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More than Skin Deep

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Chapter 1

Edward wanted to kick his own ass for listening to the manipulating bitch.

With his phone pressed to his ear, he gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. Even though his patience was spread thin as ice, he still listened to her ramblings.

Why are you doing this? We could have it all.

There was no we. Not anymore.

Can't you just quit? What you're doing is really dangerous.

That was only half the fun.

He didn't belong in her world—of actors, producers and scumbags with egos the size of Everest and tailored suits, who manipulated each situation to their own liking.

Edward preferred dirt. He lived it, breathed it. There was nothing more satisfying and thrilling than getting on his bike and testing out those dirt tracks. 

Well, maybe sex.

Sex was thrilling, and with the right woman it was fan-fucking-tastic. Legs spread. Or on her knees. No commitment. No repercussions. Just… pleasure.

The perfect arrangement.  

"Edward? Edward! Are you even listening to me?" Tanya's shrill voice penetrated his eardrum.

Tanya was gorgeous. That was until she had fucked her way into the leading role of the next hot shot movie. She was all teeth, tits and Botox. With killer legs that Edward had once drooled over.

Now, his balls didn't even heat at the thought of her shapely legs.

"T, we don't have anything to talk about." Edward kept his voice even, running his fingers through his tousled hair.

"But we are so good together," she whined, using her breathy sex voice. “We could be great…”

Edward imagined her lips in a pout. If it had been a few weeks prior, he would have taken the opportunity and shoved his cock deep down her throat.

Now, he didn't want to know how she had been since they'd stopped seeing each other—or, more accurately, fucking each other. 

"Are you seeing someone else?”

He wasn't seeing anyone – for the first time in about a few weeks. Since she'd fucked that sleazy producer for a part, Edward couldn't drum up any interest to look for a new fuck buddy. Tanya's betrayal shouldn't have bothered him that much, but for some damn reason it did. Even the friendship they'd cultivated over the years tasted sour; like two week old milk.

He massaged the knot in his neck, grinding his teeth. His body still ached from the test runs he'd completed during the day. He had stood under the hot shower for a full twenty minutes, stretching, but his muscles and head still ached.

He'd like nothing more than a beautiful woman with a gorgeous body to distract him from his discomfort.

Nothing.

"Not that it's any of your business, but no," he stated, his patience thinning further.

"That's good…" Hope sounded in her voice.

"T, I gotta go. I'll talk to you later." With anger surging through his veins, he disconnected the call and threw his phone on the bed.

He leaned his elbows on his knees and sank his fingers in his hair again, tugging until it hurt. Women like Tanya had everything handed to them. All she had to do was flash her tits or fuck some loser and the world was hers. Edward worked to make his living.

Yeah, he had good looks, but his sponsors didn't care about his looks, only his skill. With his visor down, he looked like every other rider on the circuit. In truth, what he did to earn his cash was more fun than work, for all the danger involved. Riding was his life. He'd ridden since he was fifteen years old and his father had bought him that piece of shit motorbike. He'd scraped and saved, working a part time job while going to school, and restored the damn thing himself. Pride had surged through him as he turned the ignition, kicked the pedal back and it rumbled to life.

Carlisle sure was regretting that purchase now, stating that Edward was sending him to an early grave. His mother constantly fretted over him after each race, calling to make sure her baby boy was unharmed. 

He loved what he did and did what he loved.

Adrenaline was his middle name.

Dark thoughts of his childhood started to creep into his mind causing him to growl. He needed to relax, focus on the race. He needed a fucking drink, and he knew just who'd join him.

Shot for fucking shot.

-MTSD-

Leaning against the passenger door of Rose's red sports car, Bella gripped her phone between her fingers, anxiety creeping up her spine as she watched the dark wooden door of the bar. This was way out of her comfort zone. Everything in her was screaming to turn and run back to the comfort of her apartment. If it weren't for the deadline or her best friend and adoptive sister Rose, she'd be in her office on the computer, perfecting the algorithm. Smoothing out the slight kinks in the code. 

She didn't have to try to keep a conversation alive with her computer. Her fingers did the talking. Simple, really.

With her lower lip wedged between her teeth, she sighed and watched people entering the bar.

Sensing her discomfort, Rose lay a gentle hand on Bella's arm. "You can do this."

Bella started to shake her head no, but Rose continued. "Look at it this way. You can use that app, algorithm, code, whatever to hook up tonight. Let some handsome stranger fuck the tension out of you before you get on that plane tomorrow." She winked, gripping Bella's arm a little tighter in assurance. "I know it's tough, but it's been a few years and you could use a night out for once." Sensing Bella's tension, she pointed to Bella's phone, needing to get her friend back on track. "You built that sucker and if some bigwigs from DC are interested, that's a big fucking deal."

