Ride Wild(5)

By: Laura Kaye

She didn’t leave to get dressed like he expected her to. Instead, she lingered, then finally said, “I know you’re on again tonight and need to sleep. Maybe . . . I could get Bunny to take me and we’ll drop everything off here later.”

“That’s okay,” he said, shaking his head.

“Or, if it’s easier, I could even hang here today and you could take me when you wake up. God knows I don’t have anywhere special I need to be, so it wouldn’t be a problem . . .”

He pictured her staying in his house in a sudden flash of images—her making lunch, her cuddled into the corner of the couch watching TV, her stepping out of the bathroom, hair wet from a shower, and the sweet-smelling scent of her lotion trailing after her . . . Twin reactions coursed through him. A yearning for the companionship of another adult sharing his space and his life. And a kneejerk fight-or-flight hell no that both left him unsettled and pissed him off.

All of which meant she had to go. Now.

“Jesus, I said I’ll take care of it. I don’t need you.” Something akin to panic had the words coming out more harshly than he’d intended, and his brain was already scrambling to clean up the mess his mouth had made. “To do it, I mean. I don’t need you for shopping. Okay? I got it.”

“Right. Of course,” she said, backing out of the room, green eyes flashing with an emotion he couldn’t name.

Annnd he was a giant asshole. He scrubbed his face on a long sigh and waited for her to come back so he could drive her home. And apologize.

He waited. And waited.

What the hell?

“Uh, Cora, you ready?” he called out, making sure his tone lacked the frustration he felt with himself. Two-plus years of withdrawing from the world around him had left him all kinds of rusty at interacting like a normal human being.

When there was no response, he waited a few more minutes. Guilt a weight on his shoulders, Slider finally went back down the hall toward the family room, where she slept on the couch because she’d long ago refused his offer to use his bed on nights when he wasn’t home. The downstairs bathroom was empty. And so was the family room. A creeping apprehension squeezed his chest when he noticed that her bag was gone and the blankets she used were back in their neat little stack, too.

No. No, no. Shit.

His gaze lifted to the door to the back porch, and that was when he knew.

She’d left.

He’d been an asshole, and she’d left. And now she was out on the street.


Slider imagined telling Sam and Ben that Cora wasn’t coming anymore, that he’d upset her and chased her away, and something close to horror flashed through his gut. He had to fix this. He had to fix it now.

Chapter 2

I don’t need you . . .

The words were dickish, but that wasn’t why Cora had gotten the hell out of there.

She’d grown up hearing one variation after another of that from her father.

You think I need you around? I don’t need your shit. I need you here about as much as I need another hole in my head. On and on and on.

And then . . . that night.

She’d thrown it back in her father’s face.

I thought you didn’t need me, Dad. Remember that?

Backing her into her bedroom, the one still decorated in teenagerish pinks and purples, he’d leered at her, his words slurred by alcohol. Maybe I need you for this . . .

The memory had broadsided her out of nowhere, stealing her breath and making her panicky until she’d felt like she might crawl out of her skin. No way could she have faced Slider that way, so she’d thrown on a pair of jeans, jammed everything into her backpack, and fled out the back door and up the driveway to the rural road in front of the Evans house.

It was maybe two miles to the racetrack that the Raven Riders owned and operated as their main business venture, and maybe a half mile up the mountain from the track to the clubhouse Cora called home. Walking wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if it hadn’t been raining. But what had been a drizzle fifteen minutes ago was now a steady and cold autumn rain that was going to leave her soaked before too long.

Fine. Whatever. She’d survived worse.

But five minutes later, it was as if the universe was sticking out its tongue at her, because the skies erupted into a downpour.

Walking faster, she pulled out her cell and debated, then shot off a text to Phoenix, her go-to guy when she needed something with no questions asked. Any chance you’re around for a pickup?

One minute passed, then another. The sound of a car’s engine approached, and Cora stepped into the wet weeds on the edge of the road to make sure she was out of the way. Stupid driver didn’t even swerve to give her a little leeway. She frowned down at her cell. Phoenix was usually quick to respond, but it wasn’t even eight in the morning.