The familiar bell over the door rang, spices tickling my nose, as I stepped inside to get out of the rain. My heart sped up when I saw Hailey’s dark head bowed over whatever she was working on at the spice counter. Her hair fell like a curtain around her face, hiding it from me.
She lifted her head as I approached. “Oh, hey.”
“Hailey,” I drew her name out.
She licked her lower lip and then bit it. “I’m almost done. Then I can take you up.”
Was she nervous to be in my space? I could have asked for the keys to let myself upstairs, but I enjoyed this time we had together.
Her shoulders seemed stiff as she poured the spices through the funnel into the jar.
“Everything okay?” I wanted to help her if I could, especially since I intended to ask her for yet another favor.
She smiled as she put the lid on the jar. “Of course.”
She set the jar aside, cleaning up the remnants of spices on the counter.
I drummed my fingers on the counter, wondering how to bring up what I’d discussed with Jake. “We’re offering a free course on car maintenance at the garage.”
Hailey looked up at me with interest, and my nerves kicked in.
Would she think the idea wasn’t a good one? “Jake was hoping you could attend with some of your friends. If you like it, you could tell your customers about it.”
Hailey paused. “I love that idea. Although I’m probably not the best one to ask. I know next to nothing about cars. Jake tried his best to teach me over the years, but whenever he lifted the hood, I just blanked out.”
I nodded, remembering Jake’s frustration about Hailey’s disinterest in checking her oil level and knowing how to change her own tire. He wanted her to be prepared.
I tipped my head to the side. “Jake told me to ask you.”
Her forehead scrunched. “Are you sure? I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a lost cause.”
“Maybe he thinks it will be different if someone else is teaching you.” Was it a little crazy that I wanted to see if I could help her when Jake couldn’t?
She tipped her head to the side as she considered me. “You’d be the one teaching the class?”
I nodded. “It’s worth a shot, and it’s for a good cause.”
She pointed at me. “I’ll do it for you, but I’m warning you ahead of time, I’m not the best student.”
I chuckled at her sincerity. She was adorable. “You’ll be fine.”
I was sure her disinterest had everything to do with not wanting to listen to her older brother tell her how to do something. Maybe I would be the difference. I don’t know why it mattered that I be the one to teach her, but it did. It was another way to be close to her without setting off any of Jake’s alarm bells.
She turned away to wash her hands in the sink, and my gaze fell to the bow of her apron tied around her waist so that it rested just above her ass. She wore black leggings that hugged her curves. I wondered if she was wearing anything underneath.
Maybe this thing I was feeling for Hailey was a silly crush. If I got to know her better, she might annoy me. There was only one way to find out.
I waited while she dried her hands and hung up her apron. “When is the class?”
She moved past me, the familiar scent of lavender swirling around. Being in her presence comforted me. When I didn’t answer, she turned around. “Ryan?”
“Oh. Sorry. I spaced there for a second.”
She gave me a quizzical look before heading toward the door.
If she knew what I was thinking, she probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me. Or maybe she would. My heart kicked up at the idea of her being into me, too.
It was like crushing on the homecoming queen at school. It was safe because there was almost no way she was going for a guy like me unless she wanted something different.
Hailey held the door for me. “Are you coming?”
“Sorry. I don’t know where my head is at today.”
She smiled, and my heart thudded painfully in my chest because I knew exactly where it was—with her.
“You should come to dinner,” I said as she led me the short distance to the apartment door.
“You mean like to get pizza?”
I licked my suddenly very dry lips. I hadn’t thought it through. I had no excuse to spend more time with her. “Yeah, we can talk more about the class.”
She raised a brow like she doubted that was necessary. “I don’t think I’ll be much help, but sure, okay. I don’t have any plans.”
“Good. That’s good.”
She hadn’t moved from her spot in front of the door. “You’re acting really funny today.”
It was because she had me off-center, struggling to find my balance. What was I supposed to say? That I got this little high every time I talked to her, and I wasn’t ready to say good-bye? That I enjoyed her company, and I wanted more? Things I shouldn’t even be thinking about. Her hair spread over my pillow, the sheet barely covering her naked body, exploring her soft skin.
“I have a lot on my mind—you know between work and Corey.”
“Of course. I’m happy to help however I can.”
I moved closer, placing my hand over hers so she couldn’t open the door. Not yet.
“You’ve already done so much. I shouldn’t be asking for more.”
She turned slightly, blinking up at me. “I don’t mind.”
The wind blew her hair across her face, and I couldn’t resist the urge to brush it back and tuck it behind her ear. Her breath hitched, and I wanted nothing more than to lean down and kiss her.
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