When I opened my eyes the morning after the engagement party for Sabian and Angela, my ceiling looked like it was alive. It spun and danced in a sickening way that forced me to close my eyes again to fight off the dizziness. Pressing my fingers to my temples, I groaned at my own self-destructive ways.
Perhaps I’d celebrated a little too hard. Perhaps I’d been pounding back the beers to forget that there was one Lost Breed member missing from around the fire.
With a disgruntled sigh, I dragged my hand over my face and my beard and forced my eyes open again. I stared stubbornly at the ceiling until it ceased swimming and then swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat up. More spinning greeted me, and I waited yet again until it was safe to march into the bathroom to shower.
The hot water and steam cleared some of the fogginess in my head. As I massaged shampoo into my scalp, my stomach grumbled. A little bit of food would cure this hangover, surely, and I suspected there was a certain someone frying up bacon in Ryder’s kitchen right about now.
Dani was a godsend for me and always had been. There was always a spot open for me at her and Ryder’s table, and this morning was feeling like it was that kind of morning. A bacon and friends kind of morning.
I toweled off, brushed my teeth, slapped on some deodorant and cologne, and headed out through the door to my garage where my bike was parked. The chrome pipes and forks winked at me when I clicked the door opener and the fluorescent light stuttered on. I tugged my helmet on over my still wet hair, stepped over the leather seat, and turned the bike on. The engine roared, and I backed her out of the garage and turned her around in the driveway.
My neighbors hated me.
I revved her until I was satisfied, closed the garage door behind me, and peeled out of the driveway and down my street like the devil himself was riding my smoke.
It was the beginning of September in New York City, which meant a few things: the best riding weather was around the corner, I’d be able to wear my leather jacket in the day again, and my beard wouldn’t be so damn uncomfortable. It also meant the women of the city would be covering up their bare legs and arms and wouldn’t be wearing dresses anymore. They’d trade them in for full-length pants and high-neck sweaters.
It was a damn shame.
Knowing the summer was coming to an end, I took a route to Ryder’s that I knew would provide me with the best view of tanned legs and low-cut dresses. I cut through a café and boutique district, and the roar of my engine drew the attention of most people wandering up and down the sidewalks—including a trio of beautiful young women sipping cold coffees at an outdoor patio table.
I parked my bike on the curb, pulled my helmet off, and raked my fingers through my hair. I knew they were watching as I swung my leg over the seat and hooked my helmet on the handlebars. I strode over to them and took in their pretty pink lips, painted toes, and summer tans. They were the perfect ménage trio, a redhead, a blonde, and a brunette. And they were all smiling coyly at me.
“Ladies,” I said with a curt nod as I stepped up onto the sidewalk in front of them.
They giggled as I’d expected them to and offered me flirty hellos in return.
I wasn’t a shy man by any standards, and I wasn’t blind to the fact that the female species found me attractive. I also wasn’t enough of a fool to think “attractive” was the right word to describe myself. I dropped into the open seat at their table and looked at each one of them in the eye. “I couldn’t just ride by such sexy ladies without stopping to … investigate.”
The redhead pursed her full lips around her straw and sucked back on it. The way her cheeks puckered in had my mind creating fantasies of her in my bed sucking my cock rather than that tiny straw. Her skin was decorated with freckles, and she had the nicest pair of tits I’d seen on a woman in a long time. Her low-cut green dress complimented her shape.
The blonde was a real treat. She was wearing a pink dress, and her hair was pushed back off her forehead by her thick-framed sunglasses. Her legs were crossed, and she was bouncing one foot, perhaps a little nervously, up and down. I caught her eyes roaming from the toe of my boot to my eyes, and she blushed.
“Like what you see, sweetheart?”
She shrugged a tanned shoulder and didn’t say anything. But her eyes did. Her eyes said a lot of things, most prominently yes.
The brunette had a bright yellow sundress on. She seemed the most reserved, and her outfit bore the least amount of skin, which promised me a simple truth that I’d learned in all my time with women—she would be the real wild one in bed.
I pulled a receipt for brake pads out of my jeans pocket and asked if any of them had a pen. The redhead pulled a bright pink one out of her bag. It had a jewel at the end, but I didn’t give a damn. I scrawled my number on the back of the receipt and slid it into the middle of the table before getting back to my feet. I handed her the pen back and winked. “If the three of you are looking for something to do tonight, it would be my pleasure to take care of you. But it’s an all or nothing kind of situation. You catch my drift?”
All three of them nodded. Wonderful.
I didn’t say anything else as I turned away from them and got back on my bike. The engine roared to life again, and I shot them a devious look before putting my helmet on and tearing away from the curb to head to Johnny Moretti’s house for bacon.
And to talk. There was a lot of shit we needed to deal with. I couldn’t let it sit like an elephant in the room any longer. Hyde was dead. The Devil’s Hand was going to be out of prison soon. And we didn’t have a course of action.
Talk now. Fuck later.
