I dug into my purse to find my car keys, biting the corner of my lip as I felt around for them, making a mental note to clean out the dang handbag when I got home. Walking as I searched, I nearly ran into the bumper of a black Jeep parked two spots over from my own sensible sedan.
“Whoa there.” A warm and vaguely familiar voice startled me. “You better watch where you’re going, or you could end up roadkill.”
Frowning, I squinted at the tall figure leaning against the Jeep, although I was beginning to have a sneaking suspicion about who it was. Regulation Army fatigues stretched over broad shoulders? Check. Short black hair? Check. Piercing blue eyes? Hmmm. Impossible to see behind the tinted sunglasses, but I was going to assume they were there. Impossible smirk on those full lips? Oh, yeah, check.
The little spring of happy that had been bubbling up in me suddenly went dry.
“What are you doing here?” I hadn’t meant to sound quite so hostile and accusatory, but there it was. “Please don’t tell me you were waiting for me. This is bordering on stalker status now.”
Shaw Kincaid slid his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose a little way, just far enough for me to be able to see his quirked eyebrow.
“Feeling a little self-important, are we, Delia? Did you ever think there might be another reason I’d be out here?”
I put my hand on my hip. “Oh, really? And just what would that be? Were you called here on a special mission?”
He resumed his position against the vehicle, crossing his arms over his chest . . . which, holy God, was probably a work of art, judging by how it appeared even under the loose BDUs. I pulled my gaze away with no small amount of difficulty.
“It just so happens that yes, I was called here on a special mission. Sandra has a parent-teacher conference this afternoon, and her car wouldn’t start. I happened to be available to give her a lift because I’m a good friend and all around terrific guy. I’m waiting here to see if she needs a ride home.” As if on cue, his phone chimed, and Shaw leaned forward a bit, reaching into his back pocket to retrieve it. He scanned the screen. “Which she doesn’t, as apparently one of the other moms from post is here and offered to drive her back.” He slid the cell phone back into his pants, and I tried hard not to ogle the curve of his ass as the cloth was pulled tight over it.
“Oh.” I felt horribly small all of a sudden. When had I started being so full of myself that I’d assume a guy who just happened to be in my school’s parking lot was actually here to see me? Before Dane and I had begun dating back in high school, I’d been terribly shy, riddled with self-doubt. It had taken years of his love and constant assurance of my worthiness before I’d started to bloom. Apparently now I’d gone the other way.
“I’m sorry,” I managed to squeak out. “I shouldn’t have . . . it’s just that you texted yesterday, and I figured maybe you hadn’t taken no for my answer.” I cleared my throat. “Anyway, again, my apologies, and if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to drive home and pretend the last five minutes didn’t happen.”
“Wait a second there.” Shaw stood up and closed his hand around my arm before I could walk away. “I said I hadn’t come to see you particularly, but don’t you think it’s a funny coincidence that we happened to bump into each other?”
“Coincidence? Maybe. Funny? Not so much.” I tried to move away from him without making a big deal about it, but Shaw’s fingers were secure on me—not squeezing or hurting anything, just . . . there. Five bands of steel ensuring I didn’t get away.
He grinned, and I was pretty sure all my nether regions went to mush. Damn. What was it with this guy? If I had a button, he definitely knew how to push it.
As if he knew what I was feeling, his eyes swept down over my body, lingering on my boobs long enough to admire them without it getting super creepy. When his gaze wandered lower, it was as though I felt the heat of his stare spreading through my veins.
“I think it’s kismet,” he murmured. “And I think it also means we should go . . . uh, get a cup of coffee. What do you say?”
I sighed, wishing I could tell him yes. I wished like hell that he was an ordinary guy, someone with a nine-to-five desk job, where the biggest risk he faced was a paper cut. I wished that the hot body standing in front of me was dressed in anything but a military uniform. As tempting as he was . . . and as much as I wanted to give him a chance, I couldn’t risk my heart on another man who lived for danger.
“I can’t.” I kept my voice soft but definite. “What I said before still stands.” I smiled at Shaw, just to show that I didn’t have any hard feelings. “Actually, even if you weren’t in the Army and thus off-limits to me, I’d have to take a rain check. I have to do something this afternoon that I’ve been putting off way too long.”
His eyes narrowed a little, and then he pushed his glasses back into place. “Oh, yeah? What’s that?” He’d dropped his fingers from my arm, and now he stepped away slightly. “Is it, uh, a lady thing?”
I laughed. “If I said yes, you’d be out of here so fast, I’d be eating your dust, wouldn’t I?” Men were men, no matter how big and hunky they were.
“Hmph.” Shaw folded his arms again. “No. I can deal.” Still, his lips twitched, and if I were really thinking about pursuing this guy, I’d have totally called him on it.
As it was, I let him off the hook. “No, it’s not anything like that. I have to start training for a half marathon.”
He cocked his head. “Uh, okay? Are you a runner?”
“No. I mean, I never have been. It’s sort of a long story.”
When Shaw made a rolling motion with his hand, I sighed and went on. “Last fall, one of the other teachers was recruiting people for a team to run this race for charity. She was all excited about the money we could raise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I don’t know what got into me, but somehow, I thought it sounded like a good idea for me to do it. It seemed so far away back then. And I kept thinking . . . well, I’ll start training for it soon. And then it was the holidays, and then it was too cold to think about being outside.”
“Ah. Uh-huh. What about going to the gym and running on the treadmill?” Shaw shifted his weight to the other foot.
I wrinkled my nose and stuck out my tongue. “I don’t belong to a gym and yuck. Gyms are smelly and gross.”
“Have you ever been inside a gym?” Shaw inquired. “Or are you making this judgment call based on old television shows and boxer movies?”
“I don’t need to go inside. I can just tell. Anyway, you’re missing the point, and I’m burning daylight. I need to go. If I don’t start today, I never will, and I’ll be the loser—literally—at the end of the pack, and everyone will be standing there giving me pity claps.” I’d had actual nightmares about being the last runner across the finish line, the one everyone felt sorry for as they waited for me to finally be done.
“Okay.” Shaw pushed himself off the side of the Jeep. “When is this race?”
I swallowed hard. I’d been hoping he wouldn’t ask that. “Six weeks,” I mumbled.
He leaned down closer to me. “What’s that? I thought you said six weeks.”
“I did.” I gnawed my lip again.
“And you haven’t run at all? You’ve never done a race before? Not even, like, a 5K or anything?”
“I used to do the track thing during PE at school. You know, where they make you run and the gym teacher times you with a stopwatch. But otherwise? No. I’m not really an athlete. I’m more of a sit and watch the athletes.”
“All right.” Shaw rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, it’s not going to be easy, but if you’re committed and stay focused, I think we can do it. I’m not going to promise that you’ll set any records, but you’ll finish.”
“Wait . . . what?” I stared up at him. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m saying that I’m going to help you train for this.”