Main A Savage Kinda Love

A Savage Kinda Love

"You're Beauty, baby. And I'm the godd@mn Beast." He's the son of an international coke dealer who needs a wife to secure his family fortune. I'm the daughter of a convicted outlaw who needs his money to help pay off a high debt my father still owes to his former MC. We're complete opposites. Night and day. Oil and water. Good and insanely bad... for each other. The last thing I ever thought I would need was his help to save my family. The last thing he ever thought he could want was mine, along with me. When push came to shove, we knew all we'd ever have from now until death was each other. The only problem is that we might've been too damn late to save ourselves from the very thing that was liable to kill us both.
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Contents



Warning:

A Savage Kinda Love

PlayList

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Six

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Chapter Sixty

Epilogue

THE END

Other Works

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Warning:

This book has descriptive acts of violence, tons of swearing, explicit sex, all of the above and then some. If you can't read past the first chapter, please stop. close the book. and move onto something else.

Thank you.

+++++++++++





A Savage Kinda Love Biker/Mafia Standalone Novel

First came corruption, then came salvation...

He's the son of an international coke dealer who needs a wife to secure his family fortune.

I'm the daughter of a convicted outlaw who needs his money to help pay off a high debt my father still owes to his former MC.

We're complete opposites.

Night and day.

Oil and water.

Good and insanely bad... for each other.

The last thing I ever thought I would need was his help to save my family.

The last thing he ever thought he could want was mine, along ; with me.

When push came to shove, we knew all we'd ever have from now until death was each other.

The only problem is that we might've been too damn late to save ourselves from the very thing that was liable to kill us both.

This is a full-length BWWM novel that will be told in first (Cheyenne) and third (Nikko) person.

Author Bio:

Kiki Leach was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK where she still resides. As a child, she was surrounded by books, pens, and notepads, all of which she quickly took advantage of from the time she could read and write. Her favorite past-time has always been telling stories and in college, was encouraged by her mother and professors to take her storytelling more seriously.

Copyright © 2019 Kiki Leach

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.

If you're reading this book anywhere but on Amazon, you are reading a stolen copy, which is a federal crime.

First Edition: June 2018

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.





PlayList Madonna - Secret

Awolnation - Sail

Billie Eilish - When the Party's Over Hozier - Take Me to Church Rihanna - Kiss it Better Fall Out Boy - Beat It (Cover) Tom Odell - Can't Pretend Latch - Natalie Taylor

Mashup Germany - Down With All the Sober Freaks Jesse Ware - Say You Love Me Ed Sheeran - Photograph

Pink ft. Nate Ruess - Just Give Me a Reason

Ben Cox - So Cold

Donny Hathaway - A Song For You Timothy Bloom feat V. Bozeman - 'Til The End Of Time





Dedication

A love letter for those hoping to fall into it.

Someday, somehow, if you haven't already, you'll find your happy.

And when you do, hold on for dear life, and never let it go.





Prologue


It's been said that everything in life happens to us for a reason.

At least that's the lie they continue to sell.

The same one we often manage to tell ourselves to keep breathing in times of chaos and utter destruction, to keep our heads floating above choppy waters in the face of reckless drowning.

It's the lie that keeps on giving, the one that keeps us awake at night as we cling to hope in search of a hidden truth. It echoes from beneath the surface of a fear we've created in sin; from beneath a world we've often neglected in the spirit of seeking undeserved salvation.

To say that what we do, who we are and what we know makes us into who we will eventually become is a frightening enough concept to rattle the spirits of those who've gone before us, and fracture the bones of those still here to witness undoing.

If truth has meaning and life has value, mine came in the form of a man who claimed to love me, and nearly ended with the promise of a man who finally did.





Chapter One


A Burning World


I first learned of Nikko Girabaldi's existence while visiting my father at Rikers during one of the hottest summers ever on record for New York City.

He was twenty-seven and on his second pack of Marlboro Lights after being allowed back into the yard post solitary confinement for nearly strangling a guard to death with barbed wire and a homemade razor. I was twenty-three and on my last break of the year from the University of Southern California's Film School.

When he noticed me staring at him from inside the family room, all six-foot-three of him and shirtless to boot, his entrancing hazel eyes, like two pools of freshly poured honey, glittered with the look of a determined man never down on his luck for too long even when he knew he was out; a man who was well aware of what he wanted from another person and prime to get it no matter the cost or who he had to hurt in order to have it for himself; a man who might've been of few words but knew all the right ones to say in order to get what he needed from anyone around him at the moment, especially from women.

Realizing I had no desire to turn away anytime soon, his thick black brows interspersed with dashes of year-old scars, lifted high up on his forehead and he blinked once. After plucking another cigarette from his pack before even finishing the first one hanging from the corner of his mouth, he flashed a quick smile that flushed various parts of his olive tone like a blooming red rose and turned his back on me to quickly light up.

I folded my arms and leaned into the window to get a better look at him from behind. To absorb the giant red numbers plastered across his sweaty bare back in block letters and admire the length of his jet black curls as they lightly brushed across his thickly broad shoulders in the wind; to inhale the wildly insane trail of white smoke emerging from the corner of his full pink lips as he blew it out into the air with ease, all the while wishing to God I knew exactly what that harsh scent tasted like on my own tongue.

I took note of how he carelessly flexed the muscles of his tattoo laced arms after lowering his hands back down to his waist to adjust his orange pants; and how each one bulged out from every side imaginable while greeting a fellow, much older inmate named 'Dog' with a lowered handshake and smile that was much deeper than what I had just seen from him two seconds before. His eyes appeared to darken as well, though the color of his irises remained intact; something about the look within them made my teeth chatter and clinch while my skin pricked in the way it often did whenever the police would burst through the front door of my house without warning to pick up my dad for yet another probation violation.

The two men exchanged a few words before Nikko pointed across the yard and jerked his chin. Dog nodded in response and eyed him with a curiosity that gnawed at my bones like a flesh-eating virus, then balled his right hand into a solid fist and slammed it into the palm of his left. Nikko weighed his expression before his head fell back and he barked with laughter. Dog snickered while bobbing his head again, then dropped his hands and started making his way toward a male guard standing in the center of the basketball court.

Nikko ripped both cigarettes from between his lips while watching them converse, then turned his head aside to blow out another wad of pure white smoke. When Dog turned back to him and jerked his chin, he tossed the cigarettes to the ground and unraveled a tattered orange shirt from around his waist to throw over his head. The guard dropped his hand around a gun attached to the side of his belt as soon as Nikko approached and took a step back while gulping in a fear so blatant, sweat pouring down either side of his neck in buckets practically hollered out to me in the word 'help'. Nikko's lips crinkled as he grinned and opened his hands in what looked to be a question, while Dog crossed his arms and glared, listening as he spoke.

Once finished, Nikko straightened himself and bent his head to the side. The guard quickly stared between him and Dog, then took another step back and clutched the center of his stomach while doubling over in laughter. Dog growled in response like an enraged animal aching to be loosened from his leash, then laughed for himself and spun away as Nikko moved forward and gradually eased a hand around the back of the guard's throat; he couldn't see or feel what the hell was coming next, even as Nikko snapped his spine like the center of a pencil with just a single flick of his wrist.

"Oh my God."

I jumped back and threw my hand across my mouth in a gasp, blinking only once as the guard's head drooped in the manner of a deflated balloon; my eyes began to water and burn along the edges of my eyelids in watching blood spout from his nose and mouth like a broken hydrant as he dropped to the ground face first.

No one in the yard or inside the family room seemed to give a damn about what the hell had just happened until another guard named Bruno finally ran up to the men while yelling in absolute horror, the color in his pale white cheeks bouncing between red and hot pink as his yellow stained teeth gnashed together; he wagged a giant baton high above his head while lifting his other hand to wave a fist.

Mothers and their children lept from the tables without caution as fear suddenly overtook, moving over to the window and practically engulfing me as Bruno's voice echoed across the yard in ire. Dog started laughing again while Nikko dropped back and lifted his hands palm side up in defense.

Prisoners were suddenly removed from the family room by force of other guards, yanked from chairs that fell over and beneath tables with flailing legs tangled between them. The doors latched once they were out of sight, leaving the rest of us contained as sirens started blaring across the yard and inside the building; blue and white lights flashed across the sky and concrete from large, overbearing towers surrounding each corner; inmates scattered from one end of the yard to another, slamming against wired fences and each other like a pile of fire ants that had just been showered with bug repellant meant to kill within seconds of contact.

When another male guard named Duke began racing toward them from inside the building, Nikko dropped to the ground on his knees and threw his hands behind his head, clasping his fingers to keep them steadily against himself. It was then that the previous guard, Bruno, took the opportunity to slam the center of his baton into the back of Dog's knees, forcing him to tip forward and fall headfirst into the concrete. As blood gushed from his now swollen nose and mouth, splattering onto the whitest parts of his beard, he hollered out in pain and rolled to his side. Nikko glanced over at him and started to yell out something in another language, his lips pulled back over his teeth in rage, but was stopped from going on when Bruno turned to him and slammed the butt of that baton into the side of his face.

His head whipped to the side upon impact; blood oozed from the corner of his mouth and dripped down the center of his chin, onto the collar of his tattered orange shirt. He dropped his hands and bent forward to spit out a giant red wad. A woman standing next to me gulped so loudly while watching it all unfold that I could feel it in my own throat while swallowing.

Seconds passed before another reaction emerged from one of them, this time from Dog flipping over to his back and laughing hysterically -- bellowing as blood continued pouring down the side of his face, back into his ears and greasy, chalk colored hair. Then he suddenly stopped and shoved a hand down the front of his pants, yanked out what looked to be a small blade and jumped back to his feet quicker than he had been knocked down. Bruno stepped back with his baton still in hand, but Dog was quick to find his balance again while wrapping one of his giant arms around the center of Bruno's neck, pulling him close enough to taste the sweat dripping from his chin. His head looked as if it was about to pop off and fly across the yard, his face turning puce while the whites of his eyes went dark and nearly bugged out of their sockets.

Duke stopped running almost instantly and stood back with an open mouth and flared nostrils, staring between each man in fear and awe. Nikko took advantage and placed his hands on the ground to push himself back up to his feet, then shifted his eyes across the yard as more guards came racing out from behind the fence, hollering obscenities and screaming for a jail-wide lockdown.

