Authors: Adriana Jones
© 2015 by Adriana Jones
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
eaten yet beautiful
, I waited on the side of the road for the inevitable motorcycle caravan. All of this—where I would be, my broken-down car, even the bruises around my eyes, was planned weeks in advance. It all was going according to plan, until someone I wasn’t expecting stepped off his bike. Wearing the same colors as the other bikers, he was a Blessed Bastard, but something about him was different.
He scared the hell out of me. Anyone in their right mind would be scared, but this guy, he intrigued me too. Maybe it was the savageness that I saw in his eyes tinged with concern that said this man was different. He was complicated. Far too complicated for me to get a read on him at once. Not the simple brute I expected, he knocked me off course.
My plan would need tweaking.
His name was Red, and as soon as he locked eyes with me, I knew I was in for a wicked, wild ride.
y plan began
in the ring. I wasn’t an intimidating girl, unless you counted my sometimes loud mouth. Standing at 5’6 and hardly athletic, it was strange to be throwing punches, even stranger to be throwing them at a man. Most of my weight seemed to be in my frizzy, thick black hair, currently pulled back somehow with a strong hair tie. My opponent wasn’t a nobody, but a battle-hardened boxer, chest and abs hard as bricks, his neck looking like three stacked on top of one another. Above, his gloves danced. Below, his feet did their own intricate shuffle, confusing me even more.
Out of my league, the plan was going smoothly. My opponent didn’t agree. Sparring a woman wasn’t cool. Taking her down easily, without hurting her, was
But beating me was necessary. For
plan. The men around me, grizzled veterans of the ring, already slick with sweat...thank God for all of the fans and the air conditioning blasting, pounded the sides of the canvas, urging us on. For once in my life, a beating would be for a good cause. If I was going to trick the motorcycle club, The Blessed Bastards, that I was a battered woman in need of their help, I needed the bruises to prove it.
Ask me to do this a year ago, I would’ve gladly shown up to the job with bruises from my abusive husband, no planning necessary, but that was a year ago, and he was long gone, or so I prayed.
I jabbed. A blur, he easily blocked, my punch knocked away. This guy was fast. Another blocked jab. He circled me, showing off his footwork.
Oh come on, just hit me. Were we really going to do this? I didn’t have all day. I had a few hours, then I needed to be on the side of the road with my broken-down car.
Giving more rapid-fire jabs, my lungs, pumping for air, hurt more than I was hurting him. One jab struck his jaw. Wrapped in the protective boxing mitt, my hand still throbbed.
“Come on, fight me, you pussy,” I screamed.
The magic word, the word that could piss off any man...
It sounded a little awkward with the mouthguard in, more like “pruushy,” but everyone understood. They were slapping the ring, laughing at the absurdity of it all.
When he didn’t act, I screamed it again,
then started to bat him on the side of the head. The men hooted and hollered.
He responded with his first punch, socking me right in the eye. Searing pain swept from my skull to my toes. I was worried that I fell. Somehow, I remained standing. I could even open my eye a sliver.
“Is that it?”
Prusshy, prusshy, prusshy,
I kept yelling it, and soon enough, the next blow came, this one knocking me right on my ass. Eyes throbbing, it hurt to keep them open, so it seemed good enough. We were done.
The ten count rang. It was the desired outcome but I hated to lose. I wanted to get on the road right away. At least, taking out the Blessed Bastards could be a victory. The men rushed into the ring, helping me up on my dazed feet. Leaning against them far too long, I shrugged them off and darted for the opposite ropes.
Jack, my trainer, screamed for me. “You sure you’re good?”
“I’m fine,” I said as I slipped out of the boxing ring to the female changing room, going by memory and the tiny sliver of vision granted in my battered eyes.
“Hey, don’t leave like that,” he shouted after me.
“It’s not personal,” I yelled back. “I’ve got work.”
They shared a laugh. I could hear behind me, “That’s one tough girl. She’ll be fine,” from the owner, Rick, as I shut the locker room door.
There weren’t many girls who boxed which meant they could only afford one of everything. There was one bench, one row of lockers, one shower, a sink, and a toilet. Splashing cold water on my eyes, I could open them, but it took some work. Rattled, searing pain emerged from between my eyes, a headache already forming. I wondered how I would manage to pull this off, but when I saw two rings of puffiness, it drew a slight smile and a whole lot of motivation.
