Riding the edge, p.22
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       Riding the Edge, p.22
 

         Part #4 of Wild Riders series by Jaci Burton
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Page 21

  Author: Jaci Burton

  She laid her palm on his chest. “I wasn’t before. I am now. ”

  His cock twitched. “You’re good for my ego. ”

  “You’re good for all of me. ”

  Son of a bitch. Women did not give him warm feelings and an unfamiliar tightness in his chest. This wasn’t happening. Not to him. He didn’t fall in love. He didn’t even know what love was. Love wasn’t for a guy like him who’d grown up in foster care, who’d never had the care of even one parent, let alone two, who’d spent all his time on the streets, who’d never had a woman tell him she loved him. He didn’t know the meaning of the word love.

  Did he?

  No. He didn’t. Ava was an assignment. A fun assignment, for sure, but just an assignment. And when it was over, he was walking away. He was always walking away first, before someone walked away from him.

  What the fuck would he do with love? With a woman in his life? His kind of life wasn’t suitable for a woman in it, and especially not a woman like Ava.

  Even if he wanted to—try to make things work between them—he’d be no better than Bo if he tried to drag Ava into his lifestyle. She had a career ahead of her. More school. Her Ph. D. , followed by a job in social work. Her future didn’t include him any more than his included hers.

  But they could have fun fucking until it was over. Then he’d walk away, disappear, and she’d move on with her life, thinking he was some dickhead biker who’d found better things to do. Yeah, it would make him look like an asshole, but it was better for her this way. She’d forget about him soon enough. They always did.

  But for now? Yeah, he’d enjoy the hell out of her for now.

  “So I’m good for all of you, huh? I’ll have to see ‘all of you’ to find out if I’m good for it. ”

  She laughed. “I’m sure that can be arranged . . . uh, later. ”

  “What? Not here in the middle of the party?”

  “You have a wicked mind, Rick. ”

  He bent her over his arm and kissed her, long and hard, then tilted her back up on her feet. “And that’s why you like me. ”

  She blew out a breath and smoothed her skirt, then leaned into him to whisper in his ear. “That’s one of the reasons why I like you. But not the only one. ”

  She pivoted and walked away, found Lacey, and the two of them took up a conversation.

  Yeah, he was in deep shit with Ava. The woman rocked him back on his heels. He usually found women pretty predictable. Easy to come by, easy to fuck, easy to drop and forget.

  Ava? There was nothing easy about her.

  For the next few hours, Ava divided her time between him and Lacey. He liked that she didn’t cling to him, needing him for her entertainment. She even talked to some of the other people there, since there were women as well as men. She wasn’t uncomfortable at all in her surroundings, though he kept an eye on her at all times. If any of the guys got too close, thinking she might be there on her own, he was right there by her side to let those guys know she was off limits. From the scowl on his face they got the message loud and clear and backed off right away.

  Which seemed to amuse Ava. She started referring to him as her Knight in Shining Armor.

  If only she knew how little that applied to him.

  Rick divided his time between keeping an eye on Ava, and surreptitiously watching Bo. Though Bo made no moves other than drinking and partying with his guests and with Lacey, Rick knew tonight was the night, and he planned to be right on top of it when it happened.

  The suite was packed a little after one in the morning. Lacey was either drunk or stoned, sitting on one of the plush white leather sofas near the open doors by the balcony, looking pale as death and like she might puke at any minute.

  Which gave Bo the perfect opportunity to slip away. He motioned to the guys he’d been talking to earlier, and they walked out the front door.

  “Lacey doesn’t look like she feels well. ” Rick pointed to Lacey, and that’s all it took.

  “Oh, no. I’d better go take care of her,” Ava said.

  Ava was off seeing to Lacey, which left him free to follow Bo. He walked out the front door and down the stairs, taking three at a time so he’d be there before the elevator. He inched the main floor door open, watching as the elevator doors slid open.

  Bo and his friends came out, made a left turn, and headed in his direction. Rick closed the stair doors in a hurry and hoped like hell they weren’t going to take the stairs. After counting a few seconds, he breathed a sigh of relief and cracked the door open again.

  Bo and the others had headed though the back doors and toward the parking garage.

  Rick followed, keeping a respectable distance so Bo wouldn’t see him.

  Lacey’s car had been parked outside the garage, toward the back of the lot, far beyond where anyone usually parked.

  Either Bo had her park there, or had moved her car to this remote location.

  Rick moved around the back of the building where it wasn’t lit so he could observe without being seen.

  And watched another car pull up beside Lacey’s. They cut the lights, the trunk popped open, and within a minute they’d opened Lacey’s trunk and popped down a false inside top from the hood of her trunk. In the space there, Bo and his friends placed several packages. It was too dark to see shapes or sizes or even how many, but Rick knew it was the drugs Lacey was going to transport across the border tomorrow.

  Asshole.

  They finished up and climbed into the car that had dropped off the drugs, then sped out of there. Rick melted into the side of the building until they passed, then walked toward Lacey’s car.

  He waited a good fifteen minutes to be sure no one came around.

  They didn’t. It took a little maneuvering but Rick had been stealing cars since he was twelve years old. No amount of today’s technology could get in his way. He popped the trunk and the false inside top, whistling low as he saw the booty there.

