Read Bounty: Fury Riders MC Online
Authors: Zoey Parker
“You’re right. Nobody did. Lucky for me, it wasn’t too hard to do. And lucky for you, too.” He winked.
“Lucky for me?”
“Yeah. If he had beaten me, he would have been in a much…feistier mood when he got back to you.” My mouth went dry at the thought, and my eyes went round. I felt the blood drain from my face. He nodded at my reaction. “You see what I’m getting at.”
I sighed and pointed to a chair as a way of asking permission to sit. He nodded. I arranged myself in the chair. It was a struggle to keep from falling into it. I knew I had a thousand-yard stare going on, looking right through my anti-hero, through the wall, back to that street where my attacker could have raped me.
“Hey,” he said. His voice was softer now. “I didn’t mean to scare you. It was mean to say that. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head. “No, you’re right. I’m being a bitch. I’m the one who should be sorry—you saved me.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled bitterly. “I’m a real saint.”
“You’re my rescuer. You were sent to me.” I was for real, too. I didn’t believe in consequences, never had. There was a reason he was riding by at the right moment. “Anyone else might have kept going without stopping to help.”
“True. Not everyone hates the Vicious Wolves like I do.”
“I thought it was personal,” I murmured.
“Not totally, but it was the reason I stopped,” he said. “I recognized the patch, which got me to look twice.” He leaned back in the swivel chair, looking up at the ceiling. For a long moment, the only sound in the room was that of the ceiling fan whirring above us.
“So are you gonna tell me what you were doing out there alone? Or do I have to beat it out of you?” He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, and I knew he wasn’t serious. Not entirely, anyway.
“I don’t even know you,” I blurted. “I don’t know where I am. Why should I tell you?”
A strange look came over his face and he laughed. “God, you’re right. I’m an idiot. I forgot not everybody around here knows who we are. We’re what you would call…a specialty organization.”
“Like the Knights of Columbus or the Rotary Club,” I said, drily. To my surprise, he laughed.
“Something like that,” he said. “My name is Vince Baldoni. I’m the leader of the MC.”
“Motorcycle club.” My cheeks burned in embarrassment. Obviously, that was what he meant. “We’re the Fury Riders. This is our headquarters, clubhouse, whatever you wanna call it. Our territory stretches far out into town, past where you were tonight. When I saw one of the Vicious Wolves in my territory…well, you can see why I stopped.”
“So it’s really like that? Turf stuff, I mean?”
He wrinkled his nose. “You make it sound like a kids’ game. Let me set you straight. It’s not a game.”
“No, you already showed me that earlier.” I shuddered without meaning to. In my head, I could still hear the sound of a nose breaking.
“Yeah, you got an eyeful. So you should know better than to insult the club, or what we do.”
“I wasn’t trying to be insulting.” I heard the volume of my voice rising and saw Vince’s face darkening. I pulled it back, fast. “I’m sorry. I just don’t know the lingo. I was clumsy.”
He assessed me, saw that I was sincere, and nodded. “Now, to make it even, who are you?”
I debated on giving him my real name. My brain raced, trying to come up with a fake one. All I could think of were names from TV characters. My luck, I’d pick his favorite show.
“What’s wrong? Forget your name? Or trying to come up with a new one?”
I blushed again. Damn it! I had to learn how to control that, somehow.
Instead, I lifted my chin. “So what? Why should I give you my name?”
He scowled. “Stop acting like a fucking baby. If you didn’t act like a baby, you wouldn’t have been out tonight, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into trouble. Now you’re afraid to give me your name when you weren’t afraid of what you were going to get into earlier. That makes a lot of sense.”
My chin quivered. “Thanks, asshole.”
“It’s true. You’re just mad because it’s true.” He turned to the wall, brooding. I got the feeling he didn’t like seeing emotion. He was about to see and hear a lot of it because I was on the verge of a breakdown. Everything I had seen and felt that night came rushing at me like a speeding train.
“I’m not used to this!” It was all I could get out before the dam burst, and I held my face in my hands as I sobbed. I shook from head to toe, heartbroken sobs ripping from my chest. I cried for what I saw him do, for what might have happened to me. I had been so afraid, so sure my life was over. I cried at the memory of my last thoughts, about my parents and how I’d let this happen to myself and how much they would suffer because of it. Yes, in that last moment, I had known it was all my fault. Vince had called it, and that pissed me off, too.
“Calm down,” he muttered. I looked at him through my fingers and saw him push a box of tissues toward me. “You don’t have to cry.”
“Dude, this has been a pretty big night for me, okay? I’ve never had to run away from a guy with a knife before.”
“Next time, stay where you belong.”
“Gladly.” I blew my nose. I sure didn’t belong there, with him, or anyone in his club. I remembered the way they’d leered at me as Vince dragged me back to the office.
