Jake grumbles something under his breath at the mention of our friendship. I’m right there with him, but I don’t grumble because I’m too busy sighing a dreamy breath of envy.
“Nice to meet you, Avery.” Quinn holds out his hand.
It takes me a moment to shake it since I’m in a daze from his sexy accent. I need a guy with an accent. Okay, I don’t need any guy at the moment, but if I decide to entertain the idea of male companionship again, he will need to be Latino and upfront with his feelings about chocolate.
“Very nice seeing you—uh, I mean meeting you.” I cringe behind my smile.
He pulls his hand from mine because I don’t let go. I like his hand and all that goes with it.
Very nice seeing you.
Geesh. It’s as if we’ve met before. Nope. I meant it in the most literal sense. Seeing, staring, gawking at Quinn is very nice. Seriously, would it be too weird to high-five Addy? I want to give her a slow clap for a job well done.
“You for thank everything.”
I said that. Gah! I’m tongue-tied over a man while standing in front of his wife.
“Or …” Jake grips my arm, pulling me out of the kitchen. “Thank you for everything.”
“Yes …” I nod, mildly grateful for my translator. The gratitude will wear off by the time we get in his truck.
We make it out the door without any further embarrassment, load up Swarley, and take off for our next destination. Dear God, please let it involve a room key, running water, and thick terry cloth robes. What are the chances my asshole driver knows other ridiculously rich people between here and L.A.?
“Just so you know, I’m done talking to you. What you did was unforgivable.”
Keeping his eyes on the road, Jake nods. “I’m totally good with you being done talking to me, but I’d hardly call what happened this morning unforgivable.” He turns up the music.
As minutes and miles pass, my bladder fills—mourning each rest stop we pass. If Swarley would speak up with a simple whine, Jake might pull over for a pit stop.
Bump. Bump. Bump.
After four hours, we hit a stretch of road that’s in need of new pavement. I could ask him to pull over, but I made a vow of silence until he apologizes to me. If I urinate in his truck, will it expedite his apology without me saying more than “oops?”
When the St. Louis arch comes into sight, he pulls off the main road, takes a few dizzying lefts and rights before pulling into a gas station. My bladder cheers while my dignity wipes sweat from its brow.
I jump out, waddling into the building as quickly as I can without springing a leak.
“Don’t worry. I’ll let your dog out.”
I don’t have enough bladder control to acknowledge Jake. Maybe he can read my mind. Yes, Jake, let Swarley out, and I won’t piss all over your truck. Fair trade? I think so too.
“Ladies’ room?” I flash the cashier a tight smile.
“Unisex restroom. Just one. Side of the building.”
Gah! Side of the building. We’re in a major city. The restrooms should be inside the building. I make a U-turn.
“Ma’am, you’ll need the key.” He holds up a key attached to a chain—attached to an old steering wheel. It looks like something from a vintage car or maybe even a tractor. It’s huge.
I grab the steering wheel and drive myself to the side of the building. Jake glances up from the grassy area by the street where Swarley sniffs for the perfect spot to mark. Jake rubs his hand over his mouth.
Go ahead, Jake the Jerk, laugh all you want. I don’t care. Nothing in the world matters at this moment as much as the emptying of my bladder.
No toilet seat liner.
No place to hang my purse or the steering wheel.
I slide my purse strap around my neck, do the same with the steering wheel, shimmy out of my denim shorts, and plop down on the germ-infested toilet seat.
“Oh … my …. god …” I whisper, closing my eyes. This feels better than my last orgasm.
After peeing out an entire swimming pool, I reach for the toilet paper.
None. Why doesn’t that surprise me?
I don’t have a single tissue in my purse, so I’m forced to shake and go.
Wash my hands.
Shake them dry as well because … yep, no paper towels or a hand dryer.
Opening the door with my shirt protecting my hand, I let it close behind me. Then I work the steering wheel back over my head to lock the door.
“Dammit!” It catches on my purse strap so I twist it free, trying not to damage the strap.
