She was sitting on the front steps when he pulled up, clearly showered and wearing a light summer dress instead of the skirt and tank top she’d had on earlier.
Clover smiled softly when she got in.
“You came back.” She sounded as uncertain, yet hopeful, about things as he felt.
“Of course.” He kissed her cheek like she’d kissed his earlier and wished he had the nerve to move his mouth just a little to the side. That was all it would take to touch his lips to hers. Instead, he pulled back and shifted into drive.
She settled into the middle seat right next to him with the length of her thigh pressed up against his. He much preferred to have her sit there than all the way over on the passenger side.
He tried to sound casual, but he could feel his face flush with heat as he said, “I threw together some food in case we get hungry.”
“That’s sweet, thank you.” She stretched up and kissed his cheek. For one stuttering, suffocating, perfect moment, her lips touched his skin. His eyes drifted shut and held perfectly still. So far, their exchanges had been relatively chaste, but he felt something shift inside him with that kiss. His crush was moving far too quickly into something solid and his chest swelled with fear and hope.
She lingered there for several seconds, close enough for him to feel the whisper of her breath against his skin. When she finally pulled away, he stayed in that position, stunned immobile by her closeness. She squeezed his leg, kissed his cheek again, quickly this time, then pulled away completely. “So, where are we going?”
He jerked into motion, embarrassed by his reaction. But what else could he expect? When a girl like Clover got close enough for him to smell the subtle fragrance of her shampoo and the lingering chlorine on her skin from the pool, well, something like that would always affect him. And this time it wasn’t just a girl like Clover; it was Clover herself. The crush he’d been cultivating for as long as he could remember had grown exponentially since he’d picked her up earlier that day.
He cleared his throat as he pulled out of the parking lot. “I have no idea. Where do you want to go?”
“Head south, toward the river.”
“You got it.”
Instead of holding her hand this time, Jake settled his arm around Clover’s shoulder. As he pulled onto the highway, she rested her hand on his leg. Unlike before, she didn’t play with his inseam. Rather, she let her hand lie in one place, low by his knee, with her fingers curled around the inside. It was for the best, he knew. The distraction of her hand sliding high up on his thigh while driving was simply too much to ignore. He’d nearly wrapped his truck around a pole while trying to corner on the way into town earlier. He didn’t need a repeat event. Still, he missed the feel of her hand exploring. If he could figure out a way to say it without sounding like an asshole, he’d tell her that she was welcome to touch him whenever and however she wanted. The fear that she might actually take him up on it was enough to keep him silent.
For now, though, he was happy simply to drive down the road with her sitting next to him.