We stepped out onto the sidewalk, a huge black and silver motorcycle sat at the curb gleaming in the midday sun. I stepped closer to examine it. “That’s a big bike.”
He shrugged. “I’m a big man.”
That’s for sure.
Once I put my sign on the front door and locked it, we headed to Eufaula Street, and I felt dwarfed beside him. Miss Cordelia, the flower shop owner and probably the oldest store owner in town, was adding water to the display she kept outside her shop. She paused and gaped as we approached. “Good afternoon, Tangie,” she said, eyeing Mr. Turner with a suspicious squint. “On your way to lunch?”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s about that time.” I had the distinct feeling she expected me to introduce him, but the situation didn’t call for it, so I smiled and kept walking.
“Was it my imagination, or did she just give me the evil eye?”
“Yeah, she did, but it’s only because she’s looking out for me. I’m one of the youngest shop owners here.” He didn’t need to know the reason why. Miss Cordelia had never seen me with a man other than, Johnnie, whom I’d been dating for the past two years. Everyone in town also knew him, because we grew up together.
We turned the corner onto Eufaula Street where Karly’s Kafé sat on the ground floor of a large three-story brick building in need of tender loving care. The first floor housed several businesses, but the top two floors remained vacant. A For Sale banner had adorned the second level railing for more than a year, but the owners hadn’t received any offers. The building needed too much work.
My handsome customer held the door as I preceded him into the café. “Are you eating here, or getting something to take out?”
“Most days I eat here. It’s good to get a break from being in the store all day.”
“Do you mind if I join you, or are you meeting bae for lunch?”
“No. I usually sit over there.” I indicated a table by the front window and let the bae comment slide. When I looked up, Karly, her husband, Sal and Breelyn, their day waitress and my best friend, were staring as if I’d grown a third eye. They had also never seen me out with a man other than Johnnie. Sal had the culinary expertise, and Karly had the personality. Several years ago they passed through our little town on their way to Florida and fell in love with it. Six months later, they left New York City and bought a house here. Immediately, they started looking for a spot to open their restaurant.
“Hey, Tangela, how’s life treating you?” Karly asked from across the room in her loud New York accented voice.
In the five years I’d known her, she had never asked me that question. It was obvious she was fishing for details about the man sitting next to me. “I’m just fine, Karly. How’re you doin’?”
“Bree will be over with menus in a minute.” She and Bree put their heads together and whispered before Bree sauntered over wearing a surreptitious smile.
“Welcome to Karly’s Kafe. My name is Breelyn, and I’ll be serving you today.” Her formal welcome was laughable, and obviously for Mr. Turner’s benefit. “Can I get drinks for you and your…friend?”
I sent her the side eye. “Bree, this is Mr. Turner. He’s passing through town on his way to Panama City Beach. Bree is my best friend.”
He smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Bree. My name is Reese, and I’d like the biggest sweet tea you have with lots of lemon.”
The way she grinned back at him made me want to slap her upside her silly head. “Here’s today’s menu. I’ll be right back.”
His gaze followed her across the dining room. As soon as she was out of hearing distance, he said, “You’re not drinking anything?”
“She knows what I always get.”
“Oh, okay. I thought she was dissing you.” He glanced at her again. “She has an interesting look.”
“Like she doesn’t belong here, right?”
“Well, yeah. It’s not often you see a black woman with purple hair in a country town.”
“Eufaula isn’t country. It’s the largest town in Barbour County.”
He snickered and checked out the short menu. “I’m from Atlanta. Believe me, this is country.”
Bree brought our drinks and blatantly studied him while he concentrated on the menu. Her gaze did a slow scan from his boots all the way up to the turquoise and silver necklace beneath a red bandanna at his throat then gave me a raised eyebrow.
I nixed her and asked if he was ready to order.
“Think I’ll try the meatball parm sandwich and a side salad with Italian dressing.”
“Good choice,” Bree said. “Sal’s meatballs are amazing, but I suggest you get that on the toasted garlic bread.”
“Okay. Recommendation taken.”
“And what are you having today, girl?”
“I’ll make it easy for you. Give me the same, but with the balsamic vinaigrette on the salad.”
She scratched the order on her pad and sent me another questioning look. “This shouldn’t take long.”
“Are you vacationing in Panama City?” I asked once she left the table.
“Not really. I belong to a motorcycle club. It’s Black Bike Week, and the annual rally is being held there.”
Now his outfit made more sense. I’d never known anyone who belonged to a motorcycle club, and I wanted to know more. “What happens during Black Bike Week?”
His wicked laugh tickled my senses. “What doesn’t happen. The rally used to be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at the same time as the Harley Davidson rally, but this year the organizers decided to change it. The last couple of years the local newspapers and TV stations painted the black bikers as underclass criminals who come to the rally to steal and murder. The white bikers were called examples of American Individualism whose behavior was celebrated as defiant acts against authority."
“Typical.” I shook my head at the trite judgment. “So where do you go after you leave the rally?”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t you live on the road and travel from place to place?” My stomach did a little somersault again when he grinned.
“Somebody’s been watching too much television.”
“That’s not true?”
“No. Most motorcycle clubs are basically social groups. Riders get together mostly on weekends to share their love for bikes. There are even a few RUBs in our club, but we all have jobs, businesses and families to take care of the rest of the time.”
The heat of embarrassment crept up the back of my neck into my cheeks. “It’s just that I—
“That’s a common misconception. I’m not offended.”
“What’s a rub?”
“It stands for Rich Urban Biker.”
The way he spoke intrigued me. “What kind of work do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Do you ever watch HGTV?”
I knew he wasn’t going to tell me he was a television star. “Yes, all the time. Why?”
“Have you seen any of the house flipping shows?”
“Uh huh. Flip or Flop was one of my favorites, until Tarek and Christina split up.”
“That’s what I do-buy houses, restore them and flip them for a profit. I own the business, but I do a lot of the actual work myself.”
Well, that explained his incredible shoulders and arms. Reese Turner was becoming more interesting by the minute.
Coming late Spring 2017 to Kindle, Nook and Createspace