Hello all you Romantics out there! I've got something special for you today—a SNEAK PEEK at my upcoming novel, Hard Rider.
It comes out on March 17th—just two weeks away!—and I'm crazy excited to share it with you. I'm so excited, in fact, that I'm releasing an ENTIRE chapter right now just to give you a taste!
Hard Rider is a hot, thrills-and-steam motorcycle club romance. It features a hard-as-nails bad-ass biker and the one special girl who can keep pace with him—it's just too bad he's an outlaw, and she's the daughter of the sheriff obsessed with bringing him to justice. Their passion is powerful and undeniable...and it might just tear their worlds apart.
Here we go:
June was lucky the diner was there. Her car started smoking just fifty miles out of Marlowe. It was packed full of her entire life, stuffed into the trunk in a series of tote bags and grocery sacks, some luggage, and a long crate that she only barely had room for. The rest was in the boxes strapped to the top of her small sedan with heavy rope.
She knew how to tie knots. Her dad wouldn’t let her join any wilderness groups like she had wanted when she was a kid, but she did manage to tag along on all of her younger brother’s adventures in the Boy Scouts. From the bowline to the clove hitch to the sheet bend, she could do them all.
She had a business idea (and she had dozens of business ideas) of opening a small shop for young women to let them learn how to do all the stuff that was normally relegated to boys. An hour would buy them time with knots. Two hours would fit in basic auto maintenance. Three hours would go on to cover power tools, and so on.
Such a venture was borne, like much of her obsession with getting enough money to never go back to her home town again, from her need to be away from her father for a good long time. Maybe forever.
For four years now, she had been independent of her father’s prying ways. After graduating high school, she set up base in Austin, where she studied English and Philosophy at the University of Texas. Her grades were good; the university had paid for everything.
Now she was returning to Marlowe dead broke, fresh from a break-up, none of her internships or interviews panning out into a job, tail already between her legs—and now, of course, she would have to call her dad to come pick her up and save her skin. An inauspicious beginning for someone hoping to break free of her parents forever.
June's mother had been exultant when she heard the news of her only daughter's return the day before when June made the call.
“That's wonderful! Your room is just as you left it. And, oh!” June could hear her rustling around on her desk in the kitchen. “I'll call Paxton and let him know. Did you know he's single? Son of the mayor and he's single, isn't that a shocker?”
“Oh god, Mom...” the thought of dealing with that white bread cowboy sent a small shiver of revulsion through her. “No. Don't even start.”
Her mother quickly changed the subject, but all the same, June was fairly certain Paxton Prince was going to be expecting a date by the time she got home.
She had not missed her mother very much, though more than she did her father. There was a lot about West Texas she had not missed, though it brought on a strange sense of nostalgia to see it about her now—the cactus patches on the side of the road, the deep brown flatness of the land, the long winding sky that went on past the curve of the horizon, wind mill farms positioned every few dozen miles and swallowing up the sky with their long rotating blades.
It was familiar and friendly, yes, but that her mother expected her to want to settle down here forever was a bit beyond June's comprehension. It would be like settling on the moon.
After breaking up with Simon, June wasn't entirely sold on the idea on another relationship for a while.
It wasn't that Simon had been awful. It might have been better if he was—then at least June would have a negative picture of everything she didn't want in a relationship. But Simon was nice, caring, attentive, and cute—June just didn't feel anything for him. The conversation of their break-up felt more like she was changing her checking account than changing her life.
Worst of all, Simon seemed to feel the same way. Leaving June wasn't anything to get excited about for him.
Her life felt devoid of passion—and if she couldn't get that passion from a guy who was on-paper as perfect as Simon, trying again felt like another long series of disappointments already.
Especially with Paxton. Ick.
June's car continued to smoke and she pulled up into the diner. She thought she could see flames flying out from the hood. But she did not panic; panic got a person nowhere.
At school, some of her friends had called her the Icewoman. She wasn't an Ice Queen, that was for sure—she liked boys too much, and up until two months ago she'd had a regular boyfriend besides. But she could still be the Icewoman—the one who took a shovel to the snakes that slithered onto their driveway, or who cleared out the over-sized spiders that landed in their bathroom.
Once she had forgotten to write a history essay, only finding out during class that it was due that day. She rushed back to her dorm, wrote the essay, and turned it in before class was over. The professor gave her an A. June had a way with words.
When the car was safely out of the highway and into the diner parking lot, she stepped outside with a fire extinguisher in hand. The day was hot—hotter than it was supposed to be, even, pushing easily past a hundred and five. It was a dry heat and she could feel the moisture suck from her skin like she had walked under a giant vacuum.
Quickly she had the hood covered in the CO2 mess spewing from the extinguisher. She breathed hard, her knees feeling a bit weak, but her actions were all nerves. From the trunk with all her things, she gathered up a rag and popped the hood. Heat and smoke powered up into her face, forcing her to step back. She sprayed the extinguisher again, knowing that probably it was doing something awful to the insides of her car.
