Authors: Jessica Gadziala
A Henchmen MC Novel
© 2016 Jessica Gadziala
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for brief quotations used in a book review.
"This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents 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, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental."
Cover image credit: Shuterstock.com/Dewald Kirsten
To Shelbi Adams, for agreeing to beta read for me when I needed feedback. Without that, I'm not sure I could have written past the insecurity. Also for finding all the "easter eggs" in my books.
Avocados, blech. Just sayin'.
I've been a magnet for trouble my entire life.
It has never been by my own doing, mind you. I've always been on the up and up, the straight and narrow, the right side of the law. But as for the people around me, yeah, therein was the problem.
It all started with my mother who somehow managed to illegally obtain social security benefits she wasn't entitled to for ten years before they found her. By that time, they had attempted all the nice ways of contacting her and trying to get her to settle her debt. My mother, being the selfish, stubborn woman she was, never responded. So then one day, they stopped by and dragged her to jail and me into the system.
It only lasted for two weeks before my grandmother from Vermont made the trip down to the city and picked me up.
For the next eight years, there was no trouble, no fear of the police, no pit in my stomach. I had a good, albeit rather boring, childhood and adolescence.
About two months after I turned eighteen, my grandmother died. She left me the house and her car and what little money was in her bank account as well as completely and utterly alone in the world.
Then, well, what is a story about trouble without involving a boy, right?
I was nineteen, attending the local community college, taking classes in accounting, going home to an empty house filled with the ghosts of the woman who had lived there for sixty some-odd years, studying and eating dinner alone.
Then one day, behind me at the line at the coffee shop, I met him.
His name was Thato and he was tall and blond and beautiful with the most hypnotic gray eyes I had ever seen in my life. He asked for my number, his voice with a slight accent I couldn't place at first that sounded almost British, but wasn't. I learned when he took me out on our first date that it was South African, that his parents had moved to the states when he was thirteen and he never shook the slight inflection in his tone. Which was fine by me because it was one of the things I liked best about him.
Thato lived in an apartment above his mechanic shop and it wasn't long before I sold off my grandmother's house, stacked her belongings in storage, socked away the money, and moved in with him.
What could I say? I was young and in love.
And, as it often followed with a woman being young and in love, things didn't exactly go to plan.
Meaning, one night eight months into our relationship, I was shocked awake by the front door of our apartment being busted open with a battering ram and half a dozen of Burlington's finest burst into the bedroom before I could even pull up the blankets to cover my naked body.
See, as I learned later that night after being allowed to dress before being dragged down to the police station for questioning, Thato
own a mechanic shop. Sort-of. It was a mechanic shop in the way that it was a building with lifts and oil-stained floors and tire irons and torque wrenches and all that kinda stuff.
But it was not the place anyone went to have their cars fixed.
No, see. It was a place that Thato and his employees (or as the cops called them: accomplices)brought cars that they stole to dismantle and sell off as parts.
It was a chop shop.
The biggest one in Vermont.
My little fairytale turned into Thato being hauled off to jail, me being scared out of my skin, and the decision for me to leave Vermont and start over again in New York City.
Then things went well for the next four years.
Or so I thought.
Then on one fateful January morning, I found out something.
And that's when everything went to hell.
"You can do this."
I paced the small space of my cheap motel room from door to window wearing nothing but the scratchy towel that came with the room, stiff from way too much bleaching. The room was dominated by a queen bed in a room not meant to hold anything bigger than a full, covered in a God-awful brown and red paisley comforter that in no way matched the faded blue window dressings and carpet. It wasn't much, but it was home.
If I couldn't calm my nerves and focus, it might end up being my home-home. And, well, that wouldn't stand. I may not have had much left in the world, but I had my pride. And my pride told me that no matter what shitstorm I had lived through the past six months, I was way above living in a sleep-and-fuck motel on the highway full of truckers and whores.
"Focus," I said, turning back to the bed where I had my clothes laid out. Really, they weren't my clothes; they were my uniform. They fit the part I was playing, the part I would be playing for weeks, months, hell... maybe even years. That was the thing. That was why I was so stressed out. It wasn't like this was some no big deal interview for some job I could walk away from at anytime.
This was my life.
For, well, however long it was necessary for it to be my life.
