Rider’s Secret by Aria Ray

Chapter 1


Iget off my motorcycle and stand on the sidewalk for a long time, staring at the fancy new VA rehab facility. It's located halfway between San Diego and my hometown of Las Salinas. Sunlight reflects off the windows, making it seem almost cheerful instead of the place where veterans go to get poked and prodded. I flex my left hand, feeling the pain shoot up my arm. As much as I detest getting treatment, especially physical therapy, I know the VA doctors can help me. I need to stop being a whiny little bitch and get my ass in there before my hand deteriorates to the point that I can't ride my motorcycle. What a shit show that would be. I'd be the only brother in the Savage Legion MC incapable of riding on the open roads.

My lips press into a firm line as I put one booted foot in front of the other. I pass a woman who glances up at me as she walks by. Like always, her eyes widen when she catches sight of my scarred face. A horrified look jumps onto her face before she can stop it. It happens again with an older lady and a teen boy before I can reach the front door. My life is an endless loop of strangers having the same reaction to me. It makes me feel like the neighborhood freak show and is the reason I don’t particularly like being in public.

I approach the building to find a little girl blocking my path. She looks to be about four or five and is cute as a button in her pink jeans and top with kittens on the front. Although kids are little more than a passing curiosity to me, I have to admit that they’re all freaking adorable in their own way.

When I stop several feet away, she looks up from her crouching position on the sidewalk and smiles at me so easily, that I forget for a moment that I’m a walking, talking monster. It’s such an unexpected pleasure to find someone who doesn’t look horrified at the scars running up the left side of my face that the corners of my mouth draw up. She perks up even more.

I realize she’s playing marbles when she shoots a shiny blue one in my direction. Stooping down to pick it up, I do my best to shoot it back to her with my good hand. Since I haven’t played marbles since I was a kid, my aim is off. It goes spinning into the grass. Her face scrunches up like she’s about to cry, so I quickly rush over, retrieving the little sphere of glass. I cover the distance between us in three steps, squat down, and hand over her priceless treasure.

She practically snatches it back from me and brushes it across the front of her shirt. It takes me a second to realize she’s attempting to clean it. Once it’s shiny, her face lights up. I watch the little one, fascinated by how covetous her expression is when she looks over at her now sparkling clean marble. During this short exchange, I’m vaguely aware that a woman is standing nearby with her back turned. She’s deep in conversation with another woman. My assumption is the little girl has been killing time while she waits for her mother.

When I start to get up, the little girl says, “Thanks, mister. The blue one is my favorite.” When I don’t respond immediately, she says, “My name’s Amy.”

I tilt my head, slightly mystified that this kid isn’t terrified of the big hulking biker with brutal scars covering half his face. They’re hideous burn scars that pit my skin. It’s like they don’t faze her at all. Not wanting to be rude, I answer politely, “My name’s Rider.”

Her face wrinkles up into a delightfully pensive expression. “Is that a real name?”

I give her a slight nod. “It’s a nickname. I like to ride my bike everywhere.”

Her grin gets wider. “So do I,” she responds excitedly.

I jerk my chin towards my ride. “Motorcycle, not bicycle.”

She grabs her marbles up from the ground and gets to her feet. I follow suit. She looks wistfully at my ride, which I have to admit is a beautiful sight, especially all tricked out in chrome that reflects the morning sun.

I hear her sigh. “I wish I could ride a motorcycle too.”

Before I can respond, her mother speaks up, “What? No, baby, motorcycles are dangerous.” She turns as she speaks. When she catches a glimpse of me, her eyes get big. Her mouth opens as if to speak and then closes again.

Something suspiciously like glee blooms in my chest because I know this woman. She is the sweetest woman I’ve ever met and the hottest sex of my entire life. She’s also the only woman I still have erotic dreams about. I’d give just about anything to pick back up where we left off all those years ago. Some guys might find the fact that she has a child off-putting, but in my eyes, the fact that she’s a mother just makes her womanlier and more desirable. Her figure is a bit curvier than it was during our brief interlude. That appeals to me more than I’d like to admit. I know more than most that looks shouldn’t matter.

I can’t believe her eyes are eating me up. No woman has ever looked at me the way she is right now and that decides it for me.

I take a step forward and greet her warmly. “Hello, Fran. It’s been a while. You haven’t aged a day in five years.”

She takes a step closer to me as well, as if she can’t help herself. Her little one squirms out of the way and starts rolling one marble along the edge of the grassy side of the sidewalk. Her mom cautions, “Stay right here, Amy.”

The little girl responds in a singsong voice, “I will, Mama.”

With the child no longer between us, I realize pretty quickly that we’re in each other’s personal space. She doesn’t seem to mind. I like having her close. It feels intimate. I hold out my unscarred hand for her to shake. She does so without hesitation. Her skin feels warm and soft in my rough, calloused hand.