Other inmates who'd yet to be forced out of the yard were cheering him on to react. Dog started laughing again and chanting along with them, then squeezed Bruno's neck before lifting him high enough from the ground to dangle the tips of his toes above the weakness of his own damn shadow. While attempting to reach for his gun, he never noticed Nikko lifting his right foot from the ground but felt the result of him ramming it into the center of his crotch until blood spewed from the head of his penis, splattering across his pants like a bucket full of fresh red paint.

He hollered out in agony while trying to reach for himself.

When Duke finally jumped forward to release Bruno from Dog's grip, Nikko threw a hand across the side of his face so hard that he hollered out in the same way as Bruno while slumping to his knees. Nikko remained silent while staring down at him, then slammed the butt of his hand into the center of his face. He fell back with a hard thud, appearing dizzy as his body rolled alongside the initial guard who remained dead on the ground.

Dog loosened his arm around Bruno's neck, only to bend forward and mutter something into his ear before jamming that blade into the side of his throat like a warm knife slicing through frozen butter.

Blood gushed from beneath his chin in spurts as Dog dropped back and tossed the blade to the ground. With the handle of his baton now covered in his own blood, Bruno wrapped both hands around his neck while falling to his knees. His skin lightened as the veins in the whites of his eyes practically exploded around his pupils, a color that switched from green to black within seconds.

While the inmates echoed more cheers, Dog stepped in front of Nikko and smashed the base of his foot into the center of Duke's face until his features meshed like melted playdough, and he finally stopped breathing altogether.

As three dead bodies lay at the center of the courtyard, the adults surrounding me unleashed a stream of bloodcurdling cries and screams that could be heard around the city while covering the eyes and ears of their now affected children.

I remained silent, unprotected and immobile.

After pulling Dog back and bumping an elbow against his arm, Nikko dragged his foot across the concrete and muttered something that couldn't be heard beyond the fence before bending forward to drop another wad of his own spit into the blood.

As a wave of new guards hurried forward, Nikko spun on the balls of his feet and placed his hands back on top of his head. The first guard to reach him yanked at his wrists and jammed a knee into his back, forcing him back to the ground on his knees. When another guard reached Dog and forced him on his stomach, Nikko peeked over at him and bobbed his head. Dog grinned, allowing those of us in the room to see the blood staining his teeth.

After handcuffing his wrists together, along with his feet, the guard pulled a metal zip tie from the back pocket of his pants, lifted Dog's legs from the concrete at a 90-degree angle and wrapped the tie around his ankles and wrists, bounding all four of his limbs together as one.

Three more guards stepped forward to help lift him from the ground.

As they carried him out of the yard and through a wired gate on the opposite side, he called out to Nikko in a language I once heard my dad spewing on the phone when he learned he was in trouble with a man that held the fate of our family within the palm of his giant hands: Italian.

The guard behind Nikko smacked the back of his head as soon as Dog disappeared behind a steel door, then moved around to the front of him and dropped to a squat. Nikko's eyes lifted and they stared at one another until a sharp whistle blew across the yard. The guard then jerked his chin while wrapping a hand around the back of Nikko's arm and dragged him back to his feet.

Nikko chuckled and pulled back before reaching into the front pocket of his pants for another cigarette, lifting one from the pack with ease and shoving it between his lips despite his swollen cheek. The guard threw a hand into the center of his chest and pointed. Nikko pressed two fingers along the corner of his temple and snapped them forward to give an improper sailor's salute. Then he whirled away from him and strolled across the yard through another gate with two more guards casually following in behind him as if what had just taken place hadn't at all.





Chapter Two


Present Company In(Ex)cluded

Two hours later, the doors to the room finally unlatched and reopened.

I turned from the window and rushed to an unoccupied table near the corner vending machines, taking a seat at the center of a rickety bench and anxiously covered my face when the inmates began pouring back in.

While my father and his bright white afro led the pack ahead of other men who seemed more than thrilled to be reuniting with their loved ones in a world where normality ceased to exist, he appeared somewhat hesitant to see me again.

Or annoyed that I was still there.

After making his way over to the table, he took a seat on the opposite side and placed his hands between us, then bent forward and jutted his chin. "I honestly didn't think you'd bother sticking around after all the shit that went down out there."

I made a face. "We weren't exactly finished talking about your situation with The Renegades and how the hell to get out of it despite being officially stripped of all your patches, but..." I leaned into him and flicked my thumb toward the window; I glared. "What the hell was all of that out there?"

"Nothing," he replied, his voice low, gruff but anxious. "It was nothing."

"You're kidding."

He shook his head before searching his eyes across the room as if looking for someone else he knew and jerked his shoulders. "It was nothing you need to worry about right now, Cheyenne."

I guffawed. His greenish-brown eyes narrowed while rolling back to mine. He peered. "Those two men out there just killed three guards in plain view of the entire prison," I said, twisting my head to the side like a confused dog; he remained silent. "One gets carted away like a pig meant for slaughter while the other just walks out with another cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth--? That wasn't just 'nothing'."

"Cheyenne," he snapped. "You don't know the shit that went down out there."

"I know what the hell I saw happening from inside this very room just like everyone else currently acting like it didn't."

"Maybe you need to start following suit along with the rest of 'em." I flinched as a sudden twinge of anger flared up inside of me like a bolt of lightning striking near a wired fence and glowered. My father soured in reaction and sniffed as a thin layer of sweat instantly appeared along the corner of his temple, rolling down the side of his face and stopping just above the edge of his square shaped, stubble covered jawline. He raised a wrinkled finger to my face, showcasing the depth of his age in comparison to the other men in the room, and sneered. "What happens in here -- sometimes shit gets carried the fuck away; it's the same assholes twenty-five eight always seeing nothing but each other. No women, no pussy, just bat swinging dick," he said. "You need to understand that shit and by now, I thought you would've."

"This wasn't just getting 'carried away' like all the other times I've seen before inside this facility, Dad. Three guards are dead at the hands of a pair of inmates," I spat. "And you're acting like this just happens all the time when I know damn well it doesn't happen like this. Not when what I just witnessed happening out there was pure anarchy. This is liable to make the news."

"No, the fuck it won't."

"You're sure?!"

He dropped his hand from me and grunted. "What the fuck do you want me to say?!" he snapped, his eyes widening as spit flew out from the corners of his mouth onto the table. "We're not gonna keep discussing it out here in the open like this, understand?"

"The same open where it all went down?" My brows knit as I sat back from him and swallowed hard. "Why did you disappear on me before the lockdown?"

He sucked in a breath and quickly swallowed it back. "What the fuck are you talking about--? I was in here."

"No, you weren't -- not in suddenly excusing yourself as soon as Nikko was brought out into the yard; right after telling me who the hell he was and that you were forced into taking him under your wing in here -- why?"

He eyed me with a fire that burned along the rims of his irises; it was a look I hadn't witnessed from him since spilling a cup of coffee all over the keyboard of a brand new laptop he had won from a raffle that took place inside the club when I was eight years old. "I had to take a goddamn dump," he finally said, his shoulders hunched as his jaw tightened.

"In the middle of our visit and right before a fight? That's damn convenient I would say -- what are they feeding you in here, fresh oats straight from the barrel?"

"That's enough of that shit."

"Nothing is ever enough with you and in this case, it shouldn't be," I said. His eyes darted across the room again as he folded one hand over the other and cracked his knuckles. "Why the hell are you sitting across from me and acting like what happened out there was an everyday occurrence when it wasn't?" I bent forward again and tempered my voice. "Why is everyone on that train? Aside from a few gasps and initial shocks as soon as that first guard went down, people are treating all of this like two inmates didn't just commit literal murder right before our very eyes."

"What the fuck do you expect any of 'em to do about it?" He waved his hands and shrugged. "Is anybody in here a goddamn medic that you can see? Could they have saved any of 'em otherwise?"

I dropped back again and swallowed hard while anxiously eying him from head to waist. "That's not the point I was trying to make--"

"Then what the fuck is the point on this shit, Cheyenne?" The whites of his eyes flashed red as he leaned his head back. "'Cause you talking about this shit ain't gonna suddenly change what the fuck happened out there."

"I'm not trying to change what happened more than I'm trying to understand why the hell it did in the first place," I said.

"It doesn't fucking concern you any more than--"

"Like hell it doesn't, and it matters to me just as much. And the fact that it doesn't to you in either respect gives me all kinds of pause about the 'whys' behind you really bouncing out of here in the first place. And now, I'm waiting."

"For what?"

"The answers to all of this." A long wave of silence washed between us before he finally broke it off with the tapping of his foot against the stickiest part of the floor. I grumbled. "Dad--"

"Alright. Goddamn," he finally blurted through a harsh sigh. "The kid out there starting all this shit that I told you about -- Nikko." I nodded. "The shit he pulled with that other motherfucker is liable to get me even more fucked up in here -- and not just with the club."

"What the hell are you talking about? With who?"

He dragged the edge of his thumb along the top of his right eyebrow and shook his head. "Talking about it with you isn't some kinda shit that should be happening after what you just saw."

I shifted against the bench. "It should be unless you want me to keep asking questions about it--"

"Christ. All this shit just like your mother. You see where the fuck it got her."

"She isn't dead because she asked too many questions," I told him, "she's dead because of not asking enough -- now keep going."

His hand dropped back down to the table as he relaxed his shoulders and gradually exhaled. "When I told you about Nikko's old man asking me to look out for him after learning I was brought in for the shit that happened with Lena--"

"You mean the former club whore turned prostitute that no one seems to have met outside of you and a handful of other brothers over the years?" I clarified. "Sure."

He stopped to crack his knuckles again before continuing. "I failed to mention that it was with the agreement I'd receive enough money from him to pay back what I stole from the club."

"What the hell is his name?"

"Chino Girabaldi."

"My God, Dad." I rolled my eyes in aggravation and groaned. "A deal made on the contingency that everything would remain as is inside the walls of Rikers is about as smart as making a deal with a Devil who already has your endgame square inside his hands."

"That's some pretty muthafuckin' obvious shit to my ass now, Chey, thanks," he mumbled. "And because I wasn't thinking everything would be blown up like this, and so goddamn fast--"

"Am I going to be affected by all of this now too?" I asked with a light panic to my voice. "In the same way that I'm being screwed because of what you did to your now former club?"

