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She pulled him into a hug. His head dropped down on her shoulder, and they sat there together for a few minutes, breathing with each other.

“Thanks for telling me,” she said.

“Thanks for listening,” he said.

His hands moved up and down her back, and then gently through her hair.

She turned her head and kissed his jaw. His cheek.

He pulled back to look at her. She looked back at him: his kind big dark-brown eyes; his thick almost-black hair that she was dying to touch; his warm skin, with stubble already visible along his jawline; that hint of a dimple in his cheek; his lips, a dusky pink, not quite smiling, but looking like they would smile at any minute.

He lifted his hand from her shoulder and stroked her cheek, and she smiled.

He slid his hand around to the back of her neck and pulled her toward him. And finally, finally, he kissed her. Soft, at first. Not tentative, but slow. Gentle. Tender. She hadn’t realized just how much she’d wanted him to kiss her until just this moment. She kissed him back the same way, happy to let him take the lead, as long as he stayed here in this car and kept kissing her.

Her hands went up into his hair, that hair she’d been wanting to touch for so long, and she sighed with some combination of relief and lust.

That sigh seemed to signal something to him. He pulled her tighter against him, and his hand ran down the side of her body. His lips, his tongue, got stronger, and she met his urgency with her own. He pulled away, and she almost moaned in frustration, but then he trailed his mouth down her neck, kissing and biting and kissing again, until her hands gripped his hair and she gasped.

He raised his head.

“You liked that?” he asked, as he nuzzled her ear.

“God, yes,” she said.

“That’s what I was hoping,” he said. She turned her head and kissed him again.

“I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I met you,” he said.

“Oh my God, me, too,” she said. She didn’t realize how true that was until she said it out loud.

They looked at each other and laughed. He brushed her hair back from her face and smiled at her. That same smile that had made her trust him at Dodger Stadium. She pulled his face to hers and kissed him again and again.

She started to pull away to say something witty, but he ran his tongue around her lips, so she had no choice but to open them and meet his tongue with her own. His hands kept moving, this time up and down her torso. He lingered beneath her breasts and then started making long, slow, circles around them that got progressively smaller and smaller.

“I like that, too,” she said, breathing hard.

“Good. I hoped you did. Because I really like doing it,” he said as he reached her hard nipples. He leaned forward to keep kissing her as he touched them. Why had she held off kissing this man for so long?

“Are we . . .” He touched her in a way that made her gasp and lose her train of thought for a second. “Are we going to get in trouble if someone finds us like this? We are up in the hills, after all. I don’t know if a lot of people who look like us live up here.”

He pulled back, but his hands lingered on her breasts.

“You’re right. I definitely don’t want some rich dude who lives up here to call the cops on us. I haven’t made out in a car since . . . my God, since I was in high school, I think.” His hands slid down to her thighs. “The problem is, and the thing that I’d forgotten is . . . making out in cars is really hot.”

She glanced down and saw the clear evidence of how turned on he was.

“Mmmm, it is, isn’t it?” She put her hand on his knee. “Do you know that this is the first time I’ve ever made out like this in a car?” He watched her fingers trail up and down his thighs, never getting quite where she knew he wanted them to be.

“Never? How is that possible?” he asked, not raising his eyes.

“I have no idea, but I was clearly missing out.” Her fingers did little loops on the insides of his thighs, and he let out a breath.

“Uh-huh. Is your first time everything you wanted it to be?” He raised his eyes to hers.

“Everything and more.” She leaned forward to kiss him and to move her hand higher.

HONNNNNNNNK.

They sprang apart and looked up at the mechanic’s truck parked in front of them. Carlos’s cheeks got red and he bent down to reach for his wallet.

“You the one who called about running out of gas?” The guy was at the window, a leer on his face that Nik wanted to smack off of it. Maybe after a few more self-defense classes she could.

“That’s me.” Carlos got out of the car and handed him his driver’s license and AAA card.

Nik looked out the car window without seeing a thing. Holy shit, this really seemed to be happening. Was she sure she wanted to do this? She’d felt sure while Carlos was kissing her. But she still felt hesitant. Something about Carlos seemed different than the guys she usually went out with. She didn’t know if it was different good or different bad. The uncertainty made her nervous.

After far too much chatting, the mechanic poured a gallon of gas into Carlos’s tank and gave him a screen to sign. He winked at her before he got back in his van. She rolled her eyes.

“Oh my God.” Carlos got back in the car and shook his head. “I haven’t gotten caught in a car making out with a girl since I was seventeen. And then it wasn’t even my car! I’m twice that age now; at least the car is a lot better.” He wrapped his arms around her. “And the girl is, too.”

Okay, hearing that was almost worth getting checked out by the mechanic. She lifted her face to him, and he kissed her hard.

Chapter Nine

. . . . . . .

Carlos stopped at the gas station at the bottom of the hill.

“I should fill up here, even though it’s like twenty cents more expensive than it is near my house.” He leaned over to kiss her. Now that he’d started kissing her, he couldn’t stop. She kissed him back so hard it was a struggle for him to pull away and get out of the car.

Had he made it weird when he brought up his dad to Nik? Did she think his reason for getting the car was stupid? Some people had, which is why he never told people the real reason anymore. He just let them think he was one of those L.A. dudes who liked sports cars. He didn’t know why he’d told her.

When he got back in the car, they grinned at each other and both leaned in for another kiss. He felt like a horny teenager. He loved it.

Finally he turned the key and pulled out of the gas station. Within seconds, they were both singing along to Beyoncé as they shot down the freeway. She smiled at him as she sang along, and he sent silent thanks to Courtney’s flaky employee, her broken down car, and the entire concept of running out of gas for getting him here.

A few songs later, and they’d pulled up in front of her apartment. She ran her hand from his knee up his thigh and smiled at him.

“Are you going to come inside?”

He tried not to grin as big as he wanted to, but he was pretty sure he failed. His terrible day had officially turned around. He couldn’t wait to pounce on her as soon as they walked into her apartment.

As she unlocked the door to her building, he thought of something.

“Did you get your locks changed?”

Fuck. Why did he ask her that? She’d snapped at him once for bringing that up. What was wrong with him?

She held up a brand-new key.

“Last week. I felt stupid for doing it, but then I remembered what you said about how feeling silly is better than the alternative.”

Oh thank God, she wasn’t mad at him.

As they walked up the stairs to her apartment, she smiled wryly.

“I also convinced Courtney and Dana to take a self-defense class with me. Well, it’s really more of a boxing class, actually.”

Well, he hadn’t expected that.

“Wow, that’s great. How was it?”

She stopped at her front door to unlock it with the new key.

“It was surprisingly fun. There’s only been one so far, but I’m happy I’m taking it.”

“That’s awesome. I’m impressed.”

He was also glad that she’d trusted him enough to tell him she was doing it. And flattered that she’d gotten her locks changed at least in part because of something he’d said.

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