Coming November, 4, 2019 if not earlier. Currently available for pre-order on iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.
Two and a half years later . . .
I shade the last bubble on my Scantron and stand, before descending the row of steps with my backpack on my back and purse in hand, taking it to the professor's desk where I lay it on the existing pile. The only sounds are the footsteps of the occasional student exiting, pencils coloring on paper, and paper flipping on the test booklet.
Finals day—the day I look forward to all semester. It marks the end. It's a milestone for any college student to complete another credit, placing hours under your belt toward the bigger picture.
I push open the heavy wooden door and walk out into the hall. It's mostly empty compared to normal daily class change, students currently scattered and scarce according to how fast they finish testing. I stayed in the library half the night studying and went through two large iced coffees from the adjoining coffee shop just so I could fast track my way to summer. Caffeine shakes from my extra shot of espresso this morning is all worth it to know I'm leaving behind a still full auditorium of test takers.
Down two flights of stairs and a short hallway walk and I feel freedom as I exit the science building. The sun instantly heats my skin and the smell of surrounding food chains has my mouth already watering. I take the sidewalk in a hurry to get to my Jeep in sorority residential parking. Across campus walks are great for my ass but not great for a quick commute.
I've already loaded everything to head back home for a few weeks until my two summer classes begin. A full summer vacation would probably be nice, but I have too many classes to take before I can even apply to the Veterinarian program at State to take long breaks. I have no desire to be a professional student. The sooner I finish the better.
School all year round isn't as bad as it seems with all the breaks between semesters. And I'm constantly back and forth between home and here for it to really feel like I'm gone from either place too long. Dad needs me. I only stay on campus at all because the drive from home is too far for daily schedules, and with a large student body you don't always get the schedule you want, especially being a science major.
I pass one of the residential parking lots on my walk and stop when I notice a popped hood on a dated, blue, Chevy Silverado. Probably about ten years old if I had to guess. A guy is standing in front of the grill, hunched over, with his hands gripping the metal as if he's looking at the engine.
Even better arms.
Is that a hint of a tricep tattoo peeking out from his shirtsleeve? Damn.
The brand name jeans and polo suggests he probably doesn't know shit about the mechanics of a truck. Not to mention his shoes don't appear to have a speck of dirt on them.
I sigh. So unfortunate.
Boys like that would have Daddy cursing in a heartbeat. I can hear the generation cut downs already. Shouldn't be driving if you can't fix it when it breaks, he would always say, because being stranded on the side of a road is no way to be. Luckily, I think of myself as a little less judgmental. Not everyone was raised with a do-it-yourself-er like me.
"Need some help?" I call out.
The second he turns around I'm regretting my words. Fisher Austin. Breyson's friend. If I were honest—probably one of the hottest guys I've ever seen if he didn't have his choice of sport standing in his way. First-string quarterback. Panty-snatchers those are. No thank you.
And oddly, he's nice to me when he really has no reason to be. My bitterness toward ball players affects my mood when in their presence. Without putting it mildly, I'm a bitch to him. I have to be. His interest in me has to end. There is nothing to fancy about me. Knowing he probably has girls all over him, I'm going to guess it's just a quest to get in my pants. Sadly for him, I have a type, and that type wears Wranglers, boots, and a cowboy hat.
He leans back against the front and crosses his arms over his chest, bringing my attention to the bulky muscles that become of them. I suppose it does make sense for a quarterback to have a strong throwing arm. "Am I suddenly good enough for the Karsyn Davies to look my way?" His lack of smile and hostile tone confirms it's not a joke, both catching me off guard and making me smile.
I roll my eyes. "Just looked like you were strugglin' a little bit. Thought I'd offer a hand."
"What does a girl know about fixing trucks?" His sarcasm hasn't softened in the least. I hold my jaw closed to contain the laugh inside. If only he knew. Part of owning a ranch is fixing everything that runs it. Most of the equipment has seen better days, trucks included. Countless nights I stood on a stepladder and held the light for Dad or Grandpa, because the days were too busy to stop and work on shit ninety percent of the time.
My eyes dramatically rake down his body. "Probably a hell of a lot more than you."
