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Beyond The Cut
Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club #2
By Sarah Castille
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Sarah Castille
All rights reserved.
Fear is the enemy. I will master my fear before it masters me.
SINNER'S TRIBE CREED
Dawn Delgado had to hand it to Kitty's Wig Emporium. They made damn good wigs. Well, except for the ill-fitting tribute to 1980s hair bands perched on her head.
She shoved yet another errant blond curl under the elastic. What the hell was going on? After twelve months of trial and error, Kitty's wigs were usually a perfect fit.
Her phone alarm went off and she yanked the wig down; it would have to do. If Shelly-Ann recognized her, she'd demand more money, but if Dawn didn't make it out the door in the next two minutes she'd miss the three thirty p.m. bell.
Tucking the last stubborn curl behind her ear, she grabbed a pair of sunglasses from the hall closet and raced out the door of her tiny rental bungalow. Spring had come early to Conundrum this year, which in Montana didn't mean soft April showers and lovely May flowers, but freezing rain, the occasional snowstorm, and gusting winds. More than enough incentive to cover the one-mile distance that much faster.
By the time she reached the throng of mums, prams, dogs, and nannies heading toward St. Francis Xavier's Elementary School, she'd given up all hope of the wig staying put. With one hand on her head, she slowed to a walk and then took up her usual position under a huge chestnut tree across the road from the school entrance. Although she was late, the girls would be later, dragging their feet down the school steps, the only unsmiling faces in a sea of cherubic grins.
They hadn't always been unhappy. One year ago, they'd had warm clothes, plenty of food, and a mother's love — things their aunt, Shelly-Ann, couldn't be bothered to give them, no matter how much blackmail money Dawn paid to spend a few extra hours with her girls every week.
Shelly-Ann's blue Volvo stopped in the school pickup zone just as Maia and Tia exited the school, dressed in identical faded pink jackets, worn jeans, and white sneakers. Matching pink headbands decorated with sparkly purple heart stickers adorned their long blond hair.
Although her seven-year-old twins always dressed the same, anyone who knew them could easily tell them apart. Maia, the older by two minutes, was always in the lead, protecting her little sister while at the same time dragging her along as she indulged her insatiable curiosity about the world. By contrast, Tia preferred to stay in the background — watching and assessing before diving in. But then Tia had a good reason for her reluctance to embrace the world: She had borne the brunt of her daddy's rage just before they left him for good. Jimmy hated his daughters, even more than he hated his wife. Dawn had celebrated the day their divorce went through, not realizing what Jimmy had planned for retribution.
The door of the Volvo swung open and Shelly-Ann barked from the front seat, her voice so loud, Dawn could hear her harsh words over the rumble of a motorcycle as the bike filtered through the SUV blockade. A kind, gentle auntie Shelly-Ann was not. But then she was from Jimmy's side of the family, and she had supported him when he took Dawn's daughters away.
The girls flinched as one, and Dawn took an involuntary step forward and away from the shelter of the tree. The wind gusted around her and with a delighted whoosh swept the wig off her head and carried it in a tumble down the street.
In that moment three things happened.
First, a biker pulled his motorcycle over to the curb and shouted her name.
She recognized the rich, deep baritone of Cade "Raider" Tyson's voice before she saw him dismount his Harley, his three-piece Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club patch clearly visible on the back of his cut — the sleeveless leather vest worn by all serious bikers. She heard that voice on street corners, in restaurants, and in bars. She heard it in her dreams and when she waited tables in Banks Bar. That voice had coaxed her deepest, darkest fantasies from her lips and made her believe, after two wild nights, maybe dreams really could come true.
Second, Cade's damn loud voice carried over the after-school chatter and the whistle of the betraying wind; it carried across the street and into the ears of two little girls who only saw their mommy once a week for three hours in the playground while Shelly-Ann had her nails done, and on the rare occasions Dawn had the cash to buy a few extra hours with her daughters.
Third, Maia and Tia spotted Dawn at the same time as Shelly-Ann, who cussed loudly three ways to the Sundays she was forced to bring the girls across the city for their access visit. With a glare for Dawn, she reached across the seat and tried to pull the girls into the car.
But although Shelly-Ann was fast, she wasn't fast enough. By the time her fingers had breached the doorway, Maia and Tia were already halfway across the busy road, their arms outstretched, their twin voices screaming, "Mommy!"
Dawn's blood chilled for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that she didn't have any extra money to give Shelly-Ann to keep her unauthorized appearance a secret from Jimmy. Also, her daughters were running through school rush-hour traffic heedless of the danger. And to make matters worse, it was Thursday. Payday for Shelly-Ann.
