WHAT HAPPENS IN STURGIS
“Nice place,” Tori said.
Vince looked up from the Chinese take-out boxes as Tori settled into the chair across from him. He’d never brought a female co-worker to the Sturgis Rally (not that he’d had much choice in the matter); what would it be like to work with her for the next twelve days? Would she cramp his style when it came to after-hours activities?
He reminded himself that he was here to showcase Laz’s newest products and be an ambassador for their custom motorcycle design. After-hours activities were a bonus.
A nice bonus.
“Beer?” He held a Heineken out to her.
“Definitely.” She took the bottle from him, then dug into one of the food boxes.
After a few minutes of silent munching, Tori said, “I’m surprised you don’t stay closer to town.”
Vince had rented the upper floor of this house for the last three Sturgis rallies. “What do you mean?” he said.
“You said you like to go out at night,” she said.
“It’s not that far.” Vince shoved a bite of Szechuan chicken into his mouth.
“Except if you’re drunk,” she said.
“Then you’ll have to drive.”
“I don’t go out much,” she said.
That didn’t surprise him. For one thing, Tori had a rather boring boyfriend named Simon, whom he’d met once when she’d brought him by the shop. He wasn’t a biker. For another, Tori had a master’s degree in some biology-related field (why she was working for Dream Machines was a mystery to him). She’d probably spent most of her college years in a laboratory somewhere…
Not that he’d want to hang out with her anyway. She wasn’t his type.
“You should live a little,” he said. “What happens in Sturgis stays in Sturgis.”
“That’s all well and good, but I’m all about the money.” She held up her bottle.
“Amen to that,” he said as he clinked his bottle to hers.
FOUR DAYS LATER...
Vince pulled the truck into the driveway. He got out and eyeballed his parking job.
It was still early in the week—he expected a mass of people to start arriving tomorrow—and there’d been few people out that night, mostly men looking for the same thing (or more) than he was.
He and Tori were already a finely-tuned machine in the booth. She dressed suggestively, but not slutty, her hair clipped up at the sides and hanging in loose ringlets down her back. The middle-aged biker guys flocked to her. All day long she was bringing men to him.
“Vince!” she’d say. “Marty here needs a Harley switch-mounted eCaddy Diamond in chrome. Tell him about the power options.” She’d wink at the customer, as if sharing some great secret, and they hung on her every word. He would ring ‘em up and send ‘em on their way, invariably poorer than they’d intended.
He paused outside Tori’s bedroom door. Maybe we could tune our after-hours relationship…
He knocked on the door. “Tori! You awake?”
When there was no answer he let himself in. In the dark he could see her hair splayed across the pillow, and his libido surprised him by giving him a little kick in the lower regions. “Tori?”
He leaned over her and the room tilted. Maybe a little more drunk than I thought…
“Tori!” he whispered—or thought he whispered.
Her sleep-laced voice came to him. “What are you doing, Vince? I’m sleeping.”
“Can I sleep with you?”
“No,” she said.
“Because you’re drunk.”
“I’m not really; just a little tipsy.” That was a lie, but he didn’t care. He climbed into the bed and pressed his body against her back. She didn’t pull away.
“You smell like an ashtray,” she muttered.
She didn’t say anything more, and his male hormones started to do what came naturally. He ran his hand up her leg to her hip.
She stiffened. “Vince. Knock it off.”
His hand stilled but he tucked his head into the back of her neck; damn, she smelled good.
“Vince.” She shifted away from him, pushing his hand away. “Don’t make me smack you.”
“Sorry.” And a part of him was. Not.
“I am so not into that,” she said. “Besides, what about your girlfriend?”
The mention of Gretchen instantly sobered him. “She’s not so much a girlfriend. We just date.”
“Well, I do have a boyfriend,” she said. “But even if I didn’t, that would not be happening.”
“Because we work together?”
“There’s that.” She flipped over and propped herself on an elbow. “Does it not occur to you that perhaps I’m just not attracted to you in that way?”
When it came to women, Vince liked to make sure they were interested before he pursued them; that way he was almost guaranteed to get what he wanted. Lucky for him, he was good-looking enough that it wasn’t hard to find those women.
Apparently Tori wasn’t one of them.
“Well,” he drawled. “There are different types of attraction.”
“I’m pretty sure I know your definition of attraction,” she said. “The only type I’m interested in is the monogamous, committed kind.”
He mirrored her by propping himself up on his elbow. “Tell me about that.”
“What do you mean?” she said. “You’ve never been in that kind of relationship?”
“I was once,” he smirked. “In high school.”
She sighed. “You think that’s funny, but really, it’s just sad. You’re missing out.”
“What is so great about a monogamous, committed relationship?”
