Bikers and Pearls
Who said tempting a sweet Southern belle would be easy?
When rebel biker Bullworth Clayton gets tangled up with pastel-and-pearls-clad April Church, sparks fly. Sure, April would clearly rather work with anyone else, but if teaming up with Bull means a successful charity event for a sick little boy they both care about, then so be it.
April is baffled at how drawn she is to the leather-wearing, tattooed Bull—he just doesn’t fit with her simple, safe, country-club life. And as much as the handsomely rugged man tempts her, she still can’t shake the images of the tragic motorcycle accident from her past, which left her scarred and her father broken.
Bull tempts her to don a pair of leather pants and go for a ride with him, while April desperately tries to resist her attraction to the wild side and keep her exploits hidden from her small town.
Will they be able to navigate their differences and find a middle road to love?
Excerpt Part 2:
Mr. Morrow, president of the Summerbrook Civic Club, tapped a butter knife on the wooden lectern at the front of the room. “Thank you all for coming tonight. I guess you know why we’re here.” She heard some stirring, and she caught a glimpse of a woman near the lectern nodding, but April didn’t move. She stared ahead and hoped to blend in with the others at her table. But how her pleats and pearls were going to fit in with all the rivets and leather she didn’t know exactly. Mr. Morrow looked down. “When Ben Evans’s grandfather came to me and told me about Ben’s leukemia and his medical bills at the Children’s Hospital, I knew that all the Summerbrook civic organizations had to get involved in a big way. We’re all going to work together like we haven’t before.” The handsome biker with the blue eyes and hard, angular jawline leaned in his chair and closed the space between them. She clutched her purse even tighter to minimize her presence at the table. She turned her attention back to Mr. Morrow. “We’re all going to undertake multiple projects as quickly as we can for Ben. Those medical bills aren’t going away after only one fundraiser. Each table or team will choose a date for their event and the type of project they want to sponsor,” Mr. Morrow explained. When Mr. Morrow finished, an old, woolly-bearded man in leather chaps stood up. “Jim, most of you know that Ben is my grandson. Oh, for those of you who don’t know, I’m Patch Evans.” She’d had no idea who the man was—even though she knew Ben’s family well. Ben’s dad, Purvis Evans, had recently been laid off at the local car dealership, and his mom worked at April’s bank as a teller. She wouldn’t have guessed that Ben had motorcycle riders in his background. Not that that was bad or anything. It’s just that people in small Southern towns usually shared similar interests with their family members. Families were tightly woven units below the Mason-Dixon. Take a family who likes country club living…well, they all usually belong to the club. Take a family who likes NASCAR, well, mostly they’re hanging out together at the local racetrack. She broke away from her thoughts when the old man choked out a few more words. “My family is terribly grateful for all your help.” The lean bomber-jacket guy beside her moved again in his seat and looked into his lap. She was careful not to let him see her glancing at him from the corner of her eye. All the emotion in the room and at her table caught her off guard. Maybe that was why she was so…so…twitchy. “No problem, Patch.” Mr. Morrow checked his watch. “In about an hour, we’ll stop and discuss what each team has decided. In the meantime, I’ll walk around and make sure we’re talking about different dates for each of the events.” He turned as the door behind him opened. “Betsy here will take your drink orders if anyone’s thirsty. Her sweet tea is so good, you’ll think your tongue will slap your brains out.” Betsy smiled hugely at the compliment. She didn’t seem to mind the crevice between her teeth. Or the unusual expression of praise. April wished she could be less uptight—like Betsy. But April worried about most everything, a trait she grew up recoiling from because of her own overprotective mother. And old-fashioned grandmother. Betsy leaned over to take a drink order from the table beside her and April saw something Betsy would have minded. She had a small split in the seam of her trousers. April’s heart ached for her. Gapped teeth and pants. Chairs grated on the tile floor as people settled down in their groups to talk. April glanced at the table to her left. No room to move her chair. She peered at the table behind her. If she turned her seat around, it would look bad. She eyed the door. But she couldn’t leave. For so many reasons. At her table, a middle-aged man with a red bandana said, “How ’bout I start. I got some ideas you guys might like. Oh, excuse me. And ladies. I’m Crank Allman, by the way.” What kind of ideas did these people have? Coming up with names like Crank and Patch—not to mention Slug. In all her twenty-six years, she’d never heard of so many odd monikers in one place. At one table. Whatever happened to names like Bill and Bob? She twirled the pearl ring on her left hand and noticed how much it looked like a wedding band when the pearl was on the palm side, so she left it that way. Wouldn’t hurt if anyone there thought she was married. “I’m gonna need me a secretary, though.” Crank paused. “How ’bout you?” She didn’t look up. He couldn’t possibly be talking to her. She was planning to move her chair to the sweater-and-pearls table as soon as it wouldn’t look so obvious. These people probably didn’t want her in their group anyway. She was merely waiting for the right moment to oblige. The bomber-jacket guy next to her reached for her arm. “I think he’s talking to you.” She startled at his touch. His strong hand was warm and almost electric. She tried to smile. “I don’t know that I’ll be here that much longer. Maybe someone else should volunteer.” “I’ll take over if she has to leave early,” said the blue-eyed man sitting next to