Page 18

Avery

Day Three

“Psst …”

I nudge Jake. He groans.

“Psst!”

He rolls away from me.

“Jake! I need the truck keys,” I whisper-yell.

Another groan.

My eyes flit between his bared torso turned away from me and his partially unzipped duffel bag at his feet. Jake has nice feet. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought this about a guy before. But—I move my phone’s flashlight an inch closer—yes indeed, he has nice feet. Not a single nasty callous, and his toenails are perfect.

Not fair. What the heck, God? Why would you give a guy such perfect feet? Jackass Jake must use an expensive foot cream.

I roll my eyes at myself. What is this? The beginning of a foot fetish? Therapy of some sort might be in my future. After one last inspection of his flawless feet, and maybe a nanosecond glance back up his bare torso—because why the hell not?—I inspect the contents of his bag.

It has five outer pockets, but I come up empty. No truck keys. Unzipping the main part feels a little too snoopy. Biting the corner of my lip, I sweep the beam of my phone’s light across his still body. If I’m completely honest, his feet are attached to some other really nice body parts, but why start being honest now?

The light goes out. “Shit.” I frown at the dead screen. What happened to my final three percent?

Key.

I need the key. I need to charge my phone.

“Jakey Jakey, wakey wakey,” I whisper, knowing he’s nothing more than a dead log on top of a sleeping bag. A dead log with sexy feet and a drool-worthy trunk I could climb—

Gah!

I must NEVER think of the Devil as sexy. Did I learn nothing about temptation from Eve and the complete debacle in Eden? A questionably flawed story if you ask me. Still—religion permanently haunts one’s conscience, and I’m no exception.

Don’t snoop.

Wait until he wakes up.

It’s not like it’s an emergency.

It’s just my phone—my connection to the rest of the world, a way to see in the dark, keeper of time, contact list, social media notifications, my savior in an emergency … MY LIFE!

Muzzling my conscience, I dive into the main compartment of Jake’s duffle bag, the way a police officer would break open a door after a 9-1-1 call. It’s filled with clothes, but within ten seconds I have all aforementioned clothes strewn all around me.

No keys.

A jingle startles me, and my head whips back, but it’s just Swarley. “Don’t!” I warn in my sternest whisper as he abandons his spot in the corner and plops down on my sleeping bag. “Get. Off!”

He shakes his head once. I realize how crazy that sounds, but it’s true. Swarley is not your average dog, he’s a demon—much like Jake—out to destroy me. He can do things like nod and shake his head as well as rip my poor hand apart when he sees something worth chasing, much like Anthony ripped my heart apart when he discovered that chocolate does in fact taste amazing.

Fucker.

Before my herbivorous travel buddy wakes up, I start shoving his clothes back into his bag, taking a deep inhale. What’s that smell? It’s good. Really good.

Herbaceous? Woodsy? Maybe piney, but we’re not amidst that many pine trees here. Bringing one of Jake’s shirts to my nose, I take a whiff.

Oh … that’s nice. Son of a bitch! Sexy—uh—I mean, soft feet and amazing detergent.

Eat the shiny red apple, Eve …

I’m not going to eat his shirt, but I indulge in one more sniff before—

“Why are you smelling my underwear?”

“Shit!” I jump, tucking the shirt behind my back.

Jake jackknifes to sitting so his face is inches from mine, those deep blue eyes alight from the shard of moonlight filtering in from the tent’s vent. They narrow a fraction as he inspects me kneeled next to his legs and his open duffle bag.

“My phone is dead.” I breathe out past the booming of my racing heart.

“Your phone is dead?”

I nod slowly, staring at his mouth that’s pulled into a firm line fighting something that resembles a smirk.

“And?”

I gulp down an ocean of saliva. “And I need to charge it.”

I can’t look away from his mouth. It’s nice too.

For fuck’s sake …

Therapy. Lots of therapy.

“And?” He inches his head to the side a fraction.

“I was looking for the key to the truck.”

“In my bag?”

I nod, ripping my focus from his lips to meet his gaze.

Jake surrenders to a cocky smile.

Asshole.

