Guilt kept him away from Santana for years, but once he has her, he’ll let no one stand in his way from keeping her.
As the only child of an abusive biker and an alcoholic mother, Santana Rogers had one hero she could turn to in her life. Stake Wills, a member of the Kings of Bedlam Motorcycle Club, was her father’s best friend, her savior and her lifelong crush. When her father is sent to prison, the club and her only friends turn their backs on her, leaving her to deal with the fall-out of her father’s crime on her own.
Santana is proud of the way she’s persevered through the hard and lonely years. When Stake reappears in her life after the County Sheriff attacks her, she isn’t sure she’s willing to let him back into her life and her heart. And if she does, she’s not sure she’ll survive having her heart broken again when he inevitably leaves.
It just about killed Stake to walk out of Santana’s life, but after his best friend’s death, he’s forced to choose between the motorcycle club and keeping an eye on Santana. The club is the only family he’s ever known, and a blackmail threat by Santana’s mother threatens to destroy it all. He realizes that he made a mistake, but that won’t stop him from trying to prove to Santana that he’s still the man she needs him to be.
About the Author
An avid reader for years, one day Carol Lynne decided to write her own brand of erotic romance. Carol juggles between being a full-time mother and a full-time writer. These days, you can usually find Carol either cleaning jelly out of the carpet or nestled in her favourite chair writing steamy love scenes.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Carol Lynne 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
Ten years later
Santana punched the price of the cereal into her calculator and realized she was over her limit. Shit. Even the generic brand was too expensive. She glanced at her cart and tried to figure out what she could eliminate. The vitamin supplement drinks for her mother took the biggest chunk of her grocery money, but they were essential. Of course, had their roles been reversed, she knew her mom wouldn’t have done the same. Hell, she’d barely registered on her mom’s radar as a child.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she fought not to cry. She was so damned tired of going to bed hungry. Of eating cheese sandwiches on expired bread and Hamburger Helper without the hamburger. It was a pity party she had often lately because she knew in her heart she didn’t deserve the fucked up life she’d been handed.
With a resigned sigh, she put the corn flakes back on the shelf. Goodbye, old friend, she thought as she reached for the canister of generic oatmeal. As a kid, she’d loved it when her mom had made hot oatmeal, but that had been an occasional thing, very occasional, like maybe three times in her entire childhood, but who was counting? It wasn’t often her mother had been sober enough to do anything for her only daughter.
She felt eyes on her and turned to see a well-dressed middle-aged woman staring at her. Mrs. Godfrey, her tenth-grade English teacher. She quickly put her head down, causing her long hair to drape in front of the bruise and cut on her cheekbone. Move on, she silently commanded, hoping the woman would finish gawking.
“Are you okay?” Mrs. Godfrey asked.
“Fine,” Santana replied, putting her cart in motion. She hadn’t been fine when she’d begged Mrs. Godfrey for lunch money when she was just a teenager and she wasn’t fine now, but people like Mrs. Godfrey never wanted to hear the real truth. She wasn’t okay and wouldn’t be until the cancer finally took her mom. She stopped suddenly, unable to believe the thought had run through her mind, no matter how unintentional it had been. Her mother was the only reason she was still in Broken Ridge, Texas.
The pain of longing threatened to overwhelm her as she chose a checkout lane and waited. She’d been so close to getting out. She’d even been accepted to the University of Colorado, but that had been almost six years ago. Before her father had been arrested for murder, before the man who’d always frightened her had been sentenced to life in prison. Even then, she wouldn’t have put off school if her mother had been able to care for herself. Always a drunk, Ellie Rogers had been in and out of six court-mandated treatment programs since Santana had been a child. Unfortunately, nothing had worked until Ellie had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Even now, weighing barely ninety pounds and confined to her bed, she often used what little strength she had left to rail against Santana because she wouldn’t buy her booze. Stupidly—no—naively, she’d hoped her mom would finally notice her once she got sober. Sure, her mom noticed her now, but only as a nursemaid and an object of ridicule.
“Paper or plastic?” Barb, the cashier asked, breaking into Santana’s thoughts. She’d visited the store twice a month since the age of twelve, and Barb still didn’t acknowledge her any more than she would a stranger who was passing through town.