Left. Right. Up. Down.
I work it in every direction, tipping my chin up, tucking it down, working the steering wheel and my head every which way.
“Ugh!” I cringe as it pulls at my hair. Can’t have that. It just slipped over my head. Why won’t it come off?
“Don’t lock it. I need to take a piss. Swarley’s back in the truck. You’re welcome. And don’t worry, I paid for the gas.”
I roll my eyes at his agitating voice behind me. “It’s all yours.” Turning, I push back my shoulders, chin up, like I don’t have my purse and a steering wheel hanging from my neck.
He lifts an eyebrow. “Nice bling.”
My lips curl together.
“The cashier said you have the key. Give it to me so I can lock it back up when I’m done.”
Dear Heavenly Father,
I’m sorry. The purity ring I wore in high school was a promise to you that I would keep my virginity. I shouldn’t have used it as a revirginization ring. If I wasn’t supposed to give my body to another until later in life, would it have killed you to delay the onset of puberty? Totally not putting all the blame on you, just thinking aloud. Anyway … if you still love me. Hell—I mean heck—if you ever loved me, could you please let this steering wheel slip off my head as easily as it slipped on? In three … two … one.
Flashing Jake my most confident smile, I put all of my trust in God and ease the steering wheel over my head. Only, it catches on my chin, then my nose, then my ear, threatening to rip out my diamond stud earring.
My gaze lifts to the sky. Unconditional love my ass!
“Avery, the key. Let’s go.” Jake holds out his hand.
“Ugh!” I grip the steering wheel. “Son of a—mother fu—damn this life!”
Jake’s gaze lands on the key dangling from the chain, dangling from my bling. “Do I even want to know?”
I deflate. “Stupid bathroom has no hooks, and I didn’t want to set anything on the ground. And who puts a key on a flipping steering wheel—”
He silences me with a flat palm held up accompanied by a half dozen headshakes. “It wasn’t a rhetorical question. I was seriously asking myself if I wanted to know. The answer is no. I don’t want to know how you ended up with a steering wheel stuck around your neck.”
I’m on a road trip with the Devil. How does this happen to a preacher’s daughter?
“Don’t give me that look like this is all my fault.”
He squints, scratching his newly shaven chin. “Is it not your fault? Dog shit on your foot, a lost sandal, and a steering wheel stuck around your neck all within the span of twenty-four hours. Whose fault might this be?”
“Just …” I frown. “Go do your thing. I’m going to talk to the guy inside.”
Jake chuckles. “Good idea. I’m sure this happens all the time. I bet he’ll abracadabra you right out of there. But would you mind waiting until I get done in here. I’d like to see how he fixes your situation. You know … in case it happens again along the way.”
Resting my hands on my hips, I huff out an exasperated breath. “Would it kill you to treat me with a little more compassion and humanity?”
He opens the bathroom door and looks back over his shoulder. “Ask me that when you don’t have a steering wheel stuck around your neck.” Holding up his phone, he takes a picture and his mouth twists into a stupid smirk just before he shuts the door.
“Did you seriously just take a picture of me!?”
“Yep.” He hollers from the other side of the door. “I needed a good snap. Thinking of letting my friends caption it.”
Turns out Avery is the first customer to get her head stuck in the steering wheel.
The attendant coughs to hide his amusement as I work it over her head.
Her hands claw my arms. “My hair! Oh my god, my hair! My neck. My earrings. Stop!”
“Get in the truck.” I point to the door after she stumbles backward, realizing her freedom. I hand the steering wheel to the cashier while pinning her with a firm look. “Don’t touch anything. Don’t step in anything. Straight to the truck. Can you handle that, Princess?”
Her hands ghost over her hair, surveying any possible damage. She nods. I think she’s actually shaking a bit. Unexpected tussles with steering wheels will do that to you.
She inspects her hair all the way to the truck as the cashier scans my bottles of water.
“Just a sec …” I sift through a cubby of T-shirts, looking for my size. “This too.”