I sighed hard, grabbing the thong and bra and heading into the bathroom. The porcelain of the sink was still slightly tinted purple from where I had dyed my hair the night before. I pulled the black t-shirt off my head and let my damp hair fall in a straight, heavy, deep purple mass down almost to my waist. I raked a brush through it then dried it with the hair dryer the bathroom boasted that smelled like burning rubber.
It was alright.
I could get used to it.
K told me to go for a drastic change.
He told me to cut off most, or even all, of my long blond hair. And, well, I was willing to do a lot of things, but I wasn't willing to cut off my hair.
But, still, he would approve.
I didn't even look like me anymore.
Sure, I had the same face with a slightly square jaw, generous lips, and hazel eyes. My eyebrows had been dyed as well, but not purple, dark brown. I was covering all traces of my former image. I needed to not look like that trouble-magnet accountant from New York City, then Vermont, then New York City again.
I wasn't her anymore.
Chances were, I would never get to be her again.
That morning, with purple hair, mascara-darkened lashes, black-lined eyes, and a slightly pear-shaped body that was wide of hip, generous of thigh and ass, but with a small waist and acceptable-sized boobs, I wasn't me.
I wasn't even me playing at someone else.
I was Maze.
I took a deep breath, shaking out the tension in my shoulders, and made my way back out to the bedroom. I grabbed the red snake-skin leather pants and the black wifebeater I had picked out as my first outfit. I slipped into my clothes, sitting off the side of the bed to roll on socks and slip into a pair of clunky black combat boots. The ritual of dressing calmed me, grounded me, as I did what K taught me to do when I was stressed: go over the plan. Go over the plan until you knew it inside and out, into all the nooks and crannies, until the running monologue of it threatened to drive you insane.
"I'm going to finish getting dressed. I'm going to grab my wallet with my fake IDs. I'm going to get onto that God-awful motorcycle and pretend I love it, that I was practically born on two wheels. I am going to drive to the compound and demand to see Reign."
If Reign wasn't available, I could demand Cash. If Cash wasn't available, Wolf would do in a pinch. Then, well, I had to use whatever I had in my toolbox to get the outcome I needed.
With Reign, that meant being a badass, challenging him, not shrinking away from his dark and dangerous persona.
With Cash, that meant I needed to be both strong and feminine. I needed to flirt if he flirted, but brush it away if he actually tried to follow through. He wouldn't respect me as a prospect if I gave in too easily.
With Wolf, well, I would have to do all the talking and pray that he had some kind of soft spot, some Achilles heel I could exploit.
I wrapped the strap of my wallet around my wrist and grabbed my keys as I went to the door. My heart was a slamming bass beat in my chest and the summer heat blasted me and did nothing to help the nervous sweat I felt all over my skin.
"I'm going to get onto that God-awful motorcycle and pretend I love it, that I was practically born on two wheels. I am going to drive to the compound and demand to see Reign," I whispered out loud to myself as I crossed the parking lot toward my bike parked in the far left corner. There was a small group of truckers standing beside their rigs as I passed, but I had gotten over my fear of what random nobodies had thought about me around the first time K taught me how to get out of an arm-triangle choke.
"What's that honey?" one of them, the one with the biggest beer belly and a huge, bushy mustache, asked as I passed.
"I am going to drive to the compound and demand to see Reign. I am going to get him to give me a chance. I am going to integrate myself into the club. I am going to belong. I am going to be safe."
"Crazy bitch," I heard muttered as I threw a leg over my bike, unclasping my helmet from the bars and slipping it on.
I wasn't offended.
No, in fact, in that moment, I totally agreed with him.
If I thought this plan was going to work, well, I was definitely a crazy bitch.
But it was the plan.
It was K's plan
And I trusted him. I trusted him, quite literally, with my life. If this was what he thought I needed to do to get safe and stay safe, then I had to believe him. And I owed it to him to work my ass off to make sure he didn't have to come up with some backup plan because I failed.
Navesink Bank was, well, an enormous town. It was chopped up into sections from the sprawling, lavish mansions to the 'burbs, the industrial area, then, well, the slums. Growing up in the city where most areas looked like most of the other areas then Vermont where everything was desolate and green in the summer then, well, desolate and
in the winter, it was a bit of a culture-shock to be able to, in twenty minutes, drive through such a drastically diverse landscape.