"No," he replied. "Because the shit to do with Nikko and his old man is my doing alone..." His eyes shifted from mine again; he gulped while flaring his nostrils and pushing his brows together. "I'm sorry for all this shit--"

"No, you're not," I interjected. "Your only 'sorry' is that you got caught again, not for the actions that lead you right back inside of here; you're not sorry about anything you've ever done to me, or to yourself -- and sure as hell not sorry to my mother because it doesn't stop happening regardless of the outcome which has always, always been bad for all of us; especially for her."

"Cheyenne--"

"I'm in this mess of trying to save us both because you stole from the Renegades in the name of some two-bit whore who promised you... what was it that you said to me, again? Some deep throat and a hand-job in return for green? Meanwhile, she took the money and ran to anywhere but the hell she belongs, and now can't be found according to you and everyone else."

"You need to calm your ass down on this shit--"

"How the hell is that remotely possible when I'm on the hook for a debt you knew damn well you couldn't pay back on time -- if ever, because your 'brothers' needed their hands around something to keep you in check until they finally see that pile of green back inside their safe? And then what? Because even if they manage to get their money back and more of it, there is no guarantee that all of this just gets dropped as if it were nothing. No guarantee that you remain alive, even if it is still behind bars and no guarantee that I won't get further tarnished or threatened in some way for it."

"They won't do shit to you, that's a promise they made to me about all this."

"They won't do anything to me as long as they get paid for what you stole -- that was the deal being made and why you forced me back here to begin with. Did you forget that small part of it?! Because I sure as hell didn't." He fell quiet as I dragged my attention from him and glared. "You keep sucking me right back into your mistakes and think an 'I'm sorry' is enough to make up for your lack of understanding why this shouldn't keep happening."

"I'm not going around planning this shit."

"You think that matters one way or another anymore -- if it ever truly did?!" I shifted my eyes back to his and folded my arms across my chest. "Because for as long as I've been alive, I've never stopped being affected by it, and worse this time because I'm aware of the actual consequences. Now tell me the truth in why the hell you took off before Nikko and that other one threw down with those guards." He made a face. "Were you told about it beforehand?"

"I'm not talking any more about it, Cheyenne."

"Alright." I dropped my hands along the edge of the table and pushed myself to stand.

"What the fuck?" He pointed. "Where are you going?"

"Away from here. Because at this rate, there's no more reason for the conversation about how the hell I'm going to get you out of this mess with the club to continue."

"You're hinging all that shit onto this?" he questioned, a light crack trailing along the edge of his last word as a furrow formed between his brows again. I nodded. "Why?"

"Because I can't trust anything coming out of your mouth at this point. We both know you're lying and only one of us knows why." I sat back down and deeply exhaled. "And we both know that there was no need for you to tell me about Nikko before taking off in the way that you did unless you wanted me to know something about it."

"I had a reason for it--"

"Then tell me what the hell it was."

He eyed me as if I were holding a blowtorch to the side of my throat as a threat, and sighed. "I'm not willing to drag you even deeper into some other shit with a motherfucker you don't even know."

"Look around us -- I'm already in too deep! Even if this part doesn't affect me right now like everything else you've ever done, even if I don't know him, there's still the chance that it will hit me somewhere down the line; so start talking to me about it or I walk."

He swallowed hard before unleashing a wave of air from deep inside his chest, appearing defeated, and straightened his back. "I told you that the shit Nikko pulled is gonna cost me."

"Why the hell did his father bother himself with trusting you to look out for him in the first place when you can barely look out for yourself?"

He lifted his eyes directly above my head to stare out the window and clamped his teeth together. "His old man used to do some bookkeeping for the club before investing in a pile of casinos and striking hot with 'em out there in Vegas."

"And?"

He blinked a few times before returning to me and lowering his chin. "He knew there was a chance of retaliation from one of the old business partners he had fucked over some years back, Elias Clark; the result being damn near thirty years to life inside. He needed someone on his side that he felt comfortable with."

"And you were the only one?" I scoffed. "Did Nikko know about the possibility of retaliation against him in the name of his father from this Elias person?"

"Considering the way shit went down, there ain't a chance in hell he didn't find out at some point."

"He doesn't think you were involved with any of this though, right?"

"I don't know."

"Oh my God, Dad." I brushed a hand across my forehead to keep from throwing it across his face. "Please tell me whether or not you were tipped off because they knew you were the one asked to look out for him?" Gradually, he bobbed his head. "But they messed up in not thinking he would find out and recruit that other one to help him... When were you told about it?"

"Just before heading in here the first time to see you. I was told when I needed to get up and out and thrown into a tank out back to keep from watching how it all went down. What I know after the fact is all second-hand shit, including from you."

"What you know is pretty much what we saw."

"Cheyenne," he started, his voice much harder and more aggressive in tone this time around, "these motherfuckers in here..." He wagged his head. "You give a pair of 'em with power enough of what they want, and anybody can get fucked up at will."

"If that's the case, what's going to happen to Nikko now? Because there's no way in hell that they're just going to let him walk for what he pulled if it was truly a disrupt to potential retaliation against him in the name of his father. Even if he was able to walk out of the yard on his own, which I'm guessing was for show."

"Him being able to walk out on his own means that he made a few deals prior to all this shit with a few other guards just like his old man's former partner; which also means he's made a way for himself to remain upright despite a few guaranteed bruises to save face; he might even get that other fucker put out to pasture for this shit -- don't know. But the shit of what happened and why it did will land on my head from his old man 'cause he was supposed to remain clean regardless. It could get him a few more years or transferred out given the extent of bodies being carried outta here, which is what his old man was tryna prevent. But--"

"What the hell did he do to get thrown in here to begin with?"

He opened his hands and mumbled, "Ran over the head of some asshole with the back wheel of his own goddamn Hummer."

"Oh my God." I gasped as a wave of nausea suddenly slammed into me like a mack truck. "Why?"

He shrugged again in a manner so careless, I began to wonder if he was even human. "I don't know."

"And you didn't bother to ask?"

"Fuck no, Cheyenne." He eyed me with a sneer as if I were crazy for even asking myself. "Why would I?"

"I don't know, to maybe show that you gave something of a damn? Is that person dead too?"

"What the fuck do you think about it?"

"I think I can't keep doing this," I told him, wagging my head in defiance as a quick whiff of weed pouring in from the vents above us suddenly filled my lungs; I glanced around at the remaining inmates and visitors and grimaced as they pretended to smell nothing at all. "You getting arrested for theft instead of the club just killing you on the spot like I know they originally wanted is a temporary problem solver at best."

"That shit was because of Taz."

"What?" I turned back to him as a question crossed my face, and a tear rippled clear across my heart. "I thought you said this Lena person called the police so you could get picked up and thrown inside before you or the brothers could find her again?"

"It was the shit I had to tell you as the open ears were on me that first night out here. Couldn't let these assholes know what was really up."

"Okay, well, why would your VP be the one to suggest Rikers over the death sentence I know your President personally asked for?"

He sat back from me and glowered while parting his lips to inhale before blowing the air straight out between us. "You sound disappointed as shit that me being locked up was the alternative."

"I'm not anything but curious about it, and only because I have to be."

He peered. "Taz said he knew it would put more pressure on you to get the money in a time when there was no way it could be done; motherfucker didn't want you having that burden in knowing what the end result would be."

"He said all of that to you?" I questioned. He nodded. "Oh, well..." I gulped in remembering back to the last time I had seen Taz in person, better known to me since we were kids as Malcolm, dropping me off at the airport on the back of his bike and giving me a hug so tight around my waist with his hands pressed flat against the small of my back before his fingers lightly curled against my spine; our bodies practically molded into one as he exhaled against my skin, his cool breath creating tiny goosebumps all over, and mumbled something into the side of my throat that to this day, I have yet to know what it was. But I never forgot that hug or the way it made my body feel as soon as he let me go. "That's sweet of him..." I stopped to clear my throat. "And I thank our continued friendship for his conscience remaining somewhat intact regarding all of this. But I don't have any more time left because three-hundred-thousand dollars isn't just something I can dig up and hand over like you seemed to be able to do. And like I said, even if I do..."

He outstretched an arm across the table to reach out for me.

I held back in reciprocation and stood up from the bench.

He frowned. "Chey--"

"I need to head off to the club and talk to him about it face to face given that I've yet to see any of them in person since being back; a phone can only accomplish so much. Maybe I'll ask for an extension on the extension or something like it."

He nodded up at me while his expression remained defeated and tapped his fingers along the center of the table. "Seeing you might make a difference to Prez or something too."

"Sure. If anything changes, I'll come back tomorrow and let you know about it then."

He nodded again and drew his brows together while solemnly looking toward the door. "Do what you've gotta do with all this shit, Cheyenne."

"It's what I've always been known for without much choice."





Chapter Three


Like a Thief in the Night, Release Me, Sage Advice

Within a few hours of arriving to the mother charter of The Reckless Renegades MC located along the edge of Queens, I found an empty parking spot in front of the 'fix-it' shop adjacent to the clubhouse, yanked my keys from the ignition and pushed my sunglasses to the crown of my head.

While staring through the windshield at the flashing red sign sitting high above the front door, I realized it had been years since hearing compound gravel crunching beneath the wheels of my car, and even longer since seeing certain members of the club beyond facetime.

When I noticed someone moving around inside the building, I dropped my keys inside the front pocket of my jeans and hopped to my feet, slammed the door to my car and headed straight up the walkway. I rested my hand along the center of a steel black door and pushed it back with ease, then peeked my head inside and scanned the room (which in all these years, had yet to change from its black and white origin), only stopping when I noticed Taz standing tall behind the bar, shirtless beneath his patch heavy cut to show off his well-defined, tattoo covered six pack and jet-black coils of hair spread nicely across his chest while fixing himself a mixture of vodka and orange juice as always.

"Hey, stranger," I called out to him in a quiet voice as he placed the vodka bottle back down on top of the bar and took a sip of his drink.

When his dark brown eyes crinkled at the corners while meeting mine and his full, dark pink lips parted into a wide, sexy grin to show off his pure white teeth, I bit back my own smile to keep him from taking notice of just how enthralled I was to see him again, and rattled my head.

He nodded once and pointed. "You gonna come all the way in here or just stand there all day watching me like you did when we were kids?" I scoffed while continuing to hold back my smile and shook my head again. He eyed me from head to toe with a smirk, then lowered the glass from his mouth and jerked his chin. "Cheyenne--"

"I never watched you when we were kids or at any other time in my life," I shot back.

