Kissing is overrated. At least in Vince’s mind. The fact that he avoids kissing hasn’t stopped him from getting what he wants from women. But now he’s shared a little too much with his co-worker, Tori—and she’s made it her personal mission to change his opinion. After all, what happens in Sturgis, stays in Sturgis. Or does it?
An excerpt from “What Happens in Sturgis.” Copyright © 2016 Tracey Cramer-Kelly
Vince looked up from the Chinese take-out boxes as Tori entered the kitchen.
“Nice place,” she said.
“Only twenty minutes out of town,” he said.
“Green hills out back,” she said. “And quiet. I like it.”
Vince had stayed at this house for the past three Sturgis motorcycle rallies. His boss rented the upper floor, and they shared the kitchen facilities with other vendors who used the lower floor. But he’d never had a female “roommate” and co-worker.
In fact, when Lazarus had first hired Tori, Vince had doubted the man’s decision. She had a Master’s Degree in some biology-related field, for crying out loud. Lot of good it appeared to have done; she was working for LazLo’s Dream Machines because she couldn’t get a job in her field.
“Beer?” she asked.
“Definitely.” He took the bottle of Heineken she held out. They’d gotten in later than expected and had spent the evening setting up their vendor booth and displays.
“Wish we could’ve trailered the bikes.” He settled at the table across from her.
“Me too,” she nodded toward the window. “I’d love to ride those hills.”
“My friend Chuck will be here later in the week,” he said. “He said he’d lend me his bike. I could take you up there.” He surprised himself with this offer.
She grinned at him. “Can I can trust your driving?”
“I promise I won’t drink and ride,” he teased.
After a few minutes of silent munching, Tori said, “I’m surprised you don’t stay closer to town.”
“You said you like to go out at night,” she said.
“It’s not that far.” Vince shoved a bite of Szechuan chicken into his mouth.
“Except if you’re drunk,” she said.
“Well, then you’ll have to drive.”
“I don’t go out much,” she said.
When Laz told Vince he’d be working the Sturgis Rally with Tori, Vince had been a little apprehensive. He typically went out at night, and he made a good wingman. A female compatriot could put a serious crimp in a guy’s flirting game.
And she had a boyfriend. A rather boring bloke named Simon, whom he’d met one night when she’d brought him by the bar. Not a biker. No wonder she didn’t go out.
Not that he’d pursue her anyway. She wasn’t his type.
“You should live a little,” he said. “What happens in Sturgis stays in Sturgis.”
She grinned. “I’m all about the money.”
“Amen to that,” he said as he clinked his bottle to hers.
By the end of the first day, Vince knew they were going to do well. Tori dressed suggestively, but not slutty. Her hair was clipped up at the sides but hung in loose ringlets down her back. The middle-aged biker guys flocked to her. All day long she was bringing men to him.
“Vince!” she’d say. “Marty here needs a Harley switch eCaddy™ Diamond in chrome. Tell him about the power options.” She’d wink at the customer, as if sharing some great secret, and they hung on her every word. He would ring ‘em up and send ‘em on their way, invariably poorer than they’d intended.
He was raring to go that evening, but Tori said she’d stay in. “Pete and I are going to check out the pond out back.”
So she’d already charmed their house-mates. Well, humph.
“I’ll bring you back a drink,” he said as he left.
“Have fun,” she said. “Try not to bring any women home with you.”
He didn’t intend to bring them home, but flirting was fun…
Vince pulled the truck into the driveway. He got out and eyeballed his parking job.
It was still early in the week and there had been few people out that night, most of them men looking for the same thing (or more) than he was. Too much time to drink.
He knocked on Tori’s bedroom door.
“Tori!” he said. “You awake?”
When there was no answer he let himself in and leaned over her. “Tori?”
Finally her sleep-laced voice came to him. “I’m sleeping, Vince.”
“Can I sleep with you?”
“Because you’re drunk.”
“I’m not really.” That was an outright lie, but he didn’t care. He climbed into the bed and pressed his body against her back.
“You smell like an ashtray,” she muttered.
But she didn’t say anything more, and he was too lazy to move. Besides, his male hormones were doing what came naturally.
He ran his hand up her leg to her hip.
She stiffened. “Vince. Knock it off.”
His hand stilled but he tucked his head into the back of her neck.
“Vince.” She shifted away from him, pushing his hand away. “Don’t make me smack you.”
“Sorry.” And a part of him was. Really.
“I am so not into that,” she said. “Besides, what about your girlfriend?”
He probably should feel more remorse, he thought. “She’s not so much a girlfriend… we just date.”
“Well, I do have a boyfriend,” she said. “But even if I didn’t, that would not be happening.”
“Because we work together?”
“There’s that.” She flipped over and propped herself on an elbow. “Geez, Vince. Does it not occur to you that perhaps I’m just not attracted to you in that way?”
