Ryder's Redemption (Badboy Rockers #2)

BOOK: Ryder's Redemption (Badboy Rockers #2)
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Ryder’s Redemption

 

By

 

J.A. Templeton

Ryder’s Redemption by J.A. Templeton

Copyright 2014 Julia Templeton

ISBN: 978-1-939863-04-1

 

This book is a work of fiction. Characters and events portrayed in this book are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

 

Cover Photograph by Korie Nicole Photography

Cover Illustration by MaeIDesign

Editing by The Passionate Proofreader

Formatting by Lasting Impressions eBook Creations

 

 

To Steven (Steve) Joseph—

For being the best big brother-in-law a girl could ask for. You’re the toughest guy I know, and yet one of the kindest, especially when it comes to your brother. Thanks for loving him and always being there for him. The unbreakable bond you two share is inspiring.

 

Author note: Steve died during the writing of this novel. The character of Uncle Steve was loosely based on Steve, and more importantly, the relationship between Steve and my husband, Kip was the inspiration for Ryder and Deklan’s relationship. Steve and Kip were “soul” brothers and their relationship was absolutely beautiful. Kip and Steve never parted ways before giving each other a big hug and telling each other “I love you.” Steve was the kind of guy you would want in your corner. Fiercely loyal, incredibly compassionate, a complete badass when he had to be, and a source of comfort like no other when times were tough.

 

Steve, this one’s for you—for being one of my biggest supporters and a dear friend, for being such a wonderful uncle to my children, and mostly for being an incredible brother to my husband who adored you.

I will see you on the other side, my friend!

We love and miss you…

ONE

Ryder

 

My fingernails bite into the armrest.

All around me, I hear the sound of buzzing tattoo guns. I concentrate on a black-and-white photograph of a Louisiana cemetery that is carefully positioned, along with a dozen other photographs, on the dark red walls of
Branded
, the tattoo parlor where my best friend Deklan works. The shop’s owner, Uncle Steve, is one twisted motherfucker. I find myself wondering why he’s so intrigued by death. Even the glass case at the front of the shop holds shelves of antique medical devices and other oddities, including a shrunken head that he swears is originally from Ecuador. Apparently he has the paperwork to prove it.

Not that anyone would want to question Uncle Steve. He’s the most intimidating guy on the planet. Bald, goateed, with badass tattoos, many from his prison days, Uncle Steve’s demeanor screams “don’t mess with me.” I know he struggled with his own addictions in his time. Cost him a marriage, custody of his two kids, and a decade and then some in one of the roughest Federal penitentiaries in the U.S. I never asked what for. In fact, I was a little terrified to know the truth.

I was just grateful he had opened a place like
Branded
for us to come to, and where my best buddy, a guy I considered my brother, could showcase his talent. Like Uncle Steve, Deklan was one of the best tattoo artists in the county.

“Dude, you’re sweating.”

I glance up at my best friend. Deklan is grinning from ear to ear, looking a little too happy to be the one giving me my first tattoo. I’m not regretting the Celtic trinity knot that he’s presently carving into my upper right arm. I just wish I had gone with something that had less definition. “It’s not too bad,” I say, even as my nails dug deeper into the leather. In a way, I welcomed the pain. I haven’t used for six days, five hours, and—I glance at the clock—twenty-six minutes. Without a doubt, this week has been the longest of my life.

For some reason since quitting drugs, I’ve become obsessed with time. Thinking that somehow, by watching the clock, the days will go by faster. Each day I try to find the joy out of each endless second, but I’m fucking miserable.

Honestly, I didn’t realize how addicted to painkillers I’ve become. How I’ve thrived on being numb and not feeling my life.

For four years now, I’ve been using some kind of substance—whether it be alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs. You name it…I’ve used it. And it’s not like I didn’t function during that time. I pulled decent grades, was always punctual, and made it to practice with my band without ever missing a beat.

