A thin cloud of dust was floating in toward the bleachers from the riders already practicing when Jayson Kennedy arrived for the Friday night race. He pulled his Chevy pickup in next to that of Matt Schultz, and looked around for his best friend. Deciding Matt was signing in, Jayson pulled down the gate to his truck and changed from a baggy pair of jeans and a ratty pair of sneakers to his racing pants and riding boots, then pulled a ratty Fox t-shirt over his head and made way for the clubhouse. Jayson spotted Matt talking with a couple of their fellow racers just at the end of the sign up table. He registered, then joined the group.
"Matt, what's going on?" Jayson could tell from the conversation that something was up. There was never this kind of tension between riders.
"There's a new girl," Matt informed him, once the group had dispersed and the two were heading back to their trucks to unload and start practicing. Motocross was a sport that was relatively newer to the female base, so a new girl in town - whatever town that may be - usually caused a stir.
"A new girl? So Sara and Laurie will have their own class now," he surmised. The track only had the two other female racers, and it was track policy that there had to be three riders to make a class. As it was, Sara Johnson and Laurie Lindsay were racing with the men's classes, but weren't gaining a lot of points because they couldn't keep up as well.
"Yeah. Laurie's pissed," Matt replied. Sara mostly kept to herself and her father, but Laurie had always been outgoing. She and Matt had been dating for just over a year.
"Why? I would think she would be happy about it. I haven't ever met a girl who races like Laurie does. She definitely does much better than Sara at keeping up."
"Well, you know how Laurie is about other girls. I guess she got a glimpse of this chick at the practice last night. You didn't hear it from me, but I think she's intimidated."
"By the girl's racing or looks or what?"
Matt shrugged as he pulled his helmet on, making sure the strap was not too tight under his chin. He waited for Jayson to gear up and then they headed to the line together. Both of the men kept their eyes open, but this new girl was nowhere to be seen. After five practice laps, they met back up at the trucks. Laurie was waiting for her boyfriend, who greeted her with a kiss.
"Hey Jayson," Laurie greeted after realizing Matt wasn't standing by himself.
"Laurie, how's it going?"
"Right now, fine. Waiting for the new chick to show up. Then we'll see."
"Feeling a little intimidated?" Jayson smiled. He and Laurie clashed most of the time. Out of respect for Matt, he usually opted to keep his sarcastic comments at bay, but tonight, he was feeling a little more mischievous. He felt better about it when Matt looked away, attempting not to laugh.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Laurie bit back.
"Oh, come on, Laurie. You consider yourself to be pretty hot stuff around here, and if this new chick comes in and is better than you, well, I don't foresee you taking that very well."
"Look here, Jayson Kennedy. I am the best female racer around here, and that's not going to change. I am not intimidated by this girl; I just don't need her coming in here acting like she's hot when we know I am going to top this new class every week."
"Yeah, okay. If that's how you want to mask it."
"What is this chick's name, anyway?" Matt interjected.
"Rylan Cael," Laurie replied. "She's from California, I think."
"I guess she'll have to be warned about you Southern girls," Jayson teased Laurie. They lived in southeast Kansas, but Laurie still considered herself to be just as southern as any girl from Texas. Jayson often liked to point out to her that she didn't even have an accent.
"All right, Jay, give my girl a break," Matt broke in. "Come on, L. Let's go get something to drink before the first heat."
Jayson scowled behind Laurie's back. He pulled out his toolbox and began making a few minor adjustments to his bike. He remembered the days before Laurie, when he and Matt would ride every day, rain or shine. Most of Matt's time was now spent with Laurie; Jayson tried to understand, knowing that at 22, they were still young, but getting more serious about relationships. Part of him was jealous about losing the time with his best friend, but the other part of him just couldn't stand the girl. The nice case of Third Wheel Syndrome didn't help, either. Matt encouraged him to date, but Jayson couldn't find himself satisfied with any girls that came his way. If he could have it his way, it would be him, his motocross, his best friend, and no other worries in the world.
