Read Bounty: Fury Riders MC Online
Authors: Zoey Parker
“You’re right, you’re right.” She slapped a hand down on my shoulder. “But it’s easy to get them mixed up, ’cuz they’re both clear.”
I laughed, getting up. “All right. I’ll pour you a tall water so you can tell them apart.” I went behind the bar and pulled down a pint glass, filling it to the top. I felt her watching me, and when I pushed the glass her way, her chin was in her hand. She was staring.
“What? Do I have a booger in my nose?”
“Ew, no. I was actually just thinking how handsome you are. You know you are, right?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“I’m not lying. I don’t think about it.”
“But I bet you have a lot of girlfriends, huh?”
I shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Why do you wanna know?” I liked her this way, lubed up, no inhibitions.
She hiccupped. “Because. I think you’re interesting.”
“Thanks. So are you.” I leaned toward her, to see what she would do. “And you know what else? You’re pretty.”
“Psssh. Get outta here.” She pressed her hand against my face, pushing me away. I caught her hand, laughing, and noticed how small it was when compared to mine.
I looked up at her, and for one second she wasn’t drunk. She was very clear and sober, and she was looking into my eyes. Then she laughed.
“Your hands are cold.” She pulled her hand away and took a long drink of water. Good. I wasn’t sure what was happening before then. I didn’t like the way she made it feel like we were the only two people in the room who mattered, especially when there was a room full of my men just a few yards away. She was making things too complicated, and I was letting her do it.
I went to the office when Brett came back to the bar, leaving the girls to their drinking. “Watch her,” I said. “Not much more, you know? All we need is for her to end up with alcohol poisoning.” Brett nodded, and I turned away.
That was the least of my worries when it came to Erica. I knew she would be okay—Brett wasn’t stupid. Maybe a little flakey, but not stupid.
I wondered what was going on in my head surrounding this girl. That was my problem. Why did she have this weird hold on me? I should have dumped her ass on a chair in the office and told her to get the pictures and left it at that. But no, I had to talk to her and flirt with her and like her. Why did she have to make me like her? It would have been so much easier if she was a troll, or the stuck-up bitch I assumed she was when we first met.
Just then, Onyx came in. “It was like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said, laughing. “I couldn’t take advantage of them anymore.”
“You’re a sweet guy,” I said with a smile. Then my mood fell again, and my face with it. “She told you what happened?”
“Miss Erica Quentin, as she introduced herself?” Onyx chuckled, sitting across from the desk and putting his feet up. “Yeah. She told me everything. But her version was a little…slurred.”
I rolled my eyes and told him what happened, according to what she said, and then what went down when I got there. “I brought her here. I didn’t know what else to do. When he came to, I know he had to go back to his own HQ. I hated the thought of leaving her out there. Besides, when she pulls the memory card, who knows what we’ll find? She might be worth a lot to the club.”
“You’re so full of shit, it’s pathetic,” Onyx said. He had a way of cutting through bullshit in a few words.
“You heard me. You’re full of it. I know you mean what you’re saying, because it’s what you’re telling yourself. But it’s not the full story. I’ve known you too long.” He narrowed his eyes at me. “You’re into her.”
“Cut the shit.”
“You cut the shit,” he challenged. “There’s nothing wrong with being into her. She’s cute—she might even be hot, if she tried. What’s wrong with that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Now’s not the time, that’s what’s wrong. I have too much focus on.”
He yawned. “If you say so.” He wasn’t normally like this, picking at me, trying to break me down. His smile told me he was joking, though, so I was willing to let it go.
“Think what you want. But try to tell me she’s not valuable.”
“Oh, she’s valuable. Like you said, she probably got something good on that camera. I wanna know who got killed, too. But I saw the way you looked at her.” He grinned. “Your damsel in distress thing is—”
I heard voices shouting outside the door, in the lounge. I wondered if a hand of poker had led to a fight.
But no. Angelo was there. He’d been out that night, and from the way he looked, he’d seen something that shook him to the core.
“What is it?”
“Wolves.” He was panting for breath. “Three of ’em. On their bikes, about a block from here. Watching. Could have been more in the other direction. I was in such a hurry to get in here, I didn’t wanna take the chance of checking.”
“Shit.” I mulled it over, thought about the options. “Get yourself a drink. I’m glad you made it back safe.” I turned to Onyx, sitting on a stool at the bar. His face was unreadable as always. “What do you think?”
“You’re the boss,” he said, sounding cool and calm. We could have been talking about the toppings to order on a pizza. I could always count on him being able to keep his head. “It’s your call. I’ll back you, whatever you wanna do.”
“They’re not gonna like it.”
“It’s for their own good,” he said. It was amazing the way I knew he knew what I was saying without having to say it out loud. I nodded, then turned to the rest of the room.
“Is everyone here?” I looked at Onyx. He got up to take a head count.
“What are you going to do?” Brett asked. I felt Erica’s bleary eyes on me.
“We’re gonna go into lockdown.”
Brett snapped to attention, getting the other girls together. She knew what to do in this situation. The girls made sure the beds had fresh sheets and pillows, and that the bathrooms were stocked, then they came back down to check the kitchen situation.
Brett and Onyx returned to me at the same time.
“We have plenty of food to last us up to three days,” she reported. “And all the rooms upstairs are ready.”
“All the guys are here,” Onyx confirmed.
I nodded. “Get them all out here.” He rounded everyone up, and soon two dozen people surrounded me. Including Erica, still sitting at the bar with a bewildered look on her face.
I couldn’t worry about her at the moment. I looked over the group.
