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PANDA EXPLAINS HOW HE GOT HIS NAME

It was virtually midnight. They have been hungry and barefoot from a nasty dinner and good sex. With the boat safely tucked contained in the boathouse and water lapping on the hull, they lazed on the bench-seat within the stern. Panda wore only a pair of shorts while Lucy had on her underpants and a midriff-baring T-shirt.

“You’ve never told me how you got your nickname,” Lucy stated as she popped a Wheat Thin into her mouth.

“That’s right. I never did.” Panda uncrossed his naked ankles and gestured towards their snack stash. “Hand me the chips.”

She handed over the potato chip bag and waited. And waited some extra. “Well?” she finally stated.

“You know what I’d like right now?” He gazed inside the potato chip bag. “I’d like some beer nuts. You ever had beer nuts?”

“Yes, and I don’t want any more. What I want to know is how you got your name?”

He mustered up some semi-outrage. “I never said that.”

She gave him a smug smile. “Close enough.”

“I got the name when I was on the force, okay. And it’s embarrassing.” He’d stiffened up, as if she have been prying out his tooth. Typical conduct from a person who hated revealing anything personal.

“Embarrassing?” she stated. “All the better.”

He gave an extended sigh. “Don’t you have something better to do than nag?”

“Later.” She’d misplaced curiosity within the Wheat Thins, but took another anyway, trying to disguise how keen she was to hear one thing—anything—personal from him.

“I happened when I was a cop.” He put aside the chips. “I was a good shot. The guys would see me on the practice range, and they started calling me Panda. It means ‘pissed and armed.’”

“P for pissed. Then A-N-D. Add a final A for armed.” He spelled it out patiently. “P-AND-A. Pissed and Armed.”

She thought it over. “Creative.”

He shrugged. “Cops.”

“Very creative,” she stated. “So creative that… I’m not buying it.”

Now the indignation was real. “What do you mean, you’re not buying it? It’s my name. I should know how I got it.”

“And I’m sure you do. But you didn’t get it that way. What’s the real story?”

She waited for him to stonewall her—made up her mind she wouldn’t let him. He tried to sidetrack her with a type of attractive smiles that melted her bones. “What’ll you give me if I tell you the real story.”

She slipped her index finger underneath the leg of his shorts. “A night you’ll never forget.”

His eyes grew smoky. “You already did that.”

She smiled. “Thanks.”

She anticipated him to maintain making an attempt to distract her. As an alternative, he turned away and absentmindedly rubbed a thumbnail. “There was this…little kid I knew. When I was growing up…” Regardless that he was sitting subsequent to her, he appeared distant. “The kid couldn’t say Patrick, and somehow it came out as Panda, probably because of this book he had. I was around nine at the time, trying to be tough, but the guys I hung out with heard him say it. Naturally, they started teasing me. I got into a couple of fights, but that didn’t stop them from harassing me about it. Panda… Panda… Panda… Finally, I decided to own it.”

In fact he would. She might see him as a boy, protruding his chin, puffing up his chest, daring the world to take him on.

“But when you grew up, you could have left the nickname behind,” she stated. “When you went into the army. Why didn’t you?”

“I intended to, but…” He raked his arms by way of his hair. “Hell, I don’t know. I guess by then it had become part of me. A reminder of—” He turned his head, his gaze coming again to her. He leaned ahead and kissed her. “Enough talking.”

“I like to talk,” she stated towards his lips.

“Uh-huh.” His palms have been on the transfer, slipping along her ribs, beneath her T-shirt. “Here’s something you’re going to like a lot more.”

As it turned out, he was right.

Evaluations

Named One in every of Prime 10 Romance Books of 2012 by Booklist

Named as One of many Greatest Books of 2012 by Kirkus Evaluations.

