Authors: Helen Lucas
Copyright 2015 Helen Lucas
All rights reserved.
Rider: An MC Club Alpha Male Romance
Book Design by Helen Lucas.
© CURAphotography - Fotolia.com
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For my uncle, William, and my father, Tom, and all the other damned and broken military men out there who gave their youths for our freedom.
It’s a place just outside of town, along the highway, beyond the ever-present construction sites, and into the Spanish neighborhoods. It’s called Yolanny’s, or, more colloquially, among the folks in the area, El Rumshack. Somewhere between a dive bar, a brothel, and a tourist trap.
The type of place that could only exist in South Florida.
I pulled my leather tight around me, even though it wasn’t cold at all. It was the opposite of cold: muggy, filthy hot, like a snake that wrapped itself around your neck and refused to let go, your sweat getting all caught up in your maw as you struggled.
When I was a kid, I lived with family on the Virgin Islands, where it was cooler, up in the mountains, where it was lush—always warm, but never the kind of muggy, disgusting heat that we have here in Florida. I always regretted my father’s decision to accept a posting in Miami when I was twelve.
No, I wasn’t cold now. But it was a different kind of bite that tore into me.
The bite of betrayal.
The door swung open and the garish, smoke-obscured lights of Yolanny’s greeted. A filthy, haphazardly made up hooker in the corner, who could have been anywhere from fourteen to forty years old, leered at me.
“Oh, ye, white man papi, looking for a good time? You like what you see?” she cackled. I drew my eyes away from her but her voice and, impossibly, her scent—cheap rum mixed with drug store perfume—followed me. “You so good looking, so for you, it’s half, you hear?”
But I wasn’t interested in whores. At least, not tonight. Maybe another night.
There’s always another night, after all.
No, the one I was interested in was a middle aged Asian man in a moist, wrinkled light grey suit sitting far off in the corner, half-way dozing into his Mai Tai. His face was slicked with sweat and his beady little glasses had slid down almost to the tip of his nose. Most anyone you talk to would look at him and just see a depressed, down on his luck loser, looking to drown his sorrows in a few glasses on the wrong side of town before going home to his frigid wife.
But I’m not just anyone. I know this man. And he might be a depressed, lame-looking middle-aged loser, but he also happened to be the head of the organized crime division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Southern Florida office.
So, you might wonder—just what was a Fed doing in a place like this? The answer is easy: working on catching guys like me. Working on shutting guys like me down.
The only thing is, he needs my help.
I sat down across from him. He looked up at me, drink seeming to cloud his face.
“How’s it going, stranger?” he said, his words slurred, his lips barely able to form syllables. He shakily offered me his drink but I pushed it away. He knows I’m not supposed to drink anymore. Not after getting clean.
“Rough like a snake bite,” I replied immediately. This was the code, after all—the words that let him know we weren’t followed, that we were free to talk.
Doug Wong relaxed immediately and sat up straight in his chair. He wasn’t drunk at all—I had seen the man do half a dozen tequila shots without any change in his demeanor. He was a consummate professional and—always had been, ever since I started working with him.
“How’s life?” Doug asked me, a real question now. I shrugged. I wasn’t much for small talk.
“I still feel like I’ve got cockroaches crawling up and down my skin at all hours of the day. Had to smash my foot with a hammer to keep from getting the shakes all over again. Otherwise, can’t complain.”
“Sounds about right. What’s it been, three months now?”
“Four. But it feels like years. And… Then like nothing at all.”
I shook my head.
“I tell you, I’ve known lots of addicts in my time and most of them don’t get past the first month.”
“Truth be told, most of them probably didn’t strand themselves on a fishing boat thirty miles off the coast to go cold turkey.”
“Truth be told,” Doug nodded, raising his glass to toast me. That bastard probably couldn’t get addicted to anything. He could drink half a bottle of whiskey and then drive his baby daughter to pre-school like it was nothing.
But not me. Not by a long shot.
I was surrounded by heroin when I was in Afghanistan—poppy farmers everywhere. If I had wanted it then, I could have just stopped my jeep at any roadside vendor and bought a big bag full to cook up. But I didn’t want it. Not then.
No, it was after I was wounded. My chopper took a rocket propelled grenade to the side. It was either bail out or go down in a fiery wreck with the ship. I bailed, and I was the only survivor—but I lay there in the brush, my spine in about fourteen different jagged pieces and a rock gouging a chunk out of my leg.
A squad of friendlies found me later that day when they were investigating the crash.
That wound sent me home. It sent me to physical therapy too. And part of the therapy was learning to manage the pain—the ever present, omnipresent pain that shot up and down my back whenever I walked, whenever I sat down, whenever I leaned over my bike to ride. It hurt. Life hurt. I hurt.
I started on pain killers—the heaviest ones my VA doctor would prescribe. But before long, it wasn’t enough.
I had always loved bikes, loved fixing them up and riding. As a result, I hung around with some unsavory types. Before long, I was bitching about my pain and someone—I don’t even remember who it was—offered to let me shoot up out of his stash. And suddenly, the pain was gone.
