The tour company bus was going to leave without him.

That thought circled his brain as he ran down the sidewalk towards the train station’s parking lot. While most tour guests probably arrived on the 10AM train, Kyle had come in the previous night as he was supposed to meet his fiancé Gwen at a quaint hotel in the small town. He’d flown to France from Canada and had taken an early morning train to reach the tour’s starting point. Gwen was already in France working as an editor for one of the authors of the publishing house she worked for.

Kyle had booked this, very expensive, vacation to rebuild their relationship which had been going through a rough patch over the past few months. They’d been together for five years and both had a love for being outdoors and cycling especially. The couples and adults only cycling holiday was their chance to reconnect. He’d hoped to recapture the bliss of their love for each other.

Luxury accommodations were a condition Gwen had insisted on, hence the choice of this particular tour company and package. He’d tried to argue for a more affordable trip but she’d told him flat out if he wasn’t willing to invest his money in their relationship there was no point.

So here he was in France, but the trip, so far, hadn’t turned out as he’d hoped at all.

The previous day as he’d checked in, instead of finding his fiancé, he found a letter from her at the reception desk. He’d taken it to his room to read.

Gwen wasn’t joining him on the vacation. In fact, she’d never intended to. At her request, he’d paid the full price for their vacation and then some, digging deep into the savings he’d worked so hard for. She’d written that this was punishment for not giving her the lifestyle she deserved and it was the final lesson he’d needed to learn from her.

Instead of joining him, she was going to marry the author. He realized she’d become wife number three for the man. The author was wealthy, worldly, and eighteen years older than his twenty-five. Gwen was just twenty-four so her forty-three-year-old husband had himself a new trophy wife.

Kyle had met Gwen in college. He was taking an Investment Management course and she was in a Publishing course, and he’d fallen for the petite brunette hard. She was 4″ shorter than his 5′ 10″ and beyond lovely. Short, tousled black hair, large blue eyes behind serious black rimmed glasses, cute button nose, and a wide, friendly smile. She kept her body trim and fit and was delighted that he was willing to follow her request to get his body in shape as well. Under her coaching he worked hard and quickly lost the soft pudginess on this frame. Muscles grew and hardened and he even stopped eating the foods he liked. He endured this willingly as it kept a smile on her face. He adjusted to his new fitness regimen and diet as her happiness was his greatest joy.

She’d proven to be more experienced in bed than him but he was a quick learner and she taught him much about what to do to make her happy between the sheets. Gwen was his first and only.

Those early days had been very exciting and they’d discovered a mutual love for cycling.

He got a good job once he graduated and so did she. They had rapidly growing careers and supported each other during their upward climb through their respective positions. Kyle thought they had a really good thing going.

Now with her final act of cruelty, he knew he’d been the only one in the relationship who thought so.

Once he’d finished crying after reading the letter, Kyle had wandered down to the bar feeling like he had a ragged hole in his heart. He tried to fill that hole with scotch. He’d barely managed to get back to his room and slept through his alarm this morning.

He was damned if he was going to lose all of the money on this trip. He loved cycling, it wouldn’t betray him and rip his heart out so viciously as Gwen did, so he decided to proceed with the trip on his own.

He just had to get to the bus before it left without him.

Running with a hangover wasn’t how he wanted to start his vacation. But then, neither was discovering he’d been dumped.

He sighed with relief as he saw the tour company van was still there and they were only beginning to load the luggage into the trailer. A passenger van was parked behind the trailer.

A cheerful, young blond woman wearing the jersey of the tour company and carrying a tablet PC turned to smile at him as he arrived out of breath.

“Good morning! You made it!” she said with a grin.

“Almost didn’t,” he gasped.

“Your name?” she asked.

“Kyle. Kyle MacDenny.”

“Ah! Here you are!” she said looking at her tablet. She ticked the box next to his name and saw the name linked to his. She looked up and past Kyle. “Will Gwen Carrington be joining us soon? We need to get on the road.”

“She’s, uh, she’s not coming,” he said with a distinctly uncomfortable look on his face.

“Oh! Oh, ok, well… let’s get your bag stored and you can take a seat in the van.” She smiled awkwardly at him and made a notation on the tablet to indicate the cancellation.