her. He smiled and handsome lines formed parentheses on each side of his mouth. The angles of his jawline and his perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth made him look like a male model in one of those Armani suit ads. Without the suit, of course. “The two of us can share being secretary.” He had to be kidding. She tried to hide the concern from showing in her face. There wasn’t a pig’s chance at the Miss Summerbrook Fire Queen Pageant she was going to stick around—not with the cookbook clan merely feet away. She didn’t know a single one of the people at her table. But she couldn’t let on to them right now that she was uneasy. And had a completely different agenda. She had to go along for the time being. Think, girl, think. There had to be a discreet way out of this. If there was, she was going to figure it out. She always did. Crank tossed a spiral notebook onto the table. “You each need to write down your name, address, and phone number so our secretary—excuse me—secretaries can keep a record in case we need you for something before our next meeting.” When the good-looking man beside her received the list, she watched as he wrote, “Bull Clayton.” Bull? The Ladies League gals would have boyfriends and husbands named Preston and Tillman and Hamilton. There was just no end to the crazy things bikers called themselves. Bull looked nothing like a thick male bovine as his name implied. A svelte stallion, maybe. When he finished writing his phone number, he pushed the notebook in front of her. She couldn’t write her address and phone number in there. Who knew where that list would end up? And even though nothing would probably come of jotting down her number, she didn’t need to take the chance. In fact, she’d been the one at her agency to order and distribute the pamphlets on personal safety last month. Single women living alone shouldn’t advertise their addresses and phone numbers. That was rule number one. At least the accident had had one positive effect—steering her toward a suitable career—a career at which she excelled in being careful. She glanced up at Bull, who still had his arm extended and hand on the spiral notebook. A feeling of fireflies fluttering in her lower tummy warmed her in a way she’d never experienced. Her body wasn’t being careful at all. This was all too difficult to absorb and she felt a twinge deep inside her head. Oh, no. Another of her stupid headaches was trying to settle in. The whole evening had been filled with tension. Of course, a migraine would follow. She closed her eyes. The flashes of light came first, and then the old crash came rushing back. The screams. The sirens. The fire. She opened her eyes and shook her head. If only she could erase what the Rebels had done. But that was impossible. There had to be a way for her to deal with this problem. All she had to do was analyze it and sort it out. That might be hard to do at the table; however, all the bikers were busily talking to one another and weren’t paying any attention to her. Thank goodness. Just then Betsy walked toward her. April took off her sweater, whispered in Betsy’s ear, and wrapped the sweater around Betsy’s waist. She gave April the most beautiful smile ever. Great. The bikers were still debating something. No one had seen. Her phone vibrated. Jenna. With the phone in her lap and hidden by the table, April texted back. Can’t talk now. April’s head tensed more. Another text from Jenna. What’s wrong? April took another deep breath, trying to compose herself, trying to keep the headache away. Long story. I’ll call when I’m out of here. She really needed to pay more attention to what was going on at the table. Lucky for her, she was off their radar. Her cell vibrated again. Out of where? I thought you were at league thing with the girls. She wasn’t going to get rid of Jenna without an explanation so she texted where she was and what had happened. …but this guy named Bull helped me out, so I’m okay. April sucked in a deep breath. Little lights twinkled in her vision from the headache that was trying to get a foothold in her brain. Maybe answering Jenna’s text wasn’t such a good idea. She had a tendency to be overly alarmist. And obviously April had a tendency to be overly stupid for telling Jenna anything. No imagining what she was going to do. Maybe April should just leave. But what if Slug was still out there? He hadn’t come back to the banquet room, and his motorcycle had been parked beside her car. By now, he could have rounded up all his friends from the other corners of the restaurant. She had to be reasonable, though. He shouldn’t be upset at her because he hadn’t fixed his own kickstand. There was another problem with leaving, as well. What would she tell Mr. Houseman? And Ben? She couldn’t face letting him slip away. Then there was the league. Too much was at stake. Whatever it takes. No matter what, she was going to stay. Tonight. She could always call Mr. Morrow next week and ask to be reassigned to another group—even if it wasn’t the league ladies—as long as she did something to help Ben. Bull pushed the notebook back in front of her. She stole another look at the handsome man. Humph. Nothing like Bull had ever ridden into Summerbrook before. She needed to get her mind on the work at hand, though. As she read some of his words, she became confused. With finality in his voice, Crank said, “So, the weekend of April 28th is the best date.” Curiosity got the best of her. It sounded like they were planning to do something big the weekend of her birthday. She raised her hand again. “Excuse me.” She cleared her throat. “What exactly are you doing, and what does ‘Bikers for Ben’ and ‘Ride for a Reason’ mean?” Crank said, “Well, we decided that we’d do a charity bike ride, gettin’ sponsors to donate money for each mile we ride from Summerbrook to the Charleston Battery and then on to the Children’s Hospital.” She lowered her head and tapped her pencil. In a low voice she said, “What about a bake sale or a charity auction or something?” A burley man with a handlebar