Authors: Daphne Loveling
A STONE KINGS MC ROMANCE
By Daphne Loveling
2016 Daphne Loveling
All rights reserved.
is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
note from DAPHNE LOVELING
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It all happened so fast, no one had time to react.
It was hotter than average that day, even for July, the thermometer topping out at ninety-four degrees by mid-afternoon. The townspeople had been going about their business, cars driving slowly down the main street of Lupine, Colorado, as if they, too, were turned sluggish by the heat.
There were muffled shouts coming out of the Blue Angus Bar, its door open to the heat of the day. Through the darkened threshold, Clayton Greenlee staggered into the blistering sun, already drunk despite the early hour. What came out of his mouth was mostly unintelligible, but the folks of Lupine were mostly used to that from Clayton, especially when it was clear he’d been on a bender.
But when Lester Lawson, a.k.a. Lawless, followed him out of the Blue Angus into the sunlight, the atmosphere soon began to change. A slight crackle seemed to give the air a sudden charge as Clayton’s and Lawless’s voices grew louder. A few people turned to glance at the men as they walked by, but most averted their eyes and walked just a little more quickly. As the men argued, Clayton’s ramblings became more strident, and a word here and there began to emerge: “…whore…good for nothing….kill…” Most folks were still trying to pay no attention, but a few slowed down now, and turned their heads toward the men.
Suddenly, a sharp cry came from Clayton. He staggered forward and lunged without warning at Lucky. The wild swing of the drunken man’s fist miraculously connected with Lawless’s right temple, though not hard enough to take the large man down.
Those who had slowed to take a look now stopped: Lawless was not a man to be screwed with. He was the sergeant-at-arms of the Stone Kings, MC, the one-percenter motorcycle club based out of Lupine, and as such he was held in fear by all, and grudging respect by most. But Clayton was too either too drunk or too out of his mind to care.
Lawless’s hand raised to Clayton’s chest, and he pushed the other man backwards with a low growl. He muttered a few low, angry words to the drunkard, which only served to enrage Clayton further. “I’ll fuckin’ kill you!” he shouted, and reached into the back waistband of his dirty jeans. But before anyone realized what had happened, Lawless had drawn his own piece and fired.
Clayton’s thin frame blew backwards like the wind had caught him. His heel caught against the curb and he fell into the street, his head making a sickening thud and crack against the pavement. A dozen or so shocked townspeople halted in their steps, then slowly wandered toward his prone form like zombies. No one was even talking or shouting, it had happened so quickly. As they people drew near to stare down at the wounded man, Lawless simply turned, calmly tucked his gun into his waistband, and walked away.
Slowly, slowly, the crowd began to grow. An ambulance was called, then the police. No one remembered calling his family, but about ten minutes after Clayton fell, a young girl broke through the gathering crowd — a girl of nine, maybe ten years old. Slight of build, wild brown hair streaming behind her, she ran wordlessly toward the figure lying in the dirt. As she skidded to a stop, she flung herself to her knees beside him. Throwing her arms around his heaving chest, a high pitched sob tore from her lips: “Daddy!”
The man lifted one feeble arm to touch the sobbing girl’s head. Weakly, he began to cough, and in a wheezing whisper said something to the girl that no one else could hear.
Some of the men and women turned their heads away, then, at the shame of such a young thing having to see her father like that. Mothers covered their children’s eyes. Fathers resolved to go home and hug their wives. But one child stood unnoticed in the crowd, unaccompanied. A boy, tanned and blond, about fifteen years old, stood and stared at the scene in front of him. He had been there all along, had seen it all transpire: the crazy drunken man who had threatened his uncle; his uncle, who had shot the crazy drunken man. And now the girl, sobbing over the prone, bloody figure. As the girl looked wildly around her, her arms still flung around her father, her tear-filled eyes met those of the boy. Their gazes locked, held a moment, until she squeezed her eyes shut in agony, her body wracked by her weeping.
The ambulance arrived. The crowd stepped back. Clayton Greenlee was pronounced dead at the scene as his daughter, still sobbing and screaming, was led away. The boy watched her go, and felt the rush of guilt and shame of one who realizes that his kin has been the source of someone else’s sorrow.