Yes, Bella and three of her colleagues had written the algorithm, and it was their responsibility to test it, make sure it worked. It was a big deal to be recognized in this manner, and Bella was truly proud of what they had accomplished.

Rose leaned her head back and sighed, light from the streetlamp illuminating her stunning features, and asked the same question Bella had already answered twice before leaving their apartment. "How does that…” she twirled her finger towards Bella's phone. “...work again?"

Bella rolled her eyes and smiled, enjoying the distraction. Why was it so difficult to perform a simple task, collect the data and analyze it? This was the highlight of her career.

"Ok, Rose. For the third time tonight, this app scans the WiFi networks in close proximity, connecting to each cell phone's IMEI number. It breaks through the security and firewalls, and in turn, I collect data regarding social media use, Google searches, etc. And I can also send them a message… if I want to." Rose rolled her blue eyes and motioned with her hand for Bella to continue. She opened the app and watched as it searched for nearby wifi connections. After a few seconds, the IMEI number for Rose's phone appeared on the screen.

"Like so." She showed Rose her phone, the display showing Rose's IMEI number.

"That is so weird and totally invading my privacy."

Bella sighed. "I know." She had tried to wiggle her way out of testing the features, but her boss was relentless, insisting that she was the brains behind it and he needed the results directly from her. To him, it didn't matter that it was a major breach of privacy or that she had only wanted to create a harmless friends/dating app. 

Rose nodded, scrunching her nose as if she knew exactly what Bella was talking about. "And what do the hotshots want with this technology?"

"That I can't tell you," Bella said, her eyes straying to the door of the bar, the neon light blinking in the dark night. She didn't want to think of the many ways this program could be altered to suit their… agendas.

Rose started to say something else, but Bella heard none of it.

Her gaze traveled over the two fine male specimens that had just exited a blue pickup truck, both built rugged and sexy. The one on the left smiled, dimples appearing on his cheeks. He had dark brown hair, a grey t-shirt stretching over his toned muscles and black jeans.

As handsome as he was, it was the other man who threw Bella's body all out of balance. He looked about Bella's age, his auburn hair sticking out from under a baseball cap, his full, kissable lips stretched into a grin as he slammed the driver side door shut. His face was dirtied with a couple of days' worth of scruff, and his long legs filled out torn, faded blue jeans, which ended in scuffed black boots. The finishing touch, his muscled torso, was covered in the sexiest black leather jacket.

Rose bumped Bella's shoulder. "Wowza. Those two men are a testament that there is a God somewhere."

Bella lifted her brows and released a long, slow sigh without taking her eyes off Biker Boy. "He's just…" She couldn't find words for the lust heating her blood, the desire zapping new connections between cells all over her body. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt this way. "Wow."

The men's heads turned lazily, mirroring each other's movements. But they were complete opposites, like Bella and Rose. Dimples was all light and smiles. Biker Boy all shadows and intensity. His confident smirk screamed reckless and rebellious.

"I agree with you," Rose said breathlessly.

Bella heard Rose, but her other senses were arrested. Biker Boy had locked on to her with an awareness that made all other noise fade. He didn't smile. Didn't blink. Nothing. He just stared at her with the kind of stare that heated her insides until she wanted to start shedding clothes and made her envision the crazy, sexual things she only read about in books.

She couldn't see his eyes, but could feel the weight of his stare on her skin. His face was just… gorgeous, with hard lines and perfect angles. But he wasn't pretty. No, but definitely rugged.

"Looks like you got someone's attention," Rose whispered in her ear. "Go get him, girl. He's smokin' hot."

"I…" She started, the words dying on her tongue. She was trapped in his gaze, not able to breathe.

Rose laughed again, making Bella smile. Biker Boy's tongue slid over his bottom lip, and his fingers twitched at his side, thumbs brushing along fingertips. The hair sticking out from beneath his cap ruffled slightly with the night breeze.

Bella's lungs seized to hold back a moan. Oh, it definitely had been too long since she'd experienced mind-blowing, toe-curling, back-arching sex, and never with someone as deliciously handsome as him.

Biker Boy's head snapped towards his friend, his mouth moving as he spoke. He turned away from Bella, popping the collar of his jacket, and entered the bar without a backwards glance. His jacket had a green strip of leather high across the back and the letters of the motorcycle company, Kawasaki, in white block letters from shoulder to shoulder.

That was the most gorgeous man… and he was walking away.

Disappointment pinched in Bella's chest, but oh, the way he moved… fluid, smooth, confident.

Then he was gone, the door closing with a dull thud, disappearing from Bella's view. It left an unfamiliar feeling in her gut.

