Authors: Michelle Betham
‘Mia, baby, this isn’t the way I wanted things to be…’
‘They’re gonna kill you, Ben.’
‘I’ve got this, I promise…’
‘No!’ Mia backed away from him, shaking her head. ‘No. Don’t you dare say that. Don’t. You can’t promise me
‘I know what I’m doing.’
‘You could have said no.’
It was Ben’s turn to shake his head, that numb realization once more sweeping over him. ‘No, Mia, I couldn’t. This thing with my dad, with Sol; it has to be sorted. And somewhere, deep inside me, I’ve always known it would never go away until I faced it head on. Maybe that’s why I really came back here, huh? Because, subconsciously, I always knew it was never gonna go away until it was finished.’
‘He made you take the blame for something you didn’t do.’ Mia’s voice was little more than a whisper, her head still spinning with the shock of what Ben had just told her. But she had to know, that’s what he’d said. She had to know. Now. She had to know it all, so she could play her part, too. ‘You know all his sordid fucking secrets… Jesus! And you think he’s just gonna take you back with open arms like nothing happened?’
‘It’s a mess, I know. A dangerous fucking mess, but I have to do this.’
‘Do what, exactly?’ That was another of those questions she didn’t really want answered.
‘I have to end it, Mia. I have to end it – the lies, the secrets, the sick fucking betrayal… I have to end it.’
She stared at him – this man she’d fallen in love with. This man she’d tried to distance herself from to save herself this kind of pain, but she hadn’t been able to do it. She hadn’t been able to stop loving him, and now she was being told she
to step back, whether she liked it or not. She
to stay away.
‘It’s gonna be OK.’
She shook her head again. ‘You don’t know that.’
He slid an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. ‘It’s gonna be OK.’
She reached out to touch him, her fingers trailing over his cheek. ‘I hate this, Ben.’
‘I know,’ he sighed, taking her hand, holding it tight. ‘But if I’m seen with you, now… it’s dangerous. My dad’s a suspicious man, he’ll have eyes on me all the time, so this is the way it has to be, baby.’
She closed her eyes as he kissed her slowly, her body falling against his, his arms wrapping around her, cocooning her in a bubble she didn’t want to burst. And then he pulled back, smiling at her, making her heart jump and her stomach flip but at the same time it filled her with a fear so strong she felt her throat tighten. ‘One for the road, huh?’
She couldn’t help smiling back, despite everything. ‘You bet, biker boy.’
She backed up against the wall, pulling off her shirt, wriggling out of her skirt, closing her eyes again as he stripped her naked, his fingers stroking her skin, his mouth covering her breasts.
‘I love you, Mia.’ His voice was low and raspy, sending Mia’s heart into overdrive.
‘Yeah. I kinda love you, too.’ She smiled, grabbing on to him as he lifted her up, her legs wrapping around him as he carried her over to the bed, both of them falling onto it in a heap, laughing loudly, the fear and frustration suddenly forgotten, albeit temporarily.
He grinned at her, ripping off his own shirt and loosening his jeans, causing Mia to bite down on her lip in anticipation. She loved looking at him, loved touching him; loved fucking him. ‘Get ready for a ride you ain’t ever gonna forget, darlin’,’ he growled, and she threw back her head and laughed as he took hold of her knees, pushing them apart, her laughter turning into a long, deep groan as he pushed inside her. His thrusts were slow and steady at first, his fingers intertwining with hers above her head, holding on tightly as the rhythm built, and he pushed deeper, thrust harder, Mia’s low groans building to cries of intense pleasure that filled the room, echoing off the walls. And then he was coming, so fast it took her breath away, and she let go of his hand, reaching down to touch herself because she wanted to come, too. She wanted them to come together; she wanted to feel what he was feeling, to be there with him when it happened, and it took just seconds for her climax to hit, for it to rock her body in time with his; the most beautiful ending she could think of.
She kept her eyes closed as he knelt up, pulling her up with him so she straddled him. He was still inside her, and she prayed he’d stay there for just a little while longer, because now this was over she wasn’t sure she was ready to face whatever was coming next.
‘This isn’t goodbye, Mia. You know that, don’t you?’
She cocked her head slightly, loving the feel of his fingertips lightly stroking the small of her back, the roughness of his jeans against her naked skin. ‘You’re one of them again. You’re a Dark Angel.’
‘In name, that’s all.’
‘You know that’s not true.’ She ran her hand almost absent-mindedly over his shorter hair. ‘You pull on that cut, you wear those colors and you become one of them, in every sense of the word.’
