Hard Rider (Bad Boy Bikers Book 1)(6)

By: Lydia Pax


She knew how to tie knots. Her dad wouldn’t let her join any wilderness groups like she had wanted when she was a kid, but she did manage to tag along on all of her younger brother’s adventures in the Boy Scouts. From the bowline to the clove hitch to the sheet bend, she could do them all.

She had a business idea (and she had dozens of business ideas) of opening a small shop for young women to let them learn how to do all the stuff that was normally relegated to boys. An hour would buy them time with knots. Two hours would fit in basic auto maintenance. Three hours would go on to cover power tools, and so on.

Such a venture was borne, like much of her obsession with getting enough money to never go back to her home town again, from her need to be away from her father for a good long time. Maybe forever.

For four years now, she had been independent of her father’s prying ways. After graduating high school, she set up base in Austin, where she studied English and Philosophy at the University of Texas. Her grades were good; the university had paid for everything.

Now she was returning to Marlowe dead broke, fresh from a break-up, none of her internships or interviews panning out into a job, tail already between her legs—and now, of course, she would have to call her dad to come pick her up and save her skin. An inauspicious beginning for someone hoping to break free of her parents forever.

June's mother had been exultant when she heard the news of her only daughter's return the day before when June made the call.

“That's wonderful! Your room is just as you left it. And, oh!” June could hear her rustling around on her desk in the kitchen. “I'll call Paxton and let him know. Did you know he's single? Son of the mayor and he's single, isn't that a shocker?”

“Oh god, Mom...” the thought of dealing with that white bread cowboy sent a small shiver of revulsion through her. “No. Don't even start.”

Her mother quickly changed the subject, but all the same, June was fairly certain Paxton Prince was going to be expecting a date by the time she got home.

She had not missed her mother very much, though more than she did her father. There was a lot about West Texas she had not missed, though it brought on a strange sense of nostalgia to see it about her now—the cactus patches on the side of the road, the deep brown flatness of the land, the long winding sky that went on past the curve of the horizon, wind mill farms positioned every few dozen miles and swallowing up the sky with their long rotating blades.

It was familiar and friendly, yes, but that her mother expected her to want to settle down here forever was a bit beyond June's comprehension. It would be like settling on the moon.

After breaking up with Simon, June wasn't entirely sold on the idea on another relationship for a while.

It wasn't that Simon had been awful. It might have been better if he was—then at least June would have a negative picture of everything she didn't want in a relationship. But Simon was nice, caring, attentive, and cute—June just didn't feel anything for him. The conversation of their break-up felt more like she was changing her checking account than changing her life.

Worst of all, Simon seemed to feel the same way. Leaving June wasn't anything to get excited about for him.

Her life felt devoid of passion—and if she couldn't get that passion from a guy who was on-paper as perfect as Simon, trying again felt like another long series of disappointments already.

Especially with Paxton. Ick.

June's car continued to smoke and she pulled up into the diner. She thought she could see flames flying out from the hood. But she did not panic; panic got a person nowhere.

At school, some of her friends had called her the Icewoman. She wasn't an Ice Queen, that was for sure—she liked boys too much, and up until two months ago she'd had a regular boyfriend besides. But she could still be the Icewoman—the one who took a shovel to the snakes that slithered onto their driveway, or who cleared out the over-sized spiders that landed in their bathroom.

Once she had forgotten to write a history essay, only finding out during class that it was due that day. She rushed back to her dorm, wrote the essay, and turned it in before class was over. The professor gave her an A. June had a way with words.

When the car was safely out of the highway and into the diner parking lot, she stepped outside with a fire extinguisher in hand. The day was hot—hotter than it was supposed to be, even, pushing easily past a hundred and five. It was a dry heat and she could feel the moisture suck from her skin like she had walked under a giant vacuum.

Quickly she had the hood covered in the CO2 mess spewing from the extinguisher. She breathed hard, her knees feeling a bit weak, but her actions were all nerves. From the trunk with all her things, she gathered up a rag and popped the hood. Heat and smoke powered up into her face, forcing her to step back. She sprayed the extinguisher again, knowing that probably it was doing something awful to the insides of her car.

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