Fumbled (The Girls of Beachmont #1)

FUMBLED

The Girls of Beachmont ~ Book 1

by T.K. Rapp

©
Copyright Notice

This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, places, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.
This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright
Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is
prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written
permission from the author, T.K. Rapp.

This book is licensed
for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to
other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was
not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and
purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

 

Cover Design by Amy
Queau & T.K. Rapp

Edited by Amy Jackson

Cover Images Courtesy ~
Krivosheev Vitaly & conrado/Bigstock.com

Copyright © 2015 T.K.
Rapp

All
rights reserved.

ASIN:
B018WF8QDW

Dedication

 

Spence.
I love you.

Always.

 
C h a p t e r
  
1

D
A N I

 

“No no no no no!” I
shouted as I twisted my hands on the steering wheel.

I hoped I had imagined
the rumbling coming from the back end of my black 1957 Bel Air, but then the
wobbling started. I pulled over in an old neighborhood and grumbled as I shut
the door behind me with more force than necessary. I checked the back tires
first, but found nothing. It wasn’t until I examined the front passenger side
that I noticed a large screw sticking out.

“Figures,” I said aloud,
kicking the flat tire as if that would actual help anything. It was the icing
on the cake to an already shitty day.

My boss, the principal,
had informed me thirty minutes before I I’d left for home that my after-school
program, River’s Kids, lacked the funding it needed for another school
year.
 
My entire summer was going to
be spent finding backers and donations, which meant my “vacation” would likely
be put on hold. That is, if I wanted the kids to have something to do the next
year.

I stared at the screw
protruding from the black rubber and willed it to disappear. Alas, I would not
be a Jedi today. I’d have to fix the tire myself.

Fortunately, my dad
taught my sister Grace and I how to change a flat long before we were allowed
to drive. My luck had run out, as I had never changed a flat until that moment.

“Dear God, please let me
remember how to do this,” I muttered as I gathered my hair into a messy
ponytail.

I took a few deep
breaths to calm my frayed nerves. But it didn’t help. It was after five in the
afternoon and the warm California sun caused my clothes to cling to me in the
worst way. Or maybe it was my irritation with the circumstances I found myself
in that made my temperature high.

The tools I needed were
in a box in the trunk, prepared by my dad a long time ago. I removed the cotton
shrug I wore over my thin white tank and tossed it into the back.

“All I wanted to do was
go home, open a bottle of wine, and binge-watch
Cake Wars
. Is that too much to ask?” I grumbled to myself.

A blue sedan slowed as
it passed by, but quickly sped off before offering to help.

I narrowed my eyes,
resisting the urge to flip him off. “No. Really, it’s fine. I’ve got this,” I
said sarcastically, as if the driver could hear me or even cared. “May your
practical piece of shit overheat and die.”

Funnily enough, being
snarky and bitter toward a complete stranger made me smile, shifting my mood
slightly. I kept up the charade as a few other cars continued to do the same,
none stopping to help.

Fifteen minutes of fake
reassurances that the lug nuts were getting looser didn’t improve my situation.
I knew I was screwed. The stupid bolts
had
to be welded in place. That was the only explanation for why I was unable to
remove them. I worked out daily, could bench-press sixty pounds, seventy-five
if I was spotted. It should have been easy.

“Come. On,” I grunted,
pulling one way and pushing another. “Stupid piece of shit!”

I threw the tire iron on
the ground and jumped out of the way when it bounced. The last thing I needed
was a bruise because I was a clumsy dumbass. I kicked the black rubber before
wiping my hand across my face to move the stray auburn hair that clung to my
forehead. My knees were blackened from the dirty asphalt and my hands were
covered in brownish muck.

I was a complete mess.

I wiped my hands on my
thighs and sat down on the curb, preparing to call my dad to drive over and
save me.

“Do you need some help?”
a low voice asked.

The sun blazed down,
obstructing my view. Not even shielding my eyes seemed to help. All I could
make out was a towering shadow a few feet away that was intimidating as hell. A
gray Range Rover was parked behind him across the street, and I assumed it
belonged to Mr. Tall-and-Helpful. He squatted down next to the tire, giving me
an unobstructed view of him.

