It had been a long day. Correction. It had been three long days settling my twins, Sadie and Lucas, into their dorms three hours away. Fortunately, they’d chosen the same college, so I didn’t have to figure out how to clone myself to be in two places at once. As it was, handling the move-out on my own, when their father bailed on the last minute with some feeble excuse about being busy that weekend, had been almost as much as I could handle.
After ten years of dealing with Barrett’s last-minute excuses, forgotten birthdays, and generally one disappointment after another, it was nothing we weren’t used to. Sadly, I think the kids had come to expect it from him.
Not that it mattered. I’d handled it. Just the way I handled everything. I’d rented a truck and together we’d loaded up what felt like an unreasonable number of boxes and set off down the highway to their future.
After three days of climbing stairs and hauling boxes, every muscle in my forty-one-year-old body screamed for a hot bath and a glass of wine.
I gazed longingly at my tub, and the layer of dust in it. How long had it been since I’d actually sank into steamy bubbles? Had I ever?
Not for at least ten years.
There just wasn’t time. Ever.
With a deep sigh, I peeled out of my worn jeans and T-shirt and hopped under the spray of the shower for a quick rinse before pulling a clean uniform out of the closet.
There was no other item in my wardrobe I wore more than the light-pink, thin cotton dress that was the uniform at Rosie’s. As the owner of the little retro-style eatery on the edge of town, I probably could have chosen to wear whatever I wanted. But the customers didn’t know that the chubby, middle-aged woman with her permanent ponytail that was starting to show a few lines of gray was anything more than the lady who poured their coffee and served them plates of burgers and fries. And they wouldn’t care.
It was all about images. And the truck drivers, drunk college kids, and random travelers who frequented my diner wanted the experience of an authentic diner. So, day after day, and night after night, I stuffed my body into the dress.
I had to suck in a little bit to do up the dress. Eating nothing but takeout for the last few days probably hadn’t done my already ample bosom any favors. The top button strained over my breasts. Having the twins when I was only twenty-three had changed my body in all kinds of ways I never would have imagined. Besides the stretch marks and thirty pounds I couldn’t seem to shed, the most notable of those changes were the very large tits that made fitting into anything with actual buttons almost impossible. And that included my uniform.
I tried not to think about how quiet my house was as I flipped off the lights and grabbed my purse. At the last minute, I picked up the paperback on my bedside table where it had sat, largely unread for the last few years. Maybe I’d have enough time to read now with the kids out of the house. I pushed away the aching loneliness that would only grow stronger and more insistent now that Sadie and Lucas were gone.
With a sigh, I looked at the book again and fanned the pages through my fingers. At the very least, maybe I could skip ahead to the sex scenes.
Reading about it was better than nothing.
But I knew I wouldn’t read any of it, just as I knew that despite my best friends’ urging me to, I wouldn’t be having any sex. That would require me to put myself out there. And even with the kids gone now…there was no time.
And even if there was, I would hardly consider myself attractive to any of the eligible men in town—if there were any. I’d done nothing but work and raise my kids for as long as I could remember. The concept of having my hair done had fallen away years ago, leaving me with long, thick, almost unruly hair in desperate need of a date with scissors. I was softer and thicker, with much rounder curves than I would like and my makeup routine consisted of mascara and lip gloss—if I remembered.
I didn’t consider myself unattractive, but compared to most of the women in Aspen Valley…well, there was no comparison.
Twenty minutes later, I rushed—late—through the door of Rosie’s after dropping the rental truck off and taking the bus to the diner. I’d given the twins my car to share while they were at college, and selfishly, so they could come home for visits. But it meant I’d be taking public transit until I could find a minute and a few spare dollars to buy a new one.
“Doris, I’m so sorry that I’m late.” I stashed my things behind the counter before straightening up to meet the unimpressed gaze of my longest employee.
It was almost impossible these days to find anyone willing to work for minimum wage plus tips, let alone a decent employee who would show up to their shifts and not steal. I needed Doris, and she knew it. But she and Stan, my longtime cook, were almost like family. I had no idea what I would do without them.
“I really owe you.”
“You do.” Her lips were pursed as she assessed me, the way she usually did. “But it was for the kiddos.” She managed a small smile. Despite her tough, almost sour exterior, I knew how much she loved Sadie and Lucas. She and Stan had practically helped me raise them when I bought Rosie’s ten years ago.
Doris had worked for the original Rosie, almost from the time they’d opened the diner many years earlier. She had opinions on how every aspect of the business should be run, down to and including how my uniform fit on any given day.
I held up one finger in warning when I saw her eagle eyes take in the state of my uniform. I knew my dress was too tight. It seemed as if all my dresses were too tight lately. The last thing I needed was her to tell me.
“Thank you very much for taking care of things while I was gone, Doris.” I gave her a genuine smile, because despite how prickly she could be, I did really like the woman.
