Authors: Daphne Loveling
Later on, when Cal had washed and waxed my bike to a gleaming shine, I went to find Trigger and told him I was taking off for a while. I tried to tell myself I was just going for a ride.
But I knew better. I knew I was going by the Cactus Bar to see if her car was there.
But even though I tried to tell myself otherwise, I knew I’d be back.
Two days later, I was still trying to figure out why the sexy biker I’d encountered at the MC clubhouse had reacted the way he did when I mentioned Cal was a prospect with the club. I couldn’t tell by his reaction whether he knew Cal or not. But surely if there was someone who was prospecting to be a member of the club, everyone would know him?
Maybe it was that the biker was old enough to remember the story of my father’s death. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, in which case, he would have been too young to actually be in the club (at least, I thought so… but then again, what did I know?). But if he grew up in Lupine, maybe the name Greenlee rang a bell. Maybe he didn’t know Cal’s last name before I told him. But still, that didn’t explain why he acted like I had leprosy the second he found out I was Cal Greenlee’s sister.
I was mulling over the whole weird episode as I went for a much-needed run on Sunday morning. In a way, it was a welcome distraction from thinking about something else that had happened. I had finally screwed up my courage and broken up with Nate. Once I’d gotten my car back, I’d decided to go over to his place and pick up the few possessions that I had left over there. Unsurprisingly, he was at home, playing a video game and eating leftover pizza. He had invited me in, clearly hoping that we would be having a quick hookup. But I had somehow managed to make him realize that I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to break up this time.
“But See, what’s the problem?” he complained, his arms outstretched in a supplicating gesture as I sat on the couch next to him. “We have a great time, right? Like, I love hanging out with you and everything. I don’t get it.” He moved closer to me, and I caught a whiff of his stupid body spray. I realized he was about to try to wear me down, so I pulled back and put a hand on his chest.
“The problem, Nate, is that you didn’t even have the decency to pick me up from work when I told you I was stranded,” I pointed out.
“Look, I’m super sorry about that! I got caught up in a game with some of the guys. I didn’t want to let them down,” he pleaded.
Oh, brother. “Didn’t want to let
down?” I asked incredulously. “Are you kidding me? I had to sponge a ride home with Andi — two hours later! I didn’t get home until almost two a.m.!”
Nate looked away, and I have to give him credit, he blushed. “Okay, I see your point,” he nodded. “That was kind of not cool.” King of the understatement, Nate was. “But look, See,” he said earnestly, looking back at me and fixing with his most sincere expression. “I can work on it. I can change. Come on, baby, don’t be that way!”
I sighed. He looked for all the world like a hopeful puppy dog. A puppy dog with six-pack abs and gorgeous hair. But I was resolved. I shook my head. “You know, forget it. It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, Nate, but no. Look, no hard feelings, okay? It’s just over. That’s all.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said sadly, seemingly resigned. Then his eyes lit up hopefully. “But See…”
“I’m pretty sure I can get tickets to the Candy Claws concert next Friday. You wanna go?”
I realized what he was trying to do. Reel me in with a sudden gesture. Just like he always did. Looking back on our relationship, and on how many times he had done this, I suddenly felt like the biggest idiot in the world for letting him get away with it. “No, Nate,” I said gently. “I’m sure you can find someone else to go with.” And I was. The random girl he was probably going to sponge the tickets off, for example.
I had to hand it to Nate, though. At least he didn’t give me a hard time once he realized my mind was made up. As I left his place, even as I was sad that we had meant so little to each other, I knew it was for the best.
So, that was one guy out of my life, I thought now as I got ready for work. I wasn’t really looking forward to working today, but after this I would have two days off. I was pretty pumped to just have some me-time. I was way behind on laundry, I hadn’t deep-conditioned my hair in forever, and I had a library book that I wanted to finish before it was overdue. And I figured maybe Carly and I could go catch a movie or something.
