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Copyright ©2018 Harley Wylde
My heart thundered in my chest as I locked myself in the bathroom off the foyer. The air duct over my head had always carried sounds from the dining room, and I listened in horror as my stepdad and Mr. Montoya discussed me like I was cattle.
“She’ll do,” Mr. Montoya said. “I’ll have fun breaking her in. Once she’s been properly trained, I’m sure she’ll fetch top dollar.”
My stomach pitched, and I nearly threw up.
“Of course, I’d prefer to see all the merchandise before paying our agreed upon price,” Mr. Montoya said. “After dinner, I’ll see exactly what I’m paying for and maybe take her for a test drive.”
“Whatever you need,” my mom said. “This deal is very important to us.”
Holy shit! My own mother was selling me? Shit like this just didn’t happen. Not to girls like me. Yeah, sure, you heard on the news about women being sold overseas to brothels, but to have it brought to own my front door… My hand shook as I slowly turned the knob and let myself out of the bathroom. I removed my heels so I wouldn’t make a sound.
Marta, the housekeeper we’d had since I first moved here, was quietly standing near the front door. Out of sight of the dining room. With a quick glance toward the door that led to where my fate awaited, I dashed to Marta’s side. She handed me my purse and car keys.
“Be safe,” she whispered. “Go straight to your father.”
She shushed me and gave me a tight hug. “I love you like you were my own. I won’t stand by and let this happen to you. Now go, before they realize you’re not coming back.”
“Thank you,” I said fervently, then soundlessly opened the front door and made my escape.
My car, a Mercedes Richard and Mom had bought on my sixteenth birthday, was parked around the side of the house. The engine was quiet, and if I kept my headlights off, no one would even know I was leaving. I slipped behind the wheel and tossed my purse and shoes on the passenger seat. Fastening my seatbelt, I shut the door as softly as I could and started the engine.
The car crept around the fountain and down the driveway. The gate remained open from when Mr. Montoya had arrived, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Once my tires touched the road, I flicked on my headlights and headed for the highway. It was a long-ass drive to Alabama, but except for gas, I wasn’t fucking stopping until I saw my daddy. Mom might have done her best to separate us, but I would always be Daddy’s little girl.
When I’d been on the road for hours, my stomach began to cramp from hunger and my car was almost on empty. I pulled into a small town somewhere in North Florida. After filling my tank, I left the car parked at the gas station and walked across the street to a diner. But what I saw when I stepped through the doors froze me in my tracks. My face was plastered across the TV with a ticker running underneath. Ridley Johnson is reported as being unstable. If seen, contact the police immediately.
I tried to pull my hair forward as much as possible to hide my face and claimed a spot at the back of the diner, where the lighting wasn’t so great. My hands fumbled with my purse, and I quietly counted what was left of my cash. I’d seen enough crime shows to know my credit cards could be traced, so I’d paid cash at the gas station and I’d pay cash for my meal. An older waitress came over, looking dead on her feet.
“What can I get you, doll?”
“A burger and fries with a sweet tea.”
She nodded and scribbled my order down, not even looking at my face once. As she moved away to place my order with the kitchen, some of the tension eased from my shoulders. The place was nearly empty, but I had a close call when a sheriff’s deputy stepped inside. I sat frozen, scared to even breathe, until he picked up his to-go order and went back out to his cruiser.
My meal arrived a few minutes later, and I ate quickly, leaving enough money on the table to cover the bill and a tip. Gathering my purse, I headed back to my car, every nerve in my body on alert for any kind of trouble. I hit the road again and didn’t stop until I’d cleared the panhandle.
The town was shabby, the sidewalks cracked, and the buildings crumbling. I stuck out like a sore thumb, but it was time to change. I stopped to top off my tank at a gas station that was well lit, just in case I got stuck with the car a while longer, and grabbed my backpack from the trunk. In case my family had gotten nosy, I’d hidden it in the spare tire compartment, which meant if I had a flat I was shit out of luck because both the tire and my bag and boots hadn’t fit.
After filling up the car, I stepped into the grimy bathroom and stripped out of my dress and heels. I washed my face in the sink with the harsh soap provided in the dispenser and blotted it dry with the stiffest damn paper towels I’d ever touched. Pulling an elastic from my bag, I pulled my hair up into a ponytail, the long curling mass falling down the center of my back. After I had shimmied into a pair of tight, ripped jeans and put on a black tee with teal swirls and white skulls across the front, I slipped on some socks and the biker boots I’d picked up at a Harley Davidson store.
