Riding the edge, p.3
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       Riding the Edge, p.3
 

         Part #4 of Wild Riders series by Jaci Burton
Page 2

  Author: Jaci Burton

  Which was why she stood in front of the mirror decked out in a skintight top, body-hugging jeans, and leather.

  “I’ll fit right in, huh?”

  Lacey giggled and threw herself on Ava’s bed. “Well, at least physically. It’s a unique lifestyle, Ava. It might take some getting used to. It’s not all five-star hotels and room service. ”

  Ava glared at Lacey in the mirror. “I’m hardly spoiled, Lace. ”

  Lacey rolled her eyes. “Please. Senator’s daughter. Only the finest schools. And the idea of sawdust and peanuts on the floor, not to mention spilled beer, probably makes you want to faint. Look at this place. No knickknacks or art on the walls. ” Lacey ran her finger over the bare tabletop next to the bed. “Not even a speck of dust. You have no clutter. You’re a clean freak. ”

  Ava lifted her chin. “I am not. I just like . . . order in my life. ”

  Lacey laughed. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. A biker lifestyle is anything but orderly. Are you sure this is what you want?”

  Lacey used to like things orderly and neat, too. Ava went and sat next to Lacey on the bed, surprised that the leather she wore was soft enough to give when she sat. “Yes. It’s what I want. I’ll give it a try, anyway. I think it’ll be fun. ”

  Lacey grabbed her hands. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re going to be riding with us. I’ve missed you so much. ”

  “I’ve missed you, too. We don’t see each other enough. ”

  “I was afraid we’d drift apart. But you’ve been busy with school, and that’s just not my life anymore. ”

  Ava wanted to ask her why it wasn’t, but Lacey had made it clear she didn’t want to talk about school anymore, so she let it pass. “Where’s your boyfriend?”

  Lacey grinned. “He’s on the Strip now. Probably getting drunk with all his friends. ”

  She said it with such pride. Ava resisted wrinkling her nose. “Uh, great. ”

  Lacey looked at her watch. “We should get going. We’re meeting them at eight. ”

  “Okay. ” Despite only being here for Lacey, Ava ran into the bathroom to take one last look. She had no idea if she looked appropriate or like a fish out of water. She supposed she’d have to take Lacey’s word for it.

  Finally she’d get a chance to see Lacey’s world. Spend more time with Lacey’s boyfriend.

  Then she’d find out if she had anything to worry about.

  Riding again with Bo and the Hellraisers was a lot like old times, and then again not. Last time Rick had ridden with Bo and the gang, they’d been kids and low on the totem pole. Ten years later and Bo was in the upper echelons of the organization, riding lead in this particular group.

  That said a lot about what Bo had been doing for the past ten years. And that meant whatever the Hellraisers had been doing, Bo was really good at it. They rode the Strip for a while, and Rick realized it really had been ten years since he’d been there. A lot had changed. Growth had exploded the Strip. There were more casinos, hotels, and a lot more to do than just gambling now. He gawked while he rode, barely noticing the throng of Hellraisers adding to their numbers until the congested group pulled to a stop in the older part of town. Bike upon bike pulled into the parking area. It looked like a freakin’ parade. There must have been a hundred Hellraisers by the time the last one parked.

  “Damn. The Hellraisers have expanded. ”

  Bo nodded as they walked from the parking area to the street. “Membership grows by about ten to fifteen every year. We’ve gotten really popular. ”

  “Yeah? What do you attribute that to?”

  Bo grinned. “We get laid a lot. Guys notice all the chicks that have joined the club. ”

  Rick laughed. “I guess I came back at just the right time. ”

  Bo slung his arm around Rick’s shoulder. “Yeah, you did. ”

  They got to the corner and a flash shot by Rick. A skinny female leaped onto Bo, wrapped her legs around him, and planted one hot, tongue-involved kiss on his lips. Bo grabbed the woman by the ass and held onto her, returning the kiss.

  When he broke the kiss, the woman squealed. “I missed you today, baby!”

  “Missed you, too,” Bo said, letting the woman slide to the ground. He wound an arm around her waist. “Lacey, this is my cousin, Rick Benetti. Rick, my girlfriend, Lacey. ”

  So Bo had a girlfriend, huh? Interesting. And a pretty one at that. Not at all like the skanky girls he used to hang out with. This one had straight brown hair, a nice body, and pretty blue eyes.

  “Your cousin? Wow. I didn’t know you had a cousin. ” Lacey held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Rick. ”

  Rick shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, too, Lacey. And I’ve been out of town the past few years, so that’s why you didn’t know about me. ”

  “Really. Are you joining the Hellraisers for bike week?”

  “I am. ”

  “Have a girl with you?”

  “No. I ride solo. ”

  She grinned. “That’s perfect. My best friend is here and she doesn’t have anyone to ride with. ”

  “Uh, I don’t think—”

  The woman had been standing behind Bo. With all of Lacey’s flash and exuberance, he hadn’t even seen her. He did now as Lacey pulled her in front.

  Wow. To Rick, one woman was just as good as another.

  This one was different. She was stunning, with rich black hair, silvery gray eyes, and a lush body that rocked his dick into shocked awareness.

  And she looked damned familiar.

  “Rick, this is my very best friend, Ava. ”

  This was Ava Vargas? It had to be. She looked a lot like the picture he’d been given, only the picture must have been a few years old. This Ava was a hell of a lot sexier now that she was gift-wrapped in leather.