Unbelievable. Here I thought I was in control and that I would never be ruled by emotions or my habits.

Some habits died hard, and I was struggling.

Big time.

The buzzer at the front door went off and Deklan lifted his head. I’m immediately relieved by the short break. That is, until I see his eyes light up. I know who the new arrival is without looking.

Kenzie…also known as my biggest mistake.

If I hadn’t been such a cheating prick, she would still be my girl, not Deklan’s.

Kenzie is everything I’m not. Sweet, light, and good.

I am well aware that chicks like Kenzie come around just once in a lifetime, and I’m reminded of that every single time I see her gorgeous face. She’s the quintessential California babe. Sun-kissed golden skin, natural blonde hair with highlights, minimal makeup that made it look like she’d just rolled out of bed. And her eyes—God, she has killer eyes. Blue eyes, the irises like tiny flower petals. In a word, she was unique.

“Hey babe.” She runs her fingers through Deklan’s dark hair, bends down, and gives him a soft welcoming kiss.

Deklan smiles against her lips, and I bite down on the inside of my cheek.

Her long golden blonde hair is tied back in a ponytail. Dressed in a white tank, jean shorts, and flip-flops, she draws everyone’s eye. She has no idea how gorgeous she is. How men are drawn to her like bees to honey.

The way she’s looking at my best friend, with absolute love and adoration in her eyes, makes me wonder how I wasn’t able to see it before now. I think back during our concerts and remember seeing her in the crowd, how her eyes would shift from me to Deklan. And afterward, when we all hung out together, the glances they shared had lingered a little. But Deklan and I had never fought over a chick, and I didn’t think for a second that the two of them would end up together.

Or that he’d go for her. I trusted him more than I trusted anyone.

And I knew him well enough to know that Kenzie was the one.

My buddy was the happiest I’d ever seen him.

I clear my throat and Kenzie pulls away from Deklan.

“Ryder, you’re finally taking the plunge,” Kenzie says, her lips curving into a soft smile.

I force a grin. “Yeah, Deklan pressured me.”

Deklan frowns in my direction. “I didn’t force you to sit here.”

“You’ve been on my ass for years about getting inked.”

“You finally grew a pair is what happened,” Deklan murmurs under his breath, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

I’d wanted a tattoo forever, but my mom forbade me to get one while I lived under her roof. Truth be told, that’s the main reason I’m getting inked now—I want to piss her off.

Just thinking about my mom makes my blood boil. She’d always made a point to let everyone know her opinion, regardless if you asked for it or not. Everyone was entitled to her opinion, or so she said. She would disown me the second she found out about the tattoo. All my life she’d had a set of guidelines— rules of the household. I loved my mom. She was the cool and calculated wife, President of the PTA, stay-at-home mom, Sunday school teacher. She dressed impeccably, acted impeccably, and expected her family to do the same. She was a pillar of the community. However, she wasn’t always the uptight bitch that she was today. I vaguely remember the mom who wore jeans, tennis shoes, and sweatshirts, the one who hadn’t been afraid to get her hands dirty. That mom had gone away with my father’s success.

Deklan had been an experiment of sorts for her. Everyone praised her for her generosity in taking in the son of drug addicts. My mom had always liked Deklan. What wasn’t to like? He had gone out of his way to please her. Having never had a mom and dad who were any good at parenting or gave two shits about him, Deklan had fully embraced my parents and my structured existence. I’d loved it, too, because Deklan had an incredible work ethic, and that hadn’t changed from the time he was a kid. He couldn’t sit still without feeling like he should be doing something productive, he’d once told me, and so he took care of his chores and mine too.

He just made life easier for me all the way around.

Needless to say, Deklan never disappointed my mom. Nor had my twelve year-old brother. No, I was my mom’s biggest disappointment, and she had made that clear when I had told her I had a drug problem and needed help. Her way of helping was showing me the door and telling me not to come back until I could piss clean. Literally, those were her words, which had been especially shocking since I rarely heard her cuss.

