The roar of an engine roused Matt from his daydream, loud enough to shake the windows in their panes. He brushed off his white apron, preparing for the ringing of the bell that would indicate that a customer had walked into the diner. It was almost midnight on a Sunday and business was slow, he was staffing the restaurant by himself tonight but whipping up a meal for the handful of customers that he expected to pass through was not difficult. His family owned the establishment, the only eatery in their small town, located up in the North of Washington state. There was a neon sign hanging outside that cast the parking lot in its pink glare, a checkered linoleum floor, along with a jukebox and all of the other little amenities that one would have expected.

It was not a themed diner, the outdated décor was not ironic, it was merely as old as his father’s sensibilities. Matt found it insufferable, but it was the family business, and he had turned out to be one hell of a cook. It must run in his blood. Working in a diner was one way to pay for college, round these parts it was either that or logging. Most of the people who he served were truckers carting felled trees from the logging camps up North, and he was sorry to say that they rarely appreciated his talents. Eggs over easy and a pot of coffee was about all they ever ordered, he wouldn’t be charring a crème brulee with a blowtorch or serving any aperitifs while he worked here. You would think that for an aspiring chef the family business being a restaurant would be a boon, but cooking in this town made him feel like a Broadway singer performing on the side of the street for loose change.

He glanced out of the long window that lined one wall of the diner, the yellow glow from the visitor’s headlights going dark as the rumbling of their engine subsided. The weather was cooling, and the pine forests that surrounded their lot on the lonely road had an eerie quality at this time of night. The Moon was waxing, and its pale glow was just enough to light the trees as they blew back and forth in the wind.

Matt watched a figure walk past the window, it was a woman, her black road leathers lit by the neon sign. The bell above the door rang as she stepped inside, pulling a tinted crash helmet from her head and shaking out her long, raven hair. Her face was pale, and it stood out against her dark leather clothing, her chiseled features striking. Her black jacket was studded with badges and pins, gold buttons and zippers catching the light as she walked. Her pants fit her form so snugly that light from the neon sign outside spilled through the gap between her thighs. She creaked when she moved, her outfit so tight that it looked as if she had been vacuum packed into it. Matt had to make a conscious effort to avoid looking her over too conspicuously.

Her black boots trod heavily on the checkered floor as she made her way over to the counter, placing her helmet beside her as she took a seat on one of the stools. She leaned on the polished surface as she withdrew a packet of cigarettes from her pocket and caught one between her lips, then flipped open a silver Zippo lighter, holding the cigarette over the dancing flame before snapping it shut and taking a long draw. Matt waited patiently for her to exhale, the woman loosing a puff of smoke as she finally looked up at him.

“You here all on your own, kid?”

Kid! She didn’t look a day over twenty-five herself, but he held his tongue as he passed her a laminated menu. She took it in her gloved hand, more leather, and looked it over as she rolled her cigarette around in her mouth.

“Yes, I’m staffing the diner tonight, it’s a slow season. What can I get you? Would you like some recommendations?

She seemed disinterested in the menu, casting it aside and turning her attention to him instead. Her eyes were a cold shade of blue, and he felt a flush in his cheeks despite himself as he met her gaze.

“I’ve been on the road since this morning, came down over the border. This is the first stop I’ve come across since I left BC.”

“You’ve not eaten since breakfast? It’s midnight!”

“I guess so, these parts are pretty lonely. I like the backcountry roads though, makes for a scenic drive. Give me something hearty, I like my meat rare.”

“You got it,” Matt said, turning and making his way to the kitchen. Finally, an excuse to cook something that wasn’t just grease! She sounded like the kind of person who would enjoy a good steak, he could throw in a few onion rings and some crispy sweet potato, seal the deal with some chimichurri sauce. He lit the stove top and oiled up a pan, trying to keep the conversation going as she waited. The door was open, and the kitchen wasn’t more than a few paces away from the counter.

“So, you a biker?”

“What gave that away?” she asked sarcastically, “the motorcycle helmet?”

