Abandoned on a country road en route to a graduation party, the last person Harper wanted to see, besides her ex-boyfriend, was her former science teacher. Sloan Allen spent the last two years making her miserable, but accepting a ride with the man she’s hated and wanted with equal measure is a slightly better alternative than walking three miles in stilettos. Time spent in the older man’s company proves illuminating, as she realizes their attraction is very mutual. But do they both share the same desire for making a baby together?
Harper Greene winced and cursed when the wretched high heel caught on something, making her ankle twist to the side. “I hate him,” she muttered aloud, sending all the negative thoughts she could muster toward her ex-boyfriend. He’d enjoyed that status for the past twenty minutes, though she had been planning to divest herself of him since prom. If only she’d done it before tonight.
She shivered, though the early summer night was just a tad cool. Maybe she should send some negative energy toward her best friend too, who had convinced her to dress in the skimpy skirt and halter that was definitely not her usual style. Nah, it hadn’t been Sav’s fault she had gone along with it, curious to see how others would react to the transformation from library geek to sex goddess.
She snorted, forcing herself to keep walking despite the twinge in her ankle. “Some sex goddess.” Scowling down at the black stilettos she couldn’t see in the dark, she cursed them again. A sex goddess, or even someone marginally competent with sexy footwear, might not find the things a perplexing agony, especially for walking along country roads, but she sure did. If not for the darkness, and not knowing what she might find underfoot, she would have stripped them off at least a mile ago.
Headlights coming her way made her freeze for a second. Harper debated whether she should stand still, hide in the forest, or keep walking. It seemed unlikely that Michael was coming to look for her after the harsh words they had exchanged and the way he’d literally shoved her out of his car. Her shoulder ached with the thought as she remembered the jarring landing against the side of the road.
There was no way she’d get back in his car if it was him, even with the annoying heels. She couldn’t be too far from Hilary Collins’ house now, could she? Another three miles maybe. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. She could run that easily, but not in the cursed high heels.
What if it wasn’t him? What if it was some crazy psycho? Her stomach twisted with fear, and she edged off the road, debating about what she could do if a stranger refused to accept her refusal of a ride. Dammit, she wished she had remembered to grab her purse when Michael shoved her out of his car. The pepper spray inside would have been welcome right then.
She tensed as the vehicle drew nearer, the lights shining bright enough to illuminate a good twenty yards in front of her. She scanned the terrain, deciding her best option would be to plunge into the woods and try to escape if the person in the car had bad intentions.
As it drew up beside her, Harper’s nerves stretched taut, and she stopped walking, but didn’t get close to the SUV. Bracing herself for whoever might be waiting behind the privacy glass—at least it wasn’t Michael, since he drove that tiny little Honda hatchback—she turned her head, prepared to offer a polite rejection for the ride she assumed the occupants would offer.
The window rolled down, and she barely bit back a groan. He wasn’t a stranger, but the idea of riding with Mr. Allen made the prospect of a serial killer seem almost appealing. She’d thought she had seen the last of her former science teacher when she’d taken her final three days ago.
He wore a scowl, which was the only expression she’d ever seen from him directed toward her. “Miss Greene, what are you doing out here?”
“It’s a long story.”
His scowl deepened, but even the nasty expression didn’t detract from his handsome arrangement of features, framed by shoulder-length black hair that he normally wore confined in a ponytail at the back of his neck. His eyes, which should have been warm like melted chocolate, were cool as ever. “Do you have transportation?”
She almost snapped a snarky reply, something along the lines of having a jetpack hidden in her halter, but bit back the urge. “No, sir.”
He sighed, clearly annoyed by the mere hint that she might inconvenience him. “Where are you headed?”
“I was looking for Hilary Collins’ place.”
If possible, he scowled even more. “Ah, her post-graduation party.” He made it sound as though Hilary was hosting an event where they would be eviscerating mice and eating the entrails.
How could someone his age be so curmudgeonly? The teacher couldn’t be more than mid-thirties, and he was surrounded by young people nine months a year. That should have made him fun and hip, but in her experience, it only seemed to make him grouchy.
She stood uncertainly, still not entirely clear if he was offering her a ride. He managed to shoot her irritation up another notch at the imperious way he inclined his head to indicate she could enter his SUV. If she’d had any other feasible option—and she almost considered walking three more miles in five-inch heels with a twisted ankle feasible—she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near his car or him.
With a sigh, she limped over to the vehicle, opened the door, and started to pull herself in. Her ankle folded as she braced her petite frame to stretch upward, and she winced, almost falling from the car in the process.
He exhaled with obvious exasperation as he fastened his hand around her upper arm and hauled her inside. “Have you been drinking?”
She shook her head, tears coming to her eyes.
Mr. Allen frowned. “It was a question, Miss Greene. There’s no need to cry.”
Harper blinked. “Oh, it’s not the accusation, sir.” She twisted slightly, trying to see the back of her shoulder. “I hurt my shoulder.” She left it unuttered that his manhandling hadn’t made the injury feel any better.
A hissing sound escaped through his teeth seconds after the dome light flicked on. “How’d you do that?”
“Is it bad?” She couldn’t see it properly.
He shrugged. “It looks painful.”
“It is.” She gnawed her lip. “Is there gravel in the wound, Mr. Allen?”
He leaned a bit closer, teasing her nostrils with the scent of his spicy cologne. She’d smelled it many times before, whenever he loomed over her in class to examine her work or mock her failed experiments, and it set her heart racing as always.
It was too bad Mr. Allen hated her, because she definitely didn’t hate him. She hated being in his class, being the focus of some of his more cutting comments, but she couldn’t hate the man. If only he weren’t her teacher—and he wasn’t as of this afternoon—and had a nicer disposition, she definitely could have had a crush on him.
“You should come to my house.”
His words stunned her for a moment, as though he’d read her thoughts, and she blinked. “Er…”
“It’s closer than Miss Collins’, and much nearer than your house. You live in town, right?”
She nodded. “My parents aren’t home anyway. They left for a cruise right after my graduation this morning.” Harper couldn’t hide a small smile, recalling how her mom had fussed over leaving her alone, while her dad had pointed out she was eighteen and would be moving to the college dorm in the fall. Despite his words, he’d still seemed a bit hesitant to actually leave when it came time for them to depart. Her folks were great.
“I suggest you let me clean that shoulder for you, and then you can decide if you’re still in a party mood or want to go home.” His tone left no doubt he favored the sensible option of returning home in lieu of a night of fun with her newly graduated friends.
“Thanks, Mr. Allen. That’s very nice of you.” Surprisingly nice, since he’d never bothered to hide his animosity toward her in the classroom.
As though he’d read her unspoken thoughts, his mouth tightened. He didn’t speak again, except to remind her to fasten her seat belt, as he started the SUV and headed toward their destination.
Obviously, she’d never been to his house before, but she wasn’t really surprised to find he lived twenty miles out of the main area of their small town, up a long driveway. She shivered as he turned up the private gravel lane, the car rocking a bit in dips along the way. If he were the serial killer-type, it would be a long time before the police found her out here. He could take her inside the modest two-story home, drag her into the basement, have his way with her…
Another shiver jolted her, but this was one of anticipation rather than fear. Yeah, okay, she had a crush on him, despite his evil disposition and nasty habit of making her feel inadequate and unintelligent.
He pulled the SUV into a garage attached to the log dwelling and slid out. Harper opened her door and did the same, moving gingerly on her swollen ankle. After taking a single step, she paused to remove the torturous strappy sling backs, leaving them on the garage floor near his SUV. They belonged to Sav, so she’d have to retrieve them, but for her part, she didn’t care if she never saw them again.