Learning to Ride

Learning to Ride by Erin Knightley Read Free Book Online

Book: Learning to Ride by Erin Knightley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erin Knightley
to reach him.
    She stopped just on the other side of the car door. “That came out all wrong,” she said, a little out of breath. She paused to draw in a steadying lungful of air before setting her golden gaze squarely on him. “It’s not you. I’m just…overly protective of my reputation here.”
    “Ah, the old ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line,” he drawled, one eyebrow lifted.
    “I’m serious,” she said, stepping closer in her earnestness and setting one hand on the door ledge beside his elbow. “I like you, and I’m sorry if I came across as ungrateful or rude, but it was a shock having my coworkers dissect my personal life. This merger is the biggest thing ever to happen to my career, and I won’t derail it by losing my colleagues’ respect.”
    He wanted to make another smart remark but stifled it. It was big of her to come after him like this, and he really couldn’t fault her for not wanting to be gossiped about. He’d spent his entire adult life doing the same. “People won’t respect you less for making friends, Madeline.”
    She gave a short laugh. “Is that what we’re doing?” she said wryly. “I want the people here to take me seriously, and I don’t think that’ll happen if I get involved with the local heartthrob. I’m not giving all the local Tanner fans further reason to hate me, thank you very much.”
    “Heartthrob?” he said, letting out a crack of laughter. “I suppose I should be flattered.”
    Rolling her eyes, she said, “As if you didn’t know what the women in this town think of you.” Her lips tugged into a small grin.
    “I’m more interested in what you think of me,” he replied lightly, only half teasing. “But all that aside, you, Miss Harper, jumped to conclusions.”
    Her eyebrows tilted up. “About what?”
    “You assumed that I was ignoring the fact that you wanted to stay beneath the gossip radar. I understand that you don’t want to draw attention to us, and I respect that.”
    “But you asked me to go out to eat with you. How else was I to interpret that? There are like two restaurants in this whole town. It’d be impossible not to be seen.”
    “Now, see, that’s where you’re wrong,” he said, letting the words percolate in a bit of mystery. He climbed into the truck and pulled the door closed. Leaning his head through the open window, he gave her a challenging grin and nodded toward the passenger side. “Get in.”
    She looked unconvinced, but he could see he’d piqued her interest. “I don’t have my purse. Or my phone, for that matter. And where do you want to go?”
    He turned the key and the old truck roared to life. “You don’t need either where we’re going. Just trust me.” For some reason, it was important to him that she have a little faith in him. If she didn’t, then he’d know for sure that she didn’t believe he was a man of his word.
    For a few seconds, she stood rooted in place. He held his breath, wanting her to agree, but wanting more for her to want to agree. Finally, she shot him a wide, adventurous smile that he felt all the way to the pit of his stomach. She’d taken the bait.
    Coming around to the passenger side, she pulled open the door and climbed in. “Alright, cowboy. I’ll trust you. Don’t make me regret it.”
    Triumph and excitement warmed his blood as he sent her a crooked smile and thumbed the brim of his hat. “Yes ma’am. You have my word.”

Chapter 8
    It was the lawn bag pickup that had done her in.
    Madeline had stood firm in her determination to cut ties with Tanner all the way up until the moment he had stopped to gather the rest of the trash bags and carry them from her yard. Who does that after being told, in no uncertain terms, to hit the road?
    It had made her feel like a complete jerk. Worse, an ungrateful jerk. He had worked so hard all day long, and even after being kicked to the curb, he’d still followed through with his commitment to help her. Her conscience wouldn’t

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