“Well mostly we just get truckers passing through here,” he explained, the cut of steak sizzling as he dropped it into the oil. “It’s unusual to see a biker, especially at this time of year. In the summer we sometimes see people on their way up to Vancouver, but this is a first. What brings you down our way?”

“Just passin’ through,” she replied.

“Headed anywhere special?”

“Not really. For a few days a month I like to just…get on my bike and ride. See where the road takes me.”

“Well I envy you,” Matt said as he turned over the steak, pressing his spatula down on it and watching the juices leak forth. “Wish I could just get on a bike and start riding.”

“Don’t you like being the head chef in the last port of call?”

“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t have higher aspirations than making greasy sandwiches for truckers,” he grumbled.

Before long he had her meal ready, setting the plate down in front of her. A bloody steak, fried sweet potatoes and a side of onion rings. There was a dollop of sauce atop the meat, white and garnished with chives.

Her eyes widened, she was clearly impressed, taking up the cutlery to carve out a piece of steak. It was pink inside, leaking red juice, and she hastily put out her cigarette in a nearby ashtray in order to take a bite. He watched her as she chewed, her cold expression warming.

“Well ain’t this a surprise,” she mumbled through her second mouthful of meat. “To think that I had to drive out to the middle of the damned woods to get a decent steak. What’s the name of this sauce?”

“It’s called chimichurri,” Matt replied. “It’s parsley, minced garlic, some olive oil, oregano, some flakes of red pepper, and a few spices and herbs on top of that.”

“Just what the hell are you doin’ cooking at a truck stop, kid?”

“It’s a diner,” he clarified, “my parents own the place. I’m working off college debt.”

She was really digging into the meal, she must have been famished. Matt watched in awe as she packed away the steak like someone three times her weight.

“You know, I was gonna settle for a shitty sandwich and then just drive right on through this podunk town, but maybe it’s worth sticking around for a while longer. There a motel round these parts?”

“Yeah, on the road to the South. It’s not exactly the Ritz, but they can give you a bed for the night. The guy who runs it is a friend of mine, tell him Matt sent you and he might even give you a discount.”

“Discount motel? Just my style. You gonna be around to make me breakfast, kid?”

“It’s…Matt,” he repeated, “and yeah. I’m on duty until spring, we open at six AM.”

“Shit, six? Unless you close up in the next ten minutes, you ain’t gonna get more than a few hours of shut-eye. Aren’t your parents workin’ you a little hard?”

“To be honest, we don’t get many customers around this time of year. I can get away with sleeping at the counter most days.”

He waited for a few minutes as she finished up, stopping just short of licking the juice from her plate before setting her cutlery down and rising to her feet. She picked up her crash helmet and stowed it under her arm, rummaging in one of the pockets of her leather jacket for her wallet. She pulled out a twenty, planting it on the counter.

“Keep the change, I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks! I’ll be here.”

She shot him a smile before turning to leave, Matt’s heart leaping into his throat, his eyes lingering on her as she made her way to the door. The old adage came to mind, hating to see someone go but loving to watch them leave. Those leather pants couldn’t have gotten any tighter, and her jacket cut off just above the small of her back as if to put it on display.

He averted his gaze as she left the building, the bell above the door ringing, and she turned towards the parking lot. Before long he heard the guttural roar of an engine and the yellow glow of her headlight lit the trees across the road. She pulled out, the noise swelling as she accelerated, fading quickly as she barreled away into the night.

What an odd encounter. She was beautiful, intriguing, and he hadn’t even gotten her name. The faster he closed up, the sooner he could get home and sleep. She had promised to return the next morning, and he intended to be ready for her.


Matt was up bright and early, the golden rays of the sun doing their utmost to penetrate the morning mist that hung over the pine forest, giving everything an ethereal quality as he unlocked the door and stepped into the diner. The air was crisp, cool, the scent of the conifers rising above the smell of wet grass and asphalt.

The little bell rang as he pushed the door open and he quickly got to work prepping the kitchen, losing himself in his daily routine as he awaited the telltale roar of the mysterious woman’s engine. The hands of the clock that was mounted on the wall in the kitchen had just passed seven AM when he heard it, the swell of her motorcycle as it neared. A yellow beam glanced across the diner as she turned off the road, her headlight shining through the long window on the face of the building, and he felt a surge of excitement in his chest as it went quiet.

