The Last Man on EarthbySilentStrength©
From the Author: This is my first experience working with an editor. I am now a firm believer. Short version: if you think you are pretty literate and know what you're doing, you are a prime candidate for editorial help. BluMoonChild, a fan of my first stories, generously offered her editorial talent after reading my first efforts. I owe her a debt of gratitude, along with returning the favor, and look forward to working with her on future stories.
Charice Rosser exited the small staffing office like a cannon shot. She could feel the tears welling up but was just too damned angry to cry. She stepped off the curb to the sound of car horns, not giving a shit if someone was inconvenienced by yielding to a pedestrian. The office she came out of was nestled in a bustling retail center that had two times the traffic for half of a parking lot. She saw the "fire lane - no parking" signs as she passed, thinking, god, if there was a fire, the place would burn to the ground before the fire department could get through the gridlock.
She finally reached her car, a tired 10 year old Corolla, and slammed the door shut. Looking in the visor mirror she sighed, mumbling to herself. "Reesey, you need to get a hold on your emotions and not let these things rule you." Looking past her dark eyes that had just narrowly avoided tears and runny makeup, she could see a line of cars forming, as the one in the lead spotted her leaving and was stalking her parking place. Shaking her head at that, she started the car and backed out. Then her heart dropped - the car engine had stalled. "AW SHIT! Just what I don't need right now!" A quick scan of the dashboard confirmed everything was dead. No gauges, no lights, no nothing. Turning the key only made a mechanical sound without the usual display of warning lights. And then the horns started up.
"Goddamn people! It ain't like I WANTED to jam up this parking lot!" Reese got back out and made a show of raising the hood, without a clue what to do next. For that matter, what could she do? She'd been out of work for two months already and her savings were starting to get thin. She'd had to quit her gym membership, not that it had done much for her. Besides, cutting back on the grocery budget had the side effect of less food. Between that and the stress of not working she'd started to loose a few pounds, more than she had with frequent workouts. Getting a tow was going to put a big dent in what was left of her cash, never mind what the shop would charge to fix it. Suddenly she felt that cry coming back and just sat back down in her broken car and shut the door.
After a minute she started looking through her glove box for the last receipt from the repair shop so she could call for help. Somehow or another she'd have to work out payments or something but she needed to get this car picked up. In the distance she could hear a motorcycle approaching and looked around to see a hulking figure behind the approaching headlight. As he threaded around the gridlock she could see it was some kind of a chopper, but not the gaudy looking things she'd seen on the custom motorcycle shows on TV. It looked old school and was clearly no show queen. A little closer and her heart sank even lower. The rider was a heavyset, older white guy and he didn't look happy. She could see his brow scrunched into a scowl between the dark glasses and the helmet that looked like WWII German army.
Perfect. Marooned in a parking lot, jamming up traffic, a dozen angry motherfuckers trying to move me with their horns, and here comes some white power harassment to top it off. Reese just leaned forward with her face in her hands, fed up and starting to panic.
Paul James loved the rare chance to get out in the wind on a late spring day. He had been working for weeks on a project for a demanding telecom client and finally had a few hours free to run some errands. Seizing the opportunity, he unhooked his chopper from it's battery tender and rolled it out. A couple of kicks to prime it and one more with the key on and it coughed to life. This machine was probably the least practical thing he had for running errands. But it was badass in an understated way. Not a whole lot of chrome, regular sized rear tire, and an antique powertrain that likes to mark it's territory with a few drops of oil anywhere it stops. Nothing like the billet barges that seemed to fill up half of the programming on cable TV these days, but quite the opposite. His bike was made for riding and not show, and that's what he was rolling it out for.
Nothing better than having the wind and the sun in his face. Paul sailed down the boulevard in light traffic, thinking about his next stop to check in with his staffing recruiter on some open requisitions he had with them. His account rep was fun to work with, but wasn't the best at following up with him. She always seemed flustered and overworked, and nothing short of a face to face visit would get progress out of her.