  And she’d just been dropped right into his lap.

  TWO

  Ava sized up the biker she’d just been introduced to. Tall, damn fine-looking, with dark hair, dark eyes, in need of a shave, and looking all too dangerous. Classic biker look in jeans, chaps, and leather jacket.

  Wow. Just . . . wow.

  “Hey, Ava. ” Rick held out his hand.

  Polite, too. She hadn’t expected that. She slid her hand in his and felt the sizzle of . . . something electric and very warm.

  “Nice to meet you, Rick. ”

  “This is just perfect, isn’t it?” Lacey said, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “I was hoping you would find someone to ride with. With Bo’s cousin here, you have a seat now. ”

  “Yes. Perfect. ” Ava couldn’t help staring at Rick. She supposed she had these preconceived notions of bikers. Dirty, scruffy, mean, and scary looking. None of those characteristics fit Rick. Or, for that matter, Lacey’s boyfriend, Bo, who was tall, lean, and very attractive. He resembled his cousin in many ways.

  “Hi, Bo,” she said.

  “Howdy, Ava. You look great in leather. Glad you decided to join up with us for bike week. ”

  Bo was friendly, too, had been since she’d first met him at one of the bars. Maybe she’d expected something different.

  “Let’s take a walk, see what’s up around here tonight,” Bo said.

  He slung his arm around Lacey’s shoulder and off they went, leaving Ava alone with Rick. And about a hundred other bikers, who started brushing by them.

  Ava had no choice but to slide her gaze over at Rick.

  He smirked at her. Could he see right through her as the fraud she was?

  “You look lost. ”

  She lifted her head, her pulse skittering just looking at him. “No, really, I’m fine. I’m sorry about Lacey dumping me on you. Really, you’re free to go. You don’t have to babysit me. ”

  “I’m a lot of things, darlin’, but a babysitter isn’t one of them. Come on. ” He grabbed her hand and they started walking. Slow.

  “S
hould we catch up to Bo and Lacey?”

  “I’m not attached at the hip to my cousin. I’m fine right where we are. ”

  Ava supposed she was going to have to be, since Lacey didn’t seem to be concerned about leaving her with some guy neither of them knew. And she and Rick had fallen farther back in the crowd of Hellraisers, so now they were bringing up the rear. This guy could drag her into an alley and murder her, ravage her. She could disappear. Would anyone even notice? Or care?

  Yeah, her imagination was definitely in overdrive, wasn’t it?

  Nice.

  “You’re sweating. ”

  She jerked her gaze to him. “What?”

  He lifted his arm, showing her where their hands were linked. “Your palm is sweating. ”

  She pulled her hand away and wiped it on her jeans. “Oh. Sorry. ”

  Again, that smile of his. The one that said he knew why.

  “Are you nervous? I won’t bite, ya know. ”

  And wasn’t this just the perfect time for her imagination to conjure him doing just that. Right on the nape of her neck. While they were in bed. Honestly. She didn’t have vivid fantasies of men doing wicked things to her. Especially men she’d just met. Men she didn’t know at all. That wasn’t where her mind went. Usually. But he had that sexy, bad boy look about him that made her shiver all over. And apparently sweat.

  “No, I’m not nervous at all. ”

  “You’re a terrible liar. ”

  “Spoken by someone who’s so good at it?”

  He winked. “Yes ma’am. ”

  She laughed, and felt the tension in her body begin to dissolve.

  “So how long have you been with the Hellraisers?”

  How was she supposed to answer that? She didn’t want to appear as if she had no idea what she was doing, even though she had no idea what she was doing. “Not long. ”

  “How long have you been riding?”

  She looked down the street to see if she could spot Bo and Lacey. “Oh, not very long. ”

  “Do you like bikes?”

  “I find them fascinating. How long have you been riding?”

  “Since I got my driver’s license at sixteen. Before that, actually. I rode a bike before I drove a car. I’ve always loved them. ”

  Now she focused on Rick. “Really. Why?”

  He shrugged. “I don’t know. Motorcycles were just a part of what we did back then. ”

  “We?”

  “Bo and me. ”

  “A family thing, huh?”

  “Yeah, I guess you could say that. ”

  “So everyone in your family had bikes?”

  He let out a soft laugh. “No. Just Bo and me. ”

  “Oh, I see. You two must be close. ”

  “We were. We got separated for a while. ”

  “How so?”

  “I was out of town the past ten years. ”

  “Doing what?”

  “This and that. ”

  Vague answers. Things he didn’t want to say. It made her curious, made her want to know more about him. “You grew up here?”

  “Yes. ”

  “So you’ve just come back home. ”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Welcome home then, Rick. ”

  He smiled. “Thanks. ”

  “I’m sure it’s nice to reconnect with your family again. ”

  “I don’t have family. There’s just Bo. ”

  “I’m sorry. ”

  “Don’t be. ”

  She heard the venom in his short, clipped words, wished she could ask more, but there was a finality in his statement that told her he wasn’t going to explain further. Any time the topic of family arose, his chin came up and something in his eyes went . . . cold. If there was one thing she’d learned in her studies it was how to read body language.

  The Strip was alive tonight, people crowding the sidewalks on both sides, wanting to see and be seen. She’d heard about bike week, but never took part, never cared. It wasn’t her lifestyle. She was always in school, always studying, had gone from getting her undergraduate degree to her master’s in social work. And next up would be her doctorate.
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