“Fueled with incendiary sexual chemistry, and deliciously witty, The Great Escape is another jewel from one of the genre’s most incandescent stars.” —John Charles, Booklist

“Phillips sets the platinum standard in contemporary romance. Her stories are hilarious, sweet, and always offer subtle but unexpected insights into the human heart and psyche.” —USA Immediately

“Phillips’ signature mix of complicated characters, sexual chemistry and emotionally compelling writing is irresistible.” —Chicago Tribune

“(A)nother irresistible lively romantic comedy that is guaranteed to have readers begging for more.” —Booklist, starred evaluate

“No one tops Susan Elizabeth Phillips.” —Jayne Ann Krentz

“Susan Elizabeth Philips writes a story that wraps around your heart and doesn’t let go.” —Oakland Press

“A dazzling voice in contemporary women’s fiction.” —Linda Barlow, writer of Leaves of Fortune

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Lucy couldn’t breathe. The bodice of her wedding ceremony gown, which had fit so perfectly, now squeezed her ribs like a boa constrictor. What if she died of suffocation right here in the lobby of the Wynette Presbyterian Church?

Outdoors the doors, a world military of reporters stood at the barricades, and the sanctuary inside bulged with the wealthy and famous. Just a few steps away, the former President of the USA and her husband waited to escort Lucy down the aisle so she might marry probably the most good man on the earth. The man of everyone’s goals. The kindest, probably the most thoughtful, the smartest… What lady in her right thoughts wouldn’t need to marry Ted Beaudine? He’d dazzled Lucy from the second they’d met.

The trumpets rang out, saying the beginning of the bridal procession, and Lucy struggled to tug a number of molecules of air into her lungs. She couldn’t have picked a more lovely day for her wedding ceremony. It was the final week of Might. The Texas Hill Country’s spring wildflowers may need pale, but the crepe myrtle was in bloom, and roses grew outdoors the church doors. An ideal day.

Her thirteen-year-old sister, the youngest of the four bridesmaids in her unfashionably small wedding ceremony social gathering, stepped off. After her would come fifteen-year-old Charlotte, and then Meg Koranda, Lucy’s greatest pal since school. Her maid of honor was her sister Tracy, a fantastic eighteen-year-old so smitten with Lucy’s bridegroom that she nonetheless blushed when he talked to her.

Lucy’s veil fluttered in front of her face, suffocating layers of white tulle. She considered what an unimaginable lover Ted was, how sensible, how sort, how superb. How good for her. Everyone stated that. Everyone except her greatest good friend Meg.

Final night time after the rehearsal dinner, Meg had pulled Lucy into a hug and whispered, “He’s wonderful, Luce. Everything you said. And you absolutely can’t marry him.”

“I know,” Lucy had heard herself whisper in return. “But I’m going to anyway. It’s too late now to back out.”

Meg had given her a fierce shake. “It’s not too late. I’ll help you. I’ll do whatever I can.”

Straightforward for Meg to say. Meg lived a totally undisciplined life, however Lucy wasn’t like that. Lucy had obligations that Meg couldn’t begin to grasp. Even before Lucy’s mom had taken the oath of office, the nation had been fascinated by the Jorik menagerie—three adopted youngsters, two biological ones. Her mother and father had shielded the younger youngsters from the press, but Lucy had been twenty-two on the time of Nealy’s first inauguration, which made her truthful recreation. The general public had followed Lucy’s dedication to her family—the best way she served as a surrogate father or mother to her siblings during Nealy and Mat’s frequent absences—her work in youngster advocacy, her sparse courting life, even her lower than thrilling trend decisions. They usually have been undoubtedly following this wedding ceremony.

Lucy deliberate to satisfy her mother and father half approach down the aisle as a logo of the best way they’d come into her life when she was a rebellious fourteen-year-old hellion. Nealy and Mat would walk that ultimate stretch together with her, one on all sides.

Charlotte stepped out onto the white runner. She was the shyest of Lucy’s sibs, the one most nervous about not having her older sister round. “We can talk on the phone every day,” Lucy had informed her. But Charlotte was used to Lucy dwelling in the same home, and she or he stated it wouldn’t be the same.

