Authors: Jane Porter
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women
She was still snapping the intricate leatherwork when a faded-denim-clad leg swung over the seat, hiding it.
Kit jerked her head up and lowered the camera just in time to get a glimpse of long black hair, bronze skin, dark eyes, and the slash of a high cheekbone before a black helmet came down, obscuring his face.
Impulsively she raised the camera, snapped another photo even as he turned his head and looked directly at her.
she thought somewhere in the back of her brain.
she thought in a more logical part. He looked like trouble. Tough. Hard. Physical.
And then he started his bike. It sputtered once, twice, before roaring to life, low, rough, loud.
God, her mother would hate the biker, the bike, the noise. Kit bit into her bottom lip even as the bike lurched forward and then did a quick spin, turning in the middle of the quiet street to come straight at her.
She stumbled backward, thinking the rider had lost control, but then he stopped the bike mere inches from her ankle and tugged off his helmet.
“You took a picture of me,” he said, looking into her eyes, his voice nearly as deep as the engine’s growl.
She opened her mouth and then shut it.
“Why?” he demanded.
Her brows tugged, and her shoulders twisted. “I liked your bike. Thought it’d make an interesting picture.”
His dark eyes narrowed and his head tilted, glossy black hair sliding over prominent cheekbones. “You a cop?”
She nearly laughed. “No.”
“What do you do, then?”
“I’m a teacher.”
“And what do you teach?”
“High school English.”
He sat back on his seat and placed the helmet between his thighs. “Then why are you taking pictures?”
“It’s a hobby. Gives me something to do when I’m not grading papers.”
He looked at her a long moment, expression shuttered and impossible to read. “How do I know you’re really a teacher?”
“Why would I lie?”
“People do all the time.”
“Well, not me. I’m a
schoolteacher,” she said, emphasizing
. “I have to be moral. It’s my job.”
He seemed to fight a smile. “You took a vow of morality to teach English?”
She wondered about his background. He looked part Greek, or
perhaps it was Armenian or possibly Native American. He was very dark, and hard, and altogether too intimidating. “No. But what kind of example would I set if I went through life lying, stealing, and cheating?”
“I didn’t know women like you still existed.”
“The world is full of good women,” she said crisply.
“I haven’t met any.”
“Then you’re hanging around with the wrong crowd.”
“You don’t like me.”
“I don’t know you.”
“But you’re still forming opinions. Making judgments. You know you are.”
Kit’s cheeks grew hot. “I’ve met men like you back when they were just boys in my classroom,” she said, trying to sound flippant but failing. “You go through life breaking hearts and causing trouble.”
He smiled slowly, almost lazily, and the long dense lashes fringing his eyes lowered as he looked her up and down. “Left your wedding ring at home?”
“Too busy teaching the sacraments?”
“Too busy teaching hoodlums to read.”
He smiled again, knowing she was referring to him. “Where do you teach?”
“The one in Oakland?”
She nodded, pulled a tendril of hair from her mouth, and pushed it behind her ear. “I’ve taught there for years.”
“So you don’t need the photos for anything.”
“Can I see them?”
It wasn’t a question, she thought. He expected her to hand over the camera. He was that confident, that controlled, that strong of a guy. “Are you going to delete them?”
She looked up into his eyes. He was serious. And dangerous. She avoided men like him. Knew that there was no room in her life for rebels. Or trouble. Silently she handed him her camera, which had turned off while they talked, and he turned it on without fumbling and then pressed the review button and clicked through the photos she’d taken.
The first one was a close-up of him on the bike, all long hair, intense dark eyes, and chiseled cheekbones. The second was a shot of his torso and denim-clad thighs against the orange of the bike. The third was the bike seat. The fourth, more bike, and then more bike. And more bike. And then a lone daffodil against a white picket fence and all the rest of the pictures she’d taken since leaving the cottage for her walk.