In the coming days, the story would emerge of what had happened. Maggie Greenlee had been cheating on her no-good husband with Lawless Lawson. Clayton had somehow found out, and gone after his wife’s lover, the drink making him foolish and careless. As the days turned into weeks, the town thought less and less of the young girl who had watched her father die, and of her two brothers who were also now down to one parent. The scandal became the stuff of gossip on front porches after dinner, the characters reduced to curiosities. For wasn’t Clayton just a pathetic drunk anyway? And wasn’t Maggie, after all, just a cheating wife — and not a very friendly one, at that? She had never really made an effort to get to know her neighbors when the Greenlees moved to Lupine, after all. And what did she expect, getting involved with a Stone Kings member like that? No, it was sad all right, but somehow — and people never went far enough to actually say it out loud — hadn’t they kind of had it coming?
Fifteen years later.
Some days it felt like everything was conspiring against me.
I had just finished up my shift at the Cactus, a local bar near the college in our town, and I was looking forward to getting out of my work clothes and relaxing at home for the rest of the evening. Stretching my aching arms over my head, I turned down the hallway to the back office to collect my purse. Just as I opened the desk drawer where I had stuffed it, my phone buzzed in my back pocket. I took it out and read:
Sorry see cant pick u up 2nite after work
I stared in disbelief at my phone screen, then sighed in frustration. It figured. I didn’t even know why I was surprised anymore when Cal left me in the lurch. It happened more often than not. I swore softly under my breath.
I waited a few seconds, not even sure if he would bother replying. Then the phone buzzed in my hand again and I read:
Club business. cant get away
Shoving my phone back into my pocket, I stifled a groan of irritation. Unbelievable. Not only was my brother not going to be picking me up like he promised he would, but he had my car to boot. And even worse than that, he was using it for just about the last thing I would have let him borrow it for if I’d known what he needed it for.
But then of course, I hadn’t known. Because he hadn’t bothered to tell me. Typical.
I walked out of the back office muttering to myself, and closed the door behind me. Closing my eyes in frustration, I leaned back against the dark wood paneling in the back hall. I considered my options. It wasn’t worth chewing Cal out via text over what a shit for brains he was being. I knew if I called him, he’d just let it go to voice mail. Frankly, there was really nothing I could do at the moment.
“This is the
time I let him borrow my car,” I seethed to myself. Grumbling, I reached for my pocket and pulled out my phone again. I typed in the security code and texted him back:
Forget it. I’ll get a ride home.
A couple of minutes later, I got this response:
My eyes rolled so far back into my head I thought they might stick that way. Seriously, I wasn’t sure why I was even surprised at any of this. I could feel my blood pressure rising the more I thought about what to say in response. I knew he would barely read anything I had to say anyway. I decided to just forget about responding and try to concentrate on what to do next.
A wealth of less than charitable thoughts were swimming around in my head as I stomped my way back down the hall toward the bar area. My friend and fellow bartender Andi was just wiping down the counter. She looked up as she saw me plop down on a stool toward the far end of the bar.
“You okay, See?” Andi asked, one perfectly penciled brow raised as she looked at me speculatively. A perceptive girl, my bestie Andi is.
“Don’t want to talk about it,” I grumbled.
“Asshat stand you up again?” She cocked her head, her shock of short platinum blond hair falling forward over one eye.
I had to laugh at the irony that I had so many unreliable men in my life that Andi had to choose from a list. “No,” I said. “My brother. And what’s more, he has my car.”
Andi blew her bangs back with an exasperated breath and chuckled. “That Cal. He’s really something.” Andi had the dubious fortune of having to listen to any number of my rants about my brother.
“That is quite the understatement, An,” I smiled wryly. “Maybe I should start numbering the asshats in my life. Cal is Asshat Number One right now.”
“You gonna call Asshat Number Two and see if you can get a ride out of him?” she smirked, tilting her head to one side.