"You mean not before now?" A twinkle hit his eyes as he laughed to himself. His thick black brows arched high up on his forehead as it crinkled. "You watched me all the goddamn time. Always into that older man shit as far as I can remember."

"You were thirteen and I was nine -- that's not much of a stretch in between numbers."

"Or between us either?" The corner of his mouth arched into an even tighter smirk, revealing that famous deep dimple in the center of his right cheek. I remembered rolling my thumb across it once and the look of confusion growing in his eyes just before pulling back from me. "No need in lying about it anymore," he continued.

"There's nothing for me to lie about," I replied with hard emphasis on every word; he threw a hand over his chest and whistled while leaning back as if I had just struck him through the heart with a fire tipped arrow. "But I'm glad that your ego is getting a nice boost from whatever the hell it is you've managed to cook up inside your head after all these years."

"Doesn't take much to do." He snickered as I moved further inside, allowing the door to close behind me.

I shrugged. "Are you the only brother out here?"

"For right now, yeah, but..." A sheepish grin emerged behind the smirk as his attention shifted to a jukebox near the opposite end of the room.

"What is it?" I asked.

He removed his hand from his chest and motioned behind the bar. "There's some fresh pussy still waiting in the back for Prez. You remember Marleena?"

My mouth dropped. "That's the 'fresh pussy' you're referring to? She'd be more than likely rotten by this point, no?"

"Chey--"

"Sorry, that was rude." I stepped toward him while shaking off the sudden cringe that rolled from the back of my neck down the center of my spine and rested my hands on top of the bar. "I just haven't missed hearing something like that since being away and in reference to a woman that was once far too eager to keep me from leaving the club for school."

"She wasn't eager to keep you from leaving," he replied.

"No, she just didn't want to see me doing any better for myself away from this place. And I know that she's not the only one. Anyway, I'm done."

"With school?"

"This portion of the conversation, I still have another semester of school. Has Snake been here at all this morning?"

He eyed me with curiosity and shook his head. "He checked out after Joker's party last night to meet up with some motherfucker across town about expanding the garage outside of Queens but is supposed to be back in a few for church."

"Hm." I took a seat directly in front of him, then glanced over his shoulder and bobbed my head. "What did he tell 'Miss Thing' back there in order to keep her around until the morning?"

He dragged a hand across what looked to be a fresh fade and chortled. "That he'd be back for her soon."

"And how long ago was that?"

He peeked over at the clock sitting high on the wall near a mirror adjacent to their 'church' chapel and narrowed his eyes. "About ten goddamn hours ago."

"Well..." I gagged before turning back to him. "I hope that after all these years of finally getting him where she's always wanted, she's not expecting more than the little she got?"

"She might be expecting too goddamn much since ain't nobody that's been out here has tried putting her ass back out."

"Maybe you should think about doing it to spare her feelings since it's nearly a fact that he won't. And you're supposed to be the nice one of the two, remember? Isn't that part of the reason he made you VP to begin with?"

"Part of." He knit his brows and peered. "But whatever the fuck Prez does with the pussy out here ain't my place or business when it has nothing to do with the club, Chey; never has been."

"Even with that patch?"

"Even with it, unless he ever asks and he's yet to do that shit. You know it by now just like the other, or at least you should."

"Yeah, maybe."

He leaned into me while folding his hands and stared straight into my face, the warmth from his eyes and heat pouring from his flawless brown skin nearly melting my entire body from the inside out. "Let's change the subject on this shit like you did the other."

"Okay."

He paused and lifted his chin, then rolled his tongue across his bottom lip and gulped. "You see your old man out there today?"

"I did."

"Is he still doing the same as he was before with all this shit? Better? Worse?"

"He's the same in being terrible with it. In general, he's still fine, at least for the most part physically, but--"

"Shit." He stood up and away from me, groaning while dragging his hand along the side of his face in frustration. "What the fuck did he do?"

"Nothing, at least not yet. Except he kind of, sort of... fucked up with something -- though it wasn't exactly his fault."

"What the fuck is it, Chey?"

I stopped to suck in a deep breath and gradually released it. "What do you know about a man named Nikko Girabaldi?"

He shrugged and dropped his hands. "His old man once worked for the club; bookkeeping and some other shit before investing in those casinos out there in Vegas."

"Okay. What else can you tell me about him?"

"The old man?"

"Nikko. Have you ever met him? Do you know what he's like as a person -- as a man?"

"No, Cheyenne." His brows crinkled as if I were asking him to recite the alphabet backwards; he bent his head and squint. "Why the fuck are you asking about this asshole like you're looking for a date with him or some shit?"

"There's no need for you to lose it on me by being hostile," I said.

"I ain't being 'hostile' about shit."

"You are. And I'm not exactly 'looking' for anything, I'm only curious about him."

"And I'm curious about you now too, Chey."

"Why?"

"Because I wanna know why the fuck this asshole is making you so goddamn interested all of a sudden?"

I slightly rolled my eyes while straightening myself in the chair. "Do you know that he's been locked up in Rikers?"

He shifted his jaw left to right and pinched his mouth to the side as if he was debating on whether to answer me this time, and with the truth. "I maybe heard some shit about him being down and out, but not the details surrounding why," he finally said. "And I didn't think to ask since the shit doesn't affect me or the club."

"Okay--"

"You tryna date him when he's out?"

"You keep asking me that and the answer is actually no, I'm not."

"Then what the fuck is your endgame? Why all the goddamn questions?"

"I could ask the same of you. But my only endgame is telling you to be aware of what my dad said regarding his father this morning."

"Which was what?"

"Asking him to look after Nikko with them both being inside now."

He soured. "And your old man agreed to that shit?"

"Yes."

He crinkled the bridge of his nose. "Why the fuck would Chino ask your old man to look after his kid?"

"Because he hoped Rox would keep him out of trouble for the time being. But after what happened on the courtyard today, that's no longer possible."

"What the fuck happened out there today, Cheyenne?"

"A hot mess," I blurted. "Nikko and another inmate killed three people while we were waiting and watching from inside the family room -- Three guards to be exact."

"Jesus goddamn Christ." Taz's head lowered as he wrapped his hands along the edge of the bar and closed his eyes; he exhaled and anxiously shook his head as his face hardened. "How the fuck did this shit come about?"

"Nikko's father has an enemy in a former business partner, Elias Clark, that set up retaliation against him with the plan of using those now dead guards to do his bidding."

"Retaliation against the old man by getting to his kid?"

"From what I was told. But Nikko found out which is the only reason I can gather him carelessly killing them in front of a room full of people who could see everything as it all went down."

"You saw that shit as it happened along with everybody else?" I nodded. "Jesus."

"But I'm fine--"

"Anybody else in the room say some shit about it?"

"Not a single word. Instead, they all went back to what could only be considered as normal once it was over, including the other guards. The inmates were dragged out as the fight was going down, and then brought back into us not long after Nikko and that other one were finally taken away."

"You know the other motherfucker that was with him?"

"Somebody named 'Dog' from what my dad had said."

"Christ."

"Does that name mean something to you?"

"It did..." He looked to the corner of his eyes and glowered. "Does Nikko's old man know about any of this shit just yet?"

"He hadn't by the time I left, I don't think, but who the hell knows by now." He lifted his eyes from mine and grit his teeth. "Malcolm." When he heard his real name for what seemed to be the first time in years, he turned back to me and took in a breath. "Rox is going to get the wrath for what happened out there, and I don't know what that entails."

"What do you mean?"

"Because Nikko was supposed to stay out of trouble, like I said. Even if this former business partner of his father's is the reason for what went down and why." I stopped to gulp, and exhaled. "Maybe if he had someone else go after them instead, there would've been a chance of my dad being spared by this person. But since he didn't--"

"I'll make a call to somebody who might be in the know with all this shit. If not them, maybe Eyes knows something."

"I guess... thanks."

He gradually bobbed his head while continuing to stare directly into my eyes. "Did your old man say anything about this shit landing on your head too?"

"He says that it won't, but I don't know any more considering he lied to me about how he got locked up in the first place." He swallowed hard enough for his Adam's apple to visibly bob inside his throat and sniffed. "Why the hell didn't you just tell me that you're the reason Rattlesnake didn't take him out on the spot for stealing from the club?"

"'Cause every time we talked, Prez was right there with me, Cheyenne; every goddamn time like a muthafuckin' chaperone. Which means he would've had my head and balls in a jar for saying a word about it since he wanted your old man personally put to ground for this shit."

"I know that, but--"

"300k ain't some kinda chump change, is it?" he interjected. "Especially not when a portion of that shit was meant to be used for the club itself, the remodeling and all that."

"God knows that this place is in dire need of it, but... Hey." I pinched my brows as he reached into his back pocket for one of his throw away cell phones and bent forward. "What are you doing?"

"What I told you in handling some shit." He flipped the cell open and began dialing an unrecognizable number on the keypad. I realized then that it wasn't in my best interest to ask any more questions and pressed my lips together. After lifting the phone to his ear, I could hear a sharp ringing sound blaring out from the other end before stopping. Seconds passed before he finally pulled it back and began dialing four more numbers as if it were code; then he slammed it shut and placed it back inside his pocket. "We'll see if anything turns up with that. But, Cheyenne..." He brought his eyes back to mine and lifted his shoulders. "You know Rattlesnake's affection for you is like his own daughter if he had one? That shit'll never measure up to what I've always felt for you, but--"

"And what is that?"

"Affection?" he questioned.

I lowered my eyes and grinned. "Yes, of course."

"You know what that shit means--"

"Not coming from you, I don't. Unless you've always viewed me as nothing more than just a little sister--"

"You're not my sister," he told me. "That ain't it--"

"Then what?" He clamped his teeth together and deeply exhaled. "What?" As he remained silent, I pushed myself forward and parted my lips. "That morning you dropped me off at the airport, when I was leaving for college, you said something to me. What was it?"

A line appeared between his brows as he wagged his head. "I don't remember that shit."

"Yes, you do." He stared back into my eyes as his pupils expanded and loosened his jaw. I gnawed at my bottom lip as the fear of his answer rolled through my body like a stream of boiling water down the center of a clogged pipe. "You remember what you said to me -- what was it?"

