Read Bounty: Fury Riders MC Online
Authors: Zoey Parker
I’m being led through the snow by a tall man who looks like he could crush me if he decided to. But I don’t have a choice. It’s either this or freeze to death in the backseat of my car.
We’re actually not far from where I pulled over, I realize. He wasn’t kidding when he said it was only a quarter mile or so. When the storm was at its peak, I couldn’t see a damn thing out the windows. I could have been driving down the middle of Main Street and never would have known, unable to see more than a foot in front of me. Now, I see the house more clearly as we approach. It sits by itself, green siding stark against the gray sky, smoke curling up from the chimney. I turn to check that my car is safe where it’s sitting. I can easily see it from here, even with the flakes that are still falling fast and heavy. I guess that’s how he spotted me.
A hound dog runs alongside us, bounding through the snow. I can’t help but laugh at its absolute joy. To think I’d probably come close to dying in the same snow this dog finds so thrilling. I wonder if he lives alone, this man, or if he has a family. The idea of freezing isn’t appealing but neither is being raped and murdered in some farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere.
I’m nearing exhaustion, slowing down even though he’s doing a good job of clearing a path for me through the deep snow. The hound trails behind him, nudging me. Sweet dog. This gets the man’s attention. He doubles back for me, taking my arm and pulling me along with him. I have no choice but to be dragged. I’m glad for it, though. I might have given up if left to my own devices. When’s the last time I ate? I don’t even remember now.
“Come on,” I hear him shout, urging me to keep up. “It’s getting heavy again. Just a little more.” We finally reach the back porch and stumble up the steps, pushed from behind by the wind that has indeed strengthened once again. We make it just in the nick of time. He opens the door and ushers me inside along with the dog, then pushes it shut against the howling wind.
I’m standing in a little farmhouse kitchen, complete with a fireplace along one wall. There’s a flight of stairs dividing the room in half, with the stove and other appliances on the opposite side of the hearth. The flames are blazing, which is a welcome sight to my half-frozen eyes. The whole room is quaint, cozy, and not at all what I would have expected.
“Motherfucker,” he breathes, panting for air. “I can’t believe how hard it’s blowing out there.”
“Tell me about it,” I say weakly, hardly able to speak. He must see me swaying on my feet because he rushes to me, sitting me in a chair by the fire.
“Let me take your gloves,” he says in his deep voice. “They’re all wet and cold. Same with your boots, they’re probably soaked through now.” He is right. These aren’t snow boots. I am totally unprepared for this. His rough hands rip the boots from my feet, along with the wet socks.
“Do you feel this?” He pinches the sole of my foot, and I nod. “Good. They’re red, not white. White would be a problem. Keep them by the fire.” I do as I’m told, while stretching forward to warm my hands as well. If he wanted to rape me, I reason with myself, he wouldn’t be so concerned with whether I lose my toes or fingers.
Minutes later he comes back, holding out a steaming mug. “Drink this,” he says, thrusting it toward me.
“What is it?”
“Tea with whiskey. It’ll get your blood flowing again.” I take it, feeling tentative. Is he drugging me? I take a sniff and reel backward, the smell of the whiskey hitting me hard.
“I can’t guarantee how well I’ll handle this. I don’t know how long it’s been since I ate.”
“We’ll deal with that later. Right now, you need to get your blood going and warm up, especially since you were asleep in the cold.” I see his point and take a tiny sip. It burns a warm trail down my throat and makes me wince, but there’s no denying how nice it feels to warm up inside. I smile a little, making him smile in return.
“That’s better,” he says, taking off his heavy parka to reveal more of himself. I watch him through the steam coming off the tea. He’s just as big without the coat as he was with it. Tall, muscular, intimidating. He’s wearing a t-shirt in the middle of winter, stretched tight over his broad chest and around his thick biceps. I see tattoos on both arms. His hair is dark, cropped close.
“I’ve seen you before,” I say, surprised. “You came into my shop one day around a week ago, didn’t you?”
He grins. “I did. You have a good memory.”
“I remember all my customers.” I take another sip of tea, choosing to leave out the part where he stuck out because of how gorgeous he was. He’d come in alone, right after I’d opened for the day. I’d sent Amy to the bank for change, leaving just me and him in the shop together. I’d felt a little overwhelmed by him, by his sheer size and presence, not to mention his smoldering good looks and big dark eyes. He’d been nothing but polite, though, and had left a big tip in the jar.
“You’re probably the only person in town who was nice to me that day,” he says thoughtfully.
“Long story. How’s the tea?”
“I feel like I’m floating on a warm cloud.”
“That sounds about right.” He smiles, dazzling against his tanned skin. He must work outdoors or something, judging from the body and the tan.
“So listen, I hate to tell you this, but it’s gonna take me forever to get your car out of that snow. It’s probably completely buried by now. Besides, there’s a second storm on its way tonight. Anything that’s cleared off will just be back by morning.”
“Wait. What are you saying?” I’ve fallen off my cloud and back down to Earth with a thud.
