Elven, Book 2
by Willa Okati
[ Urban Fantasy Romance, MMF ]
Sara’s sassy, spunky, and not afraid to let her hair down. When twin opportunities to unleash her inner wild woman come roaring up to her house on motorcycles, she doesn’t want just Gent or Niall — she wants them both.
“Baby, please. Give me one more chance.”
Sara stared at the man standing on her front stoop. If she hadn’t known for a fact that she’d woken up with the hangover from hell — one too many dips into the well of self-pity after her aborted wedding — she would have wondered if she were still in bed and dreaming that her former fiancé had had the balls to show up at her door. “Rick?” she asked in disbelief. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Rick took one step up the short flight of stairs leading to her front door. “I was wrong, baby. Running away like I did was the biggest mistake of my life. I see that now.”
Whiskey fumes curled off of him like smoke. Sara waved her hand in front of her wrinkled nose. “Very funny, Rick. Go sleep it off. Preferably somewhere else. Since I’m not on my honeymoon, I’m getting a jump-start on all the work I had been planning to let pile up while I was in Fiji.”
“Yeah, baby.” Rick swayed back and forth. “You and me and Fiji. All those sandy white beaches and drinks with little umbrellas –”
“Brought to you, no doubt, by cabana girls in seashell bikinis?”
Rick’s expression went hazy for a second as he obviously drifted away on the thought of buxom beauties wearing sassy tropical thongs and not much else. Sara rolled her eyes. God’s honest truth, she really should have known better than to get involved with this man in the first place, let alone get serious, and marriage should have been the furthest thing from her mind. She’d been fooled by his “soulful” act — a dumb move on her part. The eagerness to listen, the comfort of a shoulder, all of those were just an act to get her to trust him.
In the cold reality of hindsight, Sara realized what a moron she’d been. But not anymore. After she’d shown up at the registry office and waited… and waited… and waited for Rick, all to no avail, she’d made a few important decisions.
From there on out, she was going to go for the gusto instead of making “sensible,” disastrous choices. On the surface Rick might have seemed like a wise choice. Stable, dependable, even reasonably attractive. But after spending some time with him anyone with two brain cells to rub together could tell he wasn’t the pick of any litter. More like the outcast black sheep. From what she’d seen of his friends, usually rushed encounters after which she’d been swept away to bar after bar and club after club, the wealthy businessmen he hung out with were all the same.
Sara tapped her foot. “Rick, you made it pretty clear yesterday what you didn’t want. While I was waiting for you with a really cranky Justice of the Peace, you were out having cocktails with a pole dancer named Kiki. So that begs the question of what you’re doing here now.”
Rick blinked until his eyes came back into focus. “It was a mistake, baby. I got cold feet. You understand, don’t you? After all, you were the one who kept putting me off. No fancy church wedding, no fancy white dress, no guests –”
“Oh, yeah. Silly me. If I’d done things the way you wanted them, I’d have been left standing there at the front of a cathedral wearing a white satin gown with a train so long two flower girls had to carry it, and you’d still have gone off to bounce the bedsprings with CoCo.”
“What the hell does it matter?” Sara planted her hands on her hips. “You have one minute to explain yourself, and then I’m calling the cops. I’ll do it, too.”
A lazy smile curved Rick’s lips, the look of a man who thought he was about to slip into taking charge. “What are you going to tell the police, baby? The man you love has come to visit without calling first? They’ll run right out here — as soon as they can find the place. You know that back here on these dirt roads, you’re almost impossible to locate. So why don’t you make it easy on both of us and let me inside to talk?”
“One, because I’m not stupid. The second you walk in this door you’re going to be all over me like an octopus with a dozen extra tentacles. Two, because I’m mad as hell at you. A woman doesn’t like to be stood up for a date, much less for her own wedding.” Sara crossed her arms over her chest. “And three, I have much better taste in men than the likes of you.”
Rick looked startled, then angry, an ugly glint glittering in his eyes. “Who filled your head with all of this? Your friends? Baby, they don’t know what they’re talking about. You belong to me. You always have, and you always will. All we need to do is work this thing out. Now stand back and let me inside.”
“In your wildest dreams, maybe. Right here and now? No way.” Sara stood firmly in her doorway, stretching her arms and legs to block the entrance completely. “Get back in your Jag and go spend the afternoon at a titty bar. Like I don’t know now where you were going all the times you said you couldn’t make lunch because of a business meeting.”
The expression on Rick’s face turned mean as a diamondback rattler. “What I do on my own time is personal,” he snapped. “A man has needs, Sara. One of them is to cut loose every now and then.”