Usually, she would stuff the wig in her bag and meet Shelly-Ann in the parking lot behind the school to pay her for the extra visits Jimmy didn't know about — school plays and concerts, trips to the mall, and hikes in the mountains. This time, however, she didn't have any cash to spare. She'd taken a third job and dropped her college courses to pay a lawyer to help her overturn the court's decision to award custody of the girls to Jimmy — the result of a setup involving a shady private investigator, a Baggie full of crack, a corrupt judge, and a fabricated video of Dawn allegedly buying drugs — and after last month's outrageous legal bill, she had nothing left.
"Stop!" Her scream froze passersby but did nothing to deter her girls, now running hand in hand toward her and into the path of a blue pickup truck racing down the street at twice the school zone speed limit. Dawn's feet kicked into gear, but even as she threw herself forward, in her heart she knew she wouldn't make it in time.
A black blur shot in front of the truck. Cade swept her daughters into his strong arms, and out of harm's way. Moments later her outlaw biker savior deposited the girls on the sidewalk. Seemingly oblivious to their brush with death, Maia and Tia wrapped their skinny arms around her waist and squeezed her so tight she could barely breathe.
"I didn't know you had kids."
Dawn looked up at the man who had at once caused the chaos and saved the day, knowing as she did that she would fall headlong into the intoxicating sea of blue she had been trying to forget for the better part of a year.
"Give it to me, baby. I wanna hear my name on your lips when you come. Scream for me."
"Oh God. Cade!"
He smiled. She melted. As all women melted at the sight of his chiseled jaw and wide cheekbones, his firm chin and dangerously sexy crooked nose — the only imperfection in a face that could have been sculpted from the finest tawny marble. He wore his cut over a long-sleeved black tee, obscenely stretched to highlight the hard planes and angles of his broad chest. Her hands had traced every ridge of those bulging pecs, fingers clawing at his shoulders countless times during the two nights they'd spent together.
"Been a long time." His eyes dropped to Maia and Tia. "You never told me about your girls."
"'Cause they're not her girls anymore." The harsh rasp of Shelly-Ann's voice shattered the moment. "They're Jimmy's girls, and he won't take kindly to a Sinner laying his dirty paws on them or messing with his old lady."
"I haven't been his old lady for three years." Dawn glared at Shelly-Ann, dressed in her uniform of yoga pants and neon-colored sports tank, her red hair swept into a messy haystack on her head to show off her multiple ear piercings. Although Shelly-Ann wasn't part of Jimmy's MC, she knew full well that Dawn had ceased to be an old lady — the biker equivalent of a wife in the civilian world — when she ran away from Jimmy. And he'd lost the title of her old man. At least, that's how it was supposed to work. But of course, outlaw bikers didn't follow the rules, and because she'd made the mistake of also marrying him in a civil ceremony, she had to file for divorce to try to break his hold. And that's when Jimmy got really angry.
"Just wait until Jimmy hears about this." Shelly-Ann smirked. "You've shot yourself in the foot big time. We both know what'll happen if he finds out you saw the girls without asking me first. And if I tell Jimmy you're with a Sinner "
"I'm not with him. He's just someone I know." But the Sinners were the reason she'd moved to Conundrum with the girls. After a brutal territorial war, Jimmy's MC, the Devil's Brethren, had been kicked out of town on penalty of death, which made it a safe haven for anyone wanting to stay out of the Brethren's reach. At least it was safe until Jimmy found a way around the ban by paying his sister to move to town.
Dawn stepped off the sidewalk, pulling the girls with her, to avoid two women with baby strollers. Her cheeks flushed when their gazes flicked from Cade to her to Shelly-Ann and back to her. After years of trying to put her past behind her, hints of an association with a biker made her feel sick inside. Bikers were bad news. Her little fling with Cade had been an indulgence, a nod to the wild child she kept buried deep inside. Sex and nothing more.
Shelly-Ann waited until the sidewalk was clear again. "Another five hundred a month might keep my mouth shut."
"I don't have another five hundred dollars." Dawn gritted her teeth and handed Shelly-Ann the money she owed her for the week. "I'm already working three jobs. I just sold my car to cover the extras you said you needed last month. You're getting money from Jimmy, too. How much do you need? You're not spending it on the girls."
"Your choice. But you've got a history of making bad choices, so you might want to rethink that attitude. You chose to piss Jimmy off, and look where it got you. No kids. I got my own problems to deal with, and looking after your brats is draining me dry. You know where I'll be on Sunday. And I know where Jimmy will be if you don't show up with the extra cash."
Heart aching, Dawn bent down to hug her girls. She assured them Sunday wasn't too far away, and that one day they would be a family again — a promise she'd been making every week, because she was damn well going to make it happen no matter what it took. No one was going to keep her away from her girls, and especially not Jimmy and his deadbeat sister.
