As always, a huge shout out to my editing team, PapaKilo14, Hal, Pixel the Cat (love my big brother), GeorgeAnderson and Olddave1951. Thanks, guys, I love you all. You all know what a mess I am and you make my stories shine. Special thanks go to my friend, GeorgeAnderson, on this story. You helped me when I was stuck and your huge contribution made this story complete. I owe you. Harddaysknight and Saxon_Hart give me peer review. I love what you do for me. You told me the first draft lacked drama and you were right. Thank you for everything you do for me. My team is the best in the business and I'm blessed to have you all.
I rode my ATV up to the bank and parked. The sound of the water plunging over the falls was thunderous. It would be dark in an hour and a half and I wanted to be ready. I got my big rod off the ATV and opened the top of the bucket strapped to the back. The aerator was working well and the suckers in the bucket were lively and doing fine. I tied a 3/0 circle hook to the 60 pound braid and caught a sucker. I hooked him just under the dorsal fin and cast into the deepest part of the pool. It was probably fifteen or twenty feet deep there. The two-ounce sinker settled to the bottom and I pushed my rod holder into the moist earth, engaged the bait clicker and went to get my chair.
I got an Augustiner Bräu Lagerbier Hell out of the ice and pried off the top, settling down into my chair with a sigh of contentment. It had been a tough day. I had fired my wastewater treatment manager after a spill at the plant that I was going to have to explain to the city and the EPA. I'm the plant manager of a company that makes dehydrated food. We use huge quantities of water and it has to be treated before it goes back into the environment. I didn't yet know how serious it was going to be and at the moment, I didn't care. I was going to catch a huge flathead catfish.
This stretch of river runs along the back of my place for over a mile, and I knew it well. The hole below the waterfall was a quarter of that and big fish lived in it. I had seen a huge fish in the shallows three days earlier and if it was hungry, I was going to catch it. They tend to feed at sundown and sunup. Sunup was out of the question since I planned to sleep in. This was a prime time.
I had finished my first beer and was into a second when I heard the reel click a few times. It was one of the big Penn Squall reels, and I eased the rod out of its holder. There were a few more clicks and then the line ran out in a steady ratchet. I took off the clicker and engaged the reel. As the line tightened, I felt the weight and the battle was on. This was a huge fish! It felt like at least 50 pounds and it was all I could do to hold it. The line screamed off against the drag and I held on for dear life. In the fading light I saw what looked like a log come over the falls. I didn't pay much attention until a bright blue kayak came over and then another.
Damn! I had the fish of a lifetime on! The log drifted closer as the kayaks were caught in the backwash under the falls. I looked closer and it wasn't a log, it was a person! I dropped the rod and it instantly disappeared into the river as I sprang down the bank. The water was only about waist deep and I grabbed the woman by the hair. It was a woman and her hair was about three feet long! I reeled her in and moved to the bank as quickly as I could. I laid her on the grass and put my ear close to her mouth. Shit, she wasn't breathing!
I quickly rolled her face down and jammed the heel of my hand between her shoulder blades, giving her a few quick pumps. Water spewed out of her mouth and I rolled her back over. Damn it, how long had it been since I had a CPR refresher? I knew they didn't do mouth to mouth anymore, but this little lady wasn't breathing! I felt her neck and there was a weak pulse. Thank God! I pinched her nose and breathed into her mouth. I would give her a few breaths, watching her chest rise and fall and then stop for a few seconds. The time stretched out interminably as I kept breathing for her. Shit! I sat her up, sharp thump between the shoulder blades and more water came out. I eased her back down and breathed for her again. I felt her body spasm and she was choking and jerking under me.
I rolled her onto her side. She puked, water, and other things spewing as she convulsed. Her eyes opened and the softest, warmest brown eyes I had ever seen looked at me vacantly. Lucidity dawned in them slowly and she struggled to sit up. I helped her and she looked wildly around.
"Kara!" she screamed. "Kara, where are you?" She scrambled wildly to get up. I helped her and held her in my arms as she struggled to get away.
"Easy, sweetheart," I said. "There's no one here but you and me."
