Rain met my back, cool against the warm, humid tang of the air. I made quick work of inspecting each tire, but I found the problem before I’d finished making the rounds. The rear passenger tire was deflating. I swore under my breath and kicked at the flat tire.
Lily’s door opened, and she hopped out, glaring at me like I’d called her the worst type of flower name. Then her gaze dropped to the tire.
“So this is my fault, huh?” She propped her hands on her hips, staring at me expectantly.
“Get inside,” I told her, wiping rain from my forehead. “I’ll handle this.”
“Well, if it’s my fault, I should help, right?”
I sighed, heading for the bed of the truck. I knew there had to be a spare tire somewhere. Carson wouldn’t have a truck without a spare, right?
“I’m talking to you,” Lily said, following close behind.
“Yeah, I hear you.”
“Well, if I apparently can cause tires to deflate simply from my mere existence, then surely I can help fix them by standing near you?”
I heaved a sigh as I lowered the tailgate. I’d had the forethought to cover Lily’s things with a tarp before we left, but I hadn’t exactly canvassed the truck to see where a spare tire might be lurking. I pushed some things around, looking for a secret wheel well. “Well, I think we can safely say that you standing next to me isn’t helping. So thanks, but no thanks.”
She let out a frustrated noise, glancing up to the heavens. “Colton Winters, you are such a jerk. Do you know that?”
I did know that. But it was part of my strategy. I needed her to hate me, because if she didn’t, then I’d most certainly begin pursuing her.
And I couldn’t have that. Not when so much of my life was built around transience. Around have a good fucking time. Around one-and-done.
Lily was annoying. Not only that, she was smart, interesting, and getting more beautiful to me by the day. She was dangerous, at least to life as I’d known it thus far. I’d had enough disruptions in the past year, between discovering my dad died and then reconnecting with my brothers in Winter Harbor. Not to mention leaving my former life behind, which I’d quite enjoyed as an international vagabond.
I didn’t need to add someone like Lily to my long list of unexpected—and mostly unwelcome—life changes.
I must have remained silent for too long because she continued. “Whatever. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I thought you were maybe a regular guy underneath all the barbs and the shitty aloofness, but I was wrong.”
“It’s ’cause you love regular guys so much, huh?” My words tumbled out before I could even decide otherwise. I knew I shouldn’t go there, but it was too late. The dam had broken.
“Regular guys. Like Dennis. With the polos and the khakis.” I smirked as I glanced at her, palming the tailgate. We were both mostly soaked with rain by now, but I didn’t mind. It was humid, and I loved the way the rain made her shirt stick to her chest. I’d been staring at that bare shoulder all day, wondering what it tasted like, and now that it was wet and shiny, all I wanted to do was lick it. “And probably the completely lackluster performance in bed, too.”
She huffed, crossing her arms. “No, that’s— No. I don’t look for that. I just—”
“What is it, Lilium?” I squatted to peer beneath the truck and spotted the bulging spare wheel well. I made quick work of opening it. Mud smeared my forearms as I tugged the tire out and hauled it to the passenger side. I snatched the tools next, wiping my rain-soaked face with the collar of my T-shirt. I took Lily silence as my permission to continue needling her.
“You want me to be a regular guy, don’t you?” I kneeled in front of the tire, glancing up at her before I got to work jacking up the truck. “Too bad for you, I’m not.” Her rain-soaked shirt was plastered to the contours of her body. I jerked my gaze away. After our surprisingly hot kisses, followed by our first genuine connection, I was ten seconds from losing every ounce of cool around her. Seeing her more of her body did not help matters. “Just let the fucking jerk fix the tire and get inside the truck, okay?”
“No.” She crossed her arms again. I had to admit, her defiance was hot. But she didn’t know that she was playing with fire.
“Lily,” I said, more forcefully this time, as I finished jacking up the truck with a frustrated burst of air. “I need you out of my sight, okay? Let me fucking fix this tire.”
“Why can’t I be here? I should supervise. Make sure you’re not being a regular guy about it.”
I ground my teeth, weighing my options. I did want her out of my sight. But more than that, I wanted to see how far I could push the envelope. I knew there could be no way she’d be into me—I’d made sure of it over the past months of knowing her. But what was the harm of finding out for sure?
“If I have to stare at your perfect tits heaving out of your top for even one more second, I’m gonna explode. And I mean that in exactly the way you think I do. So just get. In. The. Fucking. Truck.”
Realization washed across her face. Her cheeks went pink again, and I was hard as a rock watching her. Fuck. I focused on ignoring Lily as I started loosening the first lug nut.
After what I’d said, I didn’t know what I expected from her. But I certainly didn’t expect her to step over my arms—as I finally removed the lug nut—and tower over me with a satisfied smile on her face.
“If I have to watch you working on this truck with your muscles flexing in this rain for even one more second, then I’m going to explode. So what are we going to do about it?”
I gaped up at her, caught between awestruck and horny. I knew what we were going to do about it. Or at least what I’d love to do about it.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I suggested the solution,” I snapped, dropping the wrench as I inspected her bare calves from this close. Goose pimples covered her skin, flaring where my breath hit her legs. “Which was to separate us entirely. But it looks like you don’t want a regular guy after all.”
She shook her head, staring down at me with raw passion and vulnerability slashed across her face. I caught her drift. I was good at catching the drift when it came to situations like these. I touched the outsides of her ankles, dragging my fingertips slowly up the sides of her legs.
“What happens on the road from Portland,” she said, her voice growing shakier the higher my hands ran. “Stays on the road from Portland.”