It was just more than an hour later when Matt and Jayson were finally able to see the new girl ride. Rylan Cael missed practices that day, giving everyone at the track a chance to speculate about her riding ability, as well as her commitment. Jayson needed to be headed to the line, but he told Matt to go on ahead without him. He leaned on the fence that separated the spectators from the track, and watched as the three girls waited for the gate to drop. What was actually seconds felt like minutes, but the gate did finally hit the dirt, sending the three riders out on to the track. Laurie came out first, but Rylan was right behind her, gaining the holeshot. As the first lap of five progressed through the first set of doubles, and a set of whoops not long after, it became very clear to Jayson why Laurie was intimidated by the newcomer. Rylan was a strong rider, and knew how to handle the bike she was riding. She anticipated every move Laurie or Sara would make to pass her. Rylan took first, Laurie second, and Sara third, moving the first and second place riders to the main event later that evening. Jayson just shook his head, knowing Laurie would be full of things to say about Rylan for the rest of the evening. He couldn't stay around to watch her and find out where she was parked, already way behind his group gathering for their moto, but he knew he would be on the lookout for Rylan Cael for the rest of the evening.
Jayson waited impatiently in line at the concession stand. It was a warm night, and the crowd was larger than the previous week. He stretched his neck from side to side, and brushed more dirt off of his pants. His front tire planted before the rest of his bike did going off the first jump, and the humiliating face plant he performed knocked him into the second heat to make the main. Unfortunately, his bike had other ideas, and he called it a night for racing. He was right now trying to invest in a cheeseburger but the family of four at the front of the line seemed to be holding that up. Letting out an exasperated sigh, he almost didn't hear the voice behind him.
"That was quite a digger." Jayson turned to see a petite girl standing behind him. Her riding gear was covered in the same dust that seemed to be settling in on the crowd. Jayson knew immediately who she was, without a hint or having to ask.
"Excuse me?" Jayson asked. He had heard her the first time, but now was having trouble processing her comment.
"I said, that was quite a digger you took in the first heat."
"Oh, yeah. That was one of those jumps where you know you're going to case it by the time you're about halfway back to the ground."
"I know what you mean. Back in California, where I'm from, coming out of the first straight, there was this huge tabletop and I cased it, bad. I mean like, on my side, not even face first or anything half as embarrassing." She laughed remembering it.
Jayson realized that the line had moved up, so he followed. "California? You must be Rylan Cael, then."
"Guilty," Rylan winced. "I love being the new kid in town."
"Well, I haven't seen you around before, and my friend's girlfriend was telling me earlier about the new rider being from California."
"Does she race?"
"Yeah, in your class. Laurie Lindsay."
"Oh, yes, Laurie Lindsay. I think she's warming up to me," Rylan joked.
Jayson chuckled at Rylan's sarcasm. The girl apparently already had some interaction with Laurie, and was on the same side as Jayson with her perspective. He faced the front of the line again, as Rylan seemed to be talking to someone else she had already met, but knew he had to talk to her again. He got his cheeseburger and a bottle of water, then started the walk back to his truck. Rylan was just a few feet away from him minutes later, and he decided this was his chance.
"Hey," he said, tapping her shoulder. "I'm Jayson Kennedy, by the way."
Rylan flashed him a smile. "Nice to meet you, Jayson Kennedy."
"It's nice to meet you, too." They stood awkwardly for a few moments. "Well, look, I've been coming to this track my whole life, and I've lived in this city for about the same amount of time, so if you need anything, let me know."
"Thanks, I will. Do you want to sit and eat with me? I have about twenty minutes before I have to get ready for the main."
Jayson agreed, and by the time Rylan headed off for her main event race - which she again took first in - he was completely hooked. The conversation between them was good, and he loved her sense of humor. If that first meeting was any indication, Jayson knew he was going to fall for this girl one day soon.
A/N: I usually won't include an author's note with my chapters, but since this is my first chapter, I thought I would go ahead and give the disclaimer that I realize the motocross-lingo in this story may not be correct or even factual; I have grown up around motocross, but I understand that doesn't make me expert. Please forgive any errors! Enjoy the story.