There she was, walking along the front of the diner, removing her black crash helmet and shaking out her long hair again. She was wearing the same clothes as the day before, a black leather jacket adorned with buttons and patches and a pair of matching pants so tight that he swore she must have been sewn into them.

She raised a gloved hand in greeting as she entered, the bell above the door ringing to announce her, Matt returning the gesture as she sidled up to the counter and took a seat on one of the stools. Her leather getup creaked as she placed her helmet on the polished wood, her porcelain skin ever radiant, red lips and blue eyes standing out against it like pastel strokes on a canvas.

Matt tried not to stare as he handed her a laminated menu, unsure of whether he should be treating her as a customer or as a friend.

“Forget the menu, kid. Surprise me.”

“Sure thing, I’ll see what I can whip up.”

That was a total lie, of course. He had lain awake the previous night mulling over a dozen different recipes that he thought might impress her and the ingredients for many of them had already been set aside in the kitchen. He disappeared into the back room, and the woman rose from her seat, wandering around the diner as she waited for her meal.

He had decided on ham steaks with a topping of melted Gruyere cheese and a side of bacon and mushrooms. She seemed to be big on meat, and as he coated his frying pan with oil, he heard her call to him.

“So what’s the deal with this place, anyway? It looks something straight out of the fifties.”

His face reddened, she must be examining the ancient jukebox and the period decor. Matt didn’t find his father’s refusal to modernize the diner very flattering.

“It’s not what I would have gone with,” he called back to her, “my dad is kind of particular about how a diner should look and feel. He says people come to diners for the experience, not just for the food. The guy acts like he’s running a damned Chuck E Cheese rather than a restaurant. If there were any girls in town willing to wear roller skates, he would have hired them as waitresses.”

“And how should a restaurant look?”

He had mulled over that question many times, and he was glad of the chance to express his feelings on the matter, placing one of the ham steaks into his pan and raising his voice above the loud sizzling.

“I’d go with something a little more rustic, wood furnishings, maybe some paintings of the surrounding area on the walls. Landscapes of the forests and the mountains, things like that. There’s so much natural beauty out here. I always admired English pubs. They’re very homely, they have that lived-in feel that you just can’t get from checkered linoleum and plastic chairs. Lots of dark oak, all kinds of curiosities hanging from the walls, dim lighting so that people can relax. We could serve both drinks and meals that way, this place would actually bring in some money rather than having to share business with that seedy bar in town.”

“I passed that place on the way down, looked pretty shady.”

“It’s where all the truckers and logging crews go to drink when they’re working nearby, let’s just say that it’s not exactly a family-friendly establishment.”

“So are you gonna be here all day?” she asked.

“I’m supposed to be, yeah. Why do you ask?”

“Well, you said that business was slow, I figured you might want to show me the sights. Your parents are out of town, right? If you close up for a few hours, they’ll never find out.”

His heart skipped a beat, was she asking him out on a date? He was supposed to be running the diner, but this was their slowest season. At the absolute worst he might miss one or two customers if he went out for a while.

“Er…yeah, I can do that. Sure.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t bite,” she chuckled.

He almost dropped his skillet, glad that she couldn’t see him, then he composed himself and began to melt the cheese over the ham.

“I never did catch your name,” he said, waiting for a reply with bated breath as he chopped mushrooms.

“Do you need it?”

“I guess not…”

Once the food was done, he brought it out to her, her eyes lighting up at the sight of the plate packed high with meat. The bacon was cooked to perfection, not too soft and not too crispy, lightly drizzled with a creamy parsley sauce. There were two ham steaks, each covered in melted Gruyere cheese and garnished with herbs, along with a side of finely chopped mushrooms. She took a seat at the counter and wasted no time digging in, carving up a slice of ham and forking it into her mouth.

“Oh God,” she muttered as she chewed. “You’re a wizard, kid.”

“It’s Matt,” he corrected, but she ignored him as she took another bite.

“What kind of cheese is this?”

