“HELLO?” I say into my phone distractedly as I throw back another shot.
I have no idea who could be calling me, since I’m at the clubhouse and everyone is here, but I always answer my phone—it’s a habit. If one of my brothers needs me, I’ll be there, day or night, drunk or sober. Even if I’m drunk, and it’s late at night, I’m not going to complain.
When I hear Talon’s voice on the other end, however, my good mood and easy demeanor disappear. There’s only one reason the president of the Wild Men MC would call me, and it’s a moment I’ve been dreading.
“We need to talk,” he says. I stand up and move away from the others so I can have this conversation alone.
I walk out front and stand by my bike, admiring her as I ask, “What do you need?”
He’s calling in the marker I owe him, I know it, and I just hope he doesn’t want me to do something fucked-up. Recently, there was a little trouble involving another brother’s old lady,
Bailey. We had our hands full, and Talon stepped in to help by keeping the troublemaker involved, Amethyst, in his clubhouse while we did cleanup. Bailey’s ex, Wade, who is her daughter Cara’s biological father, tried to use them to get money from the Wind Dragons MC. Luckily Irish was there. He ended up stabbed, and Wade was killed. Just another day in the life.
Of course, nothing is free, so I gave Talon my word that I’d owe him a favor, one he could collect at a time of his choosing. My honor requires me to do whatever he needs, even though I can’t stand the guy and I’d rather be doing anything else right now.
Like, fuckin’ anything.
However, I hate owing anyone, so I’m eager to get this over and done with.
“Pack a bag,” Talon says on the other end. “You’ll be gone for a week.” He doesn’t sound smug, or even like he’s enjoying calling in my debt. In fact, he sounds rather solemn. Why, I have no idea, but I guess I’m going to find out.
“Do I need to bring anything?” I ask, wondering what weapons I might need. What the fuck did he want me to do for a week? Go with him on a run, maybe?
“Nope. I’ll meet you at Rift tomorrow around lunchtime and explain everything.”
“Okay,” I reply, curious now.
We both hang up and my mind wanders with possibilities. I’m glad he chose Rift because there’s no way I’m going to his clubhouse and he’s not welcome here. We may both be bikers, but we’re still from two different worlds, and those worlds don’t mix. When I joined the WDMC, the Wild Men MC were our enemies, and even though it’s not like that anymore, they aren’t
exactly our allies either. We own Rift, so he’s actually giving me the power.
“Everything all right?” Sin, my president, asks as he walks outside and spots me staring down at the phone in my hand.
I slide it in my pocket and say, “Yeah. Talon’s calling in his marker. I’ll be gone for a week.”
Sin stills at that bit of information, then closes the space between us. “What does he want?”
“I’ll find out tomorrow—meeting him at Rift.”
He puts his hand on my shoulder. “If you owe him a marker, we all do. Call me anytime—you need anything, I’m there. We’re all there.”
“I know,” I say, nodding.
And I do—the words don’t even need to be spoken out loud. I’ve been in this club for many years and seen lots of things along the way. I was just a prospect when Sin became president, and I earned my way to being a full-fledged member not shortly after. This club is my family, my backbone. Everything that I am. I don’t intend on ever getting out, and I look forward to working my way up the ranks.
That’s what the Wind Dragons are all about: a brotherhood based on loyalty and acceptance.
We aren’t saints, but the intention is there. We do what we have to to protect our own.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m going to go enjoy my last night of freedom for a week,” I say, lightening the mood.
Sin cracks a smile and says, “The brunette?”
I shake my head. “The blonde.”
He laughs and walks with me back inside the clubhouse, where I regain my seat and refill my glass. I call over the blonde I was eyeing and pull her onto my lap, wrapping one arm around her while the other hand nurses my drink. I see Arrow speaking to Sin before coming to sit next to me, not even glancing at the woman I’m holding, or any other available woman in the room.
“When do you leave?” he asks, looking me in the eye, tapping his hand on his knee. I fight the urge to smile. Sin sure passed that bit of info off quick.
“Tomorrow,” I say as I squeeze the woman’s ass. It’s a nice one, round and firm.
“You want me to go with you?” he asks, glancing away. “I’m sure Talon won’t give a fuck if there’s an extra man there to help, and even if he did, fuck him. He wouldn’t dare say shit to me.”
“No,” I tell him quickly. “It’ll be fine. I’ll call you if I need you though, brother.”
The last thing Arrow needs is to get into shit with Talon, who has some weird friendship that no one really fuckin’ understands with his woman, Anna. Yeah, no more drama needed in that situation.
He nods and stands.
“You going home?”
“Yeah,” he replies, lifting his chin at me. “You know where to find me if you need me.”
