She was, still is, and will never be anything but my everything.
Our love was all consuming, passionate, and forbidden. We took risks to be together, carrying on an affair for almost a year before her psychotic drug lord husband found the truth behind the lies. She barely escaped with her life … and that of my son.
My club president told me that our love was no longer worth the risk, gave me a choice, and loyalty to the club being what it is, I walked away from her. I left behind the only thing I’ve ever wanted more than life itself and remained the dutiful soldier to a corrupt leader.
Six years and a promotion to club president later, it’s time the lies stopped. She IS worth the risk, I’ve NEVER gone a day without thinking about her OR my son, and I know underneath it all she DOES still love me. She just won’t admit it … yet.
It’s time to run this club my way and make my family what it should have always been—complete. The road may have been long and lonely, but the journey is far from over.
Another day, another screwed up job completed for the club. I wrap my hand over the spreading crimson on my left shirtsleeve and do what I can to staunch the flow of blood from the gash in my forearm. In all honesty, I’m lucky a nick from a stray bullet is all I walked away with. Gunfire rained over us like mid-summer rain as we bolted to our bikes. A simple drop-off, a whispered message in the right ear—it all sounded so easy at our early morning briefing, but from the moment we walked into that abandoned warehouse my gut never fully settled. The job was due to head south from the get-go; that much was obvious. We weren’t supposed to walk out alive. Thing is, I’m not sure how it was the Blood Eagles MC knew we’d be there. The information had to have stemmed from inside our club walls.
A tinny bell rattles as my fellow prospect, Callum, shoves the door to the corner market open. He’s probably the closest thing to a best friend I’ve got, and after what went down just now, the only brother I trust.
The shopkeeper lifts a set of world-weary eyes from his paper and roves the length of the two of us. His grimace says it all: that he’d rather not deal with our type—tattooed, leather-clad, and marked as prospects for an MC—but we’re paying customers, and my guess is that he doesn’t see too many of those, given the dusty stock on the first shelf we pass.
The steady chink of the buckles on my boots echoes off the stocked aisles, mirrored by the heavy thud of Callum’s feet as he wanders ahead of me. The pain in my arm isn’t anything too severe, but the nick from the bullet caused enough damage to make the sting annoying all the same. I glance down and lift the side of my hand to check the injury out. A tear in the plaid of my work shirt is the only sign there was contact made . . . aside from the large red stain spreading across the white squares in the fabric, that is.
“This do?” Callum lifts a box of fabric Band-Aid patches from the shelf and holds it over his turned shoulder so I can see.
“Yeah. It’ll do.” I really only need something to stop the flow of blood long enough for it to go hard.
We’re on the outskirts of Kansas City, six hours from home, and three hours into our ride. We should have made the one hour trip back to our southern brothers at Fort Worth after the shit went down, but I managed to convince Callum we’d ride through, that my arm would stop bleeding after a while. One night with those southern boys is more than enough for me; I can’t be fucked with another night of next to no sleep thanks to their habit of partying until dawn. Call me old before my time, but I like how laid back our chapter is—I like my sleep at night. Stupid bull-headed me thought I’d be able to hold off any sort of first-aid until we arrived back at our own clubhouse, and push through.
The streaks of red down my fuel tank say otherwise.
Callum turns for the counter, hesitates, and then swivels at the waist to reach out and grab himself a bottle of Coca-Cola to go with our impromptu purchase. My eyes fall to the floor briefly, and I cringe at the drops of blood that drop with a heavy splat to the linoleum beside my boot. The blood has soaked my shirt to the point where it now runs in a rivulet down my arm, snaking over my thumb, before it dives from the point of my index finger. I ball my hand into a fist and try to redirect the stream long enough to stop the drip. My head swims, and I snag a packet of Milk Duds to give myself a needed sugar-boost.
The entire ride here from the drop-off my mind’s gone crazy trying to work out who would rat us out like that. Protocol says I take this to our sergeant at arms, Beefy, to handle. But what if he’s in on it? Do I go straight to Prez instead?
You get sat down with the charter when you sign up as a prospect and made to memorize it. I could recite to you every fucking point on that document, but fuck me, there wasn’t shit all in there about what to do when you suspect a snake in the grass.
The bell over the door sings out again, and placing my addition on the counter, I move my gaze from where Callum exchanges cash with the shop owner to the source of the noise. The minute I lock eyes with the raven-haired beauty, I know my day couldn’t have gone better. Everything happens for a reason, and apparently, being shot and needing to stop off for supplies happened so I’d cross paths with this woman.
