The drive to bar had been quiet, and Rhian was grateful that Nicole had, for the most part, left her alone. On some level she knew she was not behaving rationally. It wasn’t as if she were being taken prisoner. She was free to leave at anytime.
She glanced over at her friend. Nicole was trying so hard, and she felt she owed it to her to at least attempt to enjoy the evening. By the time the two women had reached the bar, Rhian was noticeably calmer and her friend markedly more animated.
The first thing that Rhian observed about the bar was that the neon sign over the door read ‘The Pit Stop.’ Nicole informed her that the name had been shortened by the regulars to just ‘The Pit.’ The second thing she noticed was the assortment of motorcycles parked out front. She stopped and turned to face her friend. “Nicole Mullens! You brought me to a biker bar?”
The look of astonishment on Rhian’s face caused Nicole to laugh. “Sweetie, relax. This isn’t just a biker bar. You’ll see. Trust me, okay?” Taking her friend’s arm in her own, Nicole began to gently guide Rhian into the bar.
Despite the number of people already inside the bar, Nicole was able to secure them a table in the back room. Within fifteen minutes after their arrival, the place was packed. Rhian was amazed at the number of people that now crowded the establishment. She soon lost herself in a favorite pastime of people watching, and she conceded this place had a lot to offer in that area.
There were a fair amount of bikers present, but the rest of the crowd didn’t seem to indicate any one social or economic class. In fact, the clientele seemed to transcend any one group. Her reverie was broken by the arrival of her brother. Michael had brought his new girlfriend Angela and his best friend Kevin.
After a waitress had taken their orders, Rhian made small talk with Angela and Kevin. Kevin, like Nicole, had been a part of the Mackenzie’s lives for years. For Rhian and Nicole he had been another little brother to pick on, and it was hard to remember a time when he hadn’t been around.
She didn't know Angela well, but she seemed nice and appeared to care about Michael. She also had a wry sense of humor and soon had them all laughing uncontrollably - a definite plus in the Mackenzie household.
As she felt herself relax, Rhian found the Pit to be an interesting place. She heard her name and looked toward the closest pool table to see Kelly and Carl Preston waving at her. In the previous year, she’d done a landscaping job for them. The couple had a nice home in the upscale town of McLean, and that one landscaping job had opened a new market for Rhian.
She'd secured two additional jobs in their neighborhood last year and already had one on the books for this spring. If all went well, she would be making a presentation to another of their neighbors in the next week.
Rhian smiled as the couple approached the table. “Hi Kelly, Carl. How are you?”
The Prestons returned Rhian’s open smile, and Kelly responded.“We’re good. I don’t recall seeing you here before.”
The young landscaper laughed easily. “No, this is my first time. Let me introduce you to the gang here. This is my best friend Nicole, my brother Michael, his girlfriend Angela, and our friend Kevin. Gang, these are the Prestons – Kelly and Carl. We did a big job for them in McLean last year.”
Before Rhian had finished the introductions a large well built man walked up to their table. Carl introduced him to everyone at the table as Jay Thomas, and after the initial trepidation passed at the mere size of the man, Rhian found she liked him. He was easy going, and had a nice smile.
They learned that he was a martial arts instructor in the area, and he offered Rhian his business card with an invitation for any of them to come by one of the schools for free introductory lessons anytime. Rhian graciously accepted the card, though she knew she wouldn’t accept his offer.
The waitress delivered their food just as the first band of the evening took the stage. They were a good old-fashioned mainstream band, and soon the Pit was reverberating with the sounds of classic rock and roll. Rhian became lost in the sound of many of her favorite songs and to the embarrassment of her brother, began to sing along with the band. She found herself enjoying the atmosphere, the music, the food and the company.
Deven Masterson scanned the crowd in the Pit with an air of indifference. The establishment was a well-known local bar frequented by bikers, but unlike many bikers’ bars, it attracted an eclectic blend of clientele. It offered its customers two bars, darts competitions, pool tables, good food, live music, and the occasional fight. They even featured a lesbian band once a week. What was not to like?