My smile must have softened her a little. “How are the kiddos? Did you get them settled okay?”
I nodded and bit my lip with the surge of sudden and completely unexpected tears rushing to my eyes.
I didn’t cry. Ever. Not when my husband left me. Not when my parents passed away shortly afterward in a car accident. Not when my kids moved out, leaving me alone.
Which was why the tear that slipped down my cheek took me completely off guard. I swiped it away and sniffed hard.
“Now, now.” Doris patted my shoulder, her annoyance of a moment ago forgotten. “It’s okay, Jessie. This is what’s supposed to happen. You raise them up right and you send them off. It’s the natural order of things. Not keep them home forever, living in your basement like so many your age seem to prefer. Young people need room to spread their wings. You did good.”
It was probably Doris’s uncharacteristic sensitivity that caused the next tear to slip out. And then the next. It wasn’t until she grunted in response and headed into the kitchen to commiserate with Stan at the griddle that I was able to pull it together.
I must be sleep deprived. It was the only explanation for my emotions.
For the next hour, the diner was mercifully slow. Only in the sense that it allowed me to make a fresh pot of coffee and pull myself together. I didn’t want to think about what the slower days and even slower nights meant for my bottom line.
Because no matter how I ran the numbers, they weren’t good. Business was going down more and more every month. But the bills weren’t. I hadn’t missed the new Closed for Business signs in the windows of the neighboring shops. Every day, there were more of them popping up as the land developer got to them. There were only a few of us holdouts left. It was only a matter of time before Trent Thomas got what he wanted.
I’d tried to fight it and, dammit, I still wasn’t ready to let go. And that’s exactly what I’d tell him at our upcoming meeting. Although with every day that went by with fewer and fewer customers, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly it was that I was fighting for.
The bells over the door chimed, filling me with hope as the dinner rush, little as it might turn out to be, began.
* * *
The bike vibrated beneath my legs as I pushed it faster and faster along the mountain road. Getting on my bike was my only fucking release these days. The only way I could leave the office behind and forget for a little while.
And I needed to forget.
At least for a few hours.
As the CEO of MultiTech Software, I was used to the pressures that came with business, but with the details of the latest takeover weighing heavily over my head, the stress was reaching a boiling point. Which was exactly why I’d broken out my Harley motorcycle.
The minute I ditched my suit jacket and Rolex and slid into my jeans and beat-up leathers, it was as though I could breathe again.
Nothing cleared my head like a long ride.
Except a good hard fuck.
My cock throbbed painfully, reminding me again of just how long it had been since I’d had that kind of release.
Why had it been so long?
I growled a little and shook my head as I pushed the bike faster.
I knew exactly why. The last woman whose company I’d enjoyed had recognized me. I couldn’t have that. The last thing I needed was another fucking gold digger.
The moment any woman found out I was Shane Grant and, like so many in Aspen Valley, had more money than I could ever possibly spend in one lifetime, they very quickly made it their personal mission to help me with that spending.
I hated women like that.
Who only ever saw dollar signs when they looked at me. I was so much more than a fucking ATM card.
Using me for sex was one thing. That was an honest and equitable trade. I used her; she used me—perfect. But as soon as money got involved, it never failed: that same woman, who had been all about getting down and dirty, suddenly was more interested in a diamond ring.
Been there. Done that. One ex-wife was enough, thank you very much.
The yellow line of the highway passed in a blur as I drove hard and fast until finally, I was ready for a break. The neon lights of Rosie’s on the edge of town beckoned to me. I’d lived in Aspen Valley for almost five years, and not once had I been to the out-of-the-way diner until a few days before when I’d stumbled upon it on a ride. And why would I have? Aspen Valley was full of the rich and the richer, and more uptight, fancy restaurants to cater to the wealthy than any other town I’d ever seen.
But the diner had a good cup of coffee, a decent piece of pie, and most importantly, no one I knew.
By some sort of miracle, I had steady customers most of the night, the last table of four trailing out right before eleven. Perfect timing. My girlfriends were due for our weekly catch-up and drinks in a few minutes.
Once a week, no matter what was going on in our lives, we made a point to meet—mostly at the diner because I was inevitably working—and catch up with each other. We’d known each other since we were thirteen and no one knew me better. True family wasn’t given to you by birthright, as far as I was concerned. It was the family you chose. My friends.
I wiped down the table and put on one last pot of coffee before the door opened, the bells announcing the arrival of Abby and Sandy.
I raised my hand in greeting, a smile on my face. I needed them more than I realized this week.
“Our usual booth?”
“You know it.” I nodded. “Anyone need anything?”
Abby laughed and held up a martini shaker. “I brought mine.”