“Try Tuesdays and Thursdays, twelve noon on the dot.”
“How’d you know that?” Rick’s eyes narrowed. “Did you get someone to follow me?”
“Like I told you, I’m not stupid and I realized yesterday that I had a pretty good tap into all the gossip that’s going around. I was a busy, busy girl, hounding your friends and friends of friends and their acquaintances, and now I know about every single thing you’ve been up to since before you gave me that ring which, by the way, I now know is cubic zirconia and not diamond.” She picked the heavy stone off her foyer table, where she’d thrown it the afternoon before. “Speaking of which, take this back. Tee-Hee, or whatever her name is, might like the thing. I don’t want it anymore.”
“Kiki,” Rick corrected. “And I’m not seeing her again. She was a one-time-only thing, baby, I swear. I’m all yours now. Just let me in and we can work this out.”
“Not gonna work.” Sara’s heart ached a little. No matter how much you hated someone, if you’d loved them once upon a time it hurt to let them go. “I can see it now. We’d have a talk, you’d promise everything would be great this time, and then you’d drive back into the city for your four o’clock blow job followed by a really happy Happy Hour.” She folded her arms. “Get out of here, Rick. This conversation is over.”
“Baby, please.” Rick gave her a look that would have melted butter. “I’ve changed. I’m a whole new man now. And I need you.”
Sara sighed. “All you need is the money I get from selling my paintings. I found out that your daddy’s trust fund is running low, and you’ve been borrowing from everyone you know to live it up the way you always have. I guess you figured that if you married me, I’d be able to support you while you had all the fun you wanted on the side. Well, not this girl, Rick. This is not the beginning of a beautiful friendship and there aren’t any violins playing in the background. I’m not going to take you back and pretend everything’s okay.” Since Rick wasn’t reaching out for it, Sara tossed the ring at him. The cheap chunk of rock on a fake gold band bounced off his chest.
Giving a yelp, Rick dove for the jewelry. “That was my mother’s!”
“Yeah? Was your father a jackass, too?” Sara stepped back and closed the door, throwing the deadbolt and slotting the chain into place for good measure. “Goodbye, Rick,” she called as she gave the door a thump with the flat of her hand. “My next move is a restraining order. If I so much as see your face in the same restaurant as me, ever again, I’ll pull you through the wringer backwards.”
Rick said something, but Sara couldn’t make it out and didn’t care enough to make the effort to understand him. Curiosity, however, kept her at her peephole long enough to see Rick stand up with the cheap engagement ring in his hand. He looked around with confusion, seeming lost, then shook his fist.
“Big man,” Sara shouted. “Go on, threaten me. Then I’ll really have something to tell the cops.”
Rick gave her door a look as ominous as a thundercloud. “This isn’t over yet, Sara. I’ll be back, and we are going to have a talk sooner or later.”
“Dare I hope that means you’re leaving now?”
He kicked her door hard. “Smart off all you want. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let me in next time. I might let you off easy if you look at things my way.”
The ugliness in his voice sent a warning chill down Sara’s spine. Rick was a big man. Solid. He’d played football in college, or so he’d claimed. She herself was tiny, barely five feet tall, her arms slender instead of tough and her body fragile. If Rick was planning on getting violent, like she thought he might be… God. Maybe she should invest in a watchdog.
He seemed to be done for the moment, though. Moving a little unsteadily, still clutching Sara’s ex-ring to his chest, he made his way to his car, a sporty little Jaguar coupe painted a glistening aubergine. Sara shook her head and checked to make sure she still remembered his license plate number.
Getting pulled over for a DUI wouldn’t stop Rick for long, but he deserved it. And no one needed him on the roads in his condition.
Hell, no one needed someone like Rick at all, period.
Satisfied that, at least for the moment, he wasn’t coming back, Sara gave her locks one last test and then headed back to the kitchen where she’d been in the middle of cooking up a feast of comfort food. As she walked, she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and hit one of her speed-dial buttons.
“Sergeant Elizabeth Hawkins,” a crisp female voice answered. “Annandale Police Department.”
“Lizzie, it’s Sara.”
Sara heard Elizabeth take a deep breath. “Don’t tell me, let me guess. After the wedding-that-wasn’t, Rick came running over to your place?”
“Give the lady a gold star. He’s drunk as a skunk, too. I was hoping someone could just happen to drive by and pull him over for a sobriety test. The roads out here are pretty deserted, but God knows I don’t want him slamming into any innocent travelers.”