The Pit was busy as usual. The tables were full, and the fringes were filled with a standing room only crowd. Deven maneuvered her way to the bar in the back where she was certain she would locate her buddies. Sure enough Jay, Kelly, and Carl were in the process of racking balls on the nearest of the pool tables.
She paused and watched her best friend. Jay was a big man with dark brown hair, gray eyes, a gentle heart, and hard fists. She was closer to him than anyone else in her life. They had grown up together while competing on the martial arts tournament circuit.
The two martial artists had spent years training together – pushing each other to excel. Though they had trained together regularly, they rarely had competed against each other. On those occasions where the competition was not separated by gender, Deven had repeatedly surpassed him. She had owned the circuit. Whether competing in forms, sparring or weapons, Deven soundly beat the competition in tournament after tournament.
For his part, Jay held no bitterness towards the woman. He had always respected her talent. He loved her, and in his heart, she would always be his younger sister. He was often overcome with fear that she would some day destroy herself with her recklessness as she seemed to carry a deep-seated desire to hurt herself.
Her unrelenting need to push herself to the limits had on more than one occasion placed her in harms way. So he continued to try and watch her back, and knew she did the same for him.
Deven had successfully opened and built a prosperous business of martial arts schools, and Jay was her trusted right hand. He was a favorite instructor of the students – especially the children. While the students looked at her with awe and respect, they seemed to enjoy Jay’s more playful personality. They were a good contrast in the classroom. They were a good contrast in life.
Their relationship had grown to one of quiet camaraderie with a heavy dose of competition thrown in once in awhile. Most often their competitions were around a pool table or in the sparring ring, but on more than one occasion they had competed for the affections of the same woman. Often to Jay’s chagrin, few women, straight or gay, could resist the magnetism that flowed through Deven once she turned on the charm. And she knew it.
To any caught up in the chase, Deven exuded an animalistic nature – primal and raw. She found great pleasure in the game of seduction, and had little regard for any possible ramifications of her actions though she was always cautious to avoid her students and their parents. Well, most of the parents anyway.
Deven approached the bar and ordered a draft. While waiting for her drink, her attention shifted back to the pool table. She had met Kelly and Carl at a biker’s rally in Roanoke several years’ back. They were married to each other now and both were lawyers – Kelly in family law and Carl in corporate law. They were naturally amiable and had always been friendly to her despite her moodiness and temper. Watching them now she was reminded of what a nice looking couple they made - Kelly with her dark good looks and Carl with his surfer boy face and coloring.
Accepting her beer from the bartender, she slowly brought it to her lips while scanning the crowd. Nothing in the bar peaked her interest until the sound of laughter caught her attention. Her eyes followed the path designated by her hearing, and settled on the table in the corner.
The laughter was coming from a cute blond at that table. Deven found herself intrigued as she was overcome with the feeling that she knew this young woman from somewhere. Her mind moved rapidly through images of women she had known, but this particular woman didn’t seem to belong to any of her memories. Still, the sense that she was not a stranger remained strong.
Walking up to the bar, Jay took a position next to the tall woman. He tracked her sight of vision to the corner table. “She’s not your type.”
Deven turned to regard her friend. Cocking one eyebrow, she pinned him with an ice blue stare. “And why would you say that?”
He chuckled at her dynamic posturing. “First of all, I met her and she’s nice, and you don’t do nice. Second, she looks like an easy mark, and you like a challenge.”
She sighed while pondering his words. He might be right. After all it was all a game, and it was the challenge that made it worthwhile. Still, she couldn’t get past the nagging feeling that she should know this woman.
Her eyes shifted back to the table at the same time the blonde looked in her direction. Azure eyes locked on green, and the feeling that coursed through her system was foreign and disconcerting. Several seconds passed before Deven became cognizant that she was holding her breath, and had to make a conscious effort to exhale.
She felt Jay grasp her arm, and tug her toward the pool table. Her eyes dropped to the beer in her hand as she fought to regain her equilibrium. What the hell just happened? What is the matter with me? She took several breaths concentrating on controlling each inhalation and exhalation. Maybe I've been working way too hard lately. Yeah, that has to be it. Perhaps I'll arrange to take this weekend off and ride up to the mountains.
