The Rider's Keeper

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4

OLIVE.

THE café is buzzing with customers this afternoon, something I am too thrilled not to jolly over.

"Olive!" April whisper-shouts from behind the register, and I poke my head from the kitchen to give her a look.

She raises her chin to point to a pair of tall-looking men, one exceptionally taller, with their backs to me, staring out the window to the busy streets of Oregon, and I shrug my shoulders at her. "Who are they?"

She purses her lips after giving a change to a customer in the queue and grabs me by the shoulders, forcing me to stand upright. "Look,"

My eyes snap back to the two, and realization dawns on my face when I remember one particular rider with that build. "Those are the guys from Thursday night,"

"Of course, they are," She returns to the counter to attend to a customer while I bring in food from the kitchen and into the display area. "That guy was looking for you,"

A chill runs down my spine. "Me? What could he possibly want with me?"

"I don't know," April shrugs. "Not even I can read that stoic face, but if I were to guess, he's got a thing for you."

"You just said you couldn't read him, so there's no way you'd know that," I roll my eyes at her.

"He's a man, Olive," April states matter of factly. "I've never seen him around, and if he's taken the sweet time out of his day to leave whatever hole he was hiding in, then girl, someone's on his radar. My guess? You."

I scoff. "There are countless other women in here, April, and as much as I'd like to jump his bones, I'd rather not. I'm super busy, and you could be wrong."

"I'm not wrong," She smiles smugly, almost proud of her conclusion in this. "The hunk could've gone to any other café in town,"

"Alright, stop." I scrunch my nose. "Let's not talk 'boys' okay?"

"Whatever you say, boss." She raises her hands in surrender. "On the other hand, though," She runs her tongue along her bottom lip, staring across the room at the rider's acquaintance. "I think I got me some snack,"

I can't help the suggestive smirk that rises to my lips as I slide back into the kitchen and get on with my day, ready to close up early on a Saturday afternoon.

I have to say I was relieved that the guys didn't come back yesterday. I remained anxious all day yesterday with the thought that they would come back for me. But whatever business Blake and his friend have in our café today, they didn't bring the crowd and that annoying Joe, so I guess it's a good sign.

It is a busy day, and by the time the last of our customers clear out, the sun is already beginning to set. April left as soon as they did, saying, 'she'll ride to wherever the day takes her,' and somehow I knew that meant that she 'Will be riding Blake's biker friend' that he brought with him today.

After the day I just had, I feel satisfied knowing we did our best to up our sales today. Locking up and making sure to turn on the security system, I begin the short walk to my car parked on the other side of the street when my breath hitches as soon as I set my sights on the rider leaning against his bike right next to my convertible.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" I start, unlocking my car and throwing my bag inside.

Blake smiles lopsidedly. "You happy to see me?"

"Not quite," I lean against my car and cross my arms over my chest. "What are you doing here?" I ask, completely ignoring the things that his dazzling smile is doing to my stomach. He is quite the looker, alright.

"Would you believe me if I told you that I have no other reason at all other than to see you?" He licks his lips, pushing from his bike to take two confident strides towards me, helmet clutched in a gloved hand.

My heart skips. "Is that a trick question?"

The guy glows handsomely under the scorching sun, and this alone tells me I'm treading on dangerous ground. I used to flip over hot guys on the front cover of a magazine, but one is standing right here in front of me, right now. And I'm supposed to believe that he is here for me?

Blake chuckles, the beautiful sound causing my stomach to flip. "It's not,"

"What could you possibly want with me?" I shrug. "The store's closed, and I don't feel like answering for what I did the other day."

"What are you talking about?" He frowns. "Joe?"

"Isn't that why you're here? To give me hell for bringing harm to your underling?"

He shakes his head. "Nah, Joe deserved what he got,"

"Hell yeah, he did," I scoff. "What an asshole!"

Blake raises a thick eyebrow at me, the ghost of a smile playing on his lips. "Yeah, he is an asshole. My apologies for his rude behavior. We don't all roll as he does."

I nod. "Now that we've established that, and I know you won't be pressing charges, I'll-" I point to my car, subtly trying to end this exchange that is not any good for my heart.

"I was wondering," He starts. "Is that a thing for you? Beating up guys who are twice your size, I mean,"

It is my turn to smile smugly at him. "Who knows, right? Dynamites come in small packages."

Blake laughs heartily, and I swear my knees weaken. "I'll remember that,"

"You do that," I slide into my car.

"Olive, wait," Blake calls, and for some reason, I can't help but feel appreciative of the way my name seems to roll off his tongue. "Care for a ride?"

