Chrome: With a Heart Forged in Steele (Carolina Bad #4) (7 page)

“Just . . .” She shook her head. “Gone.”

“How are things at home?”

“Fine.”

“Didn’t look fine.” Looked downright fucking unpleasant.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She tried to disengage from me, but I clamped my hands on her shoulders.

“Rayce. I don’t like the situation you have there.”

“And I didn’t ask you to look out for me.”

“I can’t help it.” Bending at the knees, I got eye to eye with her.

“Don’t, Boomer. Don’t.” Shaking me off, she turned away. “Don’t you get it? I’m ashamed. I’m fucking humiliated. I don’t want you to think I’m weak. I never wanted you to see that.”

“How the hell could I think you’re weak?” I spun her back into my arms. “Christ, Rayce. You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met.” I lifted her chin and rested my forehead against hers. “I want to know you’re safe.”

She shrugged free. “I am.”

“Not sure I believe you.”

“Boomer—”

I pulled her back to me with my arms around her waist. “Come to my house on Christmas.”

“I can’t.” Rayce rested against me, her back to my front.

“Yes, you can. You told me I needed to ask you out. Take you on a date.” I nuzzled the soft skin of her neck. “I want you with me on Christmas.”

“I have obligations.”

“Bullshit.” I bit her shoulder then kissed the pink mark as she shuddered against me.

“My dad—”

“Does not deserve you.”
And I’m not done with him yet.
“Just say yes.”

“Maybe.”

“Lunch. There’ll be a bunch of us. I won’t even be able to get you alone long enough to
ravage
you.”

“What if I want you to ravage me?” Her butt rounded against my groin and I dropped my head to her shoulder with a groan.

“Come.”

“I’m pretty close right now.”

“Rayce.” I turned her face to mine, kissing her slowly, deeply. “Say yes.”

Her eyelashes fluttered. “I’ll come.”

“Right now?” I stroked down her body to the softness of her hip, reaching for her thigh as I rubbed my cock against her backside.

She lifted her lips to mine for a soft brush from her mouth. “
Nuh uhn
. Let’s keep that private.”

My hands clenched on her, and she gave a soft husky laugh.

The song ended, and someone hollered her name from across the room. Rayce slipped away, blowing me a teasing kiss instead of actually blowing me.

For the rest of the night I watched her. My hackles rose whenever a guy approached her, like I hadn’t just claimed her as mine by making out with her on the dance floor.

And Rayce? She glanced at me and grinned every time she gave
airtime
to the random dudes. She was lucky I was in a pretty mellow mood after the wedding, after she’d agreed to come to Christmas dinner, because I briefly wondered how she’d like a spanking on that ripe, peach-shaped ass of hers.

Unfortunately, Hunter and JB occupied the office where they’d hurried for a newlywed fuck, and I wasn’t about to lift Rayce’s skirt in front of a bunch of MC knuckleheads.

When the husband and wife reappeared it was time for the garter toss. Watching Hunter get on his bent knee in front of JB and slip his hands up her legs, under skirt, was some seriously hot foreplay. I’d had sex on the brain since I’d seen Rayce that afternoon—correction: I’d had sex on the brain since I’d first met her. So it didn’t take much to turn the hum of arousal from our dance earlier into a full blown roar of heat.

The garter finally freed from JB’s leg, Hunter tossed it without looking.

It smacked against Cole’s chest, and he caught it with a look of sheer bewilderment.

I had to laugh at his expression. Like he thought there was no way in hell he was ever getting hitched.

Yeah.

After that, the party returned to the usual jeering, laughing, joking, dancing, drinking, insanity.

Tail held court at the pool table, showing off his prowess while keeping the cherries salivating in anticipation of who—and how many of them—he’d take to bed later.

A full bevvy of broads surrounded Handsome, the club secretary. He sat unassumingly with a half drunk beverage in his hand. Despite the fact no one really knew what he looked like behind the curtain of shaggy hair, he seemed to net ladies like fish in a barrel.

And despite the fact I’d known him for years, that was surface only. Hunter aside, he was the quiet storm on my radar.

Through all the commotion, I managed to keep Rayce in my sight until Hunter approached with a new dude next to him. This guy was almost my height, broad through the shoulders and seriously fit. Not that I was a schlump.