Focused on my end goal, busting The Bastards, putting them all behind bars, I put on eyeshadow, marking myself with blue and yellow hues to help with the bruising, but my thoughts naturally fell to Joe. Joe, my ex husband and protector of the weak, one of the finest in blue, used to hit me and leave me far worse. Like his father before him, and my father as well, their anger could be scary. Their anger could make me fear for my life.
Should the plan be forgotten? Stopping now would destroy me. Bruises triggered bad memories. In a way, I was destined to play this role. Beat-up, down-on-her-luck waitress with an abusive boyfriend. Too close to the truth.
I told myself. I bat my lashes, causing a ripple of pain to rock me, but I still managed a smile. Y
ou’re much stronger than that. Your story is a lot more complex than that. You’re not really so desperate, you’re not really so weak.
Because here you are, getting ready to take down one of the biggest MCs in the country.
I knew the danger of what I was about to face. If I messed up, I would get more than a little bruise. My life would be over.
through the desert with my Bluetooth on, dressed like a waitress ready to serve at The Long Road Driver, I would never arrive on time. The Bluetooth looked out of place, the only real way anyone would know that I was faking, but it would be ditched before I got to my spot.
It was a beautiful, cloudless day, which I could only say with earnest because my AC was cranked up. Toward Barstow, California, into the desert I went. It’d been months since I made the move from Maryland, but I still couldn’t get over the heat. It was a nice change of pace. But things were about to get real for me. This would no longer be a vacation. This would be my first real step against the club.
Time to call Wyatt. The phone rang once before he picked up.
“Ash.” He sounded relieved to hear me.
“Heading to the meeting point now.”
“Ready to take that apron off?”
“I was starting to get used to it.”
“You can turn back now. This is your last chance. We’ve been over this, but I thought I would warn you again. This is the last time you have the option.”
Without a pause, I spoke into the Bluetooth, “Good to go. I didn’t just get punched in the face for nothing.”
Wyatt paused. “Punched in the face? You’re supposed to be acting, Ash, playing a part. What do you mean, punched in the face?”
“You ever hear of method acting? You know, like Daniel Day Lewis or Robert De Niro? They don’t just perform their roles, they become them.”
“Who would punch Robert De Niro in the face? Everyone loves that guy.” After trailing off, he added, “You shouldn’t be punched in the face.”
“Boxing match. Don’t worry, it was enough to start a bruise. The rest of it was makeup magic.”
“Stop screwing around, Ash,” Wyatt growled over the line.
As his anger simmered, I looked ahead. The long road seemed to never end. It cut through the desert, sparse brush on the sides of the road, some cacti, but mostly barren earth with red mountains on the horizon. Heading deeper in, closer to the Mojave, heat lines waved in front of my hood, clinging to the asphalt like a dire warning. A hub to California and Arizona, with all the illegal activities that came with two border states, this area was the ideal grounds for a motorcycle club. Long stretches of desert to hide in, few neighbors, and a lot of trafficking.
The Blessed Bastards laid low, like a crocodile in a swamp, most of the time spent preserving energy, soaking up the heat. When the opportunity arose, it attacked. Carnage. Lots of it. Messy carnage that got the public’s attention. That was one reason they chose a woman for the job, and not another man, because these guys were good. The last agent who tried to go undercover in their group paid for it with his life. These guys got away with murder. Murder of an FBI agent.
Wyatt interrupted my worrying, “You’re tough, but are you able to cry on command? You’ve got to be good. Real good. I don’t want to get a bad phone call about this job. I really don’t.” He reminded me, “This was your idea, remember?”
“Sounds like someone is getting cold feet.”
Please, Wyatt, stop worrying about me. Your worrying is contagious.
“It’s a good plan. If you’re confident about following it.”
“This is how it has to be. I know that and I’m doing it. I appreciate the warnings, but we’ve been through this before.”
Prickly Mojave yucca popped into view. Hitting the brakes, I stopped at my designated spot. The yucca thrived there like a patch of green desert spears that had grown out of control and couldn’t be stopped, a good place for me to remember. The plants grew all over the state, but not to this degree. Yucca in full bloom, like these were, exposed red flowers among thorns...a fitting metaphor for what I was about to become.
“I’m at the spot,” I told Wyatt. “I’ve got to go.”
He got in one last warning, “Be careful. Call me soon.” He knew the Bluetooth would be disposed of according to plan.