He was usually a good judge of character. Or more precisely, when it came to women, he liked to make sure they were interested in him before he pursued them; that way he was almost guaranteed to get what he wanted.
“Well, now,” he said. “There are different types of attraction.”
“Well now,” she parroted. “I’m pretty sure I know your definition of attraction. But the only type I’m interested in is the monogamous, committed kind.”
He mirrored by propping himself up on his elbow. “Tell me about that.”
“What do you mean?” she said. “You’ve never been in that kind of relationship?”
“I was once,” he smirked. “In high school.”
She sighed. “You think that’s funny, but really, it’s just sad. You’re missing out.”
“What is so great about a monogamous, committed relationship?”
“Well, for starters, when a woman really trusts her partner, and feels her heart is safe with that partner, she can give him the hottest sex on the planet.”
“Hmm,” he said. “I’ve had some pretty hot sex.”
“Oh forget it!” She said, exasperated. “I don’t know why I waste my time trying to explain it to players like you.”
“Okay, so how about this?” he said. “I promise not to try anything on you—ever—if you just let me sleep with you. Emphasis on sleep.”
He put on his puppy-dog face. “Spooning,” he said. “That’s it.”
He could see she was softening. “Really? No hanky-panky?”
“Hanky panky?” He laughed.
She frowned at him.
“Scouts honor.” He held up two fingers.
She eyed him warily. “I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this but…” She shrugged, apparently deciding he was no threat. “Go shower if you’re going to sleep here.”
He grinned and scrambled out of the bed.
Vince thought about his promise the next day as he watched Tori work. They had a good rapport going, a comfortable banter that even the customers sensed. They’d even decided they would offer simple installation for a fee and split the proceeds. He didn’t mind playing to her strengths; their shared commission was going to be sweet. They were becoming a finely tuned machine in the booth during the day.
The evening was something else. Then he found, to his surprise, that he wanted to spend more time with her. He tried to convince her to go out with him after dinner, but she insisted on staying in.
“But you’re at a rally,” he said. “Don’t you want to see the sights?”
“I want to make money,” she said. “Don’t you?”
“Of course,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”
“We’ll make more if I’m on my game,” she said. “For that, I need a healthy dose of peace and quiet and a good night’s sleep. I need those commissions…and I need to not spend those commissions on alcohol.”
“You’re that strapped for cash?”
“I’m not a charity case, if that’s what you’re implying.” She sounded offended.
“It’s not,” he said. “I’m merely making conversation. Being interested in a friend’s life.”
“Sorry,” she said. “You see? I’m not good company tonight. You go, enjoy yourself.”
Vince glanced at Pete, wondering if she would spend the evening with him again. Then he shrugged and let himself out.
It was only later he realized she’d effectively avoided answering his question about money. And to his irritation, he kept thinking about her and Pete all alone at the house.
He gave it up early and returned to the house. Pete’s bedroom door was closed, as was Tori’s. He knew it was ridiculous—she was not that kind of girl, as she’d made clear the previous night—but he was relieved just the same.
Tori had coffee waiting for him when he entered the kitchen.
“So you and Pete had a nice night?” He tried to keep his voice neutral. He was cranky and out of sorts; he hadn’t slept well in his own bed.
“Nah,” she said. “I had a date with a cool bath and a good book. How about you?”
“Nothing to report.”
She set her coffee mug down and stared at him. “I thought you might come to my room when you got in—if you didn’t have other company.”
“I wasn’t sure the invitation extended past the previous night.”
“It would have been okay,” she said.
He couldn’t figure her out. She acted like she couldn’t care less whether he liked her or not, yet she was inviting him to her bed. Granted, it wasn’t for sex, that was clear, but…
“Even if I might’ve tried to kiss you in my half-drunk state?”
She picked up the coffee mug again, studying him. “You like kissing?”
The question came out of the blue, and he had no idea how to answer. “Pardon?”
“Personally I love kissing,” she said.
“In that monogamous, committed relationship.”
“Well, kissing can be good almost any time,” she said.
He stared at her, stumped again. “You pick some strange conversation topics, you know that?”
She smiled. “So? You must do a lot of kissing, yes?”
He wasn’t sure how to take that.
“I mean, your girlfriend is gorgeous,” she continued.
She stared at him again. “Don’t you think so?”
“Well, yes, of course I think so, but…” he stammered. Gretchen was gorgeous…on the outside. What would Tori think if he told her what she was really like?
“She’s not big into kissing,” he said. “But then, neither am I.”
“Why?” she said. “Are you gay?”
“Of course not!”
But she was laughing. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
“You are so very obviously not gay,” she said. “No one would ever mistake you for gay. Does that make you feel better?”
“Peachy,” he grumbled.