As he pulled into the parking lot, his good attitude evaporated. It was gridlocked. Ordinarily that didn't bother him. He was used to the thick urban traffic and you just had to deal with it. However, on this machine with it's antiquated hand shifter and foot clutch, thick traffic was misery and awkward to move through. If the bike was in gear, you can't put your left foot down. If you need both feet down, you had to be in neutral. In tight traffic, it was a major hassle to creep forward and stop over and over. Paul finally rounded a corner and saw the source of the problem. Way up at the front of the line was a small Toyota that was clearly not going anywhere with it's hood open.
He started getting pissed looking at all the people sitting in their cars, laying on their horns, and waiting for some miracle to happen and make the roadblock disappear. Muttering under his breath, he slipped the bike in gear and swerved to the side, passing all the useless horn jockeys. "Jesus H. Christ. twenty fucking people with thirty fucking cell phones between them and not one person lifting a finger to do anything. Forget about someone actually getting out to offer a hand."
When he rolled up to the immobile car, he could see the lone occupant inside with her face buried in her hands, her shoulder length curls sweeping down and concealing her face. Just great. None of these assholes moving an inch and here this one sits, waiting for a miracle. Paul rolled to a stop behind it and killed the bike, setting it over on it's sidestand. As he walked up, a guy a few cars back yelled out, "Tell that bitch to move that shit outta the way!" Paul turned a second, flashing him a mean mug and continued toward the car. The woman inside slowly looked up at him, her expression a mix of anger, frustration, and fear. His bad attitude was immediately disarmed by her appearance. She looked to be in her late 30's, seemed dressed for business, and clearly having a really bad day judging by the smeared eye liner and less than happy face. "Miss? Are you ok? Can you open your window?"
Reese saw a shadow come over her and looked up. The biker was leaned in close waving his hand and asking if she was ok through the closed door and sealed window. A glance up at the mirror confirmed she looked like hell, and she reached for the door handle. "Are you ok? You don't look well - are you out of gas?" She turned as if to step out of the car, but when her feet reached the ground, she just sat there. She looked up and met his concerned expression with relief. "I don't know what's wrong. I just started to leave and everything just went dead. Nothing. Nada." So he wasn't Aryan Brotherhood. He was just the one guy out of the whole crowd who bothered to see what was wrong and offer help. Then her emotions cut loose. She just couldn't control the blubbering. The more she tried the more it came out. All her business. The bad interview. The unemployment. The car repair and towing bill. Everything.
When she finally wound down into a puddle of sobs, she saw his extended hand. "My name's Paul. Tell you what. If you're ok with it, stand over here and I'll push your car out of the way so these assholes can go about their business. Are the keys still in the ignition?" On her barely perceptible nod, he took her hand, guiding her aside. Then proceeded to ease the disabled car back into the space she was backing out of. When the car stopped, he pulled up the parking brake and handed her the keys. "You know, I have a AAA card in my wallet and they'll tow your car for nothing. All I have to do is tell them I was riding with you and they'll hook it right up. I also know a guy that does honest work and can get you back on the road quick. If it's ok, I can make some calls for you and we'll get this squared away quickly."
Without waiting for an answer, he pulled out a cell phone and started making calls. After a minute, he turned to her and said, "Wait right here a minute. I've got to park my bike before the tow truck gets here." He'd spotted a space open up on the next row and hurried, pushing the narrow cycle between cars into the vacant space just as someone was about to pull in. There was an angry look for a moment, then the driver looked him over and decided to back up and try something else. She watched this out of the corner of her eye. He was a big man but not huge. He had taken his helmet off and uncovered a close crew cut head of hair, mostly gray with a bit of brownish color in places. It extended down his sideburns and around his face, a neatly trimmed mustache and beard. The dude was actually clean-cut and was not the biker trash she thought he was. When he came back she was finally getting her head back on straight.
Before she could say another word, the tow truck came rolling up. The biker met the driver, shaking his hand when he got out with a greeting. "Yeah, me and my girl here were on our way out and the car just died. Can you haul it over to Smitty's shop? I already called ahead and he's expecting it."
