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The Billionaire Biker
By Jackie Ashenden
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Jackie Ashenden
All rights reserved.
Sean shifted uncomfortably in his chair, trying to resist the urge to pull at the tie currently strangling the life out of him. It didn't help that he was being watched by two sets of blue eyes. Morrow blue eyes. His half-brothers Jax and Donovan, the former studying him from behind his desk, the latter sitting on the corner of the same desk with a critical look on his face.
Sean gazed back. He hadn't seen either of them for five years but if they wanted to play this game, then he was more than happy with it.
Watch and wait: that had always been his motto, right from when he'd been young. A motto that had stood him in good stead as enforcer for the Avenging Angels Motorcycle Club. A motto that was still good now that he'd left, especially with his two half-brothers staring at him like some kind of insect they'd trapped under a microscope.
Well, if they were waiting for him to blink they could wait all fucking day. They were the ones who'd called him home. They could be the ones to tell him why the hell they wanted him home.
"That's an awful suit, bro," Donovan said at last, breaking the tense silence.
Like he didn't know that already. The trousers were too short and so were the sleeves of the jacket. It was also tight around the shoulders and he had to move carefully or else he'd rip the damn thing.
"Yeah, well, it's the only one I got," Sean answered. It was either this or turn up in his Angels' colors and he didn't think they'd appreciate that.
"Where did you get it?" Donovan gave it a critical once-over. "Goodwill?"
"Enough about the suit, Van," Jax said, leaning forward and clasping his hands together, the look on his face serious. "It's good to see you, Sean. Been a long time."
Five years. Five years since he'd left home for the club that had been more a family to him than his own family had ever been. Five years since he'd last seen ...
But no, he wasn't going to think of her. He didn't deserve to think of her.
"I guess it has."
"Hmmm, I see some things haven't changed," Donovan commented. "You're still as talkative as ever."
Yeah, well, there was a reason for that. As a kid he'd stayed silent because it had made him less of a target for his mother's bitterness. As an adult he stayed silent because it freaked people out, a useful skill when it came to keeping them in line.
The chair creaked as he shifted his weight. "I speak when I have something to say."
"And you can't think of anything to say after five years?"
Donovan had always needled him. Seven years older than Sean, he was like a little boy poking a hedgehog with a stick. Wanting some kind of reaction. A reaction Sean never gave him. Silent and impassive got respect. Instilled fear. And as he'd learned over the years with the club, fear was a far more effective weapon than outright violence ever was.
Except of course, he wasn't in the club now. And these were his actual blood brothers, not club members.
Sean shifted again in his chair, folded his arms, then—when the suit pulled uncomfortably—thought better of it and put his hands on his thighs instead. "Uh, hello?"
Donovan's mouth quirked. That was one thing Sean remembered about his brother: the dude had a sense of humor. "That's a good start, I guess."
"You took some finding," Jax said. "We only discovered you'd left the Angels a month or so ago."
Sean lifted a shoulder. "I left them six months ago."
"I didn't like their direction. Answering to no one is one thing but getting into drugs is another. I didn't sign up for shit like that."
Jax frowned. "They let you go that easily?"
Well, no, it hadn't been easy. But he'd been in good stead with the club, paid his dues, done a good job of his enforcer role. The club's new president, and part of the reason why Sean had pulled out, had been an asshole about it but eventually they'd let him go. "I had enough good standing that I was allowed to retire, take my colors with me," he said. "Been on the road the last six months." Wondering what the fuck to do with himself, not that he was going to tell them that. "Until I got your message that Dad was sick."
"Is that why you came home?"
"No other reason, is there?" Being half Morrow had never gotten him anything but shit, and when he'd been eighteen, it had been a legacy he'd been desperate to escape. But the old man had taken him in at five, when his mother had died, and even though that hadn't exactly turned out roses and rainbows, Sean still felt a debt to the guy.
"I can think of a couple of other reasons," Jax said.
"Oh, yeah? And what are they?"
His oldest brother's flat stare was hard as any club member's. "Morrow didn't do right by you five years ago, we both know that. And I want to correct that mistake. I want you to stay home. Take your rightful place with your family."
Sean almost laughed, a rare thing for him. "So for five years you haven't given a shit about me, and yet now you want me back? Why? And what the hell makes you think I would even want to come back?"
Jax and Donovan exchanged glances. Which annoyed him irrationally. Another sign of why he was the one sitting here, an ex-motorcycle-club-member in a shitty suit with nothing but a Harley to his name. While they were the ones in the huge office tower block, behind their fucking desks, looking down their noses at him.
"We're putting the past behind us," Jax said. "To make Morrow the legitimate, straight-up family business it always should have been. And part of that means we need to come together again. Stand together as a family. You're part of that family, Sean. We need you back here with us."
The sound of his name still took some getting used to. He hadn't been called Sean for years. "Pity that didn't occur to you five years ago," he said flatly.
Jax's expression hardened. "Things have changed. I don't want you out there riding the streets anymore."
