Lazarus “Laz” Lowenstein leaned his Harley-Davidson Road King onto its kickstand and squinted at the modest bungalow in front of him.
How had he let Roger talk him into this? As the editor of the uber-popular online blog Go Forth, Roger was forever pushing the limits and coming up with unusual—sometimes questionable—stories.
He also tended to take promising reporters under his wing—like the one Laz was here to see.
One who was too attractive for her own good.
Laz hefted a small half-helmet in his left hand, his thoughts shifting to the woman he’d met last week in Roger’s office. Nora was a single mother who had only recently entered the work force, but she seemed determined to get the story Roger was after.
And that’s where Laz came in.
Laz mounted the steps of the bungalow. Before he could knock, the door swung open.
“Lazarus,” she said. “How are you?”
Last week, Nora’s wheat-colored hair had been pulled back from her face by a barrette that looked like it was ready to burst. Today it hung free. The wind would make a mess of that.
Ah, but wouldn’t it be fun to be the wind?
“Fine, thanks,” he said. “And you? Are you ready to ride?”
“I think so.” Her eyes widened as she looked past him to the Harley. “Oh my, that’s big.”
She’d never ridden a motorcycle—which was the whole point, according to Roger. When they’d talked about this in Roger’s office, Nora had seemed calm, but Laz recognized nervous when he saw it. Was it the bike… or him?
He wasn’t the long-haired hard-ass he’d been in his younger days, but he still looked a little rough around the edges (and probably always would).
“I brought you a helmet.” He held it up.
She took it from him gingerly. “Um… thank you.”
She seemed rooted to the spot, so he extended his hand to her. “Let me introduce you to the Road King.”
Laz guided her to the motorcycle and put her purse in a saddlebag. He turned to find that she had a death grip on the helmet.
A direct approach might be called for here.
“You seem a little nervous,” he said.
She burst into nervous laughter. “I’m petrified.”
He placed his hands over hers on the helmet, which seemed to calm her somewhat—although it did the opposite to his insides. What was that about?
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought this wouldn’t be a big deal, but…”
“Tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t you just sit on the motorcycle for a while?”
“You mean… without moving?”
“Sure,” he said.
When she nodded, he set the helmet on the ground and helped her onto the passenger seat. He gave her a little time to get comfortable, and then he pressed the start button. The bike rumbled to life. Her hands tightened on the edge of the seat, but after a few moments, she gave him a tentative smile. “This isn’t so bad.”
He picked up the helmet and placed it on her head. “I’m going to get on,” he said. “But don’t worry, I won’t put the bike in gear until you say the word.”
She nodded again. He swung his leg over the ‘King and shifted it to an upright position. Her fingers dug into his hips.
“Sorry,” he said. “I should have told you about weight shift.”
“It’s okay.” She kept her hands on his hips. “I just wasn’t ready.”
His eyes met hers in the mirror. “When you ride, you want to lean with the bike,” he said. “That probably seems backward, but after a while you’ll understand.”
“With the bike,” she said. “Got it.”
“How does it feel?” he said.
“Actually, I like it better when you’re on it,” she said.
“Think you’re ready for a very slow stroll around the block?”
She took a deep breath. “Okay.”
He put the bike in first gear.
“Wait,” she said. “Aren’t you going to wear a helmet?”
“Never have, never will.”
“Isn’t it state law?” she said.
“But you don’t care.” It was a statement.
“Let’s just say I take exception to being told what I can and cannot do,” he said. “Shall we?”
He accelerated as smoothly as he could. Her fingers dug into his hips again, but maybe not as deeply this time.
He made a right turn at the corner. A block later he was forced to put his feet down at the stop sign, then continued on, around the next two right turns until they were back in front of her house. He never got over 20 miles per hour.
He put the bike in neutral and turned his head so she could hear him. “Well?”
“I feel safe with you,” she said. “I don’t know why, but I do.”
That was quite a compliment, considering she didn’t know him. It felt way better than it should.
“I might even start to like this,” she said.
When he found her reflection in the mirror, she was smiling.
“Really?” he said.
She surprised him by putting her arms completely around his torso. “Let’s ride,” she said.
Laz pulled up in front of Nora’s home for the second time in a week.
She’d turned out to be a natural on the motorcycle; he had no worries about her spending hours in the saddle. Still, he was uneasy about Roger’s plan. A rider’s first experience at a motorcycle rally could be overwhelming, and the Rebel Run had a reputation for rough clientele and questionable legal activity.