Her hands came up to cover her face and she wept bitter tears. "Oh God, oh God," she cried over and over. "She's gone! What am I going to do? She was drowning and I couldn't ... I couldn't get her out! What am I ... Mom ... how am I going to tell her? Oh God!" Her emotions overcame her and she sank to the ground, weeping hysterically.
I gathered her up in my arms and carried her to the ATV. She was so light it felt like I was carrying a small child. She clung to me desperately and I could feel her wracking sobs all the way back to the house. She was shivering uncontrollably. I carried her inside and into the bathroom, sitting her on the edge of the tub. "I'll be right back," I told her. Her face was buried in her hands and I don't know whether she heard me or not.
I still had a few of Cybill's clothes and I found a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and a fluffy robe. I took them into the bathroom and she was still unresponsive. "Sweetheart, you need to get out of those wet clothes," I told her. "Do you think you can change, or do you want me to help you?"
She didn't move or respond, just crying, huge gulping sobs with her face in her hands. I got the dry t-shirt ready and raised the one she was wearing. Gradually and slowly, I slipped it up and she moved her arms enough to let me pull it over her head. I tried not to look at her. I dried her off a little with a towel and pulled the new t-shirt on her. It was too big, but that was good. It went on easier over her wet skin. All she had on down below was a bikini bottom and I stood her up so I could get it off. Averting my eyes as much as possible, I lifted her feet and pulled the shorts up, tying the drawstring when they were on. I put her arms in the robe and tied the sash.
Her hands were still covering her face and I picked her up and carried her into the spare bedroom. I laid her down on the bed and put a pillow under her head. "I'm going to go make you a cup of hot cocoa," I told her. "I'll be right back." I couldn't tell whether she heard me or not.
She was still in the same position when I got back. I sat her up and scooted in behind her. She let me take her hands away from her face and I put the cup in them. That seemed to register with her and she whispered, "Thank you," as she sipped.
"I'm going to call someone," I told her. I started to move away and she grabbed me with one hand. "No, don't leave me." The desperation in her voice broke my heart. This little lady was hurting badly.
"I'll just get my cell phone and come right back," I assured her.
"Okay," she whispered. When I got back, I climbed in behind her and she rested her back against my chest and belly. I called the sheriff's department and explained what had happened.
"I think there's another girl in the river," I told the dispatcher. "You better send a search team."
"Who's Kara, honey?" I asked her.
"My sister," she whispered.
"There is definitely another girl, the sister to the one I've got," I said.
They told me a team was on the way and they'd send an ambulance to my house. I ended the call. I wrapped my arms around her and held her. She was a tiny little thing.
"Honey, can you tell me what happened," I asked her.
"We ... it ... there was a log ... she was trapped," she couldn't go on. She wept uncontrollably for about five minutes. "I tried to help her. I couldn't ... I couldn't get her out! I couldn't!" Her voice was full of agony. "I dove and dove, but I was too ... too weak! I got tired, but I tried and tried! I knew she was ... was drowning. Oh my God, what am I going to do?" It was a wail of despair. "I tried until I couldn't swim anymore! I went under ... you saved me, didn't you? Why?" she beat on me with her tiny fists. "Why didn't you just let me die? Why couldn't it have been me? How can I ... what am ... Oh God, I just want to die!" She was hysterical and I wrapped her in my arms and just held her.
"I know, honey," I petted her hair and just whispered to her. "I know. It's awful, just let me hold you, you're safe. It hurts, I know. Be strong, now. Kara would want you to be strong. What's your name?"
She didn't respond for a minute, just burying her face in my chest and crying uncontrollably. "Dara," I finally heard a choked reply.
A terrible thought darkened my brain. Could they be twins? Jesus Christ, it was bad enough the way it was; that would just be nightmarish! I held her shaking little form for about twenty minutes, just talking to her quietly, and I heard sirens in the distance.
"I'm going to go down and let the EMTs in," I told her. "I'll be right back."
