Authors: Kati Wilde
Tags: #motorcycle club romance, #novella, #erotic romance
He’s the one man I can never have, but the only one I crave…
Saxon Gray has reason to hate me. He spent five years in prison after saving me from a brutal violation at the hands of a rival motorcycle club – and he paid for that rescue with his freedom. I’ve never been able to settle the debt I owe him…until now.
The menace of that old rivalry is flaring up again, and as president of the Hellfire Riders, Saxon is the one man who can keep me safe. But I want more than his protection. I want his heart.
THE MOTORCYCLE CLUBS • THE HELLFIRE RIDERS #1
As soon as I step through the Wolf Den’s doors, the noise in the bar pounds into me like a fist. Heavy metal. Male voices shouting over it. Bursts of raucous laughter. The crack of billiard balls.
It all lulls as everyone sees me. Hard eyes look me up and down. Others turn away from me. The wings of fire and wheels of steel emblazoned on the back of their leather battle jackets serve as a warning—they’re all Hellfire Riders.
And my father leads the Steel Titans. There isn’t any bad blood between the two clubs—not any more—but there are rules. Territories. Even though I don’t ride with the Titans, and I’m sure as hell not one of their old ladies, I’m not supposed to be here.
Not right now, anyway. I come often enough during the day, when the business behind the business of selling liquor is conducted. When the tavern is quiet, and even the locals will stop in for lunch. But nights are something else. The nights belong to the club that rules this den.
I know better than to march farther inside without a welcome. That welcome will come. Still, it’s nerve-wracking waiting with all those eyes measuring me. I’m pretty sure some of them are measuring the lengths of their tables, too, and deciding just how far I would stretch across it while they tear off my pants and teach me a lesson about intruding on Hellfire territory.
My stomach roils sickly as I imagine it, even though I know these guys won’t do anything like that. Some of them might think it, but they won’t do it. There are rules about that, too. The Hellfire Riders don’t hurt women unless the women really like it. Unless they ask for it.
Not everyone I’ve met has followed the same code.
At the bar, a big biker slowly rises from a stool and comes toward me. Short blond hair, long easy stride. His name’s Aaron, but everyone calls him Stone Wall—the Riders’ enforcer. The casual attitude he always wears is just a sheep’s skin. He’ll tear apart anyone who threatens the club or its members. As far as I know, he already has. His face has seen better days. He took a bad beating a few years back. I have no idea who laid it on him. But his nose isn’t so straight anymore. The deep slash of a blade cuts through his eyebrow and traces a ragged path down his cheek. His lips are scarred as if they’ve been smashed between his teeth and a fist too many times.
But I remember when those lips were perfectly shaped. I remember him throwing kisses at a roomful of giggling preteens during one of his sister’s sleepovers. Every girl in junior high would have sworn Anna’s older brother was the hottest thing that ever prowled the streets of Pine Valley, Oregon.
That was a long time ago. Some things haven’t changed. I’m still friends with Anna. I don’t giggle much now, though.
And these days, the Stone Wall isn’t the hottest thing to prowl these streets. Not because of his face. Anna’s brother is still hot in that primitive, dangerous way some of these guys have, and the scars only add to it. But there is one man who could outsteam any other in this town. In this state. Maybe the whole damn world.
I’ve just walked into his den. I don’t see him now. I don’t know if I want to.
Being anywhere near Saxon Gray is always heaven. And it’s always hell.
“Jenny.” Stone stops close, a bottle of Budweiser dangling from his long fingers. “You all right?”
He asks me that because he knows I wouldn’t have stopped here at night if I’d been able to help it. But I’m all right. Now. I just don’t want to go back out on the road anytime soon.
And I don’t want to tell him about it. I know what it might lead to. Fights. Blood. One man dead. Another man in prison. It happened before. I don’t want to see it happen again. Not now, when my dad is so sick. When I don’t know if he would live through a fight, let alone anything that might follow.
So I shake my head and say, “I just want to see Anna.”
Stone takes a swig of his Bud, studying me over the length of the bottle. Doubting me.
“And to save you from drinking that shit,” I add.
He grins. “A working man can’t afford your golden piss. Not for everyday drinking.”
“Then I’ll buy you one.”
