This scene takes place on Jared and Tate’s 19th wedding anniversary, before Dylan’s senior year of high school. It is a Jared/Tate scene, not a Noah or Next Generation scene, fyi. And for those of you wanting to see FA meet DN, I included something just for fun
He’s almost home. My mouth spread in a smile that tingled down to my toes as I rushed up to Dalton and handed her the prescriptions.
“I’ve updated Mr. Gates’s family,” I told the nurse, slipping my tablet onto the charger at the nurse’s station. “And Regina Nguyen needs those before she checks out. Her parents are here to take her home.”
She took the prescriptions, the wheels of her chair squeaking as she moved across the tile.
“Call you if anything changes with Gates, Dr. Trent?” she asked.
“Please.” I nodded.
The phone in my white coat buzzed, and I reached inside, pulling it out as she left her desk and walked toward the Nguyen room.
Jared’s face appeared on my screen, and I smiled, answering the call.
“Hey.” I gazed at his beautiful face. “You better be on a plane.”
“About to board in Minneapolis right now,” he assured, and I could see all the traffic in the terminal behind him. “I’ll be in Chicago in an hour.”
I checked my watch, seeing it was after nine. His six a.m. flight from LAX had been cancelled, and I was three hours late leaving the hospital tonight.
It was what it was. After about the third anniversary, he realized how boring fancy dinners were, and I realized how hard it was to plan anything with my schedule, so our anniversary simply became a day where we just wanted to be together: just the two of us, curled up on the couch, swimming at the lake, going for a ride on the back of his bike…
Small pleasures were so much more fun. We just had to be together.
“Did it go well?” I asked him.
He sighed, his brown hair messy and the scruff on his jaw reminding me of how he looked every morning I woke up next to him.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Van der Berg is territorial. He’s not used to working with people and having to contend with more than his own opinion.”
“Oh, like you?” I teased.
He cocked an eyebrow and took a seat at the gate, but that smirk of his peeked out. “I’m used to your opinion all over the place.”
I laughed, heading to the locker room and pulling off my coat with one hand. Merging with Van der Berg Extreme was as much of a gamble for Jared as it was its proprietor, Jake Van der Berg. I’d never met the man, but he had zero social media presence, just like my husband.
“Get home,” I ordered. “The kids are at Madoc’s. I’ve got a steak and a massage waiting for you.”
His eyes lit up.
“After our motorcycle ride, of course,” I added.
I mean, of course. Going over the dips in the hills on that bike was my second favorite thing to do with him.
“Right now, I just want a burger and to wrap my legs around you on the back of that bike,” I said.
I looked down at his smile, but then someone else was on the screen at his side. A young blond, with a humored look on his face that reminded me of Madoc.
“Oh, it sounds like I should stay at Madoc’s, too,” the kid said.
“Jared?” I asked, looking to my husband for an answer.
Who was that?
Jared hooded his eyes and sighed again. “Shit.” He scratched his head and then waved between the guy and me. “Noah Van der Berg, this is my wife Tate. Tate, Noah.”
Ah. So this was Noah. Jake Van der Berg’s son, who happened to be a talented racer. Jared and Jake merged, JT Racing making the engines and VDBE making the bikes, and we got Noah on our team.
“Hi,” I said. “Welcome to JT Racing.”
“I’m excited to meet you.” His blue eyes gleamed, tan skin and windblown hair making him look like he’d just gotten off a bike himself. “I hear Shelburne Falls is a great place to be this time of year.” He glanced at Jared and then to me. “Black Hawk Lake, Mines of Spain, a bowling alley…”
A bowling alley? Was he joking?
And then he started laughing. “Just kidding. Sounds about as exciting as Chapel Peak. I’ll self-soothe with beer. Don’t worry.”
Worry? I narrowed my eyes. Was he…?
Was he coming here?
“Jared?” I pressed.
“I’m bringing him home with me,” he finally said. “I can’t trust Deacon to train this one here. He needs a firmer hand.”
Noah nodded like that was so true.
But I thought it was more because he had high hopes for him and didn’t want him left under someone else’s tutelage at our California office where Jared couldn’t micro-manage his training.
“I thought we could put him in the spare bedroom,” Jared told me, a guilty look on his face, because he knew he was putting me on the spot about this while the kid was sitting right there.
Noah was what? Twenty? Maybe twenty-one?
And we had a seventeen-year-old daughter who just loved trouble.
Well, if that hadn’t occurred to Jared yet, I was excited to be around when it did. It was my payback.
“It’ll be great,” I chirped. “The kids will love a new face in the house.”
“I won’t be in the way,” Noah assured. “I hear you have a kid about my age. She can show me around while you’re busy.”
“She’s several years away from your age.” Jared shot him a look. “You won’t go near my teenaged daughter.”
“A little faith, man,” Noah told him. “I’ve had it up to here with teenaged girls anyway.” And then the boy looked at me, grinning. “I like older women now.”
