I’m getting ready to text back that I don’t have a ride home and it will be dark soon, when I spot someone leaning against the wall by the Dumpsters. He’s wearing a woolen hat and camo jacket. Declan. A flood of relief is accompanied by little birdwing flutters against my ribcage. I send mental signals telling it to stop.
His face is red from the cold. “Hey, Reggie. Need a ride?” He pushes off the wall.
How does he know? Was he waiting for me? I heft my backpack onto a shoulder and walk over. “Sure, but you don’t have to.”
“I don’t have to do anything.” He flashes a smile and starts walking across the lot.
“It’s just that I don’t want you to think I’m just using you for rides.”
His thick-soled boots clomp in the still air. I struggle to keep up, hiking the backpack up onto my shoulder.
“I don’t care if you are.” He stops and looks me right in the eyes. A spray of faded freckles run across the bridge of his nose. There’s a soft, reddish sheen of a beard along his chin and up under his jawline, like he didn’t shave it quite evenly.
He doesn’t move.
Am I supposed to say something? My nose starts to run from the cold. “It’s just that I’m not a user, you know. I like you—you’re a friend, and not just because you give me rides…”
God, I sound like an idiot. Crinkles around his blue eyes deepen when he smiles. A crooked canine gives him a wolfish look, and I get this flash that if I could take that stupid hat off his head and dress him in some normal clothes, he’d be really hot looking in a Prince Harry sort of way.
“Where’s your truck?”
“Over there.” He points to the far side of the lot. “And on the way you can tell me what else you like about me besides the rides. I’d like to know.”
My face flames. I touch it with a cold hand and walk ahead. I can never tell if he’s kidding. He opens the passenger door for me, then gets in. The truck smells like disinfectant and mint.
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