Riding the edge, p.9
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       Riding the Edge, p.9
 

         Part #4 of Wild Riders series by Jaci Burton
Page 8

  Author: Jaci Burton

  “We . . . talked for a while before we went to sleep. ”

  “Talked? That’s it?”

  “That’s it,” Rick added.

  Bo shook his head. “Man, you’re gettin’ rusty. ”

  Ava hid her smile behind her coffee cup, then quieted while Lacey whispered to her.

  Rick was going to do a little listening in on their conversation, but Bo yanked on his jacket.

  “Hey, while the ladies are gossiping on the other side of the table, I wanted to let you know that your background checked out. ”

  Rick leaned back in his chair and put on a knowing grin. “Was there any doubt?”

  “Not really, but I have to be careful about who I trust with Hellraiser secrets, ya know. ”

  “I understand. So now that you know I’m legit, what kind of secrets are you going to let me in on?”

  “Well, none yet,” Bo said with a sly smile. “But trust me, there’s plenty going on. ”

  Dammit. Rick wanted to know what and he wanted to know it all now. But he had to play it cool or his cousin would be suspicious. “Anything up my alley?”

  “Maybe. I saw you did a little time for possession. ”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Joy drugs or business?”

  “I don’t do drugs, man. I like to keep a clear head. There’s more money in selling them. Costs money to take them. ”

  Bo nodded. “Good for you to follow the money. Better to earn it than to spend it. ”

  “You got that right. ”

  “Then maybe I’ll have some work for you. ”

  “Good. I don’t like to lay low for too long. Makes me itchy. ”

  “I always knew you’d be good for my business, Rick. ” Bo slapped him on the back. “Welcome home. ”

  “Thanks. ” Now Rick was even more curious about what kind of business his cousin was involved in. But he couldn’t push Bo or he’d get suspicious. He’d just have to ride, relax, and wait for Bo to come to him.

  Which hopefully wouldn’t be long. If his cousin really was heavily involved in the drug trade, there was always something going down. Especially at an event like bike week, where deals could be made by the hour.

  Yeah, Rick expected to be useful before the end of the day today.

  And that meant he might have to juggle undercover drug work with Bo, and handling Ava.

  The assignment had just gotten a lot more interesting.

  Riding on the back of a motorcycle gave Ava a lot of time to think. It was sweet mindlessness, the kind that required no concentration.

  She enjoyed it, because she had a lot to think about, mainly having to do with Lacey. Okay, not so much about Lacey. More about the tall, leather-clad biker who rode the bike she was sitting on.

  She sighed and felt just a little foolish and lovesick.

  The kiss Rick had given her in the elevator this morning had shaken Ava to the core. But it had also relaxed her. While Rick hadn’t exactly said how things were between them, the kiss was an unspoken bond, his way of saying there was definitely more between them than one-time phone sex.

  Not that she’d been at all worried about it. After all, if that’s all they’d shared, she would have just chalked it up to a new and unique experience and moved on.

  Moved on to what, exactly, she didn’t know, but she was here to spend time with Lacey. Though doing that was proving difficult since Lacey seemed to spend most of her time with Bo, either plastered right next to his side or on the back of his bike. Which gave Ava more free time than she’d expected.

  Fortunately, Rick seemed to want to spend his free time with her. And she couldn’t complain about that. The more time she spent with Rick, the more she could find out about the Hellraisers—and about his cousin, Bo. So being with Rick served a useful purpose.

  Like making her breathless, hot, turned on, and quivery. She wondered if all bikers had this kind of effect on their women, or if it was just Rick and the fact she wasn’t exactly the most experienced in the men department?

  Surely it wasn’t just her. After all, Lacey certainly seemed entranced by everything Bo. So maybe it was the whole biker mystique. She supposed at the end of this week she’d have it figured out.

  Maybe.

  Rick didn’t seem to be the kind of guy any girl could figure out. He was chivalrous and kind and at the same time mysterious and aloof. And oh so sexy. Like the kind of guy every girl had a crush on in high school. The bad boy kind of guy, the one you wanted to redeem with your love.

  But was he really bad? She didn’t know the answer to that.

  There were a lot of things she didn’t know the answer to. Maybe she should start thinking with her head instead of the other parts of her anatomy that had seemed to take prevalence since she’d met Rick.

  Or maybe she should have sex with Rick, get that out of the way, and then she could start thinking with her head.

  She liked the latter idea a lot better.

  They’d taken a long ride in the desert after breakfast, and the view in the daylight had been breathtaking, nothing at all like the blind ride in the dark last night.

  She’d lived in Las Vegas her entire life, had ridden through the desert hundreds of times, but there was something about being exposed to it from a motorcycle point of view, where the air whipped in your face and you could see everything more clearly because you weren’t bound by glass and metal on all four sides. This way made her see it for the very first time.

  The desert was burnished copper and sage and golden sunlight, a cascade of color that painted the landscape of this place she called home—a place she’d taken for granted and had never appreciated for its awesome beauty until now. Maybe it was because on the bike she wasn’t just seeing—all her other senses were in play, too—the smell of the earth rose up to meet her, the sound of a hundred motorcycles seeming to wake the desert’s primal beauty and put on a spectacular show. Whenever they slowed down, Ava would spot lizards or other creatures hiding among the tall rocks. Soaring birds overhead seemingly kept pace with the Hellraisers.