She moves her gaze between Callum and myself; her slender fingers tighten over the handles of her canvas shopping bag, and purse, which she has slung in the crook of her elbow. Everything about her is elegant, although the fire in her eyes speaks of a woman who knows how to hold her own. She’s a classic beauty, her feminine curves showcased in a light summer dress that cinches tight at the waist, flaring in the skirt, and wrapping about her neck in a halter. It’s an old style done new, and she fucking rocks it.
“Eyes front, soldier,” Callum teases.
I glance away to find him beside me with the top off his Coke already. He takes a long pull, his eyes on the Hispanic woman in the summer dress as well. Lowering the bottle, he swallows the drink down and lets out a low whistle through his teeth. “Pretty.”
The woman’s moved on, busying herself with her shopping. Yet the way her hand moves aimlessly along the row before she finally plucks something for her bag, it tells me she’s not really focused on the task at hand.
Callum moves for the exit, ushering me along with a tip of his head. “Come on.”
I follow numbly, and steal a glance back at the woman as she rounds the end of the first aisle to face our way. Her eyes lift over the top shelf and meet mine as I come close to walking into the doorframe. I’m too focused on her and not on what I’m doing. Great first impression, King. At the sound of Callum’s laughter, I reluctantly look away and exit into the midday sunshine, shaking my head at my own idiocy.
The leather creaks as I make myself comfortable on the seat of my bobber to rip open the Band-Aid box and pull out a wide strip of gauze. I place it between my lips to free up my hands. Blood drips onto the leg of my jeans, blending in with the dirt and grease that stains the dark denim while I roll my shirtsleeve carefully back. My vision swims, the loss of blood on an empty stomach stealing my focus, and I squint a few times to work through it. The nick isn’t much more than a couple of inches long, but it’s deep. The angle it clipped me tore a decent line straight through the meaty part of my forearm. I twist my arm over to wipe it clear on my jeans before I awkwardly tear the backing off the Band-Aid and situate it over the worst of the injury. The tacky edge lifts with the blood that flows fresh, so I add another three strips and end up with some mashed up lump of sticky gauze covering the better part of my forearm.
The whole time, my thoughts are on her. The woman was nothing short of a stunner. Large eyes, high cheekbones, a pointed jaw, and the supplest flesh I’ve ever itched to feel under my rough fingers. To walk away without at least learning her name seems like a fucking crime.
“You hungry?” I ask Callum.
He stands beside his Fat Boy, looking my way as he takes another pull of his drink. His eyebrows bob as though to say ‘Do you need to ask?’ He drops the bottle from his mouth and frowns. “I thought I just bought you a candy bar or something.”
“Yeah, I need more,” I lie.
A bakery three doors to the right of the grocer is the closest place to eat. It’ll do. At this moment, a pet store could be the only thing in sight and I’d still make an excuse to head in. Wiping as much of the blood off my arm as I can, I dismount and head towards the bakery, looking in the windows while I pass the grocer. The dark-haired beauty holds a box of something before her, frowning at whatever it is she’s reading on the side. Movement in the reflection on the glass catches my eye and I refocus to find Callum behind me, grinning like a fucking idiot.
“You’re not hungry, are you?”
“Not for food,” I reply, fixing my attention back to her as she moves towards the counter.
“Jesus,” Callum mutters. “Don’t fuckin’ tease me like that. I thought you were goin’ to feed me.”
“You’ll keep until we get back.”
He stands in silence beside me as we both eye her unload the handful of items she’s collected onto the counter.
“You’ve got to fuckin’ man up, brother.” Callum jams both hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels as he grins my way. “Just mill around until she leaves and ask her to hang out.”
I raise an eyebrow at the idiot. Ask her to hang out? “Do you even remember what we’re on our way home from?” I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I’m pretty sure Prez will be looking for details after that fucking ambush. “We ain’t got time to be ‘hangin’ out.’”
“Then tell her to come for a ride. She can waste time with the other women while we debrief, and then party’s on, buddy.”
Too fuckin’ right the ‘party’s on.’ Does he remember who we are? We’re prospects for the largest-growing MC chapter in Nebraska and its surrounding states. And what’s rule number one for a prospect when it comes to women? Don’t take her back to the club unless you’re happy to share her around. “I’ve got more respect for a woman than what ‘hangin’ out’ would mean, man.”
Just ask her to hang out. Pshh.
“Well fuck, whatever,” Callum says, throwing his hands in the air. “Don’t bring her back then. But I’m tellin’ you now, if she ain’t so hot on bein’ around the club property, then she ain’t going to be none to hot on hangin’ around with the likes of us at all.” He points toward the window behind me. “You better make up your mind; she’s on her way out.”
Fuck. When all hell broke loose back at the warehouse, I kept my cool. As the bullet tore through my flesh, I never flinched. Even when I realized how badly I was bleeding, I didn’t blanche. But five words from my closest friend, and I’m sweating buckets. What the fuck do I say?
