The Rider's Keeper

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MY nerves shoot up as soon as I land in the main street, and something I haven’t felt in a long time settles in my stomach as I park across Livv’s Coffee House.

It looks aesthetic in the autumn weather, and the dried leaves scattered outside combined with the dim lighting inside give the Café a warm feeling.

I can tell they must’ve tried to get rid of the leaves in front of their shop, but their efforts have ended in vain since more leaves keep falling anyway.

I peer inside from a distance, leaning against my motorcycle as I wait for my girl to appear.

There’s movement inside the Café, mostly an older Latino woman pacing up and down with a serving tray in her arm and a lonesome guy probably in his late twenties, serving customers.

I consider going in when negative thoughts start to plague my mind, thinking my girl has a guy in her life. Now I am beginning to wish Zack had found out more. Who is she dating? Has she ever been hurt by some stupid punk who didn’t deserve her? What will she think of me? Will she like me?

But then I realize, none of that shit matters. I will make Olive like me, it’s been a long time after her, but even I know that I still got it.

Deciding to come back later since she probably has her classes at the moment, I hop on my bike and settle on a quick visit to Augus. It’s a ride out of town and back, but I can make the trip.

As soon as my bike engine roars to life, I am out of the main street and riding back out of town. Auggie is always with the boys, so he is easier to find, proving my point when I spot his pimped bike parked outside the biker’s bar.

Mica owns this spot, an older man who is the closest thing to a father that I ever had.

Only a couple of bikes linger outside, giving the impression that there are not many people here. It’s Thursday morning, after all. The day is still young. I give the hand signal to a few riders outside before parking my bike, and walk inside to find a warm smile directed to me from the man who raised me as soon as I enter the bar.

“You’re are not here for me, I presume?” Mica starts, leaning his back against the counter, arms folded over his chest.

I can’t help the grin that rises to my face. “Guilty. Is Auggie around?” I join him against the counter and place my elbows against the wooden countertop.

“You have the time to visit that Lil punk but none to pay this old man a visit.” Mica scowls, shoving my shoulder playfully. “What brings you to this side of town? You know it’s bad for you to get down to this lifestyle.”

“Come on, Mica.” I give him a look. “This lifestyle? You and I both know it’s what made me who I am today. I’ll never look at you guys like that.”

“I’m just making sure,” Mica frowns. “Your mother wouldn’t want this for you.”

I shake my head and push from the counter. “It’d be a different story if she was here to tell me that to my face, she is the one who left me with those people.”

“To make sure you get to live a better life, the life she never had.” Mica smiles sadly.

“I didn’t come here to reopen old wounds, Mica.” How did the conversation even get this far?

“If you’ve come here thinking I’d be proud, Blake, think again. I’m happy to see you, son. But I’ll always be right here to make you face the truth, whether you like it or not.”

“So I guess it’s too much to expect a lighthearted conversation with the man who raised me?” I shove his shoulder playfully.

“You’re always welcome here,” Mica says seriously. “But the second I see you’re adopting this stupid lifestyle, I’m sending you back to where you came from.”

A sigh of relief escapes my lips when I spot Auggie approaching from the restroom, and I turn to offer a smile to Mica. “It was good to see you, Mica.”

“Run on outta here,” He chuckles.

Mica is always stern about not wanting me here, and because of him, I can neither join nor start an MC of my own. He knows I have the qualities of a leader, and any club that I run will be fire, but I am obliged to be an independent rider because I can’t disrespect him like that, and I’ve got an empire to run.

Besides, I trust Mica to cripple me the second he thinks I’m getting out of line. He holds my mother’s memory way up high, and always treats me like a strict father would treat his own son.

Auggie’s face widens into a grin when he sees me, and we exchange our signature hug before hopping out of the bar. “I am guessing it wasn’t a warm welcome from the looks of it?” Auggie gestures into the bar as I lean against my bike.

I shake my head. “You know how it is,”

“Well, I know you didn’t just think about me and decide to leave that sweet penthouse of yours to pay me a visit, wassup?” His assuming eyes grill a hole through me, causing a grin to spread across my face.

“This is all just a stop on my way to greener pastures,” I shrug.

Auggie furrows his brows like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. “A woman? You?”

I scrunch my nose, of course, that is his take on that. “It’s been a while,”

“Hell yeah, it has,” Auggie smirks. “I thought you fucking went monk on me.”

A laugh escapes my lips. I understand why anyone would think that. No woman after her has been able to penetrate the sturdy foundation of the sky-scraping walls I built around myself.

