I keep my eyes on the man as I start my engine, but he never removes his attention from the water. I back out of my spot and intend on speeding away, but a few loud thuds have me pulling over just before the exit of the lot. This isn’t happening. George barely raises his puppy head as I get out of the car and walk around inspecting the tires. The muscles in my neck give out, and my chin falls to my chest. A flat fucking tire. With the light fading fast, I pop the trunk and get to work.
I was taught how to do this a long time ago, but I’ve never actually had to do it by myself before. I grunt and groan as I try to loosen the lug nuts to no avail.
“I’ll do it.” At the sound of the deep voice, my hands slip from the wrench and I nearly hit my forehead on the car. Who in their right mind would walk up to a woman and startle her like that? I don’t bother looking up and continue to struggle with the nuts.
“Have you ever seen what a lug wrench can do to the human skull?” I ask. If I’m going to get killed, it will be because of my damn mouth.
“You don’t want to know what I’ve seen.”
“You’re right, I don’t.” The muscles in my face tighten as I strain against the wrench again.
“Wow. You’re a peach. Step aside. I’ll do it.”
The audacity. I spin my head around only to be confronted with the man. The man. Statue man. And he’s just as intimidating up close as he is far away. He rubs his scruff on his jawline before sliding his hand through his short brown hair.
“I…uh…” Stumbling over your words, Dani? Don’t show weakness. I clear my throat and stand as tall as I can. Though my tallest stretch has nothing on his towering stature. “I can change a damn tire. I can do a lot of…things.” Jesus.
His right eyebrow raises, and a smirk crosses his face. He pivots on a heel and walks back to the parking lot. I push hard on the lug wrench as the roar of an engine comes close, then purrs to a halt right behind my car. I glance over my shoulder as statue man walks to the front of his black Challenger and leans against the hood. With his leather jacket no longer in sight, his black T-shirt reveals his forearm muscles bulging amongst the protruding veins as he crosses his arms across his chest. It’s hard not to stare. Or drool.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Position the lug wrench so you can step on it.”
“For small asses like you, you’ll need to put all your weight on that wrench to get those off. Or I could just do it and we can both go home.”
I sarcastically laugh as I listen to his tip and position the wrench so that I can step on it. “You can go home. I’m a big girl, and I can change my own goddamn tire.”
“Okay, Peach. Change it.”
“I will.” He narrows his eyes and waves his hand toward the tire. “You can leave.”
“I ain’t leavin’.”
“Have you looked around?”
I glance at the empty parking lot and the stillness of nightfall in the trees. I groan and turn back to the tire, working faster at loosening the nuts. I guess I can appreciate that he’s making sure I’m safe out here. I’m always a little on edge when it comes to men. For good reason. But I don’t think he deserved my attitude.
I push my hair nervously behind my ear. “I’m sorry. You’re just trying to help.”
Statue man stays against his car while I work on changing the tire. Every time I risk a glance at him, he isn’t watching me. His attention seems to be on the area around us. He tosses out a few more verbal instructions before I tug on the wrench and tighten the last nut on the spare. I lower the jack slowly, and his black shoes appear on the ground next to me.
“You did it,” he says.
Standing, I pick up the jack. “Did you think I couldn’t?”
“If I didn’t think you could do it, I would have pushed harder to do it myself.”
I try to hide the bashful smile I can’t control. “Thanks for the tips.”
“You’re welcome, Peach.”