Ch. 8 - Secrets

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What was she going to do? Rhianna stepped out onto the porch of the Soda Shoppe. She stuffed the bag of popcorn balls into her backpack, and slung it over her shoulders. She got the feeling that there was some kind of history between Pippa and the Soda Shop owner. Would bringing it up get her in trouble? There were too many secrets to keep track of in the house. Far more secrets than she was even aware, she was sure.

She had been keeping secrets her whole life. But this was reaching a new level. And why should she worry about Pippa's secrets? What did she owe the old woman? Nothing.

Maybe a warm place to sleep and food.

But that wasn't coming free; she was doing plenty of chores. Rhianna could probably leave the farm and take perfectly good care of herself. But if she left, how would her mom find her?

She kept the cell phone nearby at all times, resisting the urge to use it. But mom could forget, or misplace, the number. It had happened enough times with other prepaid phones. Their pre-arranged meeting places were the only reason they had found each other a couple times. The number one rule of the road was not listen to Momma—it was: make sure Momma listens to you.

The farm was it—all she had to cling to as a meeting place. But, without a time and a date for her mom's return, Rhianna had to hang around, no matter how annoying it got. It may be full of rules and secrets, but at least it was safe.

Rhianna was most interested in keeping her own secrets. If Gretch and the girls came over on Friday would she be able to? Life around Murderkill could go from annoying to unbearable if all the kids in town knew about her past. Or what if someone snitched to the local authorities?

She was about to get the trike when she saw a familiar figure out of the corner of her eye. She turned in time to see Boscoe Feeney step up onto the Soda Shoppe porch. Rhianna crouched behind the petunia planter and then peeked over the top. He had his back to her, but it was definitely him. She used the moment to creep, low to the ground, into the narrow space between the Soda Shoppe and the brick building next door.

She paused, leaning against the wall. Boscoe, or Boss as he preferred to be called, the owner of a stinky sofa Rhianna had crashed on a few months back, here, in Murderkill?

She hadn't pegged him as the stalker type, but she had convinced her mom it was better to move on and slip out in the middle of the night after she saw the kind of douche bags he brought home with him. The stray needle on the kitchen table had been the last straw. She listened for the sound of the bell chiming, but it didn't come. He remained on the porch. What was he waiting for?

Then she heard boot steps on the wooden boards, coming toward her, away from the door.

She dashed toward the back of the building and came out into an alley. A boy sat on a Yamaha motorcycle. He wore jeans, a white sleeveless shirt, and a helmet with a dark visor, so she couldn't see his face.

She grabbed the other helmet from the pillion seat behind him and jammed it on her head. "Are you gonna sit there, or are you gonna give me a ride?" she asked.

He tilted the bike up and kicked the stand back, revving the engine in answer.

Rhianna threw her leg over the seat behind him, hanging on to the low back bar as the motorcycle lurched forward and sped away. Boscoe stood in the alley watching them. Did he know it was her? He must. She would have to give up coming to town for sweets if he was hanging around. But why was he here?

The boy took a couple turns and then blasted down a country road like it was the Autobahn. Rhianna's hair whipped around her visor and she did her best to gather it and shove it up under her helmet.

Her heart still pounded in her chest, but from the exhilarating ride, not Boscoe. It had been ages since she'd ridden on a motorcycle. Much better than that embarrassing granny-trike. The boy took them up over a rise in the road, rare in the surrounding flat farmland, and her stomach stayed up while they came down. She couldn't help letting out a whoop.

Finally, he slowed down and flipped up his visor. She still couldn't see his face from her angle behind him. He said something, and she flipped up her visor so she could hear him.

"What?" she shouted over the high-pitched throttle of the engine.

"I said, you haven't told me where you wanted a ride to."

She laughed into the wind, letting go of the back bar to hold her arms out. "You brought me exactly where I needed to go!"

He shook his helmet back and forth, as if to say she was crazy, and she finally humored him by telling him the address of Pippa's farm. He slapped his visor down after that and didn't say anything else. He punched up the speed as fast as he could go and leaned down low over the handle bars, so the wind hit Rhianna full on. She whooped some more as the broken yellow line on the road almost blurred into a solid line.

Finally, they pulled up in front of the farm and she patted him on the shoulder to tell him to stop at the end of the driveway, instead of driving her all the way up to the house. She already had enough explaining to do about why she left the trike in town. He stopped and let her get off before kicking down the stand.

"Thanks for the ride," she said, putting his spare helmet back and running her fingers through the tangles in her hair.

"Anytime." He pulled off his helmet and she could finally see his lean face and golden brown hair, which was standing up funny. He ran his hand through it, self consciously. "So what's your name?"

"What's yours?" she teased, suddenly nervous.

"Grayson." He shrugged, eyes fixed on scratch on the helmet in his lap.

He was a couple years older than her, at least. Mom would not approve. She was sometimes as paranoid about boys around Rhianna as much as she was about horses. "Rhianna," she said finally. Then ran up the driveway before he could ask anything else.

A/N: Gosh, I'm terribly sorry it has been 12 days since my last update. I intend to do updates every week, several if I can. But Until the end of August I may be a bit spotty. robertlslater hired me to edit his new book and he is a slave driver with deadlines LOL. I have only until August 19th to give all of my feedback on his whole book. So this is me barely coming up for air. 

Then August 19th I leave for World Con. Woot! I mean when World Con comes to your backyard, you gotta got, right? Anyway after August 23rd, I will be much more reliable, I promise. Thank you so much for reading. So what do you think of Grayson? Is he trouble?

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