He sighed and put his duffle with the other luggage being loaded into the trailer. He nodded to the tall, dark, and handsome man handling the luggage. Kyle turned and came face to face with an equally tall and lovely blond woman with a prominent, strong nose and a long ponytail who was helping the man with the loading. He smiled at her as well. Both were slim and very fit looking in their matching tour jerseys so these were obviously the other guides. He saw a couple and a mother and daughter standing on the sidewalk next to the van. He smiled and nodded to them then climbed inside.

The back of the van was equipped with two rows of three seats and a third row for four. Ten seats. He wondered if they rented the vans based on the size of the group they had. He made his way to the back row.

His head was really thumping by this point so he almost missed the pleasant greeting from a petite red haired woman seated in the middle of the middle row. She was sitting next to a large bear of a black man who was snoring against the window.

“Sorry, bit of a headache this morning. Good morning, I’m Kyle,” he said, tucking his small shoulder bag on the van’s rear bench as he turned to her.

“I’m Kimberly,” she said as she reached out her hand. He shook it. “The big guy next to me is my husband David. He had a few too many glasses of wine last night,” she said with an embarrassed eye roll.

Kyle gave her a smile as he touched his temple which continued to thump. “Then I can sympathize with him.” She gave him a false scowl then grinned as he moved back to drop himself on the bench. He slid himself along the bench to the window and leaned his left temple against the glass as the cool surface made his head feel a little better. He let his eyes close and just listened to the people boarding. Kimberly was greeting everyone as they climbed inside so he guessed she was a very social person.

When a soft weight landed on his right hip Kyle’s eyes flew open. He looked into the shocked and apologetic eyes of a woman who was moving back to the middle of the seat. She seemed a little older than he was but had a kind of… classic Hollywood allure. Gwen had been overly fond of those old movies. This woman looked… like a brunette version of Grace Kelly. That lovely auburn hair was pulled back and fell to her shoulders. She was fairly slim but she’d felt pretty soft when she’d landed on him.

“I’m so sorry about that!” she gushed, her British accent catching Kyle’s ear. “My clumsy daughter knocked me as I was sitting.”

He smiled at her. “Not a problem.”

She smiled gratefully. “I’m Helen.” Gesturing to her right she continued. “This is my daughter Skye.”

“Hi, I’m Kyle,” he replied and nodded to the younger version of Helen sitting on her opposite side.

“Are you travelling alone?” Skye asked, her accent as thick as her mother’s.

He opened his mouth to answer but there was a noise from the front of the van. He closed his mouth and just nodded as he looked forward, missing the grin on Skye’s face as she nudged her flustered mother.

The woman with the tablet was smiling at the group before her. “Ok, we’re all here and the bags are loaded in the trailer. My name is Vivian Dalton but you can call me Viv and my partners are Dita Marek who will be driving the support van behind us today and Jules Michel who’s in the driver seat next to me.” The man waved with a smile.

“We will be with you for the next six days, riding through the beautiful French countryside. We have nine cyclists with us this trip, only one cancellation. That’s a good size group. Not too big so we shouldn’t lose more than two of you. I’m kidding!” The group chuckled politely at her silly joke.

“With the GPS bike computers and two of us on our bikes with you at all times you won’t be getting lost. From the survey you filled out we know we have a good mix of skill levels. From the elite,” she gestured to a man in the first row with salt and pepper hair and he pumped his fist enthusiastically. “To the casual.” She gestured to the platinum blond woman sitting next to the elite cyclist. The woman just raised an expensively manicured slim hand.

Vivian went over the basic rules and how they would support the riders during the rides. She explained how the accommodations would work and which meals they would be responsible for managing on their own.

Then it was introduction time.

Mr. Elite Cyclist was first. He turned to face the back. Kyle saw he was probably in his fifties but he seemed to be full of vitality.

“I’m Albert Hollings. I’m a cardiac surgeon from Santa Barbara, California.” He smiled and nodded to the others.