‘I’m a different man to the one I used to be, baby, remember that. I can do this.’
‘Your father wants you dead, Ben.’
‘And I have Coby and the Lone Riders watching my back.’
Yeah, she knew that. But what was happening here, nobody could really trust anyone. She’d lived this life
her life, so she knew – nobody could really trust anyone.
‘What they’re asking you to do… Once you’ve found Shane, once you know where they’re hiding him, why can’t you just walk away? Tell Coby what he needs to know and walk away.’
‘It isn’t that simple. I’ve got my own job to do, Mia. My own scores to settle.’
And that’s what scared her more than anything.
‘Be careful,’ she whispered. ‘Just – please, be careful.’
Her eyes slowly scanned every inch of his handsome face, taking in every line, every scar; everything she loved. In case she never got to see it again…
‘He had a girlfriend. Well, I say girlfriend, she was his fiancée, really. Never had no ring or nothin’, but they were due to get married. Carrie her name was. A waitress at the bar and strip club the Dark Angels run over the other side of town.’
Kip eyed the man sitting opposite him with a slightly wary expression. An ex-member of the Dark Angels, Slick Gordon had been exiled from the club a couple of years ago for reasons still unknown to Kip, but they couldn’t have been that bad because he still appeared to have all his limbs. And now he was here, telling Kip everything he knew about Ben Salter – allowing him to fill those gaps in Ben’s past that Kip was sure existed. And it seemed like he might have been right, about Ben holding back one or two things.
‘He always used to tell us he loved her, y’know? But, man, there were days when she’d turn up at the bar with bruises so raw they made even the toughest of guys flinch.’
‘Bruises?’ Kip frowned, signalling to the waitress to bring over a couple more beers.
‘Yeah. Usually on her arms, y’know? Like someone had gripped so hard they couldn’t help but leave their mark. But there were times when make-up could barely cover the shit that bastard subjected her to.’
Kip felt his stomach take a dive. ‘He hit her?’
‘She never actually said that, but it was fucking obvious, man. Benjamin Almeda had one hell of a temper on him; took after his father in that respect. Guess that’s why they clashed so often. Both too similar. Unlike Sol. It was almost like he didn’t fit that fucking club at times. The girls at the bar used to call him the gentle giant. Everyone with a pussy wanted Sol, Jesus, it was like waterworks central when he married Marianna. Such a fucking shame that bastard brother of his had to go kill her like that. Sent shockwaves through the whole MC that did.’
Kip breathed in deep, wishing Slick would shut up now. ‘Ben didn’t kill Marianna.’
Slick’s expression was confused. ‘Huh?’
Shit! Why had he said that? Yeah, OK, Ben hadn’t killed Marianna, but that didn’t mean he was a fucking saint. From what Kip had just heard, he was far from that.
‘Nothing.’ Kip was grateful when the perkily pretty red-headed waitress arrived at the table with more beers. Her timing was spot-on, because it would seem that Slick was one of those guys who was easily distracted by a great pair of tits and a “
hell, yeah, I’d quite happily fuck you without knowing your name
” smile, which this girl was displaying in all its messed-up glory. ‘Anyway, you said Ben had a temper…’ Kip took a long swig of beer, hoping Slick had been suitably distracted long enough to have forgotten his slip of the tongue.
‘Huh?’ Slick finally tore his eyes away from the retreating waitress’ ass, reluctantly turning his attention back to the matter in hand. ‘Oh, yeah. Yeah, he had a temper all right.’
‘Did he ever hit her – Carrie – in public?’
‘Not at first. But after a while we started to notice things, like him grabbing her arm every now and again, right up in her face, y’know? Can’t say I ever saw him hit her, as such, but he came close. A coupla times. He and Hector used to clash, butt heads on a regular basis, and I guess he needed someone to take his frustration out on.’
‘Did he ever hurt her? I mean,
‘Like, break bones or somethin’?’
Kip nodded, downing another mouthful of beer. He was getting information more valuable than fucking gold here.
‘I remember one of the girls at the bar telling me Carrie had to take a few days off one time, for a sprained wrist, I think it was. Never knew if that was true, but she was missing from the bar for a few shifts, I know that much.’
‘You any idea where I can find her? Carrie?’
Slick shrugged, pushing a hand through his greasy hair. ‘I got no idea where she is now, brother. She left just before all that shit kicked off with Ben and Marianna.’
‘I really need to speak to her. Could you ask someone at the bar if they know where she might be now? Where she might be working?’