They pulled up just as I opened the front door, and I led them upstairs. I told the leader of the rescue team to check the rapid and the bend up above my place. I knew a lot of people got pushed up against that bank when they were floating. They checked her over and tried to get her to go with them. "No!" she fought and struggled with them. Her eyes met mine and I could see the despair. "Help me!" it was a choking call.
"Guys, guys, stop!" I finally had to yell. I went and sat by her. She clung to me desperately. "I'm going to take you to the ambulance, Dara," I told her.
She nodded. Those huge brown eyes looked up at me pleadingly. "Don't leave me!" she begged. "Don't let them take me."
I looked at the guy beside me. He nodded. "I'll go with you," I told her. "I won't leave you."
"Thank you," she whispered. "What's your name?"
"Canyon, Canyon Granger," I told her. "What's your last name, honey? Should we call someone?"
Her chin quivered. "My name is Rockwell. Mom, we should call Mom. What am I going to tell her, Canyon?" She broke down again and I squeezed her tiny body tightly.
"We'll figure something out, baby. Just hold on," I said.
I sat her down so we could climb into the ambulance. The EMTs didn't put up a fuss and we were on our way. I got her to punch the number into my phone and I called while we were on the way.
A woman answered on the third ring. Her voice sounded tense and worried. "Mrs. Rockwell?" I asked.
"Yes, may I ask who's calling?" her voice shook a little.
"Ma'am, you don't know me," I said. "My name is Canyon Granger. I live over near Greenville and I just need to ask you to meet me at the hospital."
"The girls!" I heard the pain in her voice. "Are the girls with you? Did something happen to my girls?"
"Mrs. Rockwell, I should tell you about this at the hospital," I told her. "I will tell you that I'm with one of your girls now. Please, just meet us there, okay?"
"I'm on my way." The line went dead.
"She's on her way," I told Dara. I could see relief and anxiety on her face at the same time.
The EMT covered her up with a warm blanket and I saw one little hand worm its way out and reach toward me. I took it and it was like holding a child's hand. He asked her a bunch of questions and she answered them in a very subdued voice. When he was finished, there was a silence for a minute. I felt awkward so I thought I should say something.
"Do you mind me asking you how old you are?" I said.
She looked up at me with those warm, sad brown eyes. "I'm twenty-three," she said. "How old are you?"
"I'm thirty-three," I said.
"Where is your wife?" she asked.
"How do you know I'm married?" I wondered. She held up our hands and I could see her fingers on my wedding ring.
"Ah, you're a detective," I said.
A smile flickered across her features and it was as if I had been struck by lightning. God, she was cute!
"Cybill passed away three years ago," I told her.
Tears trickled down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "What happened, if you don't mind talking about it?"
"No, I don't mind," I said. I squeezed her hand. "She was on her way home from work one day. She was a schoolteacher. A deer jumped out in front of her and she swerved to miss it. Her SUV turned over and she slid into a ravine. It was a steep drop and she ... she didn't make it."
She pulled my hand to her face and kissed it. "I can tell you really loved her," she said.
"I did, and I still do," I said. "I honor her memory by living life the way she would want me to. I don't honor her if I live my life in regret. She loved me and she wanted me to be happy."
She sobbed a little and held my hand against the soft skin of her cheek. I stroked it with one finger and she smiled at me through her tears. "Thank you, Canyon," she said. "I'll remember that. It's going to help me a lot."
We pulled into the hospital emergency entrance and they wouldn't let me go back with her. I told her I'd be in the waiting room and she reluctantly let me go. I had been there maybe five minutes when a woman came rushing in. She talked to the girl at the desk and they buzzed her in. I thought it was probably Dara's mother; she looked a lot like Dara. I waited about twenty minutes and she came into the waiting room.
"Dara wants to see you," she said. I could tell she was on the verge of collapse herself. She had obviously been crying. We walked down the rows of beds and she stopped me.
"I want to thank you, Mr. Granger," she said. "Dara told me that you saved her life and what happened. I don't know how you happened to be where you were but I'll always be grateful to you. I don't think I would have survived if I had lost ... if I had lost both my babies."
Sobs shook her and she started to sink to the floor. I caught her and hugged her to me. She put her arms around me and wept bitter tears into my chest.
