Making Her Mine- Chapter One
I tossed my head back along with the clumps of blond hair that had fallen in my face then blew out a large breath to try to get my bangs off my sticky forehead. This was so gross. Winter in Michigan wasn’t supposed to be so hot and when I stepped outside it for sure wouldn’t be.
I didn’t want to be stuck in the garage with the heat turned up to the scorching level of hell with my brother insisting I learn the basics of car maintenance or die trying. I told him that’s what mechanics were for but saying that only got me a hard noogie to the head. Riley was serious on the or die trying part because the heat just might have killed me if I stayed in there too long. He wanted that garage to be like the tropics in the middle of winter.
“Come on, Zo, it’s changing a tire not rebuilding a motor,” my brother, Riley, said sounding more exasperated with me than I was him but that couldn’t be possible. Riley used a shop rag to wipe the sweat from his forehead and neck. Gross.
I wanted to waterboard him with the gas from one of the spare cans. It was like being held hostage at this point. He’d called me out there over an hour ago and the only thing we’d accomplished was the sweaty, smelly aroma around me. The tire hadn’t moved an inch and honestly, I thought he’d actually tightened it a little each time I couldn’t get it loose.
Why does someone need the heat so fucking high?
“You’re using the tire iron like a girl,” he said.
“I am a girl, Asshole.”
“Language, language. You’ve got some mouth on ya.”
“Haven’t had any complaints about it yet.” I gave him my best sassy smirk.
“Oh god.” He bent over, hands on his knees, pretending to gag. His whole body jerked like he was having a major seizure. Until finally he stood straight. “What would Mom think of that?” he asked with mocked outrage.
Ok, maybe for him it wasn’t mocked.
“Why don’t we go ask her?” I jabbed a thumb toward the house, more than ready to give up.
I should’ve been apartment hunting instead of spending this time with my brother trying to change a flat tire. Looking for my own place and getting the hell out of my parents’ house held a lot more appeal than dying in the garage on a cold winter day. I loved my parents but living with them again had never been part of the plan and felt too oppressive after being on my own for most of the last four years.
In fact, coming back to my hometown wasn’t even on the radar once I graduated from college. But since I hadn’t found a job anywhere else, even with the better part of a year trying and the part-time positions weren’t enough to pay the bills, I hadn’t had a choice. I needed the paycheck.
My dad and Riley promised to help financially until my job as a high school English teacher started in March. I hated needing the help and promised myself to stop the aid as soon as humanly possible.
Teachers didn’t normally start a new school in the last third of the year but the one I’d be replacing died. You can’t plan for that and the school had been making do with a long-term sub. As soon as that contract expired, I’d jump in. The position fell into my lap kind of perfectly, minus the death part, even if it meant moving back home.
“Maybe I should go shopping. Apartment hunting. Donate a kidney. Something a little more fun than this,” I offered.
“Damn it, Zoey. You’re doing this.”
“Why are you so bossy?”
“Lots of practice. Try again.” He pointed at the tire again.
I groaned and bent down to fit the tire iron back on the lug nut with absolutely no hope of loosening it.
Riley left home right after his high school graduation to enlist in the Marines. We stayed close even though I’d only been fourteen and sometimes he was deployed. He’d call whenever he could and said my letters while he was in Afghanistan helped him keep a level head. Helped him remember he had someone he loved back home. After he got out he decided to open a mechanic shop. He’d always been good with mechanical things and after the service had the experience.
“Come on, Zoey,” Riley prodded again. “You don’t want to be reliant on some fucking guy your whole life, do you? What happens if you get a flat in the middle of the night on the highway?”
“Um, call you?” I smiled up at him widely.
“Try again.” He pointed back at the tire as he backed up toward the door. His hair was just as damp as mine so if he went outside I figured it’d freeze to his head. Served him right.
I could’ve slinked away once he left but Zoey Goodrich didn’t slink. Fitting the iron on the lug nut once again, I tried with everything I had, but the damn thing still wouldn’t move.
That was it. I wanted to give up for real.
I popped straight up and decided to go look for Riley. He couldn’t keep me there like a prisoner. I’d been humoring him because I liked hanging out with him but he could never know that. Since he wasn’t in the garage with me, I went to look inside the house.
“Hey, Riley,” I called out as I stepped inside and shut the door behind me. “I don’t think I have the body weight to make this work. I’ll have to be content to asking for help.”
The tall man standing next to my brother in the dining room made me want to swallow those words back down my throat. His russet hair was messier than it had been the last time I saw him, but his dark eyes could still see right through me and make my knees weak. He shouldn’t have been able to affect me so many years later, yet my heart sped up and a new kind of sweat dotted my forehead.
At first, I refused to believe it was the man that flipped my eighteen-year-old heart on its axis four years ago. That could not be a plausible reality for me. Him back after all this time? It had to be someone else even though I could clearly see it wasn’t.
Three steps closer confirmed it. As if I needed less distance between us to know it was Wyatt McCann, my brother’s best friend standing in my parents’ dining room.
He’d put on probably thirty pounds of muscle since I’d last seen him. His waist still narrowed and his arms were still the strongest part of him. The swimmer’s body I’d always loved. Those broad shoulders looked like they could carry the weight of the world. Maybe they had. I wouldn’t know because it’d been over four years since we’d spoken.
“Hey there, Small Fry.” Wyatt McCann’s trademark smirk as his eyes traveled from my face down them back again made me want to punch him in the face. Though, logically, I knew I’d be the only one hurt during that transaction.
That look made a girl want to commit violence against his shins if not more sensitive parts of his body. But with his height, shins and balls were about all I’d be able to reach. I determined not to think about any of that but fuck, I still wanted to do it.
If I did anything out of the ordinary with him, Riley would know that something had happened between the two of us. Not that there was something between them, or ever really had been. Ugh, I wanted to kick my own ass now. The heat of crimson edging its way onto my cheeks would give away where my thoughts had drifted if either of them cared enough to look closely. Damn it, it had only been a kiss.
“Don’t call me that,” I finally said back more out of habit than anything else although this time I added a hard edge. It wasn’t exactly intentional.
“Calm down, Zoey,” Riley gave me that chastising brother look with his eyebrows squished down yet his mouth pulled back so I rolled my eyes. “Give the guy a break. He just got back.”
I didn’t need my brother to tell me that Wyatt had been deployed again a few months ago. That seemed to be a constant loop of him leaving, coming back for a while, stationed further away, then deployed again. Thankfully, I’d never been back home when he’d come to town.
I bit the inside of my cheek before saying, “Sorry. Glad you didn’t die.” Then I hauled ass away from them. Standing in front of the man who’d once been the center of my every thought while being sweaty and gross was likely to cause me to die of embarrassment.
There had been an image in my head for years that if I ever saw Wyatt McCann again, I’d be dressed to bring a man to his knees. Make him see what he’d once walked away from. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my luck. When he showed up I was in jeans that were too big, a T-shirt that had seen better days, and hair matted to my head.
I ran up to the bathroom attached to my bedroom and hopped in the shower. Slightly cold shower because that man caused liquid heat to pool between my legs just by being there. Unlike anyone else I’d ever met, Wyatt turned me on. Even though I despised him. Probably especially because I despised him.
With school and his deployments, I’d been able to avoid him for the last four years. If only that had continued.
The night of my high school graduation party went down in history as the most humiliating of my life thanks to Wyatt McCann. When things happened in college that other girls cried over, I’d ask myself, “Was it as humiliating as that night with Wyatt?” If the answer was no, I got over it. Moved on.
The answer had never been yes.