Three years later…
Beth Gallagher glanced at her gas gauge and groaned. “Come on. Where is it?” She white-knuckled the steering wheel and rounded another curve on the two-lane highway. She hadn’t passed a single car in the last five miles. Creepy! She shivered as her eyes bore a path down the tree-lined road, begging the station to pop into view.
The car shook. “No!”
It sputtered. “Please! Not now!”
She glanced down and groaned again. The needle rested well below E. She pulled onto the narrow shoulder just as it gasped its last. She thrust the car in park, dropped her head onto the steering wheel and moaned. Could things get any worse? Her mind flew to the conversation she overheard at church last night, churning like an oncoming hurricane:
“Not only is he engaged to someone else, but you could be pregnant!”
Beth froze in the bathroom stall, her hand hovering at the lock. Should she step out or wait until they left?
“He doesn’t love her. He loves me.”
The two voices moved closer, so she didn’t move.
“And he said this when? Before or after you gave him what he
“It’s not like that.”
Dread coursed through Beth as an image of Kyle flirting with the pretty red head flitted through her mind. No! He wouldn’t…
Beth’s lungs froze.
“No, Tracy. I don’t care what you say. He promised he’d take care of me. I’m going to marry Kyle…”
Her head swam and she braced herself against the walls. It couldn’t be… but the image of Kyle’s eyes roving possessively over Samantha Ross burned in her memory.
Kyle. No. They couldn’t mean… He wouldn’t do such a thing! Would he? Niggling doubts whispered things she didn’t want to hear. Her world tilted, spinning out of control.
Tap, tap, tap.
Trembling, she slowly tipped her head just enough to see a man peering through her car window. Dear God! Visions of being dragged from her car filled her mind.
"Hello? Miss? Are you okay?"
She eased her head off the wheel, never taking her eyes away from a pair of dark blue eyes that locked onto hers. She sucked in a lungful of air and blew it out to steady herself.
"Are you okay?" His slight southern drawl glided over her nerves, soothing her in an unexpected way.
Get a grip, Beth. She gave the man a shaky smile and lowered the window a few inches.
“Are you hurt?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“I’m out of gas.” The words slipped out before she could snatch them back. She cringed. Too much information.
"I'll run down to the station and get you a couple gallons. Would you feel safer staying here or going with me?”
“I-I’ll stay here. Thank you.”
“Alright then. Lock your doors. No telling what kind of creeps are running around."
Crinkling her brows, she glanced at her lock. "My doors are… locked." Her mouth formed an ‘O.’ She reached over, hit the lock and gave him a sheepish grin.
He chuckled, his smile revealing a heart-stopping dimple in his right cheek. "It's a good thing I'm not the creep. I'll be back in a bit with your gas. You won’t be stranded for long."
Her eyes swept over him. He couldn’t be much older than her. Though he was of average height, he could easily over-power her with his broad muscular build. He should have intimidated her, but something in his gaze calmed her. Drew her.
"Will you be okay?"
"Um… sure…" She cleared her throat. "Thank you."
"My pleasure. Sit tight. I'll be right back."
“Wait! Here. Let me give you some money for gas.” She scrambled to dig a ten dollar bill out of her purse.
He shook his head. “It’s only a couple gallons. Don’t worry about it.” He was gone before she could pull her wallet out.
Her blood pulsed hard as he pulled away. Though the minutes eked by, she recovered her composure by the time he returned and she lowered her window at his approach.
"Alright, darlin’, that should get you to the station."
"You know, I think maybe God sent you to rescue me.” Heat crept through her veins. Did she really just say that? She grasped for something else to say. “Maybe this will finally teach me to watch my gas gauge."
Laughter rumbled in his chest. "So this is routine for you, is it? Well in that case, God was definitely looking out for you. This isn’t the best place to get lost.” He glanced around. “If you're ready, I'll follow you over. I was heading that way myself."
A mild breeze cooled her heated face. "Thank you.” She shivered. “I’m more than ready to go.”