Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
Release Date: September 2019
My past taught me family means pain. I don’t want one, other than my club. But fate has other plans.
Darby: At fifteen, I thought I knew everything. Having been in foster care all my life, not much scared me. I’d already faced monsters parading around as upstanding citizens. But life hadn’t prepared me for a biker who would lure me in, kidnap me, and abuse me for five years. I got Fawn out of it, my precious girl, and a lot of bad memories. Being tossed into a dumpster and left to die wasn’t at the top of my list, but Renegade found me. I’ve never had a man be kind to me or my daughter before — especially not a biker — and I’m not sure what to think. I want to trust him, but I don’t want to give him my heart only to have him turn out like every other man I’ve ever known. It would break me.
Renegade: I lost my family a long time ago, and I vowed I’d never have another. I still have Nikki, my baby sis, and that’s enough. My club is a family, but that’s different. I trust them, and in my own way I love them, but it’s not the same as having a wife and kids. I’ll never go down that path. Then I found Fawn and her mother, Darby, thrown away like unwanted trash. Yeah, Fate’s laughing her ass off right now. They’re in my home, and slowly worming their way under my skin. Hearing their story is enough to make my blood boil and send rage flooding through me. I’ll exact revenge for all they’ve suffered, and then they’ll truly be free, able to move on without fear of being taken again. Except… I might not want to let them go.
WARNING: This story contains violence, bad language, and really hot sex. While there are abuse themes, nothing is told in great detail.
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Copyright ©2019 Harley Wylde
I fucking hated this time of year. The pumpkins and shit didn’t bother me, it was more the memories attached to the month of October that got to me. Today especially. My parents and brother had been gone for fourteen years but time didn’t make the pain lessen any, which was why I was at the liquor store restocking my beer, rum, and picking up a bottle of vodka. Time didn’t heal all wounds, but at least alcohol would numb me enough to make it through to tomorrow. I knew my sister, Nikki, still had trouble with this day as well, but she’d suffer on her own or with friends. I didn’t see her as often as I’d like, but I tried to keep her away from the club. She garnered too much interest when she came around, and I didn’t want to beat on my brothers.
I set the items on the counter and the woman popped her gum and held out her hand. I took out my wallet and pulled out a few twenties, but she shook her head.
“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” I demanded. “I’m forty-four years old and I don’t look old enough to buy this shit?”
“Sorry. I don’t make the rules.” She pointed to the sign behind her. We have the right to refuse service for any reason. ID will be required for all purchases.
I growled as I jerked my license from my wallet and threw it on the counter. The last thing I needed right now was someone hassling me over my purchase. It wasn’t the first time I’d been carded and wouldn’t be the last, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it right now. While it was the law to card everyone, I’d noticed none of my brothers who actually looked their age ever dealt with this shit.
The woman looked at the ID, scratched at the surface, and gave me one of those disbelieving looks.
“It’s not a fake,” I said. “Who the fuck fakes the age of forty-four?”
My mother had once said that there would come a time I would like looking younger than my actual years. So far, that hadn’t proven true. It was fucking annoying.
She handed the license back and took my money, then rang up the alcohol. By the time I was walking out of the store, I was livid, but I knew it wasn’t really the woman’s fault. She’d been doing her job and not intentionally hassling me. It was just this shitty day. I’d brought my truck, knowing what I wanted to buy wouldn’t fit in the saddlebags on my bike, and stashed the rum, vodka and two cases of beer in the back seat, then pulled a can from one of the boxes. Before I could pop the top, a sound drew my attention. A scuff or scratching noise. I set the beer down and slowly crept toward the side of the building, pausing at the corner. Might just be a stray scrounging for food, or it could be trouble. A liquor store at night had a tendency to draw in the bad elements. Wouldn’t be the first time the place had been robbed, or someone had been held up in the parking lot.
There was a shuffle and something kicked a can. Dog? I listened harder and heard what sounded like a human’s footsteps. I reached for the gun at the small of my back, pulling it before I edged around the building, my finger on the trigger guard of my Sig. Very little light pierced the darkness, but I saw a small shadow moving. It wasn’t very big. I didn’t know if I was about to be ambushed by someone trying to hide themselves, or if there was actually someone in need of help. Moving in closer, my heart nearly stopped when I saw the dirty face of a little girl. Long, red hair hung in a tangle down her back, and I noticed her feet were bare. A quick glance didn’t show anyone else in the area, but I was hesitant to put away my weapon. Wouldn’t be the first time some asshole used a kid to lure in a victim.
“Is your mom or dad here?” I asked, trying to keep my tone as non-threatening as possible.