Asshat Number Two was my boyfriend, unfortunately. Well, Nate was more or less my boyfriend. At least, I’d been sleeping with him on and off for about six months. He was good looking in a kind of “hot douchebag” way: thick, wavy blond hair that any girl would have killed for. Pretty blue eyes with long lashes, a perfectly sculpted gym rat body. He was firmly convinced he was God’s gift to women, and probably half of the college girls in our town would have agreed with him. Lord knows why I had put up with him as long as I had. The sex had been pretty good, though somewhat lacking in variety, and he had caught me during a long dry spell, which probably explained why I had bothered to give him the time of day in the first place. But beyond that, he was pretty much worthless, rivaling Cal for unreliability.
Maybe I should start giving out douchebag trophies
, I snarked to myself.
Honestly, I should have kicked Nate to the curb a long time ago. As with many good looking men who know it (or at least so I’ve heard), Nate tended to be selfish in bed. It was probably sheer luck and horniness that I managed to get off with him most of the time. After he finished, he would look at me vaguely, say, “Good for you, babe?” and then slide out of bed to play Warcraft or something. On top of that, he was kind of a mooch. We had met at the bar one night while I was working, and he had started flirting with me shamelessly almost from the get-go. Only later did it occur to me that he might have been hitting me in the hopes of free drinks.
One of the things that sucked about Nate was that he was just so damn… affable. He seemed genuinely clueless about what a douche canoe he could be. It was like he just assumed the world would be charmed by him, and that assumption led him to believe he owed nobody anything. But he also had no temper that I could see, so I couldn’t even get the satisfaction of a good fight when he let me down. He would never argue with me, no matter what went down between us. And even when he had done something so spectacularly shitty and irresponsible that I would explode at him in frustration, he would just grin at me and say, “Sorry, babe, I didn’t know you’d be mad!”
So far, I hadn’t managed to break up with him because he seemed to sense when he was on serious thin ice. On those rare occasions where he had a moment’s worth of self-awareness, he would suddenly decide to do something sweet like pack us a picnic lunch somewhere. Never mind that that picnic lunch would likely consist of sandwiches from a convenience store and box cookies plus a couple of warm sodas. After all, it was the thought that counted, right?
Ugh. I honestly didn’t know why I bothered with him.
Well, you do know,
my inner Jiminy Cricket reminded me.
, I argued back silently.
You don’t need to be such a know-it-all
It’s not hard to see you need to break up with him
, Jiminy snarked back.
It’s true. I thought glumly. I do. This was just too pathetic.
As if reading my mind, Andi put her hands on her hips, “I suppose you could call your dumbshit boyfriend to help you out, but I’m guessing he’s not available either?”
I sighed. I didn’t want to get into any of this right now. Andi had never liked Nate, and though she wasn’t an “I told you so” type, she definitely had the right to be one. She had predicted that Nate would be bad news from the moment she saw him. Alone among all of my friends (not that I had that many) she didn’t seem to be at all affected by his good looks or his boyish grin. She seemed to regard him as she would an undisciplined puppy who chewed the furniture and soiled all the rugs. His charm offensives had no effect on her whatsoever.
“Yeah,” I said wearily. I took out my phone and looked at Andi with resignation. “Since I’m not going anywhere just yet, I might as well have a drink. Can you pour me a vodka and soda?”
“Lame-ass skinny-girl drink,” Andi snarked. “If you’re gonna drink, drink something that at least tastes like something.”
“Just gimme my drink,” I laughed as she turned and headed over to the rails to mix me what I’d asked for. I turned and spent a minute watching the crowd, a Thursday-night mixture of college students and townies. Funny how when I was working, I really never stopped to look at the customers who weren’t sitting at the bar. People looked like they were having a good time. Men and women flirted; couples cooed and smooched. Parties of girls and guys laughed and jostled each other. It looked fun.
I texted Nate:
I’m stranded - can you come pick me up from work?
I waited a couple of minutes. Andi came back with my vodka and soda. Finally, my phone lit up with Nate’s answer:
Sorry no can do. In the middle of a game
Of course. Some stupid third-person shooter game or something. Nate and his friends were obsessed with them. Apparently, “stranded” didn’t mean much when his virtual buddies needed him.
Andi said as she watched me read my text. “I’m off in an hour. You want to come back to my place and hang out for a while?” she offered.