But now that Sparkles has, she is like a ray of hope I never intend to lose sight of.

“I need to see this angel,” Auggie shakes his head as if this is all hard to believe. “I need to see the girl who finally got through the stone of a heart you have in there.”

“You just might.”

Auggie ends up taking me to see the boys. I am no regular here, but I am a rider, and Mica is practically my father, so the boys treat me like one of their own. Maybe even more.

Sometimes it’s not about the patch. So long as you’ve established camaraderie, any rider will have your back. That’s what I love about riders. Their loyalty is not a scarce commodity, unlike when riches are involved.

Those cunning rich bastards will turn on you with enough rage to power an electrical grid. It took me long enough to learn that fact until I lost something precious to me.

By the time we finally decide to leave, and Auggie and I hop on our bikes, Joe insists on joining in on our evening endeavors, adding something to emphasize how hungry he was but, at the same time, fed up with the shitty food sold in their side of town.

With a shrug of my shoulders, I slide my helmet on and get the monster ready beneath me. Butterflies invade my stomach as I think about Olive. I finally get to see her.

I had looked up their Café’s closing time, and I only have an hour until then. With Joe and the guys having had a few to drink in the garage earlier, I don’t see how any of them will fancy visiting a Café.

Tipsy Joe insisted on tagging along, which will not help me much with my first impression. But the guy is a fucking headache to deal with when he is drunk, something I don’t have the heart to do with all my nerves focusing on my first meeting with Sparkles.

The butterflies are driving me crazy, pushing me to ride faster through the night to cool off a little. The adrenaline in my veins works as intended, and I pull up outside my girl’s Café with Auggie, Joe, and the guys on our tail.

I feel out of sorts about bringing the boys here, and I desperately hope the trip won’t end up biting me in the face. I don’t trust Joe to behave. He’s a fucking ass around women.

Auggie stares inside the Café for a long second, and I take a deep breath before striding towards the entrance, throwing a smirk over my shoulder when I realize what had Auggie caught in a trance. A girl.

The bell jingles above the threshold when I push the door open, and my breath hitches when I spot my girl in all her sweet glory, standing behind the counter. She holds the most penetrating gaze I have ever seen, and that gaze is fixed on me, almost daring me to come inside.

Not good, not good.

She already doesn’t want us here. She looks stern, which leads me to think she doesn’t appreciate the big company.

For the first time since arriving, I am internally cursing Joe for being drunk and insisting to tag along.

With my heart beating like crazy inside my chest, I inhale deeply, taking sure and confident steps toward the counter. I swear I’ll kill you if you ruin this for me, Joe.

The action of walking feels slow, and my face tingles with excitement, forcing what I hope is a charming smile to spread on my face as I stand over the counter, meeting her dazed gaze head-on.

Forcing myself to ignore the wheels turning in her head and focus on one expression, interest, I give her my order. “A ham, bacon, sausage, and avocado wrap, and an expresso, double.”

If this was some other setting and not a Café where my girl is the one standing behind the counter waiting to take my order, I’d smack myself for not being able to find my way to a better pick-up line.

She blinks, clearly taken aback. “Any extras?” Her sweet voice asks, and I swear I am curling my toes right now, blatantly ignoring the fact that she doesn’t want us here.

I expected a challenge, and I am getting it. “No.”

“Great,” She purses her lips. “To go?”

You’d like that very much, wouldn’t you, princess? “No, I’ll be eating in, thank you.”

Through gritted teeth, Olive forces out. “Great.” And starts working her magic behind the counter, barking orders to someone in the kitchen.

It is good to see her in her natural habitat, and I can tell she doesn’t like me for now, but I soon find comfort in the fact that she is giving every single one of us the cold shoulder. Not just me.

She would snap her fingers and make us all disappear if she could. I would too, I mean the boys are disturbingly loud. It makes me regret my decision to let them tag along.

First impressions are important, but right now, I can see that this is a courtship gone wrong. Christ!

Fuck. Me.

I can’t help but grit my teeth in annoyance when the boys make it their mission to laugh the loudest. You would think someone said that it was their last time laughing.

I’d strangle every single one of them right now. But I can’t lose my cool and have Sparkles think I’m a fucking caveman.

I can’t have her running away.

She is failing miserably at maintaining a poker face, and now and then, I see a flash of anger across her beautiful hazel eyes. This whole visit had gone to the pits before I even set my foot in here, and now I’m going to need a whole new strategy.

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