Read an Excerpt
DO you have any plans now?” Damien asks as we walk out of the lecture.
I turn to him. “My ride will be here soon. I’m just going home. I have a lot to do.”
“Oh, okay. How about this weekend?”
Damien’s a nice guy, but I don’t feel anything when I look at him. He is just a friend; not even that, more of an acquaintance.
“I’m going out with my best friend, Lana, this weekend,” I reply, forcing a smile. I don’t want to lead him on, but I don’t want to hurt him either. I am horrible in these kinds of situations.
“Maybe I could take you—”
I roll my eyes as I hear the rumble of a motorcycle, stopping Damien midsentence. Sliding my phone into my bag for safekeeping, I say, “Gotta go, Damien. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
Right on time—like clockwork.
I glance around the courtyard, then walk toward the parking lot. You would think at my age I could catch a bus home to my apartment without any drama, but that isn’t the case. I don’t have a car, but I’m saving up for one. However, my brother makes sure I have a lift home after class, especially if I finish in the late afternoon. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It does feel good to have someone, my brother in particular, looking out for me, but at the same time, after doing my own thing for so long, I feel a little claustrophobic.
My brother is one of my favorite people in the world, and after not having seen him for some time, I am happy to be getting to know him again. I just moved back to the city, and am finding the move easier than I had anticipated, mainly because my best friend, Lana, is here. We’d stayed in touch ever since I moved away, so I’m psyched to be so close to her now. My brother has changed, but I know that he still loves and cares about me. I’m the only family he has, after all. His overprotectiveness, however, needs to change. I know he means well and is trying to make up for lost time, but the constant escorts are beginning to drive me batshit crazy. He keeps an eye on my every move and sometimes tries to dictate them. I feel like I’m in a damn prison. I love my brother and I’m trying to make this work for the both of us, but we’re both still on shaky ground, not 100 percent comfortable with each other yet. We’re feeling each other out, seeing how we’ve both changed and how we’ve stayed the same.
I don’t miss the curious stares from the other students on campus, but I ignore them. I can just imagine how it looks, my getting picked up every day by a different man on a motorcycle, each one of them sporting a Wind Dragons Motorcycle Club cut. Luckily for me, I’m not a young, insecure girl anymore and there’s only a handful of people in the world whose opinion I actually care about. Likely they think I’m a biker groupie, or something along those lines. In reality, I’m just a twenty-five-year-old PhD student and a girl who happens to be the younger sister of a Wind Dragons MC member. If people want to judge me, that’s their prerogative, and I couldn’t care less.
I’m proud of my brother. He is who he is. He means well and I know he loves me. Yes, he’s a biker, belonging to a motorcycle club that is well-known in these parts, but he’s also a good man.
Adam’s always been a good man.
He also happens to be a huge pain in my ass, a total man-whore, and overprotective to the point of stupidity. Ever since I was a little girl, he’d taken his role of big brother very seriously. It probably had to do with the fact that we didn’t know who our father was, and our mother was . . . absent. That was putting it nicely—in fact, our mother was a junkie who left us to fend for ourselves ever since I could remember.
My brother also made it his business to scare off any potential dates, and that hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s gotten worse. It seems when most men around here find out who my brother is, they decide I’m not worth the ass kicking they’ll get—but in a way it’s almost like a screening test. I don’t want a man who’s a pussy and afraid of my brother. I want a strong man who’ll tell my brother to fuck off and smile while he’s doing it. The thought makes me grin to myself.
I wonder who my babysitter will be today.
Seeing the sexy beard and the wide shoulders encased in tight black fabric, I smile broadly, pleased with my escort for today. I walk straight up to his idling bike, sashaying my hips with each step.
“Good afternoon, Arrow,” I say, grinning cheekily.
He narrows his eyes on me. “You gonna give me trouble today, Anna?”
But only because he needs it. The man hardly smiles, so I find myself being more playful around him than I am around anyone else, just to get a reaction out of him.
“Anna?” he repeats, staring at me weirdly when I don’t reply, continuing to study him, lost in my own thoughts.
Fuck, but I love the way he says my name. Arrow must have a good ten years on me, but he doesn’t look it. Not to me. He has a better body than most of the men my age and a beard that looks badass on him.
I do love a good beard.
You can tell that under the beard is a strong, square jaw. I wonder if he has a dimple in his chin.