‘Man, I can’t go back there. They’d kick my fucking ass from here to Vegas if I show my face there again.’
‘Shit!’ Kip sighed, throwing himself back into his seat.
‘Look, I’m still pretty friendly with one of the girls who used to work there as a dancer, one hot little mama who’d strip down to her tight, shaved pussy three nights a week and give us guys views that are probably banned in half a dozen states. Honey Hotlips – that was her name… Jeez! Like I need an excuse to call
‘Can she help me find Carrie?’ Kip’s patience was wearing thin now. He needed information. He wasn’t here to give this dumb-ass an excuse to re-live his fucked-up memories.
‘S’pose it’s worth a try.’
‘Yes. Fucking now.’
‘Shit! And I thought you English guys were supposed to be polite.’
Kip didn’t even grace that comment with a look. He just sat back and waited until Slick had pulled out his phone, watched him as he waited for an answer on the other end of the line.
‘Well?’ Kip asked once Slick had hung up. ‘She have anything useful?’
‘You’re in luck, brother. She says Carrie’s working in a coffee shop just outside of Hilton, a place called
The Blue Kettle
. You know it?’
‘I’ll find it. She working today?’
‘She don’t know for sure. She only sees her now and again. They’re not exactly BFFs. You want to know anythin’ else?’
‘No. I think I’ve got enough.’ Kip stood up, pulling a few dollars from his back pocket, throwing it down on the table. ‘My half of the check.’ He pulled out another handful of dollars, this time handing it straight to Slick. ‘And that’s what I promised you, if you delivered.’ He looked the man straight in the eye. ‘You delivered.’
‘Hey, thanks, man. And listen, you need anythin’ else, you know where I am. I got no loyalty towards the Dark Angels no more, and I ain’t worried about no repercussions. So you come to me, OK?’
Kip stared at Slick through narrowed eyes, thinking this man was probably way more cocky than he had a right to be. If he was caught ratting on anyone – the fact he was an ex-member made no difference. Hector Almeda would see he got the punishment he deserved.
He left the diner without looking back. What he’d just heard in there, it made his stomach turn, but at the same time he couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across his face.
Once Mia knew just what Ben Salter was capable of, she’d never want to see him again.
Ben felt a chill slide up his spine as he walked into the clubhouse, the silence that suddenly ensued the second he’d set foot in there making that chill even more sinister. He could feel every eye on him, every wary, suspicious look aimed right at him. His skin was crawling; he didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be anywhere near this place, but, at the same time, it was where he needed to be.
‘Hey, man, Hector told us you were coming back.’ A tall, well-built man with long black hair and slightly oriental features approached Ben, holding out his hand in a gesture of solidarity, despite everything they still thought Ben had done.
‘Hey, Ace, good to see you, brother.’
Ace gripped Ben’s hand tight, pumping it up and down hard before pulling him in for a manly hug, slapping his back. ‘Good to see
in those colors again.’
Ben smiled, pulling to the forefront that person he needed to be now. Seeing Mia had allowed that man to retreat back into the shadows for a brief moment, but now he had to be strong. He had to
Benjamin Almeda one last time, before he could finally put him to rest. For good. ‘Feels strange, being in this clubhouse again…’ Ben trailed off, taking in surroundings that were still hauntingly familiar. The last time he’d set foot in here had been the night his father had shot Marianna. And yet, it felt as though nothing had changed; like time had stood still.
‘I’ll get you a drink.’
Ace’s voice pulled Ben back from his memories.
‘Beer, please,’ Ben replied, his attention back on brothers he hadn’t seen in so long. It all felt strangely comfortable, and he wasn’t sure whether that was something he should be welcoming, or something he should be wary of.
‘Come on. Make yourself at home,’ Ace continued, giving Ben’s shoulder another friendly slap.
‘Listen, Ace… what happened… me being back here…’
‘It’s in the past, brother. Things are gonna be OK, you hear me?’
Ben frowned as he watched Ace head over to the bar at the other end of the clubhouse, and as he walked away, another figure came into view. One that caused Ben’s stomach to dip and he had to swallow hard and remember just who he was now. Why he was here; what he had to do to reach the endgame he wanted.
Sol stood there, completely still, his hands in his pockets, his eyes fixed on Ben, neither man seemingly willing to make that first move. But it was Sol who finally broke the silence.
‘I know, Ben. We all know.’
Ben moved closer, the brothers still keeping eye contact. ‘Know what?’
