Chapter Reveal ~ Dare to Love ~ by ~ Amanda Kaitlyn

Title: Dare to Love
Series: The Beautifully Broken Series
Author: Amanda Kaitlyn
Genre: LGBT Romance/Gay Romance/New Adult Fiction
Release Date: June 9, 2017 

 

Chapter One

Ally

THE SMELL OF freshly brewed coffee and powdered sugar hit my nose as I entered the coffee shop my older brother, Lucas and his wife owned. The scent of coffee and sweet pastries was heavenly and I stepped in the long line of customers, eager for my caffeine fix.

“Allison? Is that you?” I heard my name being called and I turned toward the sound, spotting my sister in law, Kaelyn rushing over to me from behind the counter. Smiling wide, I moved into her widely held arms and felt her sigh of relief against my shoulder. I’d been driving all night long and was bone tired, but I was excited to finally be here.
I graduated from Art School yesterday and to say it felt damn good would be an understatement. It felt amazing. It felt even better to be near family again, even if I wasn’t back home in Chicago like I wanted.
When my brother asked me to help out in the cafe over the next three months, I thought it would be fun to have a nice, relaxing winter down south.
My sculptures could wait, after all.
“I’m so happy your here! We are going to have a blast this winter!”
Kaelyn’s excited voice said in my ear and I nodded, my smile getting even bigger on my face. As she squeezed me even tighter to her side and we stepped forward in the line, I gave her an even tighter one in return.
Now that I’d seen her, this place felt so much warmer than I thought possible and it felt just like coming home.
God, how I had missed this girl.

We sat in the large, deeply cushioned chairs that were placed against the walls of windows making the space light up with bright, natural light. My eyes took everything in and I felt my body become rejuvenated just from the ambiance of the place.
How had I never been here before?
The coffee shop and bakery had been in Kaelyn’s family for two generations and now I could see why it was so important to her. My brother had wanted her to sell off her shares of the business and move back to Chicago with him and their two beautiful daughters but she’d resisted. She wanted to finish out the year before transferring her half of The Joyous Cup to her best friend and business partner, Meghan. Having grown up in the heart of the windy city, I couldn’t help but want her and my brother to come back home where our family was. Ever since I was a young girl, I was surrounded by people who loved and cared for me. My family was tightly knit and though, yes it could prove to be a bit stifling- I loved every moment of it.
“So? How was the drive in? Did you hit any traffic?”
“No, it was a pretty smooth drive. I stopped for a few hours half way through. Who knew staring at the road could make me so damn tired?”
Kaelyn laughed softly, shaking her head.
“I still can’t believe you drove all the way here, by your self for that matter. Babe, Luke would have driven you.”
I waved her concerns off, unworried.
When I was growing up, my Dad took a truck driving job one year when the business at the garage wasn’t doing very well. Most times, I would tag along on his long drives if they landed on a weekend or during that winter. I loved the feeling I got from the slow hum of a powerful engine underneath me and the sight of the road in front of me. But after close to thirty hours behind the wheel, it had definitely worn me out.
I desperately wanted to get to the Bed and Breakfast I booked for the winter and sink my tired body into a nice, hot bath.
“You look exhausted, Allison. How about I close down early and drive you to the hotel?” Her hand rested on my knee then, but I shook my head, not wanting to be a bother. It was only a few minutes drive, anyways.
“No, no. That’s okay, Kel. I’m going to head out, though.”
I stood and embraced her and felt her slender arms wrap around my waist and hug me just as fiercely.
“Give the goofball a big kiss and hug for me, OK?”
I said into her ear, fondness for Luke clear in the tone of my voice.
Nodding, she pulled away and I stepped out into the cool, crisp night air. Digging a hand through my black-strapped purse on my shoulder, I slid my keys out and unlocked my car before sliding back in front of the wheel.
Only a few more minutes. I told myself, putting the gear into drive and merging back onto the now quiet street toward my home for the winter.
A Bed & Breakfast was nested between two large, very old oak trees and the only parking that I could find was a spot just next to the front door.
My feet ached as I went inside and set my suitcase and carry on bag on the luggage cart I spotted by the interior doors.
“Welcome to Bunk and Bean Bed and Breakfast! My name is Bree, how can I help ya?”
The familiar voice roused me from my long, indulgent yawn and a smile spread my lips as the petite woman behind the counter turned toward me.
“Oh my gosh! Allison?”
Nodding, I dropped my purse onto the luggage cart and rushed toward her, curling my arms around her as soon as I got close enough.
“I can’t believe your here, Bree! I’ve missed you so much!”
She pulled away from our hug first, her eyes shining with excitement.
“How have you been? Shit, girl, it’s been so long since I last saw you!”
I wiped away a stray tear from my face, nodding. Bree James and I had been best friends since I could remember ever having one. Our mothers were the best of friends, even calling each other sisters as we were growing up. It was natural that we became fast friends as children. I shook my head in blissful remembrance at all of the shenanigans we caused back then. Bree and I were attached at the hip. As soon as we could leave home without our protective mothers hovering nearby, we set out to cause mischief. My favorite had to be when we poured ice water in a metal jug and attached it to the door of my fathers tool shed, causing him to be pelted when it opened. The look on his face as he spotted us hiding and giggling loudly in the nearby bushes? Priceless.
Since I moved away from our home town of Chicago, Illinois, we had lost touch. At first, it was small. We would miss our daily phone calls, a visit back home would be canceled or I would forget to video chat her after class one night. It was hard to be so far away from the large, loving home I grew up in. It was even more difficult to adapt to living without the constant presence of my two best friends, Bree and Nathan. I didn’t notice how far Bree and I had strayed from our friendship until it was too late.
As we hugged again and reminisced on our childhood adventures, I thanked God that there was a such thing as social media. We’d reconnected online last year and were thankfully as close as ever, especially now that I was spending the hot, Texas winter here. I was so happy she was here.
“The last few weeks have been crazy, Bree. With final projects being due and my older brothers coming into the city to attend my graduation, I was sure I’d go crazy before the ceremony ended!”
Her sweet, carefree laugh hit my ear.
I sometimes thought that it was crazy we were ever able to get along.
We were opposite in almost every way. I was bright and happy, overly excited for every phase of life and eager to take the world by the horns.
I had always been that way.
The always present support of my loving family had made me thrust out of my shell at a young age.
Complete with bright, neon colors, long flow skirts and enough books to last me a lifetime, that was who I was.
Bree was this small, light skinned beauty with black hair that fell down her back in waves. Her eyes were the color of the sea- deep, navy blue with flecks of green and yellow in them. She always wore dark colors, black, brown or brown. And she was always in either a pants suit or a pair of snugly fit Levi jeans. Bree hated to dress up and thought of herself somewhat goth. Her makeup was dark, ruby red lipstick and silver eye-shadow. The faint lines of her midnight black eyeliner made her eyes look even brighter as she lifted her head and I smiled.
Out of all of the time I had known her, she never changed.
I loved that so much because I knew she was real, through and through.
Growing up under the watchful gaze of the public meant that most friends I had made as a child were that of motive. Girls became friends with me to get closer to my musician brothers. Boys befriended me in hopes of getting a shot with my families record company. Almost none of them were founded by true friendship. At first, it hurt. But then I realized that in time, I would find who my real, my true friends were. In the end of high school, I learned who that friend had been all along.
Bree James.
“I’m so damn proud of you. I knew you could do it. When you left, I was mad. Not going to lie about that. But your my best friend. My confidant. My sister from another mister,” A loud laugh leaves me at that but she just squeezes my hand in hers and continues.
“I couldn’t be mad at you for long, though. You followed your dream of sculpture like a fucking badass, Allison.”
I broke into a mess at her honest words and flung my arms around her, again. As she hugged me just as fiercely, I realized she was here. In Fredricksburg, Texas.
My eyebrows drew together at the realization because it just didn’t make sense. We’d grown up in Illinois. Her family was in Illinois. Why was she here, now?
“What are you doing here, Bree?”
She pulled back, smiling wider at my question.
“I own this place. My husband and I bought it after the Wilson’s, the previous owners, passed away. Don’t you just love this little place?”
My heart squeezed in my chest almost painfully. God, I’d missed out on so much while I was away. Somehow my once cynical and hopeless romantic best friend had gone and gotten married and if the twinkle in her eyes was any indication, she was happy. She had the life I always hoped she would. Surrounded by love and happiness and void of the sorrow her childhood had once given her. My best friend was finally happy.
“Oh, I’m so happy for you. God, we missed a lot in each others lives, huh?”
I asked, cradling her face as a bright, no holds barred smile spreads across her face.
“It was only last month that we got married.”
I was pretty sure my eyes bulged out of my head as I heard her voice whisper across the space between us, her voice quiet as if she hadn’t meant to omit that confession.
“I wish I had known, girl. I would have loved to be there”
Shaking her head, she busies herself with the folder in her hands.
I could feel the nerves radiating off of her in waves. Somewhere between the topic of the bed and breakfast and Kingsley, she’d become a bundle of nerves.
“It was, uh, a quick wedding”
“Oh my gosh, Bree!”
“What!” Her quiet yell snapped back at me and my eyes widened as I noticed the blush that was now littered across her cheeks.
“It was a shotgun wedding?”
Sighing loudly, she plopped back into the chair next to me and nodded, then quickly, she was shaking her head again.
“Uh, no, I swear it wasn’t like that. I moved here a year ago and I needed a part time job between classes. Something to fill my time. Kingsley worked at the local bar and hired me on the spot. Almost immediately, we began dating. It was slow going at first, though. He would stay after his shifts ended and we had dinner after the night crew had left. He’s just got this way about him, Allison.”
“My ears are ringing, Bree. You bragging about me to our customers, now?”
A deep, booming voice came from the doorway of the front lobby and my eyes moved toward the sound. When my eyes landed on the large, tall man that not only stood in the doorway but filled it completely, I gasped in surprise.
“Hey, I didn’t think you would be home for a while. How was the meeting?”
Bree stood and walked toward him, her hands instantly drawing up to touch his scruffy face. I watched, entranced as the seemingly hard, stone faced man visibly softened the moment she was touching him. Bending his knees just slightly, he brought his wide, muscled arms around her back to take hold of her ass as he lifted her up his body that had to be at least 6’5. Her hands smoothed over his cheek as she smiled, a look passing through them that spoke volumes as to how they felt about each other. My best friend was in love.
“It was fine. This contractor is gonna get his ass kicked if he doesn’t stop beating around the bush. I don’t need him to argue with me. I just need him to get this shit done” Even with the anger spliced through his tone, his body molded tightly to hers, his hands squeezing her bottom in a silent claiming.
“King. I want you to meet someone. Stop feeling me up, silly man”
He scoffed roughly, hiking her body up a few inches until their mouths touched.
“Don’t tell me what to do, woman”
“Let me down.”
Frowning, he kissed her briefly, then caved to her softly spoken demand.
“Allison, this is my husband, Kingsley. Kingsley, baby, meet my best friend from high school, Allison.”
He stepped forward, out reaching one large hand to me.
“I’m damn glad to meet you, Allison. Bree has missed you something fierce.”
Shaking his hand, I nodded.
I had missed her, too.
“Me too. It looks like you make her very happy.”
Bree rested her head against his shoulder, proving my words were true.

 

A small, almost private smile took up residence on his face.
“Yeah,” He nodded once. “I guess, I do”
***
The softly blowing wind whispered over my face, my feet stepping over crushed leaves as I walked toward the small park in the middle of town the following day. After spending some much needed time with Bree and her husband, I hadn’t been able to keep the smile off of my face. It felt so damn good to be back near the people that made me happy, made me laugh. Though I hadn’t seen my brother yet, I knew that feeling of true happiness of this place would only grow once I did. Luke was my biggest fan, after all. Hell, wasn’t that what older brothers were for?
The wind of the cool, winter day picked up and my hands reached for the small zipper of the black fleece jacket I wore, dragging it up until it reached my chin. The sun shone above, causing rays of light to cascade over the hills of the grass covered ground in Fell’s Park.
There was another rolling hill toward the ending of grass, where the green ground led to a small, dirt road and I noticed a quaint little brick house nearby. I squinted my eyes, my gaze landing on the small sign at the top of the door. As I moved closer, my hands slipped into the deep pockets of my Lucky dark denim jeans. The sign becoming larger as I approached, my curiosity piqued.
Who knew an animal shelter lay in the center of the small park I chose to take a walk in?
Ever since I was a young girl, I had a very special love for animals of all kind.
Dogs, cats, anything I could get my hands on, I loved them.
I couldn’t count on one hand how many animals I had as a kid.
The time away from home hadn’t changed that.
An excited smile tugged my lips as I headed toward the small, brick house. But the closer I drew to the house, I noticed it wasn’t really a house at all.
It was three brick cottages built together, connecting by a large, cherry wood wrap porch. Behind the buildings lay a long pasture of grass area where I saw the heads of a few grazing horses. The excitement inside of me caused my heart to flutter like that of a little girl but still, I couldn’t retreat from what I had stumbled upon.
The large, wooden door creaked as it closed behind me and I stepped inside, cautious. The floors were the first thing I noticed. They were laminate hard wood and as I looked at them, I could tell they’d been laid by hand. I watched my older brothers do enough construction to know that wasn’t an easy task. My eyes moved next to the large front lobby and a long, narrow hallway that most likely led to where the animals were kept.
I all but jumped out of my skin from surprise as a woman’s voice came from the other side of the reception desk in front of me.
“Be with you in just a moment, Ma’am”
A shiver ran up my spine at the sound of the raspy voice and my hand came to rest on the handle of the door I’d just come through.
As if at a moments notice, I would bolt.
Maybe I would.
I didn’t understand the mixture of trepidation and curiosity that was now humming through my veins like liquid adrenaline.
I didn’t know why I suddenly wondered why I’d stumbled inside the building in the first place.
I stepped deeper inside as I heard the woman’s footsteps retreat from the desk, most likely getting something from the the office.
For some reason, the sound of her voice had struck a cord in me.
I had no idea how it sounded so familiar to me, since I hadn’t been here even a few days yet. How could I know her if we’d never actually met?
Maybe she was another old friend from up North, where I grew up.
Shit, maybe I was going crazy from the lack of sleep.
Between the long drive from New York, my late night yesterday and a fatigue from the drastic change of weather I’d experienced, I was probably losing it.
I was about to step back from the reception desk and toward the large, oak wood door when the woman came from the back office and into my view for the first time.
No. My inner voice screamed at me as I took a step back unconsciously, as if from sheer instinct. It couldn’t be. I told myself, shaking my head in disbelief.
“Ally,” She said, her rasped voice now so much clearer as she stood in front of me. There was only one woman who’d ever called me that. She was a ghost from my past but for this one, small moment, she was real.
“C-Charlie?”
One moment. 
One moment changed my life forever.
Her big green eyes looked at me and I knew I would never be the same. 
But sometimes in life, the things you want are the ones that stand just out of reach. 
The pain her loss in my life caused was indescribable. 
Hot, piercing pain that in all of my fourteen years of living, I had never experienced. 
I remembered her. 
Every day. 
Every bad date my friends pushed me into. 
Every lonely holiday I spent without her to talk to. 
Until I saw her. 
And I found her all over again. 
My father always told me that love snuck up on you when you were least expecting it. 
That’s what happened with her. 
Charlie was my girl from that moment on and I would do anything to protect her. 
Anything.
Amanda Kaitlyn is an author of heart stopping, sweet romance. Finding Beautiful is her debut novel. She is a hopeless romantic at heart. Books by Kristen Proby, Kelly Elliott and Stephanie Meyer have influenced her writing. One thing that inspires her is music. Country, pop, rock, Amanda enjoys it all. As a young girl, she loved fairy tales. As she grew up she realized that these stories change. Love isn’t always perfect and the fight of that love is what urges her to write the stories she does. Between the pages of her books you will find real, heartfelt romance, rugged emotion and lots of steam. Do you want to know more about Amanda Kaitlyn and her books? You can find her on social media and her author website.
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Chapter/Cover Reveal ~ Close The Tab ~ by ~ Chelsea Camaron

Title: Close the Tab
Series: Devil’s Due MC #3
Author: Chelsea Camaron
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Cover: Cover Me Darling

SYNOPSIS

The system created to serve and protect failed him. The domino effect of one person’s crime going unpunished has no boundaries.

He’s no saint.

Bladen ‘Judge’ Jones rides to escape the firm hand of his past. When home is a nightmare, the unknown suddenly isn’t so frightening. Riding with his brothers, the Devil’s Due MC, is more support than he has ever had in his lifetime.

She’s not afraid to call herself a sinner.

Tamalyn Andrews is a master mixer, hiding out in a small town hick bar on the outskirts of a town for nobodies. Looking over her shoulder is something she can’t stop herself from doing. Old habits die hard.

However, danger bellies up to her bar.

Will Bladen face his own past to uncover Tamalyn’s secrets? When everything crashes around her, will Tamalyn open up to Bladen in time to save her life?

Love, hate, anger, and passion collide as the time comes, and the devil demands his due.



PREORDER
PROLOGUE REVEALED
Close the Tab
Devil’s Due MC 3

Written By
USA Today Bestselling Author

 

Chelsea Camaron

Copyright © Chelsea Camaron 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Chelsea Camaron, except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.

This is a work of fiction. All character, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

1st edition published: May 30, 2017

Editing by: C&D Editing and Asli Fratarcangeli
Cover Design by: Cover Me Darling
Formatting by: M.L. Pahl of IndieVention Designs

ISBN-13: 978- 1542764612
ISBN-10: 1542764610

 

Thank you for purchasing this book. This book and its contents are the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied, and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

 

This book contains mature content not suitable for those under the age of 18. Content involves strong language and sexual situations. All parties portrayed in sexual situation are over the age of 18. All characters are a work of fiction.
This book is not meant to be an exact depiction of a motorcycle club but rather a work of fiction meant to entertain.
***Warning: This book contains graphic situations that may be a trigger for some readers. Please understand this is a work of fiction and not meant to offend or misrepresent any situations. There is quite a bit of violence so if that’s not what you’re looking for then please don’t read.***

 

Blurb:
The system created to serve and protect failed him. The domino effect of one person’s crime going unpunished has no boundaries.

 

He’s no saint.

 

Bladen ‘Judge’ Jones rides to escape the firm hand of his past. When home is a nightmare, the unknown suddenly isn’t so frightening. Riding with his brothers, the Devil’s Due MC, is more support than he has ever had in his lifetime.

 

She’s not afraid to call herself a sinner.

 


Tamalyn Andrews is a master mixer, hiding out in a small town hick bar on the outskirts of a town for nobodies. Looking over her shoulder is something she can’t stop herself from doing. Old habits die hard.
However, danger bellies up to her bar.
Will Bladen face his own past to uncover Tamalyn’s secrets? When everything crashes around her, will Tamalyn open up to Bladen in time to save her life?

 

Love, hate, anger, and passion collide as the time comes, and the devil demands his due.

 


 

Prologue

 


Bladen

“Tamalyn,” I plead. “Tell me, tell me what happened to your face!”

“I can’t,” she whispers.

“Let me get you some ice,” I start to move off my bed when she reaches out and grips me holding me in place.

“No, don’t leave me.”

“Okay,” I soothe. Laying back on my bed, I press her head to my chest as she relaxes I stroke her hair. Seconds tick by into minutes. We say nothing.

“Tell me,” I whisper. “Tell me who did it and I swear I’ll make them pay.”

She sobs into my chest refusing to answer. Minutes tick by as she finally falls asleep. The hours pass and I silently pray my parents don’t come home anytime soon.

They won’t help her. If they find her here, it will only get worse.

I already know marked her. I just can’t do anything if she won’t confirm it.

Tamalyn Andrews is my best friend. I have watched her grow from a girl into a woman. We have gone from playing in ditches together as kids to stealing kisses as teens.

There isn’t a time in my life where I don’t remember her being in it.

She’s also the only person in my whole world, who knows the truth.

We’re not safe here. We’re just too young to escape yet. Eighteen is two months away and I will do everything I can to get us free as soon as the day comes. Until then, sleep against me Tamalyn, find a moment of peace because when she goes home, she’s facing hell.

 

Find out if Judge gives the devil his due for Tamalyn’s pain in Close the Tab (Devil’s Due MC 3) releasing May 30th through all major e-book retailers! Preorder available now!
IN THE SERIES




MEET THE AUTHOR
USA Today Bestselling author Chelsea Camaron is a small town Carolina girl with a big imagination. She is a wife and mom chasing her dreams. She writes contemporary romance, erotic suspense, and psychological thrillers. She loves to write blue-collar men who have real problems with a fictional twist. From mechanics to bikers to oil riggers to smokejumpers, bar owners, and beyond, she loves a strong hero who works hard and plays harder.

 

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Chapter Reveal ~ Trigger ~ by ~ J.L. Drake

Title: Trigger
Series: Devil’s Reach Book 1
Author: JL Drake
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Designed


I was raised by the Devil himself.

Formed into a man that was unreachable.

I went from the boy with bruises to the man with a trigger.

Killing is the only thing the calms the itch.

The demons inside were a constant battle.

…until she changed everything.

When you spend most of your time

in the dark, is it smart to step into the light?

Trigger
Devil’s Reach, Book 1
J. L. Drake


 

Prologue

 

 


I used to watch them play in the streets, kick the ball between the cones, and toss their hands in the air. They’d high five, laugh, and stop for ice cream when the truck came around the corner at the same time every Saturday. 

They’d sit in the shade, pick at the grass, and tell made-up stories. Sometimes on summer break they’d stay out after dark and play ghost in the graveyard, head for the hills. That was, until they spotted me. 

Then they’d scatter. Head for their bikes. Disappear. 

Why? 

Because I was weird…and weird was scary. 





 

Chapter One

 

 


 

Trigger

 

 


 

Click! Click! Click! 

 

 


Shit!” I turned back around, barely missing the bumper of a semi-truck. His horn blew as we drew up along both sides. Two more bullets skimmed by my head and took out the mirror above me. The trucker screamed at us as he tried to keep his vehicle straight. 

Jamming my empty clip into my boot, I reached to grab my spare as another truck flashed his lights and hit the horn to alert us we were in his lane. The cliffs were too close to the edge of the road to spare us any room, and the others were gaining on us. 

I pointed my empty gun at the trucker to my left. “Slow down!” When he didn’t react right away, I moved the gun to his tire. His hand went up and he nodded repeatedly. 

He eased off the gas and allowed Cooper and me to slip in front. Cooper’s wheel bumped off mine, and I reached out and used my momentum to grab his shoulder to stabilize him. The roar of our bikes ripped through the mountains, alerting my men we were coming. 

“Brick!” I held up my hand, and he tossed me a clip. I quickly clicked it in place with my thigh. 

The minute I saw them appear in my mirror, I signaled for my men to get ready. With one quick movement, our black van skidded to the shoulder of the road in front of us. The back doors swung open, and the four of us spread apart as my two prospects popped out with their semi- automatics. It was a beautiful sight. Orange lit the dawn sky while bullets flew into their chests, blood shot across the pavement, and three more Stripe Backs lay mangled for their crew to clean up. They had taken our bait, and our plan worked perfectly. Though we wouldn’t go down for the kill, we still made our point. Don’t fuck with my club. 

I smirked at Brick as we each tossed our Cabo Wabo Anejo tequila bottles off to the side. 

We picked up speed and made good time well before any cops would be called.

Once we hit the city limits, my phone buzzed. The phone’s screen attached to my handlebars popped into view.

 

Cray: Ready in the morning. 

 

 


 

Good. Better to let the fear of what’s to come marinate. Then to end it quickly. 

I signaled to the men it was time. I decided to take the side streets so we’d be more visible and, as hard as it was, I slowed our speed to show we were in no rush.  

It worked. A few local shop owners gave us a wave before they pulled their steel doors down for the night. Mud, the local surf shop owner, was out for his nightly ride and gave us a nod. 

Rail and Cooper split off, while Brick and I rounded the back of our clubhouse and got to work.

***

“Ahhhh.” Spit jumped from his lips, but most of it pooled in the corners of his mouth. He looked like a wild dog. His pupils dilated when they focused on the tiny eyedropper that hovered above. “Please, no! I’ll do anything!” 

Brick glanced at me and shook his head. I agreed; it was tiring. As much as I’d have liked to slap that comment right out of his head, I couldn’t fault human reactions. It was in their DNA to beg for their lives. I always promised myself that when my day came, I would take it like a man. Silently. 

The heat from the hanging lamps plastered my hair to my neck like a second layer of skin. We really needed to turn on the AC. 

The slaughter room, as I named it, had tiled walls up to the ceiling, easy for cleaning, and a huge industrial drain in the middle for the larger pieces we needed to wash away in a hurry. No windows, no cameras, just lots of equipment to work with. 

Brick brushed the hair out of the bastard’s sweaty face so he could see me better. I licked my lips as I lowered myself to his level, and my men stiffened at this action. I never lowered myself to anyone’s level unless I was about to make a point. His eyes met mine, searching for some trace of a soul. Unfortunately, I was not born with one. 

I leaned down so he could see for himself the emptiness that lived inside me. Once he focused in and got a glimpse behind the curtain and I saw this realization, I spoke quietly. “Everyone dies sometime. We all have choices, and you made yours.” I motioned for Brick to move into position and spread his eyelid open. The bright pink flesh fought to go back in its place, but it was no match for Brick’s fingers. The man shook and kicked, but my expression told him to remain quiet. 

Holding the dropper above his eye, I squeezed the rubber and let the tiny drop of bleach fall and coat the pupil. His screams deafened me momentarily, but I welcomed the sound. That was fate’s way of thanking me for doing the devil’s work. 

He kicked and bucked as the minute drop burned its way through his cornea, blinding and eating as it traveled into his brain. His chest heaved and sweat pooled along his collarbone as his neck strained against the pain. 

The high I got off his terror made me hard, and my heartbeat raced. I swallowed hard in an attempt to lubricate my parched throat as I continued to blind his left eye. This was what I was made for. It was what separated me from other motorcycle gangs around me. I showed no mercy and punished those who needed it through their greatest fears. I knew it was only when you had nothing that you couldn’t be touched.

“Brick.” I held out my hand, and he passed me a hunting knife. Walking around the steel table, I took a deep breath. 

“You saw too much,” I whispered as he fought to see where I was with his clouded eyes. “You heard too much.” I grabbed his right ear, pulled it out, and sliced the outer part off. His face twitched, his mouth opened, and his wound quickly drained of blood, but he still stayed mute. “You stole from me.” Holding his hand down, I sliced his finger off at the second knuckle. Tossing it out of the way, I pressed on his open palm and stopped the flow of blood, just to fuck with his body. 

He jerked to the side and vomited in a silent cry. His mind must be spinning. Too much pain coming from too many directions could throw you off. 

“You were part of this family and chose to defy me. Never again will you disobey me.” I raised the blade above my head and drove it straight into his shoulder, hoping this would be the last tip to his sanity. “Just in case you think revenge is the answer…” Brick tossed me a switchblade, while Rail grabbed his head and yanked out his tongue. The blade drove through the center. 

Silence. Nothing but the hum of the lights. 

“See you below.” 

The voice in my head returned, so I waved at Brick, grabbed my shit, and left.

I waved at Morgan, who was on the phone on a smoke break, then fastened my helmet and wiped my hands clean. Revving the engine, I turned into the sun and drove out onto the smoldering road. The guys could handle the rest.

The engine was hot, and without realizing, I let my mind go there…

 

The burning poker skimmed my calf, and I jolted back with a scream. Tears streamed down my dirty cheeks as I hugged my knees to my chest. The heat burned the surface then traveled down to the muscle where it spread in a blanket of pure pain. 
“Stop!” I cried out, desperate for him to get bored and move on to something else. I was four years old, and this was the fifth time he had done this. 
“Come here, boy!” His huge hand swiped at me, but I pressed my back flat to the wall under the table, becoming as small I could. 
His brown eyes squinted as he drew back the poker. Dropping it on the floor, he cursed, grabbed a fresh beer from the fridge, banged it loudly on the table, and left. 
My heart pounded until it hurt my chest. 
If he had wanted to, he could easily have climbed under there. Allen was a fit man, muscles that attracted all the wrong kinds of women, a strong jaw, and defined, broad shoulders with a lean waist.  
I tucked the fear away and turned into the cool wall with my cheek pressed to it, seeking some relief from the terrible heat in my leg. Closing my eyes, I stayed under the table until morning, where I knew it could all begin again. 

 

 


Blinking to clear my head, I pulled off onto a dusty path and headed up into the hills. 

The yellow trailer sat on cement bricks; the wheels had been removed years ago. The slider-style windows were open, and broken blinds bounced around in the breeze. The place was a dump, and I wasn’t sure why he insisted on keeping it, but that was his decision. He had earned that right many years ago.

Backing under a shady tree, I turned the engine off and unclipped my helmet, hanging it off the handle of my matte black Kawasaki Vulcan 900.

I turned and found a beer can flying in my direction. I caught it and opened it slowly so as not to get sprayed. 

“Day?” his raspy voice croaked. 

I settled into an old folding chair that dug into my legs. “Three Stripe Backs down, and one of my prospects gone.” 

“Anyone hurt?” 

“Nope.” 

“Prospect stole? Or leaked?” 

“Stole.” 

“What you remove?” 

“Fingers. Eyes. Shoulder. Ear. A little tongue.” I shifted so the bar didn’t cut into my hip. “This shit is old, Gus.” 

“I’m old.” He passed off my comment, like always. “How much?”

Removing my hat, I swiped my long hair out of my face. 

“A little over forty thousand.” 

Gus shook his head and rubbed his knee. Three stab wounds to the same spot would screw anyone up. “Reason?” 

“Does it matter?” I tossed my empty can in the trash before I reached for another. My dusty boots landed heavily on his wooden table.

“Where is he?” 

“Thought the guys could have some fun.” 

He nodded. 

We sat in silence. I might not talk much, but I hated the quiet. My knee started to thump, and Gus took the cue. He leaned over and tapped his phone, and a moment later the band Disturbed filled the silence, and I let out a long breath as the guitar hit my ears and calmed me.

“Hungry?” he asked awkwardly as he got out of his chair. His battered body tilted to one side as he stood straighter. His head always hung to the right because of a bullet wound to the spine. Gus was sixty, but his soul was thirty. 

“No.” I downed my beer and rose. “I should get back.” 

He followed me to my bike. “Meeting tomorrow?”

“Yeah, eleven.” I buckled my helmet.

“New shipment?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Tomorrow,” he repeated with a small nod. 

Raising two fingers, I waved a goodbye and kicked the engine over. 

I weaved in between traffic. The bike was a part of me, and I’d been riding for as long as I could remember. Gus always joked that I drove before I learned how to walk. It was the closest thing I ever felt to freedom. 

Two headlights flashed in my mirrors, a signal for me to pull over. I waited until I was sure who it was, but he always flashed lights to me the same way. One short, one long. Easing over to the other lane, I exited at the gas station and parked on the shoulder. 

The Mustang came to a stop behind me, and Officer Doyle hauled himself out of the car. I chuckled as I sat on my bike and watched him take his sweet-ass time to get to me. 

“Trigger, I thought that was you.” His voice was raised to give a show to the people watching. Everyone knew my bike, and everyone loved to see me lose my shit on punk cops like Doyle.  

“You found me,” I said, playing along. “Now that you have, what can I do for you?”

Doyle kept his back to the spectators as he removed his sunglasses and cleaned them with the side of his oversized shirt. “I heard your boys got into a little trouble last night.” 

“Not sure what you’re talking about.” I shrugged. “What happened?”

“Eli’s boys got hit.”

 

Huh. “Alive?” 

 

 


“Two dead, one hanging on.” 

“Wasn’t mine.” 

He smirked and leaned closer. He smelled like cherry chew. “And if it was?”

I laughed at his act. I’d bet Doyle had never fired his gun other than training. “You got something to say, Doyle?” 

He bent my mirror to straighten his tie, and my fingers twitched to break his. “Known you a long time, Trigger. I also know when you’re lying.” 

Looking into the crowd who had nothing better to do than watch, I spoke very carefully, because I knew my switch was about to flick. “You have no idea who I really am. If you have a problem with my guys, you come to me with proof.” 

“Your boys better have some strong alibis.”

“Do me a favor, Doyle. Give your sister a kiss for me.” Just as he went to flip me off, I skidded my bike, kicking up a dust storm before I raced down the ramp and onto the freeway. 

Letting the engine sooth my nerves as I wove through the cars, it wasn’t long until I was back in my own territory and making my way down the street and into the abandoned movie theater I owned where I parked my bike. I took the elevator up to my place. 

I needed some time to think. 

“We are all moving forward, and my past’s catching up. Time’s a-running out, and my days are numbered. Too strong to run, too proud to hide, for this I’ll pay, for this I’ll die,” I sang, watching the lights flicker below me. I leaned my weight into the hot stone wall that overlooked Santa Monica, my guitar propped on my thigh, and plucked the strings to one of my own songs.

I could see for miles. This was my town, and this was my spot. Everyone knew when I was here to leave me the fuck alone. I stroked flint against metal and held the flickering flame to the end of the joint. With a deep drag, the smooth smoke traveled to the bottom of my lungs. I could feel it dancing around inside me. I squinted, tipped my head back, and made an O with my lips, letting a trail of white float up toward the stars.

The joint slipped further between my fingers, and I brushed the strings, sending blues rock into the warmth of the night. 

My mind raced back to this morning when everything had changed. The possibility that the club may have more rats was making my neck tick. I would need to flush them out with whatever means possible. Then I’d deal with them personally. 

I put my guitar down and ran my hands through my hair, letting it drop back down over my shoulders. I needed an outlet, so I stripped off my vest and hung it over an old chair so the devil could stare at me. Pulling my phone free, I swiped to hear The White Buffalo, turning the volume up and letting it cut through the silence. I hated silence; it brought too many memories. Of him.

I removed my t-shirt, flexing my neck back and forth, then pulled my arms over my head and leaned back. My fingers cracked as I laced them together and gave a good tug. I stared at the punching bag for a second then let loose. 

My lips curled from the impact that pounded my muscles like a hammer. Pain was good. Pain was easy to control. Every other emotion was just a waste of time. 

Twisting my torso, I did a roundhouse and kicked the black bag high in the air. 

Punch, punch, punch, punch. I couldn’t get enough until my arms locked and my throat begged for water. I wiped my face clean and brushed my hair out of my face, holding it in place with my ball hat. Kicking open the cooler, I popped open a cold beer and leaned against the rail. 

Finally, the voice was muted, but I knew it wouldn’t last long. 

My phone vibrated next to me. 

 

Brick: Prospect has been dropped off.

 

 


***



 

Tess

 

 


 

I poured myself another glass of wine from the bottle that sat on my night stand. With the lights down low, I looked around my room and was thankful I was alone tonight.
Picking up the heavy book, I settled back and pulled the duvet up to my chin. My eyes scanned for the place where I left off a moment ago. 

 

“Please stay and let me protect you.” His face is inches from hers. He gently lifts the sheet and dries the corners of her eyes. “You have to trust me.”  

 

 

I let the book fall forward onto my lap, my eyes closed. Damn, I had to keep reading. Where was I? Oh, right. “Did you spend the whole night with me?”
I let the book fall again. I’d never get this book read if I kept allowing myself to become her, but should I? I reached for my bag and dumped it out in front of me and grinned at the purple lipstick that just so happened to have a fresh new battery inside. Why the hell not? 

Later, before turning out the light and settling in for the night, I got out from under the sheets and looked out the window. I loved the night sky; something about it was peaceful. A flash of movement caught my attention, and I turned the lamp off so I could see better. Oh, my. “Hello, Remington Tate.” I opened my window. I was totally creepin’, but come on…

It was about ninety degrees in Santa Monica, yet this guy was wearing a hoodie. He moved about like a dancer, his fists hitting the bag. I heard the bang, bang, bang as his fists made contact with it. It was fascinating to watch. The rooftop he was on was only slightly higher than my window and gave me a good view of him, backlit by the moon. It was quite a beautiful sight. 

I grew tired in spite of myself and knew tomorrow would be a busy day, including more unpacking stuff that wasn’t even mine. I dragged my gaze away from the rooftop boxer and glanced around the room. It was much better than my old place. Well, anything was better than my old place. Closing my eyes to the memory, I tried to push his scent out of my mind, although I still felt the deep ache. Tears prickled my eyes, but I kept them away. I channeled the hurt into anger—something I was a pro at. Sadness never healed anyone. 

I was to start a new job tomorrow at Helmond’s Bar. It might be only temporary until I found something else. I didn’t want to be serving drinks forever, but damn, it was money, and I needed that right now.

My phone lit up, and I smiled at the text. 

 

Matt: T-minus eight hours. 

 

Tess: You better be there when I arrive. 
Matt: Have I ever let you down? 

 

My heart warmed a little. 

 

Tess: Never.

 

 


Holding up my beloved camera, I snapped a picture of my rooftop boxer, hoping I had captured the light just right. I knew it would be an image I would wouldn’t easily forget.

“Night,” I whispered before I crawled into bed and slipped the book under my pillow. I hoped it would bring me good dreams. 

***

Nearly falling into one of the boxes, I dug for the black leather skirt and red tank that Matt told me to wear. Once dressed, I wiggled into my high heeled boots and glanced at myself in the mirror propped up against the wall. I leaned upside down and ran my fingers through my long blonde hair to give it a little more volume. Five bike chains wrapped my left wrist halfway up to my elbow, and my silver hoop earrings swung as I moved, giving me an extra pop of color. 

I was never a girl who could wear cute sundresses and carry Prada bags. There was too much shit going on inside to ever wear something so cheerful. 

Grabbing my bag, I downed a glass of OJ I’d bought from the gas station across the road, and then locked the door and ran downstairs and out to the sidewalk. I wasn’t far from the address of my new job, but Matt had made some comment about how I should be careful which streets I used. Trouble was, he never said which ones. He told me to use a cab, but that was ridiculous. I’d Googled the location and saw it was only a fifteen-minute walk. Sorry, Matt, but I will not call a cab for that. Money was not something I had a lot of at the moment.

Holding the scrap of paper, I headed east and let the warm morning air wake me. That was, until I felt my bag vibrate. Not recognizing the number, I answered it, tucking the Post-it in my boot. 

“Hello.” 

“You want to tell me where you are this time?” 

My blood pressure dropped. 

“What do you want?” I held up my hand to a car to let him know I was about to jaywalk. The driver whistled, and I flipped him the bird. 

“Just want to know where you are. I have that right, Tessa.”

“No, you don’t.” 

There was such a long pause I looked down at the phone to see if it was still connected. After a moment, the screen indicated the call had ended. So much drama was laced up with that woman. I hurried as fast as I could. I really should have done a practice run, but moving your life from one state to another was exhausting. A few more blocks and two turns, and I shielded my eyes to read the number on the wall. 

Wait. I must have taken a wrong turn. Dammit.

Turning back around and getting completely confused, I saw a few guys staring me down. I felt a bit uncomfortable but tried to act normal. With my head up, attempting to show confidence, I hurried but tripped in my stupid boots and tumbled to my knees. My phone went flying, leaving me to wince as pain shot through my legs.

“Yeah, right where she should be,” one guy called out, making me blush from head to toe.

I scrambled to stand, when one of them reached for my arm and hauled me up like a child.

“As much as you looked good on your knees, that fall looked like it hurt. You okay?” My eyes met an elderly man, maybe in his sixties, a scary-ass lookin’ dude. A deep scar ran from his right eye down to the corner of his mouth. He reeked of beer, which literally took my breath away.

“I’m fine.” I pulled my arm out of his grip and somehow plastered on a smile to be nice. I caught sight of his biker vest. In fact, they all were wearing them. A skull with a devil and a snake coming out of its eye was patched on the back of them. Satan’s Serpents. 

I should have been terrified, but all that ran through my head was I was going to be late on my first day. I can’t let my best friend down.

One of the guys handed me my phone, but when I reached for it, he pulled it away. He clicked on the screen and grinned at the picture of me and my friend Mags. 

“Pretty dress.” He winked and handed it back to me. “Wear it on our date next week.” My face dropped further…if that was even possible. I’d lived with men like this, and it was tiring behavior.

He started to say something else, but a loud rumble from a pack of motorcycles deafened me as they drove by a cross street. A stillness spread through all the men. 

Four guys on choppers slowed as they caught sight of us. Traffic didn’t seem to mind. Sunglasses covered their eyes, but I knew they saw us. I was frozen, waiting for something bad to happen. The tension was so thick it made it hard to breathe. 

A few pulled their guns, but the old man with the scar shook his head, and they stood down.

 

Seriously, where the hell am I?

Again, the devil made its way into my vison, only their jackets had a skull resting in the Grim Reaper’s outstretched hand. Devil’s Reach was patched across their shoulders. I noticed both jackets had Santa Monica on them. 

Sensing the men were preoccupied, I took advantage of the moment and darted down the street.

I fished around in my boot for the stupid Post-it that I had written Matt’s address on. 

Fifteen minutes later, and I was finally there—5627 Dustin Street. 

I stared up at the rundown building with painted black windows. It was huge and wide, but the few buildings around it were abandoned and had some broken windows. I really hoped I had the address wrong. I tugged on the handle, and to my disappointment, it opened, letting out a cloud of smoke. I coughed to catch my breath, and when my eyes stopped stinging, I took in my surroundings. 

Holy fuck…

“You want somethin’?” a husky voice barked at me from behind the bar. I blinked to clear the haze and observed a tall man with a long beard that stopped at his belt. Tattoos ran around his shaved head like the rings on Saturn. 

I shook my head and realized it might be wise to leave. “I think I might be in the wrong place.”

He poured a shot and slid it my way, nodding for me to take it. I stepped up to the bar and thought why the hell not? At that point, I was sure I’d lost the job anyway. I tossed it back while he watched. “Where are you supposed to be?”  

I waited for the burn of the whiskey to leave before I answered. “I’m looking for my friend Matt Montgomery. I think I wrote the address down wrong.” 

He studied me a moment then his eyebrow ring twitched as his eyes narrowed in on me. 

“Brick! Company!” he shouted over my head.

 

Seriously? 

 

 


“No, I’m looking for a Matt.” 

“Not anymore.” 

 

Huh? 

 

 


A moment later, a door flew open and out came my best friend, who I hadn’t seen in six years, wearing a Devil’s Reach vest. 

 

Okay…

 

 


He flew toward me, scooped me up, and greeted me with a big bear hug. 

 

Hold up!

 

 


“Tess!” He smiled down at me through a mass of long brown hair that touched the bottom of his ears. “You look amazing!” 

“You expected less?” I joked to give me an extra moment to process the situation. “Um, not sure where to start here, so…what’s with the name Brick?” 

 

His eyes flickered with something before he spoke. “Nickname.” 
“Okay.” I noticed the words Vice President patched above his new name. What had I missed?
As bizarre as the situation was, I couldn’t deny how good it was to see him. It was like hugging your blanket when you were a child. Instant comfort.
I hugged him even tighter. “You look completely different.” I tugged on his long hair. “I love it!” 
He rested me back on the ground, and I swatted his arm, nodding at the fucking motorcycle bar. “Thanks for the warning.” 
A guilty grin spread across his face. “I didn’t want to run the risk of you not coming.” 
“How well do you know me?” I shook my head, feeling better already. “Anything is better than the house.” 
He reached for my hand and slid my bracelets up to check my wrists. His lips pressed together as his finger ran over the vertical scar on my left wrist.
“I know you better than anyone.”
I pulled my hand free and pushed the bracelets back in place. 
“How are you?” Before I could answer, he gave me his look. “Without the bullshit, Tess.” 
Stepping back, I noticed the bartender was listening to us with no shame. 
“Fine. Like I said, happy to be away. You going to show me around?”
His shoulders sagged, but he didn’t push it. Instead, he looked over my shoulder at something.
“Yeah, I can do that.” He waved around the bar. “Helmond’s Bar. Which is the club’s bar.” 
“Okay.” I saw their cut picture was painted onto the wall in black and gray, and there were three women who were high on something. Two of them were draped over a chair and a bench, and the other was butt naked, spread-eagle on the pool table. 
“Nothing you haven’t seen before.” Brick shrugged. 
A little boy, maybe six years old, came running out from behind the bar with what I hoped was a water gun and started to shoot the woman on the chair in the face. She squinted at him before she snatched it away and tossed it across the room. 
“Go get ready for school.” 
I shook my head before I saw Brick point. “That’s Gus’s old lady, and his son. You’ll meet him later.” I nodded, and he went on. “Through those double doors,” he pointed to the wall underneath the Devil’s Reach logo, “is the president’s office and the meeting room. Most of the time, the doors are open, but when there’s a meeting, they stay closed and the bar shuts down.” He beckoned for me to follow him past the bar and out through another set of huge, heavy doors. My guess was they would be bulletproof. 
We headed to our left first. The hallways were wide and the floors were tile. The walls were painted a dark beige, and to my surprise, it didn’t look too rundown, not like the front of the building. After a few quick glances out the windows, I saw the building was formed into a horseshoe with a party place in the middle. 
“These are the bedrooms for us main guys. Pres, Vice Pres, Sergeant-at-Arms, Treasurer, and so on. This is mine.” He pointed quickly before he turned me around and started back up the hallway again. Once we passed the huge doors, he opened another and let me step inside. Two women who looked to be my mother’s age, and one guy who was about the size of a house, glared at me. 
“Kitchen. No need to tell you their names. They have zero personality, and even if they did, they never leave this room, so it’s pointless.” 
“Hi.” I waved, and the guy snickered something in Spanish, so I shrugged. “Never knew an MC could live so well.” 
“We are not like most MCs.” Brick laughed as he opened the door for me to leave the kitchen. “Down there are more bedrooms.”
“What about that door at the end?” I noticed the same type of doors we went through to get into the living corridors were also at the end of the hallway.  
“Ah, that’s to go outdoors. They’re normally locked, so just use this one.” He tapped the door in front of me. “Okay, so, for the rules.” He led me outside, maybe away from ears. I didn’t know. 
The courtyard was mostly concrete, with a lot of trees that shaded the actual building. There was a huge rectangular pool with a little changing house next to it that matched the look of the stone barbecue. Tables and lounge chairs were scattered around, and an old pickup truck was off to the side, hidden between some trees against the stone wall that ran along the perimeter. The place did give you the sense of safety, that was for sure.
“I get it, it’s a lot to take in.” Brick looked up at me with one eye closed. I sat so he didn’t have to squint. 
“Not that bad.” 
“When you’re not working, you can be out here. We normally are. The guys will have their families over for Friday night dinners. You’ll be working with Morgan. He’s good, doesn’t talk much, but he’ll teach you lots. You got a problem, talk to him.” 
“Morgan have a family?” 
“Nope. You saw Gus’s old lady on the chair. Her name is Vib. She’s a junkie, but she shouldn’t be too much of a problem. They have two kids, Den and Fin. They are little dicks, but they’re family, so we love them.”
Awesome. I wasn’t a huge kid person. 
“Rail and Cooper are two more main guys who live here. Rail only thinks with his dick, so stay away. Cooper is…well, you can be friends with him. I’ll allow that.” 
I smacked his arm. 
“Don’t touch the drugs. There’s a lot kickin’ around. Us higher-up guys don’t touch it. Trigger, the president, wants us to stay clean. You can do pot, but not coke, okay?”
“Have you ever known me to stick a tube up my nose?” 
“Been six years, Tess. A lot has changed.”
“Like your name.” 
He laughed darkly. “Yeah, a few of us adopted a nickname after our first kill.” 
“Thanks for that image.”
“Think about Rail’s.” He laughed then stood and offered me a hand. “Come on.” He held my hand tightly as we walked back inside. “You have any problems, you come to me. Promise?” 
“I will.” I waited for him to close the door behind me, and I noticed the bar had gotten a lot busier. At least the naked chick on the pool table had closed her legs. “So, where am I working, exactly?” 
He tipped his head toward the bar. “Morgan,” he called out to the bartender as we joined him. “This is Tess. She’s the new bartender.” Morgan didn’t blink an eye at me as he opened the wooden latch to let me in behind the bar top. “Hey.” Matt tugged me closer. “It’s Brick now, okay?”
“Yeah, that’s been burned into my head nicely.” 
“We only deal in cash.” Morgan started right in. “The guys with the skull patches on their collars drink for free. No one else, no exceptions.” I failed to mention that he just gave me a free drink. “We only serve beer and hard liquor.” He pointed to the bottles. “You clean?” 
I glanced up at him, puzzled. 
When I didn’t respond, he flipped my arms over and checked my skin for tracks. “Take off your shoes.” 
“Pardon?” 
“She’s clean,” Brick barked out as a warning. Morgan nodded once then went back to explaining things like he didn’t just ask if I shot heroin. 
“You can drink, but don’t get drunk,” he mumbled and stroked his thin beard and twisted it around his finger as he thought. “Don’t call him Matt. His name is Brick. It’s disrespectful to the club. He earned that name.” 
So I’ve heard, although Brick never used the word earned.
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to,” Morgan muttered, and Brick seemed to agree. 

 

Shouting from a room off to the side drew my attention, followed by a loud crash. I looked at Brick, who just shook his head as if to ignore it.
Morgan handed me another shot. “Have you ever bartended before?”
“I have.”
“All you need to know is how to read the labels, pour a shot, and count.” He tapped his glass to mine and tossed the shot back, and I followed suit.
“Any tips you make are yours. As long as the till is even, you’re good. Make sure you wear something hot, give the guys a little somethin’ to look at.”
“Seems easy enough.”
Morgan glanced at Brick with a bored expression then back to me. “I give her to the end of the shift before she fucking quits.”
“Thanks.” I glanced over at Brick, who gave me a playful wink.
A door burst open and out tumbled a man with a face full of blood. He stumbled to the bar with one eye open and the other swollen shut. I noticed Morgan stood back to see how I’d handle the situation. It didn’t rattle me; not much did anymore. Brick’s comfort with the situation made it obvious the guy was on their shit list. I slammed a shot glass down, poured some whiskey, and when he reached for it, I slid it aside.
“Seven fifty.”
His watery, bloodshot eye stared at me. It took a second, but he realized I wasn’t screwing around, and his face scrunched up.
“Bitch, give me the drink.”
“Seven fifty.” My hip cocked out as I raised my chin to hold my own.
He reached for it again, but I moved it further away. He didn’t have the skull patch Morgan mentioned, and I wasn’t going to give it to him for free. The guy leaned forward, grabbed my arm hard, and pulled me close to his face. I had to choke back the smell of blood and sweat.
“Listen, you little cuntface. You want to know what it feels like to get a fist to the —” One moment he was threating, and the next his head was slammed onto the bar top by a very battered hand.
I jumped back to see a massive man with his nose just inches from the asshole’s face. His eyes were murderous as “Get the fuck out,” hissed from his lips. He then picked him up and dropped him to the floor like he hardly weighed anything. Moments later, the asshole was gone, and I was left staring at the big, lean man with one hell of a set of deep green eyes. I forgot how to breathe when they locked onto mine. His white shirt was stained with blood, his knuckles were raw, and his bottom lip was cracked. His dark hair curled slightly under around his collarbone.

I rubbed my arm, the pain slowly easing.  

“He’s out,” the man grunted to Brick. Even though he continued to stare at me. “Take care of it.” 

“Will do,” Brick answered from somewhere close. His fingers brushed over my shoulder. “You all right, Tess?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Trigger, this is Tessa.” Brick cleared his throat. “She’s the one I was tellin’ you about.”

 

Trigger? Oh, yes, the pres. 

 

 


“Tess,” I corrected him. 

Trigger didn’t say a word but held my gaze then looked down my front and back up again. His tattooed hand tugged on the bottom of his short beard. My skin heated, my chest burned, and my throat went dry. Mother of hell, his was gaze was intense. Though I knew men like this, and they were all the same. 

Trigger leaned forward to reach behind the bar, his eyes still locked with mine. He removed the whiskey bottle and tossed the cap next to me. He downed about a quarter of it then finally broke his hold to focus on Brick.

“They’re gonna eat her alive.” His voice had a little rasp to it, but my annoyance got the better of me. 

“Gotta love the encouragement here, boys.” I snickered and ignored his expression. Brick sucked in a sharp breath, and I guessed people didn’t talk to him like I just did, but I really didn’t care. 

I worked a long shift and met everyone as they trickled in and out of the bar. I turned a deaf ear to all conversation that didn’t include me. I felt like everyone was testing me to try to trip me up. So I kept my mouth shut and did my job to make sure everyone paid. Brick stayed true to his word to hang around and make sure I was okay.  

Morgan helped me a few times, but for the most part, I got it. At the end of my shift, I took a seat in a booth with Brick, and he ordered us a late dinner. 

The place was busy, the smoke got thicker, and the music pounded. 

“When did you join?” I asked right before I bit into my burger. 

I was surprised it was good. Most bar food sucked. I wasn’t picky. I even ate from a stranger’s plate once, but I did know good food, and this was pretty damn good. 

“Six years ago.” I looked up at him. “Right after you went back. I followed a lead that my father was part of the Devil’s Reach. He’s dead now, but I got accepted in and quickly climbed the ladder in the family.” 

I examined his vest and saw the skull on the front and VP patch. 

“Trigger is the president, I’m vice, and Rail, who I advise you stay away from, is below me. You’ll meet him tomorrow.” 

I rolled my eyes. “Do you like this life?” 

He stuffed in a handful of fries and chased it with his beer. “Yup, best life so far.” He eyed me as he thought. “Did they let you leave easily?” 

“What’s the bloody guy’s story from this morning?” 

Brick tapped his ring against his bottle. I could tell he was getting annoyed with me dodging his questions. “Stole from the club. Does your mom know you’re here?” I was about to change the subject again, but he gave me a warning by crossing his arms.  

“She knows I’m not in Vegas.” I shook my head, remembering that morning. “I need to change my number.”

“I’ll get you a new one,” he added quickly. “Are you all right in that apartment? Sorry it’s not closer, but I’m working on that now.” 

“No, don’t. It’s perfect. Thank you. As soon as I get some cash coming in, I’ll pay—” 

“No, you won’t.” He cut me off and glanced across the bar at someone. “Just don’t leave this time. If you need anything, you come to me, and I’ll help you.” He looked back at me then down to my stomach. “When did you get the tat?” 

I closed my eyes briefly and hated that he went there. Inching down my shirt, I shifted.

“Tess.”

“Two months…after you left.”

“How was the funeral?” 

I huffed loudly and pressed the pain down. “No money, no funeral.” 

His jaw locked in place before he spoke. “They never helped out?” 

“You’re forgetting she broke a house rule, Brick,” I muttered darkly. 

“Where is she?” 

“With a friend.” 

“She okay?” 

I finally looked at him full in the eyes. “Would you be?” 

I saw his chest rise and fall while he thought about it. “No. I wish you didn’t leave me when you did.”  

“You know why I did. No sense looking back. It doesn’t—”

“Brick!” a larger man with thin gold glasses and a kind smile shouted in our direction.

“Shit, I gotta go.” He moved out from behind the table. “That’s Big Joe, Trigger’s muscle. If he calls on you, go. His bark isn’t nearly as big as his bite.” He winked as my stomach turned. “Stay. If you want my room, it’s the second door on the right. Take the bed. I have a sofa. If you’re going to leave, Morgan will walk you home.” He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and left. 

After I polished off my burger and stole the rest of Brick’s fries, I grabbed my bag and headed out into the quiet street. I would rather get comfortable walking home than spend any more time within those walls. 

I needed fresh air.  

About a dozen bikes were parked out front, and I wondered which one was Brick’s. One was blacked out completely and looked like it cost more than a house. It was interesting, with thin gold lines that raced along the edges of the bike. If you looked closely, you could see faint drawings that faded as you walked by it. It was a bad-ass bike, for sure. 

My heels pounded the pavement, and I enjoyed the cool breeze on my hot, sticky skin. I couldn’t wait for a shower. 

Three blocks, then a right, six more blocks, then a…hmm…
I heard laughing up ahead and saw the guy from earlier who had my cell phone. Damn! I really needed to use my phone so I wouldn’t get lost anymore. 

I slipped into an alley and hurried around the buildings. It was dark, but it was better than having to deal with those guys. I wished I knew where the border for the club’s territory was. I wasn’t stupid and knew borders meant everything when it came to motorcycle clubs.  

A strong smell hit my nose, and Marilyn Manson’s Beautiful People caught my attention. Sweat, booze, and desperation swarmed in my head and brought some old comfort seeping to the surface. No windows, no sign, just the beat to the song. Pushing the heavy door open, I stepped inside. Neon purple tube lighting swirled down the hallway, escorting me deep into the Dirty Demons strip club. 

The bouncer who stepped in front of me was about twice my width. He flicked his head at me to pass. No need for an ID, no weapons check, and no need for male company. 

 

Interesting. 

 

 


Three platforms had naked women in cages dancing to the beat. The main stage had two women spinning on poles, and another slid across the stage thrusting her hips in a man’s face. The customer tucked a twenty into her g-string before she winked and moved on. 

 

It is a good living. 

 

 


Slipping into a booth in the corner, I rested my tired feet and ordered a rum and Coke. 

I let the music wash over me, and the hairs on my arms stood at attention as the goosebumps pushed them upward. I let my mind wander back to the good old days when things were so much easier.

 

Mags grabbed my arm as she stepped off the platform. “You’re not really going up there? She’ll kill you if she finds out.”
I tossed my top hat in the air and caught it on my head. “What else can she possibly take from me that she hasn’t already?” 
“You’re asking for trouble.” 
“Aren’t I always?” I winked and saw her devilish smile widen as she motioned for me to go on. 
“There’s a military party in the front. They’re tippin’ hot tonight.” 
“What about—?”
“He’s at the bar.” 
I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before I took a deep a breath and felt the rush as I stepped out and locked eyes with him. 

 

 

“You here for amateur night?” The waitress pulled me from my memory and set my drink down on a black napkin. 

I handed her a ten and shook my head when she reached out to make change. 

“When is it?” 

“Every Tuesday, at midnight.” I nodded, but she stared at me. “You wax?”

I nodded again. 

“Real?” She pointed to my boobs. 

“Yeah.” 

“Impressive.” She looked over her shoulder at her boss, who was watching us carefully. “Well, I’d be happy to see you up there.” 

“Thanks,” I muttered into my rum and Coke, avoiding her boss’s nasty stare.  

Settling in, I watched the girls and how they moved. Some were better than others. A few of them asked me for a lap dance, but I wasn’t in the mood. Besides, it would only make the addiction stronger. 

 

My hips shook as I dropped to the ground in a split. I swiveled to my stomach and ever so slowly pulled myself back into a sitting position. Rolling backward, I did a somersault and hooked my leg around the pole. Using my stomach muscles, I grabbed the pole with my hand and twisted into a spin. That was, until I saw her wrap her arm around his neck and look in my direction. Her look of hate ripped right through me. 
As soon as the song ended, I rushed off the stage and burst through the doors and out into the stuffy night air. I rubbed my fingers over my wrist, over the spot that nearly took me away from this hell. I needed to get away from here. 

 

 


I nursed my drink until I grew tired. Waving at the waitress, I found my way back outside. I stayed in the cover of darkness until I was at the back of my building then hurried to the front and let myself in. 

Pressing eight on the elevator, I sank into the corner and waited for the floor to arrive. My pillow never felt so good.
Bestselling author J. L. Drake was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, later moving to Southern California where she lives with her husband and two children. 

When she’s not writing, she loves to spend time with her family, travelling or just enjoying a night at home. One thing you might notice in her books is her love for the four seasons. Growing up on the east coast of Canada the change in the seasons is in her blood and is often mentioned in her writing. 
An avid reader of James Patterson, J.L. Drake has often found herself inspired by his many stories of mystery and intrigue. 

She hopes you will enjoy her stories as much as she has enjoyed writing them.
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Chapter Reveal ~ Scarred ~ by ~ Chelsea Camaron & Ryan Michele

Title: Scarred
Series: Ruthless Rebels MC #3
Author: Chelsea Camaron and Ryan Michele
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Scarred

 

(Ruthless Rebels MC Book 3)

 

 

Co-written by:

 

 

Chelsea Camaron

 

 

And

 

 

Ryan Michele

 

 

Copyright © Chelsea Camaron and Ryan Michele 2017

 

 


 

All Rights Reserved. This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction in whole or in part, without express written permission from Chelsea Camaron and Ryan Michele.

 

 


 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 


 

1st edition published: May 2017

 

 

Cover Design by: M.L. Pahl of IndieVention Designs

 

 

Editing by: Asli Fratarcangeli

 

 

Proofreading: Silla Webb

 

This work of fiction is intended for mature audiences only. All sexually active characters portrayed in this book are eighteen years of age or older. Please do not buy if strong sexual situations, violence, domestic abuse, and explicit language offends you.

 

 


 

This is not meant to be an exact depiction of life in a motorcycle club, but rather a work of fiction meant to entertain.

 


Scarred

 

Whitton ‘Skinny’ Thorne – scarred skin only covers a beautiful soul.

 

 


 

Bitter with a capital B.

 

 


 

Life has been hell from the beginning when Whitton was burned as an infant, yet as much as he pushes me away I’m always coming back for more.

 

 


 

When I finally let go, he wants to let me in, how do I survive when we’ve both been scarred?

 

 

 

Chelsea Camaron and Ryan Michele have teamed up to bring you an explosive new MC romance that will have you panting for more of the Ruthless Rebels. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a wild ride full of action and suspense that these two authors are known for. Throw in two people who finally get their second chance, and things are about to get smoking hot.

 

 





 

Chapter One

 

 


 

Roe

 

 


 

Fairytales, nursery rhymes, and childhood memories, none of them are really all that great!

 

 


 

Holding my hand in the air with three fingers up, I sing the song about Sally the camel and her humps. Simple.

 

 


 

I don’t have or need complications in my life. Sally has humps that come and go, she has issues, me – I’m good.

 

 


 

The twenty-two smiling children sing along with me with utter enthusiasm. They love this song. Most days we sing it once sometimes twice before we do the weather and calendar first thing in the morning. Our routine, the structure the kids need to thrive, and I need to feel like things are in order.

 

 


 

I look up when the door to my classroom opens.

 

 


 

It’s preschool. The director of the school comes in and out throughout the day so at first I don’t think much of it. When my assistant teacher Ms. Jennifer stands up to take over, it’s then I make my way to the door. As the lead teacher if the director comes in it’s Jennifer who takes over for me and I meet with the director. Any changes necessary from the director, I will make them. Jennifer and I have worked together for three years now so our system is solid.

 

 


 

Beside the director, Ms. Marie, is the cutest little girl. Obviously, this visit is to bring us a new student. Her blue eyes are a bit too big for her face making those rounded little cheeks stand out too. There isn’t fear in her blue depths, but there is a lot going on in that brain of hers. Finishing the song to the delight of the children on the ABC carpet, I let Jennifer continue with the next song. I focus my attention and greet our newest student, warm smile in place.

 

 


 

I bend down to her level looking her in the eyes. “Hello, I’m Ms. Roe and what’s your name?”

 

 


 

“Marlayna,” the little girl in pigtails says softly.

 

 


 

My heart breaks when I see the scar on her neck that her hair isn’t covering. I know those marks too well. I fight back the emotion that sits just under the surface.

 

 


 

Burns.

 

 


 

This little girl has suffered a tragedy and I hate that for her.

 

 


 

“Would you like to join us in circle time?” I offer as I fight back the past. He is not the only person to be burned in their lives and survive. So many things twist inside me and I have to push it down. The emotions that keep beating down the well-structured walls I’ve built around them over the years always try to spill over, but I won’t allow it. I’ve had no other choice but to keep a handle on it all.

 

 


 

My job is about teaching and nurturing Marlayna, today is not about him or his scars.

 

 


 

She nods her head and the day commences with story time, rhyme time, nap time, and all the normal activities of my day. Marlayna adjusted very well in the class for it being her first day. She went with the flow no trepidation and without much of a reaction to anything.

 

 


 

It pains me. I don’t like when the kids cry, but when they come in almost numb like little Marlayna it hurts more to wonder what has hardened them to life already. Children should be free to be kids not caught up in some adult situation or punished unnecessarily.

 

 


 

The afternoon passes with little Marlayna quickly falling into the routine and making friends. After each of the children are gone and I get my room cleaned up, I head out.

 

 


 

Arriving home, I sit on the sun room of my two-bedroom house and enjoy the Georgia afternoon. When I moved out, this was my one requirement, sun room. I love the outdoors and not feeling closed up.

 

 


 

Blakely, Georgia, population five thousand. Small town lifestyle near the Alabama – Georgia state lines.

 

 


 

April is my favorite month of the year. The weather is sunshine, the birds sing, and the humidity isn’t unbearable so boob sweat is a non-issue for the time being. No woman ever wants boob sweat. August, in the deep south is hotter than hell so I’ll enjoy my outside time while I can.

 

 


 

In fact, tomorrow I think I’ll take my class to have a picnic and maybe do sidewalk chalk and hopscotch on the playground. They love the outside and it helps to get as much of their energy out as possible.

 

 


 

My mind goes to little Marlayna. She is in the system. Foster care, with the Brown family, who are regulars in the community when it comes to taking in children. They will be good to her.

 

 


 

I once knew a boy who lived with the Brown’s. My mind, my heart, they always go back to him. I wish it wouldn’t but we have too much shared between us. His scars were similar to hers only they covered his face and half his body.

 

 


 

Whitton Thorne, the boy down the road with a tortured past. His mom had things so twisted in her head when it came to her twin boys. She believed Whitton was evil and Waylon was the son of Jesus or something crazy. I wasn’t privy to all the details. I just know every time the state let the boys go back to her, Whitton was returned to his social worker more damaged than before. I know once they tried to send Waylon back and leave Whitton with the Brown’s only for Waylon to run away to be with his twin. The two of them were close. In their situation, I would imagine one would have to be. They were also complete opposites.

 

 


 

God, I loved Whitton.

 

 


 

From the beginning when he was the boy I bumped into in grade school to the man who grew into there isn’t a moment in time since I met Whitton Thorne that he didn’t have my attention. He intrigued me. His strength captivated me. And the more time I had with Whitton Thorne in my life the harder I fell in love with him.

 

 


 

Even now, years have passed and I can’t help but hope he’s okay. Hope that somewhere he found his slice of happy.

 

 


 

Night comes and I slide into my t-shirt blend sheets. I don’t make much with my job, but this is my splurge, soft bed sheets. After all, one can’t be at their best with twenty children without a good nights sleep. I close my eyes and the fatigue of the day quickly consumes me.

 

 


 

“Whitton Thorne, one day you’re gonna be the President.” I smile proudly at my friend.

 

 


 

“The President of the rejects club, maybe,” he replies in his normal tone.

 

 


 

I sigh. The boy is nothing short of amazing. He’s smart, athletic, and cute. He just doesn’t see it. Him and his twin brother look nothing alike. All the girls crush on Waylon. He has this mystery to him. Whitton, though, Whitton is the kind of boy you can talk to, really talk to. There is depth to him. The intrigue of him keeps me on edge to know more, see more, and have more time with him. From the time we met in elementary school at eight years old until now he has captured my attention. We’re young, he’s seventeen and I’m sixteen, but I can’t get enough of him.

 

 


 

“What do you see in me, Roelyn Duprey?”

 

 


 

I feel the blush cover my cheeks. “All good, I see all the good in you Whitton.”

 

 


 

He smirks. “You got the wrong Thorne, Roe. Maybe you think I’m Waylon.”

 

 


 

I prop my hand on my hip. “I know what I see in you Whitton and I see potential!”

 

 


 

“You have all the potential, Roe. The future is in front of you and there’s not a single thing to hole you back.” He tells me like he does all the time. “You need to have bigger and better than what Blakely, Georgia and a misfit like me can offer.”

 

 


 

“Oh, Whitton, you will have bigger and better in your life. I know it.”

 

 


 

He laughs me off like he does every single time I tell him I think he’ll be someone someday. Only thing is, I know down to my soul he has so much more to give in this world. My heart bleeds that he doesn’t see it.

 

 


 

My alarms blares drawing me out of the dream. The memory of a lost time when things weren’t complicated and the boy I knew and believed in may not have believed in himself, but back then he believed in me. Something I desperately needed.

 

 


 

Whitton Joseph Thorne, my best friend since we ran into each other playing at recess when we were only eight years old. Twenty years later, I still consider him the best friend I’ve ever had … only everything between us has changed.

 

 


 

No longer is he the boy I thought could give the world goodness. He’s a grown man who left everything in Georgia behind ten years ago when we crossed a line.

 

 


 

Would I cross the line again? If I knew the outcome would be this, I’m not so sure. At the time, it felt right. Hell, I thought it was going to change everything into something we could build a future on.

 

 


 

Except, Waylon took off and Whitton was right behind him. Where one brother went, the other was sure to follow. They had a rough start in life. Bonded as twins, bonded as brothers, and bonded by the times life kicked them while they were down those two would always stick together.

 

 


 

Part of me blames Waylon. The other part of me, knows the truth. Whitton ran. Yes, he woke up after the best night of our lives and couldn’t handle the emotion. He found out Waylon took off and he followed. It was an escape and an all too easy excuse.

 

 


 

I’m not sure he realized that no matter the distance he put between us, he still had me with him. I haven’t figured out a way to get that piece of me back from Whitton yet. Even after all these years, I belong to him in a way that keeps me from moving on.

 

 


 

Looking at little Marlayna yesterday and waking up today, it’s time I let go of Whitton. Everything I thought we could one day be is a far fetched dream. Marlayna has her life ahead of her. No matter the past, she has a future.

 

 


 

The same can be said for Whitton Thorne and it’s a future that he decided would be without me.

 

 


 

**

 

 


 

Sitting down to a late dinner, I pull out my phone and scroll social media. I don’t know why because it only tells me things I don’t care to know. Even with a bowl of vegetable soup in front of me, my stomach growls at seeing the yummy chocolate desserts. I have a sweet tooth. My ass and hips thank me for it.

 

 


 

Sipping my soup, it warms me. My thumb moves on my phone screen, skipping past people I went to high school with that I never talk to. Why I’m even friends with them, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s time to declutter my life. Most of the time people friend you just to see what you’re doing and then delete you. Personally, I like it when people take out their own trash.

 

 


 

My private message pops up and internally I groan seeing it’s from Lance. Hi. See you’re on. Want to talk to you. He types. I need to figure out how to block people from seeing when I’m on and when I’m not. Or maybe I just need to block him. I’m thinking the latter.

 

 


 

Going out with Lance was up there with many mistakes I made in my life. Two dates, then I called it off. Only he didn’t seem to get the point. Even telling him flat out I wasn’t interested, he still messages me, texts me and calls me. Not wanting to appear rude, I’ve answered all of them. But this, I just don’t want to engage with him. I’m tired of it. I repeat myself all day everyday with my students. My personal life, I don’t want that.

 

 


 

I move the little bubble that shows a picture of a golf club, Lance, and toss it down below to get rid of it off my screen.

 

 


 

The phone begins to ring and I jump. First thought is, Lance is calling me. Then when I look at the screen, I see Elizabeth Calling. A smile crosses my face as I except the call.

 

 


 

“Hey woman!” I greet my best friend. We met in college, which seems like a lifetime ago, but really wasn’t.

 

 


 

“Hey back at ya! What are you doing? I want to meet for drinks.”

 

 


 

I look to the clock noting it’s only five-thirty, but I do have to work tomorrow. Drinking and then rowdy children in the morning is not a good combination.

 

 


 

“Is something up?” I take the last bite of my soup and push it to the side.

 

 


 

“Yes, but I don’t want to tell you over the phone. Meet me in twenty at Carlyle’s?”

 

 


 

Looking down at my clothes, the puppy dog pajama bottoms won’t cut it going out. “Give me thirty. I need to change.”

 

 


 

“Epp.” She makes the sound then, “Okay, see you then.” And disconnects. Whatever she has in store must be exciting.

 

 


 

At least one of us has something good going on.

 

 


 

Chapter Two

 


 

Skinny

 

 


 

Flames extinguish, scars fade, but the burn can’t be felt forever!

 

 


 

I strike the match and watch it burn.

 

 


 

The blends of reds and yellows into oranges is mesmerizing. The flickers of colors all move as if they’re dancing together. The heat gets closer and closer to my fingertips as the flame grows intently.

 

 


 

I feel no pain. I feel nothing.

 

 


 

Void. Empty.

 

 


 

My life is not one of colors and blends.

 

 


 

Poof. I blow the match out. The flame is extinguished. All that’s left is black smoke. It’s like my soul. Dark, unforgiving.

 

 


 

I sit in the dim lit room I call home. Ruthless Rebels MC – my family and the clubhouse where I calm myself at the end of every day.

 

 


 

The ten feet by ten feet space has my bed, one nightstand, and a dresser. The closet is small but I keep a three tiered bookshelf in there, full of different books and photo albums. It’s not much, but it’s mine. Beside that door is the door to the bathroom.

 

 


 

Feeling the acid burn in my gut, I get up and make my way in front of the porcelain. Dropping to my knees I wretch.

 

 


 

I don’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t throw up within an hour. It happens, every damn day. I finish, stand, wash up, and brush my teeth. There’s no use in looking in the mirror, I already know the mess I’ll see.

 

 


 

I hate fucking mirrors. Only one time in my life did I ever look in a mirror and not see the hideous beast I am … and that will never happen again. Roelyn Duprey, she made the man in the mirror not a monster but a lover. She is everything beautiful I should never touch. It’s a memory I’ll hold onto.

 

 


 

She believed in me, believed in having something not understanding the monster I am. From the beginning the devil gripped my heart and never let go. The bitch known as my mother told me I was spawned in evil. She scarred me, marked me, and made sure the world could see me for what I am. A horrible, vile, demonized man.

 

 


 

Roelyn Duprey had rose colored glasses on. I let her keep them on because I needed her lifeline. The spark between us, I fed. Continuing to fuel, provide the heat, like a flame, I watched us grow, flicker, and rather than watch us fade, I snuffed it out quickly leaving nothing behind but black smoke.

 

 


 

My brother needed me and Roe needed me to go away even if she didn’t know it. I took off, never looked back, and haven’t looked in a mirror since the night I watched me fuck her in one.

 

 


 

Spitting in the sink, I rinse my mouth and walk away never checking my reflection. I know what I’d see. The flames of hell flicker in my eyes and burn in my soul, no need to remind myself.

 

 


 

Throwing on a clean pair of jeans, I don’t bother with boxers, briefs, or anything to cover my junk. The raw denim rub will remind I’m alive. Somehow, in the hell that is my life, I keep surviving and I’m not sure why. Sliding on my shirt, I grab my cut as I drop my feet into my boots before I head out, not bothering to tie the laces till I get to my bike.

 

 


 

Today I have packing duty. I don’t mind. I’ll head to the warehouse, pack the guns to ready for shipment, and then meet up with Waylon.

 

 


 

My twin, Triple Threat, as he’s known in the club is everything I’m not. He’s good looking, level-headed, and not held back by a damn thing.

 

 


 

Me, I’m a scarred mess, hot-head, and haunted by the one thing I gave up so long ago.

 

 


 

Yeah, tonight calls for the strip club. I’ll pay to have a stranger grind on me till I get hard, then head back to the clubhouse and fuck a trick until I can’t remember my name, my past, and the woman I left behind.

 

 


 

**

 

 


 

“It’s a boy!” Shamus rushes into the clubhouse announcing. “DJ has a healthy, happy, eight pound, nine ounce, twenty-two inch baby boy. Kenderly is doing good.”

 

 


 

There are smiles and happiness that fill the space. Shamus comes over to me, slapping me on the back. “You wanna go with us to set up the house, brother.”

 

 


 

I nod. There isn’t a single thing with any of my brothers I would miss because they are all I have. And for once in my life, I belong.

 

 


 

After DJ’s whore mother dropped her problems on Kenderly’s doorstep, DJ claimed his woman and in turn the Rebels handled their shit. Kenderly and her mother had an uphill battle to climb with everything they had already lost, but DJ’s mother cost them their home.

 

 


 

It took some time, but DJ won over Kenderly’s heart. They have a good life, building themselves a solid future. And now their new addition. Everything is looking good for my Rebels’ brother.

 

 


 

Not too long ago, DJ bought them a big ass house and furnished it to Kenderly’s liking. Now, it’s time for the Rebels to ride in and make sure our newest member is set.

 

 


 

“Your woman handle buying the goods?” I ask Shamus knowing he and Andrea have decided not to have kids because of the health risks for her.

 

 


 

“Shit, brother. She loves shopping for all this baby crap. Kitten has a soft spot for being the auntie apparently. She even bought Kenderly a video baby monitor instead of the basic one they had on the registry.”

 

 


 

I laugh. “Nothing wrong with that.”

 

 


 

“I didn’t think so but apparently DJ and Kenderly had talked. DJ didn’t want to be fuckin’ his woman and look to the nightstand and see their baby awake.”

 

 


 

“I never thought a damn thing would give DJ stage fright.” We both laugh before heading out to go set up a nursery Rebels style.

 

 


 

“Guess a baby changes things. I’m good with how my life is so no change needed here.” Shamus adds with a smirk. Things are good in the club, they are good for DJ and Shamus. It’s even better to feel like I’m a real part of something.

 

 


 

Andrea is already inside when Shamus, Lurch, Triple Threat, and I pull up. She rushes outside and over to the car parked in front of the house.

 

 


 

“Mom brought me over, got lots to unload.” She says more to Shamus than anyone with a smile that is relaxed and easy going.

 

 


 

Given the path Andrea went through to finally be okay again and with Shamus, I smile with her. Like me, her life is full of scars.

 

 


 

Only in all the turmoil, Andrea has found a way to not allow her scars to define her.

 

 


 

She lived a different life. Following her dreams into investigative reporting landed her half dead in a hospital oceans away from her home. She survived her traumatic brain injury like I survived my burns. With no place to go to pick up the pieces she came home. It took a bit, but Shamus and Andrea worked their shit out. Their past isn’t holding them back from a future.

 

 


 

Waylon and I won’t have this. Our past defines our future and it’s not one that looks so bright.

 

 


 

For a moment, I had hope that somehow I could have a second chance to have something real in my life outside of the club. With DJ and Shamus both getting their second chances, I thought maybe there would be a sliver of time where Waylon and I could have more than what we have managed to secure. Then I dreamt I caught a look in the mirror and quickly remembered what my life has been destined to be from the moment I was born.

 

 


 

I am my brother’s keeper. My place on Earth is to protect him even from himself. I don’t have the time or emotion for anything else.

 

 


 

Our mother is a psycho bitch who thinks my brother is the second coming of her God or some shit. Apparently during an ultrasound, it appeared that I, baby b, was kicking or hitting, baby a – being Waylon. From that moment on I was destined to the damned.

 

 


 

She even tried to have me aborted but the doctors said she was too far along and it was risk to my brother. Then we were born.

 

 


 

She tried to leave me at the hospital. The nurses told her it wasn’t good for infant twins to be separated this early. According to the medical records we later dug up, they felt she was suffering from post partum depression and would eventually want me. Having two babies at once via c-section meant she couldn’t hold us right away so she didn’t bond properly the doctor noted.

 

 


 

Bond.

 

 


 

What a joke. The woman tried to kill me more than once.

 

 


 

I’ve never had a mother’s love. Neither has my brother.

 

 


 

She may have wanted me marked, condemned, banished, and branded, but she wanted my brother to be some savior to the world.

 

 


 

We just wanted to be boys. We grew into men who just wanted to live life. To this day I still can’t understand her mindset. I gave up a long time ago trying. Waylon – that’s another story.

 

 


 

I’ll go to the ends of the Earth for my brother. I’ll protect him from her or God himself if I have to.

 

 


 

“Snap out of it, these diapers won’t unload themselves!” Waylon says throwing a box of the shit holders at me.

 

 


 

“How many boxes do they think Kenderly needs?” I ask looking at the van full.

 

 


 

“Daisy, XXX (Lurch’s woman forgot her name), Andrea, her mom, Kenderly’s mom and aunt, and every other woman around swear they will go through these and more.” Shamus says walking inside with a bag of clothes.

 

 


 

“Wonder what it was like for mom to have twins?” Waylon says out loud and my chest stings in the pain I know he feels.

 

 


 

Yeah, we have no future like what DJ or Shamus have found. I need to stop disillusioning myself into ever thinking I could. Walk the line, it’s what I have to do.

 

 


 

If I fuck up, I’m not the only one who suffers, Waylon will too. I won’t do that to him or me. Yes, I’m better off alone.
Whitton ‘Skinny’ Thorne– scarred skin only covers a beautiful soul.
Bitter with a capital B.
Life has been hell from the beginning when Whitton was burned as an infant, yet as much as he pushes me away I’m always coming back for more.
When I finally let go, he wants to let me in, how do I survive when we’ve both been scarred?
***Each book in the Ruthless Rebels MC is a new couple, but are best read in order. This is a biker book so please expect violence, foul language, and sexual situations. Do not buy if any of this offends you.***




USA Today Bestselling author Chelsea Camaron is a small town Carolina girl with a big imagination. She is a wife and mom chasing her dreams. She writes contemporary romance, erotic suspense, and psychological thrillers. She loves to write blue-collar men who have real problems with a fictional twist. From mechanics to bikers to oil riggers to smokejumpers, bar owners, and beyond, she loves a strong hero who works hard and plays harder.






Ryan Michele found her passion in making fictional characters come to life. She loves being in an imaginative world where anything is possible and has a knack for special twists readers don’t see coming.

She writes MC, Contemporary, Erotic, Paranormal, New Adult, Inspirational, and many more romances. And whether it’s bikers, wolf shifters, mafia, or beyond, Ryan spends her time making sure her heroes are strong and her heroines match them at every turn.

When she isn’t writing, Ryan is a mom and wife living in rural Illinois and reading by her pond in the warm sun.

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Chapter Reveal ~ Fractured Silence ~ by ~ Carrie Ann Ryan

fs-teaser1

Carrie Ann Ryan’s FRACTURED SILENCE releases April 18th…but we couldn’t wait that long! You can get a sneak peek at the first chapter of FRACTURED SILENCE below!

 

 

Fractured Silence (1)

About FRACTURED SILENCE

The Talon Pack continues with a dark secret that could shatter the future of the Packs, or save them all.

Parker Jamenson is the son of three Packs, the sole mediator between every Pack in the United States and Europe, and…he’s dying. He knows he doesn’t have much left in him and is in desperate need of a mate. But with the new and unyielding changes thanks to the Moon Goddess, he might not have as much time as he thinks.

Brandon Brentwood is the Omega of the Talon Pack and the youngest of his family. He’s not only one of the famed triplets; he’s also the most secretive. There’s a good reason for that, however, and when a shocking revelation meshes the past and present in a very unexpected way, he’ll look to not only Parker but also a disgraced human to save them all.

Avery Montag knows she’s the daughter of a traitor and doesn’t have much to give the wolves in the way of atonement. But she’ll do everything she can to pay for her father’s sins and find a way to end the war between the humans and the wolves.

When the three turn to each other in a time of unrest and for vastly different reasons, temptation burns and seduction beckons. Only, the past, present, and future are never as solid as they seem, and the path the trio thought to travel may just vanish before they’re ready.

Add FRACTURED SILENCE to your Goodreads list here!

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fs-teaser2

Get a Sneak Peek at the First Chapter of FRACTURED SILENCE

Chapter One

Before

 

Parker Jamenson woke with a start as someone knocked on the door to the small cabin he’d been staying in for the duration of his visit to this particular European Pack. Using his wolf’s senses, he inhaled deeply, noting that the person on the other side of the door was one of the younger wolves that had shown him around when he’d first gotten there. He hadn’t met most of the Pack, as the people of the den hadn’t been too keen on his presence. He’d only just fallen asleep in the armchair fully clothed, exhausted from the trip.

He’d already spoken to the Alpha about coming together with the Redwoods in times of war, but the damn man hadn’t been too eager to reveal his existence to the world. All Alphas were required to meet with Parker as the Voice of the Wolves because he was goddess-touched, but that didn’t mean they had to listen. Hell, most of them would rather bury their heads in the sand and ignore what was going on around them. And while his own Pack might be older than most in the United States, the European Packs were ancient and set in their ways. No one wanted to deal with the fact that the humans were aware of the shifters’ existence, but Parker knew that soon, no one would have a choice.

He opened the door after a moment and nodded at the young woman on the other side. “Tatiana.”

She smiled coyly at him before licking her lips. He could scent her wolf brushing up against her skin, wanting touch, but Parker wasn’t interested. He just wanted to get this meeting with the elders over with and head back home. Her long, honey-colored hair had been in a braid when he’d first met her, but now it looked as if she’d brushed it out over her shoulders and back so it cascaded over her curves. She’d also put on a long, white, flowing dress instead of the tan one she’d worn when he’d shown up.

And though she looked to be his same age and her power felt even younger, she dressed as if she were some maiden from a bygone era on the hunt for a knight.

Parker would not be that knight— no matter how much those eyes of hers flashed yearning.

“Parker,” she breathed. “I’m to take you to the elder circle for your last meeting before you go.” A pause. “It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to get to know one another while you were here. I understand you leave in the morning, but perhaps the meeting won’t take long, and I can show you more of the grounds. I’m sure your wolf could use some exercise.” She smiled. “And though it’s not a full moon, there’s just enough moonlight for the run to be… thrilling.”

He held back a chuckle that wanted to spill out since that would have been rude. She wasn’t hiding anything she wanted, and while he might have appreciated that on another day, he just wanted to go home. Besides, his wolf wasn’t interested in the woman in front of him, and while that might not matter for a quick night of heat, he didn’t have it in him to ignore his wolf tonight. Maybe I’m getting older, and in need of a mate, he thought. Or maybe he was just tired and missed his family. Either way, Tatiana wasn’t for him.

“I’m afraid I will have to get ready to head out after the elder circle.” He held back a frown at the crestfallen look on her face. They hadn’t said more than a few words before this, and though he was a new wolf to her, he wasn’t the only healthy adult male wolf around.

“I understand,” she said softly. “Follow me, then.” She turned without another word, but he didn’t miss the extra sway to her hips— an invitation if he were to change his mind.

Keeping his thoughts to himself so he wouldn’t inadvertently hurt her again if he were to change his mind— which he wouldn’t— he followed her through the winding, dirt paths of the den toward the oldest part at the edge of the center. It made sense that this was where the elders chose to live— just slightly outside the most used part of the den for privacy but not near the edge in case of an attack. As elders, they were to not only be respected but also protected.

Tatiana left Parker with a nod, and he bent to walk under a low-lying branch so he could make it to the elder’s circle. Encircling the firepit were seven older wolves of various sizes— three women and four men. At his entry, they all looked up as a unit and stared at him.

If he hadn’t seen his own elders do this before, he would have been creeped out. Elder wolves were those who had either lost their mates long ago or had never been mated, so they didn’t have a connection to the new world or the Pack except through their bonds to the Alpha and those in the hierarchy. After living for centuries, some wolves could no longer deal with the drastic changes of society and chose to cloister themselves. Many of the wolves held immense power on their own because of their age and used that strength to protect the Pack in any way they could.

Parker looked back at the elders respectfully. Though each of the wolves had at least two centuries on him, none of them looked a day over thirty-five. Wolf genetics never ceased to amaze him and he’d been born a wolf.

“Parker Jamenson, of the Redwoods,” the woman closest to him said after a moment. “Welcome. I am Aurora. We’re pleased you were able to take the time to meet with us before you head out on your journey home.”

Parker bowed his head in deference. “I will always meet with my elders, Aurora. To ignore those who have lived the past is to ignore what the future may bring.”

She smiled softly at his words and gestured for him to sit down before introducing him to the others. He kept their names in the back of his mind, but he knew that it was Aurora who led here, and she would be the one to speak.

“We’ve asked you to join us because we believe we have something that once belonged to your people. Your line.”

Parker’s eyes widened. “The Redwoods?” How did something of theirs find its way here?

“Not that line.” Aurora’s eyes went gold, her wolf rising to the surface. “The line of the first hunter. You are the son of the son of the son of the line of the first hunter, are you not?”

Parker froze. Not many people knew that his family came from that line. In fact, he’d only recently learned that his ancestor was the first human to be made into a wolf by the moon goddess as a punishment for what the man had done to defenseless prey. She’d forced the man to become the thing he killed for sport, compelled him to share a soul with that of a wolf. From there, new wolves were made, and shifters were born.

His uncle, Logan, had dealt with horrible side effects from that past, but other than his strength, Parker hadn’t really thought about what that meant. Logan had been far too aggressive even at a young age, and it had taken him years to learn how to fully control his wolf. He, like Parker, had also had to learn how to use their strength wisely when they’d been mere pups and still had to deal with some bursts of overextension some days. The family bloodline was diluted over time, and Parker had had more recent issues with it thanks to his birth father. His mother might be of the line of their honorable ancestors and campfire stories, but his birth father had been one of nightmares. He’d never truly met the man as he’d been young when Corbin died, but he knew the stories. Knew that the former Central Alpha had killed countless in his quest for power.

He pushed that thought out of his head, as he knew just letting it in would enrage him.

“I’m of that line, yes,” he answered after a moment. No need to lie as he had a feeling these wolves knew far more than this. “What did you find?” he asked.

Aurora nodded at one of the male wolves after Parker had spoken. The male stood up with shaky hands, a large box wrapped in cloth clasped between them.

Aurora took it gently from him. “This box is made of the woods of our people— Redwood, Aspen, Oak, and so forth. It is said those first Packs, along with the first ever, came together to make it.”

Parker frowned. “What’s in the box?”

“Open it and see.”

Though his wolf had stood at attention as soon as they’d mentioned the box, it wasn’t until Aurora unwrapped it— keeping her hands on the cloth rather than the wood— that his wolf howled.

He frowned. “I’m not going to open something I haven’t looked into with wolves I don’t know. I’m sorry if that’s disrespectful, but that just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.”

Aurora’s eyes flashed, but he had a feeling it was more out of respect than anger. “It’s good you’re cautious. That will help.”

“Help what?”

“There is a prophecy,” she said after a moment. He blinked.

“A prophecy?” Why did he feel like he’d suddenly jumped into an old Indiana Jones movie?

Aurora’s eyes unfocused as she spoke in a deeper voice.

“A wolf of three Packs can break their will or unite them all.

“Once united, the Packs will reveal…

“If broken, the Packs will fall…”

Parker’s wolf rushed to the surface at her words, and he tried to blink, attempted to reach out and catch the woman as she fell forward after she’d finished speaking. Only he felt as if he were moving slower than usual, his mind not quite where it should be. His hand brushed the top of the box, and it slid to the ground, opening on impact.

He looked down, his head going fuzzy, his mouth dry.

An ancient dagger, or perhaps the tip of a spear, rolled out of the box amidst a dust cloud that slapped at his face.

“The weapon of the first hunter,” Aurora croaked before passing out completely. The others surrounded them, yet he could do nothing but try to keep himself upright.

Parker tried to speak but couldn’t force his mouth to work. Instead, his body broke out in a cold sweat, and he fell face-first to the ground.

The last thing he thought about before passing out was his family.

They weren’t here to help him.

No one was here to help him.

He was all alone.

And it was his fault.

Again.

 

About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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Chapter Reveal ~ Use Me ~ by ~ MJ Fields & Chelsea Camaron

Title: Use Me
Series: Caldwell Brothers
Author: MJ Fields and Chelsea Camaron
Genre: Sports Romance 
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Use Me
Caldwell Brothers 4

 

Written By

 

MJ Fields

 

 

And

 

 

Chelsea Camaron

 

 

Copyright © MJ Fields and Chelsea Camaron 2017
This book and its contents are the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied, and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. 

 


This book contains mature content not suitable for those under the age of 18. Content involves strong language and sexual situations. All parties portrayed in sexual situation are over the age of 18. All characters are a work of fiction.

 

New York Times Bestselling author, Tatum Longley, is being forced out of her comfort zone. Her publisher needs her to change from hard-hitting nonfiction to romance.

 

But first, she must find a muse.

 

Angelo has no desire to form relationships, when a very persistent Tatum makes him an offer that nearly knocks this six-foot-five, long-haired, tattooed, dangerous-looking man on his ass.

 

Will he be able to resist the temptation? Or will he allow her to use him? 

 

*** This is a full-length, standalone romance. Although a spinoff book from the Caldwell Brothers Series, it is not necessary to read any other books before this one, though it is recommended. ***

 



Chapter One
Legacy Gym

 

Present day

I look around the gym. The walls are black and mirrored, the floor is black cement covered in red mats. The back wall, where all our daily equipment is stored, is covered floor to ceiling in black lockers. Hand wraps, gloves, medicine balls, headgear, nut cups, first-aid equipment, and clothing that have our logo on them. 

 

Our logo. I am a part of something. There was a time in the not so distant past when I wasn’t sure I would ever be anything. There are still days I couldn’t give a shit less if I do.

 

To the left are sparring mats and a few pieces of cardio equipment. To the right are free weights, a few high-end weight training machines, five heavy bags, seven speed bags, and five timing bags. In the middle is where I prefer to spend my time and energy. The cage.

 

I look at the large clock hanging above the doorway to our office. Nine-thirty at night. That means I have been here for thirteen and a half hours.

 

Eight hours would send a normal man my age running home to his family, to a hot meal, or to a bar where he could have a drink and relax with his friends. I am not a normal man.

 

Normal men don’t have blood on their hands, and if they do, they have it with remorse in their hearts, or the blood came from fighting a greater cause. The blood on my hands came from an anger that took control, from the rage within me, a rage that still controls me. 

 

“Put one foot in front of the other. Stand tall and proud. Make the decision that you are both of those things and never let them think any differently. You are a good man, a good kid. Your past doesn’t define you; your present and future do.”

Shaw, my father’s oldest and closest friend, words ring inside my head as I look at the picture of him, Jagger, and I hanging on the wall, illuminated by bright white up-lighting. 

If only putting one foot in front of the other wasn’t so hard. The weight of the world is heavy on my neck, making holding my head high almost impossible.

Shaw believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Now Shaw is gone.

After killing the lights and locking the doors, I let out a breath and walk toward the door in the back left-hand corner of the gym that leads to my apartment upstairs. 

I stand in the apartment above Legacy, a gym that Jagger Caldwell and I inherited. A gym that trains people like me. It was willed to us when Shaw’s fight with cancer ended. 

I suppose he did it to make sure his promise to his best friend, my father, was kept. He made sure I had something, an income, a place to live—a piece of something tangible while I served out my parole sentence for a crime I committed eight years ago. 

Honestly, it feels more like a curse, a cage, a confined space, than a new beginning. 

My body aches. It’s bruised and sore, all feelings I not only accept, but embrace. The harder I push myself, the more men I get in the cage with to train, the more hits I take, the closer I get to controlling the fury that simmers just beneath a boiling point inside my soul.
I walk to the bathroom and stand in front of the distressed mirror above the small sink that is rust-stained from the constant drip of a faucet that I keep telling myself I will fix, but I have no intention or desire to do so. 

 

I strip off my sweat-drenched clothes and turn toward the shower to start the water. It takes a good five minutes for it to heat enough for my liking, and while I wait, I brush my teeth and open the cabinet. 

 

I stare at the last bottle of pain meds prescribed to Shaw. I pocketed them after he died when the rage became worse. It is a battle of wills to tame the beast inside me. Waking up and looking in the mirror, knowing what I did and why I did it.

 

I twist off the childproof cap and count as I dump the pills out into my hand. Twelve. I have twelve nights left to sleep, and then the nightmares will ensue. I make a mental note to space the pills out to every third day. I can do without sleep for that long, no more.

 

I let them fall one by one back into the bottle, except one, as I feel my exhausted body become tense again. Anxiety is starting to creep in, so I take the last pill in my hand, toss it in my mouth, and swallow it down.

 

Before the pill’s effects kick in, I get in the small shower and bend so the water falls over my head instead of hitting the middle of my shoulders. When the water starts to run cold and I feel a bit drowsy, I step out, towel my hair lightly, and then drop it to the floor, allowing my body to air dry. Then I look up at my reflection and see a man who looks much older than his twenty-five years.

 

My eyes, once bright green and alive, are now dead and unreflective of feeling. My hair, once cut close to my scalp by my father’s own hand, is now well past my shoulders and a mess of brown waves. It’s only down after a shower or bedtime; otherwise, it is always tied up in a knot on the back of my head. I don’t have any damn desire to go to the barber. That would mean I would have to talk to someone. I’m functioning just fine here without making those types of connections, and there is no appeal in changing that up.

 

I run my hand over my beard. It’s been three days since I last groomed. I shave every fourth or fifth day, but never down to the skin. 

 

I am six-foot, five-inches of intimidation. I weigh in at two hundred and forty-eight pounds of muscle, and my skin is covered in black prison ink. I have no desire for anyone to look at me and become confused as to who I am. No desire to have someone look at me and want to know more about me, or who I was. I have no desire for anything but the occasional release I can get anywhere. All I have to do is force a smile and say a word or two in order to get that need met.

 

My appearance is intimidating. It keeps people away. I’m not trying to give off the illusion that I’m unapproachable. Illusion would imply it wasn’t real. 

 

It is real. 

 

I am Michelangelo Mazzini. I was once called a saint by my peers, my teachers, and anyone who knew me. 

 

Not anymore.

 

Now I am known as Kid.

 

I lay on the king-sized mattress that sits in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling, waiting, waiting, waiting for sleep to take me. The numbness that is my life isn’t holding me back. Rather, it’s my mind that won’t turn off, waiting for the next move.

 

I try not to close my eyes on my own. I wait for exhaustion and the drugs to do the work for me. Otherwise, I will be fighting a losing battle. 

 


 

Chapter Two
Tatum

 

“Tatum, this is not what’s selling anymore. We need something …” Melanie pauses as she sighs.

 

Melanie and I have been friends since I sat next to her in a Shakespearian literature class we both enrolled in as an elective while attending Columbia for our Masters’ programs. Hers was in the classics; mine was in religion and journalism.

 

She loved fiction,a story you could get lost in, and I loved nonfiction, a story that didn’t allow you to run from your boring life, but showed you a life that you could get lost in and know it was real. Fairy tales were never meant to be believed in. They are stories written to scare children into behaving or else, so why waste time on them? Show them how to cope, what to avoid, and maybe a story that inspires them to do the right thing of their own accord.

 

She is the yin to my yang, the spring to my fall, the day to my night. The point is, she’s the lost-in-her-head kind of daydreaming chick, whereas I am the one who wants to get lost in reality to avoid getting lost in my head, and worse yet, believing that shit is even possible.

 

I am sure she has no other writers like me on staff. I am sure of this because one night, over drinks at Hotel Empire, she told me so. She told me in the sweetest way she could that I was my own worst enemy. That I had talent in abundance and was just too stubborn for my own good, and that if I were anyone other than “the Tatum” that played her Romeo a couple years ago, gaining us both an A in that godforsaken class, she would have walked away a long time ago. 

 

We are opposites in our views on life, but who we are on the inside isn’t much different from the other. Both of us left our hometowns, knowing we were destined for greater things. And unlike most, we are willing to work our asses off to become. It landed us both in New York City, a city where we knew no one and no one knew us. A city that I swear wants to eat up young girls’ dreams and spit them back in your face.

 

Nothing about here is easy. What it is, though, is real. It’s gritty, it’s hard, and it’s all-consuming. If you can live here, you can live anywhere. Mark my words.

 

I know she could walk away at any moment, but Melanie would never. Even if she should run and not look back, that’s not who she is. It’s not who we are together.

 


We are forever friends, through thick and thin. The type of friends who you could talk to once every six months and pick up right where you left off. Though, in reality, we may go weeks without speaking due to work, but we have never gone more than a month at the most. She is my soul sister, and I am hers.

A few years ago, Melanie took an internship at a mid-sized literary agency, and I took off to write a story that would rock the world. I gave her, A View from Home, a novel about the foster care system in our country, and she went over the head of the man she worked for who said, “It wasn’t good enough” and emailed it to a company contact at Random House Publishing, where they not only bought the book, but hired her that day.
She became a junior editor at Random House, and I became a novelist. She became a senior editor when my first book put me on the New York Times Bestseller list. The subsequent three novels hit the list as well. Acclaimed awards, Wall Street Journal, and we were both riding a high of dreams coming true. 

I can hear as she taps her long fingernails on her glass top desk, and then I hear the bell go off inside her head. 

“Raw.” 

“I’m giving you raw. I’m giving you real. I am giving you what people go through every day,” I tell her, trying to keep my annoyance at bay. After all, she is trying to help me.

“The market has shifted, Tatum. What’s selling is not this.” 

I hear a thud and am certain it’s the manuscript I sent her. She prefers e-mail; I don’t. 

“Then I’ll self-publish,” I threaten, and she audibly hisses into the phone, saying nothing. 

This is new territory for us both. I love Melanie. I love working with her. Unlike the horror stories I hear about publishers washing out an author’s voice in edits, she doesn’t do that to my work.

“You still there?” I ask. 

“I am,” she says firmly then pauses. I hear a door shut, then her heels click across the floor before she sighs out, “Please, Tatum. Please give me something that will blow the roof off this place. I know you have it in you. I know you do. Just let it happen.”

“Do you need this, Melanie?” I ask, wondering why she suddenly wants to mold my work into a completely different realm than I have ever written.

“Yes. Yes, I do. We both do.”

I sigh, feeling the weight of her world and my own landing firmly on my shoulders. “Okay, give me two months.”

“One,” she says, her edge returning.

“You have to push, don’t you?” I half-laugh.

“You taught me how,” she returns with a smile in her voice. 

“Talk later.” I start to end the call.

“Wait! It has to be hot, Tatum. I need your voice, but bring the damn heat.”

“Melanie …” 

“You’re gonna need to put yourself out there.”

“Meaning?” I have no idea why I ask when I know damn well what she is getting at.

“When’s the last time you actually got your peach plucked?”

“That’s none of your business,” I say with no intention of answering her, especially when she uses words like “peach plucked.” That’s up there with “moist” in words I would rather not use or hear reference to in sexual situations.

“You need to go find yourself a sexy, suit-wearing mogul,” she suggests.

“I’m in Detroit, Mel.” I sigh. “Remember, I was going to show the times in Motor City. A whole look back and look forward.”

I hear her nails tapping her keyboard. I know damn well she’s googling where to find the perfect place for inspiration. 

“Get your ass to Texas.”

“I’m here for a month.” I stand with my phone in my hand, looking out the hotel window at what I know from pictures was once a beautiful city. 

The river is mucky, the boats decrepit, and the cracked sidewalks once were beautiful. Detroit was something a long time ago.

“Right,” she sighs. “You can’t change your plans for the eye candy and your best friend?”

I laugh. “Melanie, this is all set up. Money spent, timelines sorted. I’m willing to think outside the box and shift my focus, but I can’t uproot my plans and still feel like I’m not insane.”

“Okay, okay,” she concedes.

“Goodnight, Melanie.”

“Goodnight, Tatum,” she says with a softness in her tone that is without a doubt caused by the stress I just alleviated. 

Hers is gone, and mine has returned. Yin and yang. Night and day. We are never on the same page, but the balance is and always has been there.

I sit down on the chair next to the small table by the window, grab the glass of sweet red wine I had just poured, and take a drink. It’s sweet, crisp and, God willing, it will help me sleep tonight. 

I drink the entire glass, and then pour another before reaching across the table to grab the manila folder and drag it closer to me. I look through the pictures from the 1950s: the new buildings, the finely-dressed people on the streets, the cars. The streets were full of them, all shiny and new. Detroit used to be spectacular. I know it was; the proof is in the pictures. But it is not anymore.

All that glitters does not always remain gold. 

All that once was beautiful doesn’t remain so. 

All that was lost will not necessarily be found.

Time does not stand still.

I stand up and stretch my neck as I walk over and grab my laptop, carrying it back to the table and opening it up. Then I click on the new document and title it:Mommy Porn. 
“To new beginnings,” I toast the air then take a sip. 

 

There is a saying in the writing industry: “write drunk and edit sober.” I guess I will give it a try tonight.

 

Sweet Jesus, am I really going to do this?

 

For Melanie, I will.

 

New York Times best selling author, Tatum Longley, is being forced out of her comfort zone. Her publisher needs her to change from hard hitting nonfiction to romance writing. 
But first she must find a muse. 
Angelo has no desire to form relationships with anyone around him. But when a very persistent Tatum makes him an offer that nearly knocks this six foot five, long haired, tattooed, dangerous looking man, on his ass. 
Will he be able to resist the temptation, or will be allow her to use him. 


***This is a full length stand alone romance. Although a spinoff book from the Caldwell Brothers Series, it is not necessary to read any other books before this one, but it is recommended.***


USA Today Bestselling author Chelsea Camaron is a small town Carolina girl with a big imagination. She is a wife and mom chasing her dreams. She writes contemporary romance, erotic suspense, and psychological thrillers. She loves to write blue-collar men who have real problems with a fictional twist. From mechanics to bikers to oil riggers to smokejumpers, bar owners, and beyond, she loves a strong hero who works hard and plays harder.







                                                                                    USA Today bestselling author MJ Fields write books that scorch pages and melt hearts. 

Her style is raw, gritty and authentic.
Love an alpha and a strong heroine? She does too. 



 

HOSTED BY:

Chapter Reveal ~ Coal ~ by ~ Chelsea Camaron & Jessie Lane

 Title: Coal
Series: Regulators MC #3
Author: Chelsea Camaron and Jessie Lane
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Cover Model is Jacob Wilson 
Cover Photographer is Furious Fotog
Cover Design by Mina Carter


Coal (Regulators MC 3)
Chapter Excerpt

 

Written by:

 

Chelsea Camaron and Jessie Lane 

 

Copyright © Chelsea Camaron and Jessie Lane 2017

 


 

This book contains mature content not suitable for those under the age of 18. Content involves strong language and sexual situations. All parties portrayed in sexual situation are over the age of 18. All characters are a work of fiction.

 

This book is not meant to be an exact depiction of a motorcycle club but rather a work of fiction meant to entertain.
Please Note: The following excerpt is subject to change in final edits.

 

~Coal~

 

She is the everyday girl next-door.

 

He is shadowed by regret laced in broken memories.

 

Dark sins of the past have a way of taking hold of your heart and never letting go.

 

Paisley Asher is the average woman trying to get by in life. Happy and safe in her bubble of ease, she is not prepared to take on the black pit that is one man’s heart.

 

Trevor ‘Coal’ Blake has a past covered in black. Tainted. He is a dark soul.

 

In the moment, it is easy to lose sight of what is going on. Looking back, however, little cues were misread … or were they? He lives with more questions than answers.

 

Chance encounters bring these two together. Is she the angel to pull him from the depths of his personal hell, or is he destined to remain alone and as black as coal?

 

Prologue

 

The pounding in my head continues to assault my ears. Chad’s party last night was epic, and my head is making sure to remind me of the good time I had.

 

Bang.

 

Bang.

 

Thump.

 

Thump. Bang. Thump. Bang.

 

The rhythm is now unsteady.

 

“Trevor wake your ass us right the fuck now!” My dad yells in his Army Ranger voice that has me immediately up and at attention by my bed.

 

Shit, why is my dad yelling? This tone is reserved for the major fuck ups.

 

Making my way to the door, I don’t bother to put on clothes and exit in my boxers. Immediately, I’m met with the brick wall that is my dad. We’re about the same height and of similar build. Only my dad has seen war, has scars and quite honestly scares the shit out of me.

 

“Turn around and put some clothes on. Then you get downstairs and face the shit storm you’ve caused. Two minutes, or I drag you down and let them see you in your naked glory, I don’t give a damn.”

 

He gives me a slight shove back into my room while my vision blurs and the chalky taste in my mouth only makes me wish I had time to grab a glass of water. His instructions were clear and precise. I won’t press my luck with the Ranger. Quickly tossing on my sweats and a t-shirt I rush downstairs only to stop midway. There is no way I’m going to be any longer than necessary, not with the mood he is in this morning. No sir.

 

The sight in front of me is like a punch to my hungover already ready to puke gut.

 

My girlfriend, Amber, stands at the bottom of the stair case with tears in her eyes with her parents flanking her on either side. The girl I have spent every spare moment with for the last few months doesn’t look like the lively, beautiful young woman I’m used to seeing. No, she looks a mess, hurt, broken, and could it possibly be she’s ashamed. Her mother’s eyes are swollen from crying and her father …

 

His face is murderous. What the hell is going on?

 

I shake my head trying to sort out why they’re here. Why my girlfriend looks like the world has crumbled at her feet. More so, why she’s brought this to my doorstep.

 

“Trevor,” my father barks harshly making me jump while I complete my descent and hit the bottom step. “Ass – couch – now.” He commands me before looking to the other family. “Mr. and Mrs. Bridges, Amber, please head into the living room so we can address this matter.”

 

Matter? What could be wrong? I haven’t seen Amber in three days. She said she had the flu. We’ve been dating six months. Three weeks ago, she finally gave it up at a party at her best friend, Kiki’s house. Nothing has seemed out of the ordinary. We haven’t had much time together. I know I was drunk, she was drunk, so it wasn’t some romantic thing. In fact, once I got inside her tight pussy, I had to fight not to blow my load with the first thrust. I didn’t last long, but I told her next time would be better. I tried to make it good. I even held her afterward knowing it was her first time. 

 

I sit while my mind races.

 

“Trevor,” my mom says my name gently while I look up into her dark eyes and see pain. “Amber’s family tell us that something occurred a couple of weeks ago,” she starts only to be interrupted.

 

“You fucking piece of shit got my daughter drunk and raped her!” Mr. Bridges roars lunging at me only to be held back by my dad who easily towers a good six inches over the man.

 

My mother rushes to my side, her long black hair hitting me in the arm. She’s Native American and I get my dark hair, dark eyes, and tanned skin from her. My height of six feet seven inches comes from my beast of a father.

 

“We need to discuss this,” my mother says to the Bridges.

 

“Nothing to discuss,” Mrs. Bridges replies. “Graduation is in two weeks, we want to see Trevor gone. Amber will have enough of a reminder for the next nine months of what’s happened to her. After the kids graduate, Trevor gets out of town for school or the military, or we go to the police and press charges.”

 

“Press charges?” I scream and run my hands through my hair as sharp pains assault my head. “For what?”

 

“Rape!” Mr. Bridges yells back.

 

Tears hit me. I’m seventeen years old. One night at a party where I swear she said yes leaves me in this kind of mess.

 

“I didn’t,” I gasp and try to get out the words, only I make the mistake of looking into Amber’s eyes. The fear, the pain, the sadness, and the desolation are all writing in her features as she shakes her head at me. “I didn’t do that.” I can’t even say the word.

 

My mother grips my arm in support. “Let’s sit down and talk this through.”

 

We back up and sit on the couch where my father releases Mr. Bridges and paces behind us. The Bridges’ take their seats on the loveseat and chair. Amber refuses to make eye contact any further with me.

 

“Were you at a party two weekends ago with Amber?” Mr. Bridges starts his interrogation.

 

I nod.

 

“Were you drinking?”

 

I nod.

 

“Do you understand that the legal drinking age in the United States is twenty-one?” He continues to fire questions at me. “Do you understand that an underage girl being intoxicated is not of the right mind to give consent to sexual activities? Do you understand the pain you’ve caused our daughter? Do you understand the ramifications of your actions?”

 

“Sir,” I have to swallow the lump in my throat as I fight back emotions. “I understand the legal drinking age. I understand that while yes, I was intoxicated, your daughter was an equal participant. So no, sir, I do not understand the ramifications of my actions.” I fight back the urge to puke.

 

My father’s hand comes to the back of my head. “Since your mother and I failed to make a man out of you. The Army will.” He clips out. “Trevor will be signing enlistment papers today and be gone within thirty days time.”

 

Mr. Bridges rises to extend his hand to my father to shake. “We appreciate your attention to the matter and easing the burden for Amber. We’ll be in touch about the future.”

 

Amber stands with her mother never once looking at me as she exits, while I can’t help but fear what my future holds and my mind tries to grasp what they’re saying.

 

I didn’t do it. I didn’t take advantage of her.

 

**

 

Two years later, I finish selection to become a Green Beret. The badass of the badasses. One of the elite. I remember in the selection process, while trying to mentally survive one obstacle to the next, someone said, “Hell is a fictional place. When you’re done here it’ll seem like a fucking sanctuary.”

 

He was both right and wrong. Finishing selection was the most grueling thing I’ve ever done, but I had already seen hell. 

 

Hell was your girlfriend saying you raped her when she turned up pregnant. Hell was getting a letter she lost the baby before summer was over. Hell was knowing her life went on while I couldn’t figure out if my memories of that night were teenage fantasies or reality.

 

Hell was living day in and day out haunted by an event you aren’t sure really happened.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Coal

 

“Ropa Vieja,” I order my shredded beef while Ice looks over his menu beside me. Without having to watch him I know what Ice is doing – scanning the restaurant. Taking in the colorfully painted booths and wood stained stables while checking to make sure there is no threat in here to us. To men like us, it’s second nature to make sure your area is free of danger.

 

“Arroz con pollo,” he gives the waitress his chicken order.

 

With a nod, she takes off to the back, weaving in and out of the tables, leaving me with one of the few people who I consider family sitting in front of me.

 


 

“It’s been three years, brother.” Ice meets my stare and doesn’t back down. “Madyson is good. She’s working through it.”

 

I pause and give it to him honest, “you really think someone works through something like that?”

 

“Watching her, I know they do.”

 

His statement does nothing to ease my fears.

 

“You got a thing for my wife’s sister, Coal?” He asks the question everyone seems to wonder. “Look me in the eye and tell me. If you do, I’m not gonna judge. Not sayin’ I’ll be happy either, but you need to buck up, Coal.”

 

“Fuck no, I’m old enough to be her damn dad.” I am angry he can even think this. “You know me better than that.”

 

“Then why since the day we got her back, you’ve made it your mission to make sure she moves beyond this. Hell, Coal, you’ve paid for her college like she’s your fucking kid.”

 

I glare at him. “No one is supposed to know that. As far as she goes, Morgan goes, or the damn Pope goes, you pay her way through school. Drop the subject.”

 

“Easier said then done, brother.” He raises an eyebrow at me.

 

“Got ghosts,” I reply as the waitress drops our plates in front of us. 

 

It’s all I’m going to give him. My personal life, my hell, is not his business. I have the means now to find Amber. I don’t. I made a vow to my father the day I signed my enlistment papers to let the Army make a man out of me. I promised I would let Amber go and live her life free of me. Since the moment I took my oath, I haven’t looked into her. I won’t. The baby is gone. There is nothing for me to talk to her about without bringing up what is one bad fucking memory. 

 

When Madyson was found, I promised her I would be by her side to make sure she could move on in life. I made a vow to leave Amber alone, good or bad. I had to keep my word. I wouldn’t let Madyson be alone, though, no I gave her my word to be her support. 

 

And I have.

 

Ice raises his hands in surrender knowing I’m done talking about Madyson. “For now, I don’t have to kick your ass.”

 

“Forever,” I clip back meaning it. I do care about the well being of Madyson, but not in the way he thinks.

 

Three years ago Madyson was kidnapped, drugged and raped by men who were operating a sex slavery ring out of the Miami area. The Regulators had already taken notice of the number of women who were going missing, but it became personal when Ice’s daughter, Brooke’s best friend, Madyson, became one of those missing women.

 

Our club went in undercover, starting a business relationship with the man we thought was running the ring. I had to do some despicable shit to prove the Regulators were genuinely interested, such as fuck two of their drugged-up whores, but in the end it had been worth it because we got Madyson back. 

 

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to help other people. I have no problem doing that. I also have no problem with the black strokes each offense leaves on my soul after doing them. I am coming to realize there isn’t much of a soul left in me anyways. The way I prove to myself that I actually am some sort of decent human being is by doing things such as putting Madyson through school. Giving one girl the chance that I had inadvertently taken from another so many years ago.

 

It’s one of those things I don’t need to explain to a single soul. It’s between me and whatever higher power I choose to believe in today.

 

With our meals in front of us, we eat and spend the rest of our time in companionable silence. Brett ‘Ice’ Grady is one of my long time friends. He’s also not one to press me for words. Even if he did, he wouldn’t get them. My past is my own and it’s not something anyone needs to know.

 

I left Trevor Blake behind the day I enlisted in the United States Army. My black heart is dark as coal they say and earned me my name in the Green Beret’s where I met, Ice, Shooter, and Hammer. I kill without question. I sleep without dreams. And even all these years later, I still wonder if no was yes or somehow yes was no. It eats at me. It’s my penance to pay. I won’t bother her, I won’t dredge up the history for Amber. I let it be the gray area in life and determined that my future would be black and white forever. I no longer leave anything to chance or a misunderstanding.

 

Our phones ping at the same time, the text is from Screech, our tech man, and it’s a simple one-word statement.

 

Mission.

 

We have orders, time to finish up here and meet everyone at the club to see exactly what Uncle Sam has in store for our undercover group next.

 


 

Regulators Motorcycle Club, a brotherhood of military men with a job that is a special skillset. One that walks a line between right and wrong. We’re always one second away from going too far.

 

I have nothing to lose. I’m more than okay with it all. 

 

Some of the other men in our club, such as Ice and Hammer, have everything to lose. Ol’ ladies, families. That’s not me. I have nothing to tie me down and not one fucking thing to lose.

 

My father died ten years ago from a heart attack. Now my mom lives alone. I help her out when it comes to making sure her bills are paid, but I can’t make myself face her in person. I’m afraid all I’ll see is shame in her eyes from the things in my past.

 

As I walk out of the restaurant behind Ice I see a familiar face. She goes by the street name Precious and is one of the whores I use when I need to get off. I don’t do many repeats, but Precious is one of the few that I have gone to more than once because she’s always clean, pretty, and I know she has a kid she’s trying to support on her own.

 

Sauntering over to me she purrs, “Hey baby. Haven’t seen you in a while. Want to go get a room?”

 

I shake my head. “Got somewhere to be Precious. You hittin’ on me because you want my dick or because you need to pay a bill?”

 

Her eyes flash in humiliation and I know it’s the latter. Pulling out my wallet I take out a hundred dollar bill and put it in her hand. “Take this and I’ll see you when I can.”

 

I walk away, not wanting to hear her thanks. I’m not the sort of man anyone should thank for anything. Seeing her desperate like that makes me wonder about my mom. It makes me worry if she needs more money from me or not. She’s stubborn and doesn’t like to take the ‘handouts’ I give her. Instead she would rather earn it at the little garden shop she works at. I’ll have to have Screech hack into her bank account and check things out for me.

 

My parents might have believed that I was a disappointment of a son because of what happened. Since the day I left to join the Army I still remember all the lessons my father taught me. Taking care of your family was one of those lessons. Whether my mom likes it or not, I’m going to check in on her soon to make sure she’s got everything she needs. If that means paying her bills for her behind her back, then that’s what I’ll do.

 

Throwing my leg over my bike, I start her up and rev the engine. Ice is already moving so I head out after him. I have no idea what the mission is yet, but I’m ready for it.

 

I feel that familiar need to fight, get my hands bloody. Release some of the rage I hold inside of my body twenty-four hours a day. I’m just hoping this mission gives me the chance to make someone the mangled mess I am inside.

 

 

Paisley

“Girl, you’re on fire!” I tell the air around me as I dance around my loft apartment getting ready for my day. Self-talk, it’s working wonders. “Dance, Paisley, dance, no one is here to see.” I shake my bootie and swirl around the kitchen making my morning smoothie. The space is open and airy, so I can twirl and shimmy my ass anywhere I please to go from the living room to the kitchen. For now, I stay in the kitchen as I start to drink my smoothie and bounce my hips from side to side.

In the last few years, I’ve changed my routine to start my day with as much pep as I can conjure. When everything is taken from you in a blink, it’s hard to rebalance.

Within thirty minutes, I’m at the gym for yoga. Walking through the front doors, I have my earbuds in and my music up, jamming in my mind. Looking down, I am stopped abruptly when I feel two firm hands grip my shoulders stopping me just inches from his chest.

Scotty.

While the man has muscles on top of muscles he’s an ego-maniac. I’m sure most women do swoon over him, but ‘man grunts’ and flexing don’t do it for me.

“Paisley, baby, gotta be careful.”

“Sorry,” I mutter knowing I need to pay attention.

“Make it up to me, take me to dinner tonight.” He sort of commands in the way Scotty does.

I reach up and pat his pectoral muscle to which he makes it jump in what I assume to be a way to impress me. “Scotty, at least twice a week you tell me to take you to dinner.” I sigh. “It’s getting old, buddy. Women want to be whisked away, swept off their feet, ya know,” I look up into his green eyes, “romance, buddy, romance.”

He cups my chin with his first finger and thumb, “Paisley, this ain’t no fairytale. You can have a night or two with a man like me, gotta take the leap, baby.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, “you really think that works?”

“You have no idea,” he smirks and I’ve had enough. Jerking my head back, I step to the side and around the behemoth.

“Not happening, Scotty, go have another protein shake.” I say without looking back at him.

I make my way front the front entrance of the gym, passing a few isolated exercise rooms to the door that leads into the women’s locker room. Desirae, who is one of my closest friends is already putting her stuff in a metal locker when I walk in.

We met when she came to Miami after the death of her sister. She still visits North Carolina regularly but for the most part her life is in South Beach with her man, Ethan ‘Hammer’ McCoy. They’re cute together in that ‘get a room’ kind of face sucking way.

Des is easy-going and doesn’t judge a soul. It’s why we get along so well.

She takes one look at my face before automatically speaking, “Scotty, again?”

“Yup. Des, is it really bad to think romance is dead?”

She laughs. “Honey, I live with a biker. Depends on your definition of romance.”

I sit on the bench rather than tuck my stuff away. “I want to be knocked on my butt. When cupid nails me with his arrow, I’m gonna be swept away. It’s not something I’ll find on a date, it’s something that’s going to spark and then go BOOM.” I raise my hands dramatically.

“You do realize it doesn’t necessarily work that way, right?”

“You and your logic. Okay so for most people it may not, but for me that’s how it’ll be. The stars will align and something will happen sending me barreling into the man of my dreams life and instantly there will be fireworks. I know it.”

She closes her locker before picking up my phone and towel to toss them in the locker beside hers.

“Fireworks, those can happen for a lot of reasons, Paisley.” She smiles and takes me by the hand to pull me from my perch on the bench. “I love you to death, but you are the craziest woman I know. Maybe a little meat in you would take the edge off?” She jokes to which I just sigh loudly.

“Meat in me, huh? That’s gonna solve all my problems.” We both laugh and make our way to class. Exiting through the other side of the women’s locker room, we walk through the heart of the gym filled with various exercise machines until we reach the yoga classroom in the back.

An hour session later, love, fireworks, romance, and all thoughts of my morning are gone. No, the meditation, the focus, the calm is all back in place. I’m balanced. Rejuvenated.

My shift at the grocery store begins on a register. Beep, beep, slide the cans with a smile, its my job. I count items or sing songs in my head to entertain myself as I ring up my customer.

“Paisley,” the produce manager calls my name getting my attention.

“Yes, sir.”

“Flip your light. Finish that one then you gotta work organic today, Paul called in.”

I nod my head and do as I’m told.

Bin by bin, I go through the vegetables and fruits making sure to discard any that are going bad and refill low stock.

“Can you believe they want over a dollar more for this organic crap?” A lady says to her friend.

“Half of it still has dirt on it,” her friend chimes in. I should probably mind my own business, but they are missing out on some good foods by their assumptions.

“While I can understand one’s aversion to the dirt, please understand that once rinsed in tap water the metal and mineral components in all water speed the process therefore the food rots at a faster rate. Organic does cost some more because the rate in which a store loses the produce is higher since they aren’t packed full of preservatives which settle in your gut and make for a slow moving digestive system. And the dirt you visibly see is simple the covering provided in nature to slow oxidation and keep the air off the fruit or vegetable.” Immediately, I regret speaking. I switched majors in college and finished with a degree in Horticulture. Plant life, studying it, exploring it, well it’s the only thing I could make sense of after facing loss of real people’s lives.

“Thanks for the science lesson,” the woman cuts me off and I draw back at her tone. My intention wasn’t to offend but to explain.

Shrugging my shoulders, I go back to work deciding not to press my luck.

I made a decision five years ago to live a simplified life as much as I can and be conscious of my decisions for both my body and my environment. I lost everything by being careless and I won’t do that again. The regrets kept me up at night for far too long. I try to remain focused and centered in my every thought, word, and action.

I even considered going off the grid living, but soon realized my fear of bugs and my height leave me at a strong disadvantage to making a go at it. Plus, living in South Beach there isn’t really a whole lot of possibilities for that lifestyle.

Instead, I live in a one room loft style apartment, drive a Prius, and eat a mostly natural diet. Like the women beside me, the life isn’t for everyone. Modern day conveniences come at a price to our bodies and environment, but it’s my choice and I can’t push it on everyone.

They push their carts on by without buying anything organic and I go about straightening up.

My shift ends and I find my mood to be lacking. Sadness, an emotion I was once all too familiar with encompasses me.

Depression.

I remind myself I won’t go there again. I’ve cleaned up my life. No demons haunt me anymore. Today was not the best day, but it wasn’t the worst.

I have dealt with the worst. Now I have my crystals, my diet, and my lifestyle to keep my energies refocused to the positive and not into the darkness. I lost a lot, yes, but I haven’t lost it all.

Not everyone can understand me. I don’t take it personally. The choices I make are for me and me alone.

It’s hard to keep it in perspective. Living a clean life allows me to not lose sight of the blessings I have. For me, keeping my diet away from processed foods isn’t about being skinny, it’s about not clogging my heart, my pores, or my mind with junk. Yoga, balances both the mind and the body. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in this lifestyle that I found peace.

I gather my things from the break room and make my way to my car. Distractedly, I pull out into traffic trying to forget my past and stay in my current.

The alarm on my phone goes off reminding me it’s time for a snack. Reaching over to my passage seat cooler, I take out an apple. We eat for sustenance not for hunger. By maintaining a healthy glucose, I don’t feel the hunger pains and keep my body and my mind on a regimented schedule. My mind can’t become distracted and my emotions won’t run in a panic if I continually eat in small portions. Again, it’s about control for me.

The light ahead turns red and I take my foot off the gas and decompress the brake. Lifting the green fruit to my mouth, I bite, feeling the bitter of the granny smith apple hit my taste buds I close my eyes briefly in appreciation.

That’s when the bump happens.

Throwing the apple over my shoulder, I look up to see a huge man on a motorcycle look over his shoulder at me as my bumper has clearly pushed into his rear tire.

Oh heavens, what have I done?

He pushes the kick stand down as I throw the car in park, slap on my hazard lights and open my door.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry.” I say rushing to him. 

Before me stands a stunningly tall bald man whose aura screams sex. He has one of those seriously killer beards that you sort of want to pet because it’s so fabulous. It accentuates his strong face and tan skin. His long legs are covered in jeans that hug his tree trunk thighs, and his feet clad in some serious looking ass kicking boots. A black shirt covers his chest underneath his leather vest with patches all over it and the whole visual strikes me as an intimidating figure. His dark eyes stare right through me as I look at him. ‘Coal’ sits on the left side of his vest, over his heart. ‘Vice President’ lays opposite the name on his right side. The rest of his vest has a bunch of different patches with different cities and sayings. Is this a biker in the same club as Desirae’s man?

He shakes his head. “You okay?”

“Yes, I am, but are you?”

He nods. “I’m fine. Get in your car, pay attention and go home,” he dismisses me. “Don’t just stand there looking stupefied. Get in the car go home, it’s done.”

“I need to make this right,” I stammer as my mind spins and I feel like things are suddenly out of control.

“Nothing wrong so nothing to make right.” He studies me as cars rush past us. “Get in your car, can’t leave till I know you got back in the vehicle.”

“Don’t you need my information. I have insurance.”

“It was a bump.” He doesn’t hide his frustration. “Not a patient man, Pixie, so get in your pedal car and go on.”

Pixie? I want to ask, but I don’t. The man is clearly not wanting to do anything about our incident. So doing the only thing I can think of, I get back in my Prius, turning off the hazards and putting it in gear, I try to shake off my emotions. Anxiety, guilt, frustration, and sadness all toy with my carefully balanced core. I feel myself tipping, falling, and stumbling down into the darkness.

Next, I do what every respectable, twenty-six-year-old woman does when she is faced with a scarier than a horror movie biker, I follow him.

 


She is the everyday girl next-door.

He is shadowed by regret laced in broken memories.

Dark sins of the past have a way of taking hold of your heart and never letting go.

Paisley Asher is the average woman trying to get by in life. Happy and safe in her bubble of ease, she is not prepared to take on the black pit that is one man’s heart.

Trevor ‘Coal’ Blake has a past covered in black. Tainted. He is a dark soul.

In the moment, it is easy to lose sight of what is going on. Looking back, however, little cues were misread … or were they? He lives with more questions than answers.

Chance encounters bring these two together. Is she the angel to pull him from the depths of his personal hell, or is he destined to remain alone and as black as coal? 

USA Today Bestselling author Chelsea Camaron is a small town Carolina girl with a big imagination. She is a wife and mom chasing her dreams. She writes contemporary romance, erotic suspense, and psychological thrillers. She loves to write blue-collar men who have real problems with a fictional twist. From mechanics to bikers to oil riggers to smokejumpers, bar owners, and beyond, she loves a strong hero who works hard and plays harder.










Jessie Lane is a best-selling author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance, as well as, Upper YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy.

She lives in Kentucky with her two little Rock Chicks in-the-making and her over protective alpha husband that she’s pretty sure is a latent grizzly bear shifter. She has a passionate love for reading and writing naughty romance, cliff hanging suspense, and out-of-this-world characters that demand your attention, or threaten to slap you around until you do pay attention to them.

 



 

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