It was time for Meg to step off. She glanced over her shoulder at Lucy, and even by way of yards of tulle, Lucy saw the priority that dragged at Meg’s smile. Lucy needed to trade locations together with her. To reside Meg’s carefree life, operating from country to nation with no siblings to help increase, no family fame to uphold, no cameras following her each transfer.

Meg turned away, lifted her bouquet to her waist, plastered a smile on her face. And acquired able to take her first step.

Without considering? With out asking herself how she might think about doing something like this, one thing so awful, so egocentric, so unimaginable? Whilst she willed herself to not transfer, Lucy dropped her bouquet, stumbled round her sister, and grabbed Meg by the arm before she might go any farther. She heard her voice coming from a spot distant, the phrases thready. “I have to talk to Ted right now.”

Behind her, Tracy gasped. “Luce, what are you doing?”

Lucy couldn’t take a look at Tracy. Her skin was scorching, her thoughts reeling. She dug her fingers into Meg’s arm. “Get him for me, Meg. Please.” The phrase was a plea, a prayer.

By way of the suffocating tulle shroud, she noticed Meg’s lips half in shock. “Now? You don’t think you could have done this a couple of hours ago?”

“You were right,” Lucy cried. “Everything you said. You were completely right. Help me. Please.” The words felt alien on her tongue. She was the one who took care of people. Even when she was a toddler, she’d by no means asked for assist.

Her sister Tracy spun on Meg, her blue eyes flashing with indignation. “I don’t understand. What did you say to her?” She grabbed Lucy’s hand. “Luce, you’re having a panic attack. It’s going to be okay.”

Nevertheless it wouldn’t be okay. Not now. Not ever. “No. I?I have to talk to Ted.”

“Now?” Tracy echoed Meg. “You can’t talk to him now.”

However she needed to. Meg understood that even when Tracy didn’t. With a nervous nod, Meg lifted her bouquet back into place and began down the aisle to get him.

Lucy didn’t know this egocentric, hysterical one that’d taken over her body. She couldn’t look into her sister’s stricken eyes. Calla lilies from her bouquet flattened beneath her stilettos as she moved blindly across the lobby. A pair of Secret Service brokers stood by the heavy entrance doors, their eyes watchful. Just beyond, a crowd of onlookers waited, a sea of tv cameras, a horde of reporters….

As we speak, President Cornelia Case Jorik’s oldest daughter, thirty-one-year-old Lucy Jorik, is marrying Ted Beaudine, the one son of golf legend Dallas Beaudine and tv newswoman Francesca Beaudine. No one anticipated the bride to decide on the groom’s small hometown of Wynette, Texas, as the location for her wedding ceremony, but …

She heard the purposeful strike of male footsteps on the marble flooring and turned to see Ted striding towards her. By means of her veil, she watched a beam of sunlight play in his dark brown hair, another ray splash across his handsome face. It was all the time that means. Wherever he went, sunbeams seemed to comply with. He was lovely, type, all the things a person must be. Probably the most good man she’d ever recognized. Probably the most good son-in-law for her mother and father and the perfect conceivable father of her future youngsters. He rushed towards her, his eyes crammed—not with anger—he wasn’t that type of man—but with concern.

Her mother and father have been right behind him, their faces masks of alarm. His mother and father would appear next, and then they’d all come pouring out—her sisters and brother, Ted’s associates, their visitors… So many individuals she cared about. Beloved.

She searched frantically for the one one that might assist her.

Meg stood off to the aspect, her palms in a demise grip on her bridesmaid’s bouquet. Lucy pleaded together with her eyes, prayed Meg would grasp what she needed. Meg began to hurry towards her, then stopped. With the mental telepathy shared by greatest buddies, Meg understood.

Ted caught Lucy’s arm and swept her into a small antechamber off to the aspect. Just before he shut the door, Lucy noticed Meg take a deep breath and stride purposefully towards Lucy’s mother and father. Meg was good at dealing with messes. She’d fend all of them off long enough for Lucy to— To do what?