I snorted as Jared pushed him away, out of my view.
“Jared…” I laughed.
“It’s fine,” he told me.
Yeah, okay. “You may curb your temper because you think he’s harmless,” I warned my husband, “but Jax is going to pull out knives and make him pee his pants if he flirts like that with Juliet.”
Jared’s mouth spread into a smile, way too excited about that prospect.
“Of course, you’d love to see that,” I said.
Any reason to give his brother some ass to kick.
“Now boarding Group 1,” an announcer called as I opened my locker and hung my coat inside.
But he made no move, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’d been gone eight days, and while his trips were frequent, they were usually much shorter. Coupled with the long hours I sometimes worked, and the kids, we could be ships that passed in the night during some weeks.
I missed him.
Especially when he looked at me like that.
Not much about him had changed since that night he’d kissed me for the first time in his house, on the sink. The jeans and T-shirts he wore. The dark brown of his hair. The glint in his eyes when I could tell exactly what he was thinking.
The heat when he was angry.
My skin tingled, thinking about his hands on me. It had been more than twenty years since we’d graduated high school, and everyone had aged. Some of our friends had even grayed a little already.
I couldn’t wait for that, because he was going to age well.
“What?” he asked.
I pulled out my T-shirt, fanning myself. “I’m just a lucky woman, that’s all.”
He gave me a look like he knew exactly what I was thinking. “I think we should take a ride in the car tonight instead.”
Because motorcycles didn’t have backseats, did they?
“And I’m gonna bring you home really late,” he taunted.
My insides shuddered, and all of a sudden, I was eighteen again, not caring about missing curfew, because being with him was worth any consequence.
Damn, he was good.
“See you at ten,” I sing-songed.
He winked with his left eye, and I ended the call before my whole body combusted.
I really needed to play harder to get, but he had my algorithm down. Damn.
I shook my head, slipping my phone into my bag and pulling off my scrubs.
“I am a lucky woman,” I mused, donning jeans and a thin, white sweater.
But as I pulled the sweater over my head, I stopped, getting a better idea instead.
Twenty minutes later, I swung my SS into the gas station, pulling up to a pump. Jared’s plane should be on the ground soon, but it was an hour drive from Chicago, so I still had time to add fresh sheets in the guest room and maybe make a picnic, since staying in tonight was a no-go with Noah Van der Berg a few doors away.
I climbed out the car, the red paint job Jared did last month glimmering under the lights. I looked over, seeing David Webb inside the small convenience store behind the cash register. I waved and he waved back.
I hated the dark, deserted road between the hospital and Shelburne Falls. It only felt safe to get out of the car, because a seventy-year-old former-Army sniper was right inside.
Trees stretched to the sky on the other side of the black road, the power lines swaying in the wind. Taking out my credit card, I inserted it into the machine and pressed a couple buttons before grabbing the nozzle and heading to my gas tank.
But as I unscrewed the cap, a truck pulled into the empty spot on the other side of the pump, and I looked over, my heart lodging in my throat.
Nate Dietrich sat in the driver’s seat, gazing at me through the open window of his beat-up Ford.
Three other heads sat in the darkness of the cab, caps covering their short hair.
I turned around, inserting the nozzle into the tank, pressing the button for Premium Unleaded, and squeezing the lever, the gasoline starting to empty into my tank.
A light sweat dampened my skin under my cashmere sweater.
I should leave. Screw the gas. I had enough to get home. Or at least within the city limits to a busier station.
Over twenty years in this town and I’d been pretty successful at avoiding him. He lived in the sticks. He didn’t hang around town too much, and the few times I had seen him, it had been from a distance, and I hadn’t been alone.
I should leave. Jared told me to leave if I ever ran into Nate.
“It’s like no time has passed.” His voice carried over the pump, making chills crawl up my spine. “You look the same.”
I straightened, every muscle in my body steeling. I should get in my car, but…
But I wouldn’t.
I couldn’t let him see me run.
“Oh, come on, Tate,” he taunted. “I was a dumb kid.”
“You were old enough.” I glanced over my shoulder, seeing his greasy brown hair peeking out from under his baseball cap. “Stay away from me.”
“I am,” he said. “Like I can get my hands on you from here.”
Chuckles went off from inside his truck, and I tightened my hold on the nozzle.
Webb was inside. Dietrich was just messing with me. If he had any ideas of revenge after all this time, it would’ve happened by now. I was angrier with myself for never pursuing punishment for him and Piper like I should have.
After they’d posted that video of Jared and me online, I’d just wanted it all to go away. They were expelled and as time passed, neither one of them was a problem.
Life got busy with college, and I’d…let it go.
I shouldn’t have.
He’d attacked me in the forest a couple weeks before the video, and while I hadn’t heard he’d done anything like that again, I would never know for sure. I should have dealt with it, and I mean a lot more than the knee I’d slammed into his dick that night.