"No problem Mr. James. I just need to see your AAA card and we'll get it outta here." The tow truck driver noted his membership number and came over. "Ma'am, you need to get your purse and anything else you want to take with you. I'll be pushing your car out to hook it up."
Reese quickly gathered her things and took the car key off her ring, handing it to the tow guy. In about two minutes flat he had her car up in the air and was headed away. She turned back to the man that had taken care of everything and almost choked up and started boohooing again.
Paul supervised the tow driver until he left to make sure the lady's car got hooked up with no damage. When he returned to her she looked like a lost puppy. She was standing there in a pantsuit and pumps, holding her purse, with nowhere to go. Her normally smooth cocoa face was starting to twist up into tears again. He came to her side putting his hand on her shoulder and pulling her in as if to comfort her. He could feel the sobs shaking her frame when he spoke. "Hey, there's a coffee shop across the street, why don't we grab a cup while we wait to hear about your car? I've got a few meetings this afternoon, but it's nothing my team can't handle."
He released her shoulder and put her arm in his while leading the way to the coffee shop. He hoped she would relax a little with some good company. She was a good looking woman that struck him as the type to be more put-together. Although, right now it seemed she'd reached her wit's end. He found a table and asked her what she'd like. "Ice water, please." He asked again to be sure and went to get their drinks. As he waited in line and placed an order, he snuck a few glances back at her. When he did, he caught her doing the same. It turned into almost a game. By the time he returned with the order, he could see a hint of a grin forming.
As he sat down, she followed him with her eyes. "Sooo.. now that the crisis is past and you know who I am and I already told AAA we were together, what's your name darling? I'm dying to know"
"Reese. Actually Charice Rosser, but Charice is too easy to screw up and people really can't spell it either. I can't thank you enough for all you've put up with from me. I just don't know what I'm going to do next. You already heard all my business, so I'm not going to keep whining. I just can't afford for these things to happen until I get back on the job somewhere. Now my car is gone and I'm stuck here. There isn't even a bus route within 5 miles of here! And that goddamn bitch at the staffing agency keeps bullshitting me every time she calls. When I come out, and she knows I can't afford the gas, the job falls through somehow."
The lightbulb came on in Paul's head. "I see. So I have a feeling that goddamn bitch has the initials Sue Wesley?" Reese's eyes flashed and she did a double take "How'd you know?!?"
Paul went on to explain what had brought him to her rescue in the first place. Realizing they had come to the same place to visit the same unprofessional professional, they started laughing about it and shared some stories. When the chuckles finally faded, there was an uncomfortable pause as they looked at each other having warmed pass the uncomfortable situation from earlier. When he was about to speak up, his cell phone rang. "Excuse me." Paul took the call and listened to Bud Smith, the mechanic that had Reese's car. "Yep. I figured as much. Uh-huh. No. Well, not really. Okay. Fine. I'll bring her by before you close."
He looked across the table as he holstered the phone. She looked at him with brow raised, "OK.. so I take it that was the mechanic? What's the damage?" Paul just smiled and said nothing. Reese reached across and play slapped his arm, grinning big. "Damn you! out with it!"
"Ok, ok, ok. You've beat it out of me. Your car is fixed. It was a loose battery cable and there's no charge. Smitty just said bring it back for some paying work and he'll let you go this time."
"Awesome!" Reese's face lit up with relief. Finally something was going her way today. "So let's go get it!"
Reese's heart was doing leaps. Not only was her little hoopty back running again, but it didn't cost anything and she wouldn't be eating dog food for the rest of the month! When she looked back at Paul he was frowning. "What's the matter? Something I said?"
He looked back at her excited face. "Well only one detail. You do remember how I got here, right?"
Now it was her turn for a lightbulb moment. "If it's not too far I can ride. I've ridden with my cousins before. It's not a big deal."
"Yeah, but mine has seating for one. Let's go out to the bike and see what we need to do."
They exited the coffee shop and she took his arm again. Immediately she asked herself why she did that. It wasn't like she was a sobbing mess like earlier. But it felt good. Even right somehow. He just glanced down at her with a crooked grin and led the way.