"I know it hurts," I stroked her hair. "You're hurting and it's okay to cry. We'll just stay right here until you feel better. You are going to have to be strong for Dara. She's going to need you badly."
She was a short, cute, little chubby thing, probably about ten years older than me. You could tell she had been very cute when she was Dara's age. She sniffed and looked around for some tissues. I saw a box on a table and steered her over there.
"Thank you, Mr. Granger," she said. "We shouldn't leave her alone for very long."
"You'd make me very happy if you called me Canyon," I told her as we walked. She stopped and pulled a curtain back. Dara was lying in the bed, still wearing that fluffy robe I had given her. She saw me looking at it and smiled weakly.
"I wouldn't let them take it," she said. "I'm not wearing one of those stupid gowns that show your butt. There's nothing wrong with me, Mom. I want to go home."
A guy in scrubs came in and overheard her last remark. "Ms. Rockwell. I think you should stay overnight so we can observe you," he said. "We've given you a mild sedative and that should help you."
"I don't want to stay here overnight," she said. "There's nothing wrong with me. I want to go home. Mom and Canyon can 'observe' me and bring me back if something happens."
"I would advise you to stay," he said.
"Look, Doc," I said. "Is she injured?"
"She wants to go home," I said. "Is there some medical reason she can't?"
"Well, no but..."
I cut him off again. "Since that's what she wants and you say there's nothing wrong with her, just release her and we'll get out of your hair."
He didn't like it, but he signed the papers and cut her loose. They insisted that she ride out in a wheelchair and I pushed her. She felt as light as a feather. Her mother pulled up to pick her up. She was driving a Cadillac SUV, one of those Escalades. I helped Dara in and she grabbed me and held on.
"Mom, Canyon doesn't have a way home. He came with me in the ambulance. Do you think he could stay the night with us and we could go tomorrow and pick up my car? I'll take him home after we get my car. We need to get..." she began to cry. "We need to get Kara's car too."
I held her and she cried a few minutes before she could stop. "Of course," her mother said. "Canyon, I'm Julia. Everyone calls me Jules. Get in, please. I think Dara needs you right now. I know it's an imposition, but would you do us this one more favor?"
"Well, tomorrow's Saturday and I don't have to work," I said. "If one of you girls will run me home tomorrow, that'll be fine."
I climbed in the back and we drove about ten minutes to their house. It was in a cul-de-sac and it was one of those nice clone houses you see. You know the kind; they all look alike except for the trim. It was large, brick, and had a three-car garage. Dara took my hand and led me in. It was a miserable night. I had two incredibly sad women on my hands. They finally fell asleep, leaning against me on the sofa. I eased them over onto pillows and found throws to cover them up. I slept badly in a recliner and only woke up to the sound of the doorbell. The women were still asleep and I hurried to the door to stop that bell.
It was the sheriff. He wanted to talk to Julia. I told him she was sleeping and I didn't want to disturb her. He said it was urgent and I told him he was welcome to come in if he would do so quietly and wait until they woke up on their own. He came in and I found where they kept their coffee. I made a pot and he and I sat around for an hour or so, waiting for them to wake up. I knew him from back in high school. He was two years ahead of me but we'd played on some of the same teams. We both played football, but I was a wrestler and he was a baseball player.
I heard stirring in the living room and Julia came in. I sat her down at the bar and got her a cup of coffee. She was acquainted with the sheriff and they talked a bit.
"Julia," he finally got around to it. "I hate to tell you this. The rescue team found Kara. She was trapped by the current against a logjam. It was very difficult to get her out. There's no way Dara could have saved her. It was just a freak accident, honey. You need to talk to the funeral home and make arrangements. This is a terrible tragedy and I'm very sorry."
She was weeping uncontrollably and I went around to stand by her. She wrapped her arms around me and cried out her broken heart. I held her soft little form close and after about fifteen minutes, she managed to get some control.