I shook my head and laughed. The diner wasn’t licensed, which meant it was probably a risky business move to let my friends bring their own alcohol in, but we’d been doing it so long, I hardly remembered I wasn’t supposed to.
“I have a fresh pot of coffee on for you, Sandy.”
She smiled her appreciation. I knew she’d have a little Tupperware container of Baileys to add to it. She always drank the same thing. Darla, when she arrived, late as usual, would have a flask of whiskey and unless it was a special occasion, Brittany would stick to soda water. Only very occasionally did she add a shot of vodka.
As for me, I kept a bottle of white wine in the back cooler. Before joining them, I poured myself a glass and had just re-emerged from the back when the bells over the door jingled again. I almost didn’t look up, thinking it was Britt or Darla, but something about the air felt charged with the new arrival. I slid my glass out of sight and turned in time to see the customer head for a booth on the other side of the restaurant. “I’ll be right with you,” I called.
He lifted a finger in acknowledgment.
“Sorry, ladies,” I apologized a moment later as I delivered a fresh cup of coffee for Sandy and empty glasses for Abby’s martini and Darla’s whiskey when she got there. “I’ll just be a minute.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sandy said. She was the sweetest of all of us. There really was no other way to describe her besides sweet. “Don’t rush on our account.”
“That’s right,” Abby agreed as Darla arrived. “I was just going to tell you about—”
“Your latest sexy escapade?” Darla wiggled her eyebrows.
Abby smiled coyly, and we all laughed. It hadn’t been long since Abby and her first true love, Phillip, had reconnected over a very indecent proposal that we’d encouraged her to accept that turned out to not only be super hot, but also a chance for the two of them to finally be together. Ever since, we’d been regaled with many tales of their very active sex life.
And I, for one, was more and more envious of my friend.
“Okay,” I said. “Tell one story. But no more. Not without me.” They nodded their agreement and I laughed. “I’ll be back soon.”
I hustled to the counter, grabbed a pot of coffee and a fresh cup, and headed over to where my new customer sat. I moved on autopilot, laughing to myself about what type of crazy antics Abby was going to tell us about next. I couldn’t help it; I loved hearing about the amazing sex my friend was having. I might as well live vicariously through Abby. Lord knew I hadn’t seen any action since my divorce—okay, longer than that. Barrett and I hadn’t been intimate in a very, very long time before we finally called it quits on our marriage.
I was distracted, still thinking about my sex life—or, more accurately, lack thereof—and just going through the motions as I poured the coffee and slid it in front of my new customer. At least, that must have been the reason I hadn’t noticed how fucking sexy the man was. Because the minute I looked…
“How are you to—” I damn near spilled the hot coffee on him as I caught a glimpse of eyes so gray, I had to take a second look to be sure they weren’t silver.
“Careful there, sweetheart.” He steadied the cup with his strong hands over mine. The simple touch sent a spark through me.
I pulled back quickly and tucked my free hand into my apron. He was older than me, but not by much, just enough that his dark hair was streaked with the slightest bit of silver. He wore head-to-toe leather, like he’d just climbed off a motorcycle. I glanced out the picture window at the front of the restaurant and sure enough, parked under a light was a very shiny, very sexy bike.
I’d always had a bit of a fantasy about motorcycles.
The thought struck me sharply. I was not fantasizing about this man. Was I? Not after mere seconds of putting eyes on him.
I pulled myself back to the moment. “Sorry about that. I wasn’t…”
I let the sentence drift away. What was I supposed to say? That I wasn’t prepared for such a hot biker with thick biceps that my fingers were itching to squeeze, and those crazy piercing eyes, and the sexiest thick beard streaked with silver that matched his eyes to be sitting in my booth? I mean, I could say that. It was the truth.
“What can I get you?” I asked instead.
He smiled, but just a little, as if he knew what kind of effect he’d had on me and was enjoying every second of it. My body tingled under his attentions. How long had it been since I was flirted with? Was he flirting with me?
No. Not a man like this. Not with me.
“How about a little sugar?”
I stepped back. Flirting or not, that was way too forward. I shook my head, hard. There was no way I was going to give him any sugar. I don’t care how sexy he was, or how long it had been, or how damp my panties were just from being in his presence. There was no way I was going to—
“Sugar?” He pointed to the table behind me and the sugar shaker.
I turned to grab it, taking the opportunity to exhale. I placed the sugar in front of him with a little more force than necessary.
“You didn’t think I meant something else, did you?” He lifted his eyebrow, and I knew my face burned red. I could feel the flush all the way down my chest.
Behind me, I heard the bells over the door jingle, followed by Brittany and Darla’s voices, but the sexy biker’s gaze didn’t leave me. I took a breath and regrouped. “What would you like?”