"I told you that I don't."

"And I know that you do--"

"Chey..." He pushed himself away from the bar and turned his head as a nervous chuckle poured from between his lips, the sound of it vibrating high in the air between us. "I don't know that shit," he said in a low, gritty voice that made my knees wobble with delight. "I guess it was something like I hope you have fun out there or--"

"It wasn't that."

"Christ." When his eyes caught mine again, the whites of them darkened. "What the fuck do you want me to say about it?"

"I want you to say that..." I pushed myself up from the stool and leaned into him, close enough to smell the thin layer of sweat forming along the base of his throat, creating a light sheen across his skin, and taste the splash of vodka still fresh on his tongue. "I want you to tell me how you feel about me. The truth."

"Chey--"

"I want you to tell me that I'm not crazy and that after all these years, we could really be something good together -- maybe great --" He reached a hand around the back of my throat and jerked me to him before I could say another word. His lips parted and his nostrils flared again; more sweat formed along the corners of his nose and across the top of his eyebrows. "Do you want to just show me instead? Because I can take that too."

His eyes dipped below my throat; his jaw tightened. "What the fuck I've always felt can't be met with what you've always deserved from a man out here, Cheyenne; one not in a life like this. That shit has always been more than the VP of an MC."

"I don't care," I told him. "You've always been more than your patches, and this cut to me." His fingers curled into my skin as he exhaled. I winced at the firmness of his touch. "The club doesn't define who you are as a man, it never has."

"It's part of what I am, just like you've always been to me."

A smile arched my lips as my eyes lit up like a tree on Christmas morning. He bobbed his head. "Is that your way of telling me how you feel?"

"I don't know... shit, it might be." He snickered. "You know I'm not good at saying this kinda shit out loud--"

"Try."

His hand tightened around my neck, forcing my head to lightly dip back. I groaned as he bent his face toward mine and grinned. "This shit between us, whatever the fuck it is, has always been something. I can give you that much."

"I want more than what you can give to me with just your words."

I lowered my head and draped my arms around his neck, pulling him even closer to me. His deep voice weakened as he pulled back and rounded the bar. I spun around to face him as he stood directly in front of me, then pressed my back against the bar as he moved in and shoved himself against my stomach.

While staring up into his face, I could see the man I had always known and more of him, the one who made my chest tight and my stomach full of butterflies with just a single look in his eye or touch of his hand against my skin; the one who made me question going away in the first place; the one who made me contemplate coming back long before I ever thought I would.

"Cheyenne." He said my name though a grunt this time while lowering his hands to my backside and lifting me from the floor. I squealed while clutching onto his thick shoulders, then let out a deep, restless sigh as soon as he lowered me on top of that glossy wooden bar. He rested his hands on top of my knees and pushed them apart, then moved between them and slid his tongue between my lips, fluttering the tip against my own. My skin became hot as a flood of heat reached my sex. "Your old man is gonna lose it on me, Chey."

"No, he won't. And even if he did...?" I pulled back to brush my thumb across the softest part of his mouth and grinned while staring straight into his eyes; something behind them read how much he wanted me; something deeper of how much he cared.

"Prez just might kick my ass for it." He reached around for the back of my throat again and lowered my face to his. "But the shit might be worth it; only with you."

I leaned into him with that same grin plastered across my face but was forced to pull back again when the door reopened and another member of the club finally moved inside.

He cleared his throat and sneered. "Baby girl." The rough-n-tumble sound of Nix's normally husky voice, the Renegades' longtime Sergeant-At-Arms, forced Taz to look over his shoulder. I turned my attention to him as soon as he fixed his belt around his waist and stepped forward. "You know Prez was just behind my ass out there, younggin'. He had to stop and take a call about some shit, but..." He looked to Taz and arched his left, grey filled brow. "You might wanna back away from his surrogate up there" -- he lifted a hand to me and pointed -- "before he comes all up in here and starts tossing your ass around this place like a goddamn ragdoll."

"I'm the same surrogate he's forcing to hand over money that doesn't exist and probably never will, right?" I said. "And all in the name of my actual father."

"Baby girl." Nix looked to me and grimaced. "It's the ways of the club. Always has been, always fuckin' will be and you know that shit."

"I know that being born and bred 'biker brat' still makes me no exception to club bullshit. Exhibit A through Z of why I'm back in the city."

Taz stared between us for a few seconds, then backed away from me and crossed the room. "We were talking about some shit, brother," he replied. "Spit balling -- Nothing more than that."

"About?" Taz went silent as Nix peeked over at him and smirked. "You think I don't know the kinda stance you were making over there just now, younggin'?" Taz opened his hands before folding his arms over his chest and dropping back against the wall. "I invented that shit long before your mama ever thought to spit your ass outta her conch." He threw a hand over his chest and nodded. "Me."

"Yet I'm still VP."

"Yeahhhh, and it was still a goddamn mistake on his end -- regardless of what the fuck she begged him for." Nix made his way over to me while showing his hand. "Hop down before Prez rolls up in here to see you like that and starts asking questions I know damn well you ain't gonna wanna answer." I stared into his dark grey eyes and sighed, then dropped my hand inside of his, giving him all my weight as I grazed the tiny callouses of his unnaturally warm palm. "There ya go."

After helping me back to the floor, I stepped aside to adjust my shirt and jeans and glowered. "Where have you been?"

"Out," he said. "What are you doing here so goddamn early in the day as it is?"

"This is the only time I know to come when there won't be a trail of unnecessary eyes, ears and open vaginas all around the place. At least I was hoping for the latter until Taz told me about Marleena still waiting in the back for Rattlesnake."

"Ahh, shit." He bellowed and threw a hand over his stomach as it jumped. "Ol' Snow White Pussy still back there keeping hope alive?"

Taz looked to him and made a face. "She was never going anywhere 'til she saw him again," he said.

"She can see him again in a bit, but he ain't gonna wanna keep her ass around out here." He shuffled around the bar and shook his head. "Bitch has always been too goddamn old for his taste, but that's what happens when your ass gets so piss drunk in front of familiar looking pussy that you can't even find your own dick without the help of a warm hand showing it to you first."

"That's a very nice image you've just presented in my mind -- thank you very much," I muttered.

"My bad, baby girl, didn't mean to go all out with you still being here." He turned from me and dragged his thick, round fingers along the edge of his closely shaven beard, then chuckled to himself and peeked at Taz from the corner of his eye. "Why don't you head your ass on back there and see about her again? Make sure she's not tryna snatch up anything that ain't been nailed down inside that room. You remember the five months she spent locked up for being a klepto."

"I checked in on her for the second time just before Chey showed up."

"Then you know just what the fuck to look for when you go back in there and see about her ass for the third one," he snapped in a low, gravelly voice. "VP."

They eyed one another for the entire length of a minute until Taz glanced over at me and nodded. "Guess she could stand to have me look in on her one more time."

"Sure the fuck could -- head on." Nix pointed behind himself and watched as Taz pushed away from the wall, strolled around the bar and disappeared around another corner. "Jesus Fuckin' Christ with this one over here." He turned back to me and glared. "Shoulda never been made into the goddamn VP of this club."

"You still think you deserved it more than he did? Even after all these years?"

He bent forward, allowing his stomach to land against the edge of the bar and nodded. "That kid don't know shit about this club like he should."

"I think he knows enough. He's been around it since before he was born, just like me."

"You don't need to be our muthafuckin' VP either, Cheyenne."

"Funny. But he's watched you and Snake and Eyes since then, along with the others."

"That don't mean shit, baby girl; not anymore." He rattled his head and sighed. "What the fuck were you doing with his ass out here in the open like this as it was?"

"I--"

"You wanting his dick chopped off while you're being forced to watch it happen?"

"I don't want anything to happen to either one of us -- or between us," I told him. "And it won't because we were just talking out here, like he said."

"Baby girl, you're a muthafuckin' lie if there ever was one on this planet."

"How so?"

"'Cause I've got eyes that work," he said, "and I saw with both of 'em that you were about two goddamn seconds away from letting him feel you up with his tongue being shoved down the back of your goddamn throat next."

I frowned and shifted my attention from his face. "I didn't come out here with the intention of just seeing him--"

"Had Prez walked in here on this shit--!" He whistled while straightening his back and wrapped his hands around the lapels of his cut. He stared into my face and chortled. "It wasn't just the physical kinda shit either." Gradually, I brought my eyes back to his and arched a brow. He soured. "I'm just tryna look out for you in the best way I know how. 'Cause you've always been my favorite of the brats that often ran around here from birth." He stopped and lowered his hands. "This ain't something you need to find yourself getting all caught up in, especially now."

"I'm not actually caught up in anything, but..." My shoulders shrank as I deeply exhaled. "Anything to do with Taz is the least of my problems right now."

"'Cause of your old man."

"Because of Rattlesnake." I paused to shake my head. "Because I'm not his child."

"You're one he likes to try and claim out in the open, Chey."

"And we both know the reason behind that, but when he's forcing me to pay back a debt that I never owed him or this club in the first place? I get pissy and start talking much more than I should -- he doesn't want that." His eyes lowered as I crossed my arms and glowered. "There's no way in hell I'll be able to come up with that much money in time, Nix -- if ever. No way in hell."

"You think Prez should've just taken your old man out instead?"

"You were in favor of it happening, yes?"

"That shit was no reflection on you."

"It doesn't matter. And taking him out wouldn't have snatched away the obligation of that money being paid back."

"You see him out there today?"

"I did. Along with a few other things I wish I hadn't."

"Like what?"

"Yo." I turned as Rattlesnake, looking much bigger in person than I remembered, dipped his head around the door and pointed a tattoo riddled finger in my direction. "I just got word from a motherfucker that you saw your old man out there at Rikers today?" His voice was low and scratchy as he spoke. I bobbed my head in response and inhaled a shaky breath. "You see the shit that went down in the yard while sitting inside that family room too?"

"Yes."

"You know why the fuck it all went down?"

"What?" Nix frowned while staring between us. "What the fuck went down on the yard out there, brother?"

Rattlesnake's piercing green eyes remained on my face, that intensely vivid, opaque color being the reason for his name, while his light brown skin flushed bright red. "Do you know why the fuck that shit went down out there, Cheyenne?"

"I don't know." I pinched my mouth and chewed the inside of my cheek. "At least not exactly."