He also has soulful brown eyes that you just know have seen the world at its worst, but he’s still survived. He has faint crinkles on either side of his eyes, letting me know he once used to laugh a lot. His mouth is full, firm, and entirely lickable.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I tell him with a shrug. I push my blond hair off my face and flash him an innocent look. I have the same green eyes as my brother, and while his incite lust from the opposite sex, mine don’t seem to be doing the same. Arrow’s face turns grumpier, if that’s even possible. What the hell is he so moody about all the time? Yes, I heard he did time in jail, but most bikers do at some point, don’t they? At least the ones I’ve heard of. Okay, I guess I shouldn’t stereotype like that. But Arrow did do time, although I don’t know what for. I overheard my brother talking with Tracker, another member of the MC. I’ve been around these bikers for a month or so now, and out of all of them, Arrow is the one who keeps both his distance and his guard up.
He’s also the one I can’t stop thinking about.
Quite a conundrum.
Well, for me anyway.
Have you ever seen someone for the first time and just wanted them? Something about them attracts you, like a moth to a flame, without rhyme or reason. Every time I look at Arrow I feel that pull. That want, that need. There is something about him, something that draws me to him. Sure, he is gruff and rough around the edges. He is also temperamental, broody, and usually pretty damn grumpy. He is a man of few words—the strong, silent type. The more time he is forced to spend as my babysitter, the more I’ve gotten him to open up. Slowly, little by little, he’s started speaking to me. It is progress, but still, I know I am stupid to hope for anything more. Sure, my heart races whenever he is near, but I try to ignore that little factor as best as I can. It doesn’t change anything. Arrow is my guilty pleasure, something I know I shouldn’t want but want anyway. The thing is, I’ve seen little glimpses of him that make me believe he is more than he shows the world. I’ve seen him playing with Clover, the MC president’s daughter, and sneaking her strawberry candy. I’ve seen him tickling her, her loud giggles echoing throughout the room. I then overheard him telling her that if any boy messes with her, to let him know and he would take care of it because no one hurts the princess.
No one can tell me the man doesn’t have a heart.
“Get on the bike and hold on,” he demands, turning away from me. It frustrates me that he never looks at me for longer than he has to. Is he not attracted to me at all? I’m not vain, but I know that I’m not completely unfortunate in the looks department. Adam has even said I’m too beautiful for my own good, but as my brother, I guess he’s a little biased.
Maybe Arrow sees me as nothing more than Adam’s baby sister. But that doesn’t explain why he always seems so eager to leave my presence. I like to think I’m easy to be around, and sometimes even a little fun.
“Where are we going?” I ask as he hands me my helmet.
“Rake wants to see you at the clubhouse,” he replies distractedly.
“Then why didn’t he pick me up himself?” I ask. Not that I’m complaining, since I secretly covet being around Arrow, but still.
“I was closer to campus, so it just made more sense. Now are you getting on the bike or are we gonna sit around while all these stuck-up assholes stare at us?”
I look around.
Yeah, people are still staring. If he didn’t want the attention, maybe he shouldn’t have worn his cut today. Who am I kidding? People would stare either way. Arrow is imposing. It is in his build, the breadth of his shoulders, the way he carries himself. The sharpness of his gaze. He just commands attention around him, and there is nothing he can do about it. He couldn’t fade into the background if he tried. I slide onto the back of his bike. Wrapping my arms around his waist, I grip the leather in my hands and lean into him. He smells like leather and . . . strawberry candy? I want to ask, but before I can he starts the engine and pulls out of the lot. I hold tight, enjoying both the ride and the feel of my body pressed against his.
I’d never been on a motorcycle until I moved back here. It was a new experience, and one I found that I loved. Nothing felt more freeing, and I found myself wanting to get my own motorcycle license. If being on the back feels this way, I can only imagine how good it feels to be in front, in control of the bike.
I wonder what my brother would think about that idea.
Adam and I didn’t have the best childhood growing up. Neither of us talks about it much, to each other or to anyone else—at least that’s how it used to be before I left. After I turned eighteen, I moved to the other side of the country for college. That was the year Adam—or should I say Rake—joined the Wind Dragons MC. We kept in touch here and there, messages, phone calls on birthdays and holidays, but for the most part we grew apart. He was busy, I was busy, and we were too far away to be of any real use to each other. I know he’s proud of me. He used to tell me every time we spoke on the phone. He was happy I was making something of myself—starting from scratch to become someone statistics prove I shouldn’t be. I also know he wants the best for me, he always has, but it almost feels like he doesn’t know how to act around me anymore, how to be himself. He’s changed over the years, I guess being in a motorcycle club will do that, but underneath he’s still my Adam. A mix of protective, sweet, and goofy and usually found with a grin on his face or a woman on his arm.
