Read Devil's Despair Box Set: Books 1-3 Online

Authors: A.C. Bextor

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Devil's Despair Box Set: Books 1-3 (3 page)

BOOK: Devil's Despair Box Set: Books 1-3
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She was laughing again, and the infectious innocence of that laugh was something worth trying to claim. I wondered at that moment why she wasn’t taken and who the fuckup was who once had her, but let her go.

* * *

After that day, I never stopped referring to her as Sadey Bug. I also never stopped trying to make her mine. Unfortunately, no matter how much I tried to keep her attention, her feelings for Hem wouldn’t waiver. It wasn’t the club president she was in search of. She didn’t care about his position or power within the organization. It was just the
person
that he was. He loved her in all aspects of her life; loved her, protected her, cared for her, but never in the way she desperately longed for.

I thought eventually that she would see Hem for the jackass I once thought he was. I was going to be ready for her to come to me anytime, anyplace, anywhere, while carrying with her the heart he broke. I would’ve been there to catch her fall, but she never did. I wasn’t ready for my own broken heart, and I hadn’t given thought at the time that no one was going to catch me when I fell.

And no one did.

Back then, I was an asshole to everyone except Sadey, I admit this. It wasn’t until the night I was patched in as a member of Peril that all-out hell broke loose and, with the help of an entire fifth of whiskey, I finally let myself succumb to my feelings for her and made them known. It almost got me killed.

All this being said, I was never given the chance to show Sadey how I truly felt about her. The day I found out she was pregnant with Hem’s child, I
crumbled
inside. He was so fuckin’ oblivious to her love for him. He didn’t understand that by being offered this love, it was a chance to grow old with a woman worthy of everything this life has to offer.

She waited a
lifetime
for a chance just to be noticed by the man. Accepting they were about to have a child together was one thing, but the day he asked her to marry him in front of his entire club, a part of me didn’t just crumble, it
died
.

My heart hurt, my head spun, and soon after that, I fuckin’ lost it all. The result? I left the only home, other than my childhood home with Grandma Bean, I had ever known. I was happy at Peril, but it wouldn’t have ever been possible for me to watch her love, marry, and start a family with anyone but me. I dropped my cut at the clubhouse door, hopped on my bike, and rode away.

Cherry interrupts my thoughts as I pull into the parking lot and move to stop the truck. “This is The Ward?” Her tone is questioning as she takes in its worn exterior.

“Yes. Stick close.”

She shakes her head slightly, rolling her eyes as she opens the door. “No problem there.”

CHAPTER TWO

Ace

WALKING INTO THE Ward with Cherry following closely behind me, the first person I recognize is Hayden. He has a woman pinned to the bar as he leans his face into her neck. She’s smiling blazingly as if looking forward to what’s coming later. Sorry for her, but more than likely, Hayden will bore of her before the night’s over and end up taking someone else home, quite possibly a couple of someones. This is his way and always has been, so unless she entertains the idea of sharing, she’s out.

Cherry stands behind me while I take in the crowded room. Standing on her toes, she talks into my ear as though she’s telling me something that’s not supposed to be said out loud. “This place is packed.”

Looking over my shoulder at her, I attempt to pacify her concern. “It is, but it’ll be all right.” I feel her tense; she doesn’t believe me. Turning around and bending down toward her face, I whisper to her softly. “Trust me?”

She nods and grabs the sides of my shirt, bunching it in her fists as a way of seeking comfort.

Hayden Flynn is the oldest person in our group of four. He’s twenty-seven, making him one year older than I am. He has dark hair, ice-blue eyes, olive skin, and a lean, but muscular, build. He’s cocky, arrogant, good-looking, and also a
complete
man whore. What’s worse, he’s a man whore with
standards
; he’s fuckin’ choosey. He won’t sleep with just any woman. He selects carefully, picking one or two from a line of women that throw themselves at him, with fervor, every fuckin’ night.

The thought of him saying two words to Cherry, for
any
reason, causes my knuckles to turn white in anger. One thing is for certain; he doesn’t get to touch her, ever.

Hayden’s always been like this, though. I can hardly blame him for it. His father taught him everything he knows, and from the time he hit puberty, he’s been a man-whore-in-training. When the right woman comes along, and he really feels something for her aside from lust, he’s fucked. I hope I’m around to meet her once she’s found.