“You’re good,” he said flatly, no emotion in his voice and yet there was something hard enough, deep enough that made her look up at his face, that made her want to take her camera back and shoot him here, like this, up close.
Rough. Edgy. Callous. Her gaze fell to her camera in his hands. His hands were scarred. She could imagine him fighting.
“Can I have my camera back?” she asked quietly.
“What’s your name?” he said, handing it to her.
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Short for Kit Kat bar?”
She almost laughed. Instead, she rolled her eyes. “
“Good Catholic name.”
“I come from a good Catholic family.”
“What’s your last name?”
“Irish, of course. Which means your dad’s a cop. Am I right?”
Her eyebrows arched. He wasn’t far off. “Running from the law, are you?”
He shrugged. “Don’t need trouble.”
So he was like some of those tough kids she’d taught—boys who were too bright, too curious, too wild for their own good.
Boys who ended up lying and stealing and cheating.
Boys who ended up in jail or running from the law.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“This and that.”
Which could mean gangs and drugs, or just that he was a drifter without anyone or anything to tie him down. “I was right. I
taught kids like you.” From the corner of her eye she caught a flash of blue. It was Polly, and she was heading toward them, her long blond ponytail bouncing. “My mom’s brothers are police officers. My dad’s a fireman.”
“I’ve spent time in jail.”
Of course he had. She took an uneasy step away. “I better go.”
“Smart girl.” He turned the key in the ignition and his bike roared to life.
As Polly approached he set off, bike and man hurtling dangerously down the street. Polly turned her head and watched him shoot pass and then pulled the iPod’s buds out of her ears. “Who was that?” she asked, looking at Kit.
Kit watched the bike disappear from view. “I don’t know.”
ack at the cottage, Polly headed upstairs to shower while Kit took a seat in one of the old rattan chairs in the living room, intent on recording grades from last Tuesday’s vocab quiz into her laptop. Instead, her eye fell on her camera lying on the coffee table next to the stack of faded
magazines no one ever read.
Kit flashed to her walk, and her encounter with the motorcycle guy. The whole thing had been surreal. He certainly wasn’t like the men she normally met. Wasn’t building himself up, trying to make himself sound good. If anything, he’d done the opposite. Told her he was trouble. Said he was bad news.
Too bad more men didn’t come with warnings.
Kit smiled, imagining warnings on men’s profiles at Love.com.
Handsome, charming, passive-aggressive doctor.
Fun, sports-loving, narcissistic family man.
Successful, fit, explosive business executive.
Wouldn’t happen. Most people buried their faults, denied their
weaknesses. The biker had done the exact opposite. And it intrigued her. Not that she should be interested, or intrigued, by a guy like him. Kit had encountered her fair share of predators and weirdos in her time and she didn’t need another weirdo shadowing her now.
But that didn’t stop her from reaching for her camera and reviewing the photos she’d taken, examining each shot as objectively as possible, lingering on the shots of the orange bike, and then stopping on the two of the biker.
He was even better-looking in the photos than she’d remembered. Broad shoulders, big chest, neat hips, thick biceps beneath the cotton thermal shirt he wore under the leather vest. No, she definitely had never dated a guy like this. Nor been attracted to a guy like this. Now Brianna had. But then Brianna liked trouble and in high school she’d made it a point to only see guys Dad would detest. Kit had been the opposite. She’d only dated boys who were nice. Boys Dad approved of.
Her thumb stroked the LCD screen, touching the biker’s big shoulders. Dad definitely wouldn’t approve of this guy. Dad would say he was bad news.
She rolled the word
around on her tongue as she studied the biker’s fierce expression, trying to understand who he was and what he did for a living and why something inside of her felt as if it was moving, humming.
he’d said when she told him she needed to go.
And damn him, but that had caught her imagination. Kit didn’t just love books, she loved words, and she found herself replaying their brief conversation, repeating his words. They were charged. Dangerous. Like him.
So what did he do, this biker guy? This and that, he’d said, but what
this and that?