  Cocaine. Nicely packaged up in tight, brown-wrapped bundles. Probably the same amount on the other side, too.

  If Lacey were caught by the authorities smuggling this amount of dope, she’d do maximum time.

  And Bo wouldn’t give a shit. He’d just pick up some new, naïve chick and do the same thing to her.

  That wasn’t going to happen.

  Not this trip.

  Never again.

  TWELVE

  Ava finished wiping up the bathroom in the suite, washed up, then switched off the light and went into the bedroom to check one more time on Lacey.

  Her breathing was shallow, but she seemed to be resting now.

  God, what a mess. Ava had barely gotten Lacey into the bathroom before she’d lost it. She didn’t know what Lacey had eaten, drank, smoked, or snorted, but she’d heaved for nearly an hour straight, then nothing at all. Once she was empty, Ava had cleaned her up and poured her into bed. Light snores were all she heard now.

  If that was the result of drugs, alcohol, and excess partying, Ava wanted no part of it. She was grateful all she’d managed was a few hors d’oeuvres and one glass of wine. Right now her stomach felt queasy after witnessing Lacey’s gastronomical debacle. She turned off the light, closed the door, and went down the hall, making a beeline for the bar so she could grab a club soda with lime.

  She searched for Bo, found him, and told him Lacey was sick and out cold.

  He rolled his eyes. “She never could hold her stuff. Guess my party is over for the night. ”

  How sweet of him to be so concerned about her. “She’ll be fine. Thanks for asking. ”

  She walked away before she could say anything more to him, like what she thought about his inability to watch over his own girlfriend, and went in search of Rick. He was just stepping back through the front door.

  She quirked a brow as he approached. “Where did you go?”

 
“I had to make a phone call and it was too noisy in here. ”

  “International?”

  He laughed. “Well, it’s not like I know anyone in Mexico. I have a line on a job. ”

  She glanced down at her watch. “It’s almost three in the morning. ”

  “It wasn’t an interview. Buddy of mine I’ve been trying to get hold of finally got back to me, and I didn’t want to miss the call again since he’s on the road a lot. ”

  “Oh. So, what kind of job is it?”

  “Construction. That’s why he’s hard to get hold of. He’s leaving in a couple hours for Texas and wanted me to hop on this job with him. ”

  Her stomach clenched. “Do you need to leave right now?”

  “No. I’ll meet him in a couple days. ”

  “Oh. Well, that’s great. ” She ignored the stab of disappointment. Of course he was leaving. So was she. They both had lives separate from each other. This . . . thing between them wasn’t permanent. How many times did she have to keep reminding herself of that?

  Many, apparently.

  “How’s Lacey? She didn’t look good. ”

  At least someone cared about her. “She’s okay. She was pretty sick there for a while, but she’s resting now. ”

  He swept his hand down her back. “She’s lucky she has a friend like you to look after her. ”

  “Thank you, Rick. That’s nice of you to say. I’m not sure how much help I am to her, but I was glad to be here. ”

  “You help her more than you know. Not everyone has someone to care about them. ”

  He led her to the table where the food was, his cryptic words ringing in her ears.

  The party had started to break up, so they found Bo and said good night, made plans to meet tomorrow. Bo and Rick would follow on their bikes while Ava and Lacey drove the car back into the States.

  But for now, all Ava could think about was getting back to her room and being alone with Rick. Their last night in Mexico, alone. Probably their last night together, period.

  She felt the melancholy settle over her, but brushed it away, refusing to let it ruin what little time she had left with Rick.

  The sound of the water crashing against the shore was a musical interlude as they stepped into the room. She was going to miss this tropical paradise.

  “This has been a nice little vacation,” she said, stepping out onto the balcony. “I’m afraid I’ll be spoiled when it comes time to settle back into academia again. ”

  Rick came up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. The smell of the ocean, salty and tangy, tantalized her almost as much as the man whose body heated her.

  “You’re way too practical to be swept away by vacations. ”

  She turned in his arms. “Am I? I’m not so sure. You’ve swept me away. ”

  “Yeah?”

  She tangled her fingers in his hair, loving its softness, so incongruous to the hard body pressed against her. “Yeah. I think I like this. ”

  “It’s a fantasy. Not reality. Reality is you being a social worker, doing the right thing, helping kids. ”

  Her brows rose. “Really? I thought you didn’t believe in social workers. ”

  “I didn’t believe in the ones who’d been assigned to me. I believe in you. I believe you can help people. ”

  The sting of tears pricked her eyes. He had such faith in her. She wasn’t so sure she had that same faith in herself. But to know a guy from the streets, a man the system failed, still believed in that system, in her ability to effect change, made her heart leap.

  “Thank you. ” The words tumbled out in a whisper, her heart filled with emotions she couldn’t—wouldn’t—think about. She sifted her fingers through his hair, then let her palm slide down his cheek, over the scruff of his unshaven jaw. “You do mystifying things to my heart and soul, Rick. ”

  This time, he didn’t smile. “I’m just a guy. A guy with a lot of flaws. ”

  “No one is perfect. I’m not looking for perfect. ”
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