The woman next to him turned to face back and Kyle saw she was much younger than her… husband? Maybe in her early thirties? She was also very beautiful though her symmetry may have been assisted by surgery. She’d likely seen the inside of spa’s on a frequent basis as well. Still, her looks caught the eye which was obviously her goal.

“I’m Fiona Hollings. Unlike Albert, I’m more into yoga and going to the gym so I hope I won’t slow everyone down,” she said with a smiling pout. With her full lips that pout was significant.

“You’ll likely be keeping me company then!” the woman seated next to her said with a big smile. “I’m Larissa. I’m a casual cyclist as well. I just ride my bike to work and back. My husband Carl and I are from Boulder, Colorado. I’m a dental hygienist.” She had short brown hair, a pleasant round face, and a sunny disposition. Nothing surgically enhanced for her.

Kyle guessed her age to be in her early thirties as was her husband. He saw her getting along with Kimberly quite well.

Seated directly behind Larissa, her husband spoke next. “Carl Burkette. I’m a bank manager. Larissa is being modest about her riding. We also ride our bikes on the weekend though that’s the only riding I do.”

Carl looked like he was carrying extra pounds on him. With Kimberly sitting between him and her husband she looked especially tiny.

“I’m Kimberly Wallis. I’m an Administrative Assistant at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. I love cycling and try to ride every day! I bully this big guy into joining me as often as he can,” she said gesturing to her husband.

The man was awake now and gave his wife a weary look before he addressed the others. “I’m David. I’m regional manager for the Sparkle Beverage Company in Philadelphia. I don’t ride much. I prefer football. I played it in college.”

Faces turned in his direction and Kyle sat up a little straighter. “I’m Kyle MacDenny. Investment Manager for an investment house in Vancouver, BC.” He saw some confused expressions. “Canada.” Awareness dawned. “We’re- I’m a big fan of cycling,” he finished awkwardly. Speaking as a couple was a habit he needed to break himself of, soon!

He glanced over at Helen who was watching him. She smiled then jumped a little.

“Oh! Me! Well… my name is Helen Livingston and I’m from London, England. I’m between jobs at the moment. Taking a little break. I’ve been trying a number of outdoor activities to determine which one I like best. Cycling is my current favorite but I’m not much more than a casual rider.” She looked to her daughter.

“My name is Skye. I’m here with my mum to enjoy some quality time with her and have some fun!” the young woman enthused, bumping shoulders with her mum.

“That’s wonderful! So we have six Americans, Two Brits, and a single Canadian!” Vivian called out.

Are you single?” Skye asked Kyle boldly.

“Skye!” Helen gasped.

Kyle was nodding before he caught himself and looked away from the grinning girl.

Vivian got their attention once more. “I’m American too, living my dream here in France. My boyfriend is on a professional team and rides in the Tour de France. Jules was born here so his French may be a little better than mine and Dita is our resident Czech. Between the three guides you have all the translation services you’ll need for the tour, though my Canadian is a little rusty. Sorry.”

Laughter erupted while Kyle just smiled and nodded.

“Seriously though, if you have any questions please just let one of us know. We’re here to make your trip the best one possible. We’ll be reaching our start point in about an hour where we’ll have lunch then get the bikes all settled for your first ride this afternoon. The route is fairly easy but very scenic. For now just sit back and relax,” Vivian explained.

Kyle took her advice and closed his eyes to will his headache away.

He hoped the riding would make up for the rough start this trip had begun with.


The road hummed happily under the wheels of his racing bike. Gwen had insisted that he spend the extra to get them the upgraded bicycles so here he was enjoying the perk regardless of her spiteful intent.

When he discovered that Kimberly, the sole female racer in the group, would fit the upgraded bike he’d already paid for, he offered it to her.

He’d endured her squeals of joy and hugs and she hadn’t stopped gushing to him about how amazing it rode. Her incessant chatter was driving him nuts.

When Albert, also riding one of the upgraded racers, shot away from the front of their group, Jules followed and Kyle saw Kimberly’s muscles twitch so he told her to give chase. To really push her bike to its limit. And herself.

With a happy smile to him and a glance at her husband she was off like lightning. A minute later the rest of the group was happily riding along in relative silence.

“Thank you.”

Kyle looked over at David and nodded with a smile.

