Riding the edge, p.5
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       Riding the Edge, p.5
 

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

  Author: Jaci Burton

  Ava shuddered at the clutter, clenched her hands into fists, and forced herself to refrain from jumping in to straighten things up.

  She’d grown up in a spotless environment, her mother a politician’s wife almost from day one. Ava had never been allowed to leave her toys lying around, and had always been required to pick them up every night before bed. Of course all her toys had been relegated to the playroom, never in any of the common areas of the house.

  As she got older, she remembered coming home from college and not being allowed to study at the kitchen table. She’d been sent to her room. After her first semester she’d stopped coming home. It was more comfortable—more homey—at school. Though even then, she kept her room at college immaculate. Habit, she supposed.

  The chaos at this house was truly something to behold. Loud and raucous, a hundred bikers crammed into this guy’s house, talking over the music, laughing, sitting anywhere and everywhere, from the fireplace to the stairs to the kitchen and even spilling into the front and backyards. And discarded beer cans everywhere.

  “Want a beer?” Rick asked.

  “Sure. Thanks. ”

  He reached into a round metal bucket and grabbed two cans, popped them open, and handed her one. She took a couple gulps, looked around for a napkin, and of course didn’t find one. Not in a guy’s house anyway, so she did the next best thing—she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, glancing around to see if anyone had noticed.

  “Manners don’t count here. Quit worrying about it. ”

  “Sorry. Old habits die hard. ”

  “You can drool all over yourself in this group and no one will say a word. ”

  She laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind. ”

  Instead of staying put in one place—something she’d probably have done—Rick began to wander around. He knew a lot of these people, stopped to say hello, and was nice enough to introduce her to those he talked with. Most of the guys seemed surprised to see him, asked where he’d been, indicated it had been a long time since he’d been around. They all welcomed him back.

  Ava wondered where he’d been, too.

  “You son of a bitch. ”

  Ava froze at the angry tone of someone behind her. Rick pulled his attention from the person he’d been talking to toward the sound of the voice, then smiled.

  “Hey, asshole, what’s up?”

  She stepped out of the way as the two men shook hands and laughed.

  “Goddamn. What did you do, fall into a black hole or somethin’?” the guy asked.

  He was big—all over—a giant of a man. Even his hair had as wild a look as his face, tumbling in wild curls halfway down his back.

  “Something like that. Great to see you, Joey. ”

  Ah. So this must be the guy who owned the house.

  “Joey, this is my friend Ava. ”

  Joey turned to her, eyed her from head to foot, then picked her up and planted a big kiss on her cheek. “How ya doin’, sweetheart?”

  When he set her down, she exhaled. “Fine. Thank you. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for having us over. ”

  Joey paused, then laughed and turned to Rick. “Polite little thing, ain’t she?”

  Rick’s lips lifted. “Yeah. ”

  “So, you still in the life?”

  Rick shrugged. “More or less. What about you?”

  “Hellraiser ’til I die. Bo’s done a fine job growing the gang. He keeps us busy runnin’—”

  Joey seemed to notice Ava standing there. “He keeps us busy running around. ”

  “I can see that. I remember when there were just ten or fifteen of us. ”

  “Now there are over a hundred in this area. He’s done good. And I know he’ll be happy to have you back. ”

  “Yeah, I figured it was time to come home. ”

  Joey smacked Rick on the back. “About damn time, too. ”

  Joey moved off to see some other people and Rick and Ava finished their beers. Rick reached into the nearest tub for another, opened it, and handed it to her while they wandered around.

  “You seem to know a lot of people,” she said.

  “A few. Some I don’t recognize. A lot of these people are new. ”

  “Joey said you’d been gone awhile?”

  “Yeah. Traveling. ”

  “That must have been exciting. ”

  He laughed. “It can be. ”

  She suddenly wanted to know more about him. He must lead such an interesting life. “Who do you ride with when you travel? Groups like this one, or smaller?”

  “No one. I ride alone. ”

  She couldn’t even imagine that. “Really. Don’t you get lonely?”

  He slanted a glance toward her. “No. ”

  “So you like being alone. ”

  “I guess so. I never really thought about it. I just do what I do. ”

  “I wouldn’t enjoy that. ”

  “What? Riding or being alone?”

  “The alone part. ”

  “It’s not bad. Gives me a lot of time to think. ”

  Now it was her turn to laugh. “I have too much time to think. I wouldn’t want all that time alone. I’d drive myself crazy. ”

  He leaned in, slid his finger on the tip of her nose. “It’s good to get to know yourself, learn to be comfortable in your own skin. ”

  Rick had a point, and he definitely looked at ease with himself. Still, she wondered how much time he’d actually spent riding alone. What made a person crave that kind of solitude? Most people liked being with other people, not isolating themselves.

  He was certainly an interesting person. And she’d always liked to be around interesting people.

  Speaking of people . . . where the hell had Lacey gone off to? Ava hadn’t seen her since they’d arrived here. Ava searched her out, but the crowd had thickened and she couldn’t find her.