I nod, appreciating the fact that he and any of the men are just a phone call away, no matter what I need or what shit I need help getting out of. After Arrow leaves, the men start to clear out. I stand with the woman still in my arms, ignoring her girlish squeals, and carry her off to my room.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’m sure as hell gonna enjoy today.
* * *
“You’re kidding me,” I say slowly as I stare at Talon in distaste. “Why the fuck can’t you or one of your men do this?”
Talon looks away, his white-blond hair covering his eyes as he looks down into his drink.
“No one wanted to. And instead of making one of my men do it, I thought, why the fuck not make it your problem?” The bastard actually grins. “Easy way out. And it’s an easy enough task. You stay with her at the house, guard her for a week, keep her out of trouble until we put the fuckers that are after her in the ground, and then you go back home without owing me shit.”
“So it could go for longer than a week?” I ask, grinding my teeth.
“If it does,” he says, taking a sip of his whiskey, “I’ll send one of the men to swap places with you. You owe me only a week. That’s fair, yeah?”
“Who’s after her?” I ask him. “And why?”
His lips press into a tight line before he replies. “She’s innocent, Vinnie, but her father isn’t. Some people are trying to make her pay for the shit her old man’s done, but I’m not going to let that happen.”
It was a vague answer, and I’d have let him get away with it if it didn’t affect me and how I handle the job at hand.
“The more I know, the better I can protect her.”
“Her father is an accountant,” he says, not looking happy about giving up added information. “He’s in prison for fraud
and embezzlement. Shayla worked for him, helping him with accounts or whatever he needed, except she didn’t know and still doesn’t really know just what kind of dodgy shit he was up to. She’s not a certified accountant, she knows only what he taught her, which is fuckin’ convenient for him. That’s all you need to know. Keep her safe. Easy.”
“Don’t you think I should know exactly who is after her?”
“It’s not going to make a difference; the job remains the same,” he replies, making me want to punch him in the face.
Something’s not sitting right with me. “If it’s such an easy task,” I ask, “what the fuck is the catch? It’s essentially a babysitting gig, easy enough. Hell, I’ll crack a beer and watch some fuckin’ TV for a week—sounds like a holiday.”
Talon throws his head back and laughs, his drink sloshing out of the glass. “It’s not a fuckin’ holiday. It’s a test. A test of your fuckin’ patience.” He studies me, searching my eyes. “My cousin is a pain in the ass, Vinnie. None of the men want to watch her because she can be . . . a little difficult to manage.” He cracks his neck from side to side while I process the fact that she is his cousin. I don’t know how I feel about that.
“Your cousin,” I say slowly.
“Yeah,” he replies, eyes narrowing. “My cousin, and I’m fuckin’ trusting you with her, so don’t treat her like the enemy because she’s my family.”
Who the fuck does he think I am? I tighten my lips, not even justifying that comment with a response.
“I love her, don’t get me wrong, but I know how stubborn and hardheaded she can be.”
That’s it? The girl was stubborn? That still doesn’t add up.
“Big-ass bikers scared of a little girl?” I joke, grinning.
Talon pulls out his phone, presses a few buttons, and slides it over to me. I glance down at it and see a picture of a stunning Asian girl with long black hair, pale skin, and brown eyes. She is a petite little thing, with perfectly shaped lips that catch my attention.
He nods and takes back his phone. “They didn’t want the job because yes, she’s got an attitude problem at best, but also because she’s fuckin’ gorgeous, and they know if they touch her in that way, or in any way, I will personally fuck them up.” He pauses, studying me. “I know how loyal you are, Vinnie—to your club, to whoever you care about. And I know that you’ll look after her better than any of my men could, and that’s the damn truth.”
Better than his men?
His words were true, of course, but I’m still surprised at hearing them leave his lips. Perhaps he needed better men in his MC.
His cousin was a beauty, sure, but I’m not a man to be swayed by a pretty face.
“Message received,” I reply, standing up from my stool. “I’m viewing this as a job, Talon. I protect your bratty cousin—who, by the way, I have no idea how the fuck she’s even your cousin, seeing as she doesn’t look anything like you—then I get my ass home and hopefully never see you again.”
“Shayla’s adopted,” Talon explains, also standing. “Family isn’t always about blood; you already know this.” I nod. If I know anything in life to be true, it’s that family is about loyalty, not blood.
text you the address now; they’re expecting you. It’ll take you about four hours to get there, depending on the traffic.”
“All right,” I say, just wanting it all over with. “Don’t worry about your cousin. I’ll keep her safe.”
I can handle one girl. I don’t give a fuck how much of an attitude she has.
“I know,” Talon says, finishing the rest of his drink in one gulp. “I wouldn’t have asked you otherwise.”
He slams down his glass and leaves without another word.
My phone beeps with a message from him, the address.
Well, no time like the present.
I get on my bike and ride toward my new home for the next week.