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Chandra Skyye loves bringing characters and stories to life through voice acting and singing the blues. A lover of life, she spends her spare time being creative, appreciating nature, and sharing fun times with nice people and good dogs.
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Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club #3
By Sarah Castille
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Sarah Castille
All rights reserved.
Nine Years Ago
"Zane. Stop. Please."
Evie's cry rang out in the forest, the distress in her voice spearing Zane's chest. He ground to a halt, just a few feet short of Stanton Creek, sucking the warm Montana summer air into his lungs. He would do anything for her, even if it meant having his heart broken all over again.
She caught her breath as she came up behind him, her steps barely audible in the soft grass. "What's wrong? Why did you leave?"
For a moment, he couldn't speak. How could he explain the emotions he'd kept bottled up inside for the last nine years, the hopes and dreams that shattered when he saw her in Jagger's arms, the desperate need that would never be fulfilled? He wanted them to be happy, but he couldn't fight the sense of jealousy he felt toward his best friend, and the utter despair at losing Evie before he had a chance to tell her how he felt.
"I'm losing you both." Slowly, he turned to face her.
"You aren't losing me, Zane. You'll never lose me."
Her pale green dress fluttered in the breeze, clinging to her sweet curves. Evie rarely wore dresses, preferring clothes that didn't hamper her ability to run and climb, jump creeks and walk fences. His Evie had a wild streak. But when she'd walked into the graduation party tonight looking like an angel, his breath caught in his throat. So beautiful he ached inside. He'd been desperate to give her the present he had slaved over for the last three months. A good- bye present. A don't-forget-me present. A tiny glimpse into his heart.
If only he hadn't waited.
She stepped out from under a willow tree, its thin leaves already fading to bronze as summer came to a close. The evening sun caught the golden highlights in her long red hair as it spilled over her shoulders. In the nine years he'd known her, he'd only seen it down a few times. Ponytails were more her style. He wanted to run his hands through those silken waves, follow them down the gentle curve of her back, smooth his hands over her perfect ass ...
Jagger's ass now. Jagger's hair to touch. Jagger's girl.
A black hole opened in his chest. Gritting his teeth, he looked away. "I saw you and Jagger together. I'm happy for you. Really —"
"Zane." She took another step forward and he backed up to the creek, his foot skirting the gravel edge. He couldn't be near her simply because he didn't know what he would do if she came too close.
"There's nothing between me and Jagger. We're friends like always. It was a friendly kiss."
"Didn't look friendly to me."
A pained expression crossed her face. "And I put him straight. I love him like a brother. But someone else has my heart."
Hope flared in his chest and he immediately stamped it out. Who was he to hope? How dare he hope! He was nothing and came from nothing. No family, save for a deadbeat drug-dealing father. No money. No future. No friends except for Evie and Jagger, and by next week, they would both be gone — Evie to college and Jagger to the army. And yet his lips still formed the question. "Who?"
"You, silly." She closed the distance between them until she stood only a few inches away. His hands shook with the need to touch her; his body ached with longing. Nineteen years old and he still wanted the girl he'd met when he was ten.
"It's always been you," she said softly. "Ever since the day we first met. But I never thought I'd have to wait until I was seventeen before I could tell you."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
So soft. So sweet.
His world shifted, darkness becoming light, despair turning to desire. Although he had dreamed of this moment, wanted her with an intensity that took his breath away, he reigned it all in and brushed his lips over hers, returning her kiss with a gentleness that belied the torrent of emotions flooding through his body.
She sighed into his mouth, and he slid his hands around her, struggling with the need to crush her against him, make them one instead of two. Sensation overwhelmed him: the minty taste of her lips, her scent of jasmine and the warm summer breeze, the softness of her body. His knees trembled and he pulled the present from his pocket, now less of a gesture and more of a distraction to give him a chance to regain some semblance of control.
"Is this for me?" She stroked a finger over the pink tissue paper, now crumpled and torn.
"It's stupid. I'm sure what Jagger got you —"
"Jagger got me Devastation Planet Three," she said. "He has his PlayStation all set up and ready for us to kick some alien butt tonight. So unless you got me the same thing, I'll love it. And even if it is, I'll love it, because it came from you."
She tore off the paper and stared at the photograph in the handmade frame. Jagger's dad had taken the picture of him, Evie, and Jagger on the couch one afternoon as they were celebrating the successful completion of yet another video game. Although both he and Jagger had placed an arm around Evie, sitting between them, she leaned into Zane, her body tucked against him as if that was where she belonged.
Zane had hoped on that picture, dreamed on that picture; it was his most treasured possession. And when he'd made the frame after work, carved it with their names, lacquered and polished it until it shone, he prayed she would understand the message.
