A girl stood at the intersection in front of the shop. Normally, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but she wasn’t the type of girl I usually saw around here. She didn’t have the hardened look that most of us in this part of town had.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Two punks across the street checked her out.
Move along, girly. This part of town isn’t safe for you.
The walk signed flashed, but she didn’t move. What the hell?
The two punks moved toward her. Shit. Getting into a fight to defend some girl I didn’t even know wasn’t how I wanted to spend my afternoon.
Even if she was cute.
Especially if she was cute.
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I left the shop parking lot, thinking I’d hover nearby until either she or the punks left.
But then she stepped out into traffic. A green sedan barreled toward her. The tires screeched as it swerved, veering to the right and hopping the curb, but it wouldn’t to be enough. She was about to become bumper meat.
Adrenaline pumping, I sprinted the last few yards and grabbed her arm, yanking her back onto the sidewalk. My shoulders sagged with relief as the car skidded to a halt just a few feet away from us.
“Are you okay?”
She looked up at me with a tear-stained face. I was wrong about her being cute—she was hot. Reddish hair, cute nose, pink lips.
Damn. I wished I could have left well enough alone, but that wasn’t an option.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
The car quickly reversed and sped off, the driver not bothering to make sure this girl was okay. Typical.
I cursed. “I didn’t get the full license plate number.” I’d been too distracted by her. Of all the intersections in the city, why did she have to choose this one? I scowled.
“That’s okay. I’m not going to report it.”
I dropped her arm and took a step back, thinking space would be good. Wrong. It gave me a better view of her hot body.
“What the hell were you thinking?” I asked again. It came out harsher than I’d intended, but she’d scared the shit out of me. And I didn’t scare easily.
“It was an accident.”
“Bullshit. I saw you step right in that car’s path. Do you have a date with death or something?”
She stared at me for a moment, then took a few steps back the way she’d come. “Well, thanks.”
Oh, hell no. I grabbed her arm.
She flashed me a dirty look then looked pointedly at my hand on her arm. “Do you mind?”
“I don’t trust you to walk home.”
“You obviously don’t know how to safely walk in traffic.”
“What do you care?”
“I don’t.” Realizing I still had hold of her arm, I abruptly released it and cursed. “But I’ll be damned if you hurt yourself and it’s on my conscience.”
Yeah, that’s what it is. It has nothing to do with her big, innocent eyes.
“You don’t have to worry about me.”
No, I didn’t, but for some reason I couldn’t explain, I did.
“If someone gets hit right in front of the shop, it’ll be bad for business.” Wishing that was all it was, I jerked my thumb at the shop behind me.
She opened her mouth, no doubt to spout off another smartass comment, but stopped and pulled out her phone. Her expression changed as she frowned.
She glared at me, like this whole incident was my fault. “What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Cole,” she said. “Do you have a car?”
“Yeah.” I eyed her warily, getting whiplash from her sudden attitude shift.
“Can you drive me home?”
I paused, trying to figure out what to do. I’d already established she was an accident waiting to happen, so what choice did I have?
“Let’s go.” I turned and walked toward the shop, figuring she’d follow if she really wanted a ride.
“Bill, I’ve got to take off,” I called to my boss, grabbing my hooded sweatshirt and pulling it over my head.
Bill spared me a glance. “Same time tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” I said, then jerked my head toward the back door so she’d follow me out to my car.
She took one look at it and stopped. “I don’t know if I’ll be any safer in this.”
My car might look like a piece of shit, but even though I could afford a better one now, I was attached to it. It was the first thing I’d bought when I earned enough money from working in Bill’s shop.
I stroked the rusty hood. “She might not look pretty, but she runs like a champ.”
“If you say so.”
I opened the passenger’s side door. “Get in.”
For a moment as I walked around the car to the driver’s side, I didn’t think she would. But she sighed heavily and climbed in.
“Where do you live?” I pulled my sunglasses off the visor and put them on.
She paused. What the hell? She was the one who’d asked me to go out of my way to take her home and now she seemed hesitant to share her address.
At least she had some sense of self-preservation. News flash for her, though. I wasn’t the one in this part of town she had to worry about. She’d been oblivious to those other guys scoping her out.
And cars. She definitely had to worry about cars.
I was about to ask her again when she gave me the name of an apartment complex across town.
The drive was silent, which was fine with me. I doubted I had much in common with this chick. I was also too aware of her for my liking. Getting involved with a girl was a complication I didn’t need. Anything that took my focus off graduating and saving money was off limits. My brother was depending on me.
When we pulled in front of her apartment building, I noticed the time on the clock and frowned. “Wait, shouldn’t you be in school?”
She shrugged. “Probably. Thanks for the ride.”
She struggled to open the door, but it didn’t budge. Hey, I liked this car, but I never said it didn’t have its quirks.
“There’s a trick to it.” I leaned across her and yanked down on the lever, pulled it out, and pushed the door open.
Bad decision. I’d practically laid across her lap and damn if it didn’t affect me.
Yeah, I definitely didn’t need this chick in my life. She was a guaranteed distraction. Something about her called to me, begging for me to take care of her.
But I couldn’t do that. I had to take care of Kyle first.
“Thanks, again.” She hopped out.
I nodded, not wanting to open my mouth and have some dumb shit fall out. As I pulled away from the curb, I looked in the rearview mirror, allowing myself one last look.