that on my list of Life Tips for College.”

  “If you need a list to tell you not to open the door to strangers, I’m having second thoughts about letting you leave in three months.”

  She gave him a sunny grin as she finished the pudding cup and tossed it in the trash. Then she hoisted herself onto the kitchen island. “Lucky for me, you don’t get a say.”

  “Obviously. Because if I did, I’d have you enrolled at the community college down the street where I can rescue you from the trouble you’re destined for.”

  She reached out to kick him, and he pushed her foot aside. “You looking for Craig?” she asked. “He said he was going to run some errands, which I’m pretty sure means he’s hooking up with one of his high school girl toys.”

  Reece swallowed. “Yeah, I haven’t seen much of him since he got back from college for the summer.”

  Lucy’s heart went out to him. Reece would never admit it, but she knew he felt left behind with everyone going off to college and him staying to work at the same winery gig he’d had since high school.

  “Mom and Dad are at some soccer celebration dinner with Brandi, but I was going to order some pizza. You want to stay?”

  “Nah, I’ll let you have your space.”

  “I hate having space,” Lucy said. “Besides, in a few months I’ll be gone, getting into all that trouble you mentioned, and then who’s going to tell you that your shirt’s too small?”

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