Ben’s frown deepened. ‘What do you know, Sol?’
Sol’s eyes burned deep into Ben’s, his voice slow and steady. ‘I know you didn’t kill Marianna.’
‘I blame you.’ Mia strode over to Coby, her long legs carrying her quickly across the yard towards him, her expression dark. ‘If they hurt him; if
happens to him, I blame
Coby grabbed her arm, dragging her into the office, kicking the door shut behind him. ‘Keep your fucking voice down, sweetheart.’
‘You’re gonna get him killed. What you’re making him do, you’re gonna get him fucking killed!’
‘Hey!’ He kept hold of her arm, squeezing it harder but to no effect. She wasn’t giving in on this one.
‘No, Coby, this is fucking crazy! You didn’t have to send Ben back in there to find out
about Shane. You could’ve done that without…’
‘Shut your fucking mouth and listen to me, OK? Listen to me.’ His eyes bored into hers and she stopped talking, returning the stare, her own eyes blazing with an anger and frustration she was finding hard to control. ‘Ben has his own agenda with Hector Almeda; you understand that, don’t you?’
‘You could have tried to dissuade him from doing this…’
Coby laughed, a hollow laugh, his hand still keeping a tight grip on her arm. ‘You reckon? Do you know anything at all about that man of yours? I’m guessing he told you everything, huh? About what his father did? How it affected him? How he needs to avenge all that crap?’
‘You could have stopped him.’ Mia’s voice was quieter now, but the edge wasn’t lost.
‘And if you believe that then you’re more naïve than I thought you were.’
She finally shook free of his grip, but her eyes stayed where they were, locked with his. ‘Fuck you!’ she hissed, making to go, but his fingers wrapped back around her wrist before she had a chance to walk more than a couple of steps, swinging her around with a force that slammed her back against the wall.
‘You don’t get to speak to me like that, darlin’.’
happens to him…’
‘Just who the hell do you think your boyfriend is, Mia? Huh? He’s a man who’s done things beyond fucking comprehension in the name of, what? Power? Territory? Believing one fucked-up lie over another? He grew up in a world even darker than ours, sweetheart, so I think he can look after himself.’
‘His father wants him dead.’
‘And Ben’s not so keen on his father living much longer either. It’s a stand-off no one else should get involved in.’
‘He said you had his back.’
‘And we do. Believe me, darlin’, we do, but whatever family crap he’s got going on, that isn’t our main concern. We need him to find out what’s going on with Shane before something kicks off here that puts
girl in danger…’
‘The girl you were quite willing to fuck around on? With
? Is that the girl you’re talking about?’
Coby’s stare once more turned dark, his fingers tightening around her wrist. ‘Don’t push this, Mia. I’m fucking warning you, darlin’…’
She tried to free her arm from his grip but he was holding her too tight. ‘Let me go.’
‘Y’know, I’m starting to get a touch concerned about that mouth of yours, sweetheart.’
Her stare was defiant, her voice low and steady, a slight smirk on her face as she spoke. ‘You scared, huh? Scared I’m gonna go tell my sister that your dick aches to fuck me?’
His hold on her verged on painful now, but she wasn’t backing down. She was angry and scared and she needed someone to blame. She needed someone to take all her frustration out on, and he was there, right in front of her.
‘You try that, and I will hurt you, Mia, so
fucking push me.’
‘Threats? Really? You’re gonna stand there and threaten a woman? You not remember what I did to the last bastard who tried that with me?’
Their eyes stayed locked for a few loaded beats, and Mia could feel her heart racing, adrenaline coursing through her veins at a speed that was making her dizzy.
, Coby. For all the fucking shit I’m going through, I blame
He looked at her, right at her, staring deep into her soul, another short, hollow laugh escaping before he pulled her against him, his mouth crashing down on to hers so hard she actually let out a small cry of pain. But then she was in his arms, aware of his fingers trying desperately to push her panties to one side and she did nothing to stop him. It was almost like that kiss had sent a torrent of calm flooding through her and she stopped fighting him; gave into him, burying her face in his shoulder, breathing in that smell of stale smoke and engine oil as he plunged his fingers inside her.
She was wet. She was fucking wet! This was turning her on! All that anger had led to
? But she couldn’t stop him. She couldn’t, because it felt good – like he’d reached inside her and was slowly ridding her of all that anger and frustration, pulling it out of her with every thrust of his fingers. And then she was coming, her face buried in his shoulder to muffle the moans, her nails digging into his skin as he continued to thrust, waiting until the last shudder had escaped her body before he pulled out of her. And that was when reality raced back to confront her, the shock of what she’d let happen mingling with the fact she’d enjoyed every fucked-up second of what he’d done. The slap she gave him was almost a reflex action, hitting his face so hard she felt her forearm vibrate, her palm stinging with the force.