The lengthy, slender antechamber was lined with hooks holding blue choir robes and excessive cabinets bearing hymnals, music folders, and musty, historic cardboard bins. A trickle of sulfurous sunlight oozed by way of the dusty windowpanes in a door at the end and someway found his cheek. Her lungs collapsed. She was dizzy from lack of air.

Ted gazed down at her, those cool amber eyes shadowed with concern, as calm as she was frantic. Please let him fix this like he fixes every part else. Let him repair her.

Tulle stuck to her cheek, held there by perspiration, by tears?she didn’t know which?as phrases she might by no means have imagined speaking tumbled out. “Ted, I can’t. I—I can’t.”

He lifted her veil simply as she’d pictured, besides she’d pictured him doing it on the finish of the ceremony, proper earlier than he kissed her. His expression was perplexed. “I don’t understand.”

And neither did she. This uncooked panic was in contrast to anything she’d ever experienced.

He cocked his head, gazed into her eyes. “Lucy, we’re perfect together.”

“Yes. Perfect… I know.”

He waited. She couldn’t consider what to say subsequent. If only she might breathe. She pressured her lips to maneuver. “I know we are. Perfect. But… I can’t.”

She waited for him to argue together with her. To struggle for her. To persuade her she was fallacious. She waited for him to take her in his arms and inform her this was merely a panic attack. However his expression didn’t change apart from an virtually imperceptible tightening at the nook of his mouth. “Your friend Meg,” he stated. “This is because of her, isn’t it?”

Was it? Would she be doing something so unimaginable if Meg hadn’t appeared together with her love, her chaos, and her swift, brutal judgment? “I can’t.” Her fingers have been icy, and her arms shook as she tugged at her diamond. It finally got here off. She almost dropped it as she pushed it into his pocket.

He let her veil fall. He didn’t beg. He wouldn’t understand how. Neither did he make even the slightest attempt to vary her thoughts. “All right, then…” With a brusque nod, he turned and walked away. Calm. Controlled. Good.

Because the door shut behind him, she pressed her palms to her abdomen. She needed to get him back. Run after him and inform him she’d modified her thoughts. But her ft wouldn’t move; her brain wouldn’t work.

The knob turned, the door opened, and her father stood there, together with her mother simply behind, both of them pale, tense with concern. They’d carried out all the things for her, and marrying Ted had been the most effective thank you present she might have given them in return. She couldn’t humiliate them like this. She wanted to get Ted and convey him again. “Not yet,” she whispered, wondering what she meant, understanding only that she needed a second to tug herself together and keep in mind who she was.

Mat hesitated after which shut the door.

Lucy’s universe collapsed. Before the afternoon was over, the world would know that she’d dumped Ted Beaudine. It was unthinkable.

The ocean of cameras… The herds of reporters… She’d by no means depart this small, musty room. She’d reside the rest of her life proper here, surrounded by hymnals and choir robes, doing penance for hurting the most effective man she’d ever recognized, for humiliating her household.

Her veil caught to her lips. She tore at her headpiece, welcomed the ache because the combs and crystals pulled her hair. She was loopy. Ungrateful. She deserved pain, and she or he ripped it all off. The veil, the gown—snaking her arms behind her to work at the zipper till the white satin lay in a puddle round her ankles and she or he stood gasping for breath in her beautiful French bra, her lacy bridal panties, blue garter, and white satin stilettos.

Run! The phrase shrieked by means of her brain. Run!

From outdoors the chamber she heard the gang noise develop momentarily louder and then muted once more, as if somebody had opened the entrance doors of the church, then shortly closed them.

Run!

Her hand grasped one of the dark blue choir robes. She jerked it from its hook and pulled it on over her matted hair. The cool, musty gown slipped along her physique, masking her French bra, overlaying her tiny panties. She stumbled toward the small door at the end of the antechamber. By way of the dusty windowpanes, she noticed a slender, overgrown walkway enclosed by a cinder block wall. Her palms weren’t working properly, and the lock didn’t give at first, however she finally managed to open it.

