Authors: Mackenzie McKade
Over a dune, affectionately called a hit, a rider on a dirt bike capped the rise, soaring twelve feet or more into the air. Like a choreographed move, his lithe body parted from the Honda 250 CR, hands gripped tightly on the handlebars, his legs extended above his head as he performed the death-defying Kiss of Death.
Silence reigned. Gasps of awe and appreciation replaced it.
While Drew Thompson watched the crazy bastard in the distance, he held his breath along with hundreds of people perched on the edges of their all-terrain vehicles’ seats in the Imperial Dunes in Glamis, California. Mouths hung agape. All eyes pinned on the sonofabitch to see if he’d land the motorcycle or be gifted with a soil sample. A face full of sand would be more than the idiot could hope for with a stunt like that.
Fully decked out in matching red, black and yellow Fox riding gear, including helmet and gloves, the rider brought the heavy bike down like a pro. The audience exploded with applause. The air in Drew’s lungs released in one gush as his knees hugged the quad, the four-wheel all-terrain vehicle of choice for most of those watching the display.
The rider was good, but reckless. They were twenty miles away from medical assistance. The on-site services wouldn’t cut it for a serious injury. In a desolate area like Glamis, whenever the beating sounds of a helicopter’s rotor could be heard, you knew it was a bad accident.
Drew shook his head and looked at his college buddy straddling this year’s newest Polaris quad. “Crazy bastard,” Drew said aloud this time.
Josh Davis leaned over and whacked Drew hard on the back. “Isn’t that what this weekend is all about? Getting crazy?” His mischievous grin from childhood hadn’t changed.
As if to corroborate his comment, a busty blonde climbed up on the seat of a sand rail and quickly removed her jersey, waving it to get the rider’s attention. The vehicle, equipped with a heavy-gauge roll cage, swayed as she jumped up and down, shaking her naked breasts in front of everyone. The dirt bike rider ignored the display and sped by.
Extended nipples displayed the woman’s excitement and desire to meet the rider. The sexy way her body moved, the sensual smile on her face screamed, “Take me”. Whatever her intentions, she had the crowd in an uproar.
What could he say? He was a man and, like any red-blooded male within eyeshot, blood rushed to his groin. It had been a while since he’d gotten laid. Where he’d been stationed the last three years you didn’t dare touch a woman, nor had he wanted to.
The material of his riding pants tightened across his lap. He shifted his hips to accommodate the growing sensation. When the blonde cupped herself, her thumbs playing across the hard nubs of her breasts, he sucked in a tight breath. His balls drew painfully against his body.
His eyes closed for a second as he saw Zoë’s face. The tilt of her small nose, the sprinkle of freckles hidden beneath skin so soft he could have held her forever. But he hadn’t. Instead he’d left her behind to pursue his career, or at least that’s what he kept telling himself.
“Come to Mommy, sweetie,” the blonde atop the sand rail cooed, gaining Drew’s attention again. His eyes opened.
Josh cocked his head in the direction of the woman flaunting herself. “Like I said, let’s get crazy. And perhaps laid?” He wiggled his brows.
Drew had no doubt that Josh would be stripped and rode hard before the night was over. He was a chick magnet. His golden hair and movie-star good looks drove women wild. But that rich, dark tan was from the Arizona sun, not California. Drew achieved his in the deserts of Iraq. He pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair and stood, stretching his legs on the quad’s foot pegs.
Damn. It felt good to be back in the States after three years in that Godforsaken country. INN, International Network News, had contracted him to photograph the war against terrorism. As he had expected, the job had furthered his career, but cost him more than the new position in Arizona was worth.
He didn’t sleep well at night. More often than not he awoke to chills and fevers. More importantly, he’d lost the one person who had really meant something to him.
He blew out a small breath of disgust. If only he’d had foresight and a little more courage.
The scent of dust lingered heavily as a few more riders raced up and down the hill. The gritty taste was already invading his mouth.
Before him it was becoming a game of one-upmanship as more individuals began to show off their talents or stupidity. Most riders at Glamis rode quads or drove Rhinos—a sand car, or rails, which were more acclimated to moving freely about the hills and mountains of sand.
The daredevil on the Honda went airborne again. This time he performed a Nac Nac, legs positioned and extended out on the same side of the bike, drawing himself back upon his ride before it landed. Drew had to hand it to him. It took a lot of moxie to ride a dirt bike in the sand. Not to mention strength. The guy’s arms must feel like jelly about now.
Josh yelled, “Hell, yeah,” as a woman following on a quad caught air. She rode it for a while before settling the four-wheeler down like it was nothing. The flow of hair trailing behind her helmet brought Drew’s mind back to Zoë. He had hurt her before he left for Iraq. He couldn’t blame her for never returning any of his letters.
His shoulders fell as he released a breath. God, he had missed her.
The years hadn’t erased his memories. He remembered the smell of Zoë’s skin, a soft, powdery musk, and the feel of her silky skin beneath his hands. She had been so innocent, but eager to please him. It hadn’t even entered her mind to stop him as he peeled her clothes off one article at a time.
His groin tightened with the thought of their first time together. Under a blanket of stars, he had removed her T-shirt that summer night. She gazed at him so trustingly with those big blue eyes. Her smile was timid and shy, moonlight bathing her in light and dark shadows. With a single tug, her bikini top came loose, baring her full breasts for his touch—his taste.
Beneath the heavens he had taken her down upon the sandy beach.