He’d gotten away with it.
Checking the panel on the pump, I saw that I was halfway full. I could feel his eyes on my back and then heard a door open and close.
I shot a look behind me. His older brother Chase, whose graying hair was the only thing that gave away his age, walked into the convenience store, leaving the truck full of men behind him. Chase had been several years ahead of me in school. He must be in his mid-to-late forties by now.
Nate’s eyes drifted down my form. “You definitely kept your figure,” he told me.
I shook the nozzle as if that’d get the gas to go faster.
“Piper kept hers, even after I got a kid out of her,” he continued. “But as you know, that one isn’t in great shape upstairs.”
I hadn’t seen her in years. She’d left town a long time ago. Did she have their kid with her? Jesus, I didn’t know which parent would be worse.
“I’ve gotta be honest, though,” Nate went on. “I think our relationship was always doomed. Being Trent’s sloppy seconds, as she was.”
I flexed my jaw.
“I’d fucking kill for them now, though,” he cooed, and I could almost feel his cold hazel eyes trail down my body like a threat.
And suddenly, he was too close. I yanked the nozzle out before the tank was full and shoved it into the slot on the pump.
“You should’ve gone to jail then,” I growled. “And if you come near me now, you will.”
“Oh, I know it.” He smiled. “The mayor is your best friend, and your brother-in-law has this whole town in his pocket.”
I didn’t need Madoc, Jax, or Jared. I took care of him in the forest that night on my own, and he knew I could take care of myself. He thought he could still talk to me.
“But someday, marriage is gonna sour,” he said as I screwed back on the cap. “He’ll start looking for a younger piece of ass—if he hasn’t already—or you’ll get bored and need it hot again. You can think about me.” He smirked. “I’ll think about you thinking about me.”
He stuck a cigarette in his mouth and lit it, and my gaze fell to his forearm, the sleeve of his red flannel rolled up to reveal a colorful tattoo. I couldn’t make it out from here.
“Nice sweater,” he murmured.
I didn’t look down to know he could make out the shape of me underneath. I’d wanted to excite Jared tonight, so I wasn’t wearing anything under my sweater.
“You know what’s funny?” I told him, seeing his brothers or friends or whoever they were with their heads turned as they listened. “I haven’t thought about you much in the last twenty years. And you’ve thought about me a lot.” I couldn’t hide the small smile. “How strange. You go about your life, raising your kids and working and making memories, when all the while you’re the focus of someone else’s memories and you barely ever think of them.”
He blew out a stream of smoke, hooding his eyes.
“It’s just funny,” I told him. “You never know how much you define another person.”
“I’ll work harder.”
You can try.
“I have family, too.” He gestured to the men in the cab. “And someday, yours and mine will have a serious discussion, Tatum Trent.” He dropped his voice. “Within arm’s reach.”
My stomach hollowed at the last line, but I remained still otherwise.
Chase exited the store and jumped back into the cab, Nate not taking his eyes off me as he shifted the truck into gear and peeled out of the gas station.
Asshole. My heart pounded as I walked to the driver’s side and slid into my seat, a cold sweat breaking out as I hit the locks and watched his truck tear down the road and disappear in the direction from where I came.
Was he serious? After all this time, he was still throwing around threats to make himself feel bigger? Someone hadn’t moved on, and I was sure it got under his skin every time he saw Jared in a magazine or Madoc in the paper, but he was bluffing. Throwing around promises he didn’t have the balls to keep.
And he knew it.
I started the car, shifted into gear, and turned onto the highway, going the opposite direction as Nate. On reflex, I checked my rearview mirror, the vacant, black highway behind me like a tunnel disappearing into the void.
He was gone.
The wind blew through the crack in the window, whipping my hair, and I squeezed the steering wheel with one hand and kicked it into fourth gear with my other.
My sweater stuck to my skin as I breathed in and out of my nose. Marriage will sour… You’ll get bored and need it hot again…
Idiot. Maybe that was his experience, but it certainly wasn’t mine. Life was anything but boring. There were even times Jared still got me so angry that I could convince myself I was completely justified in trashing his car senior year.
And then there were all the times he reminded me exactly why I’d never survive outside of his arms.
I smiled to myself. I never regretted my life with him. Not for a second. He still made the goosebumps rise.
Nate Dietrich’s cycle of failure took him from one bed to another, every woman seemingly too smart to stay longer than the fun lasted, thank goodness.
That’s what he got to wake up to tomorrow.
But something still wormed its way through my brain as I drove. You’ll get bored…
I wasn’t bored in my family life. I might’ve been a little bored in my professional life, though. I loved my job, but I missed driving. Jared was off every other month, meeting new people and seeing new things, and he got to innovate. And race. Even if just testing new equipment.
I was kind of jealous. Somewhere along the line I decided I couldn’t do everything, and driving was what I sacrificed.
The older I got, the further away I felt from those thrills. Racing was for the kids. Not us anymore.
