Excerpt: Wildling Rider

“Asking so many questions is gonna get you killed, lass.” The warning echoed out of the bleak, dark night as I let the pub door slam shut behind me.

The Fiddler’s Green cast a pale yellowish glow over the strip of gravel that passed for a car lot, but slivers of gun-metal grey reflected the light back into my eyes. I blinked to dispel the haze blurring my vision.

The bikes lined up outside the pub were a daunting sight even without their riders. Kayla alone sat astride one of those powerful beasts, eyeing me from across the lot.

“I thought you’d left.” Twenty minutes into sitting down with me at the bar, Kayla had downed her pint, slid back her stool and, not for the first time, walked out on me.

Out of stubbornness as much as curiosity, I’d made a point to stick around and try to get people talking. My efforts had been largely in vain. With or without Kayla’s input, I was beginning to question my decision to visit this godforsaken town, braving rain and sleet and piss-poor Wi-Fi at the crummy beachside B&B where I was staying.

First-rate Scottish hospitality, my ass. Gormsey’s webpage had lied. My first clue should have been the d├ęcor, which was more early nineties’ beige than cottagey. My second had come tonight, after the three dozen or so patrons and staff at the Fiddler’s Green had slowly but systematically helped me appreciate that my curiosity was unwelcome and my good old RP accent was, for the first time in my life, a source of derision.

No one really cared to know what had happened to Candice Sharpe. Not even Kayla.

I watched her shrug and crush the last half inch of her cigarette under her boot heel. “Hop on. I’ll give you a ride back.”

She had only the one helmet and she held it out to me with a jerk of the arm, as though disposing of a dirty rag. I pursed my lips but took it. Unlike her, I couldn’t bounce back from a head injury with the next full moon.

“Harley, huh?” I said as I gathered my skirt in one hand, steadied myself with the other, and swung a leg over the massive leather saddle. Though I was only thirty, a steady regimen of regular takeout and frequent boozing ensured that my days of jumping hurdles were well behind me. I huffed out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding as I settled behind Kayla.

“Chopper,” she countered.

“Ah, right.” I suspected she knew I didn’t grasp the difference, but no explanation was forthcoming. The engine rumbled beneath us as Kayla turned the key in the ignition.

“You can hang onto me, y’know. I won’t bite.”

As far as I saw, I didn’t have a choice. My striped red-and-purple stockings made gripping the body of the bike with my knees and thighs borderline impossible, and I had a feeling we wouldn’t be driving back to the inn at a snail’s crawl. Reluctantly, I put my arms around Kayla’s trim waist and willed my heart to slow its frantic pounding.

“Nervous?” Kayla asked, her voice a rumble echoing through her rib cage and into mine.

“No,” I lied. “Although I’m sure your friends were hoping I was.”

My reception into Gormsey had been mild enough until I accosted my hostess with questions about Candice’s disappearance. She’d clammed up immediately, and assurances that I wasn’t a cop or a reporter had done little to endear me to her since.

The Fiddler’s Green was supposed to make up for that dead end. After all, what small town pub forbade gossip about something as juicy as a local girl’s suspicious vanishing act?

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