Suddenly, I felt… Normal. Hell, I felt better than normal, if only because I had forgotten what normal felt like, and suddenly, normal—being able to get up in the morning and not feel like I was about to sweat piss out of my pores, being able to get through the day without shaking, without feeling like I would tear off the head of the next motherfucker to give me lip—it felt great.
And so I started using, and started using more and more. Somewhere along the way, to get closer to my supply, I fell in with a gang of bikers.
The Damned MC. Some of the worst excuses for human beings I’ve ever met. Sons of bitches, all of them. But they’re family.
And here I was, betraying them, as I had been doing for months now. Ever since getting clean.
“The Bureau wants someone undercover in the gang,” Doug was telling me as I descended back to earth. I raised an eyebrow.
“You’ve got me. I’ve been feeding you bastards intel for months. Isn’t that good enough?”
Doug’s eyes flashed. For being a completely mild-mannered, unassuming type of guy, he really gave me the fucking creeps sometimes.
“It’s great, Fang. Really. But we need more. We need a professional. We’re getting to the point—all thanks to you—where we think we can finally take Fatman down.”
I felt my jaw jut out. I’d been waiting to hear those words.
“Right. But why do you need someone else?”
“We need someone empowered to make arrests. We need someone whose testimony will stand up in court. You yourself know how hard it is to make things stick when we’re dealing with the Damned.”
He was right. I’d been on the bench twice for armed robbery and each time, the witnesses refused to identify me. The judge even apologized to me for wasting my time—me, a veteran, after all!
“You’ve done great things to take these guys down. But now, we’re entering the end game, and you need back up.”
“I’m not the type of guy who needs back up. And what do you mean ‘these guys’? Don’t you forget—I’m one of ‘those guys.’”
A cool smile spread over Doug’s face. He called a waitress over—a doe eyed little girl who was too pretty to be working in a place like this—and ordered a glass of water for me, and a glass of straight rum for himself. My hand found myself onto the girl’s ass as she slid away and I felt her tense up.
“Be nice,” Doug warned me.
“You’re not my dad,” I growled, shooting a wink at the blushing waitress. She couldn’t have even been out of high school.
I wanted to wreck her. I’ve had trouble controlling impulses ever since going off smack, and I was worried I might lose control. My glass of water came and I downed it, my body relaxing as I counted to ten, like my VA hospital therapist had told me to do.
“But I’m your only ticket out of this life, and you’re going to do what I say.”
There was no arguing with that. Doug was one of those guys who didn’t need to make big scary threats, who didn’t need big muscles, a showy car—all he needed was a badge and a cellphone, and he could ruin your day, your year, your life.
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“That’s right, soldier. As I was saying, we’re giving you… A partner, of sorts.”
“A partner? Where are you going to find someone fucked up enough to join the Damned?”
It wasn’t a rhetorical question. Without exception, all members of the Damned have to be ex-military. You have to be able to ride pretty fucking well, and you can’t be a boy scout. Fucked up cases like us come around only once in a blue moon.
The other side of that coin is that we’re so fucked, so broken, so far gone, that there’s not a gang in Florida that can challenge us.
“Your new partner isn’t exactly going to join the Damned. She’s going to be your old lady.”
Old lady. That meant… Somewhere between my wife and a girlfriend. An exclusive relationship. The type where the others wouldn’t try to fuck her too much, but she’d still be allowed to hang around the club house, so long as I was there.
I felt my face darkening without even trying to show my displeasure. What the fuck was this Fed trying to do to me?
“No way, Doug. No fucking way.”
“We’ve decided, Fang. This is what we want.”
“Well, fuck you and fuck all of your operations. I’m not bringing some bitch FBI agent into the club.”
“She’s going to get herself hurt or fucked up and then it’ll be both our asses—if we’re lucky. If not, they’ll rape her to death and tie me to a motorcycle and drag me half way to Atlanta till my skin’s plastered all over the interstate.”
“I assure you, Fang… The agent we have picked out isn’t going to fuck you over. She can handle herself. She’s one of our best.”
“Then the Bureau has no choice but to terminate our relationship.”
I sat back in my chair. What the fuck was he playing at?
“What do you mean?”
“Then we’re dropping you as a mole. And, by the way, we have detailed records of various crimes you’ve committed or mentioned committing.”
I stood up, flipping the table in the process and knocking my water and Doug’s glass to the floor. Shards went flying but Doug remained calm the entire time.
“Relax, Fang. There’s no need for dramatics.”
“I’m not being fucking dramatic. I’m telling you to shove it with your fucking threats.”
“They’re not threats, Fang. They’re truths,” Doug said coolly. “You’ve got a choice now.”
Some choice. I sat back down. Fortunately, this was the kind of dive joint shit hole where no one cared if you broke a few glasses every now and then. Just, you know, don’t make a habit of it.
Now, I finally understood why Doug wanted to meet here and not at a motel like usual.