"It's beautiful, Zane. I love it. It'll be the first thing I put in my room at college." A tear rolled down her cheek, and Zane caught it on his finger, wishing he could keep it forever — keep her forever.
I love you. The words stuck in his throat, held back by fear, a profound lack of self-worth, and a lifetime of rejection.
Gently, he drew her down to the forest floor. He didn't mean for things to go as far as they did, but he couldn't deny the emotion that spilled from his chest.
And he lost his heart under the setting sun on the last day of summer in Stanton.CHAPTER 2
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
— SINNER'S TRIBE MOTORCYCLE REPAIR MANUAL
"Axle's gotta die."
Zane "Tracker" Colton drew his weapon from beneath his cut, the leather vest worn by all outlaw bikers, in response to the words uttered from the shadows. His eyes fixed on the lean, dark-haired man across the street, the object of a hunt that had taken far too long and covered too many miles. Zane preferred silence in the moment before an attack — time to reflect and consider the ramifications of his actions — but Jagger had always been a yapper, and as president of the Conundrum Chapter of the Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club (MC), Jagger had the prerogative to yap even if his vice president disagreed.
"You got nothin' to say?" Jagger dismounted his motorcycle and motioned for their biker brothers to do the same. "How long have we been chasing him? How many times did he slip through our fingers? You could show a little excitement that our MC will finally be avenged."
"One year. Three escapes. And yeah, I'm fucking thrilled we're finally gonna off the bastard who hurt your girl," Zane replied. "But I keep it inside."
Once a senior patch member of the Sinner's Tribe MC, Axle had betrayed the club and threatened to kill Jagger's old lady, the biker equivalent of a civilian wife. Even after the Sinners had forcibly removed Axle's Sinner's Tribe tattoo and left him for dead, Axle not only lived to tell the tale, but joined the Black Jacks, the Sinners' biggest rival for outlaw biker dominance in the state of Montana.
"You keep everything inside," Jagger said. "One day it's all gonna become too much and you'll explode. Man like you needs an outlet."
Man like you needs to mind his own business.
If they'd been alone, Zane would have said the words that burned on the tip of his tongue. Friends since they were five years old, he and Jagger were brothers in all but name. But Jagger was president of one of the most powerful outlaw MCs in the state, and any public display of disrespect could erode his power base if it wasn't immediately addressed. And right now, before a hit, the last thing Zane needed was a broken nose.
"Gimme thirty seconds with Axle and I'll dance a fucking jig." Zane nodded toward Big Bill's Custom Motorcycles, Paint, and Artwork shop, still brightly lit and open for business, although the sun had almost set. "He's inside now. Ready to move?"
Jagger signaled to the four Sinner brothers who had accompanied them on their road trip. Axle had too much information on the Sinners to be allowed to run free, especially now that he'd patched over to the Jacks.
Hunting him down hadn't been easy, but Zane, a.k.a. Tracker, hadn't earned his road name by letting weasels like Axle get away. They had followed him all over the state, ending up almost where they started, only one mile outside the border of the town of Conundrum, the base for the Sinner's Tribe.
Zane crossed the street and took up a position to the left of the front door. Jagger joined him on the right. T-Rex, a junior patch member of the MC, blond and built like a linebacker, ran to cover the back door, and the remaining three Sinners took up guard positions in the near-empty parking lot.
"There's a camera above the till and four civilians inside." Gunner, the club's sergeant-at-arms, peered through the window. As the tallest member of the MC, all brawn and bulk, he had the strength and level head to handle the job of keeping order in the club. "Two ladies ... one very, very hot redhead and a tiny blonde with more piercings than I got girls begging for my attention," he murmured. "There's also a geeky guy with glasses, and a big older dude who I'm guessing is Big Bill."
Damn. Zane hoped the girl wasn't too hot. He had a weakness for redheads, and right now, he couldn't afford any distractions. Not that he would do anything about it. He'd tried getting it on with a couple of redheads and every encounter ended in disaster. His mind would fill with visions of Evie — the girl he had loved and lost. And then he would remember their last night together and his gut-wrenching despair when her father, the town sheriff, found them together. And yet that pain was nothing compared to what came after.
He gave himself a mental shake. Memories of Evie were a distraction he couldn't afford. Especially now, at the culmination of their hunt.
"Fuck." Jagger lowered his weapon. "Too many witnesses. We'll have to wait until he's outside."
"We don't have time." Zane pointed to the sea of headlights coming down the mountain pass. "Black Jacks. Same number of bikes we saw at the bar in Columbus last night. We need to get in and out before they arrive."
"You and I'll go in, grab him, and pull him outside," Jagger said. "Gunner can deal with the civilians. T-Rex and the brothers can keep the Jacks distracted if they get here before we're done. Keep your face clear of the camera."