Fran seems self-conscious about bumping into the man she had rough, dirty sex with years ago, but manages to say, “It’s nice to see you again, Jason.”

Her daughter chimes in, “His name is Rider because he likes to ride.”

Pride surges in my chest when the little one comes to her feet and points to my hog. “Isn’t it shiny, Mama?”

Fran clears her throat and stammers, “Yes. It…it’s magnificent.”

I wasn’t entirely sure that magnificent was the word she would have chosen had the owner of the bike not been standing in front of her. Fran had been so fucking kind the last time we’d been together, so I attribute her generous compliment on my bike to that.

She turns to me and begins apologizing, “I didn’t mean to imply that your motorcycle was dangerous to you. Of course, you know how to ride. It’s just that Amy can be too curious for her own good. I don’t want her messing around with someone’s bike one day when her curiosity overrides her good judgement.”

I smother back a smile. “Do little kids even have good judgement? I only wonder because I never did at her age.”

She stops chewing on her bottom lip long enough to agree with me. “You might be right about that. It’ll be up to me to keep a close eye on her when there are flashy, expensive bikes around.”

I chuckle. “Now, you’re just stroking my ego, Franny.”

Her eyes drop from my face to my crotch and then jump away. I fucking love the soft blush that creeps up her neck to her cheeks.

Her pretty blue eyes are everywhere except on me for a moment, as if she can’t think of anything to say. Finally, her eyes lift and she zeroes in on the scarring splashed across the left side of my face. Instead of pity, her expression is filled with empathy. “You’re here to see the doctor today. Right?”

I nod, fascinated by her delicate facial features and the blush still staining her cheeks. “Yeah,” I respond, gesturing to the side of my face. “An IED blew up and my entire left side took the brunt of the damage. I’m almost a year out from the explosion and have had surgery on my shoulder, arm, and hand already.” I flex my hand in front of her. “The only thing left is some fine tuning on my hand. It was too much to repair everything at the same time, so they spread out the surgeries.”

She reaches out, takes my hand in hers, and inspects the damage. “It looks like a problem with your ligaments. Is it painful?”

I nod, drawing my hand away. “Sometimes I get spasms. It’s getting worse as time goes on. I don’t want to chance causing an accident when I’m riding my bike.”

“Coming to this location for your treatment is a good decision. I’m an occupational health nurse here and the doctors are fantastic.”

I guess that explains the pretty yellow scrubs she’s wearing. “I didn’t realize you were a nurse.”

She smiles shyly. “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk the last time we met.”

The pretty lady ain’t wrong about that. We met at a house party and we were both a bit tipsy. I remember what little conversation we had revolved around me being on leave from the military, and how hot she was—which led to the best one-night stand of my entire life. My cock perks up at the memory of it.

I’m just about to ask her out for coffee when Siege comes sliding sideways into the parking space right beside us. His motorcycle is loud, and he screeches his tires when he spins into place.

Amy claps and squeals excitedly. “Look, Mama, another motorcycle. That makes two.” The wonder in her voice warms my heart. Seeing a young person so enthusiastic about bikes is amazing.

Siege raises his voice to be heard over the roar of his engine, “Hey, are you finished with your appointment, brother? We’ve got shit to do.”

I’m not sure if it’s the loud motorcycle or the cursing that does it for Fran. She grabs Amy’s hand, murmurs a polite goodbye, and pulls her towards the parking lot.

I walk over to Siege, deciding to skip my appointment today. I can always make another one.

“What the hell was that all about?” His eyes slide over the scarred side of my face and back again. “Was that woman giving you a hard time? She should fucking be ashamed of herself. You don’t come here to get side-eyed by the womenfolk.” Siege’s outburst takes me by surprise.

“Hell the fuck no, she wasn’t talking shit about my face.” Happiness lances through my chest as I explain. “I know her. She’s that chick I hooked up with the first time we got leave.”

Siege’s expression clears. “I remember that. Did she recognize you?”

“Yeah. In fact, she was flirting with me.”

His expression turns slightly chagrined. “I probably fucked that up by coming in hard and fast. Sorry, brother. Want me to help you track her down?”

“Nope. I already know where to find her. And to answer your first question, I’m done here, so we can go.”

“What did your doctor say?” my nosy best friend asks.

“The appointment got cancelled,” I respond flatly, leaving out the part about me being the one who did the cancelling. Of course, from their perspective, it will be a no show. I hate to do that, but I’m too wound up to go in and let them annoy the hell out of me today.

“Fucking hell. You need that hand looked at, bro.”

“I’ll reschedule,” I grumble. “Now, what’s so important that you scared away the only woman who’s been civil to me in a long damn time?”

He shoots me a serious look. “Let’s grab lunch. We need to talk.”