That definitely hasn’t changed. My brother has always been, and will always be, a ladies’ man. However, he’s gotten even more protective of me than he was before I left the city, which makes no sense, because I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a grown woman. I’m his baby sister, by a year, but he’s acting like I’m seventeen and trying to keep tabs on my every move. It was cute at first—but now it’s getting damn annoying and he and I are in need of a good chat. I can’t imagine he’s any better at compromising than he was growing up, but maybe I can use my puppy-dog eyes to let him loosen the reins a little. The truth of the matter is I love being around Rake and his MC. I just don’t like being controlled. I want to be there on my terms, not his. I want to be given choices and know that I’m being heard. Being around a group full of alpha males isn’t easy.
I sigh against Arrow’s back, enjoying the sensation of being pressed up against a man I should be glad wouldn’t give me the time of day. He’s dangerous, I know it and so would anyone who saw him. It is more than his physical appearance. You can almost feel the menace radiating from him, the raw power. It also doesn’t take a genius to see that he has an extralarge chip on his shoulder, weighing down on his muscular build. My breasts rub against his back and I feel him tense, so I move away slightly, my fingers gripping him with more pressure than before.
The ride is quick, and Arrow’s bike soon skids to a stop. I climb off, handing him back his helmet.
“Thanks, Arrow,” I tell him quietly.
He grunts in response and takes the helmet from my hands, but doesn’t bother to look me in the eyes.
“How’s your day been?” I ask, tilting my head to the side and studying him as he gets off his bike.
He glances up at me, finally, and rubs the back of his neck. “It was okay. You gonna ask about the fuckin’ weather next?”
“If I have to,” I mutter, rolling my eyes. “In case you were wondering, my day was kind of awesome.”
He grins then, his eyes softening on me slightly. “Good to hear, Anna, good to hear. Now get your ass inside.”
He is trying to get rid of me. How predictable.
“Arrow,” I say, taking advantage of his attention. “Do you think Rake will tone down the whole escort thing?”
He licks his top lip, then follows through with his teeth. I stare at his mouth, mesmerized by the action.
He clears his throat. “Don’t look at me like that, Anna.”
“Like what?” I ask, still staring.
“Anna,” he snaps. I lift my gaze, my cheeks heating. “Go and ask Rake, but I don’t think so. He just wants you safe. Bad shit has happened before, and he’s going to make sure that nothing bad touches you. And I agree with him. Now get your ass inside before he calls me asking where the hell you are.”
“Okay,” I reply, puffing out a breath.
He steps to me and touches my cheek in an almost-there caress. Okay, this is new. He’s never shown this type of affection to me before.
Our eyes lock.
I swallow hard.
He pulls away and turns his back to me. Looks like I’ve been dismissed.
“Nice chatting with you as always,” I call out as I walk into the clubhouse. The scene before me is a familiar one. Rake is sitting there with a woman on his lap, blissfully unaware of the rest of the world. Faye, the president’s wife and queen bee of the clubhouse, is talking with Tracker, another MC member and a friend of mine. Sin, the club president, is nowhere to be seen. Faye turns when she notices me, her auburn hair framing her pretty face. I nod my head at her, giving her the respect she’s due as Sin’s old lady.
I know Faye is a badass chick, I’ve heard all the stories about her. I tend to stay out of her way—we don’t really interact, even though she’s close with Rake, Tracker, and the rest of the guys. I think in any other situation, we’d probably really get along well. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her, but I still have no plans to befriend her anytime soon. I’ll never admit this to anyone, but I envy her. She has all the men wrapped around her finger, but more important, they treat her like an equal. No one tells her what to do or orders her around. They listen to her and respect her. And it pisses me off that while I’m treated like a child, she can do as she pleases.
I know the men keep a close eye on me only because of Rake’s commands, and I hope that will ease up when my brother realizes that I’m a woman who can take care of herself. I think he needs to figure out that he never let me down when we were younger, and he has nothing to make up for. He’s a great brother, even though he can be a tad excessive when it comes to me. I know it’s because of how much he cares about me, but I don’t think he knows what to do about it. Or me.
Tracker walks over to me when he sees me, a smile playing on his lips, and wraps an arm around my shoulders. “Anna Bell!”
“Don’t call me that,” I reply, raising an eyebrow at him. Tracker is friendly, easy to get along with, drop-dead gorgeous, and completely fuckable. Shoulder-length blond hair frames a handsome face with bright blue eyes and full lips. His body is impressive, lithe and toned, and covered in tattoos. Why he’s with Allie, I have no idea. I think it’s one of those things—like how good girls always finish last, because the bitch definitely won when she got her paws on a man like Tracker. The first time I came to the clubhouse, he approached me and made a comment about breaking in the fresh meat. I replied with a joke about how I was harder to get than Rake, and we both found that amusing. We’ve kind of become friends since then. Tracker is very easy to be around, and he’s a good listener. I just bonded with him from the very start.
