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I’m going to freaking crash!

“No, no, no!” I muttered to myself as I tried to control my uncontrollable car. Seconds before I’d pulled into Chester, my car had begun to hiccup, but I’d figured it would make it safely to my sister’s house before it gave out on me completely. That wasn’t the case.

I tried to hit the brakes, but the pedal went to the floor of the car and nothing happened.

“No, no, no,” I begged, feeling the vehicle start to shake.

I flew through the flashing yellow light at the intersection of Grate Street and Michigan, and I shouted as people scurried out of the way so I wouldn’t hit them. I hit the curb a few times, trying to maneuver the car a bit, but nothing was working. Taking a deep breath, I said a small prayer, but it seemed my link to God was a bit delayed at the moment.

Panic filled my heartbeats as I headed straight toward the auto shop at the end of downtown.

How ironic would that be? Crashing into an auto shop.

I reached for my phone that sat on the charger, only to realize the car hadn’t been charging at all and was completely dead. Just my luck.

“Take your foot off the brake. It’s already flooded,” a deep voice said, making me turn around to look out the driver’s window.

“It won’t stop!” I said, my voice shaky.

He was running right beside me, keeping up with the wild runaway vehicle. “No shit, Sherlock. Unlock your door and slide over to the passenger seat,” he ordered.

“But I can’t take my foot off the brake, I—”

“Move!” he ordered, sending chills down my spine.

I did as he said. The man quickly hopped into the moving vehicle, did some magic trick moves with the keys, and brought the car to a halt.

“Oh my gosh,” I said, my breaths heavy. “What did you do?”

“Put the damn car in park and turned off the ignition. It’s not brain surgery,” he said with such distaste on his tongue. He opened the driver’s side door and stepped out. “I’ll push you to the curb.”

“But…” I started, uncertain of what to do. “Do you need help?”

“If I did, I would’ve mentioned it,” he grumbled, obviously annoyed.

Well then.

The car began to move, and I kept glancing back, watching him push the four-thousand-pound vehicle. He looked as dark and broody as one could with his black crew neck T-shirt, dark black jeans, and black Chucks. A baseball cap hid his hair, but the ends curled under the edges. His brows were knit tightly, and his face was so stone cold I was certain he didn’t have a clue what it meant to smile. His biceps sat on biceps as he pushed with all his might, taking me to the side of the road. The moment I made it there, I hopped out.

I knew who he was—the whole town did—though, we’d never really interacted. He was Jackson Emery, the bad seed of Chester. Rumor had it he’d started the fires in the park during summer of 2013, and he had been the cause of more than a handful of divorces. He was known to sleep with his fair share of Chester women; there was no secret about that.

Jackson Emery wore his trouble on his sleeve like it was his full-time job.

“Thank you for that. You didn’t have to help me,” I told him, giving him a smile.

He didn’t make eye contact at all, just grumbled. “Didn’t look like you were gonna help yourself. Maybe you shouldn’t drive a shit car. It’s obviously a death trap,” he replied dryly.

No smile.

No smirk.

No sarcastic, funny undertones.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked, somewhat shocked by his words.

His facial expression remained unwelcoming, and his top lip twitched. Removing his hat from his head, he held it against his black shirt while one hand raked through his hair. With a lingering sound of detestation in his voice, he said, “You could’ve killed someone, driving like an idiot like that.”

“I didn’t know it would break down,” I told him, feeling knots in my stomach.

When his cold stare finally met mine, chills ran down my spine. His eyes were so intense, so dark they almost seemed hollow. At first, his gaze appeared confused by my entire existence, and then he looked intrigued, as if he recognized me from a dream within a dream. I knew it wasn’t the time to be deciphering the facial expressions of Jackson Emery, but in all honesty, I couldn’t help it. I’d encountered with many individuals throughout my lifetime, but I’d never seen one so hauntingly dark. His confusing look bewildered me. His intriguing look gave me anxiety.

“You’re one of those Harris people?” he asked. It was weird being called a Harris after so many years of being a Braun.

By the way he said my last name as if I were covered in Ebola, he obviously wasn’t my family’s biggest fan, so I wasn’t certain how to reply.