“Now look who’s being forward.” He wiggled his eyebrows this time, but his eyes still didn’t leave mine. They held me. Almost hypnotizing me. It was ridiculous, but I couldn’t look away. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
“I’m not…I wasn’t…”
“Why don’t we wait until we know each other a little better, sweetheart.”
My face blazed even hotter, and I shifted where I stood because something about this stranger made me feel things I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
His eyes traveled down my body.
Was it my imagination or did his pupils darken when he got to my chest?
Once more his gaze moved up and locked on mine. “It’s nice to meet you, Jessie.” He stuck out his hand, and I had to put the coffeepot down to take it. His grip was strong, and instantly, images of what his hands would feel like pressed up on other parts of my body flashed through my head.
“How did you know my…” I pulled my hand away as if I’d been bit. This was too much.
He chuckled and pointed to my chest, where my name tag was pinned.
I glanced at it briefly, as if double-checking to make sure it was still there, and all I could see was my breasts, straining and—oh my God—heaving, against the cheap fabric of my pink uniform dress. “Oh.”
“Just the coffee for me, Jessie.”
I nodded, but my face flared hot again when he added, “For now.”
* * *
Just like every other night for the last few nights I’d gone riding, I’d only been looking for a cup of coffee.
Not a hard-on so intense I thought it might cause personal injury if I didn’t stop looking at the curvy waitress in the pale-pink dress stretched tight across her tits in all the right ways.
I knew I was in trouble the moment I walked in and saw her, and her heavy breasts popping from the top of her uniform as she leaned over the counter.
The last fucking thing I needed was a sexy piece of ass distracting me.
Or maybe that was the very thing I did need.
She was the exact opposite of the women I usually dated—or more specifically, screwed. And it had been a long time since I’d indulged in a little distraction of that nature. And Lord knew I was well overdue.
But this woman…
I lifted my mug and took a sip of the strong, coffee before I poured another dose of sugar in.
My eyes drifted back to the counter where she busied herself for a moment with something under the counter—was that a glass of wine?—before joining a group of women crowded mostly out of sight in the back corner booth.
I sipped slowly as I watched her.
She was older than the young, giggling, almost absurd girls I usually hooked up with. Jessie was a woman. She looked like a hard worker. A little tired, but not worn out. Almost determined. As if life was a challenge she was determined to conquer.
Why hadn’t I seen her before?
I chuckled into my mug. I’d only been visiting the diner for exactly three days. It’s not as if I knew anything about the place or the staff. And I knew nothing about this woman who was currently laughing with the group of women in the corner instead of checking on her customer. A quick glance around the place told me I was the only one. Still, should she be sitting down on the job? Not likely. And I was almost positive that was wine she’d taken with her.
Not that I’d rat her out. That wasn’t my style.
But it was my style to press her up against the—
No. She wasn’t my type. And Jessie didn’t seem like the type of woman who’d bend so easily. She’d be a challenge.
Maybe that’s exactly what I needed?
There was nothing like the thrill of the chase, followed by the conquest, that released the pressure quite the same way.
Hands on those full hips while I bent her over and relieved that building pressure. Oh yes, I could picture exactly how—
“Can I get you anything else?”
I’d been so busy imagining what it would be like to have her that I hadn’t noticed Jessie approach, coffeepot in hand.
“A piece of pie, maybe? It’s delicious.”
“I’m sure it is.” I didn’t bother telling her I’d enjoyed a piece of pie every other night.
“Stan makes it himself.” She gestured behind her toward the kitchen, where the stereotypically bald, with a potbelly, cook stood over a grill. “It’s peach.”
I knew from experience exactly how good the pie was. But there was only one kind of sweet I wanted at the moment.
“Just some more coffee.”
“It’s not too strong, is it?” It was, but I didn’t say anything as she topped up my cup. “I made it really strong tonight because my friend usually adds—”
She cut herself off before she could incriminate herself.
“Does she add some cream liqueur?” I nodded toward the table of women, two of whom were doing a terrible job of pretending not to watch us.
Jessie’s mouth opened in an O.
Before she could protest, I added, “I didn’t know you served alcohol here.”
“Is that right?” I smirked and bit my bottom lip a little as I assessed her. “And I suppose that wasn’t a glass of wine you poured yourself behind the counter.”
Again, her mouth fell open, but only for a minute before she clamped it shut again and pressed her lips in a line.
“I wonder how your boss would feel to hear that you’re—”
Just like that, her face shifted, so she was now the one with the grin. “I am the boss.” She jutted out a full hip and shot me a satisfied look.
Now that was an unexpected twist.
“Is that right?”
I was. But it explained a lot. And left a lot more questions at the same time.
“It’s pretty quiet in here.” I dodged the question.
Her face fell, the grin slipping away. She sighed. “It never used to be. But…it doesn’t matter.”
Her eyes betrayed her words. I could see exactly how much it mattered. She was worried about the business slowdown.