I pulled over, sending a cloud of dirt in the air. I turned the car off then grabbed my tiny disposable kit that I packed for the job. First thing I did was walk far away and smash the phone with a small yet functional hammer.
These guys were good. Taking chances wasn’t an option. If they found a burner on me, I was as good as dead. My paranoia went as far as scattering the pieces around the desert floor.
I came back to the car and threw open the hood. A popped tire wasn’t dramatic enough. No, total destruction was required. Leaving it out in the sweltering heat, which now began to beat on my neck to the back of my heels, might do the trick, but there wasn’t time. Any second they could come rolling down the highway like a swarm signaling the apocalypse, each one clad in dark leather on black steeds.
Oil already spent, I took the next item out and dumped it in the engine as instructed. It was designed to destroy the engine in record time, faster than pouring sand, without leaving a trace. It was some serious spy shit. I was happy to use it. That might not be very professional, but there, I said it. Getting into my car again, I put it into neutral and slammed on the gas, making sure I kept the windows open to let a breeze in.
Admittedly, it was a little fun screeching the tires and going until the engine blew, but I also felt a little sad that I couldn’t hand the car over to someone else, or maybe take it myself after the job was over. I wasn’t rich. The government was.
Sufficiently screwed, my tiny car turned over. I let it sit and cool off while I headed into the desert to dig a hole and bury my disposable packet. Brushing dirt over it, it seemed paranoid, but with my life on the line, and these guys being one of the biggest one percenter clubs in the nation, I had a right to be.
A black dot emerged on the horizon, quickly getting larger, forming into a black streak that threatened to swallow the blue sky. I hurried to my place on stage, leaning helplessly against the destroyed car. Crying would be too much. Teary eyed, disheveled, that I could handle.
Covering the entire road, the pack made sure no intruders could sneak through their motorcade. It occurred to me that my plan would be a major failure if they simply rode past me, but I didn’t expect them to leave a sad, pathetic-looking girl on the side of the road. These guys were all about proving they were alpha. A sweet thing like me would be an easy catch for these predators.
I don’t know what I expected, but seeing the President slow and wave them to the side of the road snapped my spine straight at attention. I never expected the President, King Jr., otherwise known as King, to be there, even though his daily ritual was to get a pot of coffee and a whole cow to slaughter at The Long Road. Having his towering, threatening self walking toward me was quite different than serving him breakfast in a booth.
He would look like Santa Claus if it weren’t for all of the black leather and the grey in his mostly white beard. His jacket was adorned with patches. Above all, my attention was directed to the “President Patch” and then the “1%” patch right next to it.
“Looks like you ran into some trouble here,” he said, his voice like a bear waking from a long hibernation.
More men got off their bikes. They filed behind my car. Some waited, but others, too interested in a wholesome, stranded girl, approached.
King recoiled, his lips wavering into a snarl when he saw my bruises. An ocean of worn leather surrounded me when they also noticed my swollen face.
“Who hurt ya, sweetheart?”
I took some steps back. They were getting too close.
King held a hand out, stopping them all.
“You’ve got a nice bruise there. How’d that happen? Now don’t go telling me it was from falling down stairs. I’ve seen bruises like that before.”
I bet you have. Maybe given some yourself?
Standing my ground, I knew if I threw myself into their arms right away it would be too obvious. It would look phony. Besides, fear gripped me, not allowing me to move.
“It’s nothing. I called for a lift. I’m fine,” I said, saying it like I believed it, because I really wanted to.
Surveying my car, he grunted. “Shoulda bought a bike.” He grinned and slapped the hood. “Care if I take a look?”
I nodded slowly.
King popped the hood, letting the others emerge as he inspected. I saw one of them, a lanky, weather-beaten man as tattered as his leather, grin at me.
“Look at the sweet ass on her,” I heard him say to his friend. “Wouldn’t mind bringing that home with me.”
His friend grinned. The man who looked like a long-lost member of The Stones waved me over. I peered back to King, busy inspecting the engine.
The ragged one gave me another wave then nodded, like I was a disobedient pup. There was an underlying threat if I didn’t follow.
Taking careful, fearful steps, when I got close, he swung his arm around me and grabbed my ass with bony fingers. He pulled me close to his oily leather. I struggled, trying to sway my ass out of his hands, knowing I shouldn’t make too much of a fight.