“You should have taken my advice from the beginning. Rick was, is, and will continue to be a prime jackass. Is his license plate still the same?”
“STUDNO1,” Sara replied dryly. “You think I might have picked up on a few telltale clues earlier?”
“You had the blinders of love on, doll. Don’t tell me you didn’t have your doubts. Up until yesterday you’d have let him in and put him to bed on the sofa so he could sleep it off, and then he’d talk, and there’d be sex, and the whole cycle would just start all over again.” Sara could hear the sound of keys clicking as Elizabeth typed something on her computer. “Okay, done. A squad car’s en route to intercept Rick before he gets out into major traffic.”
“It’s appreciated.” Sara came to rest beside her kitchen island laden with fresh fruits, vegetables, and a chopping block covered in bits of diced red and green peppers. The rich aromas made her mouth water. “And by the way, I’m pretty grateful for you not telling me what an idiot I was to let things go that far.”
“I figure you didn’t need telling,” Elizabeth said with a chuckle. “Breaking up with Rick is going to be the best thing that’s happened to you in a while. Who knows? Maybe Mr. Right is just around the corner and now that Rick doesn’t have you shackled down, you can jump all over his fine piece of ass.”
“Lizzie!” Sara couldn’t help grinning. “I do not jump asses. I seduce.”
“Potato, po-ta-to. I’ve got to get back to work, Sara-girl. But what do you say about you and I hanging out tomorrow night? Just two girls, a good bottle of Merlot, and maybe even a horror movie.”
“I’ll choose the movie.”
“And I’ll bring the wine.” Elizabeth’s voice was fond as she drew the conversation to a close. “Everything’s going to be fine, Sara. You’ll see.”
“One day at a time, Elizabeth. But it’s the first day of the rest of my life. See you tomorrow night.”
“That’s the spirit. Bye, now.”
“Bye.” Sara clicked her phone shut and automatically slid it into the hip pocket of her jeans. Unlike the ones she wore to impress, the kind that were tight as a second skin and molded to the curves of her ass as if they’d been painted on, these were loose and comfy and had plenty of give at the waist. No bad thing, especially if she planned on stuffing herself sick on the food that was cooking away.
So she had a thing for stress eating. Comfort goodies were a mainstay of her life, and tonight she wasn’t denying herself anything from chicken risotto to cherry chocolate cheesecake. Sara took a taste of the cooling confection, sucked it into her mouth, and moaned in pleasure.
She was a damned fine cook if she said so herself.
Sara checked on the rice boiling for her risotto, then stepped back to her kitchen island and all the crispy fresh veggies waiting to be cut. It felt oh, so satisfying to pick up her chopping knife and slice into broccoli and tomatoes with a loud crunch.
As she worked, she thought about what Elizabeth had said. Geez, what an optimist. As if hunky men who also, miracle of miracles, had a decent heart, were just lined up around the walls of her old Colonial, roses in hand and pretty words on their lips. Ha! Sara doubted she’d lay eyes on anyone except Elizabeth for a week, unless Rick decided to stop by and play the fool again.
God, she hoped he didn’t. If he ever got really nasty, she’d be in deep shit. The house she’d chosen to make into a home was at the end of a long and winding dirt road, but it’d had so many charms that she’d decided an extended commute would be worth it whenever she needed to go into town. The house had exactly as much room as she needed — a place to sleep, a big open kitchen where she could go crazy, a surprisingly spacious bathroom with a claw foot bathtub, and a second bedroom that she used for a studio. Great place, but isolated as the seventh level of hell.
If Rick decided to make more trouble after he was sprung from his afternoon’s jail time… Sara shuddered and tried to put those thoughts out of her mind. Her doors were all securely locked, she had an alarm system hooked up to everything possible, and she slept so lightly that she’d hear even the sleekest car purring up in her gravel driveway. If Rick showed up, she’d be ready for him.
Her cell phone rang, the tones muffled from being stuffed in her pocket. Sara dug for the thing, a sharp hiss of annoyance escaping her lips. Without looking at the caller ID, she flipped her phone open and snapped: “Rick, I told you I don’t want to have anything more to do with you, much less waste my time on the phone. Either get a clue or get lost, or better yet, get both.”
“Now, is that the way to welcome back an old friend?”
Sara squeaked and almost dropped her phone. That was a voice she hadn’t heard in over a year. Forgetting completely about her dinner in progress, she pressed the cell closer to her ear. “Ciara? That can’t be you. Is it?”