And he took it, the corner of his mouth twisting up into a smile as he gently placed his hand over his cheek, a low chuckle escaping before his arm snaked back around her waist, but she was ready this time. She was ready.
‘You’re right, darlin’.’ His voice was a low, deep growl, his mouth close to her ear and she shivered as she tried to disentangle herself from his grip. ‘My dick
ache to fuck you.’
‘Too bad, soldier. Because it isn’t gonna get the chance.’
He chuckled again, stroking her cheek with his fingers and she could smell herself on him, something so messed-up it was exciting, turning her on again as he pressed himself against her. She could feel his hard-on digging into her thigh, straining to get out, but it wasn’t happening. She’d already stepped over a line she should never have crossed, and that was enough. That had been a mistake. She wasn’t making another one. ‘You think you can just walk away now, Mia?’
She took hold of his wrist, pulling his hand away from her face. ‘I know I can.’
She made to go, but once again he grabbed her arm, more gently this time – his grip lighter. ‘Keep it shut, Mia. That mouth of yours, don’t let it run away with you.’
She stared at him for a few, long seconds. Her head was spinning, and she didn’t really know what was happening here. But it hadn’t gone quite the way she’d expected it to. ‘I love him, Coby. And I am so fucking scared that I won’t see him again.’
He let go of her, satisfied she was calmer now. ‘He can do this, Mia. You have to believe that.’
‘I can’t sleep,’ she whispered, absent-mindedly wrapping her arms around herself, another, altogether different shiver racking her body now. ‘I can’t eat, because all I can think about is him; what he’s doing, what’s happening… and I can’t see him. I can’t talk to him, and I don’t know how long this is gonna go on.’ Her eyes once more fell on his, but she was met with a kindness this time, the sudden change of mood confusing. ‘How am I supposed to get through this, Coby?’
‘Find a distraction.’
The stare between them intensified. ‘You?’
‘I could do with one, too.’
‘I’m not gonna hurt my sister.’
‘She doesn’t need to know.’
know. And it’s wrong.’
‘We’ve already crossed a line, Coby.’
‘Then what’s the point in backtracking?’
‘That’s such a narrow view.’
He took a couple of steps towards her, and she took one step back, because she was still confused. She’d come here full of hell, determined to let this man know how she felt and yet here they were; she’d let him finger-fuck her, and now they were talking about sex and distractions and all she wanted was Ben. But she couldn’t have him. She needed her biker boy. But he wasn’t here. Coby was. Was she really that weak?
‘After everything you and Lexi went through, how can you even think about…?’ She broke off, her eyes dipping to the floor. ‘What we did just now, that was bad enough.’ She raised her gaze, their eyes meeting. ‘I can’t do it to her, Coby. And I can’t do it to Ben.’
He shrugged, leaning back against the wall, taking a cigarette out of his pocket and lighting up. ‘You’re a good girl, huh?’
She looked at him, watching as he blew smoke up into the air, a slight smirk on his face. ‘Don’t play games, Coby. Please.’
‘I’m not playing games, Mia, I already told you that. You came here, full of hell, angry and ready to do just what you’re now telling me you couldn’t ever do… and now you’re calm. You’re rational. And
did that, remember?’ He moved a little closer, his mouth almost touching hers as he spoke, his voice deep and husky. ‘I guess I’m just good at what I do, huh?’
She smiled a slow smile, reaching out to touch his rough chin. ‘If I took my panties off, right here, right now and sat on that desk; if I spread my legs as wide as I could and invited you inside, you’d really betray my sister? For a fast fuck?’
She felt his low groan seep right through into her. ‘Jesus, Mia, you’re one beautiful frigging prick-tease, darlin’.’
‘Then I guess I’m just good at what
She walked towards the door without turning back. She’d dodged a bullet there. But only just.
?’ Ben didn’t know what to think. Was he even hearing this right? Sol knew he hadn’t killed Marianna? How
had he known? How had he found out? What the hell was going on here because, as far as Ben was concerned, this had thrown him. Big time.
‘I’m not a stupid man, Ben. I knew what was going on with Marianna and Dad. I knew all along.’
Ben sat down, his head dropping into his hands as he tried to take in just what was happening here.