“Telling her to chase him was genius. It’s so much quieter now!” the husband said, sighing in relief. A few of the others chuckled at his look of happiness.

Kyle grinned as he understood exactly how the man felt.

“You’re riding one of those fancy bikes, why aren’t you racing ahead too?” Skye asked him as she came up to his side. She had the flat bar model of the standard bike and seemed to have no trouble riding it.

“Today’s ride is short enough. I thought I’d just enjoy the scenery on this one,” he replied.

“So, who was the other bike originally for?” she asked and Kyle heard her mother making another sound of protest at her daughter’s boldness.

He sighed. Maybe it was better to get it all out now so he wouldn’t have to deal with it the entire trip. “I was supposed to be taking this trip with my fiancé but she chose to elope with an author she worked with instead.”

“Shit! This is an expensive trip! You should have cancelled and gotten your money back!” David blurted.

“I didn’t find out until last night.”

Kyle heard exclamations of shock from several of the riders around him.

“She waited until last night to tell you?” Skye asked in surprise.

Kyle saw this story was growing so he tried to sum it up quickly. “She was working here in France and I was to meet her at the hotel last night. When I arrived there was a letter from her saying she’d run off to get married to this other guy and she’d only had me pay for this trip, with the upgrades, to punish me for not ‘giving her the lifestyle she deserved’. This was the first time I’d heard our lifestyle wasn’t meeting her expectations.” His heart was aching but he shrugged. “I could have just gone home but I’d booked the vacation days, the trip was paid for, and I love France and cycling. I’m going to enjoy myself!”

“Good for you!” David said. Speaking quieter, he glanced at the others then back. “I think you dodged a bullet.”

Kyle grinned at him and nodded. He was beginning to think so too. He saw his story was being relayed to the other riders in the group. Hopefully that would be the end of the speculation.

A short while later Fiona made her way up to ride next to him. Now that he could see her properly he let himself take a quick look. She was maybe 5′ 6″ and looked especially petite leaning over her handlebars. Her platinum blonde hair was tucked up under her helmet but it still reached her shoulders. She had big Hollywood sunglasses hiding her eyes. She looked just a little winded so Kyle thought she was doing fine. He smiled to her and she returned it. It took a great deal of effort to keep from staring at her large but obviously fake tits squeezed into the cycling jersey she wore.

“I heard what happened,” she said.

He picked up what she meant pretty quickly so he just nodded.

“Are you rich?” she asked and he looked at her with wide eyes.

“Am I rich?”

“Yes, are you rich?” she asked again.

“That’s a rather personal question,” he replied.

“That’s silly. It’s a simple question!” she responded with a frown and that pout.

“It’s actually not and why are you asking it at all?” he asked.

“You said your fiancé left you because she said you weren’t ‘giving her the lifestyle she deserved’. If you’re rich and she felt neglected…”

“Really?” he asked in surprise. Then he saw she was still waiting for an answer. “Let me clarify things for you. No, I’m not rich, just careful with my money. That said, I never neglected Gwen in any way. She was my world. I gave… I gave her everything! What she wrote doesn’t indicate how I treated her. It’s how she expects her new rich husband to treat her. I wish her luck with that. She’s wife number three for an asshole who knows a thing or two about pre-nup agreements.”

When she pouted again as if his answer upset her, he’d had enough. He mashed the pedals and leapt ahead of the group to be alone. He took deep breaths and kept his eyes on the scenery and soon he was feeling a little better.

They eventually found their way into the parking lot of a huge chateau, their first overnight stay. Vivian was there with Dita by the support van.

Jules was also there with Alfred and Kimberly, the latter still chattering excitedly about the ride. Alfred was looking pretty happy too. He’d gotten his race companions after all.

As Kyle stopped next to them Alfred walked over to shake his hand.

“I wanted to thank you for upgrading Kimberly’s bike. She’s an amazing rider and gave me quite a race to the finish line! We almost left Jules in the dust!”

Kyle smiled at the man’s excitement as Kimberly rushed up to give him another hug. He looked over their heads to Jules who smiled and shook his head slightly. Kyle didn’t think these two could outride someone who made his living on a bicycle.