Ciara had disappeared almost a year ago, right around the time that Sara herself had started seeing Rick. Sara hadn’t thought anything about it at first — Ciara could be a free spirit — but after weeks went by and there was no sign of the woman, she’d gotten worried. It wasn’t like Ciara to forget about her friends.
Sometimes she’d wondered if Ciara were dead.
But nope, she sounded alive and fresh as if she’d just spent a day at the spa. “Sara. I wondered if you’d recognize me after all this time.”
“Recognize you? Just tell me where you are so I can come kick your ass for making me worry. Do you know how long it’s been?”
Ciara paused. “A few weeks?” She sounded doubtful.
“Try almost a year! Wherever you went, you left all your stuff behind and nothing even close to a forwarding address.”
“A year?” Ciara’s voice was amazed and bewildered. “I guess they were right about the way time passes.”
“Yeah, it just flies. Seriously, where have you been? Did you get hurt? Lose your memory? Did someone kidnap you?”
“I’ve been somewhere most people never get to go. And to answer your other questions, no, no, and no.”
“Somewhere most people never go? Where is that, Calcutta? Last time I spoke to you, you’d just been dumped by that sorry-ass Paul. You were heading down to the pub for a drink. And then nothing.” She felt tears stinging in her eyes. “I thought you were dead, Ciara. And now you show up out of the blue like there’s nothing wrong at all?”
Ciara paused again, the silence hanging heavy on the line between them. “All I can say is that I’m sorry, Sara. I came across the chance of a lifetime and I had to take it.”
Sara snuffled. “But you’re back, now? You’re going to stay?”
“I wish I could, Sara. But I have a home with Ardal and Seanan now. I’m, um, with both of them. All three of us are together.” Ciara’s voice took on a wicked tone. “I have been educated in the ways of the sexual sandwich. I could write a book.”
“So let me see this new, improved you for myself. Come over for dinner,” Sara invited on the spur of the moment. “You know how I always cook too much. We can stuff ourselves sick and catch up on everything.”
“You’re not mad at me?”
“Of course I’m mad at you. But that doesn’t mean we’re not still friends. Come see me, woman. I’ll even leave the light on.”
“I wish I could make it tonight, but I wouldn’t be able to get there before midnight. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Yeah!” Sara enthused. “Elizabeth’s coming over — you remember her? — and we can have a real girls’ night in. Three women talking about men both good and bad, getting tipsy on Merlot and gossiping until our tongues go numb. Sound like a good time to you?”
“Oh, hell yes. Count me in. But for tonight…” Ciara paused on a hesitant note. “Well, I sort of need you to do me a favor. And I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think you could handle yourself.”
That didn’t bode well. Sara took hold of her kitchen counter with one hand just in case this was bad as it sounded, and then cleared her throat. “What do you need?”
“A couple friends of Seanan’s are in town for the night. They’ve been seeing the States on, er, motorcycles. Thing is, their rides need some repairs and they don’t have the extra money for a garage or a hotel. I remembered how you had that great big barn just sitting empty, and I was hoping you’d let them use it as a bay to tinker around in until they’re ready to roll.”
“Let me see if I’m getting this right. You want me to take in two Hell’s Angels, possibly for the night? Are you for real or have you genuinely lost your mind?”
“They’re good guys.” Ciara sounded serious. “I’ve known them almost as long as Ardal and Seanan, and there’s not a mean bone in their bodies. They won’t get in your way. Just let them use the barn as a workspace and then they’ll be out of your hair. Please?” she wheedled. “Just for old times’ sake.”
Sara sighed. Everything rational pointed to a great big neon “NO WAY” sign. But… this was Ciara. Before flaking out and pulling her big disappearing act, she’d been the most trustworthy person Sara had ever known. If she said these guys were harmless, Sara had a gut instinct that they would be.
“Fine,” she relented. “But they don’t go near the house and I don’t get anywhere close to them.”
Ciara squealed excitedly. “Fantastic! I’ll tell Gent and Niall that it’s fine. And really, don’t worry. They wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She chuckled slyly. “You might say you don’t want to get near them now, but wait until you get a good eyeful. Might make you change your mind about being neighborly.”
“I doubt it.” Sara heard the sound of twin engines roaring up the dirt road. “You bitch. They were already on their way here, weren’t they?”
“No, honest. They’re just passing through and I told them I had a friend who might be able to help. Gent has a cell phone mounted inside his helmet. I’ll give him a call and tell him that he and Niall have to keep their distance. Don’t worry, Sara. It’s all under control.”