Grabbing Cherry’s hand, I drag her through the crowd, looking for a place to make her comfortable. “Come on. Let’s see if we can find table.”

Cherry notices Travis as we walk toward him. He’s hard to miss. She stops my forward movement and nods her head toward where he stands. “Do you know him?”

I smile down at her as I tuck her in my arm, giving her a sense of safety in the crowd. “I do. He’s a friend of mine. He won’t say much, but that doesn’t mean anything. You’ll get used to him.”

She still doesn’t move, her eyes scanning Travis but not with fear, only curiosity. “Why does he look so pissed?”

“What?”

She continues to study him, nodding in his direction as if I can’t see his angered pose. “His face. He looks… pissed.”

“Nah, he always looks like that.”

Her eyes widen, but she stops talking and continues to follow closely behind me.

Travis Nikels stands at the end of the bar, scanning the room as he always does. He’s young, just turned twenty-three last month. His hair is strawberry-blond, matched with a closely trimmed goatee. His eyes are green, closely accented with a yellow hue. Standing about six-two, he’s the youngest and strongest of all of us. His soul is damaged, but his heart has remained kind. He’s not led an easy life, and he’s extremely quiet and reserved. He rarely laughs. He doesn’t date often. I’ve never known him to maintain a steady relationship with any woman.

Travis’s dad was murdered with a dull switchblade last year while he innocently pumped gas after work one evening. The crime happened quickly, and the assailant got away with a wallet and a watch. His life was taken for a mere couple of dollars and some change; the watch was a knockoff that held no value. I don’t think he’s ever recovered. His mother left him and his father when Travis was three, running off with a well-known drug runner that lives on the outskirts of town. Trav’s been alone ever since the murder. Without the band and his music keeping his life going with a steady rhythm, I’m unsure where he would have ended up. The boys have his back, in all ways, ensuring he stays the course.

Leaning into Cherry, I point out my best friend. “Next to the crabby son of a bitch is Toby. You’ll really like him.”

Cherry nods, still eyeing Travis with a curious stare. “Sure, I will.”

“Just trust me a little here.”

“Fine.”

Tobias Hunter has been married to Marlee for four years already. They have a young son, Maddux, who recently turned three. Toby’s only twenty-six but has the oldest soul I’ve ever known anyone to have, with the exception of my friend, Shame, back at Peril.

Toby is a levelheaded, good friend who has always had my back with Bean and Sarah while I was away and called for his help. He’s lean, with shaggy dirty-blond hair, and he’s in a constant relaxed state. He’s my best friend for so many reasons.

From here, I see Marlee isn’t with Toby right now, so it’s safe to assume she’s busy setting up equipment. My friends are in a band, “Devil’s Despair”, and they play at The Ward every Friday night. The crowds come in droves, making it standing room only. Hayden, of course, is the lead singer and also plays the bass, Travis handles acoustics and keyboard when needed, and Toby’s the band’s drummer. I have a lifetime of memories living and breathing music with these men. Comparable to a MC, this is a brotherhood: loyalty and friendship enduring all else. Other than one instance, years ago, I’ve always known them to have each other’s back.

“Hey, Ace!” Marlee in all her small authority drops the box she was holding, runs to me, wrapping her arms around my waist and resting her cheek to my chest. “I didn’t know you were back. You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

Cherry flinches as Marlee leans her small frame into mine.

Smiling down at Mar’s full head of blonde hair, I answer after kissing her chastely on the crown of her head. “I didn’t. I got back a couple of weeks ago. I talked to Travis briefly, but since then I’ve been busy, Marlee. Sorry.”

Her bright-blue eyes widen, her eyebrows meet her hairline and as she smiles, her dimples appear when she looks behind me to Cherry. Cherry doesn’t make a move to respond. She’s frozen to her spot. Her hands are at my waist again, fisting my shirt at the sides. Most women don’t like Cherry, catty bitches, their hate mostly stemming from jealousy and envy.

Grabbing her hands and asking without words for her to unclench, I pull her around my body and into my side, assuring her it’s okay. She’s looking around the crowded bar, and I’m fuckin’ hoping she’s mentally thanking my ass for forcing her to put some goddamn clothes on. This will make the ride home more bearable; I’ll get to gloat.

“Cherry, this is Marlee. She’s a friend of mine.”

“Hi,” is all Cherry says in way of greeting, but offers Marlee a small wave of her hand.

