Authors: Amanda Anderson
Copyright © 2014 by Amanda Anderson
All rights reserved, except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted material is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
This book is a work of fiction and any similarities to persons living or dead, places, incidents are completely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Printed in the United States of America
The night air woke Lacey with a fright as her father raised the window and flung back her covers. The flannel pajamas she wore offered little defense against the chill of the cold January night. Her father was tugging at her, but she couldn’t wake up enough to understand what was happening. She rubbed her eyes in an effort to clear the sleep from them.
“Come on now Princess. I wouldn’t wake you if it weren’t important. Now you need to hurry. Wake up now, it’s important.”
He pushed her toward the window and handed her a coat along with her old teddy bear and a bag that felt heavy.
“Daddy, where is Mama? What’s going on?” Her voice shook as the cold began to seep through her body. Her father sighed and shook his head. She looked at him then and saw pure fear in his eyes, even at her age she recognized it.
“I should have never gotten involved with those people.” He said almost to himself. “The Defenders seemed so different. I thought…..” He trailed off and met Lacey’s eyes. “Lacey, I need you to promise me something.”
His grip on her arms hurt and she was frightened, but she nodded and tried to listen.
“Run as fast as you can and hide in the old barn. Do you know what I mean?” At her nod he continued. “Stay there until I come for you or someone I trust comes for you.”
“Why Daddy? I don’t understand. Who else will you send and why won’t it just be you?”
“There is a man named Preacherman. He isn’t a bad man like the others. You met him once. Do you remember baby?”
Lacey shook her head fiercely. She couldn’t remember a preacher ever visiting them other than the one that preached at their church in town and she saw him every week.
“He told you that God loves all men, even if sometimes the men may not deserve it. He has a cross tattooed on his arm, here,” he pointed to the underside of his forearm from elbow to wrist. “Remember? He liked your mama’s chocolate chip cookies...”
Lacey remembered running her finger along the intricate scroll work on the cross and nodded. She had asked him why a bad man would have that as a tattoo; wouldn’t it remind him of how bad he was? He had smiled kindly, if a little sad and told her that God loved even bad men and the cross helped him remember that. Lacey remembered her mother sending a sack full of cookies with the man and smiling at him when he said she had stolen his heart and how much his children would like the treat. Lacey remembered wondering what kind of father a man like that would be and if his kids were scary like him. He had been riding a big black motorcycle with flames on the front, but momma had told her that not all men who rode the big, loud machines were bad, some were just misguided, but we should steer clear of all of them just to be safe.
Lacey had never spoken to the man again and that had been almost two years ago, but she had seen him in town and he had always nodded to her and sent her a wink when no one was looking as if it was a game. Lacey had secretly liked that very much. Yes, she remembered him and she remembered the dark haired boy that was always with him and she shivered as she always did when she thought of the boy. She didn’t think he was kind like Preacherman, he looked like a nightmare.
Her father lifted her out the window and stood her on the rough roof of the back porch. He then handed her out her slippers and instructed her to slip them on. She did and looked back at her beloved father.
“Daddy, I’m scared. What will happen and will he have that scary boy with him? I don’t like him daddy.”
“I know Princess, I’m scared too, but if you do as I say you will be fine. Preacherman won’t let anyone hurt you. Lacey,” he choked on the lump in his throat; “you have to be alright. Promise me.”
“I promise Daddy.” She heard the rumble of motorcycles growing closer and her heart beat faster. Her father looked terrified. He took her hand and gave her a fierce look that told her she would never see him again.
“Go Princess.” He gave her one more kiss and closed the window. She climbed from the roof and ran as the roar of the engines became almost deafening. She ran.
The Defenders rode into the yard of the big white house just as flames began to lick at windows. Two brothers burst through the doors and came out carrying the occupants, a man and a woman. The woman had been stripped and her beautiful body beaten and cut. She was mercifully dead. The man was unrecognizable. His face was bloody and his body broken, but he clung to life. His pain glazed eyes met those of a young man no older than sixteen and then fell on his friend and he sighed.