“Well, for starters, when a woman really trusts her partner, and feels her heart is safe with that partner, she can give him the hottest sex on the planet.”
“Hmm,” he said. “I’ve had some pretty hot sex.”
“Oh, forget it!” She fist-bumped her pillow. “I don’t know why I waste my time trying to explain it to players like you.”
He should be offended, but mostly, he just wanted not to sleep alone… “Okay, so how about this?” he said. “I promise not to try anything on you—ever—if you just let me sleep with you. Emphasis on sleep.”
He put on his puppy-dog face. “Spooning,” he said. “That’s it.”
He could see she was softening. “Really? No hanky-panky?”
“Hanky panky?” He laughed.
She frowned at him, and he stopped laughing. “Scouts honor.” He held up two fingers.
She eyed him warily. “I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this but…” She shrugged, apparently deciding he was no threat. “Go shower if you’re going to sleep here.”
He grinned and scrambled out of the bed.
Vince thought about his promise as he watched Tori work. They’d decided to offer simple product installation for a fee and split the proceeds. He didn’t mind playing to her strengths; their shared commission was going to be sweet.
The evening was something else. Then he found, to his surprise, that he wanted to spend more time with her. He tried to convince her to go out with him after dinner, but she insisted on staying in.
“But you’re in Sturgis,” he said. “At the world-famous rally. Don’t you want to see the sights?”
“I want to make money,” she said. “Don’t you?”
“Of course,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”
“We’ll make more if I’m on my game,” she said. “For that, I need a healthy dose of peace and quiet and a good night’s sleep. I need those commissions… and I need to not spend those commissions on alcohol.”
“You’re that strapped for cash?”
“I’m not a charity case, if that’s what you’re implying.” She sounded offended.
“It’s not,” he said. “I’m merely making conversation. Being interested in a friend’s life.”
“Sorry,” she said. “You see? I’m not good company tonight.” She waved her hand at one of the other vendors who was staying at the house. “Pete and I are going to watch a movie. You go, enjoy yourself.”
Vince glanced at Pete. Then he shrugged and let himself out.
It was only later he realized she’d effectively avoided answering his question about money. And to his irritation, he kept thinking about her and Pete all alone at the house.
He gave up early and returned to the house. He knew it was ridiculous—Tori was not that kind of girl, as she’d made clear—but he cracked Pete’s door open and was relieved to see Pete was asleep in his bed… alone.
THE NEXT MORNING
Tori had coffee waiting when Vince entered the kitchen.
“Did you and Pete have a nice night?” He tried to keep his voice neutral. He was cranky and out of sorts; he hadn’t slept well in his own room.
“It was fine,” she said. “How about you?”
“Nothing to report.”
She set her coffee mug down. “I thought you might come to my room when you got in—if you didn’t have other company.”
Vince’s coffee mug paused half-way to his mouth. “I wasn’t sure the invitation was still open.”
“It would have been okay,” she said.
He couldn’t figure her out. She acted like she couldn’t care less whether he liked her or not, yet she was inviting him to her bed. Granted, it wasn’t for sex, that was clear, but…
“Even if I might’ve tried to kiss you in my half-drunk state?” he said.
She picked up the coffee mug again. “You like kissing?”
The question came out of the blue, and he had no idea how to answer. “Pardon?”
“I love kissing,” she said.
“In that monogamous, committed relationship you talked about.”
“Kissing can be good almost any time,” she said.
He stared at her, stumped again. “You pick some strange conversation topics, you know that?”
She smiled. “So? You must do a lot of kissing, yes? I mean, your girlfriend is gorgeous.”
Her eyes widened. “Don’t you think so?”
“Well, yes, of course I think so, but…” he stammered. Gretchen was gorgeous… on the outside. What would Tori think if he told her what Gretchen was really like?
“She’s not big into kissing,” he said. “But then, neither am I.”
“Why?” she said. “Are you gay?”
“Of course not!”
She was laughing. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
“You are so very obviously not gay,” she said. “No one would ever mistake you for gay. Does that make you feel better?”
“Peachy,” he grumbled.
“So?” she said.
“Why don’t you like kissing?” She was completely serious, and he marveled at how quickly she could swing from one extreme to the other. “I’m starting to wonder if your sex life is really everything the guys at the shop say it is.”
“You haven’t been in a committed relationship in—what?—a decade? And you don’t kiss?” she said.
“I kiss,” he said. “Her neck, her ears… whatever it takes to get her… you know.”
“But not on the mouth?” she said incredulously.
He stood and picked up his dishes. “I think it’s time for a change of subject.”
She stood too. “I think there’s an interesting story there.”
He dropped his dishes into the sink a little too loudly. “My life is not a story.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”