“Then I really must thank you, Stacey,” he said softly into her ear. “And tell you Lina is not your only fan in our house.” His breath smelled like mint and something darker, richer. When he pulled away, he punctuated his statement with a wink.
Stacey suppressed the shiver that ran down her spine – the one that had nothing to do with temperature – as Lina gave her a knowing look and waggled an eyebrow. A huge grin made its way across Stacey’s face. Any lingering doubts that she had made a mistake in coming were fading fast. This was going to be a great visit. Not only was there zero awkwardness with Lina, she already had some great inspiration for her next novel.
Kyle grabbed the carry-on from her lap, slinging it over his shoulder as if it weighed nothing, then slipped behind her and guided her chair forward. In any other circumstance, Stacey would have insisted that she was perfectly capable of carrying her own luggage and moving herself. But how often did gorgeous biker demigods actually appear to do so for her? For anyone, really.
Lina took her hand as they headed toward the baggage claim. It felt good to touch another human being again. The warmth spread up her arm and into her chest.
“Don’t tell me he’s a real, old-fashioned gentleman type, too?”
“Yep, afraid so.”
Stacey faked a swoon that even had Kyle chuckling. He’s a walking wet dream and he knows it, Stacey thought to herself. And yet, he only has eyes for Lina. It was obvious in the way he looked at her, talked to her, quietly commanded her personal space. A brief but unwelcome pang of longing shot through Stacey. Lina was a lucky woman indeed.
With a little help from Kyle (he was every bit as strong as he looked), Stacey was seated comfortably in the front seat of Lina’s Jag, her single suitcase and carry-on slipped into the back. Once her lightweight chair was collapsed and stowed in the trunk, Kyle drove them back to their house.
“Nice car,” Stacey said, appreciating the immaculate detailing and fine leather interior.
“Thanks. Johnny rebuilt it for me as a welcome home surprise.”
“Johnny owns the construction company, right?”
“Right, but he loves working on cars and bikes, too, in his spare time.”
The farther north and west they got from the airport, the more Stacey relaxed. Four-lane highways became two-lane roads; houses and businesses grew fewer and farther between. Stacey’s ears popped a few times as they drove up into the mountains, but she barely noticed. She was too busy looking out the window, drinking in the scenery. Peaks and valleys decorated in full summer splendor, with striations of color provided by active farms and meandering rivers and streams.
“I never knew there were so many shades of green,” she murmured aloud at one point, making Lina laugh.
When they had travelled to the top of the mountain and started their descent down the other side, Lina pointed at the valley spread out below. “That’s Birch Falls.”
“It’s beautiful. No wonder you wanted to move back home.”
Kyle and Lina’s house was a charming, modest rancher on the edge of town. Small and simple, but clearly a home, filled with love. With mismatched furnishings, warm colors, and soft lighting, it was nothing like the ultra-modern chrome penthouse apartment she lived in.
After carrying Stacey’s things into the guest room, Kyle offered his apologies, saying he had to get back to the shop. With a goodbye kiss to Lina that left her breathless, the two women found themselves alone.
“How do you not just jump him constantly?” Stacey asked in amazement, watching out the window as Kyle mounted his Harley and rode off.
“I pretty much do, actually,” Lina answered quite seriously, causing the two of them to break out in giggles all over again.
To celebrate Stacey’s visit, Lina ordered a pizza with everything (except anchovies, remembering Stacey’s aversion to them), and pulled a cold six pack out of the fridge. “Smithwick’s and a Super Supreme?” Stacey said, accepting the frosty bottle with a smile. “You remembered!”
“Of course I did!”
Whenever one of them was feeling down due to grades, guys, or just life in general, they would close the curtains, put on their pajamas, and pig out on delivery while downing a few drinks and vocally expressing their dissatisfaction at whatever was irking them at that particular moment. Commiseration therapy, Lina used to call it.
Stacey skillfully eased herself out of her chair, and joined Lina on the floor, reveling in the moment. To her, it was nothing short of heaven.
They laughed, and talked, and giggled the evening away as if they were eighteen again. Lina filled in a lot of the details of the last few years, including her after-grad travels and her initial doubts about returning to Birch Falls. Stacey told her about writing, how sometimes the words came so easily and other times, not so much.