That afternoon found me back behind the bar at the Cactus. I was working two p.m. until ten with Andi and a couple of the waitresses. Our boss, Wes, was there, too, trying to catch up on some bills. Wes was in his mid-forties, balding, and not fat but doughy, like someone who hardly ever did any sort of manual labor and lived on a diet of frozen pizza and Coke. He wasn’t married, and as far as we knew had never been in a relationship the whole time we had known him. That didn’t stop him from making crude observations about the women who came into the bar, which ones he found attractive, and which ones were “dogs.” It sucked, but I mostly tried to ignore it. Jobs were kind of hard to come by in Lupine, and I needed mine.
“Look at that one,” Wes was whistling under his breath as a couple of co-eds walked out the door. “Look at that ass.” I had just come back from my break and was tying my apron back on.
Andi rolled her eyes and looked over at me. “Yeah, Wes, she’s young enough to be your daughter. Shit,
young enough to be your daughter. Shouldn’t you be letching after someone your own age? Or at least a little closer?
Wes turned away from the door and shook his head at Andi. “Andi, men are wired differently from women. We just naturally go for women with a particular hip to waist ratio,” he said, as though he were a teacher lecturing a particularly dense student. “It’s scientifically proven to be a biological fact. There isn’t anything we can do about it.”
Andi snorted. “Uh, yeah, there is. You could stop being a freaking pig whenever you see a woman younger than forty with a nice figure. Seriously, dude. Go sign up on eHarmony or whatever old people do to find love. Or at least just go jack off to Pornhub in your office and get your gross self under control.”
Wes narrowed his eyes in anger. “You watch yourself, Andi.” He stomped off toward the back as Andi erupted into peals of laughter.
“Jeez, Andi, that was pretty blunt,” I said, worried. “Wes could fire your ass for saying stuff like that.”
“Oh, please,” Andi laughed. “He won’t fire me. He likes staring at my tits too much.”
I had to concede, Wes really did like looking at Andi’s breasts. Luckily, she seemed unafraid to call him on it, and as a result, Wes never seemed to direct any sexual innuendo toward her, and seemed almost afraid of her. I knew that Andi had had a rough time growing up, and a history of some sort of sexual abuse that had gone on in her childhood with her stepfather, and that had also involved her little sister. For some women, this might have damaged them to the point where they were afraid of all men. In Andi’s case, it made her determined to never let a man hurt her again. She was strong, tough, fiercely protective of all women, and seemingly unafraid of the potential danger that a sexually frustrated man with bad intentions could do.
I looked up to Andi, and the way that she took care to make herself strong and refuse to be a victim. Wes didn’t frighten me exactly, but sometimes he did creep me out a little. Sometimes, after reaching up to the glass holder to put some wine glasses away, I would turn around and catch him staring at me with an expression that could only be sexual arousal. It made me uncomfortable enough to turn away, and usually that would be the end of it, but sometimes, I would look back and he’d still be staring. I wished I had Andi’s guts to be able to tell him off when he did stuff like that.
I really should look for another job
, I thought as I watched Wes retreat into his office. Sometimes it felt ironic that I now worked in a bar, when my dad’s drinking had been the source of so much family pain. But frankly, there weren’t a lot of good paying jobs in Lupine, and working at the Cactus at least gave me enough to live on and a flexible schedule. Plus, I really did like working with Andi, even though having Wes as a boss was not always a lot of fun. I had been working at the bar full-time since I’d dropped out of college after running out of money. At the time, I told myself that I was going to go back to college just as soon as I had enough money to afford another year of school, but that time had come and gone and I still hadn’t reapplied.
The subject of college was one I had been trying more and more unsuccessfully not to think about lately. For a while, I had considered enrolling part-time in online classes so I work on getting my degree during my down time from work. Unfortunately, since I still hadn’t decided what my major was going to be, choosing classes that wouldn’t be a waste of my time and money was a challenge. One of these days, though, I knew I was going to have to get serious about figuring out what the next step was. I had saved enough money to re-enroll in college next fall if I wanted to. The trouble was, since I’d been out, I’d realized I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. It seemed like a waste of money to go back to school before I had that figured out.