“You never did tell me your name.”
He caught me off guard, and I had to laugh out of surprise. “Erica.”
“I wish we had met under nicer circumstances, Erica.” He looked a little sad, sort of wistful. I found myself wishing the same thing when our eyes locked.
She had a lot going for her.
First was that body, which I knew she was trying to cover up in her baggy clothes. I would have bet my bike there was a tight ass and perky tits under her jeans and sweatshirt. I’d felt those tits pressing up against my back when we rode to the clubhouse. I knew her waist was small from when I grabbed her in the lounge.
She was fucking gorgeous, too. Big blue eyes, wheat colored hair. Full, pouty lips. She tried to disguise herself when she was out in the hood, but she hadn’t done a good job of it.
On top of that, she was smart, even if she didn’t have much common sense. If I were her, looking the way she did and being as small as she was, I wouldn’t have stepped foot in that neighborhood. It was a bad move, and she was damn lucky I came along when I did. But she was book smart. And she had a sharp wit, which I appreciated. One thing I didn’t get a lot of in my world was wit.
She had guts, too. She stood up to me and mouthed off, even when I could tell she was scared shitless by the way her hands shook. She couldn’t meet my eyes. I thought of a rabbit in a trap, or a little bird. She needed protection. Even so, she put it aside when someone pissed her off. Then she was beyond gorgeous. She was fierce and feisty, and I got a little hard when I wondered how that translated in bed.
If she were any other woman in the world, especially the kind I was usually around, I would have tested that curiosity. I would have put on the charm and worked my way into her panties by the end of the night. I’d done it dozens of times before, if not more.
But not her. She was different. Not just a princess, which I was still sure she was. She wasn’t just stuck up. She had class. She was a really quality person. She didn’t only pretend to be, the way other people did when they came from richer neighborhoods.
She finally stopped crying, which was a relief. I hated seeing women cry. It was one of my only weaknesses. Maybe because of the way my mom cried when my dad died. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night when I was a kid and hear her crying in her room. She never cried in front of us. She was stronger than that. But at night, when she was alone, and the rest of us were sleeping, she would let it out. My room was next to hers, the walls thin as paper. She would cry for hours sometimes, and I always wanted to go in and comfort her. I didn’t. I knew she would hate it if I did. It would mean I knew she was falling apart.
“So if you’re ready to talk, I really would like it if you would tell me what you were doing out there. What was he after you for?” I didn’t need to tell the girl who I meant.
She took a deep breath. “I was taking pictures.”
“Pictures?” I knew the look on my face was probably priceless. “Who the hell goes down there to take pictures? Jesus Christ. Do you have a death wish?”
She bristled, and the color rose in her cheeks. She was prettier that way. “No, I don’t.”
“So why’d you do it?”
“Because I’m trying to get pieces together for an exhibit. I’m a photographer.”
I should have known. Only rich girls like her did stupid shit like that. Sort of like people who went to the ghetto thinking they could help people and wound up getting robbed and having their car stolen. It was what they got for being condescending pricks, as far as I was concerned. She was one of them.
“What were you taking pics of? Poor, lost souls?” I didn’t care that the sarcasm dripped from my voice. I was beyond irritated that this rich little snot thought she could walk around down there and take pictures, and then wonder why some bad guy chased her. He probably tried to steal her camera. Now I remembered seeing it on the ground, and the way she picked it up. They were probably fighting over it before she fell. It would be just like her to fight for it, too, instead of handing it over like anyone with half a brain would do.
“No.” She stiffened, sitting up straighter. “I was trying to find raw, gritty photos to get my name out there. I’ve always wanted to be a street photographer.”
“A street photographer. Like, getting photos of people in their daily lives. I got some really great shots tonight.” I smirked. “Hey—I can only take so many pics of kids smiling and eating ice cream,” she said with a shrug.
“I can see that. But there? Why there? I mean, the daytime is still shitty down there. You could have gone in the daytime, at least.”
She bit her thumbnail, looking at her lap. “I know that.”
I rolled my eyes. “Great. So you were there to get an exhibit together or whatever. How did you meet the Vicious Wolf?”
“A good name for him.”
She looked at me, and somehow I knew her well enough already to know she was deciding whether she should tell me the truth. Just like I knew before that she was trying to come up with a fake name to give me. Her face gave away everything she was thinking. Erica didn’t know it, but she caught me on a night when I had plenty of time on my hands. I could wait forever.
“I saw something. I don’t know whether telling you about it is the right thing to do because it might get you into trouble somehow.”
My ears perked up. I’d been sitting with my feet crossed on the desk, but her words made me sit up straight. “Tell me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Did he do something wrong?”
She nodded and looked miserable.
“Hey, you can tell me,” I said. “We have no friendship with them, trust me on that. So it’s not like I’ll go back to them and say you ratted.”