“It’s a very cute name, for a cute lady,” he says, squeezing my cheeks, shaking my head left and right.
“Fuck off,” I tell him with a smile, slapping away his hands.
“How was class?” he asks, pulling on a lock of my blond hair. Could he be more annoying? He treats me like the sister he never had yet didn’t want, so I make sure to return the favor.
“It was okay,” I reply. “Still thinking about quitting and becoming a club whore though. It seems to hold a certain appeal.”
He laughs, a deep rumble. “Don’t let Rake even hear you joke about that.”
“What would he do? Treat me like a kid and have people escort me everywhere?” I ask, voice full of sarcasm.
“And that,” he says, smirking, “is the reason you will never be a club whore.”
“What?” I ask, confused.
He chuckles. “Your sharp tongue. We like the club women to be pliable and—”
“Stupid? Easy? Flexible?” I offer, waggling my eyebrows sleazily.
He laughs harder. “I was going to say accessible.”
My lip twitches and I shake my head. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation right now.”
“It’s a normal conversation for me,” he adds.
“Where’s that sidekick of yours?”
I narrow my eyes on him and purse my lips. “Why do you want to know?”
I saw the way my best friend, Lana, stared at Tracker when she met him. Like he was fucking Superman or something. I caught Tracker studying her too, but didn’t think much of it until now.
I know that Lana would never be someone’s side chick, but Tracker has this way about him . . . I hope he just leaves her alone. Lana is smart, bookish, and doesn’t have much experience with men. If Tracker shows interest in her, that’s not a good thing. Allie is his woman and is so crazy—legit crazy, not just crazy in love—she’d probably claw Lana’s eyes out. I don’t miss the looks she gives me when I talk to Tracker, and I’m just a friend.
Of course, Allie might have to watch her back. Lana can be quiet and unassuming most of the time, but she has a serious temper on her. Trust me, I’ve seen it firsthand. It hardly ever comes out, but when it does, everyone is in trouble.
He shrugs like it doesn’t matter to him either way. “Just making conversation. Put those claws away, Anna Bell.”
Rake walks over to me like he’s only just realized I’ve been standing here. Which he probably did.
“Hey, sis,” he says as he rubs his scruffy jaw. Blond hair and green eyes the same shade as mine, my brother has an eyebrow piercing and lip ring that suit him. He’s good-looking and knows it.
Yes—he’s one of those men. He uses his good genes to his advantage and no woman is safe in his presence. I wonder when he’ll settle down, and the type of woman it would take to make him do it. I’m thinking she would have to be pretty freaking phenomenal, because Rake seems to like a lot of variety and never stays with one woman long enough for me to even get to know her. Okay, that’s not exactly true. Rake started acting this way only after he broke up with Bailey in high school. She was the only woman I’ve ever seen Rake pay any real interest in. I wonder what Bailey’s up to these days.
“Hey. Why did you want me to come here?” I ask him, getting straight to the point.
He looks confused. “I thought we could hang out; I haven’t seen you in a couple of days.”
I blink slowly.
“Okay. Will she be joining us?” I ask, pointing to the woman who is now standing behind him wearing a pouty expression.
“Fuck, no,” he replies, turning back and telling his tag-along something.
“Cut him some slack,” Tracker tells me softly so no one else can hear.
My mouth drops open. “But . . . but . . .”
He grins. “I know, but he’s trying.”
I know he’s trying; I do. He isn’t used to me in his space, I’m not used to being in his space, but I’m getting there. It is a lot to take on, being thrown headfirst into the MC lifestyle. I am adapting though, and know it means a lot to Rake that I try to fit in here.
When I see Rake walk past Faye and kiss her on the top of her head, my throat burns. How can he be so loving and affectionate with her but not his own sister?
I pretend his casual affection with her doesn’t hurt.
Rake says something to Faye, and she throws back her head and laughs. “What have you done now?”
Rake grins boyishly. “Nothing . . . yet. Just need some legal advice on something. Make some time for me, woman.”
Faye looks amused. “Come see me tomorrow.”
My brother nods and says something to her in a low tone that I can no longer hear.
“He doesn’t wanna fuck things up with you, so he’s being careful,” Tracker muses from beside me.
Thank you, Dr. Phil.
I sigh and lean my head on Tracker’s arm. “I know he cares about me. I just wish he wasn’t so . . .”
“Slutty?” Tracker adds with a wolfish grin.
