Ride Wild(2)

By: Laura Kaye

Sam rolled his eyes. “No, doofus, it’s an expression.”

Ben’s shoulders fell, and now Cora was the one holding back a smile. “If two certain someones I know take their showers without any complaints, maybe, just maybe, we can have a party.” The littler boy’s grin was immediate, but what really caught her attention was the way that Sam’s attention perked up, even though he tried to hide it. “Deal?” she asked.

Just as both boys agreed, Slider cleared his throat.

Cora turned to find him shrugging into his button-up uniform shirt with its Frederick Auto Body and Repair logo, the movement causing his T-shirt to ride up his side. Just a momentary glance. Just of one small part of his body. But it revealed two things that stole her breath—more ink, and a frame that was all raw muscle and sinew.

Like a wild animal.

The comparison should’ve been alarming, but for some reason, that wasn’t how her body interpreted it if the flutter in her belly was any indication. Never in a million years would she have described Slider as attractive, but there was something unquestionably attracting about him, even if she couldn’t quite articulate what that was.

“Leaving?” she managed.

He nodded. “On seven to seven,” he said. “You have my cell.”

“We’ll be fine,” she said, bracing her hands on Ben’s shoulders. “Won’t we?” she asked, hugging him against her as she peered down into his little face.

“Yeah,” he said. “Don’t worry, Dad.”

Slider gave a single nod as his gaze skated between Cora and his sons. “See ya later, alligators.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but Ben grinned and said, “After while, crocodile.”

Slider winked at his youngest. Just a single little wink. But, together with the way he said good-bye to the kids every time he left, it proved to Cora that there was a sweet, playful man in there somewhere. Or at least there used to be.

Either way, it was clear that what Slider had left of himself to give, he gave to his boys. And given what a miserable piece of crap both her dad and her best friend’s father had been, Cora knew how much having a good father mattered. It mattered a lot. She had to respect that much about Slider, whatever else his faults might be.

The door had barely closed behind her boss when Ben whirled on her. “Is it time for the party yet?”

“No,” Sam said, looking a little nervous. “I, uh, I have homework first.”

“Later, kiddo. I promise. Why don’t you watch some TV while I get dinner on?” When Ben made for the family room at the back of the house, Cora eyeballed Sam. “Your dad said you wanted help. That right?”

“Yeah.” He shifted feet, like something about wanting her help made him uncomfortable.

“Okay, well, why don’t you work at the table while I make us some food?” she suggested, leading them into the kitchen, where the neat but shabby theme continued. “How’s pasta sound?”

Sam shrugged as he slid into a seat and slapped a worn-out backpack onto the table, appearing every inch like a prisoner being led to the gallows.

“What’s up with you?” Cora asked as she crumbled ground beef into a frying pan to brown. Next, she filled a big pot of water to boil.

He sighed. “I have to do an interview.”

Frowning, she pulled a jar of sauce and a box of noodles from the pantry. She was going to need to ask Slider to grab some groceries soon, a chore that would be so much easier if she had a car of her own. As would getting back and forth to watch the boys. Cora sighed. Just one more thing to add to her list of stuff she really needed to make happen in her life. “Of?”

“Someone I admire.” He stared at the page in his hand.

Wiping her hands on a towel, she turned to him. “Okay, and did you have someone in mind?”

He looked up at her. And even though he didn’t say a word, his eyes held the answer.

Suddenly, Cora was the uncomfortable one, which had her rambling. “Um, maybe, like Doc? Or Bunny? Or even Dare?” The Raven Riders Motorcycle Club’s founder; the founder’s sister, who’d escaped an abusive marriage and recently survived an attack on the club; and the club’s current president all seemed like good choices to Cora. Much better than . . . the person Sam was currently staring at.

He shrugged with one shoulder. “I was hoping . . . you’d let me interview you.”

“That’s, um, really flattering, Sam. But . . .” Geez, how embarrassing was this to admit? “I’m not all that admirable.”

In the positive column, she was a high school graduate, had turned out to be pretty good with kids, loved animals, and could concoct a good runaway plan when necessary. Cora rated herself as a better-than-average friend, and seemed to be able to make people laugh. In the negative, she’d recently been kidnapped by a gang and rescued by a biker club, and now resided with that club while she figured out what the heck to do with her life. And that wasn’t even considering what’d happened with her father, back before she’d run . . .