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Excerpt: Fast

Excerpt: Fast

Book 2: Burns Brothers Series

Prologue

Ryan Burns

West Coast Kings MC Clubhouse

Sacramento, CA

It was her laugh that first caught my attention. The West Coast Kings’ clubhouse was definitely a man’s domain—from the scuffed wooden floors and worn leather bench seats to the collection of questionable art hanging on the walls—liquor posters, street signs, and the occasional bikini model. This wasn’t the place for nice girls. Her light-hearted laughter cut through the male badass posturing like the ringing of bells. And she was just as gorgeous as her laugh—long, blonde hair, sparkling eyes, and a slender figure that immediately had me picturing what was going on underneath her black Henley top and skinny jeans.

If only she wasn’t hanging off the toughest S.O.B. in Sactown, the president of the motorcycle club who was also our client, T-Bone.

He had to be old enough to be her father. His grey mustache and deeply wrinkled face clashed harshly with her youthful California girl looks. If I had a dollar for every time we’d witnessed this show… But for the first time in all the years I’d known him, I felt jealous of T-Bone.

And it had nothing to do with the badass bike he was straddling.

“T-Bone looks happy with his bike,” Nathan, my second older brother said before he took a long pull on his beer.

Nate deserved to let loose and get shitfaced. We’d busted our asses the last two days to finish T-Bone’s bike, despite the fact that Austin, our oldest brother and founder of Badass Builds, had gone MIA. He had a habit of disappearing when things got rough. But in this case, we knew he was alive since he called me in to help Nate out. Apparently, Austin was up in Tahoe snowed in with a ski bunny while we’d busted our asses to finish T-Bone’s bike. Prick.

“Hell, I’d be happy too if I had a piece of tail like that hanging off me,” our youngest brother, Dylan muttered.

“She’s not wearing a vest,” I muttered back. “So, she’s not his old lady.”

“Old lady? She’s young enough to be his daughter.” Dylan faked a shudder. “That shit’s gross.”

“You two need to shut your pieholes.” Nate nodded at the bartender, signaling for another round. “The Kings are our best clients. As long as they’re not doing seriously illegal shit in front of us, we don’t have an opinion about anything. Now let’s have some fun.”

“Hell yeah, we’re gonna have some fun!” Hawk, the VP, hollered as he approached us. “Prospect! Fuck that light beer shit. Get my boys a round of tequila! We’re gonna do it up right. And me and you need to talk about building another bike, but for me this time. That machine you guys put together for T is the shit. But you gotta make mine fucking awesome.”

Hawk and Nathan huddled together to talk design, leaving me and Dylan with a tray of tequila shots. I toasted Dylan and downed the first one.

Things got a little fuzzy after that.

All I remembered was a few hours later, I was standing in the corner of the clubhouse’s courtyard to cool off since the bar had gotten too hot—or maybe that was because of all the shots I’d done—when I heard a woman clear her throat. I whipped around and found T-Bone’s blonde standing a few feet away.

She gave me a nervous smile. “Hey. Hi.” She flushed and fidgeted with the cuffs of her long sleeve Henley. “Sorry, I’m a little starstruck. I uh, I forgot what I was going to say.”

I had to smile at her ridiculously cute greeting. “How about we start with names? I’m Ryan.”

“I know. I’m a fan. I’ve watched your special on the Urban Channel a few times. And I uh, was at Public School—the nightclub—when you guys hosted last month.”

“Oh.” This was the other part that I was still adjusting to—where people felt like they knew you because you were on TV. Another one of Austin’s big ideas. I hitched a shoulder, but I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell yet if she was going to be one of those fans.

She shook her head. “I’m sorry. This is weird. I just…wanted you to know that I really appreciate what you guys are doing—not just the motorcycles—but the whole family dynamic thing? It’s nice to see people who are actually real on reality TV. You guys don’t play to the cameras. You let your dysfunction fly.”

I laughed. “We didn’t exactly have a choice. After a while, I forgot the cameras were there. But you’re right; my family is the definition of dysfunction.” During our special they showed us building a few bikes, yelling at each other, and then the final fight between Nathan and me that ended with us in the E.R. getting his broken nose and my right hand x-rayed. We loved each other to death, but we were still working on the healthy way of showing it part.

Seeing that play out on TV had made me take a good, long, hard look at myself and honestly, I really didn’t like what I’d seen.

“But I could tell you guys cared about each other.” She smiled slightly. “I mean, it got super intense at the end with the whole fight and hospital thing, but in the end you guys came together and worked out your problems. Not all families are willing to work them out like that—so publicly and just raw.”

I snorted, remembering the way Nathan and I had worked out that little issue we’d had. We’d had to redo the drywall in the shop, I’d broken two fingers in my right hand, Nathan had ended up with a broken nose, and we had to pay a huge hospital bill. “I’d guess that if you’re hanging out here, you’re used to a rough kinda guy…” I shook my head. “Those days are behind me. Mostly.”