Marlee, being Marlee, won’t let that subtle shit fly. It must be said, Marlee is an extremely touchy-feely kind of person. If she’s talkin’ to you, she’s touchin’ you. Cherry’s body stiffens under Marlee’s girl-hug hold. I trust she’ll get use to Mar’s ways eventually.

Once she lets Cherry go, Cherry burrows her way back to my side and under my arm, just as she was. Marlee takes note and her eyes smile into mine before she inquires on how I’ve been. “So, Ace. You look good. How are things?”

“I’m all right. I told you before I left not to worry about me, didn’t I?”

Moving her hands to her hips, she kicks her foot to the side, and Mar lets me know she’s pissed. “Well, you asshat, I worried anyway. You didn’t call or text me while you were gone, and you said you would.”

Wrapping my arm around Cherry’s neck, I pull her into me as she rests her hand on my chest. “Well, I’m home now.”

“For good?”

“Yes. Let’s get a drink and introduce Cherry to the guys.”

* * *

Settling down into a table near the stage, Cherry and I wait for the rest of the crew to make their way to us. Marlee has already warned them that I brought Cherry, and I’m hoping this persuades them, especially man-whore Hayden, not to act in their usual juvenile manner.

Preparing for this meeting, I ask Cherry, “Hey, you need a drink?”

Her eyes scan the room and without looking at me, she answers with uncertainty. “Uhh, that would be good, I think. Thank you.”

When I called The Ward earlier to be sure the boys were still playing this weekend, I had already questioned if bringing her here was a good idea; however, I was at a loss on what to do or where to take her. She’s asked me all week to show her the city, but anything else would have been too ‘date-like’, and I don’t want to go there with her. To me, Cherry’s off-limits entirely.

“Don’t be nervous. They’re nice guys for the most part. Do yourself a favor and ignore Hayden.”

After I say his name, I feel the slap to the back of my head. “What’s that, asshole? You bad-mouthing me in front of my new friend already?”

I stand, giving him a one-arm man hug. It doesn’t matter how many weeks or months pass, we fall back into familiar rhythm with each other with ease. “I was just tellin’ Cherry to ignore your ass.”

Pulling up a chair from the table behind us, he places it next to Cherry as he turns it around so he sits straddling it. He puts his hand out for hers in greeting. “Hi. I’m Hayden. Ignore anything Ace here has told you about me. I’m not a bad guy.”

Cherry reaches her hand to his and, for reasons unknown to myself, I can’t look away from their contact. “Hi. I’m Cherry.”

Still holding her hand, Hayden inquires about what her name means. He doesn’t understand the difference between a local band slut versus a club whore and the nickname that goes with it. “Cherry? That’s your name?”

Her facial expression remaining neutral, she answers. “That’s what people call me.”

Hayden looks confused, his blue eyes never leaving Cherry. He’s assessing. I know this look. He’s considering the amount of work it will take for her to submit and become his for the night.

Fuck that.

Seconds pass and before she can elaborate further on her name, Travis sits down beside me. His eyes make it to Hayden and Cherry, who are still holding hands across the table, and his eyebrows lift in question. Tired of watching Hayden’s attempt to hit on Cherry, I knuckle-slap his hand as it holds hers.

Putting his hands up in surrender, Hayden explains. “Sorry, man, didn’t know she was taken. Just wanted to get a name anyway. Calm the fuck down, Conan.”

“Raegan.” Hayden’s eyes move from mine to hers. He’s shocked to hear her speak. Most women either throw themselves at his feet or shy away under his personality and good looks. Oddly, I can’t remember the last woman, other than Marlee, who has held a casual conversation with Hayden Flynn.

“Rae.” He repeats on a sigh, looking her up and down, already coining her a nickname.

“Raegan.” She corrects him.

Ignoring her completely, he continues with the introduction. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Rae.”

She either ignores his persistence or disregards him entirely, but she accepts his words as he says them. “Thank you.”

After a few seconds of watching this play out, I have to ask. I’m such an ass that I have to
ask her
for verification of her name. “That’s your name? Your name is
Raegan
?”

She laughs and, as she does, she immediately has the attention of every man at the table. She’s beautiful when she smiles, but Cherry’s laugh is innocent and clean. It’s also immediately addicting. “Yeah, Ace, that’s my name. Everyone has one. Did you assume only I didn’t?”

BOOK: Devil's Despair Box Set: Books 1-3
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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