"That's the real reason you want me home, right? You don't want me sullying the name."
His oldest brother scowled. "I didn't say that."
"Yeah, but you meant it. Doesn't matter anyway, I haven't been using the name Sean Morrow for years. In the MC I was just Rich."
"Not anymore you're not."
Sean met his brother's blue gaze and a peculiar feeling turned over in his gut. A familiar feeling, and one he didn't much like. As if he was yearning for something. Wanting something. Something he could never have. It annoyed him intensely.
Putting his hands on the arms of the chair, he pushed himself out of it, the shitty suit pulling uncomfortably around his shoulders. "Thanks, brother, but no thanks. I'm happy riding. I'm not looking for another prick to tell me what to do. I'll go see Dad and then I'm out of here."
Donovan sighed and folded his arms. "I knew it would be too tough for him, Jax. What did I tell you?"
Jax didn't say anything, still staring balefully at Sean.
Sean shoved his hands in his pockets. He didn't want to ask, he really didn't. "What would be too tough for me?" Shit.
"Being one of us." Donovan's gaze was challenging. "Put a monkey in a suit and he's still just a monkey."
Anger, heavy and always there, began to swell but he forced it back down.
With the Angels, he was the one who enforced the rules. The dealer of consequences. A job he'd always taken a certain amount of satisfaction in since rules were important to him.
But anger had never played a part in the dealing of justice, nor should it.
Gratuitous violence wasn't ever something to be proud of. "Van," Jax murmured. "No need to get personal. If he doesn't want to do it, he doesn't want to do it." His eyes glittered, the look reminding Sean of the old Avenging Angels' president, Gabriel Woolf. The hardest fucker this side of the planet. "I guess not everyone has what it takes to be a Morrow."
Jesus. They were trying to chicken him into it. Was that really the best they could do?
"I'm not a fucking monkey," he said. "I'm also not a fucking Morrow. And if you think you can manipulate me into doing what you want so you can make the family look good, then you can think again."
Another silence fell, thick with tension.
Jax sat back in his chair, a crease between his black brows, eyes narrowed as he studied him. Sean held his ground and stared back, giving his brother the impassive enforcer stare. The one that had caused more than one man to crack under its weight.
"I'm not offering you nothing in return, Sean," Jax said after a moment. "I actually had a job offer for you."
"What job offer?"
"Being part of my negotiating team."
Sean didn't move, watching his brother closely. Jax only met him stare for stare.
"What? Make nice with clients and shit?" Sean said at last. "I'm not a negotiator."
"I'm not talking negotiating," Jax said. "And making nice is Van's job."
"Then what are you talking about?"
Donovan shifted on the desk. "What our big brother means is that we need someone on the team who can cut through the bullshit, back up our terms, and close the deal."
"Your muscle, in other words?"
"It's a little more complicated than that," Jax murmured, "but ... perhaps that's a good analogy. We need someone hard-nosed. Someone observant. Impartial. Who doesn't take any crap." He smiled. "Someone like you."
Sean's anger began to shift, giving way to ... curiosity.
It had been a long six months, riding from place to place, trying to figure out what the hell he was going to do next. There weren't many jobs open for an ex-club-enforcer in the outside world. He'd done bouncer jobs here and there, security for nightclubs and bars, and he was good at it, but the thought of using his fists for the rest of his life made him uncomfortable.
Then again, the thought of being on the Morrow Incorporated negotiating team wasn't a whole lot better. He'd have to wear a suit just like this one, sit around a boardroom table with a whole bunch of rich fuckers, pretend like he knew what he was doing. Like he belonged there.
Jesus, what the hell did he know about that?
"I don't do deals," he said. "And I know fuck all about business."
"Bullshit you do," Donovan muttered. "You can't tell me your club didn't do business."
"Yeah, but that wasn't anything like—"
"Anything like what?" Jax cut in. "It's the same, Sean. Just a different setting."
He shifted on his feet, his jaw tight, battling his instinctive, defensive anger and the weird curiosity that had him wanting to stay. To see what this job was all about. A chance to do something different. A challenge ...
"This is a genuine offer?" he demanded. "Not just some excuse to get me off the streets to make yourselves look good?"
"It's genuine." Jax's voice held nothing but honesty. "But only if you're genuine about taking it up."
"And if I'm not?"
"I can't force you to come home and take your place with us if you don't want to." His brother's eyes gleamed, cold and fierce. "But I do have something else to add as incentive."
Sean narrowed his gaze, trying to get a bead on what Jax might potentially be offering, and failing. "What incentive?"
His oldest brother got to his feet, glancing at Donovan. "What do you think, Van? Is it time?"
"Definitely." The smile on Donovan's face was the least trustworthy thing Sean had ever seen.
"Time for what?" Sean demanded.
* * *
Abigail Prescott stood outside Jax's office and stared hard at the closed door.
No, she was not nervous. No, she did not care. The past was over and done with and now she was moving on.
She realized that she was mere inches from chewing on a fingernail again and quickly lowered her hand. God, she hadn't done that for years.
