I don’t know what I’m doing here.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I guess I do know what I’m doing here.
I just don’t know how I’m going to get through it.
I’m so out of my element, out of my comfort zone, yet that determined, stubborn part of me will not give up until I finish what I came here to do. He might not want me, or want anything to do with me, but at least I will know. At least I can say I tried. And if I know, I can close the chapter on this part of my life. I can stop wondering and wishing, and playing out the what-ifs in my mind.
It’s a Saturday night, and I just got out of the taxi that drove me straight here from the bus station. When I walk toward the building, I know I’ve made a huge mistake in choosing today to come, but it’s too late to go back now. It’s not what I thought it would look like. I was picturing some kind of warehouse, not a large two-story home set on a couple acres of land. Just passing by, you would think a regular family lived here. Not a bunch of bikers. But as you get closer, you start to hear the loud music blasting and see people everywhere. I wring my hands together, giving myself a little pep talk before I enter.
I can do this.
No one pays attention to me as I approach the door, which is probably a good thing, yet it has me questioning myself even more. I look down at my worn, ripped blue jeans and black ankle boots. Should I have tried to look nicer? First impressions matter, as my mother always told me. Though I might not get the best one of him right now, during what seems to be a wild party, I still want him to think the world of me, not that I’d ever admit that out loud. I glance at the people congregating around their motorcycles. Men dressed in black from head to toe, wearing leather vests, all quite intimidating in their stature and demeanor—tall, broad, and mostly tattooed—and women showing off a lot of skin. I look away quickly, not wanting to make eye contact with any of them. These people look like they could eat me alive. Like the large man with the beard, or the woman standing next to him, dressed in tight leather, a collar around her neck, staring intently at me. And yet something inside me won’t let me walk away.
I’m so close now.
I have to do this.
As I lift my hand to push open the door, my black crop top rides up, and I feel cool air hit my stomach. I pull my top down as I step in, my eyes taking in everything around me.
It’s like a whole other world inside.
All the research I did before coming here didn’t prepare me for what I see.
There are men filling the dimly lit room, some sitting and some standing, a cloud of smoke surrounding them. Most are in the same leather vests as I saw outside, and I stare at the words written on the back of one. CURSED RAVENS MC. A motorcycle club. I’m definitely in the right place.
There are women laughing and dancing, not like one would in a club, unless it was a strip club. I see two of them dancing on each other, and for a moment I watch, both shocked and mesmerized. I notice a few of the men watching them, which is clearly their goal. I don’t know what to think.
I feel frozen in place, not sure how I’m meant to find him in this crowd. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I shake my head and drag my eyes away from the show in front of me, scanning the hordes of people. As my eyes pass a man sitting directly across from me, I do a double take.
Maybe because he’s looking right back at me.
Or maybe it’s because he’s the sexiest man I’ve ever seen in real life.
Sitting in the middle of a black leather couch, with a woman on either side of him, he’s dressed in all black, a contrast to his light hair. I can’t see his eye color from here, but I know that they too are light. Everything else about him, however, is dark. He doesn’t smile as he takes me in from head to toe and back again, and I have to wonder what he sees. One of the women whispers something in his ear, but he doesn’t pay her any attention; he doesn’t even turn his head. No, he’s still watching me, like a wolf would his prey. And I cannot look away, caught in his gaze. I should, but for some reason, I don’t want to.
“And what do we have here?” he rumbles, glancing behind me, checking out my ass. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”
Is he seriously trying to recognize me by my ass?
A sliver of unease hits me. Just how far out of my element am I? What if it’s unsafe for me to be here? I didn’t even consider that this could be risky. I was so focused on finding my way here that I didn’t think of the dangers.
I’m not sure how this is going to play out, and I don’t like the way this man is looking at me like I’m a piece of meat. Like he could have me if he wanted to; like I am a sure thing. A man who is used to getting what he wants. I’ve never met any bikers before, and I don’t know what to think right now. I’m here for one reason only, and it’s not to chat with any of these random men.
I turn to face him. “I haven’t been here before,” I admit, shifting on my feet. “And I’m also totally out of your league. I’m actually looking for—”
“I know just what you’re looking for,” he says, grinning. He’d be good-looking if he wasn’t such a creep. My sister, Eden, and I do this little motion when a guy seems too . . . pervy. It’s a sprinkle action with our fingers, one that represents someone spiking a drink. If she were here, we’d both be doing it right now. This guy is way too sleazy for his own good. Does this actually work on some women?