Preacherman knelt by the man who he’d come to call friend, even if they were as opposite as night was to day.
“Aww hell Carson, we came as soon as fast as we could. What happened? Where is Lacey?”
“Devils…devils came…wanted to know…I didn’t tell them…even when…” His breath caught as his eyes fell on the now covered body of his wife. “Wouldn’t have mattered…” His eyes closed.
“Carson, stay with me. Lacey? Where is your daughter?” Preach had seen what the Devils did to women and he couldn’t stand the thought of the innocent young girl in their evil hands.
Carson grimaced and Preach thought it was meant to be a smile. “Lacey…my princess…” he began to cough and bloody bubbles gathered on his lips. “I made her run…she got away…barn…waiting for you…so smart…only trusts you…” His eyes darted to the boy standing like a wraith in the moonlight. “Scared of him…keep her safe.” His body was racked with a pain filled cough. “Take care of her?”
The blood soaked man gripped Preach’s arm with more strength than Preach thought possible. Preach saw the question in the man’s blue eyes, so much like his daughter’s and nodded. “You have my word on that Carson. She will be kept safe. Loyalty is served with loyalty. She’s my family now. Is there anyone I need to call?”
The man nodded. “Her mother…” He looked toward his wife.
Preach closed his eyes. “Where Carson? You have to tell me where and I need her name.”
“Lace knows… I gave her the… papers…”
Preach nodded and gripped the man’s hand. “You have my word Carson. I will protect Lacey with my life.”
The man gave out a relieved sigh and closed his eyes in death.
Preach lifted his eyes to the boy he had known as his son for the last eight years. He was still shattered from the events of his life and Preach knew he hadn’t been able to give the boy the help he needed. Even tonight would scar him. Shadow was already acting as a prospect for the club at sixteen and would no doubt make brother by eighteen. He wore the scars of a man twice his age and Preach vowed that would not happen to this man’s daughter, she would thrive and find the happy life her father would have wanted for her.
With his mind made up he met the eyes of his friend and the president of the Defenders MC, Tank McCurdy and then his brother Moose who had only made brother that week. They needed no words to understand what had to be done and as Preach and his son walked into the woods his brothers returned the bodies to the now blazing house.
Preach and Shadow made their way to the old barn just inside the woods. The moon wasn’t full, so Preach had a hard time finding his way, but Shadow always seemed more comfortable in the dark and to be able to see like a damn cat. The kid marched right into the forest and straight to the barn. A slight lift of a brow was the only indication that the damned kid was disgruntled.
“Kiss my ass Shad. Not everyone sees in the damn dark.”
The boy made no sound as he stepped back and let his father pass.
“Lacey girl, it’s Preacherman.” He squatted down and listened for the little girl but no sound came from the barn. Had they found her after all? He looked to his son and the boy nodded to the corner of the barn. Preach spoke again.
“I’m here to take you somewhere safe. Will you come on out Lil Lacey so I know you’re alright?”
Preach felt Shadow shift beside him and knew the memories were coming back to him too. Preach looked up at his son and knew he was feeling for the little girl more than anyone else could ever understand. He heard a sniffle just before his arms were filled with a shivering child of twelve.
“Hello there Lacey girl.” He crooned.
Lacey’s eyes were too big for her little face and the blue reflected the moon making her look like and angel.
“What happened Mr. Preacher? Where are Daddy and Mama?”
Her teeth chattered so hard she could hardly speak, but Preach saw the determination in those eyes. She wanted answers and he refused to lie to her.
“They are gone Lacey girl, but you will go with me and I’ll make you safe. I’ll take you to your grandma Lacey. You’ll be alright there.” He hugged her tighter when she began to sob. “This is my boy, Shadow, will you look at him Lacey? Shadow will always help you if I can’t be there. Look at him Lacey, you can trust me and you can trust Shadow, ok? Look at his face baby, remember him so you will always know him.”
