Take Me On (Page 23)

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits #4)(23)
Author: Katie McGarry

Because I can’t stupidly zip my lips, I go on to say, “My hands are always cold. It’s genetics. My mom has cold hands and her mom had cold hands. Bad circulation or something like that.” Shut the eff up, Haley!

West pushes a button on his key chain and the lights on his Escalade flash. Like a gentleman, he opens the passenger-side door. “Good to know.” There’s a sparkle in his eye that matches the smug smile.

“What?”

The grin widens. “The cold hands. The genetics. All good things to know.”

I smile widely because I don’t know what else to do. Kill me now. West shuts my door and I knock the back of my head three times against the seat. He climbs in and I smile falsely again. He chuckles and I die of mortification.

When he starts the car, rap pounds from the speakers, causing the frame to vibrate. He turns the radio off, turns up the heat and points the vents at me.

The rich smell of leather wafts in the air and every electronic and computerized gadget embedded in his dashboard intimidates me. “This car is quiet. It’s like the motor isn’t even on.”

“My sister, Rachel…” He pauses and switches the hand he drives with. In the short amount of time I’ve known West, this is the first time he appears unsure. “She’s great with cars. Anything good about this thing is because of her.”

“That’s cool.” And unusual. I’ve never heard of a female mechanic, but who has ever heard of a female fighter?

West grows grim and we sit in awkward silence. His sister must be a sore subject and, because of Kaden and Jax, I can highly appreciate that.

Murphy’s Law dictates we hit every red light. After one particularly long light, I tap my fingers against the door and replay the events of the cafeteria. Should I be mad or grateful to West? To be honest, I’m both, but still, there’s this nagging inside me that if he had gone along with the original plan…

“Why didn’t you listen? Friday night or in the cafeteria? If you had just listened to me once you wouldn’t be in this mess and I wouldn’t have to bail you out.”

His head jerks. “Did you say bail me out?”

“Yep. Bail. Like a bucket and a boat with a leak.”

“Nah. You’ve got it wrong.” West readjusts the hat on his head and his jaw solidifies into steel. “You don’t like accepting my help.”

“I don’t need your help. What I need is for you to listen to me.”

The incredulous glance from the corner of his eye causes my skin to crawl. Cocky bastard.

“If you had acted like we were talking,” I say, “I would have made it and we wouldn’t be here.”

“You don’t know that.” He floors the gas when the light turns green.

I stop tapping and bang my hand against the door. “I got hurt anyway. I got hurt and I lost my father’s medication and I had to hit someone. Something I swore I’d never do again. Now my father is a wreck, my cousin and brother hate me more than normal and I have to worry about you dying in two months.”

“I am not weak!” He slams on the brakes at the next red light.

My body lurches against the seat belt then smacks into the seat. “I never said you were.”

“Yes.” His blue eyes burst into twin flames. “You did. The moment you begged Matt to back off, you announced to the world I’m weak.”

A grunt of disgust leaves my throat. Boys. Stupid boys with their stupid egos. “You’re mad because I saved you.”

Because a girl saved him. Revolted, I cross my arms over my chest. God, the countless times I’ve seen that same look on the faces of guys at school. I’m the fighter—the girl who can throw a punch. Sure, they’ll say it’s cool, but their egos require that they be the protector.

The light switches to green and West floors it again, causing his engine to roar in anger. “Even if I had pretended to chat it up with you, they still would have followed.”

“It would have worked.”

“And you know everything?” he snaps. “If I didn’t follow, then I would have thought about how they beat the shit out of you and how I was to blame—that I failed. Again!”

I’m mad. Shaking mad. So mad, I shouldn’t open my mouth, but I do, and I scream at the top of my lungs. “I obviously can take care of myself.”

“How the f**k was I to know that?”

The car behind us blares his horn when West cuts him off.

“I hate you,” I mutter.

“Right back at you.”

He pulls into the neighborhood and before me is the spot where our worlds collided. One second earlier or later and maybe I could have avoided Conner and his friend. One step in the other direction and West would have never almost plowed me over.

Nausea disorients me and I lay a hand over my stomach. Is this all we are? Continual actions and reactions? No control over our futures? One pink slip and we lose our house and I lose my father? One decision to date the wrong guy and I lose Jax and Kaden? One step off the wrong curb and my life is entangled with a stranger’s?

If that’s true, then life is one pathetic and sick game.

West eases into the lot and shifts the SUV in Park. “We can’t leave it like this.”

“I know.” A pause on my part. “I don’t hate you.” I fidget with one lone long fingernail. I’ve never been able to grow them long or figured out how to paint them properly. I totally stink at all things girl. “That was mean to say.”

“I don’t hate you, either, and, trust me, I’ve been told worse.” He releases a breath. “I’m in this, Haley, whether you want me or not.”

The gray day makes the dismal shopping plaza more depressing. A woman too thin and barely dressed hauls a crying toddler by her arm, practically breaking it. The child trips over a curb and the woman drags her against the blacktop. I hate this place. Not West. Just my life.

“I keep searching for a way to fix this so you can be free and I can’t think of one.” Not when he insists on continually butting in. “I’m not looking to argue again, but can you please tell me why? I’m a stranger. I could be a serial killer or I could collect road kill and turn it into stuffed animals or own two million porcelain dolls and hang their decapitated heads from my ceiling—”

“The dolls would creep me out.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Just the dolls?”

West smiles again, like he did outside school, and that sweet, sweet sight causes me to smile in return. “I have a high threshold for creepy.”