Her Road Home by Laura Drake - Romance>Contemporary
No white picket fences for her!
It's not in Samantha Crozier's DNA to ignore the call of the open road. The wind in her hair and the pavement beneath her bike are all Sam needs. Until she crashes into Widow's Grove and the arms of Nick Pinelli, that is. Nick is gorgeous, and pure temptation--temptation Sam is determined to avoid. But with her motorcycle totaled, she's here for a while. So she comes up with a plan to renovate an abandoned house. Once that's done, she's gone.
However, the plan quickly backfires. She can't find any resistance to Nick's charm. Worse, for the first time, the house she's working on is beginning to feel like a home. Her home. And she knows that's all because of Nick.
Running away from home at twenty-eight—that's gotta be a first.
Keeping her movements broad and slow, the motorcycle responded to Samantha Crozier's shifting weight. Waterproof gear snugged around her, repelling the worst of the weather. Through the visor of her full-faced helmet, the world flowed past in shades of gray and the water-shattered reflections of passing cars.
Sam's mind moved in broad sweeps, but unlike the bike, it didn't respond well to direction, drifting onto dangerous curves that ended in blind alleys.
I'm not running. Ohio just didn't fit me anymore. Not after Dad died. Besides, how could she become someone new while living in the same house, the same town that made her what she was to begin with?
Sam rolled her shoulders to ease the tension of the all-day rain ride. As much as she'd enjoyed her first glimpse of the Pacific, the wind had edged its icy fingers into her leathers, making her grateful to turn inland at Highway 101 past San Luis Obispo. A road sign announced Widow's Grove in five miles.
An ominous name, but it somehow fit the rainy day. The road slipped between rolling hills covered in a grass the color of a child's sun-bleached hair. Live oaks dotted the slopes, their gnarled branches spreading more horizontal than vertical. The trunks seemed to squat in the soil, as if cringing from an unseen force, their fallen branches a testament to the siege.
New scenery—new life. Who would she become, down the road? She wasn't sure. Except she did know she'd be someone who spoke her mind—who said it right out loud. Someone she could be proud of. The classic road anthem, "Turn the Page," echoed through her mind for the eight zillionth time in its tedious, endless loop.
It's impossible to outrun your thoughts—even on a motorcycle.
Imagining a hot bowl of soup and a warm, dry bed, she crested a hill. Dammit! A line of red taillights flashed ahead. Too close. Her stiff fingers scrabbled for the brake. Fueled by panic, her muscles clamped down. The front tire locked in a skid.
Instinctively, she released the lever then reapplied it slowly, downshifting to scrub off some speed. The bumper of the blue Honda ahead grew large in her face shield. She shot a glance at the shoulder drop-off. Too fast. Her stomach dropped. She'd end up in the steep ditch for sure.
She put her feet out to act as outriggers. Her boots slid across the wet pavement, slower, slower. She feathered the brake, applying as much pressure as possible without locking it up.
Just when she knew the bike wouldn't stop in time, with a twisting, gut-clenching skid, it did. Until the car behind slammed into her.
Sound came back first. Rain, pattering on the asphalt beside her head. A car engine idling. A man's voice yelling. A siren in the distance, getting closer.
Then the pain hit. With every indrawn breath, a white blade of agony slashed her side. She flopped like a fish on the wet pavement, trying to suck in air turned liquid.
Small breaths. It wasn't enough. Her lungs screamed for more, but when she gave in, the blade slashed again, and she writhed. Small breaths.
Focused on sucking air, the sound of running feet barely registered.
"Check his neck before you take his helmet off," a deep voice ordered.
Although she liked the anonymity her helmet and leathers afforded her, she hated that. Why did they always assume the tall one in the biker gear was a man? Something tugged at her neck and she jerked, trying to fight off the threat to her meager trickle of air. Only one hand obeyed.
"Does your neck...