“He is gorgeous!” Hope squeals from behind Noelle.
Spinning around sharply, she replies, “He’s okay.”
“Okay?” Hope balks. “You were practically drooling over him.”
“I was not.” Noelle scoffs, moving toward the sidewalk.
“It’s okay. He was doing the same with you,” she giggles. “Now, I know why your family was being odd.”
“They’re odd whenever a guy talks to me,” Noelle reminds.
Hope takes a sip of her drink and shakes her head. “Not if they know who he is.”
Noelle’s brows furrow. “What do you mean?” She looks back in the direction of Nikolaus’ departure.
“You’re from a biker community,” Hope scoffs. “How do you not know?”
“Know what?” Noelle sips her eggnog, inspecting the cup a second later. “This isn’t too bad. I could probably do a mix with this and my hot chocolate.”
“That would be a fun experiment,” Hope agrees. “We can try it tonight if you’d like.” She consumes more of her drink, then adds, “The Sleighers…as in the Sleigh Riders.”
Noelle’s becomes slack jaw as her steps come to a halt, staring dumbfoundedly at her friend. She’s heard whispers of the Sleighers from her cousins, but didn’t believe them. She always thought that they were a made-up nemesis to make her cousins and the Blades seem like bigger men.
“You okay?” Hope asks when she realizes that Noelle is no longer by her side.
“Are you shitting me?” she mutters.
“Nope. It was obvious.”
Hope giggles. “You didn’t see the emblem on his jacket?”
Noelle tries to remember if he was wearing a jacket just now and the other night.
“Of course you didn’t,” Hope muses. “Silly me.”
“You were too busy ogling him to notice,” she declares.
“I wasn’t ogling him."
“Yeah…you were. You two were practically making out.”
“We didn’t touch,” Noelle reminds.
“Didn’t need too,” Hope states. “It was all in both your eyes.”
Noelle shakes her head, trying to map out everything that has happened since the other night. “Are you sure?”
“You both were smitten.”
“No.” Noelle huffs. “I’m talking about him being a Sleigher.”
Noelle looks back over her shoulder. “That can’t be.”
“He wasn’t on a bike,” Noelle states. “He was driving a truck.”
“He said he was heading back to Alyona,” Hope reminds. “Exactly where the Sleighers are from.”
Noelle lets out a nervous giggle, shocked and amused by the revelation.
“So, what did you two talk about?” Hope pries as they make their way back to the house.
“Nothing,” Noelle lies.
“That didn’t seem like nothing,” Hope states. “But, then again, you two were ogling each other quiet a bit.”
Noelle lets out a heavy breath.
“It would be poetic and…ironic,” Hope declares.
“Ironic…maybe…but, I’m sure there’s a better word for the situation,” Hope says more to herself.
“What are you talking about?”
“You two meeting and falling in love,” Hope coos.
“We aren’t in love,” Noelle counters. “I don’t know the guy.”
With a singsongy tone, Hope hums, “Odder things have happened.”
“You’re not going to let me live this down, are you?”
“Nope,” she says cheerfully. “I’ve never seen you look at a guy like that before.”
“How did I look at him?”
Hope grins and snips her drink. “Like a woman in love.”
“I’m not in love!”
“Well…at least some lust,” Hope snickers. “I thought, for a second, you two were going to do more than make out.”
Noelle rolls her eyes. “Just don’t ever say anything to anyone in my family."
“Who am I going to tell?” she replies.
“I’m serious, Hope.”
“So, you are smitten.”
“No,” Noelle denies. “I just don’t want the drama. There’s always plenty of that with my family…more so this time of the year.”
“It’ll make a great story for the kids and grandkids,” Hope muses.
“Fuck,” Noelle huffs.
“I’m just messing with you,” Hope claims.
Noelle shakes her head.
“Do you think he has a cute brother or cousin?”
Noelle laughs hard enough that it almost brings a tear to her eye. Hope watches her, perplexed by what was said to make her react in such a way.
“What about Josiah?”
Hope shrugs. “Maybe a Sleigher is the best way to lure him out and get him to finally ask me out.”
“Or, maybe you’ll fall for your own Sleigher,” Noelle goads.
Hope considers the option. “I’m open to love wherever it may be. I’m twenty-five and need more in my life.”
Noelle snickers. “If you married a Sleighers, and the whispers are true, then we wouldn’t be able to be friends. You know that, right?”
“What are you talking about?” she asks.
"Blades and Sleighers are rivals.”
Hope abruptly stops walking. “That’s not funny.”
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