Which means you're nervous.
Abby frowned at the door. No, she damn well wasn't. She hadn't seen Sean for five years and that had been plenty of time to move on. She didn't feel the same way about him anymore. She wasn't his friend anymore. She didn't need him anymore. And she sure as hell didn't love him anymore.
Not after he'd left.
Abruptly the door pulled open and Jax stood in the doorway. He gave Abby one of his rare smiles. "Come in. He's ready for you."
Are you ready for him?
Yeah. Of course she was.
Abby lifted her chin, squared her shoulders. "Excellent." And she strode through the doorway and into Jax's office.
A man stood near the chair opposite Jax's desk.
A very tall, massively built man. Shaggy blond hair, watchful dark eyes, a face that had a brutally attractive quality to it, only enhanced by a nose that had been broken at some point and a scar that slashed through one eyebrow.
Her best friend. Her first lover. And the boy who'd left her right when she'd needed him most.
Her heart stood still in her chest as she took him in, noting the changes the years had made in him, the hard lines around his eyes and mouth—too hard for a guy of twenty-three. He looked like he'd lived a lifetime already.
Kind of like her in many ways.
His eyes had gone wide, open shock flooding his face as her gaze met his. "Abby?" he said, his voice still that deep, low rasp that used to make her shiver.
She swallowed, fought down the instinctive surge of delight at seeing him. "Hi, Sean."
The shock suddenly vanished from his face as anger sparked in his dark eyes. "What are you doing here?" he demanded. Then he looked sharply at Jax and Donovan. "What the fuck is going on?"
"I think that's our cue to leave," Donovan said, sliding from his place on Jax's desk.
"I think you might be right." Jax paused beside Abby and gave her a meaningful look. "We won't be far if you need anything."
She knew what that look meant, but apart from her rapidly beating heart, she was okay. And she would continue to be okay.
The past may be six foot four, built like a tank, and wearing the most god-awful suit she'd ever seen, but that didn't mean she was going back there.
"Thanks, Jax, but I'm sure I'll be fine."
"Hey," Sean demanded, glowering. "Where are you going? What the hell is she doing here?"
Jax and Donovan didn't bother to say anything, calmly leaving the room and closing the door after them. This was her show now and they were going to leave her to manage it.
Sean opened his mouth, shut it again. Then stood there scowling at her.
Ah, yes. They were on familiar ground now. He'd never been a man to waste words, always preferring to stand silent until he had something to say. "Long time, no see, huh?" she said after a moment, wanting to break the silence and yet knowing he'd stand there all day not saying a word if he felt like it.
"What are you doing here?" The look on his face had closed down, his gaze flat. As if she'd been the one to leave him, not the other way around.
"They didn't explain, did they?"
"Well, I work here now, Sean. In fact, I've been working here for just over four years. I do PR for them."
"What? How the hell did that happen?"
"Me working here?"
"Yeah, last I heard, you were going to Vassar and ..." He stopped abruptly.
And no wonder. She still remembered that conversation. They'd had it at the graduation party, the night she'd lost her virginity. To him.
"I didn't go to Vassar," she said levelly. "A couple of ... things got in the way."
She steeled herself. This was going to be the hard part, but it had to be done. She'd promised Jax as a last favor that she'd be the one to handle the PR nightmare that was Sean Morrow. Jax had done a lot for her after her life had come crashing down and she owed him. It was also a great opportunity to put the past firmly back where it belonged—behind her. So she would be free to move on to new challenges and fresh pastures.
But before all that could happen, she had to give Sean the truth. After five years, he needed to know.
Abby met his gaze. "I didn't go to Vassar because I was pregnant, Sean."
His eyes widened. He didn't say a word.
"My parents kicked me out, and then I lost the baby."
"When?" His voice was a croak.
"When? About three months after you left."
"Yes," she said. "The baby was yours."CHAPTER 2
It couldn't be true. He didn't want it to be true. But he and Abby had always been honest with each other, and he knew from the look on her face that it was.
"Mine? Are you sure?" A large hand had somehow dug into his chest and was currently squeezing his heart so tight he thought it would burst.
This was Jax's fucking incentive?
She stood near the desk, her arms folded, her gaze level. "Unless I slept with someone else at that party and I'm pretty sure I didn't."
Of course she hadn't. She'd slept with him.
Oh, shit. He'd thought that night couldn't have gotten any worse. Clearly, he was wrong. He lifted a hand to his hair to push it back and out of his eyes, and found that his hand was shaking.
He'd faced down guns, and fists, and all kinds of serious shit, and had never been scared. Yet now, here was his best friend, the woman he hadn't seen for five years, and he was trembling like a little girl.
She'd gotten pregnant. She'd lost the baby.
He couldn't breathe. Out of all the scenarios that had gone through his head as he'd made his way back to New York and the Morrows, seeing Abby and finding out she'd lost their baby had not been one of them.
Excerpted from The Billionaire Biker by Jackie Ashenden. Copyright © 2014 Jackie Ashenden. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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