mustache and muttonchops spoke up after everyone chuckled. “We don’t know nothin’ ’bout no bakin’ or no auctionin’. All’s we know is bikes.” Bull had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, and she could see muscular definition in his forearms. Was he ever fit. “What Chops means is that rides are what we know best to raise money. We’ve done it before. It’s what we do well.” He smiled that same Hollywood smile that she’d noticed before—the one that kept taking her off guard. He moved his arms forward on the table and she saw a piece of a tattoo, but as quickly as she saw it, he tugged at his shirt and it disappeared under his sleeve again. “But I thought—” April stopped midsentence. She’d be home soon and the whole thing could be their little kettle of fish. “I’m sorry. A biker-rider thingy is fine. Just fine,” she said as she leaned back in her chair. “Good,” said Bull. “Because you and I are in charge of permits and advertising.” He smiled again, the left side inching up more than the right. No, it wasn’t quite a smile. It was more of a grin. With his perfectly straight teeth. If someone would turn him in on one of those makeover shows and cut and style his hair, he’d be downright dangerous. But he didn’t know what he was talking about because she wasn’t about to help with any of their far-fetched ideas. She couldn’t. With her aging father’s cardiac condition, it would absolutely kill him if he ever found out. The man named Crank explained all about what they had decided. She sat there biding her time and tried to blend in with the furniture. Then her cell rang. So much for trying to look inconspicuous. “I’m sorry,” she said. She pressed the phone to her head as tightly as she could and bent down toward the table. Everyone in the group grew silent as Jenna’s voice barreled through the little cell phone. “I called Mr. Houseman. He said he can’t help you right now. April, I think you could be in a lot of danger. I asked around about that Bull guy and found out he had been involved with Rebel Angels. Those people might have chains or knives—or even guns.” Yeah, they might. But why would they want to use them on her? Because she was wearing pleats? Jenna’s voice grew even louder, if that were possible. “Be careful. Stay away from the bikers and get your butt home.” “Jenna, don’t be ridiculous. I’ll talk to you later.” April quickly ended the call and looked up at Bull. He raised his eyebrow, and a strange expression covered his handsome face. It was almost another smile. Wait. No. It was a smirk. She knew it. He’d heard everything Jenna had said—about the chains, the knives…and Rebel Angels. How dare he be snarky with her? She sat up, glanced around, and realized by the looks on their faces that the others had heard Jenna, too. Before, she was merely being paranoid, but now she had a real reason to worry. That phone call would have insulted anyone. In Jenna’s effort to be a mother hen, she’d actually made the situation worse. She had two options. She could stand, run, and take her chances in the parking lot with the chains and knives Jenna had mentioned, or she could prove them all wrong. Being the chicken that she was, she said, “Well, people. When do we get started?”
What’s not to love about a society girl falling in love with a biker? Yes, the trope has been done before but Ms. Wilkerson brings heart and emotional depth to the trope that had me swooning in the end.
April Church has a legitimate reason for not liking motorcycles and the people who ride them. Motorcycles and the gang associated with them almost got her killed when she was a little girl. I really understood her fears but at the same time, felt like it a crippled her as a person, too. She was completely judgmental when it came to Bull and the bikers that she was assigned to help with the bike rally.
Bullworth was a study in contrasts. Yes, he was part of a gang when he was younger but got out when he realized that he didn’t need them anymore for his own self-worth. He built a great life for himself but at the same time harbored resentment for people like April. He didn’t think that someone like April really cared about sick children and only was in it for the glory.
I really liked April and Bull together. Through their growing friendship they opened up to each other about the their fears and loosened each other up in the end. This was not without misunderstandings, some anxiety attacks and learning that not everyone is what they seem. They both had some growing up to do and in the end they did.
The secondary characters were great. I can’t wait to read more about Jenna and Hogan. 😉 The bikers depicted in the story weren’t one-dimensional characters either. They had heart and helped April grow to respect them as people, not just part of a gang.
If I had one compliant about the book, it would April being so sheltered in her life. It was almost like she was living in a box and being able to breathe. I completely understood her fears but those fears in the end crippled her more emotionally than her parents sheltering her the way they did.
I would be remiss not to mention the town itself. Oh my gosh, gorgeous descriptions of the town square, the bait shop (*snort) and using the town has a character.
If you are looking for an emotional journey between two complete opposites that despite prejudices and misunderstandings, Bikers and Pearls is definitely for you. Ms. Wilkerson takes a tried and true trope and spins it on its head.
Vicki is a native of the Charleston, South Carolina, Lowcountry and loves to share her enchantment with the area with readers through her writing. Even in childhood, she enjoyed penning stories and poems—no doubt fueled by her grandfather’s enthusiasm for telling tales himself. Where else—but in the South—could one find the interesting blend of salt water, eerie swamps, unwritten traditions and unique characters? In her spare time, she loves traveling, spending weekends at her family’s lake house, playing golf and cooking (with lots of wine). Visit Vicki at http://www.vickiwilkerson.com .