“Why don’t you come back to my room so I can give it to you?” He gently grabs my upper arm, but I pull away before he can lead me anywhere.
He arches a brow. “Sassy, aren’t you? Have a certain member in mind then? Trust me, whoever it is they won’t give a fuck if you give me a little taste first. I like the whole . . . innocent vibe you have going on. I’m Shack, by the way. Remember it, because you might be screaming it later.”
That innocent shit isn’t a vibe, and I need to get out of this situation right now before he figures that out and probably kicks my ass out of here before I can find Gage.
I look back to the man sitting on the couch, and Shack catches it and barks out a laugh. “Yeah, of course it’s Ace you’re after.”
The name suits him. I wish it were him over here talking to me instead of this creeper. “Who’s this, Shack?” a man with blond dreads asks, studying me, but not in a sleazy way. More curious. He has beautiful amber eyes and an easygoing, calm vibe that I can’t help but want to soak up. The golden stubble on his cheeks adds to his appeal.
“I call dibs,” Shack replies, flashing his teeth. “As soon as I can get her to give up on fucking Ace tonight.”
I’ve officially had enough.
I’m normally a very calm, sweet woman, but the minute I’m pushed too far I tend to have a bit of a temper. Things obviously run a little differently around here, something I wasn’t necessarily prepared for, but I don’t care who these men are, they can’t talk about me like I’m not right here. Like I’m less than them just because I’m a woman and not part of their world.
Throwing my hands up in the air, I yell, “I’m not here to fuck anyone! And stop talking about me like I’m not standing here; it’s fucking rude. I’m here to see Gage Liam Parker. So if one of you would kindly direct me his way, that would be greatly appreciated.”
As soon as the words leave my mouth I can feel the shift in the room, the sudden change in the atmosphere. It’s almost as if all the air gets sucked out, leaving me struggling to breathe, as the men look at me in a completely different way, their joking demeanor gone.
“How do you know the name of our president?” Shack asks me, eyes narrowed and jaw tight.
I didn’t know Gage was their president, right up until this moment.
Now it’s as if he’s assessing a threat. It’s better than seeing the lust that was in his eyes, but only barely. I’d laugh at the thought of me being a danger to anyone, but I don’t want to push them any further than I already have.
This time when Shack’s hand clasps around my upper arm, it is not gentle, nor is it playful. His whole demeanor has changed—no longer sleazy, a dangerous edge about him.
“Who are you?” he demands, tightening his hold.
“Let her go,” a deep, hypnotic voice says. I turn my head to see Ace’s handsome face up close. It’s even more perfect than I thought it would be. His light gray eyes give nothing away; they are lifeless, but also so beautiful that it almost hurts to look directly into them. The hair on my skin stands on end, a shiver taking over my body. I’ve never reacted like this to anyone before, and I don’t know why it’s happening right now. I feel like simultaneously running to him and away from him. Or maybe I need to do one or the other.
Shack lets me go but moves his body closer to mine, as if I might try to run away. Fear fills me. Damn. I should’ve thought this out better. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to be standing here, but being surrounded by these three imposing men, I don’t know what to think or do. I can hear Eden’s voice in my head, telling me that I shouldn’t have come here. That it’s not a good idea. That something could happen to me, but I didn’t listen. Eden and I are so very different, and although she will always love and support me, that doesn’t mean she will ever understand me. I’ve always been the black sheep of the family, and a little reckless, and now I know why.
“I’ll get the prez,” Dreads says, leaving me sandwiched between Ace and Shack.
“What’s the problem?” Ace asks his friend, a muscle ticking in his cheek. “Is she too much for you to handle?”
Shack says something to him quietly that I can’t hear, but I can guess what he’s telling him.
Ace brings his eyes back to me, once again giving nothing away. If it’s possible, they’re even more guarded than before. What did I do now?
“Who are you? Another woman wanting to fuck her way up to the top?” Ace asks me, before he shares a look with Shack. “They’re starting young these days, aren’t they, brother?”
“Young and delicious,” Shack replies, staring at my chest.
I give them both the finger. They’re assholes. Why do they have to make assumptions? These men clearly have major trust issues. What do they think I’m going to do? I’m half their size, in height and width, and they could easily restrain me if they wanted to. They think I’m here because I want to fuck my way to the top of the club? They have no fucking idea. If only they knew.