It was a very long week. I spent every minute I could with them. The funeral was on Thursday and it was very emotional. The girls were very well liked and a huge crowd gathered at the services. I went home with them after the service and there was a gathering of their family at the house. Everyone brought food and we had a hard time finding a place for it all after the crowd left. I only stayed long enough to help them clean up. They were exhausted and they staggered off to bed before I left, turning the dishwasher on before going out through the garage and closing the door behind me.
I had to meet with EPA people all day Friday and by that time, I was frustrated, angry and I just wanted to have a beer and unwind. I called and talked to Dara at about 8:30 for a while. She seemed really despondent and I tried to cheer her up as best I could.
I slept late Saturday morning. It was 10:30 when I went out on the front porch to drink coffee and sit in the sun. When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was Dara, sitting in my porch swing. I went back and got another cup of coffee and half a loaf of poppy seed bread. I cut it into two big chunks and put it on a plate. She hadn't moved when I came back and I could tell she hadn't noticed I'd come out.
"Hey, sweetheart," I greeted her. I handed her a coffee mug and sat down by her. "You hungry?" I offered her one of the chunks. She smiled up at me and took it, looking like a little lost girl.
"Kinda hungry," she said. "I'm sorry, Canyon. I'm trespassing but I needed to see you. I'm sorry I just barged in here like this."
"Dara, you can come here any time you like," I said. "You can come every day if you want to."
She smiled up at me again gratefully. "Thanks, Canyon," she said. "I may do that."
We ate our bread in companionable silence. I set the plate on the deck when I was finished, and used my free hand to pull her over against me. She folded her legs up and snuggled in.
"You feeling any better?" I asked her.
"Sometimes," she said. "God, I miss her, Canyon. People that aren't twins don't know what it's like. We had this connection. It's like part of me is missing, like someone took away a piece of my soul."
"I can only imagine," I said. "I will tell you that it gets better. You never stop missing them. I miss Cybill every day. I was a mess for a while. I couldn't get my head around it. She was so full of the joy of life. She had all this energy and love and then it was gone. I finally figured it out. The sharp pain went away. I remember the good things now. I remember all the times we laughed or cried, all the adventures we had together, all the experiences we shared and they're happy memories. When you lose someone like that, it's easy to be angry. I was angry at life, angry with God, but I figured out that just hurt me. You'll get better."
Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she wasn't sobbing. We finished our coffee and I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. She stood up and held out her hand to me. I sat there for a minute and just enjoyed looking at her. She really was tiny. She couldn't have been much over five feet and I knew she didn't weigh much over a hundred pounds. She had a little pointed chin, beautiful lips, the cutest little nose imaginable and her eyes were huge. Her hair was blonde on the outside and very dark brown underneath. I wondered which her natural color was. It was the blonde, as it turned out. She added the brown. It was very long, fine and silky. She was slender, but curvy. There was no doubt she was all girl. She had tiny little breasts but they fit her perfectly. Her butt was just fantastic. She looked a question at me. "What?" she said.
"Damn, you're cute, Dara!" I said. I took her hand and let her pull me up.
"Thanks," she said, blushing adorably. "You're quite a hunk yourself, Canyon. Do you have a girlfriend?"
I laughed. "Well, no. I date some, but nothing serious. Are you applying for the position?"
She laughed. "I might. Maybe after I ... I..."
I hugged her. "It's okay, kitten. I was just teasing you."
She took my hand and we walked down the trail through the trees. "I know. Thank you for being my friend, Canyon. I don't know what Mom and I would have done without you this last week. You've just been a rock. You didn't even know us and now it's like you're my best friend."
"It's an honor to be your friend," I told her. "You're the sweetest girl I know."
She stayed all day and we ate a late lunch. She left just before sundown and I was sorry to see her go. Julia called me Sunday afternoon and asked me if I would meet her for a cup of coffee. We met at the diner on Fourth Street. She came in and gave me a big hug. We sat and talked for about two hours. We had a piece of pie and drank gallons of coffee.
She told me about her life. She had the girls when she was twenty-three. She divorced her husband when they were four. She caught him in bed with the baby sitter and that was it. She sold insurance and had her own business. Three other agents worked for her and she was doing well. I told her I'd give her my business if I could get competitive rates and she promised to give me quotes. I could tell she wanted to ask me something, but she seemed to be reluctant. Finally, she got around to it.