“Boomer, this is Bo Maverick. Old buddy of mine. Ex-marine, special forces.” Hunter introduced his friend. “Bo, Boomer Steele. President of this here fine establishment.”

I shook the man’s hand, his grip as hard and firm as mine. “Nice to meet you, man.”

“Back atcha.” Bo’s expression remained guarded, sizing up the MC and me.

“Why don’t we grab Brodie and hit the pool table?” Hunter sought to ease the tension that emanated from the dude. “Got something to talk about with you two regarding Bo here.”

I groaned. “This ain’t gonna be another Cuban crisis, is it?”

Bo’s eyes brightened as if the possibility of action was a jolt of adrenaline to his veins. “Cubans, huh? That sounds like a good story.”

Great. Just what we needed. Another danger junkie.

While Bo and Hunter sought out Brodie, I searched for Rayce.

Not at the darts, her usual hangout. Not at the bar shooting the breeze with Cole and Kinkaid. Not dancing, and that was a relief. I couldn’t handle it if some motorcycle goon started to get his grope-and-grind on with her.

I figured she might be in the ladies but then I caught sight of her. Snug black leather jacket on and zipped tight, she was headed out the door.

I thought about going after her at least to say goodnight, but I reconsidered. Maybe giving her a little bit of space was a good thing.

Because after Christmas? I planned to be all over her.

Chapter Seven

Snowy White Christmas

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS MORNING ARRIVED COLD and bright. And Shitlock pounced on my naked back, his talon-like claws digging into my skin.

I howled, arching up like a cat, and batted the thing away. I could really do with a better wake-up call. One that involved curvaceous, bad-mouthed, pretty as sin Rayce. And that was when Merry Christmas morning wood came into play. Not again. Fuckin’ A.
Seriously
? I absolutely refused to whack off anymore. That shit had gotten ridiculous.

Ignoring the rigid beast between my thighs and the meowing beastie slinking back and forth in my doorway, I hit the shower. I touched my cock with minimal pressure and thought about anything but Rayce’s hot body, her gorgeous smile, her killer comebacks. I kinda thought I’d like to get through the day without being a walking, talking boner.

By time I’d finished with the soap and shampoo routine, my dick was semi under control. I set about the rest of my grooming, which usually consisted of a finger-rake through my hair and clean—or relatively clean—clothes. I took a bit more care today. I wanted to show Rayce I wasn’t just a rough-talking biker dude. I could clean up, too.

I trimmed my ever-present five o’clock shadow. Shaved around the edges of my cheeks and jawline. I slapped on that cologne—the expensive one I’d used approximately twice. Mouthwash. Breath check.

Jesus. And now a uterus to go with my vagina and ovaries.

Hell, I even took a brush to the thick, short hair on my head.
Aaaand
that was enough fucking preening like a teenage girl.

In my room I considered commando then thought better of it. Something would need to keep my cock in check. Tight black briefs it was. Old faded and frayed jeans, my usual boots—big and black—and a new button-down. The light blue shirt matched my eyes and was a little on the expensive side, but I generally had to pay more for my clothes to get the fit right for my larger-than-life frame.

I rolled up the sleeves, revealing my inked forearms, hooked on a big silver watch I rarely wore, and considered the cufflinks from my dad.

Not today.

Still inhabiting my old boyhood bedroom, I’d done very little home improvement aside from taking down the teen tits-and-ass posters and repainting the walls a wet sand sort of color. I hadn’t much touched my parents’ room since their deaths, and I’d left Brodie’s and Cat’s rooms as they stood.

Maybe it was time to make a change.

I wondered if I could convince Rayce to move in with me. As roomies. Nothing more.

Yeah, right
.

Shitlock curled around my ankles while I walked downstairs, determined to trip me up for my earlier neglect.

“You fatass bastard.” I scooped him into my arms, knuckle rubbing between his perked-up ears. “Missing Twatson, are ya?”

He purred heavily.

I’d take that as a yes.

“Sorry, dude. We are not getting another cat.” I set him on his paws in the fully equipped kitchen and then dug out his food and refilled his water bowl. “We might-could get a housemate though if I play my cards right.”

His tail swished in response.