With another long look at me, he finally nods. His head jerks toward the bar. That is my welcome. He walks with me as I make my way through the tables. And so it begins. I won’t take another step without a high-ranking Rider at my side. Even with no bad blood between the clubs, toss in enough liquor and chest thumping, and the danger of someone doing or saying something stupid to me rises exponentially. So Stone will stop any trouble from coming my way before it begins—and if he has to bail for any reason, someone else will take his place.
Maybe Zachary Cooper, since the Riders’ sergeant at arms is already sitting at the bar, his elbows braced on the counter as he watches us come. All the Hellfire men are tight, but there are few tighter than Zach and Stone—and their brotherhood began long before they’d straddled a motorcycle. Both former marines, they served together in Iraq. Stone returned to Pine Valley after his tour ended; Zach came with him, though he didn’t grow up around here. I don’t really know where he’s from. Chatty, he isn’t. Instead he just watches everything. Me, right now. Usually, he seems to be watching Anna, but only when she isn’t looking back at him.
She looks often. There isn’t any touching, though. She made a move once and he shut her down. After that, she always seems to look despite herself. I can’t blame the girl, though. It’s hard not to look. Wherever Zach Cooper comes from, they grow ’em big and pretty, with thick black hair, chiseled jaws, and glacial blue eyes. They probably have a sign: Welcome to Sexyville, USA. Population: One brooding guy who will never touch my best friend because she’s the sister of
What a sad little town that is.
I head for the short leg of the L-shaped bar. Stone claims his seat next to Zach—near enough to talk to me and run interference if needed, but with a few empty stools between us.
At the other end of the bar, Anna is popping the caps off a half dozen beer bottles, and she throws me a curious glance as she places them on a tray. Her dark hair is up in a simple ponytail, which means she probably crawled out of bed just before starting her shift.
“Hey, gorgeous,” I call as she comes closer. The music isn’t going to allow any real conversation, which is fine by me.
She leans in, forearms on the counter. “What’s going on?”
“I’m looking for a good beer. You got one? I’m buying for your brother, too.”
Lips compressed, she tilts her head and waits.
Damn it. “I just didn’t like the look of some guys riding behind me is all. So I came this way.”
Her eyebrows pinch together. “The Eighty-Eight?”
“I don’t know.”
Such a lie. After pulling into the Den’s parking lot, I waited until the bikers rode by. Their emblems were hard to mistake—an eagle over a death’s head. Supremacist fuckers. They call themselves the Eighty-Eight Henchmen, though there aren’t eighty-eight members. The number is a nod to their buddy Adolf.
Face troubled, Anna draws back. I catch her hand.
“Look, it’s nothing. Okay? Just bad luck that they were passing through this way. They probably didn’t even realize I was ahead of them. And they rode on.”
They hadn’t swarmed my truck. Hadn’t hooted and shouted about how they were going to force my thighs open and get in line.
They hadn’t this time, anyway.
“Really,” I say, squeezing her hand. “Nothing. But it will be something if you mention it.”
Because every biker in this tavern will ride out after them. But if the Eighty-Eight were just passing through, there’s no reason to start any trouble. Especially since her brother will be in the middle of it.
Anna studies my face for a long minute, then finally gives a heavy sigh. “What are you having?”
“Lionheart.” My favorite stout—and the strongest ale that my brewery sells. The Wolf Den keeps it on tap. “Along with a shot of Patrón.”
Her gaze narrows. “It was nothing, huh?”
So maybe I’m a little shaky. And I have no intention of leaving soon. It’s still nothing. “Now that I’m here, I might as well keep you company for a while.”
With a roll of her eyes, Anna turns away. Not upset that I’m here. Just not believing a word I say.
I don’t have to say much more. Before she finishes drawing my pint, more drink orders come in, and I’m left alone with my tequila and ale. Just as well.
The shot is a delicious burn down my throat. No salt or lime for me. Just the liquor.
I slide the empty shot glass back across the counter and cradle the pint in my hands. Aside from a glance here and there, no one is looking in my direction anymore. They’ve all gone back to their pool tables and their drinking—and at the shadowed corner tables, some have gone back to their fucking.
None of them is Saxon Gray.
My stomach hot, I look away. So stupid. Rumor is, he doesn’t fuck in public the way some of the others do. But I searched for him in the corners anyway—knowing that if I saw him, it would be a knife in my chest.
