San Diego California eleven years later…
Maxine could not see where they were walking, a bandana tied around her eyes to preserve the secret. She felt Carlos Lopez's hand at her back guiding her every step. She could hear the sound of people as they stepped up what felt like three steps.
“Can I take this blindfold off now?” She asked as they came to a stop.
“Just a minute,” Carlos said helping her to shuffle to the side. Maxine could feel a seat at the back of her legs. “Ok.” He said untying the bandana.
Maxine blinked for a moment as bright lights met her eyes. She looked out over the arena. It looked like a dirt bike track with stunts set up. She was surprised. Why would Carlos take her here of all places? “Isn’t this cool?”
Maxine forced a smile she didn’t feel. “Yeah, I guess.” She had been seeing Carlos for over two years. He was a guarded man with secrets and an iron wall erected around him and the shadier parts of his life. She had been doing her best to get past his defences, but it was proving much harder than expected. He kept her close but at arm’s length when it came to business.
“I think you’re going to love this. This guy is crazy; I love it.” Carlos said taking the seat next to hers. “Sit.” He insisted. Maxine took her seat and settled in beside Carlos. Carlos was originally from Mexico City, but his business profits moved him to America so he could hobnob with wealthy prospects. He was a young man in his late thirties with his dark good looks and hard almost black eyes. His face was clean shaven, and his attire was always fashionable making him look the respectable businessman he wasn’t.
Maxine looked around; every seat filled. It looked like a sold-out crowd of rednecks and thrill seekers. The house lights went down, and the track lit up. Some bikes came ripping out on to the track as the announcer’s voice boomed over the speakers. The riders were zooming at top speeds barely missing one another and avoiding crashes. They shot off ramps and through the air. Maxine couldn’t help but notice how enthralled Carlos was.
Then she heard it, a name she had not heard in years as the announcer introduced daredevil Lucas Sanchez. Suddenly the act had her full undivided attention. A spotlight focused on the rider at the top of the arena near the roof. The ramp was high and steep. She could not make him out clad from head to toe in black riding leather, a full helmet and face shield. His hands on the handles he leaned forward and kick-started his bike.
Maxine found herself holding her breath as the bike dropped from its perch and sped down the steep ramp like a rock falling from the sky. Near the bottom, he hit a curve that shot him back up into the sky. His tires were fifty feet in the air. The rider flew through the air two feet off his bike as both rider and bike spun in circles through three rings of fire. She couldn’t breathe as she watched the sound of the cheers a mile away.
Rider’s butt back in his seat the wheels of the bike touched down hard on a ramp on the other side. The bike jerked as the shocks absorbed the impact and the rider coasted to a stop not four feet from the edge of the arena. The crowd rose to their feet clapping and screaming. The rider removed his helmet and raised his arms in triumph. His dark hair was a mess from the helmet. The smile on his face was cocky. Maxine finally let herself breathe as she shook her head. He hadn’t changed one bit.
“Isn’t he insane?” Carlos commented enthusiastically.
“He certainly is.”
“Come on.” He said coming to his feet and taking her hand.
“Where are we going?”
“To get his autograph.”
Maxine’s heart nearly stopped as her feet became rooted to the sticky floor. Lucas would no doubt recognize her and blow everything she had worked so hard to set in motion. “Oh, baby I don’t want to meet him.” Maxine protested pulling away.
“Since when are you shy?” He asked with a raised dark brow. “You're silly, come on.” He insisted dragging her to the aisle. What was she going to do?
His heart beat so hard Lucas was sure it would burst right through his ribcage as he passed through each hoop. He could feel the scorching heat even through his protective leather gear. When the tires touched down on the other side, Lucas slowly applied pressure to the bike and cut the gas coasting to a careful stop leaving him just four feet from what could have been a devastating collision with the arena wall.
Having made the jump successfully, Lucas tore off his helmet and screamed with enthusiasm. The crowd roared as they stood clapping and yelling. Still catching his breath Lucas relinquished his tricked-out Kawasaki 450 Enduro to one of his road hands and accepted a bottle of water. Guzzling it back, he left the arena his entourage waiting for him on the sidelines.
“I almost didn’t think you would make it.” Teased his brother Lance as he leaned lazily against the wall his arms folded across his chest and his long legs crossed at the ankle. Twins they were hard to tell apart. Physically they were an exact copy of each other were it not for the fact that Lance wore his dark hair long and Lucas had cropped his short people would not be able to tell one from the other unless they got to know each man. Besides their physical attributes, Lucas and Lance were night and day.
Lucas had taken up stunt jumping as a profession while Lance had picked up a camera and gone into fashion. A clever way of getting pretty young women out of their clothes. Lucas, however, preferred the adrenalin rush being a daredevil gave him, and the women seemed to dig it.
