Losing My Balance (Fenbrook Academy #1.5) (8 page)

BOOK: Losing My Balance (Fenbrook Academy #1.5)
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I took the shot and the ball glanced off the cushion an inch from the hole.

“My question,” she said. “What’s an MIT genius doing hanging around with bikers? Why aren’t you working in the batcave with your buddy?”

I tried to get some bravado back, sticking my thumbs in my belt. “If I did,” I asked, ”could I have you as my muse?”

“Down, boy. Answer the question.”

I tried to think of a convincing lie and then decided to go with the truth. “I don’t do well, mixin’ with the science crowd. Here,”—I jerked my head at the room—“I know where I stand. Your shot.”

She turned to the table, leaned in and sunk her next shot, all in one movement.

Realization hit, the floor seeming to fall away from under my feet.
She’s
hustling
me!

“Is there anybody else?” she asked. First she’d lulled me into a false sense of security with a few missed shots and now she was playing for keeps—in her shots
and
her questions.

“No,” I told her truthfully.

I focused all my attention on my next shot. Now that I knew I was being hustled, it was a little easier. She didn’t sidle up beside me, this time. She moved around to the far end of the table and yawned and stretched, her small but perfect breasts lifting under her top.

I took a deep breath and stared at the table, my face like iron.
I’ll just not look at her.

Then she wandered over towards the watching bikers.
Oh, God, she wouldn’t….

She repeated the yawn-and-stretch maneuver in front of them. They were a lot more appreciative than I had been. It was crazy to feel jealous, of course. She was doing it deliberately, taunting me, trying to throw me off. It was an obvious ploy.

Which didn’t stop it working. My shot went wide—I didn’t even hit the right ball. She was watching out of the corner of her eye and I saw her smirk.

Then, by pure chance, the rogue ball hit the one I’d been aiming for. It teetered on the edge…and then dropped into the pocket.

“Why did you come to Darrell’s place, the second time?” My question took me by surprise. Why did I ask
that?
I could have asked something sexual, like before, to throw her off, or something inane. Why
that?

She blinked. “That’s a waste of a question. You already know the answer.”

“Maybe I want to hear it for myself.” And, suddenly, I did.

She walked towards me, pulling her cue up behind her back to lie across her shoulders. “I came back to see you,” she said, watching my reaction carefully.

I took a long, slow breath, trying not to show how much I’d been hoping for that answer.

She leaned over and took her next shot. It went straight into the hole so cleanly and easily, the ball might as well have been pulled there by a string.
Where the hell did she learn to play like that?

“How’d you find me?” she asked.

“Darrell. When he tracked down your friend to ask her to be his
muse,
he got all her details. And I knew you lived together.”

She tilted her head to one side. “That’s pretty stalker-ish.”

“Me, or him?” I asked.

“Both of you.”

I leaned down to take my shot, flustered. “I was
pursuin’
you. Aren’t we meant to pursue you?”
This time, don’t look at her. Whatever she does, even if she takes her damn clothes off, don’t look at her!

“Careful,” she whispered in my ear as I brought back my cue. “You’re getting all romantic.”

I miscued, almost ripping the baize. The other bikers had fallen silent, but now they burst out laughing.

“My question,” she said. “What do you do for money?”

No way could I tell her what I actually did. That was so far from her safe little world, I’d lose her immediately. And however doomed this thing was, I wasn’t going to smash it into the ground deliberately. So I told her the truth, in an abstract way. “I use probability equations to make moment-by-moment decisions and grow an investment.”

“You’re a day trader?” She looked doubtful. I didn’t blame her. I couldn’t imagine me staring at a stock price on a screen either. But—strictly speaking—I hadn’t lied to her and what she had in her head was a lot more acceptable than the truth.

“Somethin’ like that,” I told her. “Your shot.”

There was only one ball left on the table and I had a sinking feeling inside—if she made the shot, I knew she was going to go all-out with the question. She turned quickly to the table and sank the ball, barely bothering to check it had gone in before she turned back to me. “Last question,” she told me. “What is this?”

We stared at each other for a long moment.

“I’ll answer,” I said at last. “But not here.”

“Awww!” chorused the listening bikers.

“Where are we going?” she asked. She had her chin tilted up, her gaze steady.
She’s not afraid of me,
I realized. And for some reason, that turned me on even more.

“For a ride,” I told her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Clarissa

 

Outside, he indicated his Harley. “Get on,” he said.

“Or…we could take my car. Which, you know, has seats and doesn’t end with us under the wheels of a truck.”

He gave me a look. “You came to find a biker at a biker club. You found him. You want to know where this thing is goin’? Get on the damn bike.” He got on, leaving space for me behind him.

I’d never been on a bike. I thought of all the airbags and seatbelts and comforting, cocooning metal that Bartholomew had and the Harley didn’t.

I started this,
I thought.
I could have just waited for him to call.

I slung one leg over the saddle. I wasn’t sure if Harley Davidson had really built it for two, or just for one person with a large butt. Certainly, we were going to have to cuddle in close. I settled in, my groin against his ass.

He passed me the helmet that was hanging from the handlebars—an old-fashioned bowl that would leave my face exposed. As I started to strap it on, he yelled to one of the bikers who was lounging around outside the clubhouse, asking to borrow one of theirs for himself.

He must have caught my surprised look because, as he strapped on the borrowed helmet, he asked, “What? I’m a biker. I’m not
stupid.”