He wore gold-rimmed
aviators and a baseball cap that hid his face well. But his full lips that were
curved into a smirk had me entranced. I tried to avert my eyes to anywhere but
his lips, knowing that he might be able to see exactly what I was thinking.

I cleared my throat and
dropped my gaze, and it landed on the white T-shirt clinging to his chest. His
pecs were straining beneath the thin material and it dawned on me as I
continued to look him over that his muscles appeared to be bulging
everywhere
. Hell, his neck was probably
the same size as one of my thighs.

After my breakup with
Philip the year before, I’d sworn to myself that I would never rely on a man
again—even for something as small as a tire change.

Don’t get me wrong, I
wasn’t a man-hater by any means. I loved men. But I’d depended on Philip so
heavily that I’d started to lose myself in the process. Once I’d found me
again, I didn’t want to let go.

But sometimes you need
help, whether you want to admit it or not.

“I—I’ll be fine,”
I lied, scrambling to my feet to give me some distance. I had a better view of
the guy and I was unable to say anything more. Mr. Tall-Helpful-
and-Sexy
let out a disarming huff and it
shook me from my perusal of his body.

“I’m sure you will,” he
said before stepping around me, picking up the tire iron, and pointing to the
flat.

“Sure.” I shrugged.
“I’ve only been trying for the last fifteen minutes.”

“I know.” He smirked as
he placed it over the lug nut. With one strong push, he loosened it.

“You know?” I
questioned, laughing softly. “How long have you been watching me?”

“Looked like you were
determined to do it alone. Didn’t want to step on your toes,” he said without a
hint of sarcasm.

“Oh,” was all I could
say in response.

His hands moved swiftly,
removing the rest of the lug nuts and setting them aside. I was fascinated at
how easy the whole thing was for him, and I was grateful for his help.

“I’m Tabor,” he said as
he put the car jack in place.

“Dani,” I answered. “And
thanks.”

“No problem.”

He flashed a smile over
his shoulder before he turned back to the tire. I touched my hair and realized
I probably looked like a frazzled mess. Sweat was running down my spine, my
clothes were smudged with dirt and grime, and I was pretty sure my mascara was
trudging into raccoon territory.

“So do you make it a
daily ritual to scour the neighborhood for damsels in distress, or do you
happen to live around here?” I asked, though it came out rude and not playful
as I intended.

I was grateful for his
help, but it wasn’t coming through in my tone. My friends always told me my
sarcastic, dry personality was off-putting, and when I wanted to rein it in, I
failed miserably.

“Are you asking me if I
come here often?” His eyebrow arched slightly over his sunglasses suggestively
and he laughed as I stared at him feeling mortified.

My cheeks flushed at his
response and I shook my head, thankful that he didn’t seem to mind my tone.
I truly suck at flirting. Is that what I’m
doing? Flirting?

“Nope,” he grunted,
removing the tire completely and not embarrassing me further. “Just happened to
be passing by.” Wiping the sweat from his brow, he gave me a lopsided smile
before rolling the spare into place.

I narrowed my eyes.
“Have I met you before?” I asked before smacking my forehead with my hand.

Shut. Up. Dani. You sound like an idiot. He already
insinuated that you were coming onto him.

“I mean, I don’t think I
have, I’ve never met anyone named Tabor before. That’s an interesting name.
I—I mean, you just look familiar,” I said, wishing the verbal vomit would
stop.

His shoulders shook in
amusement and I wished I could see his eyes. I didn’t like that he was able to
disguise himself so well, while everything I was thinking was painfully
obvious.

“Is that a nice way of
saying my name is weird?” he challenged.

“No. Not at all. I
really like your name. It’s just…different—good different—I mean,
it’s unique…” I said, shaking my head and smiling. “Forget it. I’m going to
shut up now.”

“I’m just kidding,” he
said, turning back to tire in front of him. “I’m pretty sure we haven’t met
before. I think I’d remember that face,” he said with a tone that stole my
breath.