Lacey turned her head and looked to the dark haired boy with the black eyes and blank face. He looked more like a phantom than a shadow and Lacey was afraid of him. She shook her head. She remembered him. He had haunted her dreams too many nights.
“What’s the matter Lacey girl?” Preach slowly rubbed her little back. Lacey was smaller than a girl her age should be. She felt like a bird and Preach was honestly afraid he would break her.
“He is scarier than you Mr. Preacher. He looks like a spook or something.” She whispered. She snuck another look. “He gives me bad dreams.” She buried her face in Preach’s chest. “I don't think I like him.” She whispered quietly.
Preach couldn’t help the chuckle. The girl was right. Shadow looked ethereal in the moon light and if the dark scowl on his face said anything, he was not happy with the assessment.
“Now Lacey, he’s just a kid like you.” At Shad’s angry glare he just shook his head in warning. “He’s my son and he is a fine young man, don’t you think you can come on home with me and Shad? Mrs. is my old lady and she will be tickled to have you until we can get you settled in with your grandma.”
Lacey looked up into Preach’s kind eyes. “He's really your son?” Lacey ran her fingers over the cross tattoo on his arm and prayed.
“He is my son.” Preach confirmed, feeling pride in the admission as he always did.
Lacey looked thoughtful. Her tear streaked face shown in the moonlight and her little pink lips pulled down on the corners. “Why is he so scary then? You aren't scary Mr. Preacher, even if my mama said you were a little bit, I don’t think you are.” She lowered her voice until Preach could barely hear her. “Why does he give me scary dreams?”
Preach smiled. “Do you remember when I told you about that?” He nodded to his arm and the beautiful cross there.
Lacey nodded hollowly. Preach knew she was feeling shock setting in and he needed to get her away and warm.
“We all have our stories Lil Lacey and we deal with those stories in our own ways.” Preach looked up at Shad and saw the muscles jump in his jaw.
“Tonight is part of your story lil Lacey. You will have to deal with it in your own way too darling, just like me and just like Shadow.”
“We need to get her out of here.” Shadow spoke in his flat voice and narrowed his eyes when Lacey shivered and huddled closer to Preach.
“Why can’t I go home?” Lacey's small voice shook.
“The men who hurt your parents…they burned the house Lacey.” Preach said quietly.
Sobs wracked the young girl until Preach thought she would fall apart. He just lifted her and carried her to his bike. He met his brother Ace’s eyes and saw the same compassion he had seen the day they had rescued Shadow. He nodded at his friend, feeling his silent support.
“Hang on to me Lil Darlin’. We will be home in a little while.” Before he could crank the heavy machine Shad approached holding out his warm leather jacket. He looked uncaring in the gesture, but Preach knew how much the boy hated to be cold and the sacrifice he made to help the girl whose life had just been shattered. Preach met the boy’s eyes and realized he had become a man in the last few hours. Preach wanted to weep for the child that had never had the chance to be innocent and the one who never would again. He took the heavy leather jacket from his son, but made no comment, as he knew it would embarrass the boy. Instead he turned and helped Lacey wrap the coat around herself and zip it.
She reached out and touched Shad’s hand as he turned to leave and he jumped as if the contact hurt him.
“Thank you Shadow.” Lacey’s voice was soft and her eyes were wide and innocent.
Preach watched his son as he stood frozen staring at the little girl. The boy tilted his head slightly. He didn’t speak, only nodded and placed his hand on Lacey’s tiny one that lay on his arm. He held it for a minute before he stepped back. He looked so lost and Preach realized in that moment that the boy had missed being touched and cared for although he had allowed the contact from no one. Lacey hadn’t asked. She had simply done as she felt she needed to and somehow she had reached a boy who had been lost for eight years. Shadow walked back to his bike and climbed on without a word.
Then they were off, riding away, for some it was the scene of a crime, for others yet another casualty of the war between the Defenders and Devils, but for two young children they were riding away from an innocence that had been shattered like a pane of glass. Those two lives would be forever changed. Preach hoped he could make one happy even if he had failed to do so for the other.