"You've made quite an impression on my daughter," she said.
"Well, the way we met was pretty unusual," I said.
"I know, that's what I'm worried about," she hesitated a moment. "She's very vulnerable right now, Canyon. I know you're not trying to take advantage of her or anything, but just remember that, okay?"
"I will," I said. "I promise that I won't hurt her in any way. I was thinking about taking advantage of you, though."
She laughed. "Well, God knows I would let you, but thank you. You're her hero, Canyon. I'm so grateful to you and she needs you right now."
"Do you think I should kind of keep my distance, just put a little space between us?" I asked her.
"God, no," she said. "I didn't mean that at all. Please don't do that. I was just meaning ... if you don't ... hell, I don't know what I mean. I just don't want her to fall in love with you because you saved her life and then you not have any feelings for her like that. Do you think you could have feelings for her?"
"I like her a lot," I said. "She's very young, Jules. She's just a baby. I love everything I know about her but I hardly know either of you. Things like that take time for me."
"You're wrong," she said. "She's a woman. I understand what you're saying, but for some people, it doesn't take a long time. She has a bond with you. You were there for her when she desperately needed someone. That kind of thing doesn't happen often, and I don't think either of us knows how strong that bond is. Will you just go slow and see what happens?"
"I think I have some idea," I said. "I feel it, too. We've shared something deep and emotional and I feel like I've known her for a long time. You don't have to worry, Jules. I'm not a monster. I'd rather cut off my arm than hurt that girl. Do you trust me?"
Her soft brown eyes bored into my soul. "I think I already have," she said. "I didn't have a choice about that and you didn't let me down. Yes, Canyon, you've already shown me that I can trust you. Please don't be upset with me."
I took her hands in mine. "How could I be upset with you? You're a mom, looking out for your baby. I understand completely."
She visibly relaxed. "Thank you," she said. "Will you have dinner with us Wednesday evening?"
"Yes, I'd love that, but only if you come to my place," I said. "I'm not going to load you up with work making dinner for me. Let me do that for you."
I paid the check and walked her to her SUV. We hugged and she drove away. She was quite a lady, I thought. That husband of hers must have been nuts. The days flew by and I took Wednesday afternoon off. I had fired up the smoker that morning and we were having ribs, outside on the back deck. I made potato salad and coleslaw and put baked beans in the smoker too. Dara came over about three and we hung out, drinking beer and lounging around in the back yard. I have a nice hammock hung between two trees and we cuddled in there for most of the afternoon. I got up, tended the fire now and again and got more beer, but mostly, we talked.
She was in her final year of undergraduate school. She was majoring in biochemistry and she wanted to do medical research. Medical schools were hard to get in, but she had already been accepted. She told me stories about her and Kara, what she had been like, things they had done together. They were happy stories but I could tell they made her a little sad. She was still grieving. Julia got there about six and she came around and smiled when she saw us snuggled up in the hammock.
"Hey, kids," she called. "Sorry I'm late. I made a pie."
She wasn't late and the pie turned out to be delicious. It was apple, and we ate it with vanilla ice cream. After dinner, we took the truck and drove down to the river. They wanted to go, but I was more than a little apprehensive. I had gone down and rescued the kayaks the first time I came home and they were pulled up on the bank.
I helped them out of the truck and we walked down to the edge of the water with my arms around their shoulders, just squeezing them a little. They both cried some but there wasn't the meltdown I had feared. We talked about the kayaks and Dara didn't want anything to do with them. We talked about that for a while and I think she realized that the accident had nothing to do with the kayaks. I saw something shiny about ten yards out in the stream, caught between two rocks. We walked over to get a better look.
"My rod!" I exclaimed. I had to explain to them what had been going on. It had a bad effect on Dara. She started crying again and talking about how she had made me lose that big fish.
I hugged her tighter and made her look at me. "Dara, I'd throw away every bit of tackle I have and everything in my house for the chance to meet you, much less save your life," I told her. "I'm sorry about the circumstances, but I'll never be sorry I helped you or sorry I met you."
