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Hot Ride

By:Opal Carew

"He looks like trouble."

Hayley followed Tina's gaze to the man who'd just walked into the bar. A  shiver danced down her spine at the sight of the tall, muscular man  clad in well-worn jeans and a leather vest, tattoos cascading down one  arm. His face was shadowed with rough stubble and his wavy brown hair  tousled. He glanced around, seeming to gauge his surroundings.

"Yeah, the kind of trouble I'd like to find myself in." Marianne, one of  the other five women sitting at the table with Hayley, stroked back a  lock of her short, curly brown hair as she watched the man stride toward  the bar.

Hayley didn't usually ogle men in bars, but there was something about  this one. Rough, dangerous-looking, and oozing with raw sexuality. If he  were to make direct eye contact with her, she was sure she would melt  into a puddle on the floor.

Hayley sighed. "Mm. Me, too."

Marianne snorted. "Yeah, right."

Hayley's gaze shot to the other woman.

"Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, who always follows all the rules, never  missed a class at school, straight A's all the way. Like you'd ever get  involved with a bad-ass like that." Marianne snorted again. "More  likely, you'd wind up doing his taxes."

Hayley pursed her lips. She and Marianne had never been close at school.  She'd never really been close to anyone but Tina, but Hayley was back  in Willow, their hometown, for a wedding this weekend and Tina had  wanted to get together with the old gang to catch up. Back in the day,  the others had tolerated Hayley in the group because they'd all liked  Tina and Hayley had been Tina's best friend since before preschool.  Basically, if they'd wanted Tina, they got Hayley, like it or not. And  they all wanted to be Tina's friend, because Tina was popular, rich, and  the nicest person you'd ever want to know.

"Marianne, be nice," Tina said.

"What?" Marianne said defensively. "I said she did well at school and is not a slut. Isn't that a good thing?"

"Me. I'd jump in the sack with that guy in a minute," Brooke said.

The others jumped in and started sharing salacious fantasies involving the man who now sat at the bar nursing a beer.

Hayley gazed at the man. A part of her wanted to march over there and  strike up a conversation with him, and let him know in no uncertain  terms she was interested. But who was she kidding? Marianne was right  that Hayley always played it safe. She wouldn't know how to begin  talking to a man like that. And if he did show an interest in her, she'd  probably go running in the other direction.

Tina stood up and walked around the table to Hayley. "Hey, come with me to freshen up, okay?"

Hayley followed Tina to the ladies room. Once inside, Tina turned to her.

"I'm sorry Marianne was such a bitch to you."

Hayley pursed her lips. "It's not your fault."

Tina shrugged. "Yeah, I know, but I dragged you here to spend the evening with them."

Hayley smiled. "It's okay. I can put up with it for one night. I know  you like to see them. And it's worth it to spend time with my best  friend."

Tina smiled and turned to the mirror. She pushed back a stray lock of  her long, blonde hair, then checked her lipstick. "That guy is pretty  hot."

"That's for sure. Man, he could shake the humdrum out of my life."

Tina arched an eyebrow as she glanced at Hayley in the mirror. "Yeah? Things getting you down lately?"

Hayley gazed at her own reflection. Her smoky eye makeup, which  accentuated her olive green eyes was fine, but the deep plum color on  her lips had faded. She opened her purse and pulled out her lipstick.

"Life has been pretty lackluster lately." Hayley pushed her long, black  hair behind her ears, then leaned forward and reapplied the color to her  lips. "Predictable and boring. I've been thinking of doing something  radical."

Tina grinned. "Like what?"

Hayley shrugged. "I don't know." She put her lipstick on the vanity and  ran a brush through her hair, then dropped it back in her bag. "Maybe go  to grad school. I could get my MBA."

"And then what? Do more boring stuff?"         



Hayley glanced at her friend, a little hurt at the Marianne-like remark.

Tina turned to her. "Oh, Hayley, I didn't mean it like that. And I'm not  knocking higher education. It's just that, I know you're searching for  something in life. You have been ever since we graduated. Going back to  school will just give you more of the same. It won't satisfy that need."

