18. My Beautiful Reward

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"If I say yes, will you decide to buy a truck off a retired farmer and drive yourself back to Nowhere?" She's both hoping and mocking all at once.

"Nope," he grins. Michele can't help but smile back, even though she tries hard not to.

They reach the bottom of the stairs and follow the last of the crowd from the stadium. "I think we can skip the ducking," she responds.

"Whew," Harry replies.

"Especially if I stick you in the back and cover you with the blanket." For a moment, she thinks he might believe her.

"Nice try," he giggles, "but the town already saw us together sharing a blanket. They would be suspicious if you didn't drive me back."

"Probably use the old pillory outside of the courthouse to publicly humiliate me for leaving you behind," Michele rolls her eyes. "Pretty sure they love you more than they love me."

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10:23 p.m. Friday, October 8, 2021

"You think so?" Harry asks. "I would still say you're the golden child who can do no wrong in Nowhere."

Her laughter bursts forth, and he regrets saying something that would make her laugh -- until it occurs to him that her laugh has changed in the last week. It's rich and hearty, coming in bursts. He cannot help his positive (and unexpected) reaction to her mirth.

"Me? The golden child?" She pushes out the words between her spasms of laughter as she unlocks the back compartment, waiting for Harry to place the picnic basket and blanket inside.

With a smirk, he maneuvers between her and the bumper, his legs rubbing against hers as he stands facing her. He enjoys watching the way her eyes flare as he stands just a breath away from her.

"What are you doing?" she whispers, looking around the parking lot. Her arms are overhead on the door, ready to pull it closed. With this angle, her breasts are clearly outlined in her Springsteen shirt, the bottom straining against the barrier of her belted blue jeans.

What IS he doing? It's a great question. It's almost like he's -- flirting? She looks so cute when she's agitated. Her eyebrows create a curved pathway towards her nose, and her lips with their pale pink color all but disappear when she purses her mouth that way. How has he failed to notice how incredibly adorable she is?

"You said I had to ride in the back. I was just getting into position," Harry reveals, attempting to maintain a serious face.

Apparently Michele is on to him, though, as she starts to swing the door down, "Of course! Move your feet then." As the door descends, Harry pushes back on it with his hand, stepping into Michele until his chest is touching hers. Is it his imagination or are her nipples more pointy? As the air leaves her lungs, he draws her exhale into his nose. She smells of winter and comfort and conjures visions of lying on rugs in front of fireplaces.

His eyes flick to her lips as she stands as still as a statue, her breathing shallow.

Voices drift in their direction: "I could have sworn it was Harry Styles, but seriously. What the heck would he be doing in Cushing?"

The comment drags his attention back to reality. "We better get out of here before a mob comes to strip my shirt and prove I'm the celebrity they seek by comparing my tattoos to some magazine."

Blinking twice, Michele doesn't move for a moment.

"Michele?" Harry asks, placing his hands on her waist. "Time to make our escape."

The voices get closer, "He's so dreamy! How could it be him? He's like super famous and all."

Michele's head jerks in their direction. "Quick. Get in the front seat and turn your head from the door."

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