I shifted into fifth, cruising down the empty highway, only realizing I was spacing off when headlights flashed in my rearview mirror. I blinked and looked, seeing a blue pickup charging my tail and gaining.
My heart skipped a beat, seeing four figures in the cab.
Keeping my foot on the pedal and my eyes between the road and my rearview, I reached over and fished in my purse for my phone.
There was no way I was stopping. But I was getting a hold of an authority right now in case that piece of shit ran me off the road.
Glancing between my phone and the road, I started dialing, but lights flashed in my rearview mirror, and I looked up, his brights blinding me.
I winced, dropping my phone, and I turned my head over my shoulder, watching Nate swerve into the left lane and back to the right.
Jesus. What was he doing? I fumbled with the steering wheel, the car drifting before I righted it again.
You son of a bitch.
I gritted my teeth, punched the gas, and shifted into sixth, a current of heat coursing down my arms.
A familiar feeling warmed my stomach, filling it up, and I gripped the steering wheel as my car sped like a rocket past black trees under the starless night, leaving his truck in the dust. I glanced in my rearview, seeing his headlights growing dimmer and dimmer, and I flipped on the radio, turning the dial until it was blaring.
God, I hadn’t felt this in a long time. Rage or fear or…wild. Something feral. Something like anger.
All I could see behind me were two small specks, knowing Nate still followed but knowing I had plenty of time to get to safety, lose him, or…
A laugh bubbled up my throat.
Don’t do it.
I shook my head. You really shouldn’t do it.
You’re a grown woman. A professional. You’re educated.
You’re a mother.
And your husband really won’t like it.
But that was the thing about that little voice in your head. She knew how good it felt to teach bullies a lesson.
Pressing the brakes, I downshifted, my tires screeching against the blacktop as I swerved and slowed before jerking the wheel and spinning one-eighty.
Kicking it into second, I hit the gas and sped off again.
Right toward Nate.
My stomach fluttered, and a smile teased the corners of my mouth even as the anger blossomed all over again. All of a sudden, I was back in that classroom, opening my phone, and realizing I was on everyone else’s, my heart shattering so hard I wanted to disappear.
But I didn’t. I’d had enough. It was them or me.
Of course, I took it out on the wrong person, but no one fucked with me again after that.
I raced down the road, swinging into the left lane and going the wrong way. Sweat dampened my forehead as his headlights grew larger and larger, and I breathed hard, just letting go.
I could still get in my own lane. I could still turn around even. But my foot stayed like lead on the gas pedal as each inch strengthened my resolve and assurance that Nate Dietrich was a fucking pussy.
He’d swerve. I didn’t have to move.
I zoned in on his lights, the silvery heat traveling through my fingers, up my arms, and filling my lungs. He wouldn’t speak to me again. He wouldn’t threaten me again.
He wouldn’t follow me home, mess with my kids, or assume he knew anything about our lives, because while I’d let Jared take the lead on protecting us, he wasn’t the only muscle in the family.
Nate didn’t exist.
He flashed his lights, and I punched the gas, shifting up into sixth, my heart pounding so hard I could hear it, and I…
His lights came, rushing up at me, and I stopped breathing as he charged.
And I didn’t hesitate.
Her phone kept going to voicemail.
I stood in the foyer of our dark house, hearing her recording come on without so much as a ring before pulling the phone away from my ear and hanging up.
I looked around. Where the fuck was she? Glancing over my shoulder at the grandfather clock, I checked the time.
Ten thirty-one. It was a twenty-minute drive from the hospital. Twelve for Tate. My pulse quickened.
Noah came pounding down the stairs. “It’s nice, man.”
I shot him a glance. “Tight compared to all that space on the peak?”
He chuckled, telling me what I already knew. “And thank God,” he mumbled. “I’ve had enough wide open spaces to last a lifetime. It’s kind of cool to look out the window and see more houses.”
I shook my head. I might like to look out the window and see the forest he grew up with.
No, never mind. My car probably wouldn’t make it up that mountain, and I liked my car.
After we’d gotten home, I stepped through the door, awareness immediately crawling up my spine as I saw there wasn’t a single light on and emptiness thickened the air.
I dialed Dylan. She and James were at Madoc’s, Tate had said.
“Hi, Dad,” she chirped, chewing on something on the other end of the line.
“Have you seen your mom?”
She was silent for a moment. “No.”
“I talked to her about an hour and half ago,” I told my kid. “She was leaving the hospital. She’s not home, she’s not at the hospital, and her phone is dead.”
“Did you track it?”
“Who is that?” I heard in the background.
I ignored Madoc’s nosiness. “You can’t track a dead phone,” I told Dylan.
I mean, can you?
“Ugh, Dad…” she breathed out. “Yes, you can access the last available location, at least. Just a sec…”
I pursed my lips, turning and watching Noah hang by the stairs. I hated when she was condescending, but I probably did the same thing to my mother.