"What the fuck does that shit mean?" asked Nix. When I didn't respond, he grumbled. "Cheyenne."

I glanced at him over my shoulder, scowling as he peered. "It means that the information I was given about why it might have happened was second-hand."

"From your old man?" I turned back to Rattlesnake without answering. He grimaced. "Chey, what the fuck did Rox tell you about the shit that went down with Nikko and that other one he was with? That Dog motherfucker?" He paused. "Did he say it was in response to some retaliation against him 'cause of his old man's beef with somebody else?"

"Wait." Nix showed his hand, then made his way back around to the front of the bar and traipsed to the center of the room, stopping between us and staring. "What the fuck retaliation are we talking about here, Prez? Some kinda shit against Chino?"

Rattlesnake glanced at him and lifted his chin. "Some old business partner bullshit gone wrong."

"Which motherfucker are we talking about here?"

"Old asshole with the slashed right eye, Elias."

"Jesus. What the fuck went down out there?"

Rattlesnake stepped further inside the club while easing what looked to be a burner phone into his back pocket. "Chino hit me up on the prepay to tell me about his kid going rogue after barely two weeks of being inside; Rox was put in charge of watching him to make sure he remained straight long enough to get right back out 'cause he couldn't trust anybody else to do the shit for him."

"That's rich as fuck considering why his ass is in there to begin with." Nix looked to me before dragging his eyes back to Rattlesnake. "Chino planning on fucking up her old man for this shit?"

He leaned aside as his 'jolly green giant' like frame took up nearly half that side of the room, and sighed. "He knows about the debt Rox owes to the club, knows the amount, all that shit, 'cause the motherfucker spilled in the hope that Chino would hand over the dough to pay us off as a 'thank you' for keeping Nikko in check."

"Well shit," muttered Nix. "What the fuck did Chino say about all that?"

"He was planning to give him the cash 'til all this went down. Now he says he won't touch him on his own unless we okay it--"

"You can't do that," I said. Rattlesnake turned to me and made a face. "He's a permanent fuck up that has managed to screw up my life more times than I'd like to count; he's not an ideal man or father, but he's still the only thing I have left."

"You've got the rest of us," said Nix. "Your old man did this shit to himself -- forced his own ass outta here by fucking with the club in a way he knew couldn't be forgiven with just a cooling off period. But the Renegades have always been your family, baby girl. That shit'll never change."

"Family..." I stopped to glare at Rattlesnake and shoved my brows together. "What family doesn't do is what he's doing to me right now because of my father."

"Rox owes us for what the fuck he stole, Cheyenne," replied Snake. "That shit can't just go to the left as it sets a bad precedent for the club as a whole with new members coming in if we let him off the goddamn hook for it."

"What about letting me off the hook for it?! I didn't steal from your club -- I didn't attempt to use any pile of money to get my jollies off in the middle of the Red-Light District at 2am with a hooker that has now gone MIA."

"That shit is the way it is for a goddamn reason--"

"And those 'reasons' should be amended for the children of your permanent fuck ups. Yes, he owes you your money -- I've never been against you getting back what you deserve, but I can't be the one to get it to you -- I can't. Just like I told Nix and Taz before him, there's no way in hell I'll be able to pay back what you want -- when you want me to, if ever."

"And in the meantime, we should do what?" He dipped his head from left to right, allowing the loose strands of his recently straightened hair to brush across the center of his thickly muscled shoulders, and shrugged. "Keep your old man on ice?"

"Why are you steadily acting as if my father is someone you just dragged in off the street two days ago and honored with a cut out of the goodness of your heart when you've known him longer than I've even been alive to know him for myself, Jaxon?" His entire body jerked at hearing his real name; it was something most often forbidden to be spoken within the walls of the club by anyone else, but I had reached my limit of civility and respect the minute I was back in the city. "You owe me more than what I've been given," I continued, "and you know this isn't right despite the rules your own father put into place when he established the club. So much has changed since then and I wish that you'd finally learn exactly how the hell to change right along with it."

"No rats, no goddamn thieves," he said, bending forward. "That shit won't change. It's at the top of the fuckin' pamphlet and you should be lucky as hell that my VP is the reason your old man didn't eat it the minute we found out he was the reason behind that money being gone in the first goddamn place. And be even luckier that we had connections to get him thrown into Rikers instead of on another island that would've had him dead before you decided to finally bring your ass back here to save his."

"Again?!"

"Yeah, again." He bypassed me with a snarl and crossed the room. "I didn't ask for any of this shit."

"And you think I did?! You think I ask for any of this any time it happens?!" When I whirled around to him, I noticed Taz now standing in the archway of the door leading to the hallway behind him. With his arms folded, biceps flexing and eyes switching between me and Rattlesnake, I feared the words that would be coming out of his mouth next as I was certain they wouldn't be in his favor.

Rattlesnake stared into his face and arched his brows. "Where the fuck has your ass been, VP?!"

Taz pointed toward the hallway and grumbled. "Marleena's still back there looking for another 'pick me up'," he said. "I settled her in the best way I could, but you should still try seeing about her."

"Shit." He swiped a hand across his face and grunted. "I'm not finished out here yet. Tell her the shit can wait if she's still willing to stick around for it."

"You're being for real out here, Prez?" Nix glanced over at him with wide eyes and a smirk. "Snow White Pussy like Marleena's has never been your kinda thing, brother, even when we were young bucks first patching in. Now suddenly, after all the rejections you've put her pale ass through, she's got your dick spinning the fuck outta control?"

"My dick isn't the only thing I'm looking to have worked on by this chick; not this go-round."

"Then what?" Nix dipped his chin. "Why the fuck are you bothering to keep her ass around out here?"

"'Cause I got some shit that needs to be dealt with that doesn't include being sucked off. Not everybody is looking to have their balls dried out before the goddamn afternoon."

"That shit can be solid as fuck sometimes though."

Rattlesnake shut his eyes for a few seconds and exhaled before looking back to me and pointing toward the door. "I need to talk to your ass out here right now."

"Why?" I said, the sound of my voice rising to a light panic as I spoke. "What for?"

"Now, Cheyenne -- goddamn."

I slightly jumped back at the hard tone of his voice, then planted my feet against the floor and sneered, hoping that his success at frightening me had gone unnoticed. "Where are we going?" He pointed to the door again and headed straight to his bike without another word. "Wha--?" I turned to Nix and Taz for reassurance and opened my hands. "What the hell is this about?"

"No goddamn clue." Taz moved across the room in a calm, casual manner and plopped down on the edge of a black leather couch that had been shoved in a corner near the jukebox. He pressed his hands together and stared up at Nix, who wagged his head and cleared his throat.

"I don't know either, baby girl," he replied, "but you had better head on out before he loses his shit on one of us back in here as a result."

"But I don't--"

"Chey!" Snake called out to me in a tone so hard that it made every muscle in my body tighten like a rope full of knots.

Nix pointed behind me and knit his brows. "Head on out there. The shit becomes too much, call for one of us in here."

I nodded and blinked a few times to clear my eyes of any potential redness, then cautiously moved outside.





Chapter Four


Poker Faced Bargaining Chip


As soon as I stepped back onto the dirt at the base of the club, I noticed Rattlesnake leaning against the seat of his bike and dragging a cigarette from the inside pocket of his cut.

"What the hell is this all about?" I asked, hugging myself while approaching him. He ignored me while snatching a lighter from the front right pocket of his jeans to light up in silence. I loosened my arms and groaned. "Why did you want me out here and away from the other two members of your club, Jaxon?"

He wagged two fingers in my face while lowering his gaze back to mine. "You know that privilege will only go so far with your ass, Cheyenne."

"I understand that, which is why I used it in the way I did."

"My name?"

"Yes." I looked to the ground as my nerves sent my heart pumping like a freight train screaming down the tracks and stepped forward. "What the hell do you want from me out here?"

He readjusted himself against his bike and grinned in a way that let me know he was more amused than annoyed by my question, and exhaled. "I needed some open space 'cause the other two don't know what I do with regard to how you can possibly get the money to pay back the club," he said, "and they don't need to know shit about it for right now."

"What are you talking about? And -- Why?"

"'Cause they don't. When what needs to happen comes to pass, they'll be brought in, along with the rest of them later."

"How can I possibly get my hands on enough money to pay you back and why didn't you say anything about it before all of this?"

"'Cause I didn't know it could be possible 'til the shit from this morning."

"What you learned from Chino?" I asked. He nodded. "He told you about what happened with his son while also suggesting a way for me to get out of this mess with the club? That's convenient, I'd say. What is it?"

He took another drag from his cigarette, then gradually tipped his head back to blow out the smoke. "The shit might come at a steep price, Chey."

"Given who it's coming from, I'm sure. But it'll cost nothing to have me hear it out, I guess..."

He pointed at me again. "You're a smart one, you know that?"

"On some days, sure. Now how the hell can I get my hands on this money to pay back the club?"

He inhaled more of his cigarette and swallowed back the smoke this time. "Nikko," he replied.

"Chino's son? How?"

"The kid has gotta get married to somebody within the next eight weeks."

"And, what?"

"And that shit is the reason Chino was expecting for him to be outta Rikers within record time. Motherfucker has connections all over, but with his kid fuckin' up despite the reason being to save his own ass from getting shanked in retaliation, shit might be pushed back to keep from looking like he was set up to be bounced before what would've normally been allowed for somebody like him."

"What's 'somebody like him'?"

"You know why he got locked up in the first place?"

"Rox mentioned it to me."

"That's somebody like him."

"Oh. Well, this club doesn't exactly fuel itself with flowers grown from the gardens of Mother Teresa," I told him.

He leaned away from me and chuckled. "I'm not judging his shit, Chey -- I'm just letting you know what's up about it."

"And why is that?"

"It's beneficial to your ass 'cause he needs a wife for Chino's money."

"And I'm asking you why that is. And within the next eight weeks?"

"It's around the same time he'll be sent to prison for fraud and embezzlement, along with a host of other shit."

"Chino?!"

"Yeah. And everything around him needs to be locked down and secured for his kid before he's officially locked up for the next thirty-five years or so; maybe longer depending on this shit."

"Oh my God." My mouth hung open as my heart sped up to a nearly impossible rate. "How the hell did all of this manage to come about?"