Hayley sighed. "That's the problem. I don't know what I need."

"What you need is that man. Or someone like him. You need to live on the  edge for once. To really step outside your comfort zone and test your  limits." She rested her hand on Hayley's arm. "Even if just for one  weekend."

"Are you suggesting I throw myself at the guy? Do you really think a  one-night-stand will satisfy the restlessness I've been feeling?"

Tina grinned. "Well, it would be a good start."

Rip glanced around the bar, ensuring he knew who was around him, where  the exits were, and various avenues of escape if he needed them. His  training as an undercover cop stayed with him, even though he'd left the  job behind.

He was in town for a wedding.

Originally, he had decided not to come-who needed to be thrown back to  high school days?-but his brother, who was the best man, had pressured  him to change his mind. It was important to Clay, so he'd said yes.

Since Clay was busy with the wedding all weekend, Rip had come up a few  days early and they'd spent time together. It had been great catching  up, and Clay had succeeded pretty well at hiding his concern for his  brother's life choices.

Tonight, Rip was on his own. He glanced around the bar, keeping an eye  for anyone he might know. Not that most people would recognize him from  the old days. He didn't exactly look like the quiet, clean-cut, model  student he used to be.

He saw the black-haired beauty he'd noticed earlier returning to her  table with her blonde friend. They had gone into the ladies' room a few  minutes ago, following a path along the side of the bar, and were now  returning to their table near the south corner where their four female  companions sat chatting.

He'd noticed the woman as soon as he'd walked into the bar. One of her  friends had spotted him first, then she had glanced his way and his body  had tightened at the sight of her wide, sweet, innocent eyes as she'd  gazed at him.

Damn, she was gorgeous in her short, snug dress, outlining every curve.  He watched the sweet sway of her hips as she walked to her table, then  sat down.

He turned back to the bar. He'd already pegged the others as the type  who would sleep with him, given the chance, because the idea of sleeping  with a bad-assed biker excited them. And it's not like he would turn  them down, ordinarily. He was a man, and he'd had his share of biker  groupies. Hell, if they were giving it away, why not?

But the black-haired woman …  she was something else. He'd be happy to  fuck any of the other ones, but that one …  Her he'd like to make love to  all night long. Sweet and tender. Or hot and hard. Whatever she wanted.  But it would be passionate. And meaningful.

Somehow he knew a night with her would be one he would remember. Not one  of the many forgettable conquests he was used to. Women who just wanted  to let loose and experience a sense of danger by being fucked by a  tattooed, leather-clad stranger.

When Raven-Hair had looked at him, he'd seen desire in her eyes, though  whether that was wishful thinking on his part or not, he wasn't sure.  But he wanted it to be desire …  for him as a man, not a nameless, bad-boy  biker trophy she could brag about to her friends.

To her, he wanted to be special. He wanted her to want him.

He tipped back his bottle of beer and took a deep swallow. What the hell  had gotten into him? He was mooning over some woman like a teenager.

He grabbed a handful of peanuts from the wooden bowl on the bar and  popped one into his mouth, then found himself turning to look around the  bar. He glanced toward her table again. His peripheral vision told him  she was watching him, so he avoided looking at her, instead scanning the  faces of the women around her.

As Hayley was watching the man, he turned and glanced around the bar.  She sucked in a breath as his gaze scanned across the faces of the woman  at the table, assessing.         



Oh, God, was he looking to pick up a woman? And would he come over here?

His gaze seemed to skim right past her face and settled on Tina's, then continued around the table.

Great. She was totally invisible.

She shouldn't be surprised. Hayley always felt invisible. No matter what  she said or did, people just didn't seem to notice her. That's why she  often dreamed of being a little wild and crazy. To attract attention. To  feel more alive than she did in her nine-to-five, number crunching  existence.

She opened her purse and pulled out her phone, then checked the time.  She'd love to go back to the hotel right now, but she should hang around  for another hour or so. As she put her phone back in her small clutch,  she realized her lipstick was missing. Had she left it in the ladies'  room?