After Shelly-Ann led her sobbing daughters back to the car, Dawn slumped against a streetlamp. Shelly-Ann had been right about one thing. She definitely had made some bad choices in her life, and the worst one was accepting Jimmy's offer to save her from the streets. In her sixteen-year-old naïveté, she had mistaken his interest for kindness and his possessiveness for love.
"You okay?" Cade gently brushed her hair back from her face, and her skin tingled at his touch. Focused on dealing with Shelly-Ann, she'd totally forgotten about him. And Cade wasn't an easy man to forget. Not with those faded jeans, tight in all the right places, those washboard abs, a body that moved with easy grace both in and out of bed
Take me, baby. Deep inside. I want you to feel what I feel. Like there's nothing in the world but us.
What was supposed to be a one-night stand with Cade just over a year ago had turned into two nights, and in those two nights he had ruined her for other men forever. Too bad he was a biker, the kind of man she'd promised herself she'd never fall for again.
"I'm fine. Sorry you had to hear that."
"My fault. Shoulda been more discreet. Not really one of my strongest traits."
Dawn gave him a dry smile. "As I recall, your strongest traits involve a bed."
She bit her lip as soon as the words left her mouth. What was she thinking? Flirting with him was a one-way street to disaster. And yet her subconscious was in the driver's seat and heading straight for "Route 69."
"Apparently not strong enough, since you dumped me." His blue eyes glittered, and she hit the mental brakes. No need to worry; it seemed she was traveling alone. Served her right. After all, she had walked away. Not him.
A flush stole across her cheeks. "We only slept together twice, so technically I didn't dump you. It was more like a permanent good-bye."
"Never had a woman refuse to see me again." Sardonic amusement laced Cade's tone. "Interesting experience. Not one I'm keen to repeat."
She wrapped her arms around herself to beat back the chill of the wind. "Well, as long as you're wearing that cut, you have nothing to worry about from me. As you can see, my life has already been totally messed up by a biker. I'm not interested in getting involved with another one."
"That why you walked away?" He stroked his thumb over the apple of her cheek, and warmth pooled in the pit of her stomach. "'Cause I'm a biker? We're not all the same."
"You're an outlaw biker, not just a biker. Isn't that what the one-percenter patch on your cut means? Mayhem and violence are how you live 'The Life' and it's a life I never want to be part of again. In simple terms, outlaws are bad and civilians are good."
His face softened. "What about Arianne?"
Damn. Caught out. Her bestie was the daughter of Viper, president of the Sinners' biggest rival MC, the Black Jacks. And although Arianne had spent a lifetime trying to get out of Conundrum and away from her father, she'd fallen in love with the Sinner president, Jagger, and returned to her outlaw biker roots. "I guess there a few exceptions."
The rumble of a motorcycle pulled her attention away from Cade and his gentle touch. Turning, she caught a glimpse of a Harley Classic motorcycle pulling to a stop beside Shelly-Ann's car.
Dawn sucked in a sharp breath. What was Jimmy doing here? And by here, she didn't just mean in Conundrum or in front of a Sinner who, by all rights, could shoot him dead on sight for daring to enter the town, but here near her girls.
Jimmy hated his children. He blamed them for everything that had gone wrong in their relationship — in other words, Dawn had finally mustered the courage to leave after he took out his anger on Tia. Malicious and bitter, he had waged the custody battle not because he wanted their girls, but simply because he didn't want Dawn to have them.
"Jimmy! Get away from them." Heedless of the danger, she pushed past Cade and stepped into the street. Jimmy's presence here was nothing short of brazen, and tantamount to suicide. But then he'd always been an adrenaline junkie, a quality she'd admired until she discovered he got his kicks by listening to her scream.
Jimmy scowled when he spotted her, and she felt the familiar surge of adrenaline that accompanied the fear of knowing she'd displeased him. Once that scowl would have sent her running in the other direction. But she wasn't going to let him near her children ever again.
And besides, for the first time ever, she had backup. Not that she expected Cade to intervene in what was essentially a marital dispute, but Jimmy was a member of the Devil's Brethren, and he was on Sinner's Tribe territory. There was no way Cade would let that pass.
"What the fuck?" Clearly audible over the dwindling traffic, Cade's angry shout chilled Dawn's blood. She held her breath in anticipation of the moment Jimmy heeded the outraged biker only a few steps behind her and ran for cover.
Unfortunately, Jimmy didn't oblige. Instead he crooked his finger and motioned her forward, sending a shiver down her spine with a simple gesture that carried with it the memory of years of pain.
Dark where Cade was fair, slender where Cade was broad, Jimmy had a lean, wolfish face with razor-sharp cheekbones and a cruel slash of a mouth framed in a prickly goatee. When she first met him she'd thought him darkly handsome, but now, knowing just how vicious and brutal he could be, his cruel features were the stuff of nightmares, not dreams.
Excerpted from Beyond The Cut by Sarah Castille. Copyright © 2015 Sarah Castille. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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