She stared at me for a minute. Her hands reached out and locked behind my head as she pulled me down. The softest, fullest lips I'd ever imagined crushed mine and I could feel the smoke rising off my head. She broke the kiss and molded herself to me, nuzzling her face into my chest. I looked over at Julia and she mouthed "slow" to me. I nodded and just held that tiny little thing in my arms, never wanting to let her go.
I waded out and got the rod and we loaded the kayaks up in the back of my truck. We went back to the house and they left. They both hugged me and Dara gave me another one of those kisses. I promised to bring the kayaks by, and when Dara was getting in her car, I called out for her to wait.
"Would you like to go to a concert with me Saturday?" I asked.
"I'd love to." She smiled up at me.
"Okay, we'll be gone pretty much all day and get back pretty late," I told her.
"Perfect," she said. "What time will you pick me up and what should I wear?"
"I'll pick you up at ten in the morning," I told her. "I'll bring you something to wear. What size are you, if that isn't rude?"
She laughed. "If I was a big gal it would be. I'm a two."
She drove away and I felt lonely for the first time in years. That little girl was getting to places that hadn't been touched in a while.
Friday rolled around, and I took the day off. The EPA was satisfied and I had found a water treatment guy with whom I was very happy. It was time to get rolling on my date. I got the bike out of the garage. The 2002 Harley-Davidson VRSCA hadn't been ridden for a while. Some of the Harley purists hate it because it's water-cooled, but no one ever tried to kick my ass over it. I was in love with it. A dirt dauber had built a nest on one of the pegs and I cleaned it up, put fuel in it and fired it up. It throbbed under me as I pulled on my helmet. It was off to go shopping, now. I knew the perfect place. I have a friend that rides and his wife runs a shop that caters to women riders.
She helped me out. I wanted black or red to set off that beautiful blonde hair and she found me the whole outfit in red. She even had it in a two. "Are you sure, Darlin'?" she asked me. "This is mostly for young girls."
I held up my hand at about five feet and drew an imaginary figure in the air for her. She agreed that was probably what I needed and I bought it. Leather is expensive and I just dreamed about how she was going to look in it when I paid.
I had it wrapped and went to bed early that night. It was a beautiful morning when I got up and I saw the curtain pull back when I pulled up at their house. Dara met me at the door with a hug and I handed her the package. "Is Jules home?" I asked.
"No, she's doing a claim," she said. "There's coffee on. Is this what you want me to wear?"
"It's a fashion show and then a bike ride," I told her.
She giggled and went upstairs to change. She was gone about twenty minutes and when she came back down, I was just stunned. Those red leathers fit her like a glove. She laughed at the look on my face and came to stand in front of me. She turned, giving me the full treatment and she looked spectacular. She was tiny, but shaped like something out of a fantasy artwork.
Her ass was the roundest, tightest thing I'd ever seen. She had small breasts, but she was a small girl and they looked just perfect on her, high, perky, pointed and making noticeable bulges in the leather. Her waist looked like I could circle it with my hands and she swelled out from there, every line saying "sexy," in nineteen languages. She was just a living doll. She even had on over the calf black leather boots with three-inch heels that showed off her incredible legs. She was little, but perfectly proportioned. Topping it off was that angel face and those huge brown eyes, her amazing hair floating around her and down her back below her butt.
No one had tried to kick my ass over the bike, but someone might to take her away from me. I prepared to do battle. This one was mine! I knew right then that I was prepared to do nearly anything to be with Dara. I felt like I was under some spell and I liked it.
We went out to the bike and I gave her her new helmet. She tucked her hair up inside and she looked like a badass biker chick, or at least a smoking hot one.
It was "Blues, Bikes and Barbecue" weekend in Northwest Arkansas, and we had a two-hour ride ahead of us. She wrapped her arms around me and I could feel all that smoldering heat against my back, hard little breast mounds pushing against me. I could have ridden for days.
We spent the afternoon, ate good food and listened to good music. We even danced a little. She was a ton of fun. We rode from place to place and we'd pull up beside some guy on his bike. Dara had her hair down, a blonde flag streaming in the wind, and they'd do a double take and give me the thumbs up. I knew it wasn't the bike from most of them, so it had to be that angel sitting behind me.