The walkway led towards the rear of the church. The cracked pavement grabbed at her stilettos as she made her well beyond an air con unit. Spring thunderstorms had blown trash into the gravel together with the trail: smashed juice bins, bits of newspaper, a mangled yellow shovel from a child’s sandbox. She stopped when she reached the top. Safety was all over the place, and she or he tried to assume what to do subsequent.

She’d lost her Secret Service detail a number of months earlier, at the finish of her mom’s first yr out of workplace, however the Agency still guarded Nealy, and since she and her mother have been so incessantly collectively, she’d barely observed the absence of her personal detail. Ted had employed personal safety to supplement the city’s small police pressure. There were guards on the doors. The L-shaped parking zone overflowed with automobiles. Individuals all over the place.

Washington was her house, not this Central Texas town she’d failed so miserably to appreciate, however she remembered the church sat on the sting of an previous residential neighborhood. If her legs might carry her across the alley and behind the homes on the other aspect, she may be capable of get to a type of aspect streets without anyone seeing her.

And then what? This wasn’t a well-planned escape just like the one Nealy had pulled off from the White Home all those years ago. It wasn’t an escape in any respect. It was an interruption. A suspension. She wanted to find a place the place she might get her breath back, pull herself collectively. A toddler’s empty playhouse. A hidden nook in somebody’s yard. Someplace away from the chaos of the press, from her betrayed bridegroom and bewildered household. A short lived hideout where she might keep in mind who she was and what she owed the individuals who’d taken her in.

Oh, God, what had she finished?

A commotion on the other aspect of the church caught the guards’ attention. She didn’t wait to see what it was. As an alternative, she stumbled across the end of the cinderblock wall, rushed across the alley, and crouched behind a Dumpster. Her knees have been shaking so badly she needed to brace herself towards the aspect of the rusty metallic bin. It exuded the fetid scent of rubbish. There have been no cries of alarm, solely the distant noise of the gang packing the bleachers that had been arrange in front of the church.

She heard a thin cry, like a kitten’s mew, and realized it was coming from her. She made herself creep along the row of shrubs that separated the previous Victorians. The shrubs ended at a brick-paved road. She rushed throughout it and into someone’s yard.

Previous timber shaded the small tons, and detached garages opened into slender alleys. She pulled the choir gown tighter as she moved blindly throughout the yards, from one to another. Her heels sank into the soil behind freshly planted vegetable gardens where marble-sized inexperienced tomatoes grew on the new vines. The odor of pot roast wafted by way of an open kitchen window; the sound of a television recreation show came from one other. Quickly that same television would broadcast the story of former President Cornelia Case Jorik’s irresponsible daughter. In the area of 1 afternoon, Lucy had blown seventeen years of excellent conduct. Seventeen years of proving to Mat and Nealy they hadn’t made a mistake by adopting her. As for what she’d carried out to Ted… She couldn’t have harm him more.

A canine barked and a baby cried. She stumbled over a backyard hose. Minimize behind a swing set. The dog’s barking grew louder, and a rusty-haired mutt charged the wire fence that marked the subsequent yard. She backed around a statue of the Virgin Mary towards the alley. The toes of her stilettos crammed with pebbles.

She heard the roar of an engine. Her again straightened. A beat-up black and silver motorbike spun into the alley. She ducked between two garages and flattened her backbone towards peeling white paint. The bike slowed. She held her breath, ready for it to cross. It didn’t. As an alternative, it crept forward, then stopped in entrance of her.

The rider gazed into the area between the garages to the place the place she stood.

The motor idled as he took his time learning her. One black boot hit the gravel. “‘S’up?” he stated over the engine noise.

S’up! She’d crushed her future husband, mortified her family, and if she didn’t do one thing shortly, she would develop into the nation’s most infamous runaway bride, but this guy needed to know what was up?

