I slip off the bike. “You’ not allowed to buy me anything.”

“What? Are you serious?” Sean looks up at me and drops the price tag. “Why?”

I shrug and walk around the bike, dragging my fingers over the shiny paint. “I want you to be sure that I’m not hanging around for your money. I like you the way you are, demented fetishes and all.” Sean’s eyes darken when I mention it. The way his gaze moves over my body sends a chill up my spine. It’s like his eyes are hands and I’m suddenly breathless.

I clear my throat and try to act like that didn’t just happen. “So, which bike are you getting?”

Sean runs his hand through his hair and down his neck as he glances around the showroom. His eyes sweep over a ton of bikes, but he doesn’t seem excited to be here. “No idea.”

“Then, let’s go somewhere else. Maybe the right bike isn’t here. Maybe we should be on a different lot looking at minivans.” The corner of my mouth tugs up as I tease him.


“I know you like my ass, but we’re talking about bikes. Jeeze, Sean. Focus.” I straddle another bike and look at the shiny chrome dials. I slide my finger across the glass faces, and then take the handle bars. I say it without thinking. “Vroom! Vroom!”

Sean laughs so hard that he chokes. The salesman that Sean banished looks over at as, but doesn’t say anything. Sean wipes a tear from the corner of his eye and steps toward the bike. He puts his hands around my waist and helps me down. God he smells good. “That is a dead giveaway that you’re not a biker. Stop freaking out the sales guy.”

Sean’s hands linger a beat too long. When his fingers slip away from my waist, I turn back toward the bike. “This one is the coolest bike in here.”

“You mean the prettiest.”

“I mean, this is your new bike. This one.” I point at it with both hands for emphasis.

“And why’s that?” Sean grins, and folds his arms over his chest. He tilts his head to the side and looks the bike over. It has shiny blue paint that matches his eyes and enough chrome to make it light up like a disco ball in the sunshine.

“Because it’s so blue, like impossibly blue. And it’s huge and manly, and…” I run around to the back of the bike and pat my hand on the seat. “And look at this seat! I could totally sit here for hours. It even has a backrest!” I’m all smiles, and mouthing buy me when the salesman approaches.

“Did you find something you like?” Kenny is an older guy that seems too twitchy. Sean told me that he’s afraid that I’ll knock a row of bikes over. Kenny has gray hair and a fluffy beard like Santa Claus, but he frowns too much.

“Yes, I did.” Sean’s gaze is resting on me as I’m making an ass out of myself, pointing at the bike and moving my mouth in slow motion, forming silent words. It makes me stop. I purse my lips and give him a look, but Sean breaks my gaze quickly and addresses Kenny. “I’ll take this one. Get it ready and set us both up with riding gear—jackets and whatever else you have.”

“You are not buying me anything.” I fold my arms over my chest.

Kenny looks at me and then back at Sean. Sean tilts his head toward me and adds, “I want a pair of pants, too. Leather – her size.”

Kenny nods. He takes the tag off the bike and starts the paperwork.

After he leaves, I walk over to Sean. “What the hell was that?”

“What?” Sean is walking away from me, slowly walking back to the helmet displays.

I grab his arm and turn him around. “I don’t want you to buy me stuff.”

“And that’s why I’m buying it. Besides, I want to take you for a ride and I’m not doing it if you plan on riding around in a sundress with nothing to protect you. I like this nose. I want it to stay on your face.” He presses his finger to the tip of my nose when he says it and then turns and walks away. It’s such a sweet gesture that it makes renders me silent.

So much for protesting, I guess I’m getting leather pants, boots, and a helmet. I’m a little excited about looking badass. I skip behind Sean and still pretend to be angry with him for ignoring my wishes, but I’m secretly saying vroom! vroom! in my mind and squealing like a lunatic.


It’s late by the time I get back to the dorm. I walk up the stairs to my door room and get some enthusiastic whistles from a group of guys heading down the stairs and out towards the intermural field. Apparently my butt looks mighty fine in my new leather pants. I left my helmet with Sean, but took the pants and the boots. The boots are awesome. The make me feel like Godzilla. The urge to stomp down the hallway, slamming my feet into the floor consumes me. I say screw it and stomp twice, taking two huge steps with my arms dangling in front of me like T-Rex.

“Where the hell have you been?” When I look up Mel is standing in front of me with her arms folded across her chest in the middle of the hallway. Her eyes sweep over my jacket and then down to my pants and boots. She lifts an eyebrow at me and shakes her head. “You spent the day with him, didn’t you?”