When they got to Paul's bike she could see the problem right away. There was only one seat. Over the rear what nothing but a bare fender. Nothing. No hand holds. No foot pegs. Just a wheel and a fender with an oily chain attached.
"The shop is only a couple miles away. I can fold up my jacket for you to sit on, but you're going to have to wrap yourself around me - arms and legs - to keep from falling off. You can wear the helmet if you want. I doubt we'll see any cops on this short a ride."
Reese thought about it a minute. This is crazy. I could take a taxi or just walk, it's not far. As she mulled it over, Paul took off his leather jacket and folded it up into a little square pillow shape and placed it on the rear fender.
"Here you are. If you're not ok with this, I can run home and be back in 20 minutes with my car."
She'd already decided. This looked like it would be fun, and face it - opportunities like this don't come along all the time. "I'm game. Tell me what to do."
Paul looked her over while he was folding up his jacket. She was no 98lb supermodel, but she wasn't going to bend his fender either. She was at least a head shorter than him, and had a thick, hourglass figure that filled out her business attire nicely. Hanging on to him would be a little awkward for her, but doable given the short ride.
"OK Reese. Put the helmet on while I get the bike started. Next, I'm going to get out of the parking space and stop. I'll give you the ok and you'll need to straddle the rear wheel to sit on my jacket. Once you're seated, grab my shoulders and swing your legs around my waist. You'll want to put the left one up first to keep your clothes from getting dirty from the chain. Your feet will be on opposite sides of the gas tank to keep them from sliding back. Then adjust your grip on me and give me a tap or a shout when you're ready."
"Oh yeah.. don't forget to avoid the hot parts, especially the exhaust. Those will put a scar on you real quick if you bump into them."
She nodded and adjusted her purse across her back and got ready. Paul kicked the bike to life and rolled it out of the space, giving her a nod when he was ready. She grabbed his shoulders as she mounted the bike, then after a moment, her legs came up around him one at a time. She moved her hands and arms down around his chest and seemed settled. After a moment he lowered his left hand, resting it on her leg and asked, "You all set?"
She shouted a "yes," so he lifted his left foot to the clutch, reached lower to the shifter to get first gear, and off they went.
She followed his directions and sat on the jacket. Suddenly she realized how high she was going to have to get her legs and she hadn't done any real stretching in years. But she managed. The left one went up easy, and the toe of her shoe found the gas tank. That made it easier to swing the right one up. Once settled, she improved her grip with her arms, encircling Paul's chest. She gave him the ok and he got moving.
Right away she noticed Paul was quite muscular and that his loose fitting clothes covered that up well. It seemed like she could feel the individual muscles and tendons move with each motion. His solid feel made her relax a little. The start was a little jerky, so she pulled her arms tighter and leaned in, placing her cheek on his back. Being that close she could smell an earthy scent on his clothes that comes from being worn in the open air. Under that was a very subtle, manly smell, possibly some soap or cologne. Her mind started wandering at that point. This guy was actually pretty hot in a "not hot" sorta way. Had she just passed him on the street she'd have never looked twice. But up close and personal was a different matter. Earlier, when she was coming unglued, he had stepped in and handled business like a natural. He didn't ask permission. He just did it. And she just let him do it, like it was the right thing to do. And now she felt more and more compelled to follow his lead. That thought made her hang on just a little tighter as she let out a little sigh.
After a few more minutes, she relaxed a bit and began to notice some things. The machine's vibration under her, despite the jacket she was perched on. Not to mention how wide open and unladylike she was sitting. She squirmed a little bit, grinding her thighs and belly against Paul's hard back. He responded by placing his left hand on her thigh and down to her calf where he held firmly. The sudden, unexpected touch and hold startled her and set butterflies in motion. Damn that was sexy and he don't even know it! She started heating up on that thought and it got worse as the breeze blowing through her pants started hitting the moistness forming in her panties with a cooling sensation. That caused her to stiffen momentarily until the sensation passed. This was way more than she bargained for.