FEATURE: Cassandra Parker

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I love romance in all its multitude of forms. Romance is wistful, poignant, and classic. It makes the heart beat faster; it brings a twinkle to the eyes, a tear drop, and a smile. Romance is love, joy, pain, and loss. It is endearing and lasts throughout time for all eternity.

Excerpt from Harley and Me: Love Means Never Saying Goodbye (Ride With Harley, Book 1)

Prologue

 

Whoever said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” didn’t know what they were saying. Love means never saying goodbye. Even after all this time, it still holds true for me. You love someone; you never say goodbye. No matter where they are, or what has happened, they are always with you by your side. At least that’s how it was with Harley and me.

When he messed up and hurt my feelings, he was fond of saying, “My purpose is to love you. I guess it slipped my mind. I never said I was good, but I hope you can forgive me.”

I invariably did forgive him. I never could stay mad at him for very long. Even when I was upset, Harley found a way to make me smile or laugh. He brought such joy into my life. He could be a devil, but he was my devil.

His other favorite line was, “If you share my bed, you must share my name.” And he meant it. Boy, did he mean it! But it didn’t mean he had never made love only that it was worth waiting for when you finally found that special person.

He also said, “There’s more to love than the physical act of making it. If you love someone, you are in it for the long haul. You stay with that person through broken dreams, heartache, love, and everything that goes with a long term relationship. Not even death can separate you because with real love two people become one person.”

The mid-1970’s in Ohio were a memorable time. The state was still overcoming the aftermath of the Kent State Massacre over five years earlier. Gasoline rationing was in effect. Social Security funding was set to dry up.

Bands such as America, Elton John, Captain & Tennille, Linda Ronstadt, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, Neil Sedaka, Jigsaw, Ozark Mountain Daredevils and KC & The Sunshine Band were all on Billboard’s top hits chart. Harley’s favorite band, Steppenwolf, had just released ‘Hour of the Wolf’ in July. Two tracks on that album rapidly became Harley’s all-time favorite songs, ‘Another’s Lifetime’ and ‘Just for Tonight’ along with the classic biker anthem ‘Born to be Wild’ on an earlier album.

The first time I laid eyes on Harley, it in was September on the Commons at Ohio State University-Lima. It was a warm day for Ohio, with temperatures somewhere in the seventies. The noon sun beat down upon the grounds. Clusters of students sat on the grass around the Commons. Some were reading, others talking, and a guy was playing his guitar. He was playing ‘Sister Golden Hair’ by America.

Friends I met in Freshman Orientation were sitting nearby. Peg was the pragmatic one of our group. Thomas was the dreamer. He loved coming up with schemes to get to the Bermuda Triangle. Maryanne was an innocent, naïve person who attracted a strange guy named Peter March. March was an out and out stoner, but he loved Maryanne, and they both loved children.

Harley was sitting on the hill listening to an anti-war protester. I guess the protester didn’t know the Vietnam War was over. It was over for America and our soldiers who had come home almost two years earlier were greeted by boos and jeers instead of pride and thanks.

Harley sat a few feet away from us with his arms wrapped around his legs. He wore worn jeans with patches on the legs and ragged holes in the knees. A black leather jacket, a t-shirt with sleeves rolled up, and black leather boots with chains at the ankles completed the outfit. He was the spitting image of a biker and would have easily fit into the ‘Easy Rider’ movie. He was a rebel, dangerous, mysterious, and sexy all rolled into one man.

Did I mention he was drop dead gorgeous? He was the stuff of dreams, handsome, tall, self-assured, not an ounce of fat on his body. His hair was an incredible mix of sandy and dark brown that accentuated his blue-gray eyes. When he smiled, you could almost swear he was an innocent saint or a rascally devil.

He had a wicked sense of humor, and most of all he loved me at first sight. He used to tell me that when he first saw me, his world changed forever. He knew I was the one for him. I was the one he wanted to rest his weary body against, and I brought solace to his heart and peace to his soul.

The Devil in him kept him chasing dreams with never-ending abandonment, and yet he managed to run his customizing motorcycle empire on a tight schedule. He even ran a profit when the rest of the country was still fighting to recover from a recession and shortages of gasoline.