I shifted in my seat in an effort to release the pressure in my pants that had only grown worse the longer she stood there. “Maybe I’ll have that piece of pie after all.”
She laughed a little, a sweet sound. But she shook her head. “You don’t need to buy pity pie. It’s fine.”
“It’s not fine.” I reached for my coffee cup to keep from reaching for her. “Besides, I know just how delicious it is.” I gave myself away. “I’ve been in every night all week.” No point in keeping it a secret. “I haven’t seen you before.”
More than anything, I wanted to keep her talking. Her attention on me.
She put the pot down on the table. “That’s because I was delivering my twins to college.”
My eyes went to her left hand in search of a ring. It wasn’t something I usually cared about.
Once more, I met her eyes. “That would explain the absence.”
She stretched her arms behind her back in a way that thrust her tits forward. My gaze homed in on the button that looked as though it only just barely held the thin fabric over her chest closed. I willed the button to let go.
“My first absence in almost ten years.” She rolled her shoulders. “Too bad it wasn’t much of a vacation. Driving a truck and lugging boxes isn’t my idea of a break.”
So, she’d done it alone.
“Speaking of which,” she continued, almost talking to herself. “I suppose I better start looking for a new car.”
She blinked, as if she just realized she was speaking aloud.
“You said you needed to look for a new car,” I prompted.
“Oh, that.” She waved her hand in the air. “It’s just that I rented a truck to move the kids out and I left them my car to share while they got settled. But it’s just an old…well, it doesn’t matter. But I was going to surprise them with it and get something…sorry. I’m rambling.”
She was. I liked it. She was off-balance around me. I really liked that.
“Anyway.” She took a breath and smiled brightly. “I guess there’s no rest for the wicked.”
I was grateful to be sitting down, because there was no way I would’ve been able to hide how hard that comment made my dick. Wicked. I bet.
And I’d certainly like to find out for myself. Not only that, but I’d also like to give this curvy beauty exactly the kind of break she deserved.
She rolled her shoulders back once more and picked up the coffeepot. “I’ll go get you that piece of pie.” She paused and assessed me. “If you really want it, that is?”
I swallowed hard. “Oh, I want it.”
“He’s totally flirting with you.”
I refused to meet Abby’s eyes. She always saw what she wanted to see. There was no way that sexy biker guy was flirting with me, of all people. Especially after I started rambling on about the kids and moving and the car. I groaned a little, so embarrassed by my complete lack of control.
“He totally is,” Darla agreed. “And he’s cute.”
“I don’t know about cute.” Sexy in a dark and dangerous way? Yes! But cute? No way.
“I didn’t get a look at him when I came in.” Britt tried to turn in her seat.
“Don’t look,” I hissed.
Too late. She was already straining to see the man, whose name I still didn’t know. I took him his pie and was going to ask, but my tongue tripped over the words and instead, I just kind of hurried away. Besides, it’s not like it mattered. He wasn’t my type. Even if I had a type. Which I didn’t. It was pretty hard to have a type when you hadn’t dated in years and the only man you had dated was a total loser who you’d ended up marrying because you got knocked up.
“I can’t see his face.” Disappointed, Britt turned around and sat back in her seat. She sipped at her water.
“Take it from me,” Abby said. “He’s sexy.”
To my surprise, Sandy nodded in agreement.
“You think he’s sexy, too?” I asked her.
She swallowed her sip of coffee and Baileys and grinned. “Very. I mean, that beard…the leather…”
“Maybe this is Jessie’s go for it moment?” Abby, who’d come up with the whole idea of go for it, almost yelled. She clapped her hand over her mouth in an effort to keep calm. It wasn’t working.
Especially when Britt agreed. “Totally. I mean, a biker? Sounds like it could be exactly what you need.”
There were a lot of things I needed. And although I wasn’t convinced that a biker might not be one of them, my friends were missing one very important detail.
“There’s no opportunity here, ladies.” And that was the problem. Even if I was brave enough to take a risk and cast my inhibitions aside the way Abby had when she agreed to spend the weekend with Phillip, this wasn’t the same. “I don’t have any offer to accept.”
“Go make one.” Darla picked up her whiskey and grinned over the rim of her glass.
I almost choked on my wine. “You want me to make an offer? Is that how it works?”
“It can work however you want, right?”
I had to admit, the idea of having any kind of sexy experience that involved the stranger with the dangerous eyes sent shots of heat directly to my core. But it’s not as though I could go up and—
“I think he wants more coffee,” Sandy said with a nod of her head.
“Oh, I think he wants more than that.” Darla wiggled her eyebrows.
I loved my friends; I really did. And I know they meant well with this whole go for it pact that we’d made, but they didn’t understand what it was like for me. Not really.
Instead of trying to explain it, I shook my head and pushed out of the booth to fetch the coffeepot for the sexy biker.