“Ratted?” I watched her shiver.
“Yeah, I know, it’s not a fun word. But that’s what they would think. I won’t let them think that.”
“And you won’t get in trouble for knowing?”
“How would I?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know your life. It might affect you somehow.”
“Just tell me.” I already had a good idea what it was anyway. If he had chased her and was ready to attack her, she had seen something she shouldn’t. That meant a very narrow range of things.
And I was right. “I heard him arguing with another man, so I watched from the street. I was taking pictures, thinking they would be good to show two men fighting. Real-life stuff, you know? And they were lit so perfectly…”
“I get it.” I waved a hand. “Keep moving.”
“Oh, anyway, they were fighting, and I was shooting photos. And then the guy…the one who chased me…he stabbed the other guy.”
My eyes widened, though I knew it had to be something like that. “You’re sure?”
She nodded hard. “Oh yeah. I can see it front of me like it’s happening right now. He pulled a knife, and I saw it in the light. And then…it disappeared into the other guy’s stomach. He fell.”
“Shit.” Of all the times for her to come around.
“And I screamed. I couldn’t help it.” She looked panicked, probably because the look on my face wasn’t friendly. Of all the stupid things to do, she went and screamed.
“And he came after you.”
I shook my head, amazed at the way it had played out.
“Did you know him?” she asked.
“Like, did I recognize him? No.” It wasn’t a lie. I had remembered his face before I hit him, and I hadn’t seen it before. He must have been a newer member. He might have been just a nobody. Then I had a thought. “Did you get a good look at the other guy?”
She shrugged. “Sort of. He was wearing a leather vest thingie, like you do.”
I grimaced. Amateur. “It’s called a kutte.”
She shrugged like it didn’t matter. I decided not to pick a fight over words. “Anyway, that’s what he wore,” she said. “He was very tall, and sort of skinny. He had dark hair.”
Well, that narrowed it down. “Did you see the back of the kutte? Did it have a patch that looked like the other guy? A wolf?”
She shook her head. “Sorry. He had his back to the wall.”
I hoped against hope it was Alexander York, head of the Wolves. He was tall and lanky with dark hair. I doubted that a member would kill the group’s president over a fight, but it had to be a big deal if the guy was willing to chase Erica down for it.
No. It wasn’t who he killed. It was the camera.
“He saw the camera, didn’t he?” I asked.
She nodded. Her big eyes and the way she screwed her mouth up at the corner reminded me of a kid who knows he did something wrong.
“I know he was going for it,” she said. “Or he would have, had I not dropped it. He asked about it.”
“You dropped it? Is it broken?”
She reached into the front pouch of the shirt to pull it out. The lens was cracked, and some of the outer casing was crushed. “Shit. That looks expensive.”
“It was.” She touched it gently like it was her baby. I guessed it was, if taking pictures was her job.
“I’m sorry that happened.” I held out my hand, expecting her to give it to me.
“Uh, what do you want?” Her tone shifted. She held the camera away from me, sort of off to the side.
“The camera. I wanna see it.”
“It’s broken anyway, isn’t it?
“So what? Why do you want it, then?”
I heaved a sigh. “Because! You caught a fucking murder on it. I want to see if I can see who was killed.”
She smirked. “Yeah, right. Good luck with that. You wouldn’t even know how to get the pictures off it now.”
“And you do? What, is it something you learned in college, rich girl?” She had gotten deep under my skin, and I couldn’t hide it. I was sick as hell of her tone, like she was so much better than me. And why? Because I saved her ass? It didn’t make sense. I hated the entitled way people like her talked to people like me. She was no different than the rest.
“I didn’t need to go to college to learn but, yeah, it was one of the things I studied.”
“Some of us had more important things to do than go to college,” I said.
“Really? I would have pegged you for the Ivy League.” She smirked.
“Ouch. I guess I’m not supposed to know what that means.”
Her eyes went narrow. “Do you?”
“I didn’t skip college because I’m stupid, princess. And I’m gonna bet you didn’t go to the Ivy League, either.”
I had to crack a smile. “If you did, the name would be on your sweatshirt.”
She looked stunned—then laughed. “You’re probably right.” The tension in the air was broken. Sure, I got that from what I had seen on TV and in movies. I’d never met an Ivy League student in my life, except maybe a public defender or judge. But it must have been right if she laughed.
She wasn’t happy about it, but she handed the camera to me. “Damn, this thing is heavy,” I said, weighing it in my hand.
“Yeah, you get used to carrying it around.” She shrugged.
I turned it over and over. The display on the back was cracked, too. Damn it. I tried turning it on, but nothing happened.
“Where’s the memory card go?” I asked. I glanced up, and she was smiling.
“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t expect you to know anything about it. I underestimated you. That was rude.”