Kids think they know everything.
“Is something wrong?” Kade asked Dylan on the other end.
“What’s going on?” I heard Fallon next.
I rolled my eyes.
“Dylan?” I barked.
“Okay,” she spoke up. “According to the coordinates, her phone died when she was…”
“I’m mapping it. Just a sec.”
I ran my hand through my hair, picking up my keys off the table and sticking them into my pocket.
Come on, come on…
“That’s…” she murmured. “That’s the Loop, I think.”
“Yeah, I’d hurry,” she said. “She could be already gone.”
“Jesus.” I hung up, pulled my keys out of my pocket, and yanked open the front door, Noah falling in behind my quick steps down the porch stairs.
Dylan had a knack from never putting me at ease. Something was wrong, and I knew it. Tate had a charger in her car. She knew I was coming home. We literally just spoke. She would let me know if she got caught up with something.
This was all wrong.
We ran to the garage, I unlocked it, and we pulled up the door, racing inside. Diving into my car, it took about five seconds before I peeled out of the driveway and sped off down the dark, empty lane.
I should’ve just left Noah at home, but we were out the door before I even thought about it. Drama probably wouldn’t inspire his confidence in me, right?
But then I looked over, his hair blowing with the wind coming through his window, a slight smile on his face and his eyes lighting up.
I smiled to myself.
He was easy to entertain. Unlike James. My son was still only nine, but if it was hard now, I feared what the next few years would bring. Dylan got into so much trouble—she was by no means easy—but she was a replica of Tate and me. We were always in sync with that kid.
She was never hard to talk to. She didn’t say no to everything. She enjoyed the things her parents enjoyed.
I never understood James.
Maybe an older brother type, like Noah, would help. Some kids just respond better to people who aren’t their parents.
Shifting from second straight into fourth, I blew onto the highway, coming up on the turn off for the Loop ahead.
My stomach knotted, anxious to find her. She could’ve been in an accident. She could’ve been called out to someone else who was in an accident.
Where was Jax? Was he in an accident, running the track tonight? Shit.
Racing down the road, I saw the track ahead peeking through the trees lining the road. No lights, no traffic, nothing yet that I could make out.
Headlights gleamed in my rearview, and I squinted, making out the grill of my old Boss.
Another set of lights cruised behind her, and I adjusted my mirror, making out Madoc’s car.
I shook my head, and Noah cast a look to me, but I didn’t spare him a response. I hoped he was ready to meet everyone, because I was pretty sure they were all in tow.
I launched onto the track and immediately spotted Tate’s SS skidding around the bend and charging toward the next.
I screeched to a halt, glaring. What the hell was she doing?
Tate hadn’t been on the track in years.
I shifted into neutral and pressed the e-brake before climbing out of the car and watching as her red car sped around the empty track, only her headlights lighting the way.
I couldn’t see her through the window.
I walked, heading toward the oncoming car in the distance as its engine roared, getting closer and closer.
A thousand worries whipped through my head like a cyclone. What if that wasn’t her in that car?
What if her car was stolen, and she was lying in a ditch somewhere, because Tate wouldn’t be so inconsiderate as to blow off her husband on their anniversary to come out here and run the track all by herself.
I heard doors slam behind me as Madoc—Kade probably with him, too—got out of their cars and the Chevy’s headlights blinded me. But I dug in my heels anyway, seeing her blonde hair through the windshield and grinding my teeth together.
I heard the engine kick into another gear, her speed increase, and then…her tires screeched across the blacktop, her ass swerving to the side as she spotted me.
The car halted, and I walked up, pinning my eyes to hers through the windshield. Her hands fisted the wheel so tightly her knuckles were white. A lump moved in her throat, and she didn’t blink.
Yeah, you got that right.
“I get home,” I barked. “You’re not there.”
She climbed out of the car, slamming the door, but she didn’t move for me, keeping her distance. She opened and closed her mouth, but nothing came out.
She knew she’d fucked up. What the hell happened?
“I didn’t realize the time,” she told me. “I’m sorry. I should’ve called.”
“You shouldn’t be here!” I corrected. “Alone? At night? What if you’d gotten into an accident? No one would find you until morning!”
I mean, what the hell happened between the phone call and now? She didn’t say anything about coming out here on her way home.
“And where’s your phone?” I snapped.
She glanced at the car and back to me, looking uncertain. “Oh, I, uh…it must be dead. It’s in the car.”
“And you didn’t think to charge it?”
She exhaled, looking away. “Calm down,” she said. “You don’t have to do this in front of everyone. How old are we?”
I didn’t give a shit that everyone was hanging back, no doubt listening.
“Do you understand that I was worried?” I pressed her, approaching.
“Enough to reprimand me like I’m your dog…” she muttered. “Yes, I understand it clearly enough.”