Even if I wasn’t going to actually act on it, I had to admit it was kind of fun to think about what could happen if I let myself take a chance.
“Can I get you anything else?”
I topped off his coffee and tried to keep my voice level as his eyes met mine with a hunger there was no way I was imagining.
Or maybe it was the way the light reflected from the fluorescents. Because no matter what the ladies said, there was no way he could be flirting with me.
The man didn’t respond right away. Instead, he let his lips twitch up into a half smile as I worked to keep my breathing under control.
“If there’s nothing else, I should get ready to close up.”
I turned to head back to the counter, somehow feeling his gaze on my ass, and for the first time in recent memory, I wasn’t self-conscious at the size of it.
“It is almost midnight.” I half turned and looked over my shoulder. “That’s when we close. Although I don’t really know why I bother to stay open so late anymore. It’s not like there’s usually any customers. Except you,” I added quickly. “And I’m not trying to rush you. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like but if I miss the last bus, it’s a long walk—” I stopped myself from rambling again as I realized all at once that not only did I sound ridiculous, but now I was just being stupid, too. Telling a complete stranger that I’d be walking home in the middle of the night was downright dangerous.
I shut my mouth and was about to rush back to the counter to pull myself together‚ but his hand on my arm stopped me. My instinct was to pull away, but there was something about his touch. It wasn’t menacing or threatening in any way.
Slowly, I turned around, but he didn’t take his hand off me.
“You’re not walking in this part of town at this time of night.”
He held my eyes with his, challenging me to disagree.
“It’s not safe, Jessie.”
Chances were good it was perfectly safe. After all, it was Aspen Valley. Even the worst neighborhood was perfectly safe. But there didn’t seem any point in arguing that particular fact.
“Never mind how reckless it is to tell a complete stranger about it.”
Heat flooded directly between my legs at the way he chastised me, as if I were a little girl and not a grown-ass woman.
“I’m sure it will—”
“If you were mine, I’d never let you walk home.”
His words froze me to the spot and simultaneously sent a burst of pleasure to my clit.
If I were his?
Before I could reply to that loaded statement, he said, “I’ll drive you home.” It wasn’t a question. As if the matter were settled, he dropped my arm, leaving the bare skin hot from his touch.
I opened my mouth and shut it again, unsure of what to say, which was stupid. Of course I should say no. I should tell him my girlfriends would drive me home. I was a grown woman, and I was perfectly capable of getting myself home safely. More to the point, I did not need to be told what to do.
But I kind of liked it.
I felt the heat in my face as my skin flushed with the awareness that I did indeed like to be told what to do by this sexy stranger.
* * *
Her creamy skin flushed all the way down the V of her dress to the pinked skin on the swell of her breasts before disappearing beneath the thin fabric cotton.
“You should be careful about what you say,” I said sternly. “And who you say it to. You never know who you’re speaking to.” I lifted my eyebrows and tilted my head in dismissal before I could say anything else.
I’d already said too much.
If you were mine.
Those words had slipped out far too easily. But I couldn’t help it. Something about her was at once both strong and delicate. And I wanted to know more.
A lot more.
Clearly stunned, she blinked and walked back to the counter.
I’d meant what I said about driving her home, though.
I waited a few minutes and tried to talk myself out of what I was about to do. I had no business getting involved with this woman. Not only was she not my type, but she clearly had some complications in her own life that would be anything but straightforward. And straightforward was exactly what I needed.
Sex. A release.
Still. There was something about her.
I watched as she cleaned up at the counter for a few minutes. She was obviously trying not to look at me. Her body was tense, but aware. I wasn’t blind; I could see how I affected her. And more importantly, how much she was fighting it.
I sipped my coffee and finished my pie as she cleaned up before she almost reluctantly rejoined her friends at their table in the corner. I had to turn my attention to the cup of liquid in front of me to keep from smiling when the group of ladies were very clearly discussing me.
She had a choice to make, and as sure as I was about almost everything in my life, I had no idea what she would choose when it came to her ride home. She didn’t seem like the kind of woman who’d accept an offer from a stranger late at night.
I felt it in my bones. She’d say yes.
She brought me another refill of coffee along with the bill before scurrying off again without another word. But she didn’t have to say anything. I could see the way she looked at me. The way her breath caught in her throat when she felt my gaze on her.
I left a twenty that would more than cover my coffee, wrote my message on the back of the receipt, and went outside to wait.
* * *
“This is crazy.” I stared at the table and picked at a chip in the Formica.
“Not crazy at all,” Abby said. “Taking a chance and having a little fun turned out pretty well for me.”
It had. No one could deny that. When Abby had decided to take billionaire Phillip Conrad up on his indecent proposal for spending the weekend with him, it had worked out very well. Like falling in love and having the sexy-hot relationship she’d deserved to have her entire life, well.