“Guys, we’re in lockdown,” I said. “Call your women, let them know you won’t be home tonight. If they have a problem with it, they can talk to me. Meanwhile, bedrooms and facilities are stocked and ready, kitchen’s in good shape, and you know we have plenty of booze. We’re in good shape here. It’s safer for us to stay put while the Wolves are watching so closely. I don’t want anyone in or out for any reason, unless I’m with them. Understood?”
Everyone except Erica. Well, she knew she wasn’t going anywhere, so I didn’t care much if she agreed or not.
It was a tense night. Maybe we all saw this coming after what happened with our guys. It was part of the process, the ongoing war between our clubs. I wouldn’t lose another one of my men.
“How’s it going?” Axel asked me, hours later. I had been watching the ongoing card game. I knew my guys well enough to know they could play all night.
“I’d feel better if I’d been able to give the family members a chance to get here,” I said. “But I don’t trust the Wolves to let civilians through.”
“Nah, man, you can’t trust them with anything.” I saw him look behind me, to where I knew Erica still sat. The camera was forgotten, sitting on the bar. I decided to give her a break on it, for now. She needed to cut loose a little.
“What do you think about her?” he asked. I didn’t need to question who he meant.
“What do you mean, what do I think?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “Answering a question with a question. Textbook evasion, my friend.”
I laughed. “You sound like a therapist.”
“Yeah, well, when you’ve been through as much of it as I have…” he trailed off, and I felt like an ass. Sometimes I forgot about all the shit he went through when he was a kid. My childhood was bleak—dead Dad, Mom died a few years later when she couldn’t take it anymore, brothers and sisters split up among family members—but Axel had been through hell.
“What I think of her is she’s a pain in the ass. She’s not worth the trouble she brought on us.” I felt Axel’s eyes on me, and I took a long drink from my beer before I couldn’t take it anymore. “What?” I asked.
“Is that why you can’t look at her right now?” he asked. “You’re deliberately keeping your back turned to her. Is that why?”
“Because I can’t fucking stand her? Yes. Okay? Yes. She’s a pain in my ass, and I can’t wait until she’s out of here. I’m tired of having to look after her.”
“Who says you have to do that?”
“Are you fucking serious?” I glanced over my shoulder, to where she and Brett were getting good and drunk together. “She can’t handle herself. She was in the fucking badlands, taking pictures. Give me a break. Who does that?”
“Female ones? Alone? At night? She probably doesn’t even weigh more than a hundred pounds. Maybe a buck fifteen, tops. And she’s gonna defend herself?” I rolled my eyes.
“Okay, so she’s naïve, and she took a risky chance.” Then he grinned. “But she’s cute as hell, isn’t she?”
I shrugged like it didn’t matter. “Lots of cute chicks in the world, my friend. More than enough to go around.”
“I don’t think Frankie agrees with you. He’s sure standing close to her right now.”
I whirled around, ready to tell Frankie to keep his fucking hands to himself. Of course, there was no Frankie. Just Erica and Brett. I couldn’t even look at Axel.
“Oh, sorry. I guess I was seeing things.” He walked over to the bar, shaking his head. I turned away. Damn smartass.
By three that morning, everyone was more or less ready to call it a night. The girls cleaned up the mess of bottles and glasses and ashtrays while my guys stumbled upstairs to claim an empty bed.
“Where’s Erica?” I realized I hadn’t seen her for at least two hours. My blood pressure shot up immediately. Did she sneak out when I wasn’t looking?
I walked into the office, where she was asleep on the floor. I didn’t know when she crawled off, but she was definitely out cold. I nudged her with my toe.
“Hey. Hey, Erica. Get up.”
She grumbled, pushing my foot away.
“I mean it. I can’t let you sleep on the floor all night.”
I looked down at her, and something about the way she looked as she slept stirred something in me. It was like I had never seen anything so beautiful before, and I didn’t know what to do with how I felt. It was like a tightening in my chest. I wanted to have her, to take her and make her mine. But I wanted to hold her and protect her and keep her safe from the world. She was so brave, and beautiful, and smart. And weak and fragile and naïve, like Axel said. She would keep walking into dangerous situations if I wasn’t there to warn her first.
I got down on one knee, sliding one arm under her shoulders and the other under her knees. When I lifted, it felt like I was carrying a feather.
She was right there, her face right below mine. I wouldn’t have to lean far to kiss her. Just a little bit. Her mouth was pouty, begging to be kissed and sucked on.
But I wasn’t that guy. Not while she was passed out.
“You are too fucking tempting,” I muttered.
She mumbled something I couldn’t make out.
Instead of kissing her, I left the office with her in my arms. Brett was coming out of the poker room, and I saw a lot of things go across her face. Finally, she smiled.
“Taking her upstairs?” she asked.
I nodded. “Help me with her?” I asked. “I don’t think she’ll wanna wear this stuff tomorrow if she slept in it. There has to be something in my room she can wear.”
“Your room?” I heard the question under the question, and I nodded.
“Yeah. I’ll sleep somewhere else. Maybe down here.” I pretended not to see how relieved Brett looked. I would have to do something about that, about the way she felt. I didn’t have it in me at the moment.
I climbed the stairs with Erica and laid her across my bed. She was still out cold. I took off her shoes, and took a look under her sweatshirt to see whether she was wearing anything underneath. I saw a t-shirt, so I sat her up and helped her out of the hoodie. She looked much smaller without it.
Brett came in, and I stood. “She’s all yours,” I said. I took one more look at the girl on the bed and wished I was spending the night with her. Maybe if she hadn’t gotten bombed, it would have happened. Or maybe not. She might have slapped the shit out of me if I tried to touch her.