I tense in my seat and strain my neck to look up at him, and that beast parked a few feet behind him. "I barely know you, Blake,"

He smirks. "You know my name, though, so I guess that's a start."

"A start to what?" I raise my eyebrow at him. "More loud and drunk evenings with your crew in my café?"

"A friendship," He says seriously, and my heart skips a beat. "I am all for knowing who Olive Greene is,"

I narrow my eyes at him. "Last time I checked, my last name wasn't on my name tag,"

Panic flashes across his eyes, but it is gone just as fast as it appeared. "Google's search engine will surprise you, you know. Whatever you need to know about a business is available on the internet, including who owns it."

I nod. "Fair point."

"So, what do you say we go for that ride?" He draws his bottom lip into his mouth, an action that would be adorable if he wasn't so hot. My eyes can't help but flicker to his lips, and he catches me staring, and his grin widens.

Blake one, Olive zero.

My cheeks warm in embarrassment as I duck underneath his penetrating gaze. It doesn't help at all that it's the golden hour, and the sun is shining right onto his sinful face. It illuminates the deep brown of his eyes and makes his tanned skin appear as if it's on fire.

To save myself from more humiliation and my heart from the unholy exposure that is Blake, I turn my key in the ignition and do the only thing I know how to do.

"Get lost, Blake." I shut my door and drive away, sparing a glance in my rearview mirror at the dangerously handsome guy who is staring after my car.

What is your deal, Blake? I wonder.

...

I find myself later that evening pacing the sterile halls of a hospital out of town, awaiting results from my dad's check up. He felt uneasy all of a sudden during our family dinner, he had chest pains, something we could probably brush off as a case of severe indigestion if he wasn't also experiencing a hard time breathing.

I drove here as fast as I could, red lights flashing inside my head as I thought of the worst case scenario, he was on the verge of suffering from a stroke, or worse, a heart attack.

With the amount of money I managed to save up since I started college on a scholarship, I am not at all worried about paying dad's medical bills. Something my mom only recently found out about. I had her return the money she borrowed from the Café and offered to take care of dad in her stead.

I don't think my mom could manage to get through another loss. My sister's death took a toll on her, it took a toll on all of us. It was totally unexpected, and it broke all of our hearts, something I don't wish to dive into at the moment.

"Doctor, how is he?" I hurry towards Dr. Adams as soon as he and my father leave the examination room. To my surprise, they are smiling.

"Olive, I was hoping to speak to you in private for a moment. Your father here won't listen to me," Dr. Adams starts.

He and my dad have been friends since high school.

My dad chuckles. "Mike, you don't have to. I'm fine sweetheart, don't let him worry you,"

"You're not fine, what are you talking about?" I snap. "You scared the lights out of me."

Dad wraps his arms around me, and brushes my back to help calm me down. "You do not have to stress about my health sweetheart, your mother is nervous enough for all of us."

He pulls back. "I'll be getting additional treatment starting this week, I trust Mike here to help monitor my condition as best as he can."

I glance at Dr. Adams, who gives a nod in return. "All I ask is for you to help him make stress reduction a priority. Exercise is required of course, and so is consuming a low sodium diet. I'll check in with him from time to time, but other than that, he should be good. He's a strong man, your father. He'll live." He winks, patting my shoulder lightly before walking away.

Dad gives a cheeky smile when he sees me relaxing. "Come on, let's go help put your mother at ease."

I nod, taking care of the paperwork at the front desk, linking my arm with his, and beginning the walk to my car.

"Olive?" A familiar voice snaps me from my thoughts, and my dad and I stop in our tracks.

Blake frowns down at me, surprise evident in his dark eyes. "What are you doing here?"

We stare at each other for a long second, and I shake my head, and turn to my dad. "Hey, dad, this is Blake." I start, clearing my throat. "He's a... regular... at our coffee shop."

Dad wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, exchanging a formal handshake with Blake, who somehow seems far from the rider I know him to be. His hair is not messy from his helmet, and he is not wearing a leather jacket or dark washed jeans. Instead, he is clad in a track jacket and a pair sweatpants.

With his impressive height, he towers easily over my father who regards him with a polite smile. "I'll leave you to it, then," Dad says, and I nod. "I'll catch you in the car."

I bite my lip as soon as dad disappears out the sliding doors. "I don't suppose saying 'fancy seeing you here' would be appropriate, considering we're at a hospital."

Blake shrugs his shoulders, that lopsided smile playing on his lips.

"I know, so what brings you to this side of town?"

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