But that was the exception, surely.
Besides, my hot stranger was just that. A stranger. Abby had known Phillip before. It was different.
“It’s just a ride home,” Darla said. But the look in her eyes said she certainly hoped it was more than that.
I looked to Sandy. She’d be the voice of reason. But did I even want her to be?
And just like that, I had my answer. I felt it deep in my soul. Something about the sexy stranger was doing all kinds of things to my insides. Things I hadn’t felt in years. Things I wanted to feel again.
But I had to be the one to take the leap. She was right.
I closed my eyes and remembered the words I was supposed to say. The words we’d decided as a group would be the indication for us to encourage each other. I took a breath and swallowed hard.
“Should I go for it?”
“Absolutely,” Britt said as she rejoined us from a quick trip to the bathroom. “I have a good feeling about him,” she added as she grabbed her purse from the bench next to her. “He has an…honest face.” She grinned slyly.
“I thought you didn’t see him?”
“I checked him out on my way to the bathroom.”
I looked at the rest of my friends. They were all grinning as they nodded. No one disagreed with Brittany.
“So, I guess this is it?” A thrill passed through me despite the fact that he’d only offered me a ride home. Not hot sex up against a wall. Still.
Abby squeezed my arm. “Text us when you get home so we—”
“Get all the hot details,” Darla interrupted.
“I was going to say so we know everything is okay.” Abby laughed. “But yes. We’ll need all the details.”
They all turned to leave, but still I didn’t turn around to look at the sexy biker stranger whom I was about to be left alone with.
“Oh, and Jessie,” Darla said before they left out the front door. “Have fun. You deserve it.” She blew me a kiss and they were gone.
I took a moment to pull myself together before gathering up the glasses and turning around.
But, when I finally did turn around, my bearded stranger was gone. His booth empty. My stomach sank.
Sure, I was nervous about what his offer to drive me home might mean. But nerves or not, there was a whole lot more behind the flutters in my stomach. It was excitement.
But now that he was gone…
I shook my head and sighed as I set to my cleaning duties. For a moment, I contemplated calling one of the girls back to drive me home, but ultimately decided against it. The walk would do me some good. It would clear my head and maybe give me some clarity to what exactly I had been thinking.
Something was missing in my life, that much I knew. But would I find the answers in a sexy stranger?
“I guess you’ll never know, Jess,” I muttered to myself as I started to clear his table.
He’d left a twenty-dollar bill, which was way more than enough to cover his bill of less than five dollars. But that wasn’t the only thing.
There was a note.
A folded piece of paper with “Jessie” scrawled in tall, neat letters.
My breath caught in my throat. It took me a moment, but finally I reached for the paper and carefully unfolded it.
I read it once.
I’ll give you a ride on two conditions:
1)Hold on tight.
It didn’t make sense.
What the fuck did that even mean? Let go.
But I knew exactly what it meant, and my panties were wet just thinking about it.
He hadn’t left after all.
But he was a stranger and—sexy as fuck. And the way he looked at me as if he wanted to rip my dress off and—no!
I couldn’t actually be considering it.
But I did need a ride home…
Plus…I’d made the pact with my friends to go for it.
I tucked the note and the twenty into my apron, deciding at least for the moment to think about it until I was done with my duties. Maybe a little time, even a few minutes, would give me some clarity or make me see reason. After all, hadn’t he just told me how stupid I was to tell him I’d be walking? Wouldn’t it be even stupider to get on the back of a motorcycle with him?
Dammit, my panties had only gotten wetter remembering the way he’d chastised me. Not as if I were in trouble, but more like I was…naughty.
Getting on a bike with a biker dude could be the stupidest thing I could do. Or it could be anything but stupid.
I spent the next few minutes wiping tables, stacking glasses, and cashing out the till. Finally, I couldn’t delay any longer. I grabbed my tips from my apron, took the note, and tucked it into my purse, before I hung up my apron. “I’m out of here, Stan.” I peeked my head around the corner into the kitchen at my chef, who was still wiping up the counters and tucking food away. “You good?”
“Absolutely, darlin’. Are you sure you’re going to be okay getting home?” He crossed his arms and they rested on his belly. “You know I’d give you a ride if they hadn’t taken my license, and my car.”
I laughed. Even if Stan did still have his car or his license, there was no way I’d let him drive anywhere. His eyesight was so bad, he’d kill us both. He could only see what was right in front of him, despite the thick glasses he wore. It was a good thing he lived a few blocks away, or he wouldn’t be able to find his way to work every day. Stan was just one more reason I had to make the diner work. He depended on me. The weight of the responsibility felt heavy on my shoulders, but I shrugged it off. I had other things to focus on. Big, sexy biker kind of things. “I’m good, Stan. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m going to go out the front. I’ll lock up behind me.”