Beside Lance stood Dominic, their younger brother. Though Dominic had the same dark hair and bright eyes, he resembled their mother more than their father. Even for a man, his facial structure was soft but misleading. He looked sweet, innocent but those who knew him knew better. He lived for getting into trouble and chasing skirts like their father once had. Their father had been a hell-raiser in his day before their mother managed to settle his wild heart down. Eve was an angel with a soft spot for bad boys; after all, she had married one and then had five boys just like him.
Across from Lance and Dominic stood Lucas’ cousins David Thompson and Roger Sinton. David and Dominic were the same age both barely legal adults. Like Dominic, David resembled his mother with his dark hair, which he wore short and spiked, and blue eyes. Roger had his father’s dark Latin good looks, with short dark curls and dark eyes to match.
At twenty-five Roger was a businessman, having used his trust fund to precious himself a rather successful casino in Nevada. David, on the other hand, had used his vast trust fund to buy his way into med school with the hopes of becoming a sergeant which was loftier goals then Dominic’s who just spent his time painting in his studio back in New York.
They were all very close having spent much time together growing up. “I swear while you were in the air I couldn’t breathe.” Hanna laughed. Hanna was Roger’s older sister. She was very pretty with long black hair and the same dark, sensuous eyes as her brother. She was the oldest of them all followed closely by Lucas and Lance trailing her by a year and Roger by three years, with David and Dominic four years behind him.
Hanna had gone in half with her brother to procure and run the hotel attached to his casino. They were both doing well in their new endeavour. “I see why your mother disapproves. You’re going to kill yourself one day.” Complained his cousin Lucy Thompson as she flipped back her long brown hair off her shoulders. Lucy was only eighteen, not the youngest of them but close. She was very pretty and had for the last three years been following Lance like a lost dog begging him to help her with her portfolio in the hopes of becoming the world’s next top supermodel. Though she was pretty, she had an ugly attitude, in part because her parents had spoiled her.
“He will not. Lucas spends weeks planning his stunts.” Snipped his little brother Brandon Sanchez. “He wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t safe.” He said with high praise. Brandon looked exactly like their father. Tall but not scrawny, with jet black hair that dusted his collar and bright green eyes.
“I think it was cool.” Justin Sanchez laughed. The youngest of the five brothers Justin had just turned sixteen.
Around his neck a brand new Nikon D700 camera with a wide-angle lens. Justin had a passion for photography and journalism and was rather good at it. He was covering the event for his high school paper and had high hopes of becoming a photojournalist one day. Like Brandon, Justin was very tall for his age and had just begun to fill out. His face was almost angelic, and his eyes had the same silvery blue that Lance and Lucas had. Justin changed out the lens of his camera and lifted it to his eyes.
“Hey Lucas, give us a good shot for the paper.” Lucas paused and posed while his brother took the picture. None of them were novices when it came to the camera. The offspring of famous high society stars they had grown up in the lens of the paparazzi. Some of them third and fourth generation rich kids. They could be and do anything they wanted, and Lucas simply wanted just one thing; something fast enough for him to do something stupid.
Lucas saw his publicist in the distance gesture for him. A crowd was forming for autographs. He nodded and headed over leaving his family behind him. Stepping out into the flashing lights of the cameras, Lucas began small talk and signing autographs for kids and adults, receiving the odd phone number from lovely young ladies.
He was signing a giant green foam finger when someone familiar caught his eyes. She was tall with long slender legs and sensuous curves, full bust line, narrow waist, sexy swinging hips. The white dress she wore was a wonderful contrast to her light toffee complexion. Her midnight hair was loose flowing down her back. Around her swanlike neck was a thin gold chain. Her skirt hung to her knees, and she was wearing a pair of calf-high white high heeled boots. She looked incredible, even better than the last time he had seen her in his bedroom eleven years ago.
Maxine’s father had been transferred a week after, and with Lucas being laid up with a broken leg he hadn’t the opportunity to say goodbye, but God to heaven if she didn’t look gorgeous. She was no little girl now; she had grown into a beautiful woman. A woman that he most certainly wanted to resurrect a relationship with.
Oh god, he noticed her. Maxine knew he would. She had hoped he wouldn’t, but he had, and from the look in his bright eyes, he recognized her right away. Now he was blowing off the last few autographs and coming her way. Her heart was beating so loud in her ears praying to god he didn’t blow everything.
“John Greenleaf Whittier.” He said with a smile as he stood in front of her.
Maxine was confused. “I’m sorry?” She said not sure what he meant.
Lucas only laughed. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ - John Greenleaf Whittier said it.”
Maxine searched her mind and recalled the last time she had seen him. It had been in his room, and that had been the last thing she had said to him. A smile curved her mouth.
“I can’t believe you remember that.”
“You look good.” He said with a dashing smile.