That was okay though. Just so long as it all stopped burning.
After a few minutes the smoke cleared. The soupy sludge of the extinguisher hissed and chattered as it slipped down the engine chassis. She didn’t know a lot about cars, but it looked like something metal had melted. She knew enough to know that was bad.
Her guess was the radiator, overheated from the day. Her father used to always prescribe driving during the hot Marlowe summers with an extra tank or two of water in the back. It had come in handy more than once for him. She had forgotten such things—had tried to forget a lot about her life in Marlowe. It was not a friendly place for her.
A heavy-duty motorcycle pulled off the road just behind June and its rider walked toward her now.
June had to stop and watch him approach. He was that sort of man. Tall, heavily built. He wore a tight black t-shirt, practically painted to the heavily chiseled body underneath. Long sexy lines and delicate shapes of ink decorated the steel-hard skin of his arms.
She watched his pectorals shift, feeling something akin to hypnosis. A beard, dark and thick, was cut close under his chin. His gaze stared a hole right at June, and suddenly she felt under-dressed and over-dressed, both.
Under-dressed, because that kind of gaze made her feel close to naked. And over-dressed, because that kind of gaze from that kind of man made her want to get naked. He was like sex incarnate, and she wasn't sure if she could even survive a round with him in the bed.
And part of her desperately wanted to find out.
Her hair was long and chestnut and she pushed it to one side as he approached, suddenly not sure of how to approach the use of that fleshy thing between her teeth.
A tongue, was that what it was called? Words failed her, suddenly ending an alliance forged years and years ago when she'd picked up her first book of poetry at a swap meet.
“Radiator’s shot,” he said, taking a cursory look at the damage. “That’s what you get for picking a foreign car.”
She tried to compose herself and say something smart. “Who shoots a radiator?”
Oh, yes, June. Very smart. Let him think you’re an idiot, let him put his guard down.
He smiled, though, and took a long look at her, up and down. Appreciative, making a clear judgment in his head. There was a leather jacket vest in his hands, dark white and red patches on its surface. She couldn’t make any of them out.
June found herself vainly hoping he liked what he saw. It was stupid—idiotic, really—she was a woman with a personality and a goddamn college degree. She was more than a long pair of legs in tight jeans and a pair of breasts in a slender shirt, more than a piece of meat. But there was something about this man’s vibe, something about his scent, that made her kind of want to be seen as a piece of meat.
“I meant it got over-exerted. Probably from—”
“From the heat, I know. I was joking. I’d been driving for six hours and hadn’t stopped. It’s my own fault.” Her clumsy reticence was quickly being replaced with clumsy babbling. “I should have brought some water, but there wasn’t room in the car with everything else. It’s my whole life in there, you know, and I just—well. I’m trying to set up in Marlowe for awhile, and I couldn’t leave anything behind, so—”
“Marlowe?” he smiled. “Hell, that’s where I’m from, too. My name is Ram.”
He held out a hand. It was big and covered in callouses, near twice the size of June’s. She took it, gripping firmly. June had spent a lot of time practicing her handshake on frat boys in Austin and she knew her handshake was easily their equal.
It didn’t seem like it would be Ram’s equal—but then, he didn’t try to squeeze her fingers off like those idiots in Austin did.
“June,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you. Ram?”
He chuckled. “You don’t know anyone else named Ram, I take it.”
“It’s a sort of a nickname. I’ll tell you about it some time.”
She smiled, cocking her hip just slightly. “Oh yeah? How’s that? You gonna follow me home?”
“Maybe. You’re gonna need a ride.” He pointed to his truck. “I can help you out, if you want. I make it a point to help out folks who need it, especially in Marlowe.”
“We’re not in Marlowe.”
He shrugged. “No, but you’re from there. You want my help or not?”
Not a man who wanted his time wasted. She licked her lips just slightly, imagining herself in the truck with this man. Wondering where his hands might wander. He didn’t seem like a man who heard “no” very often…or at all. Not the sort of man who paid attention if he did hear it. The kind of man who always knew best...and could back it up.
Her heart fluttered.
“Thank you,” she said, “but no. I have family I can call. They’ll want to see me anyway. I haven’t been with them for quite some time.”
He smiled. “I’ll see you around, then, June. I’ll see you real soon.”
It almost sounded like a threat, coming from him. But if it was a threat, then why was her heart beating so fast—and why did she watch his large frame so intently as he walked inside the diner?
And that's it for now! I hope that tantalized you. Don't forget—Hard Rider is out March 17th, 2016. If you want more of my writing, you can check out the Affairs of the Arena series on Amazon, a romantic trilogy featuring alpha male gladiators and the women who steal their hearts. You can also follow me on Facebook or get in touch with me on twitter @LydiaPax.