  “Looking for your friend?” Rick asked.

  “Yes. ”

  “I saw Bo take her upstairs. Let’s go find them. ”

  Once again, he took her hand and led her up the stairs, though they had to wind their way through a crowd of people using the stairs as a seating area. They didn’t seem to mind though, in fact, made room for Rick and Ava to find their footing until they made their way to the second floor.

  Ava studied the hallway that branched out in two directions and led to lots of doors—closed doors.

  “Uh, maybe we shouldn’t be up here. ”

  Rick cocked his head to the side. “Why not?”

  “I think people came up here to find some privacy. ”

  He grinned. “I’m sure they did. But you wanted to find your friend, didn’t you?”

  “Well, yes, but if she and Bo want to be alone . . . ”

  He shrugged. “It’s just sex. They won’t mind being disturbed. Let’s go. ”

  Just sex? He was joking, right?

  Apparently not. He started down a hallway. Ava ran after him and grabbed his arm before he turned a knob. “Are you serious? Stop that. ”

  “What?”

  “You can’t just barge in on people having sex. ”

  “Why not?”

  “First. It’s rude. And second . . . oh my God. Do I have to spell it out?”

  He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “Sure. Go ahead. ”

  “Do you really want to watch people . . . you know. ”

  “Fucking?”

  God. The way he said it. She flushed with heat all over. He made it sound dirty. And exciting. And compelling.

  “Yes. ”

  “I guess if people don’t want to be bothered they’ll lock the door. Unless they forget. Most don’t really care. Watch. ”

  She took a giant step back as he turned the knob and opened a door that was, as he said, unlocked.

  “Anyone in here having sex?”

&nb
sp; “Get the fuck out of here!” came a sharp retort from the darkened room.

  Rick laughed and closed the door.

  “See? They didn’t want guests. ”

  She shook her head. “I can’t believe you just did that. ”

  He ignored her, took a few steps down the hall, and opened the next door. “What’s going on in here?”

  There was heavy breathing. Then giggling, followed by a male voice that said, “Fucking. Why, do you wanna watch?”

  “Maybe. I’ll get back to you. ”

  He closed the door and turned to her. Ava put her hand over her mouth to smother her laugh. “You’re something. ”

  He waggled his brows. “You have no idea, honey. ”

  “You don’t mean to go into every room and do this. ”

  “Sure I do. ”

  This time she quickened her step and rushed to cover the next door, putting her hand over the knob in the hopes she could spare another couple some embarrassment. “Really. Stop. ”

  Undaunted, he leaned into her, and her breath caught when he placed his hand over hers. She felt swallowed up, cornered, and for some reason didn’t mind at all.

  He turned the knob and pushed the door open, sending her flying into the room with him.

  “Anyone in here?”

  No one replied.

  “Hey, we’re in luck. Looks like we have this one to ourselves. ”

  Before she could say a word, he’d closed the door behind him. Ava heard the click of the lock.

  “The smart ones lock the door to prevent assholes like me from coming in. ”

  She was now locked in a dark bedroom with Rick. And yet she wasn’t at all afraid. Intrigued, yes. Excited, definitely.

  “Are you there?” he asked, his voice lowering.

  “Yes. ”

  “Keep talking and I’ll find you. ”

  She licked her lips. “What would you like me to talk about?”

  He was drawing closer. She moved farther away, though it wasn’t from fear. She bumped into something with her hip. Dresser, maybe.

  “I don’t know. Tell me what you’re thinking. ”

  “I’m thinking I’m locked in a bedroom with someone I don’t know very well. ”

  “Do you need to know me well?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe. ”

  “What do you want to know about me, Ava?”

  He was getting closer. She inched farther to the right. “Tell me where you’ve been for the past ten years. ”

  He went silent. When he spoke again, his breath brushed against her cheek. “I was in prison for a while for theft. Then I just rode freelance here and there, ended up in Chicago. ”

  She found it hard to breathe with him standing so close to her. But at least he’d been honest. “In prison?”

  “Yeah. ”

  “For how long?”

  “Three years. ”

  “How long ago was that?”

  “Seven years ago. ”

  “Not since then?”

  “No. ”

  She inhaled, blew it out, then stopped breathing when he wound his arms around her waist. “Does that bother you?”

  “Honestly? I don’t know. ” She thought about it. Just because he did time in jail didn’t mean he was a bad person now. People made mistakes. Some people learned from them. She’d seen plenty of that.

  He laughed, and took a step back. “Go away, Little Red Riding Hood. ”

  “What?”

  She heard the creak of the bedsprings.

  “You can’t handle the Big Bad Wolf. ”

  Affronted, she moved forward, her knee making contact with the mattress. “Now just a minute. I didn’t say that. ”

  “You didn’t have to say a word. You’re a scared little rabbit. ”

  Dammit. “I am not. ”

  “Aren’t you?”

  He sounded so smug. “No, I’m not. I just don’t have indiscriminate sex with strangers. ”
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