“No, no, no. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening,” Samantha Love muttered as she gently banged her head against the steering wheel.
She turned the key again. Nothing. Not even a wheeze. This was the icing on the cake of her otherwise craptastic day.
A bead of sweat trickled down her back. And another one between her girls. God, she hated boob sweat.
When she’d taken the research and teaching position at Sterling University in North Georgia last fall, she’d never have guessed the summer would be so hot.
Throwing open the door of her car to let in even more stifling heat, she searched for the lever to pop the hood. Finally locating it, she pulled it, then walked around to the front of the car. As if she knew what to do.
Just as she leaned under the hood to jiggle some wire thingies, she heard, “Dr. Love? Do you need some help?”
She let out a startled squeak hitting her head on the underside of the hood. “Ow!” Rubbing the offended spot, she turned and saw Ethan Quinn standing there looking all adorable. Not to mention manly.
Dammit. Why did it have to be him? “No. I’m fine.” Yeah, right. For all her parents’ preaching on women and self-sufficiency, she didn’t know a dipstick from a spark plug when it came to cars. She turned back to the mystery parts under the hood.
“You need a jump.”
“I beg your pardon?” She spun, hand on her hip.
“Your battery.” He pointed in the direction of her open hood. “It probably needs a jump.”
“Oh. Right.” Of course he meant her battery. What else would he be talking about?
“I have jumper cables in my car. I’ll have you going in a few minutes.”
“He’ll have me going in a few minutes,” she mumbled under her breath as she watched him walk to the far corner of the parking lot. Tall, athletic build, dark-wash jeans, white button-down shirt. And that hair. Tousled espresso-brown waves just brushing the top of his collar. “He’s already got me going,” she said to herself.
He tossed his messenger bag in the car and climbed in. And, of course, his car started. Because that’s what cars did. They started when you turned the key. Then they blew cold air, so you didn’t have to stand in the mid-July Georgia heat. Unless they dated back to the Stone Age like hers. Another bead of sweat trickled between her breasts.
She released a wistful sigh. Bet the AC felt good.
He pulled his recent model American-made car around to face hers and then got out to pop the hood. Walking around to the trunk, he opened it and grabbed a set of jumper cables, looking like he knew what he was doing.
Good thing somebody around here did.
“It’s a hot one today,” Ethan commented, as he connected one of the clamp doohickeys to what she assumed was the car battery. His sleeves were rolled up over his forearms, displaying muscles with a light dusting of hair.
Clamping the other end of the cables to his own battery, he then returned to her car. When he walked past her, his cologne wafted to her nose, temporarily erasing her angst at being in his presence.
Then he touched his hand to her back. And the anxiety returned tenfold. “Stand clear.” He leaned into the gaping mouth of the car and attached the remaining clamp, throwing a spark.
“All right. Let’s see if we can get this baby going.” He climbed into the driver’s seat of his car and turned it on.
“Give her a try,” he hollered over the din of his car’s running motor.
Sam dropped into the front seat and turned the key. The older-than-dirt engine tried but couldn’t work up enough energy to turn over.
“Hold on,” Ethan called, then revved his car. “Okay, try her again.”
Her car wheezed then reluctantly cranked a couple of times before coming to life.
Ethan was at her door, leaning over, hands braced on the roof. “Great. Let her run a bit, then I’ll disconnect the cables.” A bead of sweat trickled down his temple. “My AC’s on full blast. Why don’t you sit in my car until yours is ready to go.” He stepped aside to give her room to get out.
Sam felt as wilted as week-old lettuce, so against her better judgment she took him up on the offer.
He opened the front passenger door of his shiny black Lincoln MKS—such a gentleman—and she sank into the leather seats and stuck her face in front of the vent. God, it felt good. The door closed with a solid thunk. Resisting the urge to wipe away the boob sweat, she settled for drying the perspiration on her face and neck.
The car dipped as Ethan took a seat on the driver’s side before shutting the door and closing out the rest of the world. Music played softly in the background—something popular. The intimacy of being alone in the car with Ethan washed over her.
“I’d offer you something cool to drink, but I don’t have anything.”
She realized she hadn’t said a word in the last five minutes. “Thank you.”
“No thanks necessary. You’d do the same for me.”
“No, I wouldn’t.” She smiled. “I don’t know a thing about cars.”
He nodded as a grin split his face. “Well, from the looks of your battery, you’re going to need a new one. I can follow you to Burt’s Automotive. He can have a replacement installed in fifteen minutes.”
She shook her head. “Thanks, but I don’t want to put you out in any further.”
“It’s no trouble. Besides, if you go straight home, I don’t think she’s going to start for you in the morning.”
“Oh.” That would not be good.
“She should be juiced up enough to get you to Burt’s. Stay here until I unhook the cables.” Ethan got out of the car and set to work.
She’d steered clear of Ethan Quinn since the day she was introduced to the rest of the college faculty. The moment they shook hands she’d felt a connection. And from the look on his face, he’d felt it too. That flood of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin one feels when there is a strong physical attraction.
Relationships were complicated, but getting situated at a new university was already complicated enough.
No. Being in close proximity to Ethan Quinn was a bad idea. So as much as she hated to leave the cool comfort of his car, she jumped out and got in her rolling oven before he could say otherwise.