I cocked an eyebrow as she shifted on her feet, looking seventeen again, but instead of being me, I felt like her father, and I was too angry now I didn’t want to ease up.
“I’m sorry I forgot to call,” she said. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
I shook my head. Whatever. “Let’s go.”
I spun around, not hearing her door open behind me.
“No,” she said instead.
I stopped. Excuse me?
Twisting back around, I locked my eyes on her blue ones, her defiant chin lifted and kind of reminding me of that night so long ago when she threw my keys into the woods.
“I could be equally mad at you,” she told me. “You didn’t even ask if anything was wrong. Obviously, something’s wrong.”
I frowned. She was right. She was out here, being weird, and I was simply relieved she was in one piece and safe that I’d let my aggravation take over once the fear had subsided.
She rounded the rear of the car, putting the machine between us, her stubborn streak kicking in.
And I tipped my chin down, pinning her with a hard stare.
That’s what I loved about her. She never made anything easy.
I launched onto the hood of the car and jumped up onto the roof, seeing her gasp and stumble backward as I zoned in on my woman standing below, looking suddenly not-so-confident now.
“You could only catch me by cheating,” she teased, because I didn’t chase her around the car—instead going over it.
But then something caught my attention. The sharp points of her nipples poked through her white cashmere sweater, and at that moment my hand was as good as up her shirt, taking a handful of the soft, taut skin with no bra. My cock swelled.
Son of a bitch.
She wanted to race. I knew that by her taunt.
But I wanted to chase.
Holding her eyes for a moment longer, the heat hanging between us, I leapt off the roof and down to the ground, hearing her squeal as she turned away.
But I caught her, pulling her into my arms and taking the back of her neck, pressing her mouth to mine.
She whimpered, but in a moment, she was moving her lips over mine and taking my face in her hands and everything was forgotten.
As long as she was okay, I wasn’t going to say or do anything to take that smile off her face now.
Fuck going home. We were going for a drive. A nice, long one.
She pulled back, breathing over my lips. “This was the one place I always won,” she whispered. “Even if I lost, I won, you know?”
Yeah, I know. And for some reason she needed to feel that today. Why hadn’t I noticed something was wrong when we talked earlier? What had happened?
I was gone too much. That was one of the reasons I brought Noah back, so I wouldn’t be flying to California every other week to manage his training.
“I don’t mean to act like an ass.” I smoothed her hair. “I just hate…”
What I wanted to say sounded bad, and if Tate were Dylan and a guy was saying that to her, I’d probably freak out, but…
“Hate what?” she pressed.
I stared into her eyes. “I hate not knowing where you are.”
She squinted, studying me. It wasn’t that she needed permission to be anywhere, but I just liked to know, because then I’d usually veer in the same direction. If it wasn’t necessary to be away from her, then why should I be any more than necessary?
“I love you,” she said, slipping her hand into mine.
“Let’s get everyone home and then go celebrate.” And I pulled her along, toward all the cars and everyone leaning over their roofs or their heads out the windows, being nosy.
But she trembled in my hand, and I turned my head, looking down and seeing her chewing her bottom lip and still breathing hard.
Although, now it didn’t look like excitement from the ride. It looked like nerves.
Why was she out here tonight?
I stopped. “Why are you shaking?”
She looked up at me, not breathing at all now, and the hair on my arms rose.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Please don’t overreact…”
I steeled my spine.
She opened and closed her mouth a couple times. “I ran into Nate Dietrich at the gas station after I left the hospital.”
Dietrich? I immediately scaled my eyes up and down her body, making sure she was okay. What the fuck did he say now? We saw him rarely, but time hadn’t dulled bad blood.
“He stayed in his truck,” she told me. “It was just a little…a little leering.”
“Was he saying shit?”
She stared at me.
That was answer enough.
I grabbed her hand again and bolted back to the cars, leaving hers on the track and jerking my chin at Noah.
“Follow us in her car,” I told him. “Keys are in it.”
He nodded and climbed out of my car, running for hers.
But Tate dug in her heels. “Jared, no,” she pleaded. “If he were going to do anything, he would’ve done it. He was just flexing his muscles, because his pride is still bruised after all this time. He has nothing. He’s bitter.”
And I was sure he wasn’t at home gloating at all that he’d ruffled her feathers. Fucker.
No. He needed to be reminded that when she was close, he would look away. When she spoke, he pretended like he wasn’t there.
If he insisted on staying in this town, he’d be invisible or else. Those were the rules.
No wonder she was out here tonight. We still regretted not giving him the punishment he deserved all those years ago, and he’d gotten away with everything. He had the power, and she’d needed to come here to get her head straight again. She needed to feel strong after whatever he’d said, no doubt.
“Please.” She pulled at me again. “Think of Dylan and James.”
“I’m cool with it,” Dylan piped up, sitting in the driver’s seat of her car and fastening her seatbelt again. “Let’s go.”