“Life is good.” She said taking Carlos by the hand. Carlos was a jealous man, and the last thing she needed was for Lucas to rouse his jealousy. “Lucas this is my boyfriend, Carlos Lopez.” She said reluctantly introducing them. Lucas shook Carlos’ hand with a gracious smile he had perfected.
“You know Lucas Sanchez?” Carlos asked with latent curiosity.
Maxine forced a smile she didn’t feel. “We went to high school together.” She said simply drawing a curious look from Lucas.
“I thought we were friends.” He said awkwardly.
Now she felt bad. She found herself trapped between two lives. “I dated Lucas’ friend.” She explained to Carlos. “How about an autograph?” She asked changing the subject. “Carlos is a big fan.”
“Sure,” Lucas said signing the small poster on the wall beside them. He then took it down and handed it to Carlos.
“Thank you.” Carlos smiled. “It’s great to meet you. Even better to know someone that knows you personally.” Maxine knew that look in his eyes. Carlos was scheming. She didn’t like the way he was looking at Lucas. “Tell me are you free for dinner tonight? Perhaps we could dine together, and you and Maxine here can get caught up.”
“I’m sure he is busy.” Maxine piped up. She didn’t want them to get to know one another. She didn’t want Carlos near Lucas or anywhere near his world.
“Not really. I would love to make dinner.” Maxine’s heart sunk. Lucas had no idea what he was getting himself into. Carlos was a bad man looking to branch out into the profitable world of high society, and Lucas Sanchez was a foot in the door.
“I know this quaint little Italian spot nearby,” Carlos said eagerly.
Lucas smiled that same old smile that melted hearts. He had always been a looker. “Just let me change, and I’ll meet you at the back door.” He said waving someone over an older woman in a stylish red paint suit. “This is my PR agent Edith she’ll show you the way.”
Maxine wished he hadn’t suggested dinner. It could be nothing but bad. They watched as Lucas walked away signing a few more autographs along the way. “This is good.” Carlos smiled at Maxine. “Why didn’t you tell me you knew a man like Sanchez. He is well connected?”
“Honestly I had forgotten all about the man. We were children when I last saw him.” She said. That wasn’t exactly the truth, Maxine had thought about Lucas frequently as she grew up. The one that got away. The what-ifs had always tormented her. What if he had asked her out? What if her father hadn’t gotten transferred? What if his leg hadn’t been broken? What if…?
The truth was she never expected to see him again and now that she had the what-ifs were nagging at her once more. Only this was no time to be finding out. She knew exactly why Carlos wanted to have dinner with Lucas and it wasn’t because he was a fan. He wanted Lucas to do his dirty work, and frankly, she wasn’t sure how Lucas would respond when Carlos propositioned him.
They waited near the rear exit of the auditorium waiting for Lucas. It took almost half an hour which didn’t surprise her but what did was how patient Carlos was waiting for Lucas. He wasn’t the type of man that waited on anyone he must want Lucas on the payroll.
Then she saw him. Lucas came their way with that same sly smile and confident, cocky strut he always had. Only now he was a man and what a man he had become. He was tall, and he had filled out nicely with broad shoulders and narrow hips. Long, lean, powerful legs and muscled arms. He wore a pair of stonewashed jeans looking like he had poured himself into them, and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. His wild dark hair had been brushed and jelled in a rather stylish way. In his hands were a pair of dark designer sunglasses.
Maxine watched as he put his shades on and flashed a winning style. “Let’s eat.” He said coming to stand in front of them. He pushed open the door, and they stepped out. Parked in the nearest stall was a black Nissan Silvia S15 with a metallic green stripe down either side with an expensive set of ten thousand-dollar Michelin PAX run-flat tires. This amazing car had to be Lucas’s ride.
“That is some car,” Carlos commented running his hand over the hood. “I did not realize stunt driving was so profitable.”
“It’s not,” Lucas explained. “I have a trust fund.” He said taking out his keys with a smile. “Third generation rich kid. My parents are loaded.”
“I see.” Carlos frowned; there went his enticement of money. As they appreciated Lucas’s car, Carlos’ car pulled up. He had told his driver to meet them in the back, and the driver had been waiting down the alley waiting to see Carlos step out. There was no question that Lucas would want to drive his car. “I will have my driver give you directions to the restaurant,” Carlos said snapping his fingers. The driver jumped and was at Lucas’s side in seconds giving him the directions.
“I’ll just follow you.” Lucas offered instead of trying to memorize what the man was saying.
“Very well,” Carlos said, and the driver returned to the car and opened the back door. Maxine got in first, and Carlos followed. She watched through the window as Lucas got into his car and started it up. “This may be difficult.” He sighed. “What is his vice?”
How was she supposed to know? They had been kids the last she saw him, and back then his only vice was speed and airtime. “I confess I don’t know him that well.” She couldn’t possibly think of one thing Carlos could offer Lucas that Lucas couldn’t get for himself.