His bike was impressive, he didn’t appear to have a lot of money, and she couldn’t imagine him at a desk job. He had to be a mechanic or someone who had a trade, worked with his hands. And while his leather vest, combat boots, and ratty jeans made him look mean, tough, she liked his face.
In terms of shape and structure it was a good face. Handsome. Arresting. Broad brow. High prominent cheekbones. Strong jaw with a squared-off chin. Long, straight nose. A man’s face. No boy left in it.
How old was he, then? Thirties? She covered the lower half of his face and was drawn to his dark intense eyes and the faint creases at the corners. She covered his eyes and studied his mouth. Faint lines there, too, bracketing his lips. Midthirties. Somewhere between thirty-two and thirty-seven. Definitely younger than her.
Kit removed her thumb and his enigmatic expression tugged at her imagination. Outlaw. Pirate. Rebel. And like most rebels, he wouldn’t be stupid. He’d simply chosen to play by a different set of rules.
Like Brianna. Brianna had been a rebel even as a little girl.
Kit wondered what the biker had been like as a boy. She could see him as a one of those bright busy kids who had a hard time sitting still in elementary school, and he would have grown into one of those bright, sarcastic kids who sat in the back of middle school classrooms, angry, frustrated.
By the time these troubled kids got to her in high school, it was nearly impossible to reach them. They’d been ignored and bored for so many years that school was nothing more than a holding pen, with teachers as their jailors. These teenagers, who had once had such eager, hopeful, inquisitive minds, had come to loathe books and learning, and eventually they either got kicked out of school or chose to drop out because the system didn’t work for them. Schools weren’t designed to cater to individuals. It was
about educating the masses…cramming the biggest amount of information into the largest group of people for the least amount of money.
With a shake of her head, aware that she was procrastinating, Kit turned off her camera and focused on getting the rest of the test scores inputted into her online grade book, hoping to be finished with schoolwork before Fiona arrived.
Twenty minutes later, she was finally nearing the end of the roster when a motorcycle with a deep, distinctive roar approached the house. She looked up from her computer and stared out the living room window to watch the big burnt-orange bike slowly cruise past.
He’s come back.
Kit felt a quivery spike of fear followed by a rush of adrenaline as the bike turned around at San Jose Avenue and slowly cruised back to their house, a corner house hugging Lawn Way and Esplanade.
With the beach deserted, he had no problem finding a spot in front of the house and nosed into the curb. He turned off the engine and the morning grew still.
He took off his helmet, swung his leg over the seat, wiped his hands on the back of his jeans, and headed up the lawn toward the front porch.
Polly gave a shout from upstairs. “Looks like your Hell’s Angel is back.”
Kit’s stomach leaped and fell. “I know.” She wasn’t sure if she should lock the door and hide, or open it and stand on the porch like a brave frontier woman facing an Indian war party.
Not that it was PC to think in those terms, of course.
Although when she was thirteen she loved the western historical romances in which a beautiful young white woman was kidnapped by a hostile Indian war party and forced to marry a handsome savage against her will and live happily ever after. But
the lurid western romance had fallen out of favor decades ago and she’d grown up. Being kidnapped and held hostage by a man wasn’t romance.
Kit opened the front door and stepped outside just as his boot hit the porch’s bottom step.
“Hi,” she said, voice slightly tremulous. She was nervous. This bad-boy, badass biker guy was on her doorstep and she didn’t know what he wanted. “How did you find me?”
“Wasn’t hard. I asked around. Apparently everyone knows the Brennan sisters.”
She didn’t know where to look, what to focus on—his black hair, his long nose, his unsmiling mouth. He had to have Native American blood because he was making her think of that whole
-Jacob-werewolf craze her students were into a couple of years ago. And her Twi-hards would have loved him.
“My family’s owned the house for years,” she said, not knowing what to say. He wasn’t helping things by standing so close to the door. His feet were planted wide on the porch and he took up space, sucking all the air and energy into him.