Callie Jacobsen isn’t about to open her heart to just anyone. Not so very long ago, trusting someone changed her life forever—and not in a fun way. Now she’s better off focusing on her career, her friends, and her dog. So when former Marine Everett Silverton takes an interest in her, Callie’s more than a little wary. No matter how charming he is, men are a bad idea. In fact, she’s got the scars to prove it. But Everett isn’t convinced Callie should shut everyone out—especially not him. He may be a hero to the people of Rock Canyon, but he’s got his own demons, and he bets they’re not that different from Callie’s. Still, he knows it’s going to take more than chemistry to get her to let her guard down. Everett will do whatever it takes to show her she’s safe with him. All she has to do is take a chance, take a step … and take his hand.
“Looks like you could use a hand.”
“Son of a bitch!” Surprised, Callie spun around from her kneeling position so fast that she fell over, landing in the softening muck with a splat. She’d been too busy cursing the shredded tire and the pouring rain to hear Everett behind her until he spoke.
Callie shook her mud-covered hands and was sure she heard a snort of laughter from Everett over the pouring rain and Ratchet’s muffled barking inside the Jeep.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that sneaking up on someone is rude?” Callie glared up at Everett, who was holding his hands down to her. Even though he wasn’t smiling, she’d have to be blind not to catch the amused gleam in his eyes.
Ignoring his offer of assistance, she climbed to her feet, but her bruised pride earned her even more mud as her jeans were soaked through. She tried to wipe off the muck, but it just smeared.
“They have, which is why I didn’t sneak; I walked. I saw you huddled over and figured I could help.”
“Thanks, but I’ve got this,” she said.
Thunder erupted over their heads, and Callie felt like the sky was laughing at her too.
“You sure? You’re shivering like crazy, and I can have this changed in under four minutes. I’ll have you know I hold the Silverton family record for fastest tire change.” Lightning lit up the sky, highlighting his cheeky grin. “And I’ve been told more than once that I’m good with my hands.”
She didn’t want to smile at his gentle teasing, but she was cold and miserable, and he was offering her a way out.
“I was just going to call triple A for a tow—”
“It will be faster if I just change it; believe me. Here.” Everett reached around her and opened the door to the Jeep. “Hop in, and I’ll grab the spare from the back.”
Callie’s face burned with embarrassment. “It’s not there.”
“I meant to buy another one, but these suckers aren’t cheap and I just . . . I never got around to it.” She leaned her head against the door, laughing humorlessly. “Pretty stupid, huh?”
“Well, yeah, but there’s no use in me lecturing you when you already know.”
Callie glanced at him sharply. “Thanks a lot, Dad.”
“Come on; I’ll take you to Jose’s Tires, and we’ll get you a new one.”
“I told you; I can’t afford it right now—”
“I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.”
“Um, no. I don’t like being in anyone’s debt.” She squirmed under his thoughtful gaze and added, “Thank you, but I must decline.”
“Well, I must insist. You can’t just sit here on the side of the road until payday, and triple A will ding you for using one of your get-out-of-trouble calls.” Another crack of thunder shook the sky. “Look, I get it. You don’t know me from Adam, but I can get you over to Jose’s and get you a line of emergency credit. That way, you won’t owe me anything, and I don’t have to stand out in the rain. Sound fair?”
Her insides churned, and she cursed. If she’d just gotten a new spare when she’d bought her last set, she wouldn’t be sitting in the rain at the mercy of a large former marine.
Who you can’t seem to get out of your head.
And now she was about to get into a car with him and have to make small talk. What if he started flirting with ideas that she was interested in him as anything more than an acquaintance?
Why? Because you actually feel something for him, unlike every other guy since Tristan? You gotta start to move on sometime.
But moving on meant putting her trust in another man, and she wasn’t sure she could ever make that mistake again.
“Okay,” Everett said. “I really don’t want to stand out in the rain while you debate whether or not I’m some dirt bag trying to scam you, so how about I run up to Jose’s, get the tire, and come back?”
He was giving her an out and still offering to help her. If she was smart, she would take him up on the offer and climb up into the safety of her Jeep, away from him and his warm brown eyes.
He’s Fred’s son, and everyone says he’s honorable. It’s not like you’re driving to Mexico. It’s right up the road. He didn’t even have to stop—most people wouldn’t have.
“Wait,” she said when he started to turn away. Grabbing Ratchet’s leash and her purse from inside her car, she ignored the voices in her head. “We’re coming.”
An obsessive bookworm, Codi Gary likes to write sexy small-town contemporary romances with humor, grand gestures, and blush-worthy moments. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading her favorite authors, squealing over her must-watch shows, and playing with her children. She lives in Idaho with her family.