I looked out the window while I set the coffee to percolating. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

There’d been an unexpected, rare snowfall during the night, and it was winter white outside. Probably wouldn’t last long but it made the lawn shimmer all the way down to the riverfront. Fucking pristine and untouched. Damn, it looked Christmas card perfect outside.

I cooked a quick skillet of bacon and eggs, which I gobbled at the counter, checking incoming texts and pics on my phone. Viper the Rottweiler with a Santa hat planted on her head. Cat kissing Nick’s cheek. Cara knee deep in presents wearing an enormous red and green bow on the top of her head.

Good times, for a change.

Brodie was doing the little family thing with Ashe and their kid—his newly adopted daughter Cara. They’d finalized the papers a couple weeks ago. Unbelievably, Brodie was an awesome dad. The biker-surfer dude with honeys falling out of his pockets had finally grown into his boots.

Cat and Nick had Viper the horse-sized dog as well as news of their own they’d finally shared with everyone to many congratulations. They’d done the shotgun wedding thing last summer, in Vegas, motorcycles and all. Cat still worked her part at Chrome and Steele, and she’d started teaching dance classes.

They’d all invited me to theirs for Christmas breakfast, but I welcomed the time alone knowing the house would be filled to the rafters later.

Jesus. I was beginning to sound like the old man Rayce kept calling me. At least I hadn’t started talking to the cat. Much.

Christmas at the Steele house had always been a big holiday. Stockings hung above the fireplace. Homemade cookies for Santa, even after we’d realized the white-haired bearded guy wasn’t real. One present for each person to open on Christmas Eve. And yeah, even opening the front doors to carolers who still strolled the streets of the Old Village the night before Christmas.

I went all out this season to make up for years past. Huge red poinsettias sat on the front porch. I’d pulled out all the old decorations from the attic. Bought a tree. Hung it with lights and ornaments, and swatted Shitlock away from it a million times a day when he decided
what a good scratching post
. It was the first time it felt like a family Christmas since Mom and Dad died.

Besides, I couldn’t have Cara the kid over for the holidays and not have a freakin’ tree, could I? For all I knew the little lady no longer believed in Santa Claus. She might’ve been just nine, but the cute, pigtail wearing, mini-Ashe was wise beyond her years.

I lit the fire in the living room, put the presents I’d bought under the tree. Thank fuck for in-store wrapping. I didn’t even want to wrestle with that shit. I’d just started making the marinade for the rack of lamb when the doorbell rang.

Cole stood outside, a bulky black leather jacket keeping him warm. He peered around me into the empty house then stepped back.

“Shit. Am I early? I can go and come—”

“Shut the fuck up and get inside. You’re letting in the cold air.”

After knocking dusty snow off his boots, he entered the foyer. “Holy shit. This is your house?”

“Yeah.” I shoved my fingers through my hair. “Well, it was my folks’. After they . . . you know . . . it’s mine now.”

Not something I wanted to think about today.

In addition to the house, which was prime real estate on the Cooper River in the Old Village, Mom and Dad had left us Chrome and Steele, their life insurance policies . . .

I’d rather have them back.

I’d done my best keeping the business successful, investing the money on behalf of Cat, Brodie, and me. We all had nice nest eggs that sat mostly untouched and untalked about. We only splurged on cars and bikes. Gearheads, all of us.

“I get it, man.” Cole shook off his jacket, the usual thick chains at his neck and wrists rattling.

He presented me with a bottle of fairly high shelf wine.

My eyebrows rose.

He shrugged. “Just ’cause I’m
Original Recipe
Probie doesn’t mean I don’t know a good vino when I see one.” Placing his jacket on the wooden bench just inside the door, he said, “Thanks for inviting me, man.”

“Don’t thank me. Thank Brodie when he gets here.”

His eyebrows shot together. “Brodie? He hates me.”

“Right. That’s why he was the one who patched you through instead of me.”

“He always gives me a hard time.”

“Cole, in case you haven’t noticed, he always gives everyone a hard time.” I led him into the kitchen. “So why are you alone at the holidays?”

Coletrane was a big boy with even bigger muscles, and ink—most of it his own artwork—everywhere the eye landed. He’d come to us unknown and proven his worth time and time again.

“Family troubles.”

“That so?” I concentrated on mincing garlic, keeping my back turned. “I know all about that.”