“I’m saying you’ll have to spend the night. There’s just no way for you to get out of here; besides, there’s not enough gas in the tank. Remember?”
The warm, cozy feeling I had disappears in a flash. I’m sure I’ve seen at least one horror movie that started out like this. “Uh-uh. No way!”
His expression changes. Now he looks dark, dangerous, the way I’d expect him to be if judging him by his tattoos alone. “Listen, sweetheart, you’re more than welcome to walk your ass back home in the middle of a freaking blizzard if you’re so dead set against it. Be my guest.”
Damn it. He’s right, of course. I’m trapped here whether I like it or not. Even though the part of my brain still rational enough for thought reminds me I could easily be dead right now, frozen in the backseat of my car if it wasn’t for him, the rest of me is annoyed that I have to stay here instead of at home or, better yet, with my parents. Gorgeous or not, he’s a complete stranger.
A stranger who saved my life, that is.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, that was bitchy of me,” I mumble. “I wasn’t thinking. It’s just that I was so excited about getting home to see my parents for the holidays. It’s been a while, you know? They were looking forward to seeing me, too. This isn’t how I’d planned on things going.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m sure they’d rather have you alive than frozen to death in the middle of the road.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Okay. You’re right. You win. And it’s nice of you to let me stay. It was really great that you came to get me, too. Thank you.”
We sit in silence for a while, then I remember something.
“Shit. Is your land line working? I didn’t have any service on my phone, then it went dead. I couldn’t call my parents, and they must be worried by now. Especially if they heard about the blizzard.”
“Oh, yeah.” He gets up and fetches a handset mounted to the wall by the backdoor. I take it and dial, hoping the lines are still up and I can get through to my mom.
“Christina! We’ve been worried sick!”
“I’m sorry, Mom, really. I got stranded in the snowstorm out here and…had to pull over at a motel for the night.” I glance at him and notice the way he grins when he hears my lie. I roll my eyes, assuring Mom that I’m safe and I’ll call her in the morning.
I hang up, now at a total loss for words. For better or worse, I’m stuck in a secluded farmhouse with a total stranger. What do I do now?
The whiskey loosened up her tongue and now she won’t shut up. If I’d known she’d be a talker, I might have left her out in the snow.
Okay. I wouldn’t have left her out in the snow, but maybe I’d have bought myself some earplugs before the storm. Something to help me deal with her incessant talking.
I know it’s because she’s nervous. We’re strangers, and I’m sure that to Little Miss Coffee Shop I’m the Big Bad Wolf. I remember how she looked at me when I first walked into her place last week. Her eyes went round before she could stop herself. Her skin was already fair, but it turned so pale I could see the freckles standing out against her nose and cheeks.
I’m used to getting that reaction when people first meet me, though. It’s nothing new.
She’s not a bad person, of course. She was genuinely nice to me. But that was because she didn’t know me. She had no idea that I really am the Big Bad Wolf.
Now she’s nervous, alone in the house with me. I notice the way she hesitates before taking off her coat, and I know it’s because she’s still slightly afraid of me. Even though I saved her damn life, she’s still afraid.
This isn’t exactly an everyday thing for me either. I haven’t spent this much time alone with a woman, awake and with our clothes on, in years. Ever since…
“Do you live here alone?” she asks, looking at me with those big green eyes. Innocent eyes.
“Why? You think the house needs a woman’s touch or something?”
“No.” I think I see a little bit of a blush on her cheeks. “I was going to say just the opposite. It’s a really nice house. Cozy.”
“Thanks. It was decorated by, uh, a woman I knew.” I look down at my hands. It’s still hard to talk about her, even after all this time. The girl is smart enough to not ask any questions.
“I just realized something,” she says, laughing. “I don’t even know your name!”
“God, of course not.” I’m laughing now, too. “I’m Jax. Jax Fairbanks.”
“Christina Reardon, you make a mean blueberry muffin. I’ve been meaning to tell you that for a week. Really, it was excellent.”
She definitely blushes this time. “Thanks.”
“You’ve been there how long now?”
“I bet the town considers you a pleasant change from Ricky.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Ricky was, you know, a guy. And not the handsomest guy either.” As a matter of fact, he looked like a troll. But I keep that to myself, not wanting to come off like too much of a prick. “The first thing I thought when I walked in was that it was a nice change of pace, seeing you behind the counter instead.”
She scowls, and I wonder what the hell I said to piss her off. “So what you’re saying is that because I have tits, I have customers?”
“That’s not what I said at all. I’m gonna chalk it up to the whiskey.” But there’s no backing down from her. She stands up, hands on hips.
“No, that’s exactly what you meant. I’m a girl, so people come to my shop. If I was a guy—a plain, average-looking guy—they wouldn’t be as likely to come in.”
“What the fuck difference does it make either way? Why are you getting so worked up over this? Either way, it works in your favor. You’re pretty. You’re nice. I’m sure people like visiting the shop and seeing a pretty, nice girl smiling at them. That’s all I meant.” I hold up my hands, surrendering. Christ, she’s tough.