He had too long black hair that curled previous his collar, cold blue eyes set above excessive cheekbones, and sadistic lips. After so many years of Secret Service safety, she’d grown used to taking her security without any consideration, but she didn’t feel protected now, and the fact that she dimly recognized the biker as a visitor eventually night time’s rehearsal dinner—certainly one of Ted’s odd assortment of buddies—didn’t precisely reassure her. Even semi-cleaned up in a dark go well with that didn’t match properly, a rumpled white shirt open at the collar, and motorbike boots that appeared to have acquired nothing more than a dusting, he didn’t appear to be anyone she needed to satisfy in an alley. Precisely where she occurred to be.

His nose was blunt, sq. on the tip. A wrinkled necktie poked out of the pocket of his ill-fitting go well with coat. And that long, wild hair, all curls and tangles, seemed like a Van Gogh sky finger-painted from a sloppy pot of black ink.

For greater than ten years, ever since Nealy’s first presidential marketing campaign, she’d tried to say the proper thing, do the fitting thing, all the time smiling, perpetually well mannered. Now she, who’d way back mastered the artwork of small speak, couldn’t think of a factor to say. As an alternative, she felt an almost irresistible want to sneer, ‘S’up with you? However in fact she didn’t.

He jerked his head toward the rear of his bike. “Wanna go for a ride?”

Shock radiated by means of her body, capturing from vein to capillary, piercing skin and muscle into bone. She shivered, not from chilly, but from the information that she yearned to get on that bike greater than she’d needed something for a very long time. Get on that bike and flee from the results of what she’d accomplished.

He shoved his necktie deeper into the pocket of his go well with coat, and her ft began to maneuver. It was as in the event that they’d indifferent from the remainder of her physique. She tried to make them stop, however they refused to obey. She got here closer to the bike and noticed a battered Texas license plate together with a dog-eared bumper sticker that coated a part of the worn leather-based seat. The print had pale, but she might still make out the phrases.

GAS, GRASS, OR ASS. NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE.

The message hit her like a shock wave. A warning she couldn’t ignore. However her body—her treacherous body—had taken control. Her hand tugged on the choir robe. One foot got here off the ground. Her leg straddled the seat.

He handed her the one helmet. She pulled it on over her wretched bridal up-do and wrapped her arms round his waist.

They shot off down the alley, the choir gown billowing, her bare legs catching the edge of the wind, his hair flying, whipping her visor.

She tucked the gown beneath her legs as he reduce from one alley to the subsequent, took a sharp right turn and then another, the muscle tissues in his back flexing underneath the cheap material of his go well with coat.

They rode out of Wynette and down a two-lane freeway that stretched along a craggy limestone bluff. The helmet was her cocoon, the bike her planet. They passed lavender fields in bloom, vineyards arising across the Hill Nation, an olive oil manufacturing unit. The wind pulled at her robe, exposing her knees, her thighs.

The solar dipped decrease in the sky, and the rising chill reduce by means of the robe’s thin material. She welcomed the cold. She didn’t need to be warm and cozy.

They barreled over a picket bridge and previous a decrepit barn with a Lone Star flag painted on its aspect. Signs for cave tours and dude ranches flashed by. The miles slipped away. Twenty? More? She didn’t know.

As they reached the outskirts of a one-stoplight town, he was a shabby comfort retailer and parked in the shadows along side the constructing. He jerked his head at her, indicating she was to get off. She tangled her legs in her robe and almost fell.

“You hungry?”

Even the considered meals made her nauseous. She eased her stiff legs and shook her head. He shrugged and headed for the door.

By means of the helmet’s dusty face guard, she noticed that he was taller than she’d thought, about six ft, longer within the leg than the trunk. Together with his wild blue-black hair, olive complexion, and rolling gait, he couldn’t have been more in contrast to the congressmen, senators, and different world leaders who populated her life. She might see a part of the shop’s interior by means of the window. He walked towards the cooler at the again. The feminine clerk stopped what she was doing to observe him. He disappeared for a couple of minutes then reappeared to set a six-pack of beer on the counter. The clerk tossed her hair, brazenly flirting with him. He positioned a couple of more gadgets by the register.