Drew tried to be gentle, make her first time a memory she’d never forget. But Zoë had been so willing, his feelings so raw, that just touching her had made his control waver. Like a nervous schoolboy, his hands shook, his breathing hard and labored. The moment he slid between her thighs, buried his cock deep, he was lost in the depth of his emotions. Her sharp inhale, the tender cry of his name on her lips as she shuddered in ecstasy, had scared the shit out of him.
Drew threw a nervous glance at Josh. Why hadn’t his friend mentioned his sister? Guilt and regret had been Drew’s friends for the past three years. Instead of the beating he’d expected when he showed up on Josh’s doorstep, he’d been invited for a weekend of fun in the sun, probably the last trip of the season if the heat bearing down upon his shoulders was any indication.
With the back of his hand he swiped at the beads of perspiration dampening his forehead. Nights were cool, sometimes downright chilly, while the days were drastically different. The Dunes could get hotter than a branding iron after March. In fact, the small restaurant and bar located in no-man’s land closed after Easter, which was only a couple of weeks away.
Midmorning and it was already warming up. More people were shedding layers of clothing by the minute.
Well, except for the blonde, who was now struggling to pull her jersey over her head as two rangers on ATVs headed in her direction. She quickly took a seat as the rail’s driver gave it gas. In a flash, they disappeared among the crowd that protectively folded around her.
A lighthearted chuckle pushed from Drew’s lips. Riders were a strange bunch, but they protected their own.
Glamis, California, known as The Sand Toy Capital of the World, attracted people like the fun-loving woman and the excellent rider who pulled a wheelie and was now riding his back tire in their direction.
Drew huffed, “Showoff,” as he settled back upon his quad and reached for the key to start the engine. It was time to ride. His butt and legs were going numb from staying idle for so long.
As if the rider heard Drew’s derogatory comment, his head turned, pinning his goggled sight right on Drew. The shaded lens lent eeriness to the stare. A whisper of unease Drew couldn’t explain made the hair rise on his arms. No one had hearing that good, especially among the engines revving up and chatter of people talking.
A sharp spin and the rider power-banded. He pulled the clutch, giving the bike a surge of gas, and headed straight for Drew. As the motorcycle grew closer, the rider showed no intention of slowing. Muscles tensed as Drew fumbled with the key to start his bike.
The rider was closing in.
Drew’s pulse jumped and then sped.
The idiot was going to crash into him.
Just before impact, the rider made a razor-edge turn. His tires dug deep into the sand as he whipped around.
“Fuck!” Drew yelled. He and Josh barely had a second to shield their faces with their forearms as the huge wave of sand swallowed them up, leaving them covered in gritty particles and dirt. Not to mention the angry sting as sand pitted his skin.
Without a second thought, Drew swung his leg over the broad seat of his quad. He didn’t bother dusting himself off as he began to move. “I’ll kill the sonofabitch for roosting us.”
The rider sat quietly waiting. His engine revved challengingly.
Drew’s heated footsteps pounded into the sand that gave slightly beneath him, forcing him to channel some of his anger to simply stay afoot. It wasn’t easy walking in the inflexible riding boots. No play in his feet or ankles made for a stiff advance as he beat a path toward the soon-to-be-dead rider.
Josh was hot on his trail. His hand landed on Drew’s arm, slowing him down. “Drew. Hey, Drew. Calm down, buddy.”
Drew yanked his arm free. “Fuck calm. I’m going to rub the little bastard’s face into the sand.” Drew had always been carefree and even-tempered, but that was the past. The years had changed him. You couldn’t witness what he had in Iraq and remain untouched. The world was full of stupid people. Soon there’d be one less.
As Drew approached, the rider switched off the engine and reached for his helmet and goggles. With a sharp yank the headgear rose, a flow of strawberry-blonde hair tumbled from beneath. The softest skin Drew had ever touched was revealed inch by lovely inch, until he was eye to eye with the woman he had left behind three years ago.
He jerked to a dead stop. “Zoë?”
She looked past him or, more accurately, through him and said one word. “Josh.” The slow, menacing growl in her voice revealed she was more than perturbed at her brother. Clearly, Josh hadn’t informed either of them of the other’s presence this weekend. As icy blue eyes again met Drew’s, she muttered, “Drew,” like it was an obscenity.
The crowd was quickly beginning to descend upon them. More than a few people were surprised to discover the mystery rider was a woman, especially the blonde who had removed her shirt. Drew saw her in the distance—the rail’s driver was giving her a rash of teasing.
Before they were trapped in the throng, Zoë crammed her helmet on her head, adjusting her goggles, started her engine and raced through the masses.
Sand shifted beneath Drew’s feet as he slowly turned to confront his friend. Josh’s arms were outstretched, his palms facing Drew. “Before you say it, I just thought—”
“No.” Drew sucked in a tight breath.
He was trembling.
Dammit. He had no idea that seeing Zoë again would have this effect on him. He hadn’t even flinched when pinned beneath rapid fire—well, until he’d been shot. “You didn’t think or you would have told me she was going to be here.”
The anger in her hard features was nothing like the pain he’d seen on her tear-stained face before he left years ago. A face he saw time and time again as he drifted in and out of consciousness lying in that hospital bed. Even now he could hear her cries, her pleas for him to choose her over his career. “How the hell did she learn to ride like that?”
Josh’s arms drifted to his sides. “You left.” He shrugged. It was one of those simple actions that said,
Hey, buddy you screwed up
. A shake of his head added silently,
What did you expect?
“She went wild. Mom and Dad couldn’t control her. Late nights. Partying.” He wet his lips, sputtering as he got a taste of the gritty sand that covered him like a sheet. His lime-green and black riding gear was as dusty as Drew’s blue and white outfit.