He waved me away and it was time to make my decision. That is, if the sexy biker dude was even outside waiting for me. It seemed unlikely, but then again, so did the offer.
Damn. Even thinking about it made me horny. After all, it had been a very long time since I’d had sex. It was embarrassing to even think about how long it had been. But it was definitely somewhere around the ten-year mark. And the only sex I’d had before that…well, let’s just say it was nothing to get too worked up about.
My friends were right. There was nothing to lose. Except a really long dry spell.
I pushed out the glass door before I could change my mind. I had a moment to collect myself as I locked the door behind me and then I turned to face the parking lot.
There he was. Leaning against the sexiest fucking motorcycle I’d ever seen. It sent a jolt through me. Intellectually, I knew he had a bike and that the ride he’d offered me was on a bike. But it was different seeing it. I’d never been on a motorcycle. Hell, I’d spent most of my children’s childhood telling them how dangerous they were.
He grinned when he saw me—like he’d never doubted I’d accept his offer—and pushed up from the bike to walk toward me. Away from the protection of the booth in the diner, he was larger than I’d expected. Easily over six feet tall, with thick biceps and broad shoulders. I felt tiny compared to him.
I crossed the pavement, my knees shaking a little, my panties completely soaked because seriously, this man was smoking hot, a complete stranger, and I was about to get on a motorcycle with him in the middle of the night and that was exciting as hell. And the deal. It had seemed like such a good idea when we’d talked about it in theory. And sure, taking a risk and pushing outside her comfort zone had worked for Abby. But I wasn’t Abby. I was a single mother of two and—it had been way too long since I’d been laid.
Plus, I’d agreed.
Take a chance, Jess.
What do you have to lose?
I probably could have come up with a whole list of things I could lose, but something deep inside me suddenly didn’t care anymore.
“You got my note.” Even in the dim light of the parking lot, his eyes pierced right through me.
“And you agree to the rules?”
“I don’t really…” My voice shook as if I were a little girl, and he were the Big Bad Wolf. Hell, maybe he was. Still. Pull it together, Jess. I tried again. “I don’t really understand,” I admitted. “Hold on and—”
The intensity that he spoke with sent a shiver directly through me to my core.
“You strike me as a woman who needs to learn how to let go, Jessie.”
Damn. Had he been talking to my friends?
But no, I knew they wouldn’t interfere like that.
I nodded, because he wasn’t wrong. And in that moment, any lingering doubts I had disappeared. It was time for me to see whether I was even capable of feeling the things that Abby and Darla talked about. To see whether it were even possible for me, after all these years, to feel sexy. To be sexy.
I agreed to his rules.
“Put this on.” He handed me his helmet.
I did as I was told and the moment it was situated on my head, he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me close. I thought he was going to kiss me. Just like that. My whole body vibrated, suddenly desperate for the kiss.
Instead, he traced my jaw with one finger before he fastened the strap of the helmet under my chin. When he was done, he pressed his finger to my lips before he pulled it away. “Let’s ride.”
I hesitated, suddenly unsure. After all, I didn’t even know this man’s name. “Um…wait.”
He turned around and stared at me. Hard.
“I don’t even know your name,” I blurted.
He smirked. “What was rule number two?”
“Let go.” I repeated the rule. “But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know your name.”
“Call me Dax.”
Was that really his name?
Did it matter?
“Okay.” I paused. There was no way I was changing my mind. “Dax.”
He grinned and his eyes flared even darker in the dim light. Without another word, he swung his strong, muscular thigh over the bike and waited for me to get on.
I’d never been on a bike before, but it couldn’t be that hard. I moved closer and immediately realized my tight skirt was going to be a problem. It was short and snug over my ass. There’d be no way to get on the bike decently.
Dax must have sensed my hesitation. He turned slowly and looked over his shoulder. “Is there a problem?”
“No. I mean…” I shrugged and pointed to my skirt but he only grinned.
“Oh, I don’t think that will be a problem.” His eyes glinted in the low light of the parking lot before he turned around again.
There was no help for it. I grabbed the bottom of my skirt and tugged it indecently high before climbing up onto the seat.
The cold leather against my bare thighs was in a sharp, sexy contrast to the hot heat coming from my pussy. When Dax turned the key and the bike roared to life, the vibrations instantly hit the long-forgotten sensitive spot between my legs.
Oh shit. This was definitely turning out to be a good decision.
Dax reached his arm behind him and, with his gloved hand, stroked my bare thigh before giving it a squeeze. “Ready?”
“Rule one,” he said. “Hold on.”
The bike lurched forward, and instinctively I wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed my body into his back. The thrill of the bike and the danger of what I was doing, combined with the vibrations pulsing against my core, were so fucking exciting I almost didn’t notice that he hadn’t asked me where I lived.