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Ride Steady


PAGE 24


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I let out that breath, telling her my old attorney's name.

"Good man," she muttered. "Not as good as Angie. Okay!" she cried brightly. "We're on it. Have a lovely day, Ms. Teodoro."

She didn't wait for me to share that sentiment. She disconnected.

I stared at my phone, wondering how they even got my number.

Then I thought Tyra. Or Lanie. Maybe Elvira. We'd shared numbers last night. Maybe that was it.

I felt something biting into my palm so I lifted it and looked to it.

My car keys.

New tranny.

I looked to the door.

Kane Allen. Operating manager of Ride Auto Stores and Custom Design. We're on retainer with them, and my specialty is family law. So I'll be taking care of you.

Kane Allen, Operating Manager of Ride Auto Stores and Custom Design.

And Joker was a member of the Club that ran said business.

Something unpleasant slid through me. And after yesterday, baking the pie for Joker, having him set it aside like it meant nothing, the call from Tory, my son being sick, my mortification in front of five people I didn't know (and Joker) caused by me shrieking like a lunatic, breaking down in front of three women I also did not know, all that Aaron was doing to me, I didn't cry (again). I didn't feel mortified (again).

I got mad.

There was nothing I could do about that mad. Not right then. I had to get to work.

And I was hoping Travis would feel well enough that Tory could bring him in to see me.

After that, I'd do something about that mad.

Definitely.

* * *

Four hours later, Tory did bring Travis. I was at my register and I saw them come in.

My heart leaped. My boy looked pale but he also looked right to me, stretched his arms my way, and screeched (hoarsely).

He wanted his momma.

My heart warmed as my throat tickled.

My manager, Sharon, who was lovely and who also knew about Travis being sick (and some about Aaron being a jerk), let me finish with my customer and take my lunch.

My grocery store was LeLane's. It was a gourmet food market. It had all the things normal stores had, like mustard and sour cream, but they were much more expensive. It also had a bunch of other stuff normal stores didn't have, like live lobsters, a cheese case that would make any Frenchman sigh with delight (I guessed, I'd never met a Frenchman), and the like. They had six of them in the Denver area, one in Boulder, one in Fort Collins, two in Colorado Springs, and two in Pueblo.

It was family owned. They took care of their customers and employees, and they did the latter by giving great benefits, being nice about when you took your hours (for instance, they did their best to let me work days when I had Travis so I didn't have to pay extra for after-hours daycare), and they paid relatively well.

But they were expensive. They also had employee discounts, but I didn't use them. Unless Travis was consuming it, I went generic all the way.

Tory, however, didn't blink at shopping at LeLane's. Which was what she did to pass her time while I fed my boy and spent time with him in the break room.

When my thirty minutes was up, I hid my despair from my son and trudged out.

Tory was waiting for me by her Mercedes .

"Can I strap him in?" I asked.

She nodded and moved away from the passenger side door, but did it opening it for me.

I put him in, gave him tickles, made him giggle, then kissed him right on his wet, open lips.

That made him grab my hair.

I fought back tears. "See you in a few days, sweetie pie."

"Goo gah!"

I grinned at him, kissed his mouth again, then his cheek, his head, and having to get to work but preferring to endure torture, I pulled away.

I looked to Tory. "Thanks."

"I'm glad you got time with him."

I tried not to pay a lot of attention to her but right then I did.

She looked strange. Not haughty (which wasn't often, but it happened). Not happy (which was often). Not indifferent (also often).

Troubled.

I didn't ask. I didn't want to know. But if I had to guess, she might be twenty-one and slim and beautiful with an up-and-coming attorney in one of the most established, wealthiest firms in Denver as her fiancé, but what was happening with Aaron and me couldn't escape her.

I was hardly older than her and I'd been replaced. Then shoved to the ground. Then kicked when I was down. And last, kept from my son when he was sick.

If she didn't hold Aaron (and she wouldn't, she'd be me in a few years), my guess was it was beginning to dawn on her she could face the same.

It was unkind, but that wasn't my problem.

My problem was I had to leave my son, go to work, and after work, go to Ride.

"Thanks again and take care of yourself," I mumbled, closing the door on my son, giving him a finger wave and a big smile through the window while he stared up at me, looking like he did when he was about ready to start crying.

"Yeah, you too," Tory replied as I turned quickly and rushed back to the store.

* * *

Four and a half hours after that, I turned into Ride.

I again didn't park in the parking spaces by the store. I also didn't park at one of the big bays of the garage.

I parked outside the Compound in the open space by the line of bikes.

I grabbed my purse, threw out my navy Converse-shod foot, pulled my khaki-clad bottom out of the seat, and slammed the door. I settled my purse on my shoulder and marched to the double doors of the compound.

I threw one open, entered and blinked quickly against the sudden dark, still walking in, my eyes going to the bar.

It came into focus and I saw it was my lucky day.

Among four other men, Joker was sitting there.

"Yo, babe," one of them called.

"Yo," I replied haughtily, my eyes never leaving Joker. Then I didn't waste a second. "Joker, I'm sorry to bother you again, but can I have a word?"

"Travis okay?' Joker asked instantly.

It was sweet he asked and it was sweet it was instant.

But I wasn't in a sweet mood.

"Yes, I saw him at lunch. He's pale and has a bit of a cough still, but he's fine. Now can we speak?"

"Aren't we speaking?" he asked.

"In private." It came out almost as a snap.

At that moment, I felt the mood and looked to the other three men. None of whom I'd met or seen. All of whom looked curious, and didn't hide it, and immensely amused, and didn't hide that either.

The latter was the mood in the room.

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