I laugh, shaking my head. “No. It’s almost like he’s scared to be himself around me.”
“I think he just wants you to be proud of him and not scare you off with his bikerish ways.”
“I am proud of him,” I say, cringing when he slaps the woman’s ass as she leaves. “Okay, he can be a pig sometimes.”
Tracker’s loud laugh gets us looks from everyone in the room.
“What’s so funny?” Rake asks as he walks over and moves me away from Tracker. He sends Tracker a look that says She’s my sister, asshole.
I roll my eyes. Rake has the protective big-brother thing down pat, that’s for sure. He’s always looking out for me, always has.
Tracker raises his hands, proclaiming his innocence. “We’re just friends, man, you know I wouldn’t go there.”
“And why not?” I ask him in a sweet tone. “Is there something wrong with me?”
I put my hand on my hip, cocking it to the side, and give him a look that dares him to say anything other than how I’m one of the most beautiful women he’s ever seen. I try and keep my face serious, not wanting to break out in the smile that’s threatening my lips.
Tracker tilts his head to the side, taking me in from top to bottom. “You kind of look like Rake if you squint your eyes, so yeah, no, thanks.”
He doesn’t expect the punch in the gut. “Ow! You’re strong for someone so little.”
Rake grunts. “Come on, Anna, stop bullying my brothers.”
Tracker laughs and rubs his rock-hard stomach. Like that even hurt him.
Arrow chooses that moment to walk in, and as always, he garners my full attention. I watch as he storms into the kitchen and comes out with a bottle of Scotch in one hand, a cigarette in the other.
He plops down on the couch and starts to drink straight from the bottle.
He doesn’t look up, or pay attention to anyone around him, until Faye walks over and starts to talk to him in a hushed tone. I follow behind Rake as he leads me toward a long hall, forcing myself not to look back at Arrow. We stop at a door, and he grins boyishly at me as he opens it.
“This is your room. So, you know, you always have somewhere to stay, no matter what,” he says, gesturing for me to enter. The room is bare except for a stunning black leather bed.
“It’s new,” he explains as I turn to stare at him.
“I have my own place,” I tell him, feeling confused. Growing up, we didn’t really have a house. We moved around and stayed wherever we could, couch surfing or living with our mother’s latest boyfriend. We didn’t have a stable life, or many other things that most people took for granted. We didn’t come first to our mother; the drugs did. Maybe that’s why he wants me to feel as though I have a home here? That no matter what, I’ll always have a place to go? A place where I will be welcome?
My heart warms at the sentiment, but it isn’t necessary. I am no longer that scared little girl; I am now a woman who knows how to take care of herself.
“I know you do, but you also have a place here. With me. You will never have to worry again.”
Looks like I was right.
“You don’t have to call me that,” he says, not for the first time.
“I know, but it’s weird when I’m the only one calling you Adam and no one knows who the hell I’m talking about. Although I still call you Adam in my head,” I try and explain.
His laugh makes me smile. I like seeing him laugh. “It’s weird having my baby sister calling me Rake.”
I raise an eyebrow. “So you’re nicknamed after a man who lives in an immoral way and sleeps around a lot.”
I used the dictionary for that one. It says a rake is another name for a womanizer, or a libertine.
The flush that works up his neck lets me know he isn’t exactly pleased to be having this conversation with me. “Maybe I just like to . . .”
He searches fruitlessly for another reason to be called Rake.
“. . . get rid of leaves?” I suggest in a dry tone.
“You always were a smart-ass,” he says with good nature. “Fine, I like women. Sue me. I’m the perfect example of a man you shouldn’t date. Learn from it.”
“Surely there are some good men around this clubhouse . . . ?” I say casually, pretending to look around.
That’s what I really mean.
Rake’s laughter isn’t what I was expecting in response. “No one will go near you, Anna. They know you’re off-limits.”
“How would they know that?” I ask him suspiciously, my hackles rising.
“Because I told them,” he replies, unable to keep the smugness out of his tone.
My mouth drops open. “Why would you do that?”
“Because you’re my sister,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Yes, but I’m not asexual,” I reply dryly, walking farther into the room and sitting on my new bed.
“To me you are,” I hear him mutter. “Look, Anna, now that you’re back here . . . I want to be here for you, like I haven’t always been in the past.”
Ahh, the infamous Jacob incident.
“That wasn’t your fault,” I say for the hundredth time.
He ignores me.
“Do you wanna get a drink?” he asks, the conversation clearly over. “You can tell me how your week has been.”
“Sure, I could use a drink.”
I wonder if Arrow will share his bottle.