That’s stupid, too. Saxon isn’t mine. He has never been mine. He’s never been anything
to mine. And if he has any reason to hate someone, it would be me—the girl who didn’t have the brains to stay where she belonged. The stranger he spent five years in prison for, because he’d protected her.
. Now I’m taking advantage of his protection again. Maybe bringing trouble to his door.
I shouldn’t have come here. But leaving isn’t an option yet. Better to nurse this ale for an hour, then roll home.
Maybe not for much longer. I’ve lived on the ranch with my dad all my life. The ranch isn’t a working one anymore, just a big spread of land with the clubhouse on one side and our place on the other, so most of the Titans’ business is kept away from the house—and away from the old barn on the property that I renovated when I started up my microbrewery.
But the Titans aren’t as strong as they’d once been. I would never say as much to my dad, but I know it. Just as I know that as soon as the Eighty-Eight think that I’m unprotected, as soon as word gets around that my dad is sick, they’ll make good on their threats. They have a score to settle with me.
So leaving Pine Valley is beginning to look like the best option. I can just start over somewhere else. It’ll have to be pretty far, though. Moving a county away, even a state away wouldn’t cut it. A weekend’s ride could bring the Eighty-Eight to my door. I’ll have to cross half the country before things even begin to look safe.
But moving that far will make starting over a lot harder. I’m doing well for myself, but most of my business contacts are regional. My ingredients are local. I know their flavors, their quirks. I won’t be starting over from square one, but it’ll be a near thing.
Still. Square one looks a hell of a lot better than what the Eighty-Eight is planning for me.
So maybe it’s time to put out feelers. The chances of starting up a new brewery and having as much success are pretty slim, but I can work with someone else for a while. Sell everything here, save up my money, establish a reputation and foothold in another region. Then branch out on my own again.
Alone. Because the entire damn reason for this is the fucking cancer eating away at my dad’s chest. Already at stage four when he went in to have it checked out, he’d refused treatment, and he’d refused to fight with me when I told him he had to try. I yelled at him anyway, but even then, a part of me knew he wouldn’t budge. Stubborn, stupid man. But he’s been alone for a while, too—since my mom died in a car wreck fifteen years ago. There’s been just me and him, and the club. Maybe he’s been waiting all this time to be with her again, but he just held off until he could be sure that I’ll be okay.
Maybe I will be. I just know that it sucks balls to spend so much time worrying about your own future when your dad doesn’t have one. Pretty fucking selfish.
Except…knowing that I’ll be all right will probably help him through the next months more than any drug will. The one thing that could hurt him, really hurt him, would be knowing that I’m vulnerable and that he can’t protect me.
So. Tomorrow. Feelers. Look for someone to buy my brewery here, look for another job back east somewhere. Then just suck up the pain of going.
Or drown it. I signal to Anna, asking for another shot.
Her frowny, worried look is in place as she pours. “You’re sure?”
Not asking about the shot. Asking if I’m sure that I’m okay. She doesn’t know about my dad yet. But I can’t tell her now.
“Just a rough day,” I say. “Now I’m working up a good, snotty cry.”
Anna grins, because it’s the kind of thing I usually say to make her laugh. This time it isn’t really a joke. She doesn’t have to know that.
Another biker comes up to the bar and she leaves me to get his drink. My throat feels too tight to shoot the tequila right away. I scan the tavern and stop on Lily Burns standing by the pool table, a cue in one hand and a beer in the other. She’s looking my way—maybe not looking
me, but our eyes meet as my gaze skims the room. She lifts her bottle in acknowledgment. I lift my glass.
Both the daughters of motorcycle club presidents, but we couldn’t be much more different. I’m small and dark-haired, and Lily is like a Viking. A Valkyrie. Blonde and tall, and built like an Olympic volleyball player.
The differences don’t stop at the physical. I’ve never wanted to ride with the Titans. The few times I’ve gone anywhere with them, it was mostly just to be with my dad, and only when I was younger—we clung to each other hard in the years after my mom was killed. Lily wanted to ride from the first, and she had, though her dad hadn’t let her join the Riders or wear the kutte.
When she left Pine Valley after high school, I hadn’t really known what became of her. I just assumed that she’d gotten tired of being metaphorically kicked in the cunt while knocking at the door of the Hellfire Riders’ clubhouse. Then about five years ago, her dad lost a head-on race with a semitruck, Saxon Gray was voted into his place as club president, and Lily came back—taller, blonder, and more Viking-warrior than ever.