“My stepmom told me I should never take a ride from a stranger.”
“That’s interesting advice coming from someone who forgot to pick up her daughter. Does she have any other parenting tips?”
She sighs. “Well, it’s my own personal policy, too. Not to be rude, but I don’t know you.”
“Absolutely. You don’t know me. That’s a good policy to have, not to take rides from strangers. I’m pretty sure my mom also taught me that when I was five.” I can’t help the smile that creeps onto my face. “I could be dangerous.”
“You’re agreeing with me? I shouldn’t take a ride from you?”
“Well, it’s good to be cautious. You don’t even know my name. I could be the next Ted Bundy for all you know.”
Her eyes go wide, and then she laughs. “Okay. Well, the next Ted Bundy wouldn’t say that.”
“Or…maybe he would.” I waggle my eyebrows. “Double reverse psychology.”
“Okay, stop.” She stands up, laughing. She playfully pushes me. “You’re creeping me out.”
“I’m Zach, by the way,” I say.
“You’re from around here?” she asks.
“Why don’t I know you? I know just about everyone from around here.”
“I was away for a while, and I…recently came back.”
“Well, that’s not veiled with intrigue. Where did you go?”
She laughs again. “Okay, Zach who went away for a while. I’m sure you’re really dangerous. So how do I know I can trust you to get me home?”
“You seem like precious cargo. I’d never let anything happen to you and that beautiful voice of yours.”
“Really? You think I’m good?”
“Better than good. I think I’ve made that pretty clear.”
We make eye contact and I feel my skin prickle. She still hesitates.
“Look, if you don’t want a ride, it’s no big deal,” I say. “The bartender inside could probably take you home. Don’t want to force you. Have a good night.” I turn and start walking to my bike.
Just then, the bartender’s car pulls out of the gravel parking lot and onto the road.
“Yeah?” I turn my head.
I see her swallow, hesitating. She’s trembling. Do I really look that intimidating?
Hell, she’s right to hesitate, though. She’s petite but curvy, sexy, and has this sparkle in her eye that lights a fire in me. She’s probably been fighting off men her whole life. If she knew the full truth about who I was and what I’d done, there’s no way she’d be jumping on the back of my Ducati.
“So you gonna take that ride with me, or you gonna walk?” I ask her. “I’ll keep you safe.”
“Do you pinkie promise?”
Zach’s steely gazed smile sears into me, and my pulse races.
I’m trying to play it cool, but there’s no doubt about it: I’m putting my life in this man’s hands if I get on the back of that thing. My stomach coils with this internal dilemma.
Or maybe that feeling in my gut is because of how ridiculously sexy Zach is. How on Earth have I not seen him around before if he’s from here? Or even heard of him? He’s maybe a few years older. There aren’t that many tall, ripped guys to go around in Blackwell. So I should have seen him—or at least know his family.
Zach holds his pinkie out for me to wrap with mine to seal the deal, but I hesitate touching him. My stepmom and my dad both gave me that advice about never going for a ride with a stranger. Yet here I am.
My father is a long-range trucker, and he used to say there’re a lot of good people out there. The majority of them will just give you a ride from Point A to Point B. He said he’s given plenty of people rides in his day, safely. But no matter how many good people are in the world, there’s a tiny percentage of people you’ve got to watch out for.
Like Ted Bundy.
And you’ve got to ask yourself a question: is this a risk I’m willing to take?
Pop never said anything about accepting a ride from the sexiest stranger I’ve ever laid eyes on, though. Some of life’s choices don’t fall neatly into life’s little black and white playbook of do or not do.
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