“Gruyere, it’s a kind of Swiss cheese, great for soups and fondues.”

“How the hell did you learn all of this anyway?” she asked as she selected a choice strip of bacon, white sauce dripping from it as she took a bite.

“I went to school for it. I got an AAS degree in culinary arts, and now I’m working off the debt.”

“Most kids go for the low hanging fruit, liberal art degrees and the like,” she added. “How’d you end up wanting to become a chef?”

“I guess it runs in my family,” Matt replied with a shrug. “My parents have always worked in the food industry, and as you already know, they own this diner. I always had a knack for cooking, and I thought that I might as well make a go of it. Earning a living doing what they love is everyone’s dream, right?”

She was too occupied with eating to reply, wolfing down the ham as if somebody might steal it from under her nose. Before long she was done, pushing the empty plate away and resting a hand on her belly as she exhaled.

“That really hit the spot.”

“You want me to get you anything else? Something to drink, a coffee maybe?”

“I’m good, kid. Now get your coat, we’re going for a ride.”

“A…ride?” Matt stammered.

She grinned at him, standing and picking up her helmet.

“Yeah, you said you’d show me the sights. What’s the matter, never ridden a bike before?”

“Oh, I thought you just meant…walking down into town or something.”

“Well you seem to like forests and mountains, you’re a nature guy, right?”

“I guess you could say that,” he replied sheepishly.

“So show me,” she insisted, more of a command than a request.

He nodded, feeling his cheeks reddening as he stepped out from behind the counter, pulling on his coat and rummaging in his pocket for the keys to the diner as he followed her out of the door. He turned to lock up as they stepped outside, the morning mist now starting to burn away as the sun rose higher in the sky, a carpet of white fog still lingering in the shade beneath the pine trees.

She beckoned to him, walking off towards the parking lot as he hurried after her. He felt out of place next to the leather-clad biker, wearing a pair of worn jeans and a flannel shirt beneath his blue parka and sporting a pair of scuffed tennis shoes. She didn’t seem to mind, however, leading him over to where her motorcycle was waiting on its kickstand.

It was a beautiful machine, painted the same black as her clothing, its exposed engine and curved exhausts shining in bright chrome. It was an older style of bike with long forks and high handlebars, it had a windshield and two large saddlebags to either side of the plush seat. It was obviously well traveled. This was a machine that she rode for the joy of it, not something that she owned just for show. There was a painting on the gas tank, a scene of half a dozen timber wolves baying at a full moon with forests and mountains in the background. It was hopelessly cliched, but it made him smile all the same.

She swung a leg over the motorcycle, sinking down into the seat and extending her arm to offer him her crash helmet.

“You can wear the helmet if you like.”

Wanting to appear more confident than he was really feeling, he refused, and she shot him a knowing smile.

“Suit yourself kid. Just hang on tight, okay?”

He climbed into the seat behind her, and she stowed the kickstand, balancing the bike on her toes as she kicked the ignition lever a couple of times. The engine sputtered to life, roaring as she revved it, Matt could feel the powerful vibrations as the vehicle shook between his legs. He was unsure what she expected him to hold on to. Noticing his hesitation, the woman reached behind her, taking his hands in hers and planting them firmly around her waist.

His grip tightened as she pulled out into the street, the wind blowing in his hair and rushing past his ears as she barreled off up the road, the roar of the engine deafening. So much for showing her around. She hadn’t even asked for directions, she seemed to know exactly where she was going.

Matt had never ridden a motorcycle like this before, it was exhilarating. The road that wound its way through the pine forests was empty, and the sensation of speed was incredible. They probably weren’t going over eighty miles per hour, but seeing the asphalt fly past beneath the bike gave him the impression that it was twice that. The trees to either side of the road were a blur, adrenaline coursing through his veins as she leaned into the sharp turns. He was starting to get the impression that she was just fucking with him.

He had been hesitant to hold on to her, but now he didn’t have much choice, his arms were wrapped tightly around her hourglass waist for dear life. Her dark hair blew in his face, too long to be contained within the helmet, her leather-clad body pressing up against him through his thick coat.