Read Strays (Red Kings #1) Online

Authors: Emma Kendrick

Strays (Red Kings #1)

BOOK: Strays (Red Kings #1)














The Red Kings Series

Book One



By Emma Kendrick






















November 24th


“Can I get you guys anything else?”


The elderly couple at the table smiled up at the brunette who had just delivered their plates. “No thank you, dear,” the woman said politely.


Jackie nodded and turned back towards the counter, nearly colliding with another waitress carrying a tray full of food. “Oh, sorry!” The other woman merely glared at her and continued down the line of tables. “Bitch,” Jackie mumbled to herself as she walked behind the counter, only to lean against it in exhaustion.


It had been a busy Friday night in the diner, filled with teenagers on dates and families that came in weekly. The crowd had finally died down a bit, allowing Jackie to take a minute to catch her breath. She laughed to herself as she thought of her current situation; a thousand miles from home hoping the new location would bring better opportunities, and yet here she was in her mid-twenties working odd shifts at a diner to cover the rent for a less-than-stellar apartment.


She looked around and smiled, admitting to herself that things could definitely be worse. In all honesty, she was lucky she had stumbled upon this place, otherwise who knows what she would be doing to pay the bills.


On first inspection, one would think the place was going for an old 1950s theme, but really it was just because it hadn't been updated since it's opening in 1957. The white walls played host to dozens of pictures from past decades, while the red furniture sat atop a black and white checkered floor. There was an old jukebox in the corner that only seemed to play three songs on repeat. When Jackie had first entered the place over a year ago, she had half-expected the waitresses to be on roller-skates.


At least the diner was run by good people who took care of their employees and customers. Sure, it was on the small side, a handful of booths, seven tables, and a few place-settings at the counter next to the register, but it usually filled up quickly.


“Jackie, order up!” The dark-haired girl sighed and stood from her slouched position against the counter. She picked up the final plate of the evening and placed it in front of one of her favorite regulars, Thomas. He was a short man with graying hair and kind eyes, the type she would have loved to take home to her parents if he were thirty years younger.


“Thanks, Jackie,” he said with a large smile as she placed a bottle of ketchup next to his plate. He wasn't a high-maintenance customer and left her large tips most of the time, so she never minded spending a few extra minutes talking with him.


Her shift was almost over and she was more than ready to take off the apron, go home, and sink into a relaxing bubble bath. Since the day she and Tyler had left Queens, this was the first steady, long-term job she had managed to hold. True, it was not a spectacular job – the hours were terrible, and by the end of the day she was dead on her feet and tired beyond belief - but it was necessary. She was happy in Macon and was very glad that they were hanging around, at least for the time being. She'd stick with this job as long as she could.


After the last of her customers trickled out, she wasted no time cleaning up and collecting all of her things. It was nearing eleven thirty and she was ready to get out of the diner and into the comfort of her own apartment. She was especially tired tonight. It looked like her bath would be postponed in favor of getting as much sleep as she could before she had to wake up for her early morning shift.


Buttoning up her coat and taking her bag from the counter, Jackie made her way to the door. She stopped to look at the empty diner one last time, making sure she hadn't forgotten anything, then shut the lights off and stepped out into the cold night.


Locking the door, she was startled by the sounds of a scuffle coming from across the street. The noise caught her attention on the usually quiet corner and she looked to see a group of men standing in the alley between two brick buildings. She instantly recognized the leather vests they wore, connecting them to an outlaw biker gang known as the Red Kings. Jackie had seen some of this group in the time her and Tyler had been here, but she was now getting her first glimpse of the danger everyone talked about.


As one of the men moved slightly to the side, she noticed a huddled figure in the middle of the group. She had seen him a few times in the diner, but had never actually spoken to him. She wasn't sure she wanted to meet a man that associated with criminals. He was probably a criminal himself. She just hoped that neither he nor the intimidating bikers would see her.


On the other side of the street, Dean Rockwell was angry, even more so than usual. The enforcer of the Red Kings' Macon charter was a man that many feared. But along with that fear, people respected him and were constantly striving to be on his good side – something that didn't happen easily. If the Kings wanted something, you gave it to them. If they needed something, you did everything you could to help them. If you lied to them, you suffered severe consequences. Said consequences almost always came with an angry biker holding a gun to your head or a knife at your throat.


Tonight was no different.


As Dean considered the man cowering at his feet, he could easily see a resemblance between him and a cat. A scared cat that had no claws. He mentally rolled his eyes at the man's pathetic behavior. He should just shoot him and be done with it. But no, the boss wanted to give the little rat another chance.