His gaze dips to my mouth, and it does very unwanted things to my body—specifically to parts of my body that are supposed to be on strike from giving a single shit about any man.

“But it’s dark.”

“Yes,” I say with a ridiculous raspiness to my voice.

“So you’re sniffing them out … specifically in my underwear?”

“What?” I jerk my head back.

Playful eyes find mine, underscored by a gotcha grin.

“No, you sicko.”

“Then what’s behind your back.”

“Nothing.” My spine grows an inch. He’s not going to make me squirm—anymore.

“Avery,” he says my name a syllable at a time as he inches closer.

He’s going to kiss me. Why is he going to kiss me? I hate him. And men. And tattoos. And vegans with freakishly soft feet.

My heart stops and the air in my lungs freezes as his cheek brushes past mine. Of course my stupid nipples boing out because they just don’t know any better.

God … he smells good. It’s not just his clothes.

My lips part and my eyes leaden as his lips ghost next to my ear and his hand slides along my arm. Every inch of his naked torso radiates heat, and it’s igniting mine.

“Give me my underwear,” he whispers.

It takes my mushy mind several seconds to realize he’s not going to kiss me or seduce me—NOT that I want him to do either.

I don’t.

My nipples are just being rebels. I’ll have a talk with them later.

After a pause, I jerk my arm away as he tries to take his shirt from me. “It’s a shirt you big jerk, not your—”

The letters J-O-C on a wide waistband come into view as I dangle them between us.

My nose wrinkles. I drop them like they’re on fire.

Jake, of course, grins. “The dirty ones are in the side pocket if that smell does it for you even more.”

I die—not like a peaceful passing, more like a slow, torturous death where the murderer insists on embarrassing his victim before inching the tip of a knife into his victim’s carotid artery.

“Nothing about you does it for me.”

His eyebrows slide up his forehead as his gaze dips to inspect my chest. “You sure about that?”

Mother trucker …

“I’m cold.”

“You have sweat along your brow.”

“It’s a cold sweat.”

“It’s like eighty degrees in here.”

“I have a sluggish thyroid.”

His grin grows a fraction as his gaze dips to my mouth again for a brief second. “You should sprinkle kelp on your food.”

“Where’s the key to the truck?”

“What do my underwear smell like?”

I squint at him, desperate for a really good comeback. I need one. He’s been one step ahead of me this entire trip. I NEED to get the upper hand, just once.

Vegan farts? No. That won’t give me the upper hand.

Asscrack cologne? No. That’s dumb.

Dick cheese? Maybe.

Putrid pubes? No. I’m not sure he has them. Maybe he’s shaven in that region. I direct my gaze to just below his abs. It’s too dark to say for sure, but I’m certain there’s a teasing of a happy trail, surely that thing doesn’t end in a barren convergence of skin, two low-hanging sacs, and a bobbing appendage.

Biting my lips together in contemplation, I glance back up at him. “Stop staring at my boobs.”

“Stop staring at my junk.”

“Oh my gosh!” I climb to my feet, finding the center of the tent where I can fully stand. “You are so full of yourself. I was not staring at your junk, I was just seeing if you had …”

He lies back, propping his head up on a bent arm. It does nice things to his abs.

Avery … you suck.

“If I had what? Junk?”

“Hair.” There. I just said it.

He runs his other hand through his thick head of hair. My nipples are screwed.

“I used to have a shaved head, but I’ve had hair for several years.”

My teeth work side to side. One chance. I just need one good chance to get the upper hand, but he snags it every time.

“But … that’s not the hair you were looking for. I’m guessing.”

“The key, Jake.”

He grins, scratching just below his navel at the start of his happy trail. “It goes all the way.”

“The key, now.”

“The sun’s not up. I’m not letting you start my truck. There are other campers nearby. You don’t need to make noise and fill the surrounding air with exhaust. Settle in with your dog and you can charge it in a few hours.”

I glance back at Swarley, now sleeping in my spot. “I need to pee. I’ll be back later.” I shove my feet into my flip-flops. “Or not at all if I can find a kind soul to take me to the nearest airport. My sister will pay you a lot of money for returning Swarley to L.A.”

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