The smile is still on my face. I don’t care what Mel says, it’s not ruining the day I had. Sean and I rode out east after he bought his bike. We ate dinner at little local place that overlooks the bay, and then he dropped me off at the dorm. It felt normal and I desperately need normal right now.

I open my mouth to reply, but Mel holds up her hand and shakes her head. “Save it, Cinderella. I don’t want to hear the stupid shit going through your mind.”

“Mel,” I groan. I try to push past her to go to my room, but she catches the crook of my arm.

“Damn it, Avery. I’m serious. You nearly got crushed by a semi the other night. You gotta be more careful, and hanging out with that demented biker is not anybody’s idea of careful. I already screamed at Fairy-boy for letting you go. Sean is off limits. Got it?” Mel’s in my face and her manicured finger is poking me in the chest.

My eyebrows disappear under my bangs as I swat her hand away. “Throwing himself under a truck didn’t redeem him, did it?”

“No,” she snaps. “And one good act doesn’t undo all the other stupid shit he’s done. The man is bad news. He’s messing with your mind and you’re letting him.”

I sigh, and push past her. Mel follows me down the hallway. “Avery, I’m just watching out for you. So much stuff has been going on. Damn it, listen to me!” Mel grabs my shoulders and spins me around. “I’m the only one who knows what you’ve gone through and what you’re doing. Don’t waste it like this. If Black finds out that you’ve been seeing him, you’ll lose everything.”

My smile is gone. I don’t say anything for a second. I know she’s right, I just wish she wasn’t. I need that job to dig myself out of the ever-increasing hole I keep digging. As it is, I’m sure I’m on her shit list. I close my eyes and say it, “Fine. You’re right.”

“Don’t try pulling that reverse mind shit on me, I know I’m right!”

“Mel, back off. I said I agree with you. I can’t lose my job.”

Mel finally deflates. She nods slowly and grabs my wrist. She drags me down the hallway and into her room. After slamming the door, she rounds on me. “Black has you on the schedule for next weekend. I saw it when I went in today to get my contract for the week.”

It feels like all the air was sucked out of the room. I didn’t expect her to put me back so fast, even though I asked. I haven’t even spoken to Black since before the accident. Although I sent Gabe back with a wad of cash and demanded to be reinstated, I didn’t expect her to actually do it.

“Who’d she put me with?”

“I don’t know.” Mel sits down hard on her bed and looks up at me. She pushes her huge hair out of her face and sighs. “What are you planning on doing?”

“With what?” I sit down in her chair and pull my boots off. Mel notices them but doesn’t say anything.

“With Black. I know it was supposed to be a stopgap job until graduation, but then you need to do your graduate work. I know I have to keep that job until I’m done and making it on my own. I’m guessing that you need to do the same thing, so you need to stay on Black’s good side. You had a bumpy start, Avery. I’m shocked she hasn’t fired your ass.”

I haven’t really thought past graduation, about what I’ll do. I keep getting stuck in now. I glance up at Mel. “So what do I do?”

“Kiss her ass. Take whatever clients she gives you and make them rave about you.”

I smile awkwardly. “I don’t have the skills to—”

“Then learn! Take the initiative. Rent some porn. Go to that sex shop everyone’s always talking about. Look around. Watch a pole dance. Do something that makes you so desirable that the clients beg for you and only you.”

“What do you do?”

She laughs under her breath. “Stuff that you can’t pull off, white girl. I’m me, in all my mocha sexual hotness. I own it. I own him. I have him eating out of my hand before I leave. I make sure to put it in his head that there’s more. It’s all bullshit, but when they’re like that, none of the guys are really thinking with their head. They let their pants make all the decisions. String them along. Fake it ‘til you make it and all that shit.” Mel lies back on her bed and stuffs a pillow under her head. She sighs like she’s exhausted.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out. I know the reason why she’s overtired and strung out. It’s me.

Mel waves her hand in the air. “Nah, no sorry’s. There are no do-overs for girls like us. We’re one shot wonders. I know that. I’ve been through shit you can’t even imagine and I have no intention of giving up. I know what’s at the very bottom when you fall flat on your face. I just don’t want you going through that, not when you don’t have to. And I know this guy makes you happy sometimes, but he’s driving me nuts. He’s risking stuff you don’t have to risk. You get what I’m saying to you?”