Authors: Kristin Fletcher
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
Easy Rider copyright @ 2014 by Kristin Fletcher. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Ria Glenn shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun. It was lunch time at the dig site She was heading to the tent to eat her lunch, a chicken sandwich. If experience was anything to go by, it was likely to be as dry and unappetizing. In fact, the dust her archaeological team sifted through probably tasted just as good. She sighed and walked toward the tent. As she made her way to the tent, she thought over the events of the last five weeks.
This was her second month on the dig at some Native American ruins. It was also her second month of full employment after graduating at the top of her archaeology class. She was twenty-four and graduated two years later than her cohort. This made Ria the oldest assistant at the archeological site. She was also one of the only two people on the site who were actually getting paid. The other person was her friend, Annie. Her three other colleagues were college seniors. For them, the dig was part of their graduation requirements. Academic slaves, they jokingly called each other.
It was her first full-time job. When she had initially come on the site, she felt isolated and insecure. She soon realized she was good at her job. She knew as much, if not more than, the others at the dig.
If she were honest, this wasn’t what she wanted. She reminded herself every day that this was just a step in the direction to her dreams. That was the only reason she had accepted it. Not to mention the fact that she desperately needed money to kick start her life as an independent person. Plus, she needed to pay off her student loans.
Inside the dining tent, she smiled absently at Dave Praducci, one of the three seniors. He handed her a sandwich and her favorite cola.
“Thanks, Dave,” she murmured, seemingly unaware of the way his eyes roamed over her body. She had the type of figure men liked. In the past, she would have welcomed his interest. Not so much anymore. Events from four years ago, in particular a devastating end to a long-term relationship, changed her. Since that time, she deliberately isolated herself from men.
The break-up was also the reason that she was in the States. She had loved her boyfriend, but his betrayal was so complete and traumatic that she had to leave England. As a result, she took a two year hiatus from her studies at the university. During that time, she moved to the United States. Then, she enrolled at a university there to complete her degree.
Since moving to the States, Ria immersed herself in her subject. She had become oblivious to almost everything unrelated to archaeology. She loved archaeology. Unlike men, it was neutral and didn’t ask anything of her. Men were demanding. They always wanted something. When they couldn’t get what they wanted, they were spiteful. The one thing she’d learned was that a relationship with a man could expose her to pain and humiliation. It was a risk she was not prepared to take again.
She had graduated the previous fall. After graduation, she tried to find work in her field. For six months, she sent out numerous applications for work. She discovered that a degree in archaeology did not provide her with an entrance anywhere. As the months passed, she had reached the point where she was actually afraid she would end up slinging burgers at the local greasy spoon. She was rescued from such a job by her professor. He was aware of the quality of her work, her single-mindedness, and her attention to detail. He offered her a job as soon as he won approval for his latest project.
“What do you think?”
Ria blinked. She turned her head to find her friend, Annie, who was waiting for an answer.
“About what?” Ria asked vaguely, as she finished the sandwich she had unconsciously been eating.
Annie sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes. “You really need to come back down to Earth, you know, Ria. If only for meals.”
Ria chuckled, apologized, and repeated her friend’s question. “What do I think about what?”
“There’s a bash going down at the club tonight. We’ve been given leave to go enjoy ourselves, if we so desire. Seems a local boy is returning from the battlefront and they want to welcome him home.”
Ria opened her mouth to refuse the invitation, but Annie forestalled her.
“And don’t say no. You haven’t had a second of fun in two years, Ria. It’s time to relax a bit, no?”
Like Ria, Annie was English, but had lived in the States for much longer and had learned the ways of her adopted country. She was serious and skilled. She was a budding archaeologist in her own right and someday she would make a competent professor. Ria had been happy to find a kindred spirit and they had become close friends.
Realizing she had no choice but to agree, Ria sighed and gave in.
“All right. Do I have to dress up or anything?”
She looked down at her dusty jeans and T-shirt as she spoke. It was her usual work and rest uniform. Today the shirt boasted an image of Captain Picard, her favorite Star Trek captain. His finger pointed to the world and it included the caption: “Make it so!” It had become her personal motto. After all, it was one that seemed to fit her perfectly.
“Well, obviously, it’s not going to be black tie. Although you do need to make an effort, love.” Annie grinned at Ria’s look of despair. “If you can’t find anything in your suitcase, I’ll let you borrow something of mine.”
“I’m at least one size bigger than you are, Annie. Your clothes would be too snug.”
“Which is precisely why I shall insist you wear something of mine.”
Annie laughed and ducked, as Ria threw the cap from her cola bottle at her.
“I’m not interested in the kind of attention tight-fitting clothing will attract, thank you very much,” she said primly. It was almost true. She wasn’t interested in flaunting herself. It would be a long time before she could trust a man again. However, she wasn’t immune to vanity and she wouldn’t head out for the night looking less than presentable.
“We’ll see,” Annie responded. They’d had the same argument a number of times before. Although Annie was determined to get her friend out and about, Ria had steadfastly stymied her best efforts.
“Come on, it’s time to get back to work.”
Work for the afternoon finished at five o’clock
. Ria made her way back to the tent and Annie joined her. She was intent on ensuring her friend’s company for the evening.
“Well, have you decided what are you going to wear?”
“Well, I have. While you’re having you’re shower, I’ll get your outfit ready.”
Ria wanted to refuse, but she had worked for almost a month without a break. She needed one. There was no reason why she couldn’t go into town and have fun. Just because she went out for a night didn’t mean she had to get involved with anyone, either.