I opened my mouth to tell her—and everyone—to get home, but she was already peeling out in reverse, the roar of her engine making it too loud to hear my voice anyway.
I looked over, Madoc was shaking his head, but I could see the smile as he shifted into gear, Kade and Hawke in another car.
Fuck it. I guess we were all going.
“This isn’t like when we were in high school,” Madoc murmured next to me as we barreled down the driveway. “People film everything now.”
I kept going, undeterred. Dietrich lived on the outskirts of town, not far from the Loop in a shitty, old, white house off a gravel road with his loser family as his only neighbors. He worked on a nearby farm, and I looked around, half-surprised there wasn’t a car on cinderblocks sitting in the junk-ridden front yard.
“Shit, you get hit by a car nowadays,” Madoc continued, Tate’s hand in mine and the rest of the gang following quickly behind, “and peoples’ first instinct is to pull out the cameras on their phones rather than to call 911. You can’t get away with the same stuff we got away with then.”
“You’re telling me about being filmed without my permission and my deeds blasted on the internet?” I asked him. “You’re telling me about that?”
I knew all about that. Somewhere out there, buried on someone’s hard drive or probably copied onto some seedy internet site was a video of Tate and me having sex. Taken and uploaded online without our permission when we were barely legal.
I glared ahead, seeing Nate’s house and a small fire come into view. And the prick who did it wasn’t nearly as dead as he should be. I surged ahead.
“You had nothing to lose then,” Madoc insisted. “Just don’t go viral. Please? Talk to him?”
I squeezed Tate’s hand. “Yeah, tell me that again when it’s Fallon.”
I knew what he was saying. We had livelihoods now. Kids to set an example for.
And being mayor put him in a bad position. He couldn’t be a part of this.
I should’ve saved this for another night. No kids around. No witnesses. I could catch Nate off guard… But I was afraid my temper would cool off, and I didn’t want to cool off. Tate had filled me on the rest when we were in the car, out of earshot of Dylan.
Her and Nate’s game of chicken out on the highway, and how Nate had slipped into the other lane, surrendering and passing her just in time.
I was kind of mad at her. That could’ve turned bad—quickly.
But he got in her face. This was his fault.
A group sat on lawn chairs in the grass between the house and the garage, a small campfire lighting their faces as beer cans laid scattered on the ground.
Nate sat dead ahead, friends and family spreading out around the fire, his eyes gleaming the closer I got.
“I almost have shivers,” he called out, a beer can resting on his knee. “It’s been a while since you’ve given me that look.”
I stopped, peering over the fire at the fucking amused expression on his face. “Not the effect I want to have on you,” I bit out, already breathing hard.
Tate squeezed my arm. “Jared…”
We were outnumbered, and she knew Madoc was right.
But what the hell did they expect me to do? Dylan was almost eighteen. If he tried that shit with my wife, what was to stop him from going after our daughter?
I wasn’t sure if Dylan knew about the video that Nate took, but it was clear we were going to have to talk to her about it before someone else did.
“You leave my family alone.” I glared. “If my wife looks at you, you look away. If she’s close, walk away. When you see me coming, disappear.”
His eyes stayed locked on mine, everyone falling silent as the music played in the background.
“The ways I can hurt you have only increased,” I warned him. “It’s not a good idea to remind me that you still exist.”
He sat there a moment and then dropped his head, scoffing as he rose from his chair. Rounding the fire, he crushed the empty can in his fist and flung it over our heads, his eyes never leaving mine. I heard it land somewhere on the ground behind us.
“Your fists are shaking so badly,” he nearly whispered, not stopping until only an inch of space was left between us. “God, you want it, don’t you?”
I uncurled my fingers, my knuckles aching at how tightly I’d had them squeezed. That same smirk danced behind his gaze—the same one I used to wear when the shit was about to hit the fan, and you didn’t care if you bled. You just wanted to hit something.
“The ways you can hurt me haven’t increased,” he told me. “They’ve just changed.”
My hand brushed Tate’s, gauging her position before I slid aside a step and shielded her from his view.
“What are you going to do?” Nate taunted. “Make a call—get me fired? Suspend my license? Or, uh…have me arrested?” He looked around, probably to see if Jax was here, because my brother could make anything happen. Then, he shifted his gaze to Madoc’s. “Have me audited?”
“I’m a lawyer,” Madoc growled. “Not an accountant.”
Nate’s eyes drifted down Madoc’s black trousers and white Oxford with the sleeves rolled up, his business clothes disheveled from a long day at work, still managing cases while mayoring Shelburne Falls.
“You’re a pathetic reflection of what you used to be,” Nate fired back. Then he fixed his eyes back on me. “You can’t hurt me anymore. Too many people to set an example for. Too much to lose. I have nothing to lose. All you can do is run to the end of your leash and bark.”
He laughed, the deep chuckles of his brothers falling in behind him.
He thought we’d gone soft.
I really shouldn’t indulge this. He was a loser, and he knew it. He just wanted attention.