He loved motorcycles, and the open road, Steppenwolf, poetry, and me. I used to tease him and ask which number in that lineup I was. The allure of hard rocking Steppenwolf, the poetry of nature, the freedom of traveling the open road via a huge hog is all pretty hard to beat. Invariably he would answer, “You know where you stand in that lineup, right up there in first place.”

His beautiful eyes would drift over my body sending tingles all over me, and a slow smile would creep across his face as he pulled me into his arms. Then his lips would fall upon mine for a long, slow, lingering gentle kiss that invariably took my breath away, leaving me wanting more.

Who would have guessed he was my soul mate? I certainly didn’t think so and I sure never thought he was a multimillionaire. He was a junior albeit he was a little older than the average junior. He attended classes on a part-time basis and spent the rest of his hours running his empire.

In 1980, almost two years after losing Harley, John Kay came out with a song called ‘Say You Will’ that perhaps sums up the love Harley and I shared. Even now when I hear that beautiful song, I become emotional.

Tears come to my eyes because of that one song. It fit Harley and me so perfectly, it was almost as though the famous singer knew our love and wrote about it years later.

What I wouldn’t give to have Harley next to me right now. To have his arms encircle me and hold me close, and feel his hands massage my back and shoulders. To smell the Irish Spring soap on his skin and sun-kissed hair, as I gaze into his smoldering eyes, to feel the gentle caresses of his lips brushing mine, just one more embrace to last a thousand lifetimes, one last time to feel the sweet agony of his love.

 

Chapter One

 

“Hi, mind if I join you guys?” Harley said with a grin as wide as the Ohio River. Without waiting for an answer he sat on the ground and languidly stretched his legs out before him. He leaned back on his elbows and turned his head to look at our little group.

“I’m a transfer from back east.” Harley had a pleasant baritone, sweet, and oh so sexy voice that sent shivers down my spine and gave me goosebumps. I could listen to him talk for hours.

“I’m a freshman,” I replied looking down at my hands. “I’m Mari.”

“Name’s Harlan Christian Robert Davis. My folks are big Harley-Davidson fans. I mean big fans. They ride giant hogs.” His chuckle was infectious and soon had us all giggling with Maryanne snorting in her odd laugh. “I know, pretentious isn’t it? Call me Harley.” His deep baritone voice rumbled in his chest making him sound even sexier than imaginable.

So, Harley, it was. It went along nicely with his big Harley-Davidson hog. Sometimes we’d tease him about his middle name Christian and where it may have originated. He’d get righteous and tell us his name was Christian, never explaining if he meant literally or religiously.

“So, you’re a Frosh, huh?” His gaze traveled slowly and lingeringly down my body making me blush.  

“Frosh?”

“Freshman. That’s what we call freshmen, frosh.” He grinned and winked at me. “Come sit beside me,” he patted the ground next to him. “I promise I won’t bite.” He smiled, “this time.”

“I wouldn’t trust that,” March laughed. He was the classic hippy of the ‘60’s era with his long brown hair, unshaven beard, lanky frame and holey jeans and tie-dyed shirt.

I gave him the cheesiest face I could muster as I moved to sit next to Harley. Leaning over, I whispered, “You better not bite me.”.

“Grr…” he growled and smiled.

“Did you just growl at me?”

He grinned and let out a wolf howl that had us all looking at him like he was crazy. “What? You never heard a wolf howl before?”

“Can’t say that I have.” The giggles were upon me, and I felt mortified this handsome stranger had to endure my fit of teenage embarrassment.

“Guess we’ll have to correct that. What are you doing Friday?”

“Working.”

“Hmm…” He furrowed his brow, and a grin spread across his face, “where do you work?”

“Kmart.”

“Simple solution. Get someone to switch with you.”

“I can’t do that. No one wants to work Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”

“I bet I can get it switched for you.”

“You do that, and I’ll go with you Friday.”

“Thursday night.”

“Can’t.”

“I know. You’re working Thursday,” he sighed.

