Once we got to the dirt road which would forever haunt me, he passed the car then turned around and parked behind it. “Shouldn’t take me too long to fix.”
He wrinkled his brow. “It’ll be much faster if I do it myself.”
“It’s my car. I want to learn.” If I was going to be on my own, I needed to know about this kind of stuff.
Shrugging, he climbed out of the truck. “Whatever makes you happy.”
Nothing about life made me happy. I hoped in time that would change.
Tools in hand, he lifted the hood and pointed. “See those black shreds?”
I leaned over the car and looked where he pointed. “I see them.”
He shifted behind me and leaned over my shoulder, and to say it was unpleasant would be a lie. “That’s the belt. It wraps around here and here and here. It’s important to get it back on the right way.” Without touching me, he reached around and picked at the frayed rubber. “We’ll need to get this one off before we put the new one on.”
“Okay. How do I do that?” I stifled a gasp when he wrapped both arms around me and put a tool in my hand.
“First you have to release the tension.”
I could do that. I breathed in deep, then let out the cleansing breath. That was the best I could do with his arms around me. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“Not your tension, Dar—Lily. The tension on the belt.”
I hated feeling stupid. Embarrassment only fueled my bad attitude. I whipped my head around but regretted it immediately.
Nose to nose with me, he flashed that heart-melting grin. “Am I making you nervous?”
“No.” I turned to face the car. “What do I need to do?”
He slipped his rough and calloused hands around mine. “Just put this tool right on that bolt and push down.”
I did, and the belt slipped off the pulleys—or at least what was left of the belt. “Okay, now what?”
“I kinda like this.” The man was maddening.
He chuckled like it was all a game. “We wind the new belt onto the pulleys.”
His hands still around mine, we slipped the belt into place most of the way.
“What about this last part?”
“Have to release the tension again. While you push that down, I’ll put the last piece into place.”
Just like before, I released the tension, skipping the cleansing breath. He slid the belt on the rest of the way.
“We did it.” I spun around because I’d forgotten what had happened minutes before when I did the same thing. Because I was distracted. I leaned back, getting my face far away from him. “So, I can drive it now?”
“You can.” He still had his arms around me, but as far as I was leaning back, if he let go, I’d land in the engine.
He stared at me. With my heart beating faster than I’d zoomed past the Virginia state line, I swallowed.
His lips curled into a smug grin. It didn’t matter how attractive the man was, I wasn’t interested.
“Are you going to move?”
He leaned closer. “Which way?”
“I want to get into my car and drive away.” I pressed my hands to his chest, ready to shove him back. But what the cowboy was hiding under that shirt was firm and toned, and it distracted me from my plan.
Backing up, he laughed. “I thought for a second you were going to rip the shirt right off me.” He tipped his hat and walked toward the truck.
“Wait!” I pointed at the hood still up. “Aren’t you going to finish?”
He lifted on eyebrow, sauntered back to the car, and slammed the hood. “All done.” After tossing the tool into the toolbox, he climbed into the truck. “See you back at the ranch.”
“Wait!” I was starting to feel like a broken record.
“I’m not sure how to get there. And my phone doesn’t have a signal out here, so I can’t use the map.”
“This isn’t one of those modern ideas, but you could follow me.” He winked, then started his engine.
I ran to get behind the wheel before he got too far ahead.
Once we were back on the main road, I stayed close. Getting lost was not how I wanted to spend my day.
When I recognized my surroundings, I sped past him, waving. The road to the ranch was right up ahead, and I knew where to go.
My glee and satisfaction shattered when a deer jumped into the road. I slammed on my brakes, but I couldn’t stop fast enough. Metal crunched, and glass shattered. I opened my eyes then squeezed them closed again. The head and antlers had come through the windshield and landed in the passenger’s seat.
I unbuckled my seatbelt and grabbed for the door handle. Before I could even find the handle, the door flew open.
“You okay, Lily?” Panic filled the cowboy’s blue eyes.
I nodded. “I’m beginning to think that males of every species hate me.”
“I don’t hate you.” He held his hand out. “Can you stand?”
Clasping his hand made it easier to get up.
He led me to the shoulder, out of traffic, but he didn’t let go of my hand. “You gave me a scare. If you want venison, we can just get some at the store. It ain’t deer season right now, so shooting it is out of the question. But when you hit it with your car, you can’t tag it and take it home. That’s illegal in Texas.”
“I don’t want to eat it. He ruined my car.” Shaking, I tugged my hand free and crossed my arms.
He wrapped his arms around me. “I guess this mean you’ll be riding with me again.”
“As if my life isn’t horrible enough.”
“I’m really starting to think you don’t like me.”
“Don’t take it personally.” I dropped by head against his chest, hoping some of those strong muscles would remedy my shakes.
He rested his head on top of mine. “Please just let me help you.”
“If I do, I insist that you let me pay you back.” My fresh start wasn’t going well.
His hand moved up and down on my back. “Find a job, then you can pay me.”
I nodded then pulled away as sirens sounded. “Deal. Every last penny.”
Letting Beau help me came with a huge side of risk. He ignited feelings I’d forgotten existed. But lucky for me, I no longer believed in love. Hormones, cologne, strong arms, great-fitting jeans—those were the things igniting my feelings.
The flirting and banter? Pure sport.