“Paper.” Santana unloaded her meager supply of groceries onto the conveyor belt and held her breath while Barb scanned her items. Please don’t be over fifty dollars she began to chant in her head. It had happened before, and she’d been forced to go through the humiliating process of putting items back.
She dug three coupons out of her purse. The dollar-fifty she would save on the vitamin drink had allowed her to buy a two-liter bottle of generic grape soda. It was an extravagance, she knew, but it had been so long since she’d purchased something for herself that she couldn’t pass it up. She handed the coupons to Barb and waited for the total.
“Forty-nine seventy-three,” Barb announced.
Santana pulled out a bundle of wrinkled ones and fives and handed the entire thing to the cashier. “There should be fifty dollars.”
With a roll of her eyes, Barb made a production of smoothing the bills before separating them. Finally, after the customer behind Santana cleared her throat, Barb counted the money and finished the transaction. Barb handed Santana twenty-seven cents before dismissing her completely. No, ‘have a nice day’, no, ‘thank you’.
She was used to it. There were definitely three types of people in Broken Ridge. Two of which were those who worked at the nearby state prison and those whose family members were incarcerated. Unfortunately, she belonged in the latter category. Her father had been in and out of prison several times for short stretches, but the last time had been for murder. Even before her father had died in a prison brawl, she’d known she’d never see him again. Not only did her mother have a strict rule about Santana not going near the prison, but also her relationship with her father wasn’t a happy one. She wasn’t sure what the fight had been about that had ended Smash’s life. No doubt, the third category of people in Broken Ridge had something to do with it. Unfortunately, the third type was the bikers of the Kings of Bedlam Motorcycle Club. Why the hell they’d chosen Broken Ridge was anyone’s guess, but because they had, she was stuck in the middle of nowhere without a single friend. She should be used to it by now. Growing up, she’d played with the other club kids. It hadn’t really been a choice. Since her mother had always been too drunk to watch her, Smash had usually taken her to the club with him when he had business. The club was on a forty-acre piece of land with plenty of room for kids to play and explore without being subjected to the bullshit that went on inside the building. Except for a few quick trips to the bathroom and three lockdowns, she hadn’t been allowed in the clubhouse. Lockdowns might sound like one big slumber party, but when dozens of families were cloistered inside a building for days or weeks because of some threat to the club, it sucked after the first day or so.
The non-biker children she’d gone to school with had been told, she assumed by their parents, to stay away from the Kings’ kids. She hadn’t really minded at the time, she’d had Gill, Jaycee and Tiny to pal around with.
She parked the cart outside the store next to the old rusted Radio Flyer wagon she’d had since she was a kid. After loading the groceries into the wagon, she started the two-mile walk home. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except her flip-flop was broken and being held together with plastic tab she’d swiped from the produce department. She prayed the fix would be enough to get her home without having to walk barefoot on the gravel road on which she lived.
As usual, her mind began to wander back to the good old days. The time in her life when she’d had a drunk for a mother, a scary fucker for a dad, three fantastic friends and a crush on a man she’d believed would always be there for her. The Kings had taken everything from her.
The Kings of Bedlam. Just thinking about the motorcycle club made her angry. Her father had joined the club before she’d been born, and had spent close to twenty years doing anything asked of him. He would disappear for weeks at a time before coming home bruised and out-of-sorts, usually smelling like pussy and booze. She still didn’t know what had happened the night one of the cops in town was murdered, but it had been the beginning of the end for their family. From that day on, they’d seemed to live in the gray. No one in town would have a thing to do with anyone in her family, including employers. Even her friends from the club had stopped talking to her after her father had been sent to prison for pulling the trigger. And her crush? Yeah, Stake had also checked out of her life. Smash was an asshole when it came to everyone but his wife and his best friend, but evidently Stake hadn’t felt the same, or he wouldn’t have turned his back on them after Smash’s death. Without her father’s income, Santana and her mother had lived on the small government check they received each month. They were the trash of Broken Ridge and she was reminded of that fact every single day that she stepped foot from the house.
Instead of walking along the sidewalk, she veered right and turned into the alley. On the street, she was too much of a target. It would be easy for County Sheriff Gordon to cruise by and spot her. Absently, she lifted a hand to her cheek. One run-in with Pete Gordon a week was more than enough, thank you very much. Gordon was in the Kings’ pocket, which made him virtually untouchable.