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Clutch (A Rock Bottom Novel) by Gabriel Love (1)


Chapter One



“I’m ready. It’s time to go,” I say. My heart is slamming in my chest as he looks up from the detailing he’s working on. The motorcycle in front of him is absolutely breathtaking. I know from previous conversations that he’s restoring it, but that’s about all I know.

“Do you still want me to go with you?” he asks.

His low, gravelly voice sends a shiver down my spine. That, coupled with a very serious, intense demeanor tells me everything I need to know about him. He’s got the voice of man who’s used to being listened to. The voice of a man who never yells, who never betrays emotion, who never says something that doesn’t need to be said.

“Yes.” There’s no question in my mind. Sure, this man is a near stranger. I know him from a handful of visits here. He sold me a motorcycle. My own bike with money I’d squirreled away for an escape route. Now it’s time to put that escape plan into motion and he’s the muscle I’d like by my side to keep me safe until I’m clear of this city.

He rises to his feet, his eyes locked on me. At his full height, he engulfs me. He’s well over six foot of pure muscle and quiet power. A hulking force that I wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of. Maybe that’s why I feel safe with him. Or maybe I’m just sure he can’t be worse than what I’m running from.

Because that’s what I’m doing. I’m running.

“Let me make a few calls,” he growls, staring down at me like he’s giving me time to change my mind.

And I hesitate, if only for a second. What am I doing? I know this only makes it worse. I tried to run before.

I nod, gripping my forearm just below the elbow with my opposite hand as I peek up into his green eyes. His olive skin and dark hair make his eyes stand out startlingly and I realize he’s handsome. Maybe I’d noticed before. Maybe it’s the adrenaline pumping through my veins that’s making me think thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking.

Like what it would feel like to let this quietly overwhelming man kiss me.

My hand flies up to touch my lips. I’d swear they’re tingling like he’s already kissed me. Or maybe it’s anticipation. Or maybe it’s poor circulation and I’m seconds from having a heart attack. I’m not sure. But it’s unsettling.

He pulls out his cell phone and moves toward his office with sure, purposeful steps. Trying not to be rude and overhear his conversation, I wander around, looking at the different bikes. I guess I could say this shop has become a haven of sorts. That’s why it’s hard to say goodbye. Why it hurts to think I’ll never see it again.

The smell of metal and rubber, oil and gasoline fills every breath and I glance over at him. He’s watching me, an intense expression on his angular face. If I saw him in a movie, I’d swear he was the villain. He’s got this dark aura about him I can’t really describe.

An almost frightening evil lurks behind those incredible eyes and the hooded lids over them give him a sensual air, but not nearly so much as those full lips do. He’s got a perpetual five o’clock shadow, but he’s been letting it grow out a little bit. I like it.

I shouldn’t like it. I shouldn’t like him. He rings every alarm bell I’ve got. But there’s something… unquantifiable… something I feel that makes me trust him. Like he’s the bad guy, sure, but I’ve got nothing to fear from him. Like I’m the maiden to tame this beast. That sounds so stupid. I sound stupid.

He hangs up and stares down at his phone in his hand for a second. Then he glances at me and closes the gap between us so quickly it’s like a snake strike. Like he can move faster than my eyes can even see. 

“Are you sure?” He growls, his eyes darting back and forth between mine.

Words catch in my throat. His hand is on my arm. He’s touching me. We agreed no touching. And yet… it doesn’t feel bad. It doesn’t hurt. His skin is warm and almost pleasant on mine despite the rough calluses on his palm. I notice his gaze tick to my cheek and I stare at the floor.

“I’m sure,” I whisper. The words feel like sandpaper in my throat but I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.

He hesitates.

I lift my eyes to meet his and say it again, with force. “I’m sure.”

He doesn’t move. His eyes are locked on my face and I see his pupils dilate a fraction of an inch.

“I’m sure,” I say, my voice nearly a yell this time. I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince him or myself. Maybe both.

He blinks. Nods. “Then let’s go,” he says. With that, he’s off, his long, swinging stride deceptively easy. But the set of his shoulders is all tension and steel. I chase him toward the rolling garage door and he uncovers his bike before tossing me the keys to mine. I catch them and my heart skips a beat. I’m really doing it.

“Thank you for holding them for me,” I say, staring at the keys in my hand. It’s real. This is really happening.

“Last chance to back out,” he says as if he’s reading my mind and knows I’m wavering.

I shake my head. “I’m sure,” I whisper, taking the helmet and putting it on my head. I’m ready. It’s time to move on.

He rolls open the garage door and the orange glow of the streetlight outside frames his body. If I saw him from the outside, I’d swear I’m seeing a monster in the flesh. But from the inside, he looks like a way out. A bridge on this daring escape route.

I walk my bike out like he’d taught me before kicking it to life. He follows suit and sits, his helmet covering his whole head. His head turns toward me and I see myself reflected in his visor. I don’t look like me. The helmet hides my large eyes, my fear, my ugly truths. I’m anonymous to all but him. And that’s exactly how I want it.

I pull out into the street with him by my side.

And I ride. I ride too fast. I ride to into the unknown. Adrenaline thumps in my blood like a powerful baseline and I grip the handlebars like it can hide the shaking of my hands. And it hides it all too well.

I’m in charge. Finally. I’m in charge. This is my life and I’m taking it back.