I was the annoying middle brother. I talked shit and occasionally had to defend myself, but I was trying to put that shit behind me—when my brothers let me.

“Oh no. It’s not… I’m not…” She sighed. “It’s a long story.”

Before I could figure out what she meant by that, Dylan shouted from the other side of the courtyard. “Ry! It’s time to go, bro. Before we do shit we can’t take back.”

Right. Because she was biker property. And that was a line that I couldn’t—wouldn’t—cross. I valued my balls too much. “I gotta head out. It was nice to meet you.”

She gave me a tremulous smile and as I walked away, I heard her whisper behind me. “Me too.”

 

Chapter 1

It took three months to find out her name.

We were back at the Kings’ clubhouse to reveal Hawk’s bike, and she was there again with her hungry, sultry eyes trained on me. But unlike our first visit, this time she wasn’t hanging all over one of the guys. Now, she was holed up at a corner booth with a brunette girl about her age. A big, burly biker hovered a few feet away, almost like he was standing guard.

As if I needed the reminder that she was off limits. Ha. Not in this lifetime.

I rested my elbows on the bar as I waited for the bartender to pour us our round of shots. Hawk had ridden off on his brand-new bike with a shit-eating grin that almost made all those hours and scraped knuckles worth it.

“Look at those two.” Nathan scoffed as he stared at our brother, Austin, and his newly-moved-in girlfriend, Rachel. “They live together now, and they still can’t keep their hands off each other.”

I grinned as Austin smiled down at his girl. Unlike Nathan, I wasn’t disgusted. I loved seeing Austin happy. If anyone deserved a slice of paradise on this earth, it was him. He’d been the one who’d protected us when our dad flew off the handle before. And he was the one who’d hidden us all in his closet the night our lives changed. If not for Austin, we might all be lying in a grave next to our mom. And Austin had been the one who’d worked his ass off and made sure we all stayed together—both at Aunt Wendy’s house and as adults.

That didn’t mean the lovebirds could run out on the party. And I never passed up an opportunity to needle my older bro—he was such an easy mark.

“Austin! Get your ass over here!” I waved an arm over my head like my voice wasn’t enough of an attention getter. “We’ve got celebratory shots to do!”

Austin sagged, pressed his forehead against Rachel’s, and then let her drag him over to our end of the bar. I smirked as he paused to adjust himself. Served the bastard right. He’d done the same to me junior year of high school—cock blocked me with Amy Jensen when he found us in the cramped shed behind Aunt Wendy’s house. Revenge was sweet.

An hour of drinks and laughs later, I turned and found my mystery blonde sidled next to me. I toasted her with my pilsner glass. “Well, hello there.”

“Hi, Ryan.”

“Hey, uh…I’m sorry, beautiful. I don’t remember your name.”

“Hope. It’s Hope.” She brushed her long, blonde hair over her shoulder and blinked up at me. “I was hoping,” she winced, shook her head, and continued, “that we could continue our conversation from earlier.”

“Hell yes. Pull up a chair. What were we talking about?” The combination of the booze and her presence made my head fuzzy.

“Right. Because I’ve spent the past few months thinking about all the things I should’ve said but was too flustered to put three words together, and you…” She shook her head. “You didn’t even remember my name. I’m so stupid.”

She turned to go when my hand shot out and grabbed her shoulder. A zing went up my arm at the contact, although Hope didn’t seem to notice. She’d stopped but didn’t turn to face me or acknowledge me in any way.

“Wait a second now.” I took a beat to blink the fuzziness away. “If memory serves, you didn’t even get around to telling me your name. You told me my name and how much you liked our show and how fucked up my family is—which by the way makes me question your sanity—and then I had to go. You never told me your name.”

Hope swung around displaying her chagrined expression. “Well you didn’t ask.”

“Pretty sure I did. I’ll agree to disagree. But I now I know it. Hope. Beautiful name, by the way. So, if it’s all right with you, Hope, I’d like to buy you a drink, and we can continue whatever it was you really wanted to talk about three months ago.”

“I’d like that. Maybe we could go somewhere quieter to have that talk?” Her voice deepened toward the end of her question, making her intent undeniable.

I lost my train of thought for a second. I couldn’t tell if it was the liquor or the migration of most of my blood supply, but I was having a hard time focusing on anything other than her gorgeous eyes. A doe-eyed blonde was my kryptonite. And this one? Christ. I barely held in my groan. She was sexy and clearly interested. I’d felt the same charge of electricity that’d hit me when I first met her three months ago.

Someone on the other side of Hope cleared their throat. I looked up and caught Dylan’s narrowed eyed glare and subtle head shake. We were in a one-percenter’s clubhouse and she’d been hanging all over someone last time. She was off limits.

