Home > Ride Wild (Raven Riders #3)(2)

Ride Wild (Raven Riders #3)(2)
Author: Laura Kaye

“Yeah.” He shifted feet, like something about wanting her help made him uncomfortable.

“Okay, well, why don’t you work at the table while I make us some food?” she suggested, leading them into the kitchen, where the neat but shabby theme continued. “How’s pasta sound?”

Sam shrugged as he slid into a seat and slapped a worn-out backpack onto the table, appearing every inch like a prisoner being led to the gallows.

“What’s up with you?” Cora asked as she crumbled ground beef into a frying pan to brown. Next, she filled a big pot of water to boil.

He sighed. “I have to do an interview.”

Frowning, she pulled a jar of sauce and a box of noodles from the pantry. She was going to need to ask Slider to grab some groceries soon, a chore that would be so much easier if she had a car of her own. As would getting back and forth to watch the boys. Cora sighed. Just one more thing to add to her list of stuff she really needed to make happen in her life. “Of?”

“Someone I admire.” He stared at the page in his hand.

Wiping her hands on a towel, she turned to him. “Okay, and did you have someone in mind?”

He looked up at her. And even though he didn’t say a word, his eyes held the answer.

Suddenly, Cora was the uncomfortable one, which had her rambling. “Um, maybe, like Doc? Or Bunny? Or even Dare?” The Raven Riders Motorcycle Club’s founder; the founder’s sister, who’d escaped an abusive marriage and recently survived an attack on the club; and the club’s current president all seemed like good choices to Cora. Much better than . . . the person Sam was currently staring at.

He shrugged with one shoulder. “I was hoping . . . you’d let me interview you.”

“That’s, um, really flattering, Sam. But . . .” Geez, how embarrassing was this to admit? “I’m not all that admirable.”

In the positive column, she was a high school graduate, had turned out to be pretty good with kids, loved animals, and could concoct a good runaway plan when necessary. Cora rated herself as a better-than-average friend, and seemed to be able to make people laugh. In the negative, she’d recently been kidnapped by a gang and rescued by a biker club, and now resided with that club while she figured out what the heck to do with her life. And that wasn’t even considering what’d happened with her father, back before she’d run . . .

Which she refused to let herself think about just then.

“To me you are,” Sam mumbled, suddenly fascinated with the surface of the table.

What the heck was she supposed to say to that? When it was possibly one of the nicest things any human being had ever said to her . . . She eased into a seat. “Really?”

He nodded and finally met her eye. “You’re kinda funny,” he said.

“Just kinda?” She winked.

Sam’s grin was reluctant in that preteen way of his. “I mean, you have your moments.”

Cora smirked. “You’re really selling my admirable qualities here, Sam Evans.”

He shrugged again. “Okay, fine. You’re funny. You take good care of us. And you make Ben happy. And I heard you’re the one who helped Haven escape from her dad. That was pretty hard core.”

“We did it together,” Cora said, nearly glowing from the praise. Kids’ willingness to just lay their truth out there was one of the things she absolutely loved about being with them. Even if Cora couldn’t really agree with Sam’s view of her. “That’s what friends do for each other.” Especially best friends, which Cora and Haven Randall had been since grade school, back before Haven’s father had become so possessive that he’d withdrawn her from school to control everyone she saw and everything she did. Cora’s father was exactly the opposite—he hadn’t cared less what Cora did, where she went, or who she saw—as long as she didn’t need his time, attention, or money, which he drank or gambled as fast as he made. She and Haven had sometimes debated which more deserved the Worst Dad of the Year trophy. It varied from day to day.

“And you make our house feel . . . alive again,” Sam said more quietly. “Like Mom used to.”

It was such a stunningly beautiful comment that emotion knotted in Cora’s throat. Sam’s mom—Slider’s wife, Kim—had died young from breast cancer over two years before. The boys rarely mentioned her, and never in Slider’s presence. At least, not that Cora had ever witnessed. “Sam,” she said around that knot. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

He blinked up at her, like he wondered if she was teasing him. And she so wasn’t. Instead, she was wondering what she could possibly do to actually deserve that kind of compliment. “So, is that a yes?”

Man, she hoped Slider realized how awesome his kids were, because she would give a lot to have children this amazing. Maybe someday that would happen for her. Though, given that people generally preferred to use her rather than keep her, not to mention how much of a mess her life was right now, she was certain that someday was at least a million days off.

“Yeah, that’s a yes,” she said. “What exactly do you want to know?”

 

Returning from his only call of the night, Slider parked the tow truck in the lot at Frederick Auto Body and Repair just as the sun turned the morning sky gray. Once, he’d been a master mechanic contemplating owning this place, and now . . . now his life was just like his night had been. A whole lotta nothing punctuated by the occasional unexpected emergency.

He wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than the slow, plodding slog of the fourteen months he’d spent knowing catastrophe was coming right at him and his boys, yet unable to do a goddamn thing about it.

But that was cancer for you. Fuck you very much.

Sad truth was, though, that catastrophe had been coming for the Evans men one way or the other, hadn’t it?

Damn it all to hell.

Slider punched out. Drove home. Heaved a big breath before he went inside.

God, he hated this house.

Its ghosts, its memories, Kim’s touch in every room and on every surface. He couldn’t breathe inside this house.

He went in anyway.

Noise. Voices. Laughter.

He found the source of it all in the kitchen.

Sam and Ben sat at the kitchen table with the babysitter, who was demonstrating how to hang a spoon from her nose.

The babysitter.

That was how he thought of her. How he had to think of her sometimes. Because if he thought of her as Cora, then he might think of her as a woman. And if he thought of her as a woman, he might take note of the soft waves of her sunny blond hair, or the flare of her hips, or the way the playful glint in her bright green eyes matched the mischievousness of her smile or the sarcasm in her voice.

And Slider couldn’t do any of that.

Not when the last time had gone so very wrong—and in ways no one else in his life even knew.

“Dad!” Ben called, shoving up from his seat and sending milk and Cheerios sloshing from his bowl. He rounded the table.

“Little man,” Slider said, giving him a squeeze when the boy’s body hit him at full speed. “Sleep okay?”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “We saved you ice cream.”

“Hey, Dad,” Sam said, taking his bowl to the sink and cleaning up his brother’s mess—without having to be asked. Sometimes Slider had to wonder which of them was the adult around here anymore, and didn’t that make him feel like fucking Dad of the Year.

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