The Biker and the Gamer - S. Ann Cole

You Look Nothing Like My Dreams by Front Porch Step


“Whoa, whoa, we’re wobbling! What’s that noise?”

I shift a quick glance to Cedric, my best friend and work partner, who’s currently gripping the emergency handle above his head in panic.

Keeping a firm grip on the juddering steering wheel, I calmly steer the Wrangler out of the thickening traffic and over to the side of the road.

Switch the ignition off.

“The engine failed,” I say out loud.

Cedric blows out a breath and lets go of the emergency handle, sweeping his hand down his face as if to erase the little-boy fright from his features. Too late. I’m never going to let him live it down. That’s the way it is between us.

Cedric Drake is overly intense about everything. He cares about life more than life cares about life, while I’m a shrug-and-go kind of guy. Never one to weep over spilled milk or worry about things I can’t change.

“Eight more minutes and we’d have been home,” Tiffany, my PA, mumbles from the back seat. “I’ll find out which of the teams are closest, ping them our location.”

“Nah,” I say. “The traffic’s getting crazier by the minute, it’ll take them forever to get here. We’re better off footing it the rest of the way home.”

I pull on the lever to open the door and jump out of the Jeep, stretching my arms over my head. I love everything about Denver. Everything except the traffic.

The traffic here sucks big time. And this is coming from a Californian, born and raised. Sun-bleached hair, tanned skin and all. I have a fascination with Denver, more specifically RiNo. I’ve made several two-night visits during travels. But this time I’m sticking around for a few months.

Denver is the chosen setting for our next open-world game, and we’ve temporarily moved half of our development team here for fieldwork and research. We’ve just wrapped up another day of work and are headed back to offices when the engine decides to fail.

Fingers laced behind my head, I glance around, contemplating the best course of action right now. Call a tow truck or hike back to the offices and deal with it tomorrow?

I pause when I spot a marquee six blocks down. The Metal House Auto Services. Talk about a lucky coincidence.

I pop my head inside the Jeep. “There’s an auto shop a few blocks down. It’s too far to make out the number, so I’m gonna walk it. Get some help. Coming?”

Drake glances in the rearview mirror as if to verify this. “Uh, you can go ahead with Tiffy. I’ll stay here and watch the Jeep.”

Not that I expected any other response from him. God forbid my sharp, fashionable friend should walk six blocks in the dimming sun and sweat out the armpits of his eight-hundred-dollar shirt. Cedric Drake is confident and flashy and prides himself on his perpetually impeccable appearance. We’re polar opposites in every way possible. Night and day. And still, we work. Been best buds since freshman year.

Tiffany climbs out of the back and joins me. She might be mousy, taciturn, and bookish, but she’s reliable and, most importantly, always up for an adventure—unlike Cedric.

Shaking her head, she brushes dull-brown bangs from her eyes and looks up at me through her red-rimmed spectacles as she asks, “Did you honestly expect any other answer from him?”

I laugh and begin the six-block trek. “Nope.”

We make it to the red-black-and-chrome establishment in under five minutes, pushing the plexiglass double doors open and sounding a chime over our heads.

A receptionist with long, purplish hair, a septum nose ring, and a pierced lower lip is propped up behind the counter, texting away on her phone.

Her head pops up when the chime goes off. “Crap, I thought I closed that,” she mutters to no one in particular. She sets her phone down as we approach the counter. “I’m sorry, but we close at six and it’s six-twenty-eight now.”

I shrug and press my palms to the counter. “Yeah, well, the sign said ‘Open’ and the door wasn’t locked, so…”

“Sorry, that was my—” she begins to say, but I don’t care. I need auto service and I’m going to get it.

“My engine failed. Six blocks up. Do you have a tow-truck service?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Aw, shit, this thing is friggin’ hawt!”

All three of us look to the left where another girl emerges from the back with a cup of Ramen in one hand, a fork in the other, and her mouth half-open with strings of curly noodles dangling from her