Damn.

I tried not to watch the
muscles in his back constrict with every tug and push on the lug nuts, and had
to resist the urge to lean in closer.

Yep, flirting. Totally flirting.

“Well, thanks again for
doing this. I really did have it,” I added, hating that I was being “rescued”
by some random guy who thought I was hitting on him. I wanted to explain that I
didn’t
need
help, that I could do it
on my own. But before he’d walked up to help, I was seconds from calling Dad
anyway.

“I think you loosened it
for me,” he finally said, looking up at me. His mouth quirked up on one side
and I imagined there was a wink that went along with it.

He turned his hat
backwards as he continued working. His short blond hair stuck out beneath the
opening in the cap, contrasting against his light skin. I couldn’t see the
color of his eyes behind his sunglasses, but if they were blue, I was a goner.

“I’m pretty sure I did.”
I grinned.

This Tabor guy had the
smirk and compliments down to a science—or maybe it had been too long
since I’d been on the receiving end. Regardless, I was beginning to enjoy his
attention, a fact that shocked me.

“So what do you do,
Dani?”

“No way, you’re a
complete stranger, I’m not telling you that. What if you’re a stalker or
something, and then I’m the idiot who told you exactly how and where to find
me?”

“I’m changing your tire.
Pretty sure that means I’m a nice guy.”

“You think…but Ted Bundy
was pretty smooth too,” I answered, raising a brow. “What if you planted a line
of nails six blocks that way and then hung out in your SUV, just waiting for
your next victim?”

He smiled. “Was that a
backhanded compliment? Smooth, but creepy?”

“I’m just saying,” I
said with a shrug.

“I promise, I’m not a
murderer.” He chuckled, and I died a little. That laugh flustered my inner
sensibilities and made me want to say something funny to hear it again. Stupid,
hot laugh.

“All right, point taken.
You shouldn’t trust me,” he said. “You already know my name. What else do you
want to know?”

I laughed and raised a
brow. “Who said I wanted to know anything?”

“Ouch, my ego,” he
answered, placing a hand over his heart.

“I’m sure you’ll be
fine,” I teased. “You have that whole big-muscle, tough-guy thing going for
you.”

I was only teasing him,
but the longer the silence continued the more awkward it became. He picked up
the tire and began working to fix it again.

He stayed silent,
letting the quiet afternoon hang thickly in the air between us while he glanced
back at me with a soft smile on his lips. I was the first to look away, with
embarrassment flooding my cheeks. I felt like a jerk for wearing my emotions on
my sleeve once again.

“So you’re a teacher,
huh?”

“How’d you guess?” I
asked, stunned.

His muscles flexed as he
slid the spare into place, but I quickly looked away before I could be caught
ogling.

“My mom’s a teacher,
too. She’s the only person I know that has that many papers in the back of her
car. What grade do you teach?”

“Seventh,” I said.

“You didn’t just get off
work, did you?”

“Sort of. I run an
after-school program for at-risk teens. Today was our last day before the
summer break.”

“That’s really cool,” he
said, flashing me another smile. It took only minutes for him to fasten the lug
nuts and finish up. He wiped his hands on his jeans and I felt bad that he’d
messed up a perfectly nice pair of pants. “So where do you teach?” he asked.

“I think I’ve already
said too much,” I said, my cheeks flaming hot as if he’d read my mind. “I have
no idea who you are.”

The moment the words
came out of my mouth, he cocked his head to the side as if he knew something I
didn’t. Standing, he towered over me and I felt insignificant next to him. As I
ran through a mental database to see if I’d ever met him before, I kept coming
up blank. I wanted to see his eyes. You can tell a lot about a man by his eyes.
But Tabor had yet to remove his sunglasses.

Finally, his smile
returned. “Then let me take you out and you can get to know me.”

My lips parted and I was
a little stunned by the offer. But I kept my cool and straightened my posture,
plastering a grin on my face. “Does that line really work?” I asked coyly.

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