He tightened two fingers around the center of his cigarette and brought it back up to his mouth, inhaling a few more times while kicking his right heel against the dirt. "That motherfucker on the inside seeking retaliation flipped on Chino to the Feds about a year after he was locked up; spilled the facts about him and a few other formers from within their crew stealing the identities of dead men from all over the country to keep his own hands clean and the green fresh, along with all those casinos being covers for running coke between the US and various parts of SA -- particularly Venezuela."

"If he had already flipped, what was the point in trying to take out Nikko as a form of retaliation against him now?"

"'Cause he was still pissed in Chino having yet to be locked up while he was stuck out there rotting away for life; the kid being close to him now was just enough." He paused. "But... that motherfucker was too goddamn smart for his own good, at least at the time; managing to dodge every bullet that came flying at him when the Feds would raid him out or have him and his people followed all over the city and beyond it; had him wiretapped to the goddamn high heavens and still couldn't catch shit."

"But they did eventually or else he wouldn't be going away for all of this now, right? So how the hell did it happen?"

"Lena."

I scoffed. "You're kidding."

"Nope."

"How?!"

He looked aside and arched a brow. "She and Chino used to hook up back in the day; they got together again and after one thing led to another--"

"Alright." I raised my hand to stop him from going further and rolled my eyes into my head while swallowing back the urge to vomit. "What the hell made her want to turn on him after the fact?"

"She went snooping around his place while he was knocked out on his own stash and found the stolen ID's and death certificates for those motherfuckers in a room upstairs that was normally locked to anyone but him."

"And yet she somehow managed to make her way inside? That's something."

"It shouldn't have been, but after she freaked in thinking he'd taken them out on his own, she dipped and went straight to the boys in blue."

"And said what exactly?"

"Nothing. Just gave 'em what they needed in the IDs and certificates, pointed the finger at him and took off. Once they dusted the shit for his prints, that was that."

"So Miss Thing did some classic snitching and ditching -- that's rich. And I'm guessing this is when she found Rox right after?"

"She got lucky in catching him just after he'd left here post-pussy, then loaded him up with enough coke to damn near kill an average motherfucker -- knowing he'd have to be on some shit to take from us outright."

"He didn't say anything about being coked out at the time this all happened."

"'Cause he didn't want you going in on that shit too, Chey -- none of us did."

"So you agreed to keep it quiet to spare me. Thank you."

"Don't be a goddamn brat about it," he snapped. "We did what the fuck we could but can't anymore with this shit."

"That's obvious. And yet the coke that was fed to him still can't save him?"

His shoulders lowered as a pinch between his brows tightened. "Chey--"

"Spare him like you tried to with me? Albeit poorly."

"Albeit nothing. I told you I can't let this shit ride like it's no goddamn thing. Coke or not, what he did is what he did and we're owed our goddamn due for it. It's not the first fuckin' time and wouldn't be the goddamn last."

"I know that." I shifted my eyes along the edge of the compound and lowered my arms alongside myself. "How the hell did Lena even manage to know about the club having that kind of money to begin with? Did Rox spill it to her while he was high?"

"Your old man is steadily claiming that he didn't; says the shit of her knowing the exact amount we had locked away came from elsewhere."

"Do you believe him?" I questioned.

"Do you?" He inhaled more of his cigarette and peered.

"I don't know, much like I still don't know why Nikko needs to be married in order to get Chino's money."

"The dough needs to be dumped into a closed account with his wife's name being the only one attached to it; that way, the Feds won't touch it 'cause it'll look clean. Dirty money catches their eye -- shit that looks clean skates on by."

"Nice rhyme, but is Nikko aware of the fact that he needs to be married to someone for this reason?"

"He is, and he's good with that shit."

"Well, is he 'good' with the true reason as to the why behind it too?"

"He was good with what he knew at the time, which was some shit," he replied. "Chino planned to tell him the rest after he got out, but with him being unsure of when that might be now, he's letting him know about it today... maybe even right now."

"My dad didn't know about Lena and Chino hooking up, did he? I mean, he doesn't know that everything that's gone down has somehow managed to circle back to her."

"He knows she's somewhat of a link, but not the extent. What he doesn't know is about Chino being sent away in eight weeks -- not yet." He paused and took in a breath. "Motherfucker is lucky ol' boy didn't snap on his ass when he told him what was up in why he needed that cash from him to pay us back in the first goddamn place. But looking after Nikko was more important for him, that was his main concern."

"And what's your main concern with all of this now, Snake?" I stared up into his face and pushed my brows together.

He soured. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"In telling me all of this."

He made a face while showing me his hand. "The shit's not been made clear in what I'm saying?"

"Perfectly in the fact that you think I should give up part of my life to marry a criminal for you to get paid. But what the hell do you expect me to do now? Head back to Rikers and drop to my knee in front of this person with a ring from the inside of a Crackerjack box?"

"I didn't ask you for all of that shit--"

"You didn't have to because you're all but saying it in bringing me out here to ramble about this bullshit in private. And it isn't about not wanting the other brothers to know how I could get the money for your club so much as it's about you being terrified to let them know the facts behind it. Because you know that Nix will never sign off on this and Taz will lose his mind. Not to mention my father."

"The shit wouldn't last for any longer than a few months."

"You say that as if it's no time of my life being snatched away in favor of your club."

"It wouldn't be that much goddamn time," he said. "Not with you getting a portion of the cash as soon as the shit between you is made official."

"And how much would that be?"

"I don't know the details -- Chino didn't mention 'em straight out."

"Another thing that's managed to be convenient about him--"

"But he said that Nikko's wife would see enough to keep them grounded for six months flat out."

"Six months?!"

"They make it without issue until their first anniversary, and they get the rest."

"That could be anything -- And at any time. And you don't know when he's getting out, so then what? I'm stuck being married to someone behind bars that will probably never let me leave him because my name is on an account filled with the money that his father earned in blood. Why the hell can't he just hire someone to dump the funds into an offshore account under a dummy?! Give me what I need after a quick careless ceremony and let me disappear back into my life in California?"

"'Cause no one he hires would have a goddamn thing to lose as much as he does; and everything else is frozen offshore as it is," he replied, dropping his cigarette to the ground and smashing the lit tip along the edge of his steel-toed boot. "The Feds looked into all that shit, which is why the casinos have been shut down, and why what hasn't been snatched up already will need to go straight to Nikko's wife."

"I don't want anything to do with this shit," I snapped.

"You also don't have too much of a goddamn choice, Cheyenne."

"I have a choice in leaving."

"Cheyenne--"

"This man dropped three people right in front of me, Snake!" I threw a hand out beside him and angrily wagged my head. "Are you understanding what I'm saying here?"

"Yeah--"

"He snapped the neck of another man and put people to sleep forever. And you want me to marry him in order to sign my name to a pile of blood money that's likely to bring me more harm than good?"

"Your old man is responsible for bringing this shit to our front door." He pointed. "Don't you keep forgetting about it."

"I'm not."

"Fuckin' seems that way in how you keep running off at the goddamn mouth about it."

"What the hell else am I supposed to do?! Remain quiet about my life continuously getting flipped inside out because of him and this club?!"

"We're your goddamn family. You should be grateful as fuck--"

"For what?!"

His chin dropped as his eyes wiggled inside their sockets. "THE FACT THAT WE DIDN'T DROP THAT MOTHERFUCKER ON GODDAMN COMMAND!"

"Are you being for real?!" I crouched to my knees while throwing out my hands for the second time and rattling my head. "THE ONLY REASON YOU KEPT HIM ALIVE IS BECAUSE TAZ ASKED YOU TO!"

He deeply inhaled, then gradually released it while lowering his hand and swallowing back a gulp. "That ain't the only goddamn reason."

"Then what?"

His phone started buzzing before he could respond; his eyes closed in mild frustration as he grit his teeth and threw a hand inside his back pocket, yanked out his phone and flipped it open without ever bothering to look at the number scrolling across the screen. "Yeah." He barked the word while turning from me, then stepped around the corner of the club.

I latched onto my keys and rushed to my car with sudden tears spilling out from the corners of my eyes.

"Wait up, Cheyenne!" I stopped moving and quickly wiped my face when Nix called out to me, then cursed before turning back to him and raised a hand above my head to block out the rays of the sun.

"What is it?"

He rushed forward and jerked his chin, then pointed behind himself while studying my face. "Prez take off somewhere out here?"

I looked aside and pointed. "He moved around the back to take a phone call."

"You know who it was?"

"No."

He nodded while continuing to stare at me and wrapped his hands around his stomach. "What kinda shit was he wanting you out here for?"

"To talk about Rox and his place within the club, or lack thereof now."

"Yeah?"

"And the money... he's giving me somewhat of a reprieve on it."

"What kind?"

"Chey!" I glanced over Nix's shoulder as Rattlesnake made his way back around to us, tossing his phone back into his pocket. Nix lifted a brow and glanced at him from the corner of his eye. "Your old man is wanting to see you back out there."

"For what?"

"Some shit he's claiming he needs to talk to you about in person."

"Was that him on the phone just now?" I asked. "Did he say why he needed to see me again so soon?"

"All I know is that you need to head back down there. Whatever the fuck it's about, you'll learn it soon enough." He turned on the ball of his foot and headed back toward the club.

"Hey!" He stopped and rested his hand along the edge of the door as I hollered out to him. "What you said before about me getting that money..."

He whipped his head back around to me and crinkled his nose. "We'll talk more about that shit after you're back from Rikers." His gaze shifted to Nix, who eyed me with a scowl.

"You okay, baby girl?" Nix raised a hand to my arm and dipped his head forward with concern. "You need anything I can get?"

"I'm fine," I replied with an openly brazen smile, hoping like hell he couldn't see the pain building up behind my watery eyes. "Whatever this is with Rox again, I'm sure it's something asinine that could wait if he actually let it--"

"What the hell did Prez have you out here talking about, Cheyenne?" His head tilted as he arched his brows. "Some kinda shit that the rest of us would be better off knowing about too?"

"I..."

"Yo, SGT!" Rattlesnake snapped, his hard voice booming across the lot.

Nix sucked in the deepest breath he could gather, then gradually released it before turning on his heel to face him with a plastered smile. "Yeah, brother?"

"I need you in here for some shit to help get ready for church while I deal with ol' girl in the back." He dipped his head inside the club and twisted his face in fury. "Call up the rest of those assholes and tell 'em to get here within the next hour and all that."