Nora just seemed too…
And she had a kid, for Christ’s sake.
But that was the point. Roger wanted Nora to document her transformation from ‘mousy mom’ to ‘sexy biker chick.’ Roger had called in a favor, and Laz wouldn’t renege on the deal. Besides, who else would Roger find to take her to the Run, and would they be as experienced?
Truth be told, he didn’t want someone else to take Nora to the rally.
He shook his head at himself; he was in no position to offer a woman like Nora anything more than a motorcycle ride or two. He’d had his share of women, and he’d had his fill of marriage; and though he was doing his best with his 17-year-old daughter, Angeline (heck, he’d moved to Las Vegas to be near her), he was no Father of the Year.
Nora opened the front door and waved. “Laz! Come in for a minute!”
He took the steps and entered the small foyer.
“I’d like you to meet my son, Wesley,” she said.
Laz looked at the boy slouched next to his mother; he knew from their previous discussion that he was twelve. The pre-teen’s eyes went wide as he took in Laz’s leather attire, tattooed arms, and bandana. They lingered on his pierced earlobe.
“Laz is the one I told you about,” Nora said. “The man my boss asked to take me to the motorcycle rally.”
He nodded to the boy. “Nice to meet you, Wesley.”
Wesley stood taller. “You sure look like a biker.”
“Thanks.” Laz almost smiled. “I think.”
“That’s because he is a biker,” Nora said.
Wesley’s eyes narrowed on Laz. “You’ll keep my mom safe?”
Laz’s eyebrow quirked. He had to respect the kid’s directness. “That’s the plan.”
Several moments passed while Wesley sized him up. He would have laughed, but the way Nora held herself told him this exchange was important to her.
Wesley shrugged. “Okay.”
Mother and son traded a few more comments about Wesley’s plans for the day.
“Guess I passed inspection,” Laz said once the boy had gone. “Smart kid.”
Nora put a hand on his arm. “Thank you.”
“I have a seventeen-year-old daughter, so I get it.”
Her eyes held his for a moment longer than was comfortable. He cleared his throat. “Ready for today?”
“As ready as I can be.” She tossed a windbreaker over her arm. “Where are we going?”
He’d kept their last ride short, not wanting to overwhelm her, but today he’d planned a longer ride. The rally was only a few days away and they would spend a lot of time in the saddle.
“Roger told me to get you dressed like a biker, so first stop is a little place in Boulder called the Throttle Shop,” he said. “It’s about thirty minutes away.”
“Ah, shopping,” she said. “That I can handle!”
Despite himself, he chuckled.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Nora stood in front of Laz, looking like an entirely different person. The ‘sensible’ pants she’d worn every time he’d seen her were replaced by tight jeans sheathed in leather chaps. A spaghetti-strap tank top hugged her breasts like a second skin; and a blinged-out bandana around her head called attention to her hazel eyes.
“It looks great,” he said. “You look great. You should buy two of everything.”
“Thank you.” She blushed and stared at her feet. “The saleslady asked me what kind of boots I want, but I didn’t know what to tell her.”
“Sorels are always good,” he said. “But let’s see what they have.”
Their boot-shopping chore put him in close proximity to Nora’s fresh, sunshine-and-spring-flowers scent. He was almost sorry when they found what she needed.
Nora put her purchases on the expense card Roger had given her, and they walked back to the bike.
“Where to now?” she said as he stowed her old clothes in a saddlebag.
“I thought we’d drive around Lake Mead.” He buckled the saddlebag and turned to her. “There are lots of places to stop, not to mention good places to eat.”
“It sounds lovely,” she said.
Oh, man, she was too nice for this project; he should abort right now…
“What?” She tilted her head. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No. I was just…”
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “What has Roger told you about this motorcycle rally?”
Her chin tilted up stubbornly. “I know what I’m getting into, if that’s what you’re asking.”
He held up his hands. “Okay. Not my place.”
Nora levelled a look at him. “He told me a little about you, too, Laz.”
“He did, did he?”
“To be fair, I asked,” she said. “I wanted to know why he chose you.”
“And what did he say?”
“He said your past has made you more street-wise than most,” she said. “But at your core, you’re a decent guy who’d never take advantage of me.”
He nodded absently. Was that all Roger had said? He didn’t dare ask.
To his relief, she didn’t push.