A smile flashed across my face as I studied my reflection in the cracked mirror. Aside from the golden curls, I didn’t even look like Ridley Johnson anymore. At least, not the Ridley Johnson Mom had molded me to be. I hated that girl and never wanted to be her again. I stuffed my dress and heels in the trash, picked up my bag, and went back out to my car. The guy behind the counter didn’t even look up from his magazine.
Now I just had one more problem. The damn car. There was no way my stepdad had put out that bulletin on me without also telling the cops what I was driving. It was a fucking miracle no one had pulled me over yet. I knew what I was about to do was risky as hell, but so was driving around in this damn Mercedes for another minute.
I’d hung around my dad long enough to know what I was searching for. Our visits might have been few, but he’d always made them count. Mom thought we were taking drives to the park or the beach, but he’d been teaching me about his way of life, and introducing me to some people she wouldn’t have approved of.
I pulled up to a garage on a darkened street corner. A light inside told me someone was around, even if the place wasn’t officially open. My palms were sweating again but I blew out a breath and braced myself. It was time to put the socialite behind me and be every inch my father’s daughter. I pulled the keys from the ignition and boldly walked inside.
“You can’t be here, bitch,” a voice said harshly from deep inside.
“I need to make a trade,” I said.
A man with a leather cut strolled out of the garage, the lighting just good enough that I could read Devil’s Boneyard MC — V.P. — Scratch.
I had no fucking clue if it was a rival club of Dixie Reapers or not and knew I needed to tread carefully. We studied one another, his gaze taking me in from head to toe. Not in an I want to fuck her kind of way, more like he was assessing if I was a threat.
“I have a problem,” I said. “I have a hot car and need someone to take it off my hands. All I need in return is something that will run well enough for me to get a few states away.”
Scratch rubbed his jaw and looked beyond me to the silver Mercedes.
“If you change out the VIN or strip it for parts, you can make a decent amount off it,” I said. “I don’t care what piece of shit you give me in return as long as it gets me where I’m going. I need reliable, not flashy.”
He took in my appearance again. “You know how to ride?”
His question momentarily startled me. “Ride?”
He tipped his head and sauntered back inside the garage. Against my better judgment, I followed. There was an older motorcycle sitting off to the side. The pewter gray tank and fenders had seen better days, but as I circled the bike I saw that it was in pretty decent condition. The Harley emblem, though tarnished, was a welcome surprise. I wasn’t a bike expert by any means, even though Dad had tried, but I thought it was a Harley Soft Tail, which meant it would be light enough for a woman like me to handle. Unlike the big monster my dad rode.
“How well does it run?” I asked.
Scratch walked over to a wall and pulled down a key, tossing it to me. I snatched it midair and straddled the bike. The key turned in the ignition easily enough and I twisted the throttle. The engine rumbled, and a smile spread across my face. God, I’d fucking missed that sound. The thrum of the bike between my legs made me feel like I was coming home. Dad had taught me to ride when I was fourteen, and he’d rented a bike for me every time he’d visited after that, even if I hadn’t been exactly been legal to drive the first few years.
“Even trade?” I asked.
The gaze Scratch gave me said he saw more than I liked, but he nodded.
“I just need to get my stuff from the Mercedes. It’s unlocked,” I said, handing him the car keys.
When I returned with my backpack strapped to me, my purse stuffed inside, he held out some papers to me. I glanced at them and saw it was everything I’d need to make the bike legal when I got to where I was going.
“I don’t know who you belong to, baby girl, or what you’re running from, but you don’t fucking stop until you reach your man.”
“You know who I am,” I said softly.
“Picture’s been all over the news tonight, statewide from what I hear. You don’t appear all that unstable to me, but that family you’re leaving… they’re bad news. Richard Benton III is not a nice man.”
“You know my stepdad?” I asked without thinking.
“Know of him. My crew won’t have anything to do with the shit he’s mixed up in.”
I straddled the bike again and nodded.
“Who taught you to ride? Socialites like you don’t know shit about bikes.”
“I’m not a socialite. I’m a biker’s daughter.” And that was as much as I was going to tell him.