Right.

I took a step back and bumped into a guy behind me. I muttered and apology and turned back to Hope. “I, uh, don’t think that’s the best idea. You’re, uh, yeah and I’m me. I don’t poach—especially one percenter property. I don’t have a death wish. But it was nice to meet you.”

“I’m not club property.”

I snorted a laugh. “There’s no way a girl like you—looking as gorgeous as you do—isn’t attached to someone. And I saw you here last time with one of the bikers. I can’t remember—was it Hawk or T-Bone?”

She shuddered, and her revulsion would’ve been comical but for what it meant.

She wasn’t Kings’ property. She was single.

And tonight all mine.

But she wasn’t done explaining. “I would never. I mean, I’m sure there’s some who would—” She made a face when she couldn’t finish. “It’s complicated, but I can guarantee you that I’m not now or ever have been property of a King. I am my own woman.”

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. “Well okay then.”

“Okay,” she softly echoed.

“How about we go somewhere quieter so we can talk?”

Hope nodded slowly. “Sounds like a brilliant idea to me.”

I hopped off my barstool, took her hand, and led her out of the clubhouse.

Pausing on the edge of the courtyard, close to where we’d had our famous conversation three months before, I turned to her and asked, “How many drinks have you had tonight? Because I really don’t think I should drive.”

“I, uh, actually live just down the street.”

My blood froze in my veins. “Here?”

She bit her lip then tilted her head toward the apartments a block down.

In one of the shittiest neighborhoods in Sactown.

We were surrounded by a shady strip mall that probably hadn’t seen any lucrative business since the nineties, a suspicious looking convenience store, given the number of people lurking outside in the shadows at this late hour, and the clubhouse for a freaking one-percenter motorcycle club. Most of the streetlights were broken and the asphalt had holes bigger than my truck.

Hope lived here?

Christ, just thinking about that made my skin itch.

My unease must’ve been broadcast on my face because Hope crossed her arms over her chest defensively. “It’s close to where I work.”

I lifted my hands, palms out. “Hey, no judgement. I just wasn’t expecting you to say that—you know, that you live so close.”

What the hell kinda work did she do that had her living here? I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want her thinking that I was a judgmental prick. Again.

Although it did explain why she was hanging out at a biker clubhouse. It was practically home, apparently.

“Okay. Sorry.” Hope shook her head. “It’s just…never mind. So my place?”

I reached out and grabbed her hand. “Sure. Lead the way.”

Hope’s lashes fanned against her cheek as she looked down at our joined hands. Her hand squeezed mine, and then she gave me a look that had me aching to find the nearest backseat or alleyway—anywhere I could get her alone and make her mine. Now.

Using our joined hands, I tugged her toward me. Hope fell into me with a naughty light in her eyes. I buried my free hand in her hair and kissed her like I’d been aching to since I first saw her three months ago. My lips moved hungrily over hers, silently asking, then telling her to open to me. When her lips finally parted, my tongue darted in and took over. I mimicked the act I was dying to perform with her, thrusting my tongue in and out of her mouth and about lost my mind when Hope caught the tip and suckled on it.

Now it was my turn to groan and lose the feeling in my knees. Christ. This woman. I was inches from just lowering her to the ground here and now when someone started up a motorcycle.

The sound of the revving engine jolted through Hope like a crack of lightning and she sprang away from me. Her eyes darted around the courtyard as she panted. She looked like someone who didn’t want to be caught. Someone who was maybe cheating on their boyfriend.

 “Who the hell are you?” I took a step away from her, like that would make a difference.

Because if it’d been her old man who’d come outside and saw us making out, I wouldn’t even be breathing right now, let alone talking.

Hope blinked up at me with an incredulous expression. “I’m Hope.”

“Bullshit. Who’s your old man?”

“I told you, I don’t have one. Why would you think—”

“Because you look guilty as fuck.” I cut in. “Clearly you don’t want to be caught out here with me. Why the hell aren’t you wearing a ‘Property of’ vest?”

“Because as I said—I’m not now or ever have been the property of a King. I’m my own woman.”

“Then why the fuck are you acting so guilty? I’m not going anywhere with you if I gotta look over my shoulder the whole fucking time. I don’t require commitment, but I’m sure as hell not gonna be anyone’s dirty mistress. Especially if you got a scary one-percenter boyfriend. I like my balls where they are, thank you very much.”

“I’m not… He’s not…” Hope sighed and shook her head.

…and that was where I got off the crazy Hope ride. Maybe my brother, Austin, had it right. I needed to stop thinking with my little head.

“Yeah, I’m out.” I took a few steps backward, and away from her. “Have a nice life.”

I’d turned to go when Hope’s words had me freezing in my tracks.

“He’s not my boyfriend. He’s my father.”

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