Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

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CHAPTER FIVE

JESSE

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“What the fuck is going on with this traffic?” I yell to Flint, who is riding beside me on his motorcycle.

He throws up his hands. “Bike week, man,” he replies.

Even in the middle of the night, the strip along Panama City’s beachfront is lined with bumper-to-bumper traffic; mostly motorcycles interspersed with only a few cars and trucks.

All of the bars in town have closed for the night, so there is nothing left for bikers to do but pile into the streets to show off their motorcycles. From the hordes of people lining the packed sidewalks to the inebriated bikers trying to keep their bikes upright, it seems everyone is doing their best to keep the party going until the sun comes up.

Nobody sleeps much during bike week. The event only happens once a year, so nobody wants to miss a minute of the action. “I can sleep when I get home,” people always say.

Flint and I are leading the Steel Infidels’ pack of thirteen motorcycles, with Rocco and Sam bringing up the rear. We all drank more tonight than we should have.

I hope the rest of the guys are sober enough to make it the short distance back to the hotel. Not that we are doing any actual driving at the moment. More like walking our bikes along with the heel of our boots in the traffic.

Hell, walking might be faster.

The good news is, as long as my crew doesn’t pass out and tip their bike over, nobody will get hurt tonight. Guess I shouldn’t be bitching about the stalled traffic, considering how wasted most of them are.

Up ahead, I spot a cowboy hat bouncing along with the crowd of people on the sidewalk. I do a double take. Surely it isn’t the beer tub babe from the bar? What the hell would she be doing wandering around the streets this time of night?

I motion to Flint to get his attention.

“Take the crew on back to the hotel,” I yell over the roar of motorcycles. “I’ll catch up.”

“Where are you going?”

“Tell you later.”

I pull off to the side to allow the other members of the Steel Infidels to go by. I wait until they pass me before I begin slowly trailing behind the cowboy hat.

It’s her, alright.

She’s wearing the same clothes she had on at the bar, except now she is carrying a big heavy bag slung over one shoulder.

I pull the bike up alongside her.

“Hey gorgeous! Where are you going?”

She doesn’t speak or even acknowledge that she hears me. Instead, she looks straight ahead and keeps walking.

“Wait up a minute! Where are you headed? I can give you a ride.”

No response.

Fuck! She is one tough cookie.

Not to be deterred so easily, I pull ahead then run the front wheel of the bike up on the sidewalk in front of her, blocking her path.

“Jesus, man!” says a man walking close behind her. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Fuck off,” I say.

He gives me a long look, as if he’s considering confronting me further. Thinking better of it, he walks around me without another word.

She abruptly stops walking and crosses her arms in irritation. She obviously isn’t as pleased to see me as I had hoped.

“What the hell do you want?” she asks. “I already told you ‘no’ a half dozen times. I’m not interested, get it? Nothing personal. Please just leave me alone.” Her eyes are shooting daggers at me. She looks even hotter when she is mad.

“I thought you might need a ride,” I explain. “That’s all. The bag you’re carrying looks awfully damn heavy. Hop on the back of my bike and I’ll deliver you wherever you want to go. Where are you staying?”

“None of your damn business,” she replies, a little out of breath from the walking.

Her breasts are heaving, and I can’t help but stare at them. She’s still wearing the white bikini top as before with an unbuttoned short-sleeved jacket over it. 

“What if I said I’m making it my business? Look around. Everyone else is partying and having fun. You, on the other hand, look like you’re about to burst out crying any second. What the hell are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”

She waves a hand in front of my nose.

“Do you mind looking at my face instead of my boobs when you’re talking to me?” she says. “That is, if you really want an answer. As far as I know, they don’t respond to questions.”

I grin at her. “So what do they respond to?” I tease, reluctantly tearing my eyes away from her tits.

“Is your filthy mind in the gutter all the time?” she asks with a disgusted look on her face.

I start to reply with an even dirtier comment about the things I could do to make her tits respond then stop when I notice the dark circles under her eyes. She’s clearly on the verge of falling over from exhaustion.

I feel a tinge of regret for teasing her. This might not be the time or the place.

“I’m sorry, okay? Let’s start over. You’re obviously beat and I’m offering you a ride. No strings attached. What do you say?”

She lets out a tired sigh and slings the bag off her shoulder on to the ground.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I had a falling out with my roommates, so I split. I’m trying to find a cheap hotel with a vacancy and I’m not having much luck. Everything is booked up for bike week. I’ve already checked every hotel on this end of the strip, so I’m going to keep walking until I find something.”

“Where is your car?”

“Obviously not here.”

The thought of her not having a sure place to go in the middle of the night or even a reliable way to get there worries me. Even so, I’m willing to bet there is more to her story than she is letting on. I also suspect there is a guy involved that she isn’t telling me about, a guy that will soon be history if I have anything to say about it.

“So what’s your plan?” I ask. “To walk the streets until you’re ten miles from the strip? Everything is booked solid. Most people made their reservations a year ago. You look exhausted. Come on. I’ll take you back to my room where you can grab a shower, change clothes, and get a couple hours of sleep.”

She puts her hands on her hips and gives me a dubious look. I take it as encouragement to keep talking.

“In the morning, I’ll take you out to breakfast and we’ll figure out something. I know your boss pretty well. I’ll talk to him and see if any of the other girls needs a roommate. Roger will help you out. I’m sure of it. He’s a decent guy.”

She doesn’t answer right away.

I can’t tell if she’s considering my offer or if she’s getting ready to tell me to go to hell and never show my face near her again.

A deep boom of thunder rumbles in the distance, far out over the ocean. I cock an eyebrow at her.

“My generous offer is about to expire in ten seconds. I suggest you make a decision quickly. I’m not a fan of riding in the rain, and I'm guessing you aren’t either.”

“I’m not having sex with you,” she blurts out.

I burst out laughing. “Suit yourself. I don’t remember asking you to. I wouldn’t have sex with you anyway. Not even if you got down on your knees and begged. I have high standards to uphold.”

A smile tugs around her lips that she quickly hides. “Glad to get that settled then,” she says.

I feel a tiny glimmer of hope. There might be a chance with her after all. Reaching for her bag, I securely strap it to the back of the bike. Surprisingly, she doesn’t protest or argue with me. I rev the throttle.

“Climb on, if you’re coming. I don’t have all night to stand around chit-chatting.”

She hesitates, still unsure if she’s making the right decision. I can’t blame her. She’s taking a big risk riding off with a stranger. For all she knows, I could be a serial killer.

I’m not kidding myself. If she wasn’t desperate, going with me wouldn’t be an option. I’m usually not a man to take advantage of a woman’s bad situation. Sometimes though, like now, it’s the only way to move things along quickly.

“I don’t even know your name,” she says. “This doesn’t feel right.”

“It’s Jesse Mason, and now you know.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. I’m Trish, short for Patricia.” 

After sliding a leg over the back of the bike, she tentatively places a hand on each side of my waist.

“You had better hold on tighter than that, Trish,” I say to her over my shoulder. ”Sorry I don’t have a helmet for you. The beautiful state of Florida says we don’t need one. I’ll drive careful so you won’t have anything to be scared of.”

She grips me tighter and my cock starts to swell.

“It’s okay,” she breathes into my ear. “I’m not afraid of motorcycles. Bikers, however, are a whole different story.”

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