The headlights spotlight my car as a vehicle pulls up right behind me.
Fuck, someone stopped.
When I turn in my seat, someone raps on my window. Whirling back around, I damn near bump my head on the ceiling.
“You need some help?” A guy in his late twenties smiles at me through the window. “I’m not very good with cars, but I can give you a ride somewhere.”
I swallow down a shaky breath. “I’m fine. My friend is actually on his way to pick me up. He’ll be here in a few minutes,” I lie. It’ll take Beck at least twenty minutes to get here.
“You sure?” he asks, squinting through the window to get a better look at me.
I gulp. “I’m fine. I promise.”
His gaze travels across my exposed legs, and I shift in the seat, tugging the hem of my jacket lower.
“Well, all right, then.” He stares at me for another slamming heartbeat before hiking back to his car.
“Willow, what the hell is going on?” Beck asks through the phone I’m clutching.
Letting out an uneven breath, I put the phone back to my ear. “Some guy just stopped to see if I need a ride.” I cast an anxious glance in the rearview mirror at the unmoving car. “How far away are you?”
“I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” he says. “Did the guy leave?”
“No. He’s just sitting in his car right now … I’m sure he’ll leave soon, though.” I hope.
“Are your doors locked?”
“Do you still have that pepper spray I gave you?”
“Yeah, it’s in the glovebox.” I lean over the console to get it out. “I hope it still works. You gave it to me forever ago.” It was about a year ago after I had to pick up my mom from some sketchy bar and got harassed by a group of drunken guys. When I told Beck about what happened and how scared I was, he went out and bought me a can of pepper spray and made me take a self-defense class.
That’s Beck for you, always looking out for me. He has been since we were kids, and he promised me in the car that he would always be there for me.
At the time, I believed he’d never break the promise. Now that I’m older, I understand that one day after he falls in love, he’ll become a knight in shining armor for someone else. Whoever she is, she’ll be very lucky because Beck is great. Perfect. But not for me.
No guy is perfect for me. And I’m not perfect for any guy.
Nothing is ever perfect.
I really need to learn to stop relying on him so much. Stop spending so much time with him.
The last thought makes me feel sick.
I clutch the can of pepper spray in my hand. “I wonder if pepper spray expires.”
“I’m not sure.” He sounds unnervingly worried, a rare occurrence for Beck, and my uneasiness skyrockets. “Is he still there?”
“Yeah.” I don’t even have to look to know. The blinding headlights announce his presence.
“If he gets out of the car again, hang up and call the police.”
My heart rate accelerates so rapidly I worry I’m about to have a heart attack. “Beck, I think—”
The guy knocks on the passenger side window, and I’m startled, dropping the phone.
“Hey, I was thinking that maybe I could sit with you until your friend shows up.” His lips curl into a grin. “I’m Dane, by the way.”
Like telling me his name will somehow make me more willing to let him in my car.
Keeping my eyes on him, I lean forward and feel around for the phone.
“Come on,” Dane continues, grinning at me. “I don’t bite. I swear.”
“L-look, Dane, thanks for the offer.” Take deep breaths, Willow. Deep breaths. Find your phone and call the police. “B-but, like I said, my friend will be here any minute.”
He glances up and down the empty road then back at me. “Are you sure about that? Because I don’t see any cars coming.”
“Y-yes, I’m sure.” Calm down. Steady your voice. Stop panicking.
His eyes drink in my uniform. “Your outfit looks like the ones those girls wear at Crazy, Crazy Morelliesin’s. Do you work there?”
I swallow hard. Crazy Morelliesin’s is what the regulars call the club I work at. Regulars are the worst. Sometimes, they wait out back to make illegal offers to the dancers and waitresses we get off work. Some of the girls accept. I’d never get that desperate for money, though. At least, that’s what I tell myself. But sometimes, I question how much I am like my mother. Perhaps I’m living in denial when I say I’ll never be like her. After all, this sort of job is something my mom has done to make cash.
“No,” I lie to the guy. My fingers brush across the phone, and I exhale shakily as I sit back up and put the receiver to my ear. “Hey, Beck, are you about here yet?” I say loudly enough for the guy to hear. I try not to let my expression falter when I realize the line is dead. “A couple of minutes? Yeah, okay. Sounds good.”
The guy eyes me over, as if debating whether I’m full of shit. Well, either that or he’s calculating a way to break into my car and not get doused by the pepper spray in my hand.
“Are you sure your friend’s coming?” he questions. “It seems like it’s taking him an awfully long time to get here.”
I’m starting to move the phone away to call the police when a BMW pulls off to the side of the road, parking right in front of me. The driver’s side opens, and Beck hops out.
Thank God. Thank God. Thank God!
I glance at the dude. “See? My friend …”
He’s already jogging back to his car.
Beck strides down the side of the road, passes my car, and heads toward the guy with a look on his face that screams I’m-about-to-beat-some-ass. Beck’s not much of a fighter, so despite the fact that I’d love to see creeper dude’s ass get kicked, I scurry out of the car to stop him.
“Just let him go,” I tell Beck, chasing after him.
“No fucking way.” He continues marching forward as the guy jumps into his car.
I snag hold of Beck’s sleeve. “I don’t want you getting into a fight on the side of the road, out in the middle of nowhere, with some strange, creepy dude. It’s not worth it.”
He tries to wiggle his arm out of my grip, but I clutch on for dear life, refusing to release him until the guy peels out onto the road.