Last Summer my first full length novel EASY RYDER came out from Dreamspinner Press. It tells the tale of a young gay man's crosscountry journey of discovery, danger, and love during America's Bicentennial. This is a special look at the second man in the novel, Snake, as he meets our main hero.
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A Happy 4th of July
“Points get wet?”
The youthful voice startled me. It came from a freckle-faced kid in his late teens staring at me with wide, green eyes. I’d seen him climbing out of a semi-truck in the back lot of the Sinclair station earlier, and was no fool as to what and who he had been doing in there. The cardboard sign he held had “California” written on it. A runaway, maybe? If his family had been anything like mine, I couldn’t blame him.
“Maybe,” I answered, returning my attention to the bike. After being caught in the rain the damn thing refused to start. Until I figured out why, I’d be stuck in Indiana. So much for a Happy 4th of July weekend. Why I should expect anything better from life, I didn’t know. Things had been shit long before I enlisted with the Army in ‘71. At least Vietnam had been a better alternative to home.
The echo of vehicles on I-71 howled in the night, the air still sticky but cooler since the rain. In two days would be the Bicentennial—not that I cared. No one cared when we soldiers came home, so why should I give a shit? The dog-tags I wore only elicited pity or hatred. I wanted none of either.
As far as I was concerned, this country could take the celebrations and shove them up its entitled ass.
The kid ran a hand through his light brown hair, drawing my attention. “They should figure out a way to seal up those covers and wiring holes better for when you get caught in the rain.”
“Yeah, probably should.” A flutter of excitement worked across my middle. Was he lingering to chat because he was hinting for a ride? Headed to New Mexico with unfinished and dangerous business, I shouldn’t entertain the idea of picking up a hitchhiker, even if his adorable grin calmed the ache inside me. I was so tired of being lonely. Maybe this was just what I needed.
“At least they don’t use tomato cans anymore,” he offered with a smile.
I raised a brow hearing the Harley-Davidson trivia about their first carburetor. “You know bikes?”
He shrugged his slim shoulders with a mix of pride and embarrassment. “A little.” Confidence resonated within his voice as he told me about the different motorcycles he’d owned or worked on.
Amused by his chatter and annoyed with myself for not thinking to check the ignition points, I lowered the kick-stand and climbed off, putting my back to him as he rambled.
From the corner of my eye I caught his gaze lingering on my ass.
I fought a grin at the blatant hunger in his expression.
Cute as hell and he knew bikes? Didn’t get much better than that.
To hell with what awaited me in Albuquerque. I couldn’t let this one get away. Thank goodness the dark-blue handkerchief in my back right pocket announced I was definitely interested. I shifted so he could get a clear view that if he wanted a ride, I could offer him both kinds.
He cleared his throat. “Good luck.”
Startled, I looked up.
Our eyes met for several heartbeats. I waited for him to accept my subtle offer, but rather than respond, he took his leave. I stared after him, captivated by his pert ass and the way he walked, bouncy and light on the balls of his feet as he headed toward the on-ramp.
No, I hadn’t been off in my initial assumptions about his preferences. However, he’d apparently never been schooled about what different colored handkerchiefs meant. Didn’t know who came up with the ingenious code, but it came in awful handy when searching for likeminded men.
Guess I’d have to be more obvious with this one.
Retrieving a rag from my saddlebag, I dried off the seals the best I could, alternating with the cloth and blowing. I worked quickly, my gaze darting repeatedly to the slim figure hitching near the edge of the on-ramp. Each time the headlights of a passing car illuminated him, I worked faster, fearing he might get away.
Though only a few years younger than me, his youth bespoke an innocence I’d lost long ago. What little had survived my father’s hate had been obliterated by war, pulverized in a cloud of mortar shells and Agent Orange. Envy and wistfulness stirred within me. Would I ever be able to move on, forget what I’d seen and done? What had been done to me?
Probably not. Didn’t mean I could stand by and allow this kid to be tarnished, too. The thought of someone hurting him, destroying that innocence sent a surge of protectiveness through me. With that cute face, he was far too inexperienced and naïve to be on the road alone.
He wore his nature for all to see—not wise in this part of the country.
Once finished, I threw my leg over the bike and popped it into neutral. Gratitude filled me when a throaty rumble met my ears. Sliding on riding glasses, I drove toward the on-ramp, not even wasting time for a smoke. I didn’t want to risk losing him. The kid watched me as I pulled over ten feet ahead of him.
When he hesitated to accept the ride, I glanced back, feeling impatient. “You getting on, or not?”
He gave a surprised start then stashed his sign and jogged forward. I revved the engine, not wanting it to stall out.
“Going to Albuquerque,” I said as he climbed on.
“Hold on, kid.”
Confident hands gripped my waist when the bike surged onto the highway hard and fast, headed west. He held on just enough to remain seated, but not as close as I’d hoped. I found his lack of assertiveness and experience extremely arousing. What I wouldn’t give to have those arms wrapped tight around my waist, his lithe body pressed against me as we rode!
It would happen soon enough. We had a long ride ahead of us with plenty of time for indulge in everything we both wanted.
I almost laughed aloud.
Moments ago I’d been lamenting life yet now I had the wind in my hair, a sexy, young guy on my bike, and miles of open road stretched in front of me.
This might be a happy 4th of July after all.
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