I’m twenty-four years old, and I’ve had three girlfriends in my time. Only one of those stuck around long enough to have us classed as being in a proper ‘relationship’. I’m the shy guy when it comes to women, the one who blends into the background while his friends put their best moves forward. Relationships, interactions with people—they confuse me. I bury myself in work, apply myself religiously to a project, and I fucking excel.
The loner aspect to the outlaw lifestyle is what made me sign up to prospect for the Aces in the first place, because I’m exactly that—a loner. I’m an introvert. I like my own company—it doesn’t complain, confuse me, or expect things I can’t deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I like the feel of a woman, the softness only the feminine touch can offer, but fuck . . . they scare the living shit out of me most of the time.
Still, I’d be a fool to let her slip away because of some boyish fear of the unknown.
Suck it up, King.
Callum nods toward the entrance to the store, but there was no need to—the bell over the door does a fine job on its own of tolling my fate. He clears his throat as the soft patter of her shoes recedes behind me. “You going to go get that?”
My nostrils flare, and I fight back the bitter laugh that wants to escape. “I guess I should.”
He smirks. Fucker. “She turned right.”
I spin on the spot. Shit. She’s gone from sight, just as he said. A part of me wants to call it quits, to take the easy road out and walk away. As it is, I’m not short of options when we get back to the clubhouse; Apex keeps a good stock of girls on hand for the boys. I don’t need her. But I want her.
“Come on, sad sack. We should probably go and get you fuckin’ stitched anyway.” Callum makes a move to get on his bike and leave, but my protest stops him in his tracks.
“No. Give me five.” I hold up my hand to indicate he should wait where he is and spin around to go after her. Vibrations jolt through my body with each fall of my boots as I take off at a jog to catch up to the woman.
Reaching the intersection in the road, I hook right and come close to bowling her over in my haste. She yelps, moving back to avoid a collision, and catches her heel on an uneven patch of concrete at the base of the shop wall.
“I’m sorry.” I raise my hands with palms toward her as though she’s some spooked horse who needs placating. “I didn’t mean to—”
“I was in the way,” she cuts in. “Don’t apologize.”
Her voice is deep, throaty, and sexy as hell with that slight lilt of an accent. I take a step back and look her over, noticing now that her shopping bag and purse are between her feet, and she has a compact clasped in one hand, lipstick in the other.
“Are you waiting for someone?” I ask, glancing each way up the street. Be just my luck she has a boyfriend on his way to pick her up.
“No, I wasn’t,” she replies with a snap of the compact.
Uncertain of how to behave while she bags her makeup, I jam my hands in my armpits, being sure to cross my injured arm on top, and widen my stance. I should say something. Be handy if I had conversational skills, for a start.
“Were you on your way somewhere?” she asks as she straightens up. “You looked like you were in a hurry.” Her tone is clipped and terse.
Heat flames my neck and ears. Why did I think I could do this? “Uh, yeah. I . . .” Just say it. “I was trying to catch up to you.”
Her throat bobs. “Oh?”
Words. They’re just words. But they’re also some enigma that I can’t solve, a problem wedged in my throat. Seconds pass like hours. Her wide eyes prompt me to say something; a flush creeps into her cheeks. But my embarrassment triples with each imaginary tick of the clock. I’ve fucked it up. Why bother trying now?
“I thought you dropped something, but I’m just . . . I guess I was . . .”
Her face falls, softening the longer I take to try and spit it out. The lie is so damn transparent, the reasoning pathetic. Why do I find it so hard to talk to women, but I can ride a bike and handle a gun as second nature?
I make a hasty retreat back around the corner, dying from embarrassment, and come smack up against Callum. He shunts a heavy hand into my shoulder and demands under his breath, “Get back ’round there, you fuckin’ pussy.”
“I can’t,” I whisper, fighting my spinning head from the shunt. “I fucked up what I was going to say.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” He leans close, getting right in my face. “She’s just a girl.”
“Exactly.” I cast a cautious glance behind me and check she’s not there, listening. “I can’t talk to women. I choke.”
“Why?” He pulls his head back, confusion written across his face.
All I can do is shrug. Why indeed?
“Piece of advice, brother,” Callum whispers, looking behind me briefly. “She’s human too. Treat her like one, and ignore the fact she’s got the opposite bits to you. Makes things a lot fuckin’ simpler.” He gives me a shove to the chest and sends me stumbling back past the edge of the building.
Fighting the terror at what I’ll discover, I turn my head to the left and find her in exactly the same spot. She smiles. It fucking slays me.
“What happened to your arm?” She gestures at my reddish-tan Band-Aids.