I should make it clear that I'm not into the whole "outlaw biker" thing. I'm not into drugs, crime, skanky women or guns. The whole "brotherhood of the road" thing is without appeal to me. I like motorcycles and that's the sum total of my attraction. For other people, riding is a way of life. I'm happy for them. For some reason, the "way of life" crowd seems to like to refer to women as "old ladies" and think they should be available to share.
I've never liked sharing that much. One of our stops got a little dicey when a couple of tattooed fat guys in vests and no shirts decided they'd get friendly with Dara while I was getting food. She was leaning up against a tree waiting for an open spot to sit while I got our barbecue. I heard a slap like a pistol shot. I turned around and Dara was facing those two morons.
"Keep your hands to yourself, asshole," she hissed.
I left my place in line. "Everything okay, baby?" I asked when I reached them.
"Yeah, this douche bag just grabbed my ass," she said.
"Your old lady got an attitude," one of them said. "Bitch needs to learn her place."
She stepped back behind me. The two guys looked me up and down. I'm a big guy. I'm six three in my socks and I played inside linebacker on a NAIA team that played for the national championship. I had D I size, but not speed. It paid for my education. I stay in shape. I lift weights with the steroid crowd at the YMCA and I hold my own without the steroids. I'm about 240 now and I'm not Mr. Universe built but I have very big arms and pecs. Evidently, they decided that two against one evened the odds. The alcohol they had consumed didn't help their decision-making ability.
"Your bitch ain't very friendly," moron number one said.
"She is to me," I said. "It's the other bitches she doesn't care for much."
It took a minute for that to sink in. "Did you just call me a bitch?" he asked.
"That wouldn't be friendly," I said. "How long you two been married?"
Moron number two got it and decided to open the festivities. He thought he'd end it in one punch. He was slow. I leaned back and his big fist sailed two inches in front of my face. I had him by the wrist and he was off balance with the force of missing. I locked his arm under my armpit and broke it.
He screamed and fell, clutching his elbow and I kicked number one in the thigh with the heel of my boot. I felt something give in there and he was down too. I took Dara by the hand and we got out of there. She was looking up at me with those wide brown eyes as big as saucers.
"You destroyed those guys and didn't even try," she said.
"Yeah, well they were assholes," I said. "I want a pork shoulder sandwich, but I don't like the company here."
We rode down the street and found a little vendor that had some of the best pork shoulder I'd ever tasted. It had just the right amount of crunch to it and Dara loved it. I didn't like his sauce, but the pork was top notch. I'm not a big Memphis style sauce fan. Kansas City is more my thing. She hung on my arm the rest of the day and I was the luckiest guy there.
We left for home after nine, and it was nearly midnight when we pulled up at her house. I killed the bike and she got off, pulled her helmet off and shook her hair down. She came and leaned up against me while I held her.
"I had the time of my life today, Canyon," she said.
"Me too," I said. "If I take half a day off Wednesday, will you come and hang out with me?"
"I'd love to," she said. "You know, Canyon, I didn't like that guy grabbing my ass, but you can if you want to." Her eyes were down and I could see her blush in the security lights. I pulled her up against me and slid my hands down that leather, feeling the swell of her hips and I cupped her ass, pulling her up against my leg between hers. I squeezed that round, gorgeous ass and it felt sensational: tight, hard and resilient. She flexed it, giggling, and I could feel steel in there. Her lips against mine were alive, promising Eden in a tiny package.
She pulled back, burning me with the heat of her eyes. I reached my hand to her face, cupping her cheek and she nuzzled it into my palm. Then she was gone, the door swinging shut and leaving me restless and hungry.
The days dragged. She called me every evening at eight and I found myself watching the clock, waiting for eight to roll around. We talked for a long time, just nothing and everything. I discovered that I loved the sound of that little voice, the inflection of her words, the lilt she gave even the most inane conversation. She teased me, flirting outrageously and, laughingly, telling Julie to mind her own business a couple of times.