He narrows his eyes at me, clearly getting angrier with every cut to his precious ego. Good. If he can't stand me it'll be much less awkward when Breyson and Kinzleigh decide to make us both tag along. He steps to the side. "Well then, help yourself."
I step off the sidewalk and cross the small stretch of grass before walking onto the loose gravel, the lumpy rocks pushing against the thin sole of my leather flip flops. He watches me the entire way, his gaze searing into the side of my face. I drop my purse and backpack to the ground, before removing my ponytail holder from my wrist and pulling my blonde hair back, now sweating from the heat of the sun, even in the denim shorts and tee shirt I'm wearing.
"What's it doing?" I ask, peering over the front on my tiptoes, my short height making it difficult to see all the way back.
"Won't start. I thought that much was obvious."
I cut my eyes at him, my heart rate accelerating when I realize he's closer than he was; much too close for comfort, his face merely inches away as he moves in beside me, already bent forward with his forearms propped on the frame. Normally my height ends at the top end of his chest, but this way, we’re almost exactly eye-to-eye.
I can smell his cologne masking the air around us. It's an enticing fragrance. The fact that it makes it hard to think is pissing me off. His muscles are relaxed, but if I look real hard, it appears to be that he's hiding a smile. I don't draw attention to it. "Does it turn over at all?" I return with an agitated edge to my voice. "Or does it just make a clicking sound?"
He looks amused. I want to slap the smug look off his face. "Turns over. Just won't catch."
I grip his bicep in one hand and the frame in the other and place my foot on the lip of the bumper to hoist myself up. Dear lord, he's solid. I push him back. "Some room please."
I refocus and lean over into the truck, checking everything I know to check off hand. Belt seems to be intact. Could be the alternator not charging. "How old is the battery?"
I look back. "What?"
He quickly shoves his hands in his pockets and leans forward somewhat. He's not looking directly at me. "Replaced it over Christmas break."
I turn back to the truck. "Okay then." I check the battery cables to make sure they aren't loose. They aren't. Darn. The ash-like substance that rubs off on my fingers reminds me. "Hey, can you look in my backpack and hand me that Coke?"
Within seconds he's handing it to me. I twist off the cap and slowly drizzle it over the battery posts, letting the acid eat away at the green corrosion covering it and the connectors. When it fizzles out I pour a little more. "You got a pocket knife, spare key, something?"
"Hey, Fisher," a female voice follows behind. I glance over to a girl around my age standing in a school shirt and denim capris, her hair falling in long, brown iron made curls, her lips painted pink. Instead of a backpack she's carrying a single three-ring binder. She reminds me of . . .
"What's up?" he answers from behind the open driver's side door of his truck as I move my gaze to him. His key ring is in the hand on top of the doorframe, the other hidden. He's adjusting something—maybe pulling up his jeans. Our eyes lock. “Here,” he says, extending his keys.
"Need a ride? I just got done with my Algebra final. I'm done for the day," she says, reminding me that I'm standing on his truck with my ass in the air—not girly behavior in the least. And that's my cue to leave.
"Nah, I got it. Thanks, though."
"Oh, okay," she returns, still standing there, obviously in no hurry to leave.
I hop off the bumper and grab my stuff, pulling my backpack on. "Probably good, but if it still gives you problems scrape the connectors and posts. Likely just not getting a good connection," I say, quickly walking off toward the sidewalk.
Ten steps in and a large hand wraps around my upper arm, pulling me back. "Karsyn." I look down at it, trying not to linger too long on the one thing that turns me on—hands. A make or break for me. His strong grip and large size doesn't go unnoticed. I force the thought away, and then look back up at the person it belongs to. "Let me give you a ride."
She's still standing by his truck, waiting, and with one more glance her way too many memories come blazing forward, making it hard to breathe. I pull my arm from his grasp. "I can walk just fine. Your friend is waiting."
The confusion takes over with the dip of his brows. "She's just a cheerleader."
And with one simple phrase my feet quickly move forward before my emotions give me away, because with every inch I put between us, I lose it a little more. Hating him is so much easier than letting him in.