“I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last man alive,” I mutter under my breath, as I cross my arms over my chest and narrow my eyes at Shack. I ignore Ace, pretending he doesn’t exist. It’s just easier that way. I don’t like how he spoke to me, and even though we don’t know each other, it annoys me that he’d think that of me. He didn’t have to be so rude.
“What the fuck did you say?” Shack asks me, but I decide to ignore him too. My temper is spiked, so much so that all my common sense seems to have left me. All I can feel is tension. Tension between me and Shack—anger mainly—and an entirely different kind of tension with Ace.
Dreads reappears and nods his head toward the hallway. Shack grabs my arm again and pulls me with him, Ace at my back, until we come to a room. I can feel his body behind me even though we aren’t even touching. He’s powerful, and not just physically. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s like he’s a giant magnet, pulling people toward him. I’m tempted to lean back and press myself against his chest, just to absorb a little bit of whatever he’s throwing off.
Shack knocks, and a man calls out, “Come in.”
The door opens, and I’m ushered inside a spacious white-walled room. Gage sits on a large brown leather chair in the corner of the room, shirtless, his jeans on but not done up, his expression annoyed. I’ve seen him before, only in a photo, when he was much younger, but I have no doubt that it’s him. To his left, there’s a woman asleep on his bed on her stomach, naked. I keep my eyes on him, suddenly feeling very nervous and awkward. I’ve been dragged in here like a common criminal, even though I haven’t done anything wrong. This is not what I’d planned on when I’d decided to come here tonight. I couldn’t have prepared myself for this. I don’t know why, but the scene before me makes me angry. My hands clench to fists. This is not how things were meant to go. I’ve imagined this scene so many times, but it wasn’t meant to be like this.
“What the fuck is so important right now that couldn’t wait until tomorrow morning?” he asks in a calm, husky tone. His blue eyes narrow ever so slightly, and even I can tell just how unimpressed he is about the whole situation.
Well, he can join the club.
Shack steps aside to reveal me.
Gage crosses his arms over his chest. “Two of you are here to bring me a fucking girl? I thought there was something wrong.” He eyes me, not looking very impressed. “Why is she here? A bit young for my tastes. Why don’t one of you have her? Better yet, why don’t you all get the fuck out of my room so I can get some sleep?”
A bit . . . young?
Why don’t one of them have me?
Does he think?
You have got to be kidding me right now. This just went from bad to worse. Who talks about women this way? And for him to think that I want to have sex with him? I don’t think I’ve ever been so disgusted in my life.
My nails dig into my palms. “No one is going to fucking have me!”
I can’t help it, I lose it. I’m a mix of emotions right now, and none of them are good. I wonder if he can hear the contempt in my voice. He is nothing like what I expected. I was naïve to think he’d be some big hero who would be so happy to find out about me, and who would welcome me with open arms. I pictured him as a good man, a strong one. Someone I’d be proud to call my father. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but it wasn’t this. My stupid expectations should have been lowered. Realistic. He is just a man, after all, and a biker at that, and I was a fool to think otherwise. Gage looks younger than the midforties I know he is, and he’s still as fit as the other men in here. He’s dark, brooding, and his silent anger is directed at me. He says nothing at my outburst, but I can almost feel the disapproval wafting from him.
I’m nothing but an inconvenience.
Numbness starts to fill my veins. That moment when you realize just how badly you’ve fucked up and you know you’ve made a bad decision, hits me. That moment of pure regret. I never should have come here.
“She asked for you by name,” Ace says, and I don’t know why but his heat at my back is suddenly oddly reassuring. Maybe because he told Shack to let me go when he was squeezing the life out of my arm. Or maybe he’s just the lesser of the evil that’s in this room right now. Either way, I’m glad that he’s here, even though I have no reason to be. I feel safer.
Gage’s eyes turn from impassive to both curious and menacing. “Only my men know my real name,” he murmurs, running a large finger down the dark stubble on his cheek. His voice is deceptively calm. “How do you?”
I try to reach into my jean pocket, but both my arms are grabbed by Shack and put behind my back before I even know what’s happening.
“Who are you, the police?” I snap, breathless. “I’m just going to take a piece of paper out of my pocket, you psychotic asshole.”
Ace quickly pats down my pockets and then nods to Shack, who instantly lets me go. I give them all the dirtiest look I can muster, then slowly reach into my pocket, fingers trembling, and pull out the folded document.
Looking him right in the eye, I hesitate as I unfold it and hand it to him. When I say the next line, my words come out angry.
“Because I’m your daughter.”