“Is it okay?” She steps around her shopping and moves toward where I’m rooted to the sidewalk.
I lean back and check the other way to find Callum making himself scarce. “It should be good now.” Her warm brown eyes meet mine as she stops before me.
Long fingers rest lightly on my arm just above the wound. My flesh tingles at the contact. “I’m staying with somebody not far from here if you’d like me to clean it properly. I’d just . . . I’d have to sneak you around the back.”
I frown and check her hand for a wedding ring. Nope.
“It’s complicated,” she explains. “The person I’m staying with, they . . . well, he’d get annoyed if I brought anyone back, let alone somebody like you.”
Right. I glance down at my leathers, steel-toed riding boots, and general rough appearance. She has a point. “Thanks for the offer, but I’ll sort it out when we get home.”
Her hand drops away, and I fight the urge to reach out and take it in mine. “Of course you will.” Her gaze is scathing as it runs the length of me. “I don’t know why I offered. It’s not like I’m your type anyway.”
“I don’t really have a ‘type.'” I ran after her, for fuck’s sake. How much more obvious can I make it that I’m interested? “You shouldn’t make assumptions about people like that, anyway.”
“I didn’t think it was an assumption, more an observation.”
“Well you got it wrong.”
She stares at me a moment, jaw set hard and clearly lost for words. I consider walking away and leaving this train wreck of a conversation behind when she ducks her head, shaking it. “I’m sorry. I’ve had a rough morning.”
“You and me both, babe.”
Her face lifts, and she matches my smile with her own. “Probably you more than me, right?”
I shrug. “Probably.”
She chuckles quietly, the soft sound dying off to an awkward silence. We hold each other’s gaze for a beat; the rich flecks in her brown eyes appear to shine in the sunlight. With a short, humorless laugh, she turns away to collect her bags. I panic. She can’t leave yet. Not when I’ve put this much damn effort into approaching a woman, for a change.
“You seein’ anyone?” I spit the words out before they have time to stick in my throat.
“Right now? Only you.” The woman winks, rendering me useless. “I’m here for a little while. Perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to meet again when you’re not hurt and needing to go home?”
If only. “I’m not from around these parts.” Her face blanks, and I madly file through my thoughts to find something that’ll make her feel better. “But then again, neither are you, right?” She did say she was staying with someone.
She shakes her head, a section of hair falling into her face with the movement. “Not here specifically, but where I live is a short drive south, just outside the city limit.” Her long fingers sweep the lock behind her ear as her gaze drops to the pavement.
South. And I’m north—way north. We’ve got fuck all chance of meeting again; I have no idea when I’ll next have reason to stop in Kansas City. Life always has a way of fucking with me.
The tired look slides from her face, and her freshly painted lips curl up into a well-practiced smile as she sucks in a breath and squares her shoulders. She’s clearly a pro at hiding her real feelings, a top-level illusionist. “Until we meet again . . .”
She tips her head to the side and narrows her eyes, acknowledging my road name. “It was nice to meet you today, King.” She holds out her hand for me to shake. “Elena.”
“Elena,” I echo, and lift her fingers to my lips instead. Her eyes spark as I lay a gentle kiss on her knuckles, fire racing through me as I do, and let go. The simple reaction is enough to justify the incessant drumming of my heart.
She places a heel behind her, taking cautious steps backward and stoops to collect her bags. “Your club.” She gestures to my prospect patch with her chin. “What’s their name?”
I glance down at the side panel of my cut as I answer; the club name is small and hard to read on the stitched bar. All the more reason I can’t wait to prove I’m worthy of the center patch. “Fallen Aces.”
“I haven’t heard of them before.” She frowns. “Where are you based?”
I turn part-way around, thumbing over my shoulder at the bottom rocker without taking my eyes off her. “Lincoln.”
“Lincoln.” Her gaze falls to the large lettering. “I’ll be sure to look you up if I’m ever your way.” She smiles, but the regret is clear in her eyes.
She knows as well as I do that our chances of crossing paths again is next to none.
Still, there’s a slim chance.
And I’m fucking holding on to it with both hands.
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Max is the author of dark, and highly emotional romance. Her Butcher Boys series is centred around a group of men who met living on the street, who have teamed up with an indebted motorcycle club to take down a notorious drug lord. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping’, and ‘addictive’, taking you on an ’emotional roller coaster ride’.
Originally born and bred in New Zealand, Max now resides with her family in beautiful and sunny Queensland, Australia. Life with two young children can be hectic at times, and although she may not write as often as she would like, Max wouldn’t change a thing. When she’s not engrossed in her dark and twisted fictional worlds, she can be found enjoying the outdoors while 4wd-ing with her family.