She glanced back at the table, but the young blonde was now conversing with another woman seated next to her. Deven downed her beer in one gulp and quickly ordered another. Accepting the refill, she shook her head to clear the fuzziness that still seemed to reside there, and followed Jay to the pool table.
Nicole was concerned about her friend. Rhian had seemed to be enjoying herself up until a moment ago, then the strangest look had come over her face. She had followed Rhian’s line of vision to the bar, but she wasn’t able to pinpoint the cause of the apparent distress. “Rhian, are you okay? You look flushed.”
The young woman looked at her friend and saw the concern. “I’m not sure. I think so. I... I’m just not sure.” She didn’t understand what had just transpired. All she knew was that she was feeling something she had never experienced in her life. She thought back over the last few moments in an effort to gain some understanding of why she felt so unsteady.
Angela had been entertaining the small group with a story about her office, and Rhian found herself laughing uncontrollably. It felt good, and she wondered why it had taken her so long to accept Nicole’s prodding to get out of the house for an evening.
As the laughter abated, Rhian wiped her eyes and without purpose, she glanced over at the bar. Her eyes locked with those of a woman standing next to Jay. The eyes that stared back at her were the most incredible cerulean she had ever seen, and she found herself unable to look away.
The stranger was attractive, and Rhian felt a surge of some unfamiliar sensation course through her body. The woman seemed familiar, but Rhian was certain they had never met. Those extraordinary eyes stared back at her boldly, and the young woman felt captured in their gaze. She felt a flush rise to her face as an odd sensation took hold of her stomach.
The dark stranger looked down at the beer she held in her hand, and the spell was broken. Rhian quickly looked down at the tabletop in front of her. She could not begin to explain even to herself what she was feeling at that moment. She had no frame of reference for the cascade of feelings that seemed to put her senses on overload. What is happening to me? She had never in her life felt anything as intense as whatever it was that had just surged through her.
Rising from her seat, she stammered something to Nicole, and then cautiously made her way to the restroom. Her reflection in the bathroom mirror peered back at her from a flushed face and overly bright eyes. What is wrong with me? After dampening a paper towel with cold water, she applied it to her warm face and neck. Maybe I'm coming down with something, or maybe coming here was a mistake. But I've been having a good time.
Try as she might, she could not come up with any answers as to what had happened and why she had reacted the way she had. I felt fine until...until I looked at that woman. Could she possibly be dangerous or something? Perhaps this was some sort of warning. But it didn’t feel bad, just intense and different.
Rhian sighed heavily. She didn’t know what to think and that frustrated her. She considered talking to Nicole about it, but what would she say? If she couldn’t explain it to herself, how would she possibly make sense to anyone else? Better to just forget about it or Nicole will have you in therapy by morning. As the flush receded, Rhian returned to the table and her concerned family and friends.
Deven tried to keep her attention on the game, but her mind refused to obey. Her thoughts returned again and again to what had happened at the bar, and the connection to the little blonde. She could never remember being unable to control her thoughts, but this mental rambling was stressing her out. She missed another easy shot and heard Jay laugh. As her eyes came to settle on his, the look was sufficient to stop the laughter if not remove his knowing smirk.
Jay observed his friend for a moment before speaking. “Deven, when was the last time you gave chase?”
The tall woman smiled. "You think everything comes down to my libido."
He grinned. "Doesn't it?"
She considered his question. “It’s been awhile. I’ve been too busy to play. As a matter of fact, I think it was that redhead that you were convinced was leaving with you, but let’s see. Oh, that’s right, I ended up in her bed and I sure don’t recall seeing you there.”
"Ouch," He groaned. "Deven, you can be one cruel hearted bitch."
"I know," was her reply before taking a sip of her beer. Her eyes wandered to the table in the corner. The blonde woman's laughter once again rose up and filtered to her ears. She liked it, and found herself smiling fortuitously. Whoa! What are you doing Deven? She is definitely not your type! She turned away from the laughter, and tried to focus her attention on her next shot.