He reached down and grabbed my hands, then pulled them around his waist. I pressed up against him, my breasts squashing against his back, the scent of warm leather in my nostrils.

He started the bike, the familiar
thump thump
ringing in my ears, and we roared out of the gate.

 

***

 

I’ve driven fast in Bartholomew. Not often, but if it’s been a bad day and it’s late at night and the road is empty, I’ll sometimes hit the gas. Driving fast like that, music cranked up and the world rushing by the windows, feels almost like being in a plane—you’re isolated from the world in your own little aluminum and glass capsule.

This was not like that. This was the exact opposite of that. The city was right next to me, the road in touching distance—sometimes literally. The wind seemed to be trying to rip my clothes from me while hammering air down into my lungs. I was petrified—and excited—and all I could do was cling onto Neil’s broad back and let him take me wherever he wanted.

We raced through crowded city streets and then out into an old industrial area littered with crumbling buildings. The bike slowed to a crawl and I felt brave enough to lift my face away from his jacket and take a proper look around.

The place was a dump—literally, in some areas. It was also completely deserted. It felt uncomfortably close to the sort of place gangsters take people in movies when they want to kill them.
What if I’ve completely misjudged him?
I thought.
What if I’m about to wind up in a shallow grave?

But however weird it was, I knew I was safe. I had that deep, warm certainty that he’d never hurt me.
So what the hell are we doing here?

He turned the engine off and got off.

“Interesting choice,” I said, prompting for an explanation, but he just indicated that I should follow him. He led me down a path scattered with broken glass and into a huge brick building that was little more than a crumbling shell. We walked straight through it to the far side, where he stopped in front of a fire door. There were no windows. Whatever lay beyond the building, I wouldn’t be able to see it until he opened the door.

“Why have you brought me here, Neil?” I asked. Despite my certainty that I was safe, there was just a tiny edge of fear in my voice.

“Because I wanted to show you this.” He swung the door wide and I gasped.

It was a funfair. Only it was a funfair like you see in old pictures, with everything made of wood and steel, hand-painted and elegantly carved. There was a Ferris wheel and a carousel, a ghost train and some dodgems. There were novelty machines that told your fortune or tested your love for a nickel.

It looked like it had been sitting outdoors, without protection from the elements, for decades. The paint had mostly gone, everything now the same wind-polished gray, like a park bench. The carousel had survived best of all, because its awning gave it some protection.

It was beautiful. And heartbreaking. And the fact he’d brought me there to show me it was just about the most unexpected thing he could have done.

We wandered through the attractions and, after a few minutes, he took my hand in his.

“What
is
this place?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Story goes…some guy has a dream of runnin’ a fair. So he borrows money and spends years gettin’ all the attractions built, really takes his time to get everythin’
just right.
Way behind schedule, he’s just gettin’ ready to open…when he’s murdered. See, he borrowed money from the mob, and they got tired of bein’ kept waitin’. They left his body in the coffin you go past on the ghost train.”

I blinked at him. “Is that
true?!”

“I got no idea,” he deadpanned. “Wanna go open the coffin and find out?”

He led me over to the carousel and helped me on. The wood felt like wet cardboard in places. We sat side-by-side on something that might have been Santa’s sleigh, or might have been some sort of undersea fantasy chariot—it was difficult to tell, with the paint peeling off.

I’d never known anywhere so quiet. There weren’t even any birds and the only sound was our breathing. It felt like we were the only two people on earth.

“You said you’d tell me what this is,” I told him. “So what is it?” My heart was thumping in my chest, because I knew we were speeding towards a crossroads, and that I was the one driving us there. I had to know, but I was suddenly starting to realize how scared I was of what the answer might be. I liked him—physically, at least. Sexually, definitely. Beyond that…I wasn’t sure. But I wanted to have the opportunity to find out.

Neil took a deep breath. “Are you havin’ fun?” he asked.

“Yes, but—”

“Did you have fun on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday—and now, today?”

“Sure, but—”

“Can’t we just leave it at that?” he asked. “Can’t we just enjoy it?”

I looked at him for a long moment. Why did I suddenly want to argue? What was wrong with just sex? But something inside me was churning and twisting at the thought of it just being cold, emotionless sex. “And what does that make us?
Fuck buddies? Casual sex partners?”

He stared back at me. “Sex doesn’t have to be casual.”

I knew what he meant by that. I knew he meant the part that was utterly new to me, the part where the talked to me in
that way
and my body and brain went onto autopilot. The part that scared me as much as it aroused me.

I was way out of my depth.

“That’s not me,” I told him.

“What’s not you? Casual sex? Or”—he caught my eye—“being submissive.”

Hearing the word made it real. The shock of it hit me right in my soul—up until that point, I think I’d been kidding myself that I was just imagining the whole submissive thing.

“Both.”
I told him.

“Bullshit.” He didn’t say it cruelly or even harshly. He just said it as a simple statement, and I found I was looking at my feet. “Do you know why I brought you here? Because there’s no one else for miles. No one to hear you.”

“No one to hear me scream?” I asked, trying to make a joke out of it.

“No one to hear you be honest with yourself,” he said.

“You think I’m lying to myself? You really think you know me well enough to say I’m…
submissive
, after three days?”

“I knew you well enough to say that after three minutes.”

BOOK: Losing My Balance (Fenbrook Academy #1.5)
12.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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