  They rode for over two hours, and it was exhilarating. She’d never enjoyed seeing the desert more.

  They stopped at Joey’s house again. This time Ava could see it in the light. It was a huge place, two stories with a wraparound porch on both the top and bottom floors. Behind the house was a barn and several sheds. And he had horses.

  Ava climbed off the bike and immediately headed over to the fence to watch the horses that had gathered around the shaded areas. At least there were plenty of trees to shield the horses from the blistering desert heat.

  “You like horses?”

  She nodded at Rick. “I rode when I was younger. My dad used to take me to this place that would give rides. I even took lessons. I wanted to own a horse ranch. ”

  “You did?”

  She laid her arms on the top post and rested her chin on top of them. “Yes. A child’s dream, of course. ”

  “Why did it have to be a child’s dream?”

  “I don’t know. Just not feasible, I suppose. ”

  “Anything’s doable, Ava. You just have to want it, then work for it. ”

  She turned her head to the side. “Other dreams replaced that one. ”

  “Like becoming a social worker. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “When was the last time you saddled up and rode?”

  “Oh, I haven’t ridden in years. ”

  “Let’s fix that. ” He walked away and Ava turned around, not sure what he meant by that.

  Until he flagged down Joey. The two of them talked and Rick motioned to the horses, then to her. Joey nodded.

  Oh, no. He hadn’t.

  But when he came toward her with a grin on his face, she was afraid he had.

  “Let’s saddle up. ”

  “Are you serious?”

 
Sure. You want to ride, don’t you?”

  “Uh, I guess so. But really, you didn’t have to do that. ”

  “Sure I did. Come on. ”

  She followed him toward the barn. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

  “Joey said the horses need to be ridden. He said we’d be doing him a favor by taking a couple out. ”

  There were already a couple horses near the barn, and they were very tame, came over willingly when Rick called them. Ava couldn’t resist drawing closer to one, a chestnut mare with a white star-shaped mark above her eyes. She was simply gorgeous. Ava lifted her hand to the mare’s muzzle and let her get a whiff of her scent so she’d get used to her.

  “She likes you,” Rick said as he came over with a saddle. “You want to ride that one?”

  “Yes. ” She went to take the saddle from Rick. “Here, let me do it. ”

  “Do you know how?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Some things you never forget. Do you know how?”

  He grinned. “Of course. ”

  “And how is that? I thought you grew up in Las Vegas. And then spent time in Chicago. Sounds citified to me. ”

  “You grew up here. How do you know how to saddle and ride?”

  “Good point. ” And yet again he’d avoided revealing anything about himself. He sure liked being a man of mystery.

  After they’d saddled their horses, Ava mounted hers, realizing it had been a very long time since she’d ridden. But oh, it felt great to be seated again, to feel the strength of a horse underneath her. She was so ready to ride.

  They took a slow walk out of the barn and down the road, taking it easy while the horses got used to them. Ava slanted an occasional glance over to Rick, who seated his horse like he’d been born on one.

  “Where did you ride before?” she asked.

  “I had a friend with horses when I was a kid,” he said. “I helped him out as much as I could, mucking out stalls, brushing the horses. His folks liked me so they taught me to ride. ”

  “That’s nice. But you didn’t have any of your own. ”

  He snorted. “Uh, no. Barely had a roof over my head. ”

  “No wonder you enjoyed spending time with your friend who had horses. ”

  “Anything was better than being at home. ”

  “That bad, huh?”

  “That bad. ”

  “Do you want to talk about it?”

  He looked at her. “What do you think?”

  “I think sometimes it’s good to exorcise the pain of the past by getting it out in the open. Do you ever talk about it?”

  “Nope. ”

  “Then it still festers inside you. ”

  He laughed. “Yeah, you can tell I hold a ton of anger. ”

  Okay, so he did look relaxed, and he was almost always calm and in control. She’d never seen him angry, but then again she hadn’t known him all that long. But he didn’t project that kind of chip on his shoulder like some men did. The man was a mix of complexities and incongruity. She couldn’t figure him out.

  “I’m not a textbook case, Ava. Don’t look for problems that don’t exist. ”

  “Everyone has problems, Rick. Some just bury them better than others. ”

  He pulled up on the reins and slowed. She did, too.

  “And some of us might be playing at being a social worker. ”

  She lifted her chin. “I am not. ”

  “Good. ” He clicked the reins and started his horse on a trot.

  Ava kept up with him, giving her horse some leg, which she seemed to enjoy. It was exhilarating to bounce in the saddle, reminding her of what it was like when she was a kid. When Rick passed her, she urged her horse on, and soon they were galloping into the pasture. The horses seemed to love going at full tilt. Ava certainly did.

  They finally pulled up under a group of trees near one of the small ponds. They climbed off and tied the horses up to give them some time to breathe and get a drink. Rick sat under one of the trees and Ava joined him.
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