“So?” she said.
“Why don’t you like kissing?” Now she was completely serious, and he marveled at how quickly she could swing from one extreme to the other.
“Because seriously,” she continued. “I’m starting to wonder if your sex life is really everything the guys at the shop say it is.”
What he really wanted to say was, what the hell did the guys say about my sex life?
“I mean, you haven’t been in a committed relationship in—what?—a decade? And you don’t kiss?” she said.
“I kiss,” he said. “Her neck, her ears…whatever it takes to get her…you know.”
“But not on the mouth?” she said incredulously.
He stood and picked up his dishes. “I think it’s time for a change of subject.”
She stood too. “I think there’s an interesting story there.”
He dropped his dishes into the sink a little too loudly. “My life is not a story.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
Vince thought about that conversation all day. Tori acted no different toward him in the booth, and she didn’t bring up the subject of kissing again. He started to think: why not tell her? She’s not someone he’d ever be romantically involved with, so what did it matter? And it seemed like she could keep a secret…
He’d forgotten they were to meet one of their distributors for a late dinner after work. Jason sent a lot of business their way, and Vince needed to do a little schmoozing.
Tori didn’t want to go, but he talked her into it. And just like the customers in the booth, Jason and his “partner” (whom he suspected was not Jason’s wife) enjoyed Tori’s company more than his. Sometime during the dinner, he made up his mind to tell her.
It was 10pm when Tori begged Vince to drive her back to the house. It was only a 15-minute drive, but she was already dozing when they got there.
“You want to have a drink out on the deck?” he said.
“Oh, Vince,” she yawned. “I’m finished. Kaput. I’ve got to sleep. I just need to brush my teeth…” Her eyes were only half-open as she headed for the bathroom.
He was alone in the living area, so he clicked on the TV. He flicked through channels, listening to her in the bathroom, nervous energy making it hard to sit still. Why was he so wired? Because he was anxious about sharing his past? When he was ready, he was ready, and it frustrated him to have to wait.
He heard her exit the bathroom. “I think I’ll go out for a bit,” he called up the stairs.
Blurry eyes peered over the bannister. “Will I see you later?”
His irritation evaporated. It wasn’t her fault she was too tired to function; she did work hard in the booth. “Sure.”
He drove back into town, wishing Chuck was around. It wasn’t that fun hanging out by himself, and he didn’t have the energy to create instant friends like he sometimes did at a bar. And besides, even if it wasn’t sexual, there was a beautiful woman’s warm body waiting for him…
He finished his drink and left.
At the house, he showered as quietly as possible and slid in beside Tori.
“Hello Vince,” she said sleepily.
“You showered,” she said.
“I figured you would appreciate not having to breathe in an ashtray.”
He imagined her smiling into the semi-darkness. “What time is it?”
“Not late,” he said. “Not even midnight.”
“That’s early for you.” She turned to peer at him. “And you don’t seem drunk.”
“I’m not.” The nervous energy was back.
“But you do seem…jumpy.”
If he was going to tell her, maybe he should have had one more drink. “I was just thinking…You asked about the kissing thing this morning…”
“Well, there is a bit of a story behind it,” he said. “I could tell you, but you have to swear never to share it with anyone else.”
“Okay.” She propped her head on an elbow, giving him her complete attention. Now he wasn’t sure he wanted it.
“I grew up Catholic,” he said. “And my parents made me go to confession every week.”
When he hesitated, she prompted him. “And?”
“And there was this one priest who took a shine to me. Whenever I was in the booth with him he’d have me sit on his lap. And he…he would kiss me.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re serious.”
“That’s why I swore you to secrecy.”
She just stared at him. “Vince, that sucks.”
He shrugged. “I haven’t thought about it in a long time.”
“Did you ever tell anyone?”
“I’m telling you.”
“I mean back then,” she said.
He shook his head. “That priest moved on somewhere else,” he said. “And I pretty much stopped going to church.”
This time, instead of rolling over, she laid her head on his shoulder. She was quiet for a long time, and he started to doze off.
“How old were you when that happened?”
So she was still working it through that brain of hers. “Twelve.”
“So you had never kissed a girl?”
She was silent for another long moment. “So when you kiss a girl, do you still think about that priest?”
“Not really,” he said. “At that point I’m only thinking about getting inside her.”
“Because that’s the only time you’ll kiss a girl.” It was a statement rather than a question. “You never kiss for the sheer enjoyment of it?”
He didn’t answer, and she tipped her head up at him. “Of course you don’t,” she said. “Because you don’t get enjoyment from it.”
It was his turn to be silent for a spell. “I get enjoyment from other things…”
“I’m so sorry, Vince.” Her voice was muffled into his shoulder. “You were robbed of something beautiful.”
Something beautiful? What did she mean by that? But she was already asleep.
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