Beck curses as the car zooms by, leaving a cloud of dust behind.
Releasing his sleeve, I rush to the side of the road and squint through the darkness to try to make out the model of the vehicle. I manage to spot a metal horse on the back of the trunk and make a mental note to keep an eye out for Mustangs in the club parking lot. At least then I can have a warning that he’s there.
My stomach twists with nausea at the thought of seeing creepy Dane again.
“You should’ve let me beat his ass,” Beck growls, storming up to me.
“No, I shouldn’t have.” I cross my arms over my chest. “You don’t get into fights. And I’m not about to let you turn into that kind of a person because of me.”
“It wouldn’t have been your fault. He deserves to get his ass kicked.” His tone is surprisingly sharp and very unlike the calm, collected Beck I know. He inches closer to me, and even though I’m tall, I have to tip my chin up to meet his blazing gaze. “I could hear every damn thing he was saying to you. Trying to get you to let him in the car …” He shakes his head, opening and flexing his hands. “We should report him to the police.”
“I only got the make of the car, not a plate number. So they probably wouldn’t be able to track him down.” My body quivers, either from shock or from how upset Beck sounds. “Besides, what would I tell them? That some guy stood outside my car and talked to me? Technically, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Yeah, because I pulled up and scared him off.” He roughly rakes his fingers through his blond hair. “God fucking knows what he would’ve done if I hadn’t …” He shakes his head for the thousandth time, glaring daggers at my car. “I wish you’d let me just buy you a new damn car.”
And here we go. “You’re not buying me a new car, so don’t be weird.”
He steps toward me and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, the fury in his eyes shifting into something unreadable, but it makes my heart skip a beat. “Then let me pay to get yours fixed.”
I shake my head, telling the flutter in my chest to shut the hell up. Flutters that haven’t left since our kiss. That doesn’t mean I have to listen to them, though. They’re just that: silly and insignificant. It’s when I act on them, allow them to control me, that I have a real problem.
“It’s not your responsibility to take care of me.”
“Why not? I promised you I would.”
“Yeah, but … That was a long time ago. We were kids. You didn’t even know what you were getting yourself into.”
“I don’t feel obligated if that’s what you’re getting at.” He taps the tip of my nose with his fingertip, his lips tugging into a half-smile. I swear my heart glows. “Taking care of you is one of my favorite things to do, so quit arguing and let me do what I love.”
“Beck …” I rack my brain for the right thing to say. “You’re my best friend, and best friends aren’t supposed to pay for each other’s cars to get fixed. It’s not right, no matter how much you love doing it.”
He cocks a brow. “Who says it’s not right?”
“Me.” I rub my hands up and down my arms as the cool night air works through the fabric of my jacket. “I need to start taking care of myself more and stop relying on you so much. I’m too old for you to still be rescuing me.” There, I said what I needed to say. I should feel better, right?
Then why do I feel so sick?
He splays his hand across my cheek, looking me in the eye. “I’m not trying to rescue you. I just don’t like you driving around in an unreliable car, especially when you work late and take a road that’s out in the middle of fucking nowhere.” His brows abruptly dip as his gaze drops to the shorts I’m wearing that barely cover my ass. He blinks a few times before his eyes meet mine again. “Wait … Where were you tonight? I thought you were working.”
Panicking, I search for a lie to tell him. At a party? Dancing at a club? Ha! Like that would ever work. I rarely go out partying, and I wear shorts this short even less frequently.
Unable to think of a good lie, I decide a party is my best option.
“I was at this party a girl from my Chemistry class was having. It was a pool party, but you know how much I hate swimsuits, so I just went in shorts.”
God, I hate lying to him.
But telling him the truth would be way worse.
His gaze falls to my legs again. Biting his lip, he reaches out and brushes his knuckles against the outside of my thigh. “How come you never wear stuff like this to my pool parties?”
I shiver from the unexpected touch, and good Lord, those silly flutters just about lose their damn minds. “I, um …” I clear my throat, trying to clear the flustered tone out of my system. It’s not like he’s never touched your leg before. Jesus, get a grip on yourself. “I don’t know … because I know you and know you won’t get mad at me for not following the party dress code.”
Rubbing his lips together, he drags his gaze up my body to my face. I search his eyes, attempting to get a vibe on him, see if he’s buying my lie. If anyone can read through my bullshit, it’s Beck. I can’t pick up his vibe at all, though. I used to be able to all the time, but lately, something’s changed. Either I’ve lost the ability to read my best friend, or he’s been more closed off.
His lips curve into a devious grin. “Well, not anymore.”
“From now on, I’m going to be pissed off if you don’t follow my party dress code.” He crosses his arms, seeming pretty damn pleased with himself. “So, on Friday, you better show up to my place wearing a sexy black dress.”
I crinkle my nose. “You’re having a party the day after Thanksgiving that requires people to wear sexy black dresses? What kind of theme is that?”
“The do-whatever-the-hell-I-want theme.” His eyes sparkle in the glow of my hazard lights. “And since you’re such a party girl, now I don’t have to beg you to come.”
Crap. I didn’t think this through very well at all.
Why do I get the feeling he knows I’m lying about where I was tonight and is just trying to get me to confess?
He gives me a second to admit I’m full of shit, but being the huge chicken I am, all I do is nod.