Jagger pulled a ball cap from inside his cut and tugged it low over his face. Zane followed suit, although with his dark hair just brushing his shoulders and his skin deeply tanned, he was more readily identifiable than his clean-cut friends. Sure, the cops would know from the cuts they wore that Axle had been offed by the Sinners — the Sinner patch, a skull with wings and stars, was emblazoned across the back of every cut. But if the authorities couldn't make a positive ID, they'd be less inclined to come banging on the Sinner clubhouse door, especially now that the Sinners had a friend inside the Conundrum sheriff's office.
Jagger pushed open the glass door and Zane followed him inside, skirting the rows of shiny new motorcycles dominating the shop floor and staying out of the direct line of the camera.
"Nobody move." Zane raised his gun to Axle's back and then caught the gaze of the redhead behind the counter.
In that moment, his thoughts crystallized and shattered.
All but one.
Except for a new softness in her face, and a rounding of her curves, she looked exactly as she had the night he left Stanton. From her long, thick, red- gold hair, to her perfectly proportioned oval face, and the full sensuous lips he had dreamed about kissing night after night. Her delicate nose turned up slightly at the end, accentuating her softly angled cheekbones, and her lush body was meant to fill a man's palms. Her eyes, now wide with fear and confusion, sparkled with the same emerald green. Her beauty hit him like a fist to the gut, stealing his breath and rendering him incapable of speech.
And unable to pull the trigger.
Unfortunately, Jagger appeared to be having the same reaction. Evie had been his friend, too. The three school friends had bonded over broken families, childhood disasters, and teenage woes until the night Jagger held a good-bye party and Zane ran away.
"Evie." Jagger spoke first, recovering fast as yappers always did, using the nickname he and Zane had given her when they first met on the school playground.
She frowned, little creases forming between her brows. "My name is Evangeline."
Jagger touched his cap as if to remove it, and Zane hissed a warning. "Camera."
Her gaze snapped to him and Zane pulled his hat lower as nine years' worth of longing turned into nine years of pain. After fleeing their hometown of Stanton, Montana, wanted for a murder he didn't commit, he had gone back for Evie — albeit three years later — only to find her with a child and another man: Mark, the two-bit loser who had panted after her in high school. As he watched her with her new family in the school playground, where he'd first fallen in love, bit by bit and day by day, his heart hardened, and he promised himself he would never think of her again.
A promise he had yet to keep.
"It's me." Jagger turned his back to the camera at the till and lifted the visor of his cap.
A tumult of emotions crossed Evie's face, from shock to disbelief, and then her hand flew to her mouth.
"Oh my God. I thought you died in service. I heard about the grenade and the shrapnel —"
"Takes more than a little shrapnel in the heart to kill me." He glanced over at Zane, no doubt puzzled by the fact Zane hadn't spoken up. But Zane simply wasn't ready for this. He didn't deal well with change or surprises. His life had been utterly out of control until he joined the Sinners. Now, control held him together. Control over his world. Control over his life. Control over his emotions. And right now, those emotions were threatening to overwhelm him and distract him from the task at hand.
Zane raised his gun, only to discover that Axle had taken advantage of the distraction to sneak through a sliding metal door at the back of the store.
"Fuck. He's getting away." Zane ran, slamming the door aside as he shouted a warning to T-Rex out back. He chased Axle through a large workshop filled with half-painted motorcycle fairings and gas tanks on stands, partially dismantled bikes, and empty bike lifts. The shop smelled of grease, paint, turpentine and the distinctive scent of fear.
The door at the far end of the workshop thudded closed and Zane's feet pounded on the concrete floor.
"T-Rex!" He yanked the door open and almost tripped over the body on the ground.
"You okay, brother?" He knelt beside T-Rex and felt for a pulse. T-Rex groaned and Zane whipped out his phone just as Jagger opened the door behind him.
Jagger caught sight of T-Rex and let loose a volley of curses. "How bad?"
"No bullet or knife wounds," Zane replied. "I think he just took a hard knock to the head. I'll call Shooter and tell him to bring a cage to take him to the clubhouse. Doc Hegel will look after him."
Their new prospect, Shooter, a wannabe Sinner, who had almost finished his pledge year, had already proved to be one of the MC's best drivers and marksmen, albeit a bit of a speed demon with an overly happy trigger finger. As a prospect, he handled all the driving. A full patch brother only rode in an enclosed vehicle if he had a family, and since Zane had just been voted "least likely to ever settle down" there was little chance he'd ever be "caged."
"Where's Axle?" Jagger asked.
"Forest." Zane texted Shooter, and then gestured to the trees behind the shop. "We'll need flashlights. If he makes it to the road, he might hitch a lift and get away."
Excerpted from Sinner's Steel by Sarah Castille. Copyright © 2015 Sarah Castille. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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