Andi’s fingers snapping in front of my face brought me out of my reverie. “Hey, girl, what’s up? You fantasizing about Wes again?” She broke into another laugh as I made a disgusted face.
“Ugh, that’s disgusting, Andi. For real.”
“Well, I thought maybe since you and Nate are over, you were getting horny and needing some action,” she grinned.
“Oh, my God,” I gasped. “Can you imagine?” I shuddered. “Uh, no, I can promise you that I will
be that hard up.”
A little while later, I had my first of many weird encounters of the day. During the Sunday afternoon lull, my deadbeat brother appeared in the doorway of the Cactus, in his Stone Kings leathers.
“Hey, See!” he called as he stepped toward the bar. He was grinning his charming “I know you’re gonna forgive me” grin. I sighed. He was probably right, dammit. But damned if I was going to let him off easily.
“Hey, yourself,” I replied mildly. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to show you something. You got a minute?”
I pursed my lips and looked over at Andi, who waved me off. “Go on, take a break. I’ll cover for you. Hi, Cal!”
“Hey, Andi!” Cal said easily. His eyes ran appreciatively over her curves. “How you doin’?”
“Good,” she smiled back at him. “How about you, Romeo?”
He waved back at her. “Livin’ the dream, doll!”
Andi laughed and shook her head in mock disapproval. “Uh-huh, I bet. Look at you, Mister bad boy biker.” Whereas Andi had never had any patience for my ex-boyfriend Nate, she always seemed to take Cal’s charmer act in stride. The two of them had an easy banter that bordered on the flirtatious, and even his most exasperating behavior seemed merely to amuse her.
Cal grinned and turned back at me. “Speaking of which… come on outside! I gotta show you something!”
I rolled my eyes at Andi and followed him out into the parking lot, noting with irritation the “prospect” rocker on the back of his vest. Parked in the closest spot was a large, rough-looking Harley with tall handlebars and a windshield that he told me was called a faring. “I got her used for just five thousand dollars!” he said proudly.
“Five thousand?” I sputtered. “How the hell did you get five thousand dollars?”
“I got a loan. I’m workin’ it off.”
“How the hell did you get a loan?” I demanded. “As far as I know, you don’t even have a job.”
“I’m getting a paycheck,” he countered, his voice defensive. His eyes shifted away from me. “I’m workin’ for the club, so, you know…” he trailed off. Then, frowning impatiently, he looked back at me. “Come on, See, be happy for me for once! I’ve wanted this bike for forever.”
I stared at my brother in his leathers. He looked so different from the gap-toothed little mischief-maker I remembered from when we were kids. He had the same green eyes, full of sparkle and challenge, but he had filled out and grown so tall. He was at least six feet now. I hadn’t noticed how muscular he had become recently. The scruff of a two day beard gave his jaw a square, rugged look. Suddenly, I felt foolish for feeling so protective of him when he was almost twice as big as I was.
I sighed. “Okay, Cal. Congratulations.” I made a point of looking him in the eye. “Honestly. I mean it.”
Cal seemed to relax. “Thanks, See.” I smiled at him, a gesture of truce.
“So, uh…” he continued, leaning against the bike. “I also wanted to apologize for the other day. It wasn’t cool of me to borrow your car and then not pick you up from work. And I should have brought the car back to you. It was the least I could have done.” He looked down at the ground as he talked, the heel of his boot scuffing at the dirt.
I almost couldn’t believe my ears. Cal Greenlee, apologizing for something? I hadn’t heard him say he was sorry for anything since we were little kids and my mom was yelling at him for coloring on the walls or something. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him who had put him up to it, but I stopped myself. If Cal was actually owning up for acting like a jackass, I sure as hell wasn’t going to stop him. And to his credit, he did actually look contrite.
“Thank you, Cal,” I said simply. “I accept your apology.”
He nodded. “It won’t happen again. You’re my family, and I should treat you better.” And then, before I could respond, he did something that almost made me faint dead away from surprise: he stood up and threw an arm around me in a brief hug. It was so unexpected and uncharacteristic that we both just stood there until eventually his arm fell away awkwardly.