Rhian found herself covertly studying the dark stranger. She was impressive in leather pants and a white sleeveless button down shirt. She’d removed her leather jacket, and Rhian could see that the woman obviously took care of herself. Her dark hair was in a long braid down her back, which seemed to accentuate the contours of her face.
She carried herself with a confidence that Rhian envied. Watching her interaction with Jay and the Prestons, Rhian gained a sense that this woman possessed a power unlike any she had ever seen before. The woman was almost as tall as Jay, but he obviously outweighed her. Still, he seemed to acquiesce to her. They all did, and Rhian found that both disturbing yet captivating at the same time.
The second set of the evening began as the band returned to the stage, and Rhian’s thoughts of the strange woman were lost as she once again became immersed in the music. After a couple of songs, she noticed that the pitcher on their table was now empty, and given the size of the crowd, it wasn’t likely the waitress would be around any time soon. In between songs she told Nicole she would get them a refill and maneuvered her way to the bar.
The bartender was busy, so Rhian leaned casually against the bar to wait her turn. She was not aware of the dark stranger’s presence until she heard the sultry voice right next to her ear.
"Hi there. I have a feeling I know you from somewhere, but for the life of me, I can't remember where. Have we met?"
Rhian would have found the comment humorous had the sudden presence behind her not startled her. Instead her body responded by becoming rigid. The close proximity of this woman behind her and the brush of Deven’s breath against her ear unsettled her. “No, I’m sure we’ve never met,” she managed to stammer.
Deven stepped around the smaller woman so that they were facing each other. Rhian found herself uncomfortable, as the woman’s persona seemed to swallow up any personal space between them. Deven cocked her head slightly to one side and studied Rhian’s face. She is a cute little thing. "Well, I think we can fix that. I'm Deven Masterson," she said while extending her hand.
Rhian had become rooted in place. She felt enfolded in a wave of power and confidence that was completely alien to her. Out of habit her hand reached out to shake the taller woman’s. Before she could reply, the bartender appeared. “What ya need?”
Rhian felt the other woman’s hand engulf her own as she turned her attention to the barman. “Another pitcher of draft please.” She was aware of the warmth exuding from the tall woman’s hand. Her own seemed so much smaller. The feeling wasn’t unpleasing, as their hands seemed to fit somehow.
The young woman was once again having a difficult time sorting out exactly what sensations she was experiencing and why. She began to get that odd feeling again, and it seemed to somehow be connected to this stranger. Maybe it was the confidence and power that seemed to radiate from this woman, giving her an air of adroit cockiness.
She felt trapped in a situation beyond her experience, and that feeling stirred her Irish ire. She became aware that the song currently being played by the band was Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”. She looked up into Deven’s face as the woman happened to flash her a full smile revealing strong white teeth.
Rhian suddenly felt as if she had fallen into one of Grimms’ fairy tales and now stood in the clutches of the proverbial Big Bad Wolf. She knew the analogy was absurd, and yet it made her shudder. Her unease stirred her ire further, and she was suddenly struck with the urge to knock the wolf before her on her cocky leather clad butt. That thought almost made her laugh…almost.
As the bartender returned with the filled pitcher, she looked up at Deven and with a confidence she didn’t quite feel, she returned the woman’s smile. Only the smile never touched her verdant eyes.
"Is there something you want, Ms. Masterson? Because if there isn't, I really need to get back to my friends." Extricating her hand from Deven's, she picked up the pitcher and headed back to her table as casually as she could. She hoped that the stranger could not detect how nervous she really was.
Deven watched the blond woman’s retreating back with disbelief. No one had ever blown her off. EVER! Looking over to the pool table, she groaned as she realized that her buddies had been witnesses to the whole thing. Jay was laughing so hard, he had fallen on the floor. “Shut up, you moron and get up off the floor!” she shouted at him while fighting to suppress the urge to kick him.
The Prestons did not escape her foul mood either. “Rack the damn balls!” For her part, Kelly fought the laughter valiantly, but Carl gave up the struggle and let the laughter forth in one great bellow. And Deven merely shook her head in disbelief of it all.
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