It had been my turn to ask Deklan for help.

I’d shown up on Deklan’s doorstep that night and he’d taken me in with open arms. He’d been my constant companion ever since. And I mean constant.

I know he keeps such a close eye on me because he is terrified I will fall off the wagon.

“Can we continue?” Deklan asks, the tattoo gun coming back to life.

I nod. “What are you up to?” I ask Kenzie, gritting my teeth as the needle bites into my skin.

She pulls up a chair beside Deklan. Her hand lingers on his thigh. Their relationship is easy, natural, and I find myself jealous of it the more I’m around them.

“Ange flies in this afternoon. I pick her up in ninety minutes.”

“Ange, as in your California buddy?”

“Yeah, my California buddy.” Kenzie is beaming, she’s so happy. From what I’ve heard of this girl, she’s as pure as the driven snow. One of Kenzie’s all-girl Catholic school classmates. Filthy rich, too.

“How long is she here for?”

“Five weeks.”

In a way, I’m relieved her goody two-shoes buddy is arriving. That means there will be five weeks that I’ll have Deklan more to myself. At first I didn’t really mind being a third wheel, but after a while it’s gotten to be a major pain in the ass.

“She’s going to check out WSU while she’s here,” Kenzie says, excitement in her voice. “That way we’ll be together again.”

“Yeah, Deklan said you were interested in attending college next year.” I wink. “Not just a pretty face, huh?”

Deklan lifts his brow, his gaze shifting between Kenzie and me.

She smiles at me, and I hate that my heart skips a beat.

“Dude, you want to take a break?”

“Christ, how long is this tattoo going to take?”

He rubs the tattoo down and smiles at me. “Just messing with you. You’re finished.”

Thank God. If I ever have another tattoo, I’m taking a few straight shots beforehand.

I slide out of the chair and walk toward the front where Steve’s wife, Auntie Phyllis, is ready to pierce a lady’s nose. It’s obvious the woman has had a tough life. Her hair is listless, her face weathered, teeth dark and fucked up, and the way her foot keeps vibrating against the stool makes me wonder if she’s a tweaker.

Phyllis is a pro. She tells the lady to be still unless she wants a hole somewhere other than her nose.

The lady makes a crude response, and it’s then she makes eye contact with me.

Her pupils are huge. Slowly, her gaze travels over my body.

Phyllis tracks her gaze and smiles over her shoulder at me. “Put a shirt on, boy, you’re distracting the clientele.”

I laugh and head out the door, pulling a cigarette from my back pocket.

“Faggot. Put a shirt on,” a kid yells from a passing car and I give him the finger.

I light a cigarette and inhale the smoke deep into my lungs. The nicotine instantly calms me. I don’t even really like the taste of cigarettes, but it helps take the edge off my aggression and frustration. I promise myself I’ll quit once I get a handle on my prescription drug addiction.

Uncle Steve appears from the side of the building. He pulls a smoke out of his flannel shirt chest pocket and lights it.

I have a huge respect for the man, especially since he loves my best friend like his own son…but the dude is scarier than shit. Making and maintaining eye contact is a challenge.

“You struggling?”

I shrug. “I’m alright.”

He puts a beefy hand on my shoulder and looks deep into my eyes. “Don’t give into it, man. I see the craving in your eyes. I know that feeling.”

“I’m six days sober. I’m not going to fuck it up now.”

The side of his mouth lifts. “That’s what I want to hear.”

“I won’t let you down.” I mean every word, because if I don’t follow through, he will probably hunt me down and kill me.

“Don’t let my boy in there down.” He nods toward Deklan, who is hugging Kenzie. As though he senses my gaze, he glances my way.

“I’ll never let him down again.”

“If you fuck up, you’ll not only have your boy Deklan coming down on you…you’ll have me right behind him.”

BOOK: Ryder's Redemption (Badboy Rockers #2)
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