Authors: Franca Storm
a BLACK THORNS novel
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
SOULLESS. A Black Thorns Novel.
Copyright © Francesca Julia Gale (2015). All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.
Cover Design by Francesca Julia Gale
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Thud. Thud. Thud.
My fists plow into the bag, the brutality of my hits echoing off the walls in the makeshift gym inside the clubhouse. A hard rhythm I can’t escape. And one I need. A goddamn distraction. Been this way for the last six months. Since the last time I saw her. Triggered some bad shit. Shit ‘bout that day.
Pounding the hell outta this bag should be enough to block it out. To focus my mind where I wanna and to keep it off things I can’t stomach thinking ‘bout. But it ain’t.
“I love you. Forever.”
“We ain’t dying, you got me? We ain’t fucking going out like this. I swear it, babe.”
Get outta my head!
I pick up speed, ripping into the bag.
Can feel the skin on my knuckles breaking, cuz I didn’t take the time to put on gloves. I was fucking desperate to just rip into something.
“Hold on, beautiful girl. Hold on.”
Jesus. Why the fuck can’t I block it out?
It’s haunting me, day in and day out.
With all my years with the club, I’ve done shit that’d screw with most people’s heads. But it never affected me this bad. None of it. I took it all. Dealt with it. But now? Now
is what’s screwing with me, keeping me awake at night? What the fuck’s that ‘bout? Don’t make sense.
I deliver another couple of angry jabs then step back and wipe my arm across my forehead, soaking up the sweat pouring from me and burning my eyes.
Of course it makes sense. Haunts me, cuz I failed.
Couldn’t protect her.
Failed to protect what’s mine.
I slump down on the bench in the corner and snatch up a towel that’s thrown across it beside my shirt. I wipe the sweat off my chest and then I fire up a smoke.
Adrenaline’s coursing through me from my frenzied workout. But the endorphins ain’t doing fuck all. Nothing ever works. Ain’t no relief. Alcohol. Nicotine. Riding. Nothing. Sex? Yeah, that’s just more screwed up shit right there.
As Prez now, I got pussy being thrown at me every goddamn day. But even the best club whores ain’t doing it for me. Can’t fucking finish. Been over a year since I been able to get my rocks off with a woman.
Just me and my hand getting the job done now. Whores I’ve tried to hook up with can’t get me there. Ain’t their fault, cuz a lot of ‘em got major skills. Nah, it’s me. Every time I get a feel of some pussy, thoughts of Rox take me over. Woman’s haunting me. Jesus fucking Christ.
Been over a year since I touched her and I still can’t shake her.
And I don’t want to. Still hanging on, cuz the woman is mine. Always will be even if we ain’t together. But not being together’s slowly killing me. Breaking me down.
Seeing her that day six months ago—her moving day—was a big mistake. I shoulda just left it, cuz I ain’t been able to see straight since. It triggered all the shit between us and, most of all, the fact that I failed to protect her.
The day of the crash.
lost control of the truck. Me. I shoulda been able to find another way to shake those Mavs tailing us. I shoulda been able to protect us.
Instead, she got hurt real bad and we lost our kid.
Then I had to walk.
To keep her safe and to make damn sure she wouldn’t never be in a situation like that again. To protect her from my life. Thorns club life.
In that split second when I lost control of the truck, I fucking knew.
I was ‘bout to lose everything.
And time ain’t made it no better.
That’s why I’m working on the shit I am.
For the last six months, I been on it secretly. None of the boys know. Don’t wanna drag the club into it, cuz we’re operating legit all ‘round now.
I’m getting my girl back.
Just gonna take some time, cuz I gotta do it right. Keep her safe.
The door scraping open jolts me outta my thoughts.
I look up to see Smiter walking in.
I take a drag of my smoke and lift my chin at him.
“You all right?” he asks, eyeing my hands.
I look at ‘em. Yeah, my knuckles are shredded all right.
Looks like he wants to say something more.
But he don’t. Knows me well by now.
But then his eyes stray to the tattoo on my chest. My
Black angel wings cradling a rising sun. Between ‘em is one word:
Used to call her my sunshine. My light in a world full of dark.
The regret in his eyes cuts into me and, before I can stop myself, I snap, “Stop fucking looking at it, yeah?”
I put my smoke down on the bench and snatch up my shirt, pulling it on over my head and hiding the tat. Smoke’s back a second later and I’m taking a harsh drag.
Nah. We ain’t going where he wants to. I cut him off, “We got a situation?”
Something’s gotta be up. Smiter’s Sergeant-at-Arms. Him walking in here so suddenly is a hell of a sign that we got some security issue.
, we got a visitor.
“Dealer’s here,” he tells me.
Great. The last person I wanna see. Rox’s dad. Like I need any more brutal reminders of her. But I ain’t gonna show it to Smiter; not to any of the boys. I’m Prez now. Can’t be showing any weakness.
“Yeah? What’s he want?” I ask as I stub my smoke out on the concrete and cross to the door where he’s standing. I reach behind him and lift my cut off the hook there.
As I shrug it on, he tells me, “Didn’t say. Just wants a one on one with you.”
“Got him waiting at the bar. Him and Mullet are catching up on old times.”
Shit, yeah. Mullet came up under him when Dealer was Prez. I heard that Dealer was the one who’d brought him into the club.
“Get one of the prospects to hook me up with something for these, yeah?” I say, gesturing to my knuckles. “Gauze or some shit.”
“Sure. You want me to sit in on this meet?”
“Nah. I’ll let you know if any of what he’s gotta say touches on security.”
I made Grit VP a few months back, so normally I’d have him in with me. Same with Smiter. But I got no idea why Dealer’s even here, so no point bringing ‘em in on it ‘til I know if he’s here to talk club business, or just personal.
“Nah. I got this. I’ll see why he’s here first.”
“All right, Prez,” he says before walking out.
What the hell does Dealer want? If he’s come all the way up here to the clubhouse, it can’t be good. Coulda just called me if it were something small.
“Ax. Long time,” Dealer says, shaking my hand.
“Yeah, been a while.” I smile and walk ‘round my desk and slump into the old leather chair. He sits down opposite.
“Club looks good.”
Big compliment coming from him, as former Prez. “Thanks.”
“Had your work cut out for you with morale and shit after Trig’s betrayal. Boys are lucky they got you as Prez now. Coulda fallen apart without you at the helm. Took a good leader to pull it back, Ax. Not any guy coulda done it.”
“Guess it really is in my blood then,” I respond bitterly.
He flinches at my words. “I know you didn’t want it, but—”
“Why you here?” I demand, cutting him off. Can’t get into all that. Makes me angry just thinking ‘bout how I basically got forced into the Prez role instead of being able to walk like I wanted—with my girl and our kid.
His eyes bore into mine as he leans across the desk and tells me, “I know what you’re doing.”
“Got no idea what you talkin’ ‘bout.” Shit. Does he know? How would he? The boys don’t even know. Well, ‘til he says the words, I ain’t gonna admit to nothing.
“You made the mistake of coming through Brockford. My city now, remember? Rox handed her business over to me.”
Don’t say her fucking name to me.