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“Oh, do you need to sit here?”
“No. You’re good.” He reached across her. She plastered herself back against the seat, but there was barely enough room and his shoulder brushed against her chest. “Here’s the other end of the seat belt.”
She stared blankly at him as he straightened and handed her the buckle. When was he going to get out of the cab? She swallowed hard, then took the canvas belt he dangled in front of her. “Safety first,” she said faintly.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“What about you?” She didn’t glance over her shoulder as she asked the question, already keenly aware of how close he was.
Tanner stood just behind her, wedged into between her seat and the roll bar. Despite the cramped quarters, he managed to stretch out, filling every extra centimeter of space. He voice dropped a notch, to a husky murmur that had melted hearts all over Paris High. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.”
Good thing one of them did.
He pointed to the right side of the steering wheel. “Ignition is right there. You’ll want to turn the key counterclockwise for a few seconds first, to let it warm up. Then clockwise. Just like starting a car.”
She followed his instructions, trying not to notice how good Tanner smelled. Fresh and clean. Like he bathed in catnip for girls. Most of the football players at her house either smelled like sweaty locker room floor or like they’d drenched themselves in cologne. Or worse, some combination of the two. But not Tanner. He smelled like clean soap and line-dried clothes.
She drew in a deep breath and—
“What was that?” he asked.
All she could do was stare blankly in reply.
“You seemed like you were about to say something.”
“Oh.” Shit. What was she supposed to say? No, I was just smelling you? “Is that long enough?” she asked instead, looking back to meet his eyes.
He hesitated. Like he could read her thoughts or something. Then he shook his head. “Sure. Go ahead and start it up.”
She cranked the key in the ignition and the beast hummed to life.
“From here on out”––He leaned even closer to be heard over of the roar––“it’s just like driving your standard.”
She settled her foot onto the clutch. The pedal felt huge. Spongier. This wasn’t like driving her standard. It seemed bigger. More dangerous.
She pressed down hard and felt the gears line up. The gearshift was directly in front of her seat, right between her legs. Just as she reached down to settle her hand over it, Tanner leaned in and put his hand on top of hers. He had one arm resting across the back of her seat and the other practically draped across her left thigh.
“Here’s first.” He moved both their hands together as he shifted through the gears. “Here’s second. Third, forth. And here’s reverse.” This one was down and to the far right, so that his knuckles brushed against the inside of her denim-clad right thigh. “You feel that?”
Was he joking? She swallowed hard. “Pardon?”
“The reverse is a little tricky on this old girl.” He gave the gearshift another wiggle. “You’ve got to work to get it in.”
She jerked her hand out from under his, moving so fast her foot slipped, so she popped the clutch and killed the engine. “I think I’ve got it.”
He leaned back; a slow smile broke across his face. “Looks like you do.”
She narrowed her gaze to a glare.
“You want to try it again?” he asked, that smug grin of his never leaving his face.
Her heart was pounding and her hands sweaty. What the hell was going on? This was Tanner Colt. Tanner! He was not supposed to make her feel this strange mixture of...
But her mind shied away from admitting she felt anything. This was all just standard I’m-a-football-god charm. He wasn’t flirting with her. He probably didn’t even realize he was doing it. Which should have made her feel better, but it didn’t at all.