By the time she had showered and done her hair, Annie had chosen her outfit. She picked out a royal blue pencil skirt that hit mid-thigh and a white button-down blouse that was edged with blue piping on the collar and elbow-length sleeves. They were ideal. The former hugged and emphasized her bottom, while the latter did the same for her breasts. After looking her over, Annie persuaded her to leave the top button of the blouse undone.
“You look like a professional leaving work to go out on the town. The undone button says you’re ready to relax, but you’re still a classy chick. Don’t worry, you’ll still have enough of the iceberg look you prefer.”
Ria thought about how well Annie knew her, as they drove into town. Her choice of clothes had been perfect. Anything more revealing and she would have balked.
The skirt would not have been her first choice. It was short and revealed more of her legs than she preferred. Men liked her legs; so, she hid them as often as she could. Regardless, the royal blue skirt was plain, smart, and as Annie had said, professional looking. The low-heeled sandals were open-toed and flirty. She hoped no one would notice her feet, since her toenails were unpolished. She wanted to paint them, but ran out of time. Her friends were only willing to wait so long for her to get ready.
The club was located was about ten miles from the dig site. It was a popular venue. When their van pulled into the parking lot, it was already three-quarters full. Like Ria, most of her friends hadn’t left the dig for an outing in over a month. She knew some of them were likely to let their hair down. She really wanted to join them. She was overdue for a night of mindless, but harmless entertainment. She still found it difficult to overcome her fear that something untoward would happen if she let her guard down.
Getting out of the van, she noticed a couple of Harley-Davidson motorcycles on the far side of the parking lot. It wasn’t a good omen. She started to worry that something would go wrong. She had no experience with bikers, but they had a reputation of which she was fully aware. She didn’t know if the bikers’ reputations were warranted and she had no desire to find out how much was truth and how much fiction.
As she turned to walk into the building, a loud roar disturbed the quiet of the summer evening. Several more Harleys headed towards the club. Ria stopped and watched as they swung into the lot, parked next to the two other bikes, and dismounted. The bikers appeared relaxed and laughed among themselves. They milled around and waited until they were all ready. Then, they started towards the entrance.
As she looked them over, her eyes were drawn to the tallest among them. He was well over six feet. He had the beginnings of a beard and long, straight black hair hung loose around his face. He had the widest shoulders she had ever seen on a man. He was standing almost sideways to her. For the moment, all she could see was his profile. His straight nose, strong jaw, and high cheekbones reminded her of the movie stars’ features from the 1940s and 50s.
She watched him say something to the two bikers nearest him. Then, he turned in her direction, focused on her, and met her gaze. From where she was standing, she couldn’t see the color of his eyes, but his stare was disconcerting. He was at least twenty–five yards away; yet, she felt the effect of his attention.
He smiled at her. It was as if he knew the effect his eyes had on her. For some reason, she offered a tentative smile in return. Almost immediately, she realized it was a mistake. In an effort to correct her error, she looked away. Then, she turned sharply and hurried into the club. She reminded herself that she had decided earlier in the evening that there would be no fraternizing with the locals. It didn’t matter if they had the panty-wetting potential.
The tall man’s eyes followed the leggy, strawberry-blonde into the club. He wondered who she was and why she left in such a hurry. He didn’t recognize her. Regardless, he’d find out who she was soon enough.
Jamison Knolls hadn’t wanted to come into town. Since he was a decorated veteran, the American Legion invited him to the unveiling of a memorial for the casualties of the wars in the Middle East. He couldn’t turn them down. The other members of the Demon Riders Motorcycle Club had exhibited none of his reluctance. Although the ceremony was not until the following morning, they were eager to come into town for the evening. He had agreed. Given the nature of their work, his team deserved some downtime.
He’d been reluctant to accept the invitation because he wasn’t good with praise. He was likely to receive a lot of it over the next couple of days. He needed to suck it up and play nice with the good citizens of Sandy Creek, particularly since it was only necessary to be there for two days. Then, he and the team would be off. They’d return to doing other people’s dirty work and living up to their bad boy reputations.
He had just left the special operations team that he had been a part of for the last ten years while he was in the Army. It had been a difficult choice. However, after spending a month in the hospital, three months in rehab, and then taking a one-month leave of absence, he decided not to return for a third tour of duty.
He hoped that when he got back to Sandy Creek no one would ask about his injuries. He had no doubt word had gotten around; but, he still needed time to get past the physical and mental pain from his last mission. During that operation, he and his company fought an action against the Taliban. He had been badly injured and a comrade-in-arms and friend had been killed.
This stint with the boys gave him the time to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He had recently taken a new job. Max had persuaded him take it until he sorted himself out. It was ugly much of the time, complicated most of the time, and dangerous all of the time. So, he welcomed any distraction from it. He needed a break from its hard demands. The mysterious beauty seemed like an ideal diversion. She had a gorgeous smile. Her dimples begged for his tongue to explore them. Plus, she had long, wrap-around-me legs and a voluptuous, lust-inducing body.
“Come on guys, let’s go in.”
Max Worth, his oldest and closest friend and co-founder of the club, got the team’s attention. Then, he led them into the club. As they entered, Jordan Marsh, the club’s owner and a long-time friend, saw them. From his position behind the bar, he called out their names, “Jay! Max!”
His voice echoed around the hall. Many of the patrons turned to the door and looked to see who had arrived. Most recognized him. A few clapped. Others smiled and some went over and extended their hands. Embarrassed, Jay tried not to wince as he was backslapped and greeted by friends and acquaintances. He made his way slowly through the throng. He didn’t like the fuss, but he understood people felt a need to thank those who put their lives at risk for them.