John Donovan was an older man with a balding head of gray hair and a beer belly. He was a man that you expected to be sitting at home, watching a football game with a beer in his hand or getting off on sleazy porn while his wife slept in the next room. He was not a successful man, nor did he have any great accomplishments to boast about. He led a pathetic life - he wasn't one to delude himself by thinking otherwise. But one thing was for sure, a stupid man he was not. He knew nothing good came from giving the Kings false information. But with the promise of large amounts of money, he had given a key piece of intel to the B Street gang, a local group of hustlers and car thieves, and bogus nonsense to the Kings. Of course, when the Kings had gone to the wrong warehouse and not found the cars they were promised, the signs pointed straight to him.


And, of course, they sent his least favorite person to handle the job of interrogating him. So here he was now, kissing ass and praying to whichever god was listening that the bikers would either give him a second chance at living or kill him quickly.


Neither looked very likely at the moment.


He felt Dean's knife press deeper into his throat – deep enough to scare him, but not to cause any major damage. “You want to live, don't you, John?” The raspy whisper that reached his ear scared him more than the blade at his neck. A contemplative sigh came from Dean. “Of course you do...” The steady hand holding the knife released the pressure a bit and the cold steel made its way across his throat. “You wouldn't be lying to me again... would you?”


“I-I swear, Dean. I'm not lying! I j-just panicked, messed up the facts! Please, it's the truth, I promise!” The plea fell on deaf ears as Dean pressed the knife once again to John's throat and looked closely at the stuttering man.


“If you're lying to me, I will hunt you down and break every bone in your body with my bare hands. Then I'll do the same thing to your cute little girlfriend while you watch.” The menacing growl came as a warning. All the men knew Dean wasn't kidding – he never was. The next wrong choice John made would be his last. Pressing on the knife again, this time drawing blood, Dean made sure his message was clear. Everyone there knew that his threats weren't empty. John Donovan would sleep with both eyes open for a long time to come.


With one last look of disgust at the scared man, Dean pulled his knife back and made his way to his bike. He threw one leg over the machine and turned his head back to the man.


“Keep your phone on, John.”


With that, Dean started his bike, ready to take off. The other members of the charter followed his lead and revved up their engines. They were all more than ready to go to the clubhouse, have a cold beer, and find a few ladies to warm their beds. Dean was glad for the end of the night – he too wanted to follow his fellow club members' example. That is until he lifted his head up and his eyes connected with a second pair across the street. He cursed under his breath without even realizing it.




That was the only thing that came out of Jackie's mouth. Her mind was whirling with the things that she had seen from her position over the past sixty seconds. She didn't hear much, but what she managed to pick up, coupled with the images of the knife, the pleading man, and the bikers, scared her out of her mind.


Jacqueline Reeves was many things, but brave wasn't one of them. She was smart, realistic, and rational. However, at this moment in time, all thought had flown out of the window. An intelligent person would have run away as soon as they saw what was happening. She just couldn't take her eyes off of the scene as it unfolded in front of her. Now that it was over, she tried to convince her legs to move. She reasoned with herself that she hadn't seen any actual crime, so they wouldn't want to kill her. But the part in the movies where the girl gets kidnapped when she is all alone on the streets popped into her mind.


The movie never ended well for that girl.


Jackie did not want to be


She was startled by the group of bikes coming to life and then by the pair of cold, dark eyes that met hers across the street. Looking away from him, she pretended not to have noticed anyone else and started walking down the parking lot to her car. If she was lucky, she could get there peacefully, run home to Tyler, pack their things, and be out of Macon before this group of thugs could find her again. She heard a few bikes speed past her and expelled a breath, counting the steps that took her closer to the safe haven of her car. She was almost there, could almost touch the car.


There was a loud screech in front of her, the rumbling sound of a motorcycle filling her ears. The man perched on top of the machine was the same one who had looked at her moments ago. Except now, the only thing that separated them was a small patch of grass and a curb. He was much more intimidating at this distance, t-shirt stretched tight over broad shoulders and muscular, tattooed arms. Shaggy black hair fell across a tan, angular face and his nose had obviously been broken at least once. There was a deep scar through the brow above his right eye and a smaller one on his cheek. The beard he was sporting only intensified his look further and the knife on his belt glinted maliciously when the light from the street lamp caught it just right.


His dark eyes narrowed and she swallowed.


That was it, she was done for.


Jackie took a small step back, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Maybe she could outrun him if she could catch him off guard. The biker stared her down, eyes cold and a scowl on his face. From his expression, she could tell that if she tried to run, he would catch her and painfully end her life.


“You didn't see or hear anything. Did you?”


His voice was deep and raspy, only adding to her fear. She vehemently shook her head no, without actually processing the words at first. When she realized what he was asking and that it wasn't so much an actual question, she shook her head more firmly and looked at him again.


“Good. Let's keep it that way.”


And then he sped away with another screech, leaving her to thank her lucky stars that she hadn't been viciously murdered.


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