The little girl pointed to the dumpster and began walking that way. She stopped in front of it and lifted a hand to the opening on top. I braced myself in case someone leapt from inside to attack, but as I neared the metal container and peered inside, my breath stalled in my lungs. Holy shit!
“That your sister?” I asked the girl.
She shook her head.
“Your momma?” I asked again, barely believing the woman who was likely dead was old enough to be a mother. Then again, maybe she just aged really well. At first glance, I’d thought she was maybe sixteen or seventeen. Wouldn’t be the first time a kid had given birth, if she really was as young as she appeared, but I hoped that wasn’t the case. Kids should have a chance to be exactly that — kids.
The little girl nodded.
“All right. I’m going to put my gun away and I’m going to get your mom out of there. Can you step back so you don’t get hurt?”
She stared at me a moment before shuffling back a step, then another. It was eerie that she hadn’t said a word, but at least she’d obeyed. I climbed the side of the container and reached inside, pressing my fingers against the pulse point in the woman’s throat. I exhaled sharply when I realized she was still alive, and carefully extracted her. She shivered in my arms, her body barely covered except for the dried blood and bruises coating her skin. Her clothes were cut or ripped, exposing enough of her that I worried what might have happened to her. I hoped whatever asshole had done this to her would suffer.
“I’m going to get your mom some help. Can you follow me to my truck?” I asked the little girl.
She slowly approached and reached out to grip my jeans. She held on as I carried her mother to the front parking lot. The door to my truck was still ajar. If it weren’t for the club’s colors I’d added to my tailgate, someone likely would have boosted it. Most people around here didn’t want to fuck with the club and gave us a wide berth.
I balanced the woman as I shoved the alcohol to the floor, not even caring at this point if the damn vodka and rum busted other than the fumes it would create. Whatever these two had been through was far worse than the demons I fought on this day every year.
“Get in. I’m going to buckle your mom up front,” I told the little girl.
She had trouble getting into the truck, so I opened the front door and made sure her mom was secure before lifting the tiny girl into the vehicle. I didn’t know a lot about kids, but she felt a little too light and fragile. I made sure she was buckled, then hurried to the driver’s side. As the dome light came on, I glanced at my front seat passenger and nearly froze. There was something familiar about her. Too fucking familiar, even though I couldn’t remember where I’d seen her. It would come to me, but right now I needed to get her somewhere safe.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed Scratch as I started the engine.
“Need your help, Pres,” I said as I pulled out onto the street, not giving a shit that I was driving while I was on the phone.
“The kind that requires bail money?” he asked, knowing the significance of today.
“No. The kind that requires your wife and a doctor. Found a woman beat to hell and left for dead in a dumpster, and her kid, though the kid seems to be in better shape. I’m on my way to the compound now.” I paused a moment. “I think I know the mom, but I can’t remember how.”
Scratch cursed. “Take her to your place. The clubhouse is too rowdy for a kid right now. I’ll have Chansy head that way.”
I disconnected the call and met the somber gaze of the little pixie in the back seat.
“I’m taking you to my place and a doctor will meet us there. We’ll get your mom fixed up.”
She still didn’t say a word, which I thought was weird as fuck. Didn’t kids talk non-stop? I knew Jackal’s daughter had some issues when he’d first found out he was a dad, but that kid was a ball of energy that never quit nowadays. She’d chatter anyone’s ear off if they sat still for half a second. And Scratch’s kids were rather vocal too. Couldn’t really compare the kid to Havoc’s demon spawn. I’d never seen anything like her before, and everyone in the club gave Lanie a wide berth for good reason. Even Cinder backed down from that little hellion. It would be funny as shit, if we didn’t all feel the same way.
“What’s your name?” I asked, hoping to draw her out, and possibly learn who her mother was, but she just stared and didn’t say a word. I hated puzzles, and this one was starting to bother me. I knew the woman. She was too young for me to have ever fucked her, but there was something… a pull of sorts.
Looked like I wouldn’t get any answers from the kid. I hoped her mom came through and woke up to tell us what the fuck had happened to her. If she didn’t make it, I had no clue what the hell to do with a kid. Call social services? I didn’t like to think of entrusting her into the government’s hands. They fucked shit up too often.
Since I had precious cargo, I made sure I obeyed the traffic laws as I made my way to the compound and the house Cinder had assigned to me. I’d have been content staying in something smaller, but right now I was glad for the extra space. The Prospect at the gate let me through and I went straight to my house, grateful to see the doc’s vehicle already in the driveway. He walked over as I stepped out of the truck.
“Heard you found a damsel in distress,” Dr. Chansy said.