"Now, you have a reason to test the app."

Bella's head swiveled around to face Rose. Her friend grinned at her. "I saw the way he looked at you." She patted Bella's shoulder encouragingly, pointing at the bar's entrance. "Go get him."

It would be so simple. Bella could walk into that bar, take a seat, open the app and let it do its thing. She'd have a connection to him within seconds. But what she wanted to do with that made her question her sanity.

"Come on. Let's get a drink." Rose pushed off the car before Bella could protest.

Bella collected her hair into a ponytail, thinking how quickly two people could build a fire between them, like that heated exchange with Biker Boy. She closed her eyes and dropped her forehead into her hands, then followed Rose into the bar.

The bar wasn't overly crowded, a few patrons sitting at booths while others nursed various concoctions at the bar. Lights hung low from the ceiling giving it a warm, welcoming glow. Glasses clinked, people laughed, and the bartender flitted from one end of the bar to the next, filling an empty glass while chatting with a few people with an easy smile on his face.

Rose ordered a couple of glasses of white wine for them and took a seat opposite from her. Bella was hesitating, gnawing on her bottom lip and picking her nails.

Rose tossed her hands in the air. "That guy looked at you like he'd do you in the nearest bathroom. Go find him. The extent of your conversation can be 'yes.'" She moaned the last word.

Bella rolled her eyes, taking a tentative sip of her wine. "Screwing in the bathroom of a bar. Cliché much?"

Rose sighed. "I'm not talking about forever, girl. And you know, I'm not serious about the bathroom thing. I'm just talking about letting go a little. God knows you need it. I'm starting to think you have cobwebs growing over your vagina."

"I do not have cobwebs," Bella growled defensively, her eyes scanning the area around them, wondering if anyone had overheard.

But letting go, God, that sounded good. Bella wanted to let go — a lot. It felt like forever since she'd been able to. Her breath shuddered, her mind briefly flickering to painful memories before pushing them back down.

Rose excused herself to go to the bathroom after a few minutes, leaving Bella to her own devices. She looked at her phone, the anxiety creeping back. Could she do this?

"It's just a simple test," she muttered to herself. "Collect the data and go." She cracked her knuckles and picked up her phone. "Simple."

She opened the app, sucked in a deep calming breath as it loaded and connected to the bars' open WiFi network. A few IMEI numbers popped up and she knew that one of them had to be his. As the app did its job — more numbers filling the screen — she began to contemplate what to text him. 

Hi. How's it going? seemed too cliche and weird — too stalkerish. He'd never respond, nor give it a second glance. 

Her eyes slowly rose from her screen. Just seeing him, that thick, auburn hair, the wide shoulders stretching that black T-shirt as he drew his arm back and threw a dart, rekindled the yearning he'd created with a single look outside.

This was the kind of man she craved – a rough-around-the-edges, blue-collar, hard-loving man. A few tattoos and confidence in the bedroom. Completely opposite from the men she used to date. Not that there were many, but the few she had dated had been the slick, proper, prim type.

What she could imagine right now was Biker Boy pulling her up against his hard body, tasting her with his hot mouth, sliding off her clothes, pushing deep inside her…

The thrill of those thoughts pulsed in her blood, pooled heat between her legs and shot need low into her belly, where it gnawed into an unbearable ache.

Bella bit her lip and looked at the opened app again. A little harmless, anonymous flirting would allow her to get to know him better. She tested the texting feature out on a few numbers on the screen. When it worked perfectly – each person picking up their phones and looking at the display after she'd texted them – she revaluated her target.

There were a few numbers left on her screen and one of them had to be Biker Boy's. Through a process of elimination — each patron checking their phones when it beeped with a spam message she'd sent — Bella managed to narrow it down to his number. She opened the texting feature and hesitated. She needed some clever way to open the conversation.

She watched him as he threw dart after dart, laughing with his friend. A waitress walked past Biker Boy just as he took a step back from the dart board, sending her tray, loaded with drinks, crashing to the floor. Bella gasped audibly and quickly covered her mouth.

Biker Boy spun around and took hold of the waitress's arms before she toppled over. Beer spilled on his shirt and onto his jacket.

"Holy shit," Bella murmured. He had some quick moves.

With a slight tilted smirk on his lips, he said something to the waitress, causing her to nod. Biker Boy grabbed a few napkins from the table and lowered his head in another apology. Bella watched his mouth form the words I'm sorry. The waitress patted his arm, a flirty smile on her lips and went to the back, returning with a mop.

Bella's fingers flew across the small keyboard as she texted the number.

Quick moves, Kawasaki! You know, in medieval times, having beer spilled on you was a sign of prosperity and attractiveness.