The last time we left Icarus suggesting they go for a ride like they used to when Cassie wanted to leave everything behind. Today Cassie remembers the first time she got on a motorcycle with him.
Nineteen years earlier…
Cassie walked out of the store, slowing her strides as she headed across the parking lot. She didn’t want to go home. She never wanted to go back there even after working a full shift at the store. Not unless her father was on duty.
And she knew tonight he wasn’t.
If Mom was still there, it might not be so bad. But, she hadn’t been able to take life with him anymore either. Cassie couldn’t blame her, she just wished her mom had taken her, too. Though she was sure her father had something to do with her being left behind.
If they were both gone, who would he have left to control?
Cassie’s attention was drawn over to the side of the parking lot. Right in her path a boy leaned against a motorcycle, an unlit cigarette between his lips. He had sunglasses covering his eyes, so she couldn’t be sure, but she would have sworn he was looking directly at her. A little shiver went over her at the thought.
Grady Hartson. Everyone at school knew him, or at least knew who he was. But, he’d just graduated, only a few days earlier. And barely by the skin of his teeth, from what she’d heard. Her father had warned her to stay away from boys like that, they were no good, not any better than trash.
But, she’d never believed that about Grady.
She’d have to walk right past him, unless she wanted to go out of her way to avoid him, and she certainly didn’t. She’d never wanted to avoid him. Not that she’d ever been in his orbit. He probably didn’t have a clue who she was. Why would he have paid attention to the quiet, bookworm, underclassman good girl?
There was no reason. He just wouldn’t have.
But, as she drew closer, he pushed his sunglasses up to the top of his head. Those stormy blue eyes of his were locked right on her. And that nearly knocked the breath out of her. She forced herself to keep walking, though. Her father only gave her fifteen minutes to get home from her shift, and her boss had used up three talking to her when she’d clocked out. She’d never pushed that boundary before and wasn’t sure what he would do if she did.
“Hi, Cassie,” Grady said as she started to walk past him.
Hearing her name in his voice brought her to an instant stop. So, fast she nearly fell right over. How did he even know her name? Maybe she didn’t want to know. She usually got away from the torment of her peers over the summer, but maybe that was why he was here. Maybe they’d put him up to it.
“You shouldn’t smoke,” she said, instead of all that was going through her head. “It’s not healthy.”
He took the still unlit cigarette out of his mouth, looked at it for a moment then threw it to the ground. “I quit anyway.”
“Since when? I saw you outside before the graduation ceremony with one.” Her face flushed with heat at what he’d take from that. She paid enough attention to know where he’d been and what he was doing
He flashed her a quick grin. “Since right now.”
Heat curled in her belly at the way he looked at her. And she took a step back. “I have to get home. My father’s expecting me.”
The smile fell away from his face at the mention of her father. She wondered how much experience he had with Sheriff Vallis. Or maybe it was just fathers in general that stole his good humor.
“Can I walk with you, Cassie?”
She gripped her elbows, hugging her arms close to her body. “I told you. I have to get home.”
“I won’t keep you from doing that by joining you.”
She glanced down the sidewalk to the route she always took home, but her eyes were dragged back to his motorcycle, all that gleaming paint and chrome. She’d seen him ride it to school before. “I have to go,” she said quickly. “I’m going to be late.”
He grinned at her, though. “You want to ride, don’t you?”
She shook her head. “I shouldn’t. I need to get home.”
“Should doesn’t always have anything to do with want. Come on,” he said, shrugging out of his leather jacket and draping it over her shoulders. “Climb on with me, and I’ll take you around the block. Your dad will never know you took a detour.”
“I can’t,” she said but took a step toward the bike.
His smile was warm and soothing as he set a helmet over her head. “Sure, you can. All you have to do is hold on and lean with me into the curves. I’ll do the rest.” He swung his own leg over the seat of the bike and started it up. “Come on,” he said again, “slide on behind me.”
She knew she shouldn’t. That she should give him his stuff back and keep walking home. Instead she slid her arms through the sleeves of the jacket and awkwardly slid on behind him.
“Hold on,” he reminded her, and as soon as her arms were around his waist, he twisted the throttle, and they shot out of the parking lot.
Will he really just take her around the block? Will she get into any trouble with her father? Will they stop at only one ride?