When I got off my bike in Ryder’s driveway, the smell of bacon assaulted my nose. Dani was as predictable as the rising sun with her cooking habits.
I marched up to the front door, knocked twice, and let myself in. Dani yelled hello from the kitchen and then giggled after a predominant slapping sound echoed down the hall. Ryder had no doubt gave her ass a firm slap.
He emerged in the doorway to the kitchen as I closed the front door behind me. His white button-up was open, and he wore loose, low riding jeans.
“What the hell, Ryder,” I grunted. “Cover up, will you? This is too much for my eyes on an empty stomach.”
Ryder rubbed his abs teasingly and flashed me a grin. “You like it, you big bastard.”
“Is that Derek?” Dani called from the kitchen.
“Who else has the nerve to disturb us on a Tuesday morning?” Ryder asked, still smirking as I brushed by him and went into the kitchen.
Dani was pouring pancake batter on a flat pan. She was dressed in loose sweats and a tight tank top. She’d pulled her hair up in a messy knot on top of her head and held it in place with a kerchief. She looked fine as hell—a thought I would forever keep locked in the deep recesses of my mind and never say aloud for fear of Ryder finding out.
Dani shot me a warm smile and turned her back on the pan. “I’d say I’m surprised to see you, but this has become a routine.”
I dropped lazily into one of their kitchen chairs and draped my arm over the back. “I just can’t stay away from your cooking, Dani.”
She clicked her tongue. “So long as it’s just you. I’m not keen on this becoming a thing and before I know it, I’m cooking for the lot of you. I can’t imagine how many pancakes that would be.”
“Hundreds,” Ryder said.
“At least,” I agreed.
Dani returned to her cooking, and Ryder asked if I wanted coffee. I shook my head and asked for water instead, which he placed in front of me before taking up the seat across from me. As he stretched his hands over his head and cracked his back, Dani bustled over to the table with plates of pancakes. She set them down in front of us and went back for hers. Then, she brought out the bacon on a plate, a bowl of fresh fruit, maple syrup, and butter.
“I don’t know what you ever did to deserve her, Ryder, but you hit the motherload. This looks amazing, Dani. Thank you,” I said before stuffing my face with a bite of fluffy pancake.
Dani smiled, pleased with my flattery, and cut into her own. She was a much more proper eater than me and Ryder. She cut each stacked bite into the perfect size, dragged it through her syrup, and popped it into her mouth. Then, she would take a bite of a berry and chew delicately as Ryder and I sucked everything off our plates and washed it down with coffee or water.
When I was done, I leaned back and patted my stomach. “You treat us right, Dani.”
She leaned back, too, and jokingly pushed her gut out. There wasn’t much of one, but she ran her hands over it like she was an expectant mother and flashed Ryder a bright smile. “What do you think of my food baby?”
Ryder smirked. “I can make it a real one if you like.”
Dani laughed and sucked her gut back in. “Maybe when things calm down.”
I was glad she’d made the comment. It had opened up a natural segue for me to say what I’d held my tongue about the night before for Angela and Sabian’s sake. They didn’t deserve some asshole ruining their special night with talk of murder and prison and impending doom.
Not that Dani deserved it after cooking a five-star breakfast, either.
I stroked my beard and cleared my throat. “I was actually hoping to talk to the two of you about this whole … mess.”
Dani arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”
I had Ryder’s attention too. “Spit it out, then.”
“I think now would be a very easy time to sit back and enjoy the tail end of summer. I think it would be easy to get distracted by responsibilities at the shop and enjoying mornings like this. I think—”
“Out with it,” Ryder growled.
I sighed. “I’m worried that when The Devil’s Hand gets out of prison, we’re going to be caught with our dicks in our hands again, and it will cost someone else their life.”
Dani shot a look at Ryder, who was scowling at me from across the table. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. “You think I’m just going to fuck around?”
“I don’t know. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page. That bastard almost cost us Sabian too. You and I were both there. Had I not brought Caleb with me back here, things would have gone a whole lot differently.”
Dani was nodding. “Hear him out, Johnny.”
“I hear him,” Ryder said flatly. “And I agree with you, Derek. The fact that you felt you needed to say any of this shit to me is fucking annoying. You really think I would prefer to work on my tan than figure out a way to stop this piece of shit in his tracks as soon as he’s out of the block?”
I shrugged. “No. But I had to be sure.”
Ryder was an intimidating man. More than intimidating. I’d seen him do some scary shit—helped him do some scary shit—and I was not in a hurry to plant myself in his line of fire. Ryder leaned back again and knitted his hands behind his head. “We’re going to take action, Derek. Rest assured.”
“What do you need me to do?”
Ryder smiled. “I want you to put the word out with any of your old contacts from your life before the Lost Breed. See if anyone knows anything about The Devil’s Hand. This prick is going down for what he did to Hyde. Mark my words.”
I marked them in the back of my mind like a giant fucking neon sign.
All it said was death.
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I love these books always catch from the beginning