She’s still simmering, but she sits back down. “My pastries are good.”
“I just said they are.”
She folds her arms. “And I remember everybody’s name and what they usually order.”
“I’m sure they appreciate it.”
“Why do you always have to have the last word?”
“I don’t.” She turns her head toward the fire so I won’t see her smile in spite of herself. Now that she’s not looking at me, I can size her up. She’s tall, curvy, with wavy dark hair that hangs past her shoulders. She has that rash of freckles on her nose and cheeks, which I don’t normally like, but on her, they’re cute. She’s the opposite of Marissa.
Even after two years, my heart clenches like it always does when I think of her. She was tiny, short and small framed, with golden blonde curls. She was always quiet, thoughtful, never really shared an opinion. Always going whatever way I wanted to go. Always stepping aside so I could stand in front of her. Smart as hell, but not overly opinionated. She’d been taught from an early age to keep her opinions to herself.
The girl in front of me right now is nothing like that. I’d tried to give her a compliment and she practically jumped down my throat.
So why am I so attracted to her? She’s nothing like the women I usually go for.
Because even now, when I’m on the prowl for pussy I go for women who remind me of Marissa. Petite blondes without much to say outside of complimenting me. Women who don’t fit that profile might as well not exist. Even when I first saw Christina in the shop, I noticed that she was cute. But it didn’t go further than that. Because she’s not my type.
So why do I want to take her upstairs and fuck her senseless?
I don’t think she’d be the kind who’d go for just a one-time deal, though. And that’s all I’m interested in. No strings, no commitment. Not even a cuddle. Just sex. A basic human need. I won’t open myself up to anything deeper than that ever again. It’s not worth the pain.
She’s fun, though. Now that I know it’s so easy to get her riled up, I wanna find new ways to do it. She’s pretty enough when she’s just sitting there across from me, looking at the fire. When she’s pissed off, she’s gorgeous.
“What made you decide to buy the shop?” I ask her. “That’s a pretty big step for someone who’s practically new in town.”
“How did you know I was?” She’s on edge and I have to wonder why.
I just shrug, to show her it’s not a big deal. “You’re new here. I’ve lived here all my life, and I’d never met you before I walked in for a quick breakfast. You were nice to me, which, like I said, isn’t the norm. And you were totally unprepared for a freak storm, which we get around here at this time of year. There wasn’t even a blanket in your car.”
Her eyes narrow. I guess she wasn’t expecting me to have a brain in my head.
She doesn’t argue. “I’ve only lived here for eight months,” she admits. “I didn’t know winter was so weird.”
“Yeah, winter’s pretty weird.” I can’t help grinning. It’s just natural to tease her, though I don’t know why.
“How come I’ve only seen you once in eight months? Like you said, you’ve lived here your whole life. Why did you never come in before?”
“I was…away.” I wish I’d never asked in the first place. I don’t feel like getting into this with her. “And I’m not such a big fan of a lot of the town. I only go there every once in a while. Usually I’m out here, or working with my clients.”
“Clients? What do you do?”
“I’m a corporate attorney.” She smirks at me. “What? A corporate attorney can’t have ink?”
“If you’re not going to answer me seriously, don’t bother answering at all. I’m only trying to make conversation.”
“So you do judge books by their covers.” Now she’s scowling. “I’m a landscaper, actually. And you never answered my question. What made you decide to buy the shop?”
She’s shy now. I watch thoughts go through her head. She’s wondering if she can open up to me. Can I be trusted? Will I judge her? Why does she care? She has absolutely no poker face at all.
Finally, she settles on, “I’ve always loved baking. Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of owning my own bakery. The coffee shop is the next best thing. I mean, it was like a sign, you know? I moved here because I thought it was nice, quiet. Peaceful. And then, bam! Coffee shop goes up for sale. Like it was meant to be. I couldn’t pass on the chance.”
“And you like it?”
“I love it. I really do.” She’s not only gorgeous when she’s pissed off, she’s also gorgeous when she’s talking about the things she loves. Her eyes light up.
But she’s sexiest when she’s pissed.
I look out the window, noticing the wind isn’t howling the way it was before. “It’s slowed down a little,” I say, standing and stretching. I feel my tee ride up when I do, and I see her glance over to take a look when she thinks I won’t notice. I manage to hide my grin and keep that little bit of information in the back of my mind. The way she looked at me.
“I think it might not be a bad idea to go out and clear at least some of the snow,” I say. “It’s gonna keep snowing but I wanna get a jump on it. So there’s not so much to do all at once.”
“You trust me to stay in here all by myself?”
I can’t help smirking. As if she was some sort of threat. “I think the house can handle it. Unless you’d rather come out and help me. Maybe those leather boots will keep your feet warm.” Even with a disgusted look on her face, she’s beautiful. And so easy to set off. I think saving her from the storm was a good move on my part.
My eyes move down to her body before I turn away. Yeah. It was a very good move.