“I have a radio show until noon and Anthropology until nine.”  

“Pick you up after class at nine.” He stood and looked down at me. “Wait a minute. Is your show at ten?”

“Yes.”

“You’re Gypsy Mar! I call in every day at noon with a Steppenwolf request, and you always play some of their best tunes.”

“That’s me. Progressives, hard rock classics.” I grinned. “Never really into much of Steppenwolf until I started getting requests for them.”

Somehow it never dawned on me that this hunky man might be interested in me, a shy wallflower adrenaline junkie.

Thursday night, he was waiting at the door on the most dangerous black and chrome hog you ever saw in your life. With the black leather and chains riding gear you would have thought he was some character out of a sex and bondage movie.

“This is our ride for the remainder of our sojourn.” Harley indicated with a sweep of his arm as he bowed low. He flipped up the visor, “I never said I was good, or a saint for that matter. Climb on behind me. Put your foot on the pipes and be careful. They can get hot if your leg touches it. When I lean one way, you do the same. Here,” he handed me a helmet and his black leather jacket. “Put this on.”

“What about you?” The jacket swallowed me and smelled pleasantly of a combination of Irish Spring soap and Old Spice after shave. Even now I get nostalgic for those days whenever I get a whiff of either scent.

“I’ll be okay. We’re not going far. We’ll pick mine up on the way. I left it at home,” he shrugged.

I did as he instructed with trepidation. The hog came alive with a great roar. He popped a wheelie, and down the road, we went riding hell bent as though the hounds of Satan were on our heels. It felt wild and freeing to race off into the night on the back of this giant machine. It growled up the road, spitting asphalt and fine gravel back out in a full throttle roar. The wind whipped around and over us. All too soon the adventure ended in front of an enormous mansion.

A tall older man stepped from the doorway to the hog.

“Here’s your helmet Master Davis.” He handed him a gleaming black and red helmet. “Shall I gas her up for you?”

“Thank you, Garrett.”

“My pleasure, sir. Have a safe trip with your lady.”

Harley motioned for me to hold on, “we’ll be back Sunday night, Mari.” He started the engine with a roar.

“Just a minute,” I sputtered. “Where are we going?”

“Not far, only about four hours from here.” Suddenly he was all business as he conducted his pre-drive inspection.

“You expect me to ride this thing for four hours?” I stared at the handsome man sitting in front of me.

“I think our sitting here answers that question,” he smirked. He took the leather jacket Garrett handed him and shrugged into it.

My heart thudded hard like the heavy metal thunder line from the Steppenwolf song, ‘Born to be Wild.’ I had never ridden in a vehicle more dangerous than my former race car, a Plymouth Satellite, let alone spent hours on the back of a hog.

“Is this thing safe?”

“That’s what the checklist is for,” Garrett replied as he continued making tick marks on the paper. “Master Davis is very safety conscious.”

“Hold on to me, Mari,” Harley said as he pointed to his waist. “Turn on your headset. I’m pioneering a communication device that will let us talk comfortably while riding.”

With the engine growling like only a genuine Harley-Davidson motorcycle can do, we sped off into the night.

As we went down the road I looked through my visor at the lights of the city; it was breathtaking. Never did so many pinpricks of light look as beautiful as they did that night.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” he murmured over the headset.

“Stunning.”

“This is going to sound corny,” he laughed, “but you intrigue me.”

“I do?” I looked at him and felt the heat rising from my neck to my face. He was by far the most handsome man I had ever met.

“Yeah,” he spoke shyly. “I noticed you during Orientation. You looked a little lost and then the posse descended upon you, and swept you away.”

“March, Maryanne, Bob, and Peg,” I bet. “We were all new and just banded together.”

“Kept me out,” he sighed. “From the way, you guys were kidding around; I didn’t know you had a boyfriend. Guess I know now.”

His voice sounded wistful and full of longing. I almost placed my hand on his leg. But, I was brought up to be proper. Good girls don’t go around putting their hands on guy’s knees. For that matter, they didn’t go on overnight dates either. I guess I wasn’t a proper young lady after all.

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