Sara wasn’t too sure about this. Still, it was for Ciara, so she gave in. “Tell them the barn door’s open. They can park their bikes wherever they like and get to work. But they have to be gone before I go to bed, probably around eleven or midnight.”
“Done.” Sara could almost see Ciara bouncing with excitement. “Okay, I’ve gotta go. But we’ll get together tomorrow night. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Her voice softened. “I really am sorry about leaving like I did. But I’ll tell you the whole story when we have more time.”
The sound of motorcycles was coming closer. “I’ll hold you to that,” Sara warned. “Now let me get back to my cooking before something burns.”
“Something’s going to burn, all right,” Ciara said wickedly. “You don’t plan to touch, fine — but wait until you get a look at these two guys. Might make you change your mind.”
“Ciara, are you trying to set me –”
Sara stared at the cell phone, shaking her head. The whole day was taking on a kind of dreamlike feeling, as if nothing was actually real. What kind of Twilight Zone had she walked into when she should have been chopping vegetables and sipping a glass of Chardonnay?
Rick’s appearance. Ciara returning out of the blue.
And now, two burly biker-types roaring up her driveway.
Her day could definitely not get any weirder.
The motorcycles ground to a stop just outside her front door, the sound of gravel spraying loud as buckshot. Sara couldn’t help herself. Wiping her hands on a yellow-checked dishcloth, she made for the bay window next to her door and twitched the curtains back, taking a peek outside.
Her jaw dropped.
Good God. These were bikers? They looked like models as they stepped off their choppers, all long legs and easy grace, and fuck, the faces of angels topped off by silky falls of copper-red and nearly raven-dark hair that fell below their shoulders. They wore heavy leather bomber jackets, sinfully tight black jeans, and T-shirts that stretched with obscene tautness over bunched and rippling muscles.
Sara felt a tingle of excitement in her pussy, one she hadn’t felt since well before the advent of Rick. Rick had nothing compared to these guys. They beat him out in every department available with room to spare.
Their expressions were gentle as they talked softly to one another, words too quiet for Sara to make out. The brunet tossed his head back, hair flying, as he laughed uproariously at something his riding partner had said. Grinning broadly, the redhead reached over and hauled the brunet to him. They paused for a long moment, hovering so close to one another that anyone would have thought they were about to kiss —
— And then they did. Sara moaned, taking herself by surprise as she stared at the two men engaged in the hottest kiss she’d ever seen. They were rough with one another, hands coming up to grasp necks and wandering down to grope asses. They even began grinding against one another, although as soon as they started that, they stopped, giving guilty looks up at the house.
Looking straight at Sara, staring at them from her spot in the window.
She gave a small meep and yanked the curtains closed. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment, but her panties were damp with excitement. Who knew that seeing two men together would be such a turn-on? She’d never had the pleasure before, but God, was it hot.
On an impulse, Sara snapped the heat off on her stove, walked to her front door and undid the locks. She pulled it open and stood with her legs braced and her hands on her hips. “You must be Gent and Niall. Ciara told me you’d be dropping by. Care to come inside for something cool to drink?”
Gent and Niall exchanged glances. The one with red hair spoke up. “I’m Gent, aye; this is Niall; and we’ll gladly share your hospitality.” He had a nice, pleasant tenor with a slight accent, as if he’d been born in Ireland but spent most of his life in the States. “Bread and salt would be a blessing.”
“I can handle that much. If you’re really hungry, I can go as far as a home-cooked meal.” Sara relaxed her posture, eagerly eyeing Gent and Niall up and down. Sinfully handsome and well-mannered. What better way to forget about Rick and all his bastard ways than to spend an evening with the hottest men she’d ever seen?
Ciara had said they were trustworthy. She’d trust in Ciara.
Stepping back, Sara beckoned with one hand. “Come on in,” she welcomed them. “Let’s get to know each other.”
Really know each other. Maybe over more than dinner. There are all kinds of things I’d like to do with men who sizzle like this pair.
I’ll forget Rick, for sure, and I’ll have all the eye candy I could want.
Sounds like a plan to me.
She grinned as the pair walked up her steps. “Come inside. Take off your coats. Make yourselves at home.”
Gent gave her a look that smoldered with interest and heat, sending goosy shivers down Sara’s spine. That was a look that spoke of more than just a casual interest. He was measuring her up, checking her out — and so was the brunet, from what she could tell.
Sara shuddered in pleasure as she closed the door behind her two new men. Talk about a way to wash Rick right out of her hair.
This was definitely going to be a night to remember.