Megan O’Brien heard the popping sound just before she felt the steering wheel being jerked out of her hand. She quickly let her foot off the gas pedal and firmly regained control of the vehicle as she eased the car over to the side of the road. The thump, thump, thump of the flat tire smacking the road with each revolution, parodying the beat of her heart as she realized exactly what had happened. She’d had a flat tire on probably what was the most barren stretch of road on her whole trip. Megan was on her way back from a fall writer’s conference at UNCW where she had been asked to teach a class about the proper way to prepare a book outline. She was just twenty-six but already she had lucked into a few book deals and was an aspiring, meaning broke, writer. When the college had offered to pay her traveling expenses and a small gratuity for a two-day seminar, she had leapt at the chance.
Now she wondered if those traveling expenses included fixing her flat tire. She unhooked her seat belt and opened the car door. Fortunately, the flat was on the curb side so at least she wouldn’t have to worry about someone hitting her if she was able to put on the spare. She went back and opened the trunk. Of course it was full of books, files, folders, and luggage. She started unloading everything from the trunk, putting it all on the back seat so she wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening to it. She was on the third carton when a car pulled in behind hers.
She looked back as she carried a carton to the back seat of her ten-year old Pontiac Bonneville. A man in his late thirties, or even early forties, got out and ambled towards her. A feeling of trepidation crept up her spine as she remembered all the scary Stephen King novels she’d read. Why was she thinking the worst case scenario instead of the best? Her practicality returned as she reasoned that surely he would know a lot more about changing a tire than she did. “Need some help there?” he asked with a wide grin. He ambled over to the side of the car that was lower and knelt as he looked at the flat. He was rangy, almost to the point of being gaunt. His graying brown hair was in bad need of a cut. That, along with his scratchy-looking salt and pepper beard growth gave him an all over grizzled look.
“Just had a blow out. It was probably all my fault. I knew it was time to start thinking about replacing these tires. I guess I just didn’t think it was as urgent as it apparently was,” she replied with a self-mocking smile.
Megan was petite and slender, reaching five foot only by wearing stacked heels or standing on her toes. One would think she was a student on campus instead of the teacher. She had short brown curly hair that framed her small oval face, with an auburn shading that shimmered in the full light. It was a throw back to her Irish ancestry. While her dark brown eyes, flecked with green, were filled with the seriousness of rich mahogany, her lightly arched eyebrows were expressive enough to let the imp in her show through. Her small up-turned nose with the merest scattering of freckles, gave her a juvenile look and promised to hide her maturing age for years to come. Her bow shaped lips framed a small mouth very sensuously. Pink and full, they fell into a natural smile unless she was pouting.
“You got a spare and a jack? I think I can get it off,” he said smiling to himself at the secret double meaning of his words.
Ducking out from under the back seat she turned and walked back to the trunk. “Only one more box to move and then I think I can get to everything. Should be a spare and jack in this well under here,” she said as she indicated the felt covered bottom of the trunk.
He took the last carton out of the trunk and carried it to the back seat on the opposite side of the car. As Megan helped him to maneuver it inside she asked him what his name was. “James Johnson, but everybody just calls me J.J.”
“Well, J.J. I sure am glad you happened by,” she said as she stood up. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a blue and gray State Trooper cruiser drive by on the other side of the median, going the opposite direction. J.J. was still hunched over in the back seat and didn’t see it as it flashed by or he might have had other ideas about hanging around.
Megan removed the well cover and pulled out the spare and the jack. Within ten minutes the two of them had the spare on the car and the flat in the trunk. Megan lifted her hand to shake J.J’s grimy one, saying,“ I don’t know how I can thank you for stopping and helping me. I really appreciate it. Can I give you some money for your trouble? It would have cost me at least a tow bill if you hadn’t come along.”
J.J. mumbled something and hung his head down a bit, indicating that he wouldn’t be adverse to that idea so she went around to the front passenger side to get her purse.
Before she knew what had happened he had her pinned to the front seat with his knee high up between her thighs pushing her short skirt up to her crotch, his arms holding her shoulders down. She was shocked, scared, and bewildered all at once. This couldn’t be happening to her, she knew better than to let this happen to her!