Lucy’s footwear have been rubbing a blister on her ft. As she shifted her weight, she caught a glimpse of her reflection within the window. The large blue helmet swallowed her head, hiding the small options that all the time made her appear youthful than her age. The robe hid the fact that pre-wedding stress had left her usually slender figure a bit too thin. She was thirty-one years previous, 5 ft four inches, however she felt tiny; stupid; a selfish, irresponsible waif.

Regardless that nobody was round to see, she didn’t take off the helmet, but she lifted it slightly, making an attempt to ease the strain on the hairpins digging into her scalp. Normally she wore her hair virtually to her shoulders, straight and tidy, usually held back with a type of slender headbands Meg detested.

“They make you look like a frickin’ Park Avenue debutante,” Meg had declared. “And unless you’re wearing jeans, ditch those stupid pearls. Ditto your whole stupid-ass preppy wardrobe,” Then she’d softened. “You’re not Nealy, Luce. She doesn’t expect you to be.”

Meg didn’t understand. She’d grown up in L.A. with the same mother and father who’d given start to her. She might wear all of the outrageous clothes she needed, dangle unique jewellery around her neck, also have a dragon tattooed on her hip, but not Lucy.

The store door opened, and the biker emerged carrying a grocery sack in a single hand, beer within the other. She watched with alarm as he silently stowed his purchases within the bike’s scuffed saddlebags. As she imagined him consuming the entire six-pack, she knew she couldn’t let this go on. She had to name somebody. She’d name Meg.

However she couldn’t summon the courage to face anyone, not even her greatest good friend who understood a lot more than the remaining. She’d let her family know she was protected. Soon. Simply…not fairly yet. Not till she’d found out what to say.

She stood in entrance of the biker like an enormous, blue-headed alien. He was watching her, and she or he realized she nonetheless hadn’t spoken a single phrase to him. How awkward. She wanted to say one thing. “How do you know Ted?”

He turned back to fasten the clasps on the saddlebags. The bike was an previous Yamaha with the phrase “Warrior” written in silver throughout the black gasoline tank. “We did time together in Huntsville,” he stated. “Armed robbery and manslaughter.”

He was baiting her. Some type of biker check to see how robust she wasn’t. She’d need to be loopy to let this go on any longer. However then she was crazy. A nasty type of loopy. The crazy of somebody who’d fallen out of her skin and didn’t know tips on how to crawl back in.

His shadowed eyes, heavy with one other type of menace, slid over her. “You ready for me to take you back?”

All she had to do was say yes. One easy phrase. She pushed her tongue into the right place. Arranged her lips. Did not drive it out. “Not yet.”

He frowned. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

The answer to that query was so apparent even he might figure it out. When she failed to respond, he shrugged and climbed back on the bike.

As they pulled out of the parking zone, she questioned how driving off with this menacing biker appeared less chilling than dealing with the family she liked a lot. But then she didn’t owe this man anything. The worst he might do was— She didn’t need to think about the worst he might do.

Once once more the wind tore at her gown. Solely her arms stayed warm from the physique heat radiating by way of his thin go well with coat. Ultimately, he turned off the highway onto a rutted trail. The bike’s headlight minimize an eerie pattern throughout the scrub, and she or he held tighter to his waist whilst her brain screamed at her to leap off and run. Finally, they reached a small clearing on the edge of a river. From a sign she’d seen earlier, she guessed it was the Pedernales. An ideal place to eliminate a lifeless body.

With out the roar of the engine, the silence was suffocating. She acquired off the bike and backed away. He pulled something that appeared like an previous stadium blanket from one of the saddlebags. As he dropped it on the ground, she caught the faint scent of motor oil. He grabbed the beer and grocery bag. “You gonna wear that thing all night?”

She needed to keep the helmet on endlessly, but she took it off. Pins tumbled, and a wedge of over-sprayed hair poked her in the cheek. The quiet was dense and noisy with the push of river over rock. He lifted the beer in her path. “Too bad this is only a six-pack.”

She gave a stiff smile. He popped the top, sprawled on the blanket, and tipped the longneck to his mouth. She considered the frayed bumper sticker.

GAS, GRASS, OR ASS. NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE