© 2018 Editor's Choice Publishing
The real world sucks.
As soon as I step through the doors of the pier restaurant, I feel dozens of eyes on me and have to fight the urge to turn around and run. The lunch crowd is looking at me with sympathy; because even a year later, I’m still just Mercy, the aptly named, pathetic woman who had her heart snapped in half on a reality television show.
Okay, maybe I’m just imagining the pitiful stares, and pathetic is simply how I still see myself every time I look in the mirror. After traveling the world for an entire year with my overbearing, Bible-thumping mother to avoid standing still long enough for the paparazzi to take a photo, I thought I would be over the pain and humiliation.
The sound of my former college roommate’s comforting voice grounds me, pulling me out of my self-conscious thoughts. I’ve missed Sasha and could really use a friend right now. Lifting my big sunglasses that I use as a shield to keep my emotions from pouring out of my eyes, I finally spot my tall, blonde friend when she stands up and waves. Not only does she grab my attention, but everyone else in the restaurant as well. Sasha is a beautiful woman who simply radiates warmth, so all eyes are definitely on us now.
I hurry over to the table she’s claimed for us and give her a hug.
“Hey, girl!” Sasha says as we embrace. “It’s been too long, as in an entire calendar year! I’ve missed you!”
“I know, and I’m sorry. I missed you too,” I tell her as I take a seat across from her. Removing my sunglasses from the top of my head, I slip them into my purse and then hang it on the back of my chair.
“I’ve been worried about you,” she says softly.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I reply with a wave of my hand. “And I didn’t mean to drop off the map from everyone, but it seemed like the only way to escape the drama was to keep moving,” I explain. “After the first few weeks, I think I was scared to call and have someone bring him up and make my heart break all over again when I was trying so hard to get over him.”
“No, I totally understand,” Sasha assures me, reaching across the table to give my hand a squeeze. “And I won’t ask you about He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But I’m here if you want to talk about it.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that,” I tell her with a small smile.
“You look great, by the way,” she says.
“Thanks, you too! Running has become my new best friend,” I admit. “The only time I could really get away from my mother while we traveled.”
“I noticed you’ve been making some headlines too,” Sasha responds. “Is it true? Are you going to be the new leading lady on Queen of Hearts this season?”
“I am,” I answer with a nod.
“Congrats?” Sasha asks with a wince as if she’s not sure if it’s a good thing or not.
“Yeah, I mean it’s a great opportunity to try and meet Mr. Right and move on from Mr. Wrong,” I say, trying to convince myself that’s true as I open the restaurant’s plastic menu and lower my eyes to study it.
“Are you sure you’re ready to date again?” Sasha asks, her voice lowered in concern.
“Yes, of course,” I tell her, looking over the menu with a smile. “It’s been over a year. Besides, what woman wouldn’t want to be the object of twenty incredibly hot men’s attention?”
“One who is still in love with someone else who cheated on her and ran his mouth about her to the world,” she whispers to herself as she pretends to look at her own menu.
Closing mine, since I always have the grilled chicken salad, I rest my forearms on top of it to reply to her comment. “It was a show. Did I think Blake was going to pick me at the finale? Absolutely. But he didn’t. And while my ego took a huge hit after the show aired, seeing him on camera with all those other women and talking about how bad I am in bed, it has now healed. My heart too.”
“If you say so,” Sasha replies with a shrug of her shoulders, pretending she’s buying my explanation and letting it go. After all, that’s what best friends are for.
“So, tell me what you’ve been up to,” I say to effectively change the topic.
“Well,” Sasha starts, then tosses her menu down so that she can hold out her left hand to show off her ring. “I’m engaged!”
“Holy shit,” I mutter when I grasp her hand to bring it closer while examining the massive diamond. “That’s a beautiful ring. Who is the lucky groom-to-be?” I ask, excited that my friend has at least found a keeper. In my heart, I thought that Blake was going to put a ring on my finger when instead he said I wasn’t the one for him.
“You remember me telling you about Chase Fury, my high school sweetheart?” Sasha asks.
“Of course,” I remark. How could I forget the name of the jerk she used to cry over at various times through our four years of college after he abandoned her when he wrecked his bike?
“Well, it turns out that he was there for me after our accident, for days, in fact; and my parents told him that I didn’t want to see him and that I blamed him for everything,” she says. “They intentionally split us up! And because I was too stubborn to talk to him, we didn’t find all that out until a few weeks ago.”
“Wow,” I reply in surprise. “So, how did you get back together?”
“It’s a long story, but I reported on an accident where he was the man police were looking for,” she says. A waiter appears beside our table to get our orders before I can ask a follow up.
As soon as we’re alone again, I say, “Go back. The man’s a criminal?”
“Ah, sort of,” Sasha replies with a wrinkle of her nose. “Like I said, it’s a long story, but the best part is that we’re back together. And to be completely honest with you, you should know that he’s the acting president of the Savage Kings MC right now. So, associating with me could not only be bad PR for you but also…dangerous.”
“Ha!” I laugh since there’s no way I’m staying away from my best friend I haven’t seen in a year because her bad boy biker fiancée could be trouble. “Bring it on!” I tell her. “It would actually be great to have the paparazzi report something about me that doesn’t have to do with…well, you know.”
Everyone always thinks that those reality shows are staged and scripted, but the truth is, I fell hard for Blake, the bachelor from last season’s show King of Hearts. Sure, I knew that I would be competing with nineteen other women when I signed a contract. As a struggling model-slash-small time actress, I needed the money and thought it would be great for publicity. And I was right. Now I’m known as the woman who told a man she loved him after he professed his love. A few days later, I then proceeded to push him into a pool when he picked another woman at the final rose ceremony. That’s right, every second of my jealous fit is out there for the world to see. And although the cameras left before we got naked, everyone also knows that Blake and I had been sleeping together for three weeks prior to him choosing Felicia, a woman he barely spent any time with other than in bed. At the recent reunion show, tempers flared and insults ensued, including an accusation that I was colder than an Alaskan trout in the sack. Blake declared that he realized before the ceremony that I was faking everything I said and did with him to try and keep myself on the show for my failing career.
The only thing fake between us were my orgasms that he failed to ever give me because he was a selfish prick. Which I could have overlooked if he had loved me.
Let’s just say that on top of the pile of trust issues my absentee father created, Blake caused me to develop a few new ones. There’s a reason I haven’t been on a date with anyone in over a year, and that reason’s name is Blake fucking Burton. Because of him, I can't stop thinking what if he’s right and I am solely responsible for having never experienced good sex?
“Seriously, Mercy. There have been some attacks on the club, and the guys are on the rampage after Chase’s sister-in-law was killed by one of their enemies,” Sasha tells me, pulling me back into our conversation. “If you want to steer clear of me, I’ll understand.”
“That’s awful,” I reply. “And while I hate that happened, I don’t think our friendship will be hazardous to my health.”
“I hope not,” Sasha says. “I would feel terrible if something happened to you because of my association with Chase and the MC, but I’m glad that you think I’m worth it.”
“Definitely,” I agree, right before several bright flashes of light go off right outside the window next to our table.
I don’t even have to look out on the deck to know what’s going on, but Sasha does.
“Jesus!” she mutters when her jaw falls open and she looks back at me.
“So, there are a few hazards of being friends with me right now too,” I warn her. “Like the fact that you’re probably going to end up in the tabloids as my lesbian lover or something equally absurd.”
Sasha gives a big burst of laughter at that. “I can see it now, once they do a little digging and find out we were roommates in college. The headlines will probably be that we’ve been secret lesbian lovers for years and today we finally outed ourselves.” When she starts giggling again, I can’t help but join in.
“Thanks for having a sense of humor about this,” I tell her. “They have been all up in my ass worse than an epic wedgie since I got back into town a few days ago. I hope it doesn’t cause you any problems with the news station.”
“Oh, please,” she says with a wave of her hand. “I figured they would fire me as soon as I went public with Chase, but they’ve actually been kissing my ass instead, like they’re scared I’ll sic the MC on them if they try to let me go.”
“That’s great,” I tell her.
“It is. I have my pick of stories, more vacation time. It’s crazy, but I’m glad I didn’t have to give up my career to be with Chase.”
“Yeah, it’s awesome you get to have both,” I agree with a smile.
“Are you gonna be in town for a while? If you are, I really want you to meet him,” Sasha says.
“Absolutely,” I reply. “We start filming later this week in Wilmington. It’ll take weeks to get a season worth of bad dates and all filmed, so I’ll be around.”
“Bad dates?” Sasha repeats with a bark of laughter. “Try not to sound so hopeful!”
“You know what I mean,” I say with a roll of my green eyes. “The guys may all be hot, but some will be jackasses. I just have to focus on weeding those men out, which will take time. And in the meantime, I’m going to try to avoid the paparazzi as much as I can.”
“How exactly do you plan to get out of here with that growing horde outside?” she asks, tipping the side of her head toward the window. I don’t turn to acknowledge the cameras. I’m trying my best to avoid letting them get any straight-on shots of my face looking like a deer in headlights.
Glancing around the restaurant that’s also filled with gawkers now, I grin and say, “Maybe someone can find me a broom to beat them back with.”
“I have a better idea,” Sasha says with her own mischievous grin. I can’t even guess what she might be cooking up. The girl is as sweet as honey, but can occasionally be trouble with a capital T. “If you don’t mind the MC association, I could call in a few bikers to provide you with some backup.”
“Bikers?” I repeat before my eyes narrow at her. “Wait. You’re not trying to set me up, are you? I’m getting ready to start a dating show!”
“Of course I’m not setting you up. None of Chase’s friends even come close to being your type,” she replies.
“Right,” I agree, since I could never imagine myself dating a biker or my mother ever approving of one.
This dude has lost his fucking mind.
That’s my first thought when Chase and I show up at Torin’s house to check on him. And while I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to walk a mile in his boots, I have zero fucking doubts that he’s experiencing more pain than any human being ever should endure in a lifetime.
A few weeks ago, motherfucking Hector Cruz, Cartel drug kingpin, had someone take out Torin’s pregnant old lady in a drive-by. The entire club is still reeling from the attack on our president. Or our former president, I guess I should say, since he removed his flash from his cut and stepped down.
Now, though, he’s set up camp right next to his beach front mansion…in a fox hole. No shit, it’s like he’s reenacting a war movie. The man hasn’t seen a bar of soap in several days, possibly longer, not to mention a razor or a comb for his dirty-blond hair that’s a mess, falling below his ears and giving new meaning to dirty.
It’s just one more reason why I never plan to settle down with a woman. Not that any females would ever want to hitch themselves to me – a convicted felon and outlaw biker – other than the low-class club sluts. They’re bottom feeders looking to move up in the world even if it means getting on their knees for me every night. And it’s no secret that the MC is making bank. The amount of money in my account is a dream come true compared to how I grew up saving pennies or stealing to pay for one meal a day for my mom, my brother and myself.
“Come on, Torin,” Chase starts, trying to rationalize with his older brother from where he and I are physically looking down into the depths of his despair. Actually, the more I think about it, instead of a fox hole, it’s like the man has gone and dug his own grave to prepare for his imminent death, ready to meet back up with his old lady in the afterlife. “Why don’t you go inside and get a shower? Or come back to the clubhouse with us?”
“No,” Torin mutters from his seated position, back to the sandy wall. “I’m fine here.”
“You’re not fucking fine!” Chase yells before he places his hands on his hips to take a deep breath, trying to calm down. As his MC brother, I understand his frustration. Hell, I even understand the pressure Chase has on his shoulders, wanting to literally pull Torin out of the hole he’s dug himself into. My brother Gabriel is three years younger than me; and when I lost him to the foster system those few years after our mom died, I felt like a failure. When I was finally able to track him down again, I thought it would be smart to steal a classic Jaguar to sell to pay for his college tuition. Then I got busted and tossed in prison, leaving Gabe once again to fend for himself. I’m a shitty brother. And based on the distance between us despite our close proximity, I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for letting him down.
“There has to be something more that you could be doing than wasting away out here in the heat,” Chase says calmly, trying to reason with his brother. “What do you need?”
“Have you found out where Hector or his slutty ass daughter are?” Torin murmurs. “Yeah, I didn’t think so,” he answers his own question before Chase can respond.
“We’re trying,” Chase assures him. “Reece is digging in and monitoring everything possible that he can on the internet. We’ll find them.”
Straight up, that murdering asshole Cruz must be hiding in a hole like Torin’s. There hasn’t been a single blip about him out in the world since he closed up shop in Wilmington and disappeared after attacking our clubhouse and killing two good men from our Charlotte charter.
“We can try to round up some Aces again to question them,” Chase offers to Torin, trying to throw the devastated man a bone.
“I want to burn the entire Ace of Spades MC to the fucking ground,” Torin declares while he pulls out his big ass army knife from his cargo pocket to start cutting an apple.
Chase and I exchange a look, then I give a shrug in response to his silent question as if to say, why the hell not.
“Okay, let’s do it,” Chase tells him. “Let’s burn that fucking Aces’ bar right outside of Wilmington down. We’ll go tonight.”
“Fuck yeah,” I exclaim, trying to be the messed-up arson cheerleader my boy needs.
“Fine,” Torin eventually agrees with a sigh.
“Great. Get a shower and you can come too,” Chase declares. When Torin opens his mouth to protest, Chase cuts him off. “I can fucking smell you from here, man. If you don’t shower, you’re not coming with us.”
A huff of annoyance is Torin’s response, but Chase seems to take it as acceptance.
“Be at the clubhouse at eleven tonight,” Chase orders Torin before he walks away. I give my former president a nod, before I turn and follow. The whole exchange was too damn bizarre for me. Over the past six years since I became a prospect, Torin’s been the one in charge giving people directives. Seeing him this way twists my guts up in knots.
“Are you gonna tell him about the possible rat in our midst?” I ask Chase softly as we head for our bikes.
“Not yet,” Chase answers on a sigh. “He’ll lose it if we tell him one of our own betrayed him. First we need to find proof before he goes apeshit and starts pointing fingers.”
“Yeah,” I agree, unable to figure out how the hell to determine which of our brothers is untrustworthy.
Growing up poor made me hard. Prison made me even harder. Chase was the only person in there with me who I knew wouldn’t stab me with a shiv while I was sleeping. I’ve always had a hard time trusting people; but even so, I’ve gone through the list of our MC brothers over and over again and can’t pick out a single one who wouldn’t die for me. Maybe Chase is wrong, and Hector just got lucky when he hit us both times. But that doesn’t really make sense either …
Just as Chase and I are next to our bikes, fastening our helmets, his cell phone starts ringing.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and throw out a guess that it’s his old lady. The two of them can’t go thirty minutes without professing their love. Chase can act like he’s all happy and shit, but I see the worry on his face every time he’s in the same room with Sasha. He’s terrified of losing her like Torin lost Kennedy. Hell, Chase almost did ten years ago when a drunk driver wrecked his bike while Sasha was on the back. And honestly, I want my boy to be happy, but I just don’t see how battling all that added fear is worth the trouble.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Chase says into the phone with a goofy grin on his face, that I also predict is exactly the one Sasha shares wherever the hell she is right now. When his face hardens and his brow dips in concern, I get the feeling there’s trouble in paradise.
“Where are you?” he snaps, and then says, “We’re on our way,” before ending the call.
“What’s up?” I ask as Chase slips the phone back in the inside zipper on his cut and climbs on his bike.
“Sasha and her friend were having lunch and started getting hassled by some dicks with cameras,” he explains. “We’re gonna go break up the party.”
“Sounds fun,” I tell him before I throw a leg over my shiny, new Harley Street Glide, ready to ride.
I owe Chase big time for being so cool with me in prison and then giving me and Gabriel a home after I got out. The Savage Kings MC is the first real family the two of us have ever had. Sure, Gabriel spent a few years in several foster homes; and although he doesn’t talk about them, I don’t think it was a very good experience for him. Hell, I have no idea how Gabe was even surviving when a private investigator was finally able to track him down in the streets of Charlotte.
Thankfully, while I was locked up, my brother met an older man named Tom Wright, who had his own tattoo shop, and the dude let Gabe apprentice with him. That’s how my brother was able to open up his shop in Emerald Isle when we both moved here to join the MC six years ago. I hate I couldn’t round up the money he needed to go to college and get his art degree or whatever, but I’m so fucking proud of him. Maybe I’m biased, but my brother is hands down the sickest fucking artist in the world. Not just with tattoos; he can draw damn near anything. He did the sleeve of black and white roses on my arm and the MC bearded skull patch on my back. He inks almost all of the guys in the MC. People even travel from out of state to get a Gabriel Cross tat.
My brother was born with an incredible talent, and I was born…big. That’s it. That’s the extent of my attributes. I’m a stubborn, hard-headed giant, but I can follow orders and wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in someone to protect one of my MC brothers. Especially Chase. He’s a good guy, and I’m glad that the angry bastard finally got his girl. The man practically floats on air now, and I don’t think any dude smiles as much as he does, even if that fear never leaves his eyes.
He’s not smiling when we back in our bikes into parking spots at the Sea Breeze pier restaurant and turn off the engines. And he’s not smiling as he pushes his way through the crowd of dickheads staring into one of the windows like they’re on a field trip at the damn zoo.
“What’s the matter with these people?” I grumble to Chase, who reaches the door to go inside a step before me.
“No fucking idea, but somehow Sasha has gotten herself involved,” he replies over his shoulder, which I translate to mean he’s gonna kick some ass if they don’t back the fuck up.
I’m still snickering to myself about how much fun it’ll be to see my boy throw down with the nerds with cameras when I glance around the dining room and see her turn around, stunning me so severely with her intense emerald eyes and red, flowing hair that I nearly stumble backwards.
Correction, it should be HER. The woman deserves to have the entire word capitalized because she’s that fucking important. I don’t know who the fuck SHE is, but everyone better get the fuck out of my way so I can find out.
And today must be my lucky day, or my boy must be appeasing my love of gingers, because Chase stops at HER table.
Jesus. The closer I get, the more stunning she is — all smooth, porcelain skin that glows and makes those big, green eyes and fiery hair stand out even more.
Conversations take place around me, but I can’t hear them. Chase says something. But nope, it doesn’t register. I don’t have a clue what’s being said, or what’s going on around us. I have perfect tunnel vision. I start to think my gawking is making HER uncomfortable because SHE keeps tilting her head back to look at me, and then quickly glancing away.
When Chase’s arm shoots into my field of vision and shakes her hand, I have to choke back my growl of jealousy because he’s being allowed to touch HER when I haven’t. Hell, someone as classy and perfect wouldn’t let my grungy hands ever come close to her. Still, a man can fantasize and jerk off to women way out of his league.
As soon as the goddess opens her mouth, I’m all ears.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Mercy.”
“Mercy?” I repeat aloud with a chuckle. “As in, Lord, please have Mercy on me?”
The beauty throws her head back and laughs like I’ve said the funniest fucking shit she’s ever heard. The sound is brief but lovely, like tinkling wind chimes on a calm day.
“Yes, just like that,” she answers. She hesitates a moment before she holds out her dainty hand in my direction, finally giving me permission to touch her. Since I can’t possibly shake it with my big mitt without breaking it, I gently slip my palm underneath and lower my lips to brush them over her delicate knuckles. When I lick my lips and taste the mango of her lotion or body wash, I nearly groan.
“Abe,” Chase mutters from beside me in a tone that says I need to get a fucking grip.
And hell, I know that I do. In all my life, I’ve never kissed a woman’s knuckles, not just because it looks like a cheesy fucking come-on, but because in the Savage Kings MC culture, it means I’m giving her a higher status than myself, a King. Only old ladies deserve that much respect, not a woman I just met.
“So, your name is Abe?” Mercy asks me, making my eyes nearly roll back in my head from just the sound of my name coming from her lips. I also realize I’m still touching her. “It’s nice to meet you,” she adds before withdrawing her hand from mine. The woman probably can’t wait to go wash off my germs. “Thanks for rescuing us from the rabid paps outside,” she says with a nod of her red head toward the window. I look up and realize those fuckers are still gathered around and start to understand what a goldfish must feel like being in a bowl.
And at the word rescue, I can easily picture myself tossing Mercy over my shoulder and then carrying her out to my bike like a caveman. Would she then reward me for my heroism? My cock believes she would in my wettest dreams, so it gives a hardy nod of agreement.
“We have a basement entrance,” an older man with white hair says when he comes up to our table. “If Miss Daniels would like to sneak out that way. I do apologize for the intrusion on your meal.”
How does this random man know her last name? Why are the assholes with cameras following her? I mean, it’s entirely possible that she’s started a riot based on her beauty alone, but I’m guessing there’s another reason.
Obviously noticing my confused expression, Mercy says, “I was on a television show and have another one coming up. No biggie.”
The fact that there’s a mob waiting outside begs to differ with her modesty.
“Chase and I can go out the front and distract them while Abe takes Mercy through the basement,” Sasha suggests from the other side of the table. Wait a second. When did Chase’s old lady get here? Doesn’t matter. I fucking love that woman for making the suggestion that I take Mercy.
“Sounds good,” I tell her.
“Um, okay,” Mercy agrees.
“Abe, why don’t you take Mercy home on your bike, and Chase and I can follow in her car?” Sasha, the doll she is, adds, making me want to kiss her.
“That’s not really necessary,” Mercy says, trying to kill my dick’s hopes and dreams.
“With the helmet on, they probably won’t even know it’s you,” Sasha points out. “If you get in your car right now, someone could follow you home…”
“Ugh. That’s true,” Mercy agrees as she blows out a frustrated breath. “And I’ve been able to keep the address of my rental house a secret by leaving it in the landlord’s name. It would suck to have them start smothering me there too.”
“Hand me your car keys, girl, and let’s get out of here,” Sasha tells her as she holds out her hand, palm facing up in expectation.
A few moments pass where Mercy considers her options before she finally grabs up her purse and pulls out a set of keys. Handing them over to Sasha, she says, “I still drive a silver BMW, and I’ll text you the address.” She reaches for her phone next and starts typing.
“Got it,” Sasha replies with a nod. “I’ll drop it off, and then Chase can bring me back here on his bike to get my car. Easy.”
As soon as I realize I’m nodding like a bobble head in agreement to this superb plan, I tense my neck to make it stop.
“You ever been on the back of a Harley before?” Sasha asks her friend as she puts down cash for the food on the table.
Mercy pushes the money away and adds her own before she answers. “No, I haven’t. Should I be worried?” She looks to Sasha, then to Chase and finally me.
They both tell her no at the same time I say with a straight face, “Yes. It’s incredibly dangerous. You should hold on to me like your life depends on it, because it very well may.”
“Right,” Mercy replies with a grin.
She then gets to her feet so that she’s standing inches away from me, drowning me in her sweet, mango scent. She’s taller than I expected, but still it’s impossible to notice how much bigger I am than she is. I have at least eight inches on her and over a hundred pounds. Not looking the least bit intimidated, though, she cranes her neck up to say, “Let’s go, big guy.”
Sasha and Chase’s distraction works out perfectly. The giant in leather and I are able to sneak out through the basement entry. There were steps that go straight down between the tall slants holding the building up and to the sand dunes underneath. Not a single soul has noticed that we’re on the way to the parking lot, assuming instead that I’m still inside.
And while I may not know this tough looking man that I’m leaving with, Sasha does; and I’m getting a good vibe from him. He’s incredibly hot, the biggest, most muscular man I’ve ever met. Towering nearly a foot above my five-foot-eight height, his thick biceps straining against the fabric of his black tee under his leather cut look strong enough to lift a compact car. His chest is noticeably rock hard and massive before leading down to a lean waist. The jeans he’s wearing are loose on his long legs but tight around his…package, accentuating that area nicely. Believe me, I got a nice long look since his crotch was eye-level while I was sitting at the table.
Abe is not my type at all since I prefer clean-cut guys. But I can admit that his thick, black beard that’s long enough to tug on and the ink covering his entire right arm is bad boy sexy. Heck, every single inch of him is tough and ruggedly sexy. Although, it’s very possible that my hormones are just so excited to be this close to an available male for the first time in over a year that they’ve put blinders over my eyes.
Wait a second. Is Abe available? Not that it even matters, because he’s definitely not my type.
Still, when we get to Abe’s bike, he places a helmet on my head and I take the opportunity to look for a ring that says he’s taken, but don’t find one.
I’m starting to think that, despite her assurances, Sasha is trying to play matchmaker because she thinks I need to get back in the saddle. And yes, I do agree, which is why I signed the contract for Queen of Hearts. But the guys on the show are open to a serious relationship while I’m certain that the big, bad biker in front of me is only looking for a pair of open legs, the more the merrier. And my crushed heart doesn’t need to sustain any more damage.
Abe’s large, slightly clumsy hands fight with the narrow chin strap to get it fastened on me.
“Since this is my first ride, will you take it slow for me?” I ask him as he works.
He gives a deep, rumbling chuckle before he answers. “This bike couldn’t go slow if I wanted it to,” he informs me. “But I’ll keep you safe,” he assures me before a long pause. One where his dark, nearly black eyes stare off into the distance as if he just had an important thought.
“Everything okay?” I ask.
“Just realized why Chase is such a pussy,” he says with a shake of his head.
“Oh-kay,” I mutter since I have no idea what that means, and I’m definitely not used to being around men with potty mouths. My mother would slap a man for using such a vile word in front of her.
“There,” Abe tells me with a heavy sigh when the chin strap is secure. “Now hop on, Little Red, and we’ll get out of here.”
“Little Red?” I repeat with a grin.
“Yeah, as in Riding Hood,” he clarifies as if it were obvious. “You’re Little Red, and clearly I’m the Big Bad Wolf.”
“Of course,” I agree with a widening smile because he’s too cute. Enormous and scary looking with his tats, black beard and leather, but still strangely enough, cute, especially when he opens his mouth. I’m not sure if I could ever predict what might come out.
I’ll probably giggle for days whenever I think about his first words to me.
“Mercy?” he had asked in surprise when I introduced myself. “As in, Lord please have Mercy on me?”
All my life I’ve heard several versions of that particular joke, intending to be innuendo, but it was the way Abe said it, like the phrase was exactly what his dirty mind had been thinking before he learned my name.
After I figure out how to get one of my strappy heels over the seat and get situated on the bike, I tuck my navy-blue dress underneath my butt, glad that it’s a longish style that comes down to my calves. Abe pulls out another half-helmet from the saddle bag. Taking my purse from my hand, he places it inside the compartment. As soon as he gets his helmet in place, he throws his long leg over the seat so fast and efficiently that it looks like he’s done it a million times before. And it is hot. The bearded skull patch under the words “Savage Kings” just inches away from my face is a little terrifying, though.
“Now what?” I ask him.
Abe looks over his shoulder at me with a thick eyebrow raised before he says, “You’re gonna have to come closer than that, Red.”
“How close?” I ask.
“Keep coming and I’ll tell you when,” he replies.
I scoot toward him a few inches but apparently not enough.
“Keep coming,” his gruff voice demands of me while his dark gaze simultaneously rakes upward from my crotch straddling the seat to my eyes. A shiver runs through my entire body at the sound of his voice or from the heat of his stare, maybe even the masculine smell of his leather and sweat mixing together now that I’m so close to him my thighs are nearly hugging his waist.
“Put your arms around my waist and lock them tight,” Abe directs before he looks away.
The guy is so big that, in order for my hands to meet, I’ll have to press the side of my face into his back.
“You sure?” I ask him. “I mean, couldn’t I just put my hands on the side of the bike like this?” I demonstrate the move for him.
Abe barely spares me a glance before he answers. “Sure, you could,” he agrees, making me exhale in relief. “If you want to fall off.”
Pushing past the awkwardness of hugging a man I just met from behind, I scoot forward again and put my arms around his waist to get it over with, clasping my right hand over my left.
Holy…wow! I wasn’t expecting his stomach to feel so hard and warm underneath my left hand. As if he thinks he needs to impress me even more, I feel those washboard ab muscles suddenly tighten underneath my fingertips, causing a tightening in my own lower belly that I haven’t felt in a very long time.
“You good?” Abe asks. “We need to go.”
Glancing back over to the front of the restaurant, I see Chase and Sasha break free of the crowd.
“Yes,” I say.
“Hold on tight,” Abe reminds me before he cranks the motorcycle’s loud engine. After he slips on a pair of sunglasses over his eyes, he pats my hands and then leans toward the handlebars.
“I need to give you my address!” I shout so he can hear me over the muffler.
“Yeah, you do,” he says with a chuckle before the bike jerks forward, which means the momentum sends me backwards.
I don’t have to be told twice about holding on tight to him. I clasp my hands snuggly together against his taut stomach just in time because we’re zooming out of the restaurant lot and down the road at what would be a dangerous speed in even a completely enclosed vehicle.
When we go around the first curve, I’m certain that the last thing I’ll remember about this world is kissing pavement before I leave it. I even consider unfriending Sasha on social media as soon as my feet touch the ground again.
But then the road straightens out. My shoulders finally begin to relax a little. The rest of my body eventually follows suit, and soon I’m even able to lift my head from Abe’s back to watch the rows of trees in the swampy forest pass us by. The wind in my face takes my breath away at first, but it’s also refreshing and invigorating. Like I’m flying free, a bird escaping the cage for the very first time.
Ironically enough, knowing you’re so close to a horrendous death at any second makes you feel alive. Especially since you know you can only evade mortality for so long.
And who knew that motorcycles were like gigantic vibrators? The sensations it’s putting off between my extremely neglected legs are a very welcome surprise to go along with their muscular owner. The scent of leather is also becoming a new aphrodisiac for me apparently.
By the time we take an exit off the highway to pull into a rest area minutes or hours later, my panties are damp, and I feel like I’m right on the verge of an incredibly embarrassing orgasm.
“You still back there, Red?” Abe teases me with a grin over his shoulder as he puts his boots on the pavement to back his bike into a parking spot while my arms remain locked around his waist.
“Yeah, I think so,” I answer with a smile as I finally loosen my grip and let him go to sit back. “That was…fun.”
“Glad to hear it,” he replies before he climbs off and removes his sunglasses and helmet. “If you’re ready to go home, you can give me the directions,” he says, standing with his hip against the bike and his tree trunk size thigh pressed against my knee.
Am I ready to go home yet to my lonely little cottage? Not really. Since I just started moving in, it doesn’t feel quite like home to me just yet. For the last year, I’ve been traveling through Europe with my mom, something we both always wanted to do but never had enough money for until I was cast on King of Hearts last year. So at least one good thing came from looking like a fool for the whole world to see.
“I can give you my address, but you can take the long way there,” I finally inform Abe.
“Sounds good,” he agrees with what I’m pretty sure is a smirk peeking out from his thick facial hair.
Without thinking about it, I reach up to tug on the end of Abe’s beard, making his dark eyes widen. “Doesn’t this get hot in the summer?”
Clearing his throat, he strokes his hand over his beard and says, “Hell yeah, it does, but it also gets the ladies hot too.”
“I bet,” I say, even though I’m a little disappointed that he apparently has not one singular lady, but plural “ladies.” Which is stupid since I don’t even know the guy.
About that time, my eyes lower to actually read the black shirt that he’s wearing underneath his open leather cut. There’s a cartoon drawing of a bearded man wearing sunglasses. The words in white say, “Beard Rides”, with ten cents written below it in the beard itself.
“Oh,” I mutter when understanding finally dawns on me and I feel my face flush from thinking of this man’s mouth between a woman’s legs. Not just any woman, but I imagine it in between mine. Isolation and loneliness are solely responsible for stupid, crazy thoughts like that. When have I ever thought such a thing about a man I just met? Never, because it’s very unladylike.
“Well, we better get back on the road. You wouldn’t want to keep the ladies waiting,” I tell Abe as I silently yell at my hormones to settle the hell down. In just a few days, I’ll be surrounded by twenty amazing men who will all plot, scheme, and compete to get some one-on-one time with me. And will I be able to trust that any of them really want me for more than just a tumble in the sheets? Probably not, but it’s possible I could find a decent guy.
“What ladies?” Abe asks several seconds later with his brow furrowed.
“The ladies that love the, um, beard,” I tell him.
“There aren’t any ladies waiting on me tonight,” he replies.
“What about on other nights?” I ask as I look down and brush the invisible lint off my dress, even though it’s none of my business. He’s just a nice guy doing a friend a favor by dropping me off.
“I’m sure there are some…ladies back at our clubhouse, but I haven’t been able to recall any of their names or faces since the moment I saw yours.”
Jeez, he’s laying it on thick for a guy I just met. And the worst part? It’s totally working for him.
Again, my lack of physical contact in over a year is making me think things I really shouldn’t. I’m not the type of woman who sleeps with a man I just met or has a one-night stand. I have more self-respect for myself, and I’m smart enough to know how those things end for women. It’s never good. Even women who think they’re just in some friends-with-benefits situations, deep down they’re desperately hoping that the man will one day wake up and realize he’s in love with her. That never, ever happens. The man just moves on to the next stupid, naïve woman. That’s why I can’t afford to do something so crazy just because I’m horny. Or lonely. Whatever. Besides, do I really want another man to experience an awful round of sex with someone as cold as me?
“Listen, Abe,” I start. “I really appreciate you helping me out with the ride. And maybe I’m completely wrong about you, but I’m sort of on the rebound right now, so you shouldn’t waste your time trying to get in my panties. It wouldn’t be worth it…”
“So you’ve already thought about me in your panties?” the giant of a man asks with a smirk when he crosses his arms over his massive chest.
“No, I didn’t say that,” I reply with a scoff. And oh, my god. We’re now having an actual conversation about my panties and it’s all my fault. “I said you shouldn’t try to get in them, because I’m a lost cause.”
“Are you wearing panties?” Abe asks me as his dark eyes lower to where my body is straddling his bike like he’s trying to see through the material of my dress.
“What? Of course I am,” I reply indignantly with a roll of my eyes, trying not to think about the dampness in them.
“Then the possibility of me getting in them, however slim it may be, is still there, right?” he points out.
“Uh-uh. Nope,” I disagree with an adamant shake of my head. I’m looking for love, not a chance to finally try and have wild, hot sex. There’s a huge difference between the two. Letting the big man I just met have his way with me would not be conducive to building a relationship. However good it could possibly feel at the time, as soon as it’s over and he walks away like every other man in my life, I’ll feel ashamed of myself and regret my irrational decision. And it will most likely be terribly unfulfilling for both of us.
“There’s no way to change your mind?” Abe asks. “I’d literally do anything to get in your panties just once. I promise to make it worth your while.”
See! I knew it. He just admitted that all he wants from me is a one-night stand. And while I appreciate his candor, that’s exactly what I’m trying like hell to avoid.
“Consider my panties a chastity belt of sorts. They’re impossible to penetrate nowadays,” I tell him.
Crap, why did I say penetrate? Now I’m thinking about sex with the giant when I’m supposed to be guiding the conversation away from sex. Having meaningless sex with a stranger would be wrong for so many reasons. At the moment, I can’t think of any right off the top of my head, but I know they’re out there in the world somewhere.
“Unless I find the key,” Abe says.
“Huh?” I ask, having gotten caught up in the penetration issue.
“Those chastity belts from the Medieval Times had keys, didn’t they?” he asks.
“I think you mean the Middle Ages,” I reply, biting back my grin because he’s thinking of the dinner theater place down south of us in Myrtle Beach. “And there was only one very special, hidden key, so it wasn’t like just any old key would work.”
“What if I know a damn good locksmith?” Abe asks with a cocky grin that makes me laugh out loud.
“You’re funny, big guy, I’ll give you that,” I tell him with a shake of my head.
“So what’s the deal with the rebound?” he asks, causing the smile to slip right off my face.
“It’s nothing,” I say. “And you’re obviously not a fan of reality television or social media.”
“Nope, I’m not,” he replies.
“Well, then you’re not missing much,” I assure him. “I went on a dating show and thought the guy was going to propose to me at the finale. Instead, he picked another girl.”
“Is he blind?” Abe asks. “The bastard’s obviously fucking blind, right?”
“No,” I answer, unable to bite back another grin. “He was not blind.”
“Was he good in bed?”
“What? I’m not telling you that,” I huff.
“So, he wasn’t,” Abe murmurs.
“I didn’t say that.”
“Because you’re a sweet girl who wouldn’t badmouth a man behind his back,” he declares.
“Or I just don’t go around bragging about my conquests,” I argue.
“Did he give you beard rides?” Abe asks entirely straight faced as he tugs on his beard, making me laugh even harder because he looks so serious.
“Oh my, god. You’re too much,” I tell him. “Take me home.”
“Answer the question and I will,” he says when he plants one of his gigantic hands on the seat of the bike, his fingertips disappearing underneath the stretched fabric of my dress, not touching me but so close I can practically feel them.
Since I don’t have much of a choice but to reply or walk, I decide to tell him the truth, even though I know I could lie to him. For some reason, I think he would know and not budge until he got the truth.
“No beard rides,” I respond. Then, with a slight smile I say, “He was clean-shaven.”
“Oh, come on!” Abe exclaims as he pushes off from the bike, then turns around in a circle and comes right back. His planted hand disappears a little further up the seat under my dress but still doesn’t touch me. “Answer the question, woman.”
“Why do you care?” I ask him curiously.
“Because any man who turns down the chance to lick your pretty, red pussy should be castrated,” he grumbles.
My lips part on a gasp of surprise at his filthy words describing a very intimate place on my body. I like them, maybe even too much. No man has ever spoken to me in such a crass way.
“How…how do you know I’m a natural redhead?” I ask.
“Just taking an educated guess,” Abe replies, letting his hand slip forward a little more. How do I know? Another gasp escapes my lips when his thumb grazes along the inside of my thigh and then stays there to keep rubbing up and down, up and down, stealing my breath with each small movement. “I’m all for taking a peek to confirm.”
My mouth is so dry that I have to lick my lips before I can reply. I shouldn’t encourage him, but for some reason I can’t help myself. “Most of the time even a peek wouldn’t do you any good because I usually get Brazilian waxes. But I may have missed a few appointments…”
“Good lord,” Abe groans as his dark eyes squeeze shut as if he’s trying to picture what I look like down below. His thumb on my thigh doesn’t pause for even a second, though. It’s singularly responsible for causing my entire lower body to start to tingle. In my head, my hormones are staging a hostile takeover of my common sense and ability to rationalize. They want me to reach down and shove Abe’s left hand up just a little further until it’s touching that needy little spot that only ever gets attention from my Finger Fun vibrator. His thick fingers would be a much better replacement, or even better, his tongue…
Abe’s eyes finally reopen, looking even darker than before as they zero in on my lips. His right hand comes up and grabs a strand of my hair from my shoulder that makes my breath catch. I’m certain that he’s about to kiss me when the sound of an approaching car in the once empty rest area interrupts. Abe and I both freeze like we were doing something naughty when, to the passerby, it only looks like we’re having a casual conversation.
Disappointment hits like a bowling ball in my gut at the interruption since now I won’t find out what Abe would’ve done if they hadn’t pulled up and parked three spots away from us. Would he have kissed me? If so, would it have been light and soft or rough and dirty like how the man looks?
“It’s time to take you home,” Abe grumbles before he withdraws both of his hands and turns around to grab his helmet from the handlebar. He sounds angry and his movements are jerky as he secures the chin strap and then climbs back on the bike.
I guess that means our flirty banter is over.
Such a shame too. I wasn’t ready for him to give up quite so soon.
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NY Times bestselling author Lane Hart has published more than a dozen romances that will make your Kindle sizzle.