Escape in You(8)

By: Rachel Schurig


I don’t like that look. It makes me feel sad, which is just ridiculous, since I barely know him and what I do know I’m not even sure I like. I try to lighten the mood by shoving his shoulder. “Oh, yeah, I’m so sure you’re complaining about all the women who are just dying to please you.”

He shoots me that same amused grin. “Are you volunteering?”

“Not even remotely, buddy.”

“It’s Jet,” he says.

I shake my head. “I’m sorry, but I refuse to call you that.”

“Well, now we’re at an impasse. You refuse to call me by my nickname yet you’re not ready for my real name either. The only other option is for you to make up your own name for me. Either way, it implies a certain level of intimacy, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know you well enough to give you a nickname.” I think for a moment. “Unless you like the sound of Cocky Ass.”

He pretends to think about that. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, then. I guess we are at an impasse.” I’m actually starting to enjoy myself. He may be cocky, but it’s been ages since I’ve actually flirted with a guy like this. When I hook up at parties the talking phase doesn’t usually last this long.

“I think I have a solution,” he says, holding up a finger in triumph. “Taylor!”

“Why would I call you Taylor?”

“Because it’s my last name.”

It’s my turn to laugh. “Okay. Taylor it is.”

He holds out his hand to shake mine. His skin is warm against my palm, his grip firm. I have a sudden urge to feel his hand curled around the back of my neck, and I release his fingers before my palm starts to sweat.

“So, Zoe,” Taylor says, his gaze flicking down to my legs before meeting my eyes once more. “What’s your story?”

“My story?”

He nods. “Yeah. What do you do? Who do you know? What do you like? Your story.”

If only my story really were that simple—a collection of answers to meaningless questions. I look down at my hands. A weight fills my stomach as I consider how I would answer if I could be honest. If I could actually tell him—or anyone—my real story.

“You okay?”

I look up and realize he’s watching my face closely. I force a smile and nod. “Maybe too much vodka.” I hold up the bottle, glad for the excuse. From the look on his face I’m not sure he bought it, so I hurry to answer his original question. “I’m a student at MCC.” I peek at him from the corner of my eye for any reaction to the name of the local community college. If he grew up in this neighborhood I’ll bet he’s one of the kids who goes to an actual university.

When he only nods, I go on. “I’m not working right now, so I’m taking classes all summer.” I leave out the reason for my unemployment. I can imagine how he’d react to that—talk about putting a damper on our flirting.

“What are you studying at MCC?”

More details I don’t want to get into. “This was my first year. I haven’t really decided on a major yet.”

He looks concerned. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-one.” I blush again. I’m too exposed to this guy. I don't want him asking questions about why I waited so long to enroll in classes. But his face relaxes.

“Good. When you said it was your first year I was worried you were a teenager for a minute there.”

“Why would it matter if I was a teenager?” I ask, a flirtatious note in my voice. He only grins at me, a purely wicked grin, and my face grows hotter.

“What about you?” I ask, embarrassed by my reaction. “What’s your story?”

“I work at the body shop in town. We mostly do repairs, but sometimes we get some refurbs to do, which is what I really prefer.”

That isn’t the answer I expected. “School?”

He shakes his head. “Never really saw the point.”

“So you live here all year?” It doesn’t make sense. Why hadn’t I ever come across him if he wasn’t away at school all year?

“All four miserable seasons.”