I looked at her affectionately. Andi was great about stuff like this. She would go to the ends of the earth for a friend in need. “Nah, it’s okay,” I said. “Maybe my roommate can come get me.”
Andi shrugged. “No problem.” Probably sensing that I didn’t want to talk about my Nate problems at the moment, she nodded and headed down to the other end of the bar to help a customer.
As I watched her walk away, I remembered belatedly that my roommate Carly wasn’t home tonight. Carly was a hair and makeup artist, and she had some gig going on in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe. She had done the makeup for one of the artists whose gallery showing was opening tonight, and the artist had invited her to the show to thank her. Since her family lived just outside of Denver, she had elected to go there after the opening. So, assuming I ever got home tonight, I would have the place to myself. It figured that for once I had some privacy, and wouldn’t have anyone to take advantage of it with. Shit.
Well, I supposed I could wait until Andi got off work, after all. I knew she would drive me back to my place. I’d just have to hear a lecture about Nate as the price I’d pay for the ride, because I knew she wouldn’t be able to avoid saying something. “I told you so” person or not, I knew that Andi was worried about me. I supposed I should be grateful someone was.
Were all men this unreliable and ridiculous? I wondered as I sat there sipping my drink. I hadn’t had all that much experience — my entire sexual history tallied up to the astounding number of three whole men. But every one of them had been kind of… not
… in some way. One was my high school boyfriend, who blushed furiously when he asked me out for the first time, and with whom I lost my virginity silently in his parents’ basement one afternoon. The second was my boyfriend during my sophomore year of college. We hooked up midway through spring term, and seemed to only see each other when he came to my dorm room for Saturday night booty calls. We broke up at the end of the school year, and since I had had to drop out of school for lack of tuition money, I hadn’t seen him again. And now, Nate. Honestly, the worst part was, Nate was kind of the best of the bunch.
Is this what I have to look forward to?
I wondered. Just a long string of unfulfilling, boring half-relationships? Maybe I just needed to get myself a bunch of cats and call it a day.
Maybe there was just something about me that just attracted irresponsible men. Certainly, my own family life was no model of happy relationships. My older brother Reed… well, who knew where Reed was. He had been my idol when I was growing up, but now… He had left home at sixteen and had made himself scarce ever since. He would be twenty-eight now, and I hadn’t seen him in at least five years. Rumor had it that he was living somewhere north of Denver, and even that he had done time on some sort of assault charge, but I had no address or phone number for him.
And now my younger brother, Cal, was looking like he wouldn’t turn out much better.
I had never seen Cal care about anything, frankly. He had always been irresponsible, and had a streak of resistance to authority that ran deep as a river through him. He had spent almost more time in juvie than out of it as a teenager. He had graduated high school last year — just barely — in Scottsdale, where my mom lived now. After he graduated, he came back here to Lupine for some reason, and had seemed content to just party and work menial jobs. I hardly ever saw him except when he needed a favor. Cal couldn’t be relied on for anything. He took nothing seriously, and ducked responsibility like it was a disease.
Until now, ironically. Until the Stone Kings Motorcycle Club.
Ever since he had gotten the leather vest with the patches that said “prospect” on the back (“It’s called a cut, not a vest. And they’re called
,” I could hear Cal correcting me in my head), he had gone from being a wild, reckless kid with a defiant streak to a cocky, self-important ass. Nothing else seemed to matter to him but the Stone Kings MC. Every time I had talked to him in the last few months — not that that was very often — he would respond only evasively to any questions I asked him. His only focus was getting into the MC as a fully patched member, and he couldn’t be bothered to give a damn about anything else. Certainly not anything as mundane as coming through for his only sister, the only family member who currently seemed to care about him or his whereabouts.
He was clearly on some sort of mission tonight for the motorcycle club he was trying to join. I couldn’t see that going anywhere good. We hadn’t had an actual conversation about what the hell kind of business he was doing for the Stone Kings. Every time I had tried to bring it up, he waved me off, saying the club was a brotherhood, and he had to prove himself so they knew they could rely on him. That the club wasn’t what I thought it was.