“You do?”

“Yup.” I held up a long, sharpened knife. “But the real question is how much do you know your way around a kitchen, Probie?”

“I could
flay
Bobby Flay with that knife.” He rolled up his sleeves over iron-hard forearms. “Put me to work.”

“You always were the best Probie.”

We worked in silence, Christmas music and the slice and dice of veg, the sizzle and hiss of meat the only sounds in the house.

The jingle of a new text on my phone interrupted the quiet camaraderie.

I’m here. At least I think so. If you live in a mansion?

It came from Rayce.

I dropped my knife with a clatter. “Be right back.”

“Eager much?” Cole shot after me.

“If you think Brodie’s evil, just say one more word to find out how much worse I can be,” I warned him.

Reaching the door before Rayce did, I yanked it open and saw her standing in the driveway, no dirt bike in sight but a taxi driving away.

I jumped down the steps and met her on the path. “You took a cab?”

Her head ratcheted up. “Yeah. Didn’t want to risk it with
the
weather
. You know how people around here drive.” Light sarcasm dripped from her voice. “Oh look. It’s cold and raining so let’s close the bridges because of idiots.”

I laughed. “I would’ve picked you up. Or at least paid for the cab.”

“Really?”

“Yes.” My voice deepened. “Really.”

Her smile hit me in all the right places. “Then maybe you can take me home later.”

“Maybe I won’t let you go home.”

No damn lie.

She looked amazing—fuckhot and adorable all at the same time. No idea how she pulled off that killer combo. Cold flushed her cheeks pink. Her lips looked entirely kissable. And something about the fresh snow reflecting all around her made her glow.

In a beaten-up brown leather jacket, she had a scarf knotted around her throat, fingerless gloves on her hands, and tight black leather pants tucked into her boots.

Unbelievable. She didn’t have to do anything but show up, and I got the twisties in my gut.

Rayce gave me another hit of that smile and tilted her head. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Are we gonna stand out here all day?” Her lips curved invitingly.

I laced my fingers between hers and steered her up the steps, across the porch, into the house.

“You really live
here
?”

“Yeah.” Now this was just starting to get embarrassing, especially considering her home life.

Rayce deserved a house like this, a life with all the perks.

“My folks’ house. They left it to me, Brodie, and Cat. I bought them out last month.” I sort of winced-cringed with that confession.

Rayce walked inside, her eyes wide. “It’s a beautiful home, Boomer.” She began to remove her jacket, and I rushed to help her out of it, my hands skimming her shoulders.

“I know about your parents.” Her head lowered, she brushed her fingers against mine. “Is it sick I’m still a little bit jealous you had this? At least for a while? The happy family. The whole nine yards.”

My heart clenched in my chest. Raising her face, I gazed into her deep hazel eyes.

I’ll give you that if you let me, princess.

I kissed her forehead, closing my eyes, breathing her perfume—Rayce and leather and something purely feminine underneath it all.

Bending farther down, I lashed a quick, hot, wet kiss on her lips, and she curled up on her tiptoes to follow me when I drew back.

Then I broke completely away from her to get an absolute eyeful of her get-up. Minus the cold weather clothes, she was eye-popping hot. And her top? It fell off one shoulder. Slid in slippery-looking silky material over her tits. Gathered above her breasts with a small bow, leaving a peephole showing a healthy amount of cleavage.

It was peacock blue.

It made my cock pulse.

The tie above her tits echoed the black rawhide lashings lacing her leathers together low—very low—on her hips.

“What?” She tugged at the shirt.

“Don’t move. Jesus fucking Christ.”

Cole appeared in the archway to the kitchen, chuckling as I stared-tried-not-to-stare. “Why don’t you just leave your mark on her already?”

“Fuck off. Can still yank your patch and make you a Nomad.”

Rayce traced a fingertip down my cheek. “C’mon on, babe. Don’t you have some cooking to do?”

I followed her like a dog on a leash.

In the kitchen, Cole had returned to chopping, stirring, drinking. Ever the handy Probie, he passed a glass of wine to Rayce.

I put the rack in the stove. Heat blazed from inside the preheated oven, but it had nothing on Rayce’s undeviating gaze as she watched my ass, my shoulders, my body as I moved around the kitchen.

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