After laughing again, Mollie asked, “Do you like it here?”
Shit. Talk about a loaded question.
Rafe hated it here, because it wasn’t Chicago. Because he heard freaking crickets at night instead of traffic and people hustling. Because there wasn’t any deep-dish pizza. Because of no jazz clubs like the Green Mill.
Because it wasn’t home.
But . . . yes.
Because this new place would keep his brothers alive. It was their shot. Their best shot. Their only shot. And if he didn’t somehow find a reason to like it here, Rafe was screwed.
None of which he could say to Mollie. So he kept it simple. Shifted one knee to the ground so he could twist to look up at her and said, “I’m a big fan of the roadside attractions.”
She pursed her lips, slicked the same orange as her top and shoes. “Before you were hitting on me. Now you’re flirting with me. What’s with the change in tactics?”
“Figure I’ll just throw everything at the wall until something sticks.” He stood. Crowded right up into her space. Used his thumb to tuck a long strand of hair behind her ear. Watched her chest rise and fall twice in rapid succession before continuing. “You let me know when that happens, Doc.”
“I will,” she said. Pretty much breathlessly.
This had all the markings of a slam dunk. “You’re good.”
“How do you know? You haven’t even kissed me yet.”
That was it. He could hear the swish of the ball going through the net. “Your car.” Rafe edged to the right to kick the replaced tire. “The tire’s changed out. You’re good to hit the road.”
“Oh.” Her eyelids fluttered down.
“But now that it’s on the table, I want to know.”
“What?” And back up those long, dark lashes came. She had him locked in her sights like a laser.
Rafe moved to cage her against the car with his arms. They weren’t touching anywhere, but he hadn’t left room between for daylight to pass. “How good you are. Better yet, how bad you are.”
Then he waited. Didn’t move a muscle. Because it needed to be Mollie’s choice. Mostly because they were on the side of a semi-deserted highway. The sun—or Oregon’s pale version of it—was streaming down from overhead, and they were still on the blacktop. Rafe knew, though, that it could be seen as a potentially risky situation. He didn’t want her to feel pressured or scared. He just wanted to keep having fun with her.
But he’d read all the signals right and didn’t have to wait long.
“Stop flirting. Start doing,” she ordered. And then Mollie crooked her leg around his calf in an invitation about as subtle as a gun to the head.
Rafe was a big fan of going for the obvious. It made life easier. So he leaned forward the extra eighth of an inch to bring their bodies flush. Waited again. The second she tipped her chin up in anticipation, then it was go time.