"Alright, yeah--"

"Now, brother." His voice firmed as his eyes narrowed. "Let Chey head back to her old man and see what's up with him. If the shit's dire enough, she'll come back and let us know about it."

"Okay, yeah," he replied in a tone so dour that it rattled my bones; then he gently squeezed my arm before lowering his hand completely and balling a fist. "Any shit goes down out there that you don't wanna be part of, don't hesitate to hit up my cell."

"I think I'll be fine, but--"

"Doesn't matter. I can come down on my own or we'll send out the entire goddamn crew for you."

I nodded while smiling and mumbled, "Thank you."

"Always, baby girl -- always. You know we'll be here for you no matter what, 'specially me." The words hit hard enough to nearly knock me off my feet.

"I know it--"

"SGT!" Snake called out to him again, his voice cracking behind the sound of each letter spewed. "Let's get this shit going!"

"I'm on my goddamn way, motherfucker goddamn; just hold onto your dick before it goes flying back off into the hand of that woman back there!"

"Her pussy is what might lead us to the Promise Land, brother."

"A Promise Land of pussy full of cobwebs that smells like a bottle of coke filled Hennessy ain't my kinda scene out here, brotha. Never fuckin' has been." He turned from me without another word as his eyes grew dark and headed back for the club.

Rattlesnake clapped him on the back as he moved ahead of him, then eyed me with the hint of a crooked smile and jutted his chin. "You should be on your way back out there without anymore stops in between."

My eyes crinkled as my head tilted with wonder. "Who said that I would be stopping anywhere before getting back out there?"

"I'm just saying that you shouldn't."

He shrugged without further explanation and backed into the club.

I hopped back into my car and took one last look at the building before taking off from the lot and speeding back to the island.





Chapter Five


Stolen Solitude


After guiding me back into a now empty family room, the giant male guard with a set of coal black eyes and jaundice skin named 'Bolston' snapped his crooked middle finger and thumb along the right side of my face, and pointed toward the window with his knuckle as soon as we moved inside.

I took a seat at the table without hesitation and rested my hands on top while crossing my legs beneath and staring up into his now reddening face.

He glowered. "What the fuck is it?"

"Excuse me?" Asshole. "Where's Rox?"

"You mean that old man you were with before heading outta here the first time?" He lowered his eyes and clucked his thick, heavy tongue across the roof of his mouth. "He's, uh... sort of occupied now with some other shit. Sorry about that." His thick black brows arched high up on his forehead as a sharp grin thinned out his highly chapped lips. "Maybe you could see him later."

I glanced out the corner of my eye and soured. "If he's not available to see me now, why the hell was I brought back in here?"

He fixed the belt around his especially large belly and shrugged. "You'll be seeing the shit soon enough."

"And that means what?"

"You'll see." He saluted me like a modern day soldier before ducking out of the room and quickly closing the door.

"Dammit." I stood up from the bench with a pair of shaking hands and feet that felt like lead, then sucked back a heap load of air and shuffled across the room. "Dammit!"

As soon as I reached the door, it reopened with a tall, gangly man dressed in what looked to be an all white Armani suit making his way inside.

"I -- Who the hell are you?"

"Cheyenne, I assume?" He pulled his lips back over his teeth to smile, and pointed. "The importance of that will come soon enough. Why don't you retake a seat for me in the meantime--"

"No."

"I think you should. Please." His gruff, nonchalant tone and light Italian accent filled the room like a giant puff of smoke as he kicked the door shut with the base of his white suede shoe. I returned to the table and wrapped my hands around the head of a chair. "Please," he said again, lifting his hand palm side up. "Take the goddamn seat."

"Who the hell are you?" His eyes bore into mine as he flashed another quick but anxious smile without response, allowing me a better glimpse of his snow white teeth before pressing his lips back together and tilting his head forward. My eyes shifted from left to right as I attempted to remain steady. "Where the hell is Rox--?"

"Safe for the time being, which is as much as you need to know about him for now."

"What the hell does that even mean--?"

"That he's safe, just as I said." He dropped his hands inside the pockets of his pants and continued forward. "The Renegades don't want me touching him for the lack of looking after my son, so you both got lucky on that end."

"Wha...?" My hands loosened as I lifted one from around the chair and outstretched my index finger to point. "You're Chino?"

"In the flesh," he replied. He tilted his head back and winked. "Now, please."

Before his eyes shifted again, I took in just how much the hazel color of his irises had now reminded me of Nikko's, along with the thickness of his brows and blackness of his hair despite the lines of grey attempting to shove between each dark strand, then reclaimed my place behind the table.

"You called Rattlesnake pretending to be my father?"

"Not at all," he replied through a heavy chuckle while shaking his head. "I don't need to pretend to be somebody that I'm not."

"Then, how?"

"The motherfucker who called out there was in fact your old man." He brought his hand to his chest and grinned again. "It was the least he could offer up after the mess he's helped to create. Because I didn't want Snake knowing about my need to see you back out here in case he had yet to talk to you about the situation with Nikko."

"He talked to me about him," I said, "told me that your son needs a wife because of money and what you've done over the years with your businesses. I can relate to as much given the reasons I've been dragged in here twice today already."

"Your old man has been a goddamn pill for as long as I've known him, but the latest tops his previous shit."

"You don't seem to be much better than him--"

"Neither do you," he interjected with a devilish smirk. "Seems there's a chance it might present somewhat of a challenge for my boy once he's out."

"Your 'boy'? is one I'll never have a damn thing to do with."

"So you say now."

"So I'll keep saying until I no longer have to."

He glared. "Why is that?"

"Because I didn't agree to any of this with either one of you," I snapped. "Snake asked, and that's where it ended. I'm not even sure why you would want me to be part of this to begin with given Rox's indirect involvement with helping that Lena woman to bolt."

"You weren't at the top of my list, much like your old man wasn't in looking out for my son while he was in here. But there's nobody else who needs the money as much as my son needs his freedom from all this shit."

"The same 'shit' you got him mixed up in to begin with?"

He peered. "You should really watch yourself with me."

"As should you with me."

"That shit's been made clear--"

"Wonderful." I shook my head and dragged my eyes across the room; he gnashed his teeth together and snickered. "Who the hell came up with the brilliant idea of suggesting me as a potential wife to your son in the first place?"

"Nikko asked for you himself."

I returned my eyes to his and fell back from the table in shock, allowing my hands to slide from the edge and into my lap. "Why?"

"Why, what?"

"Why would he do something like that when he doesn't even know me?"

"He doesn't have to, which might be for the better."

"In what way?"

"Distance."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"My son claims he saw you in here today before all the shit that went down with the guards out there; mentioned that you saw him too."

"I did, but--"

"He thinks you'd be a good match for him, physically speaking."

My brows crinkled and I huffed. "In what way?"

"You have the kind of... look he seems to go for in a woman which would mean less questions being asked once you two got together and made things official."

"And what kind of 'look' would that be?" I questioned. He remained quiet. "Was your son aware before the bloodbath that he needed to be married in order to secure whatever is left of your money?"

"He learned when it was needed."

"Is this why you contacted Rattlesnake? Hoping that he could convince me into agreeing with it?"

"There was no way in hell your old man could get the job done given the time it took you to finally make it back down here for his own shit against the club. And Rattlesnake laid it out as if you had no other options. From the looks of what I've seen, he was right as shit."

I grumbled while pushing myself up from the table, then stepped to the window and leaned against the edge, staring out into the yard and taking note that though the blood from earlier had been washed from the concrete, the stains from slaughter remained in plain sight.

"I don't have any other options," I said, dragging my fingers along the edge of my bottom lip, hoping like hell that a single touch would stop the trembling. "But marrying your son shouldn't be the only one I'm left with."

"What he did was in defense of himself."

"I believe that, at least from what I was told." I spun back around to him while lowering my hand. "And I never mentioned otherwise. Because the sins of the father constantly being thrown at the head of a child he's meant to protect is something I know far too damn well."

"Then you should understand why he was forced into finally burying this shit."

"Your shit, sure. But it doesn't take away from the callousness of how the actions took place."

He tossed a hand toward the ceiling as his face colored. "What does that shit matter, Cheyenne?! All of what you're saying here?"

"It matters a lot considering your son and that other one made Helter Skelter look like a children's bedtime story with what they did out there."

"Nobody is saying that shit's okay--"

"I'm sure you would've been fine with it otherwise, so let's not kid ourselves. But the 'being okay' isn't my problem; I told you it's the actions that took place and what I can't get past in seeing."

"Had you not seen the shit, you'd be fine with it?"

"No..." I jerked my head back while attempting to process his words to me. "I didn't say that at all--"

"Had the shit not happened at all, you'd be open to this?"

"I didn't say that either."

A wave of silence hit us dead center like the weight of a two-ton brick before he spoke again.

"You realize you're saying a fuck of a lot more than you think you are?"

"No."

He chortled while wiping a hand across his mouth to hide his growing ire, then quickly dropped it to his chest and sighed. "Maybe you need to talk to Nikko for yourself? One on one. See just how shit is with him on a personal level outside of what you saw."

"No--"

"You should." He bent forward while taking in a breath and rested his hands along the edge of the table. "I need you to realize that I've got no more time to waste when it comes to where the money I've still managed to hang onto is gonna be placed out here. Can you feel me on this shit?"

"I can, and without wanting to make it my problem on top of the ones I've already got coming out of my ears thanks to my own father. Besides, Rattlesnake said that--"

"I don't give a fuck about that son of a bitch right now either, Cheyenne; he's not in this beyond..." He stopped. "Listen, you need that 300k upfront to pay him back, you can get that shit as soon as the ink is dry on the license and all papers pertaining are signed over. You want away from my son right after, you take the rest of what'll be given and sign it to a dummy that gives a Girabaldi full access to put it elsewhere once you're out."

"I thought the point was that he couldn't touch it?"

"He can't. The bottom line to all of this shit is that you need us just as much as we need you right goddamn now in order to make it happen in the only fair and legal way that's possible."

I scoffed. "Fair and legal is a pretty amazing thing for you to say given the circumstances. But what about your son and his being in here?"

"What about it?"

"If I were to actually agree to this farce, the likelihood of our wedding taking place inside that chapel down the hall with bars and spokes all over the windows is--"

"Not fuckin' likely," he told me. "You can trust that shit."

"How?"

"Just do,