I balled my fists anyway, inching forward and closing the distance between us, because this wasn’t about me. It was about Tate.
“I can do anything I want,” I whispered, holding his eyes. “Any time I want. And the perk of being me in this town is…I’ll get away with it. You will lose.”
“Not a new feeling for me, actually,” he replied. “Maybe I don’t care about winning a fight. Maybe I just want to fucking hit you.”
My heart leapt a little, because I completely understood. I still wanted to hit him every time we crossed paths.
Every muscle burned as I stared at him, feeling Tate’s hand on my arm and Dylan’s eyes on my back.
His eyes lit up, seeing it. “Come on,” he pleaded. “Come on.”
The pulse in my neck throbbed. Kade and Hawke shifted to my left.
I can’t do it. I wouldn’t want the kids to do it.
Kade would never take me seriously again.
“I still want her,” Dietrich said.
My heart hammered as his eyes flashed to Tate.
Tate dug her fingers into my arm. “Jared…”
“God, she’d be hot in my bed,” he breathed out.
And the image flashed behind my eyes, and I lunged for him, his collar in one hand and his throat in the other.
“Jared, no!” Tate yelled.
But it was too late.
Nate stumbled back, pulling me with him, and we crashed into a lawn chair, whoever occupied it toppling over to the ground with us.
He rolled on top of me, and I heard other chairs fall over as people shouted and shot out of their seats, spreading out around us.
“Stay back!” Madoc yelled to someone. “Don’t move. Kids, get back!”
Goddammit. What the hell was wrong with me? Dylan shouldn’t be here.
I just broke my leash, and I was so mad I didn’t even care right now.
I’d care tomorrow. I’d explain the hurt he put us through tomorrow, but I wanted to end him tonight.
Holding Nate by the neck, I backhanded him, but he scrambled for a fallen chair and whipped it across my head.
My eye exploded, and I could feel the wet drips falling underneath.
“Daddy!” Dylan called out.
Pivoting my body, I threw him off, scrambling for him before he could stand up. I grabbed him by the hair and threw a punch across his jaw.
Standing up, I swung my leg back and kicked him in the gut.
“This has been a long time coming,” Madoc told Dylan. “Let them have at it.”
“You piece of shit,” I gasped, glaring down at him.
He laughed, climbing to his feet. “You’re out of shape.” And he barreled into me, taking me to the ground again.
Slamming his fists into my stomach again and again, I finally punched my hand up into his throat, and he went slack long enough for me to throw him over.
“Fuck you,” I said, climbing on and straddling him as I punched. “This will go on until you can’t stand up anymore, and then…” I leaned down, getting into his face. “I’m still going to make that call and get you fired. We’ll keep doing this until you learn.”
“Yeah?” he begged for more, blood spilling out of his mouth and his eye swelling.
“You’re nothing!” I yelled.
A waste who should’ve been dealt with a long time ago. Why the fuck did he think he could talk to her?
“You’ve always been nothing,” I bellowed.
But then a small voice spoke up. “Dad?”
I drew my fist back, ready to hit him again, but then it hit me that that wasn’t my daughter’s voice.
I wasn’t the dad she was talking to.
I glanced up, doing a double take and seeing a young girl, maybe thirteen, standing inside the crowd, hovering over us.
The hair was long and white, streaks of blue spilling around her innocent, wide-eyed face, and the small ring in her nose gleamed in the firelight.
But the eyes. I knew the eyes.
She looked down at her father, one of his old, white T-shirts, I assumed, hanging on her small frame with some sleep shorts, and she looked about five seconds from crying. Her lips trembled.
My blood ran cold, all the anger icing over as she stared between her dad and me.
What the hell was I doing?
“Tommy,” Nate murmured, pushing me off and scooting to his feet. “Just…just go back to bed, baby.”
He looked away, wiping the blood off his face, and I rose to my feet, barely feeling Tate next to me, because her worried eyes looked at me like I was a villain, and I suddenly felt like a toddler.
He pulled off his hoodie, wiping down his face and tossing the sweatshirt aside.
Finally, he looked over at his kid. “Go to bed,” he said again. “I’m okay.”
Thomasin. That was her name. I remembered now.
He watched her go, her glances over her shoulder giving away her concern, and I stared at him, seeing the shame on his face.
The same one burrowed in my gut.
Good God, there was one female on the planet who loved him, I guess.
I’d heard he had a child, but I never saw her before, and I never cared to inquire more.
But while she had her father’s pale complexion and hazel eyes, it was pretty obvious who her mother was.
Piper carried her inside of her for nine months. As much hate as I had for her and Nate, kids changed things.
It made her parents more human, and I hated that.
I cleared my throat. “Don’t look at my family,” I told him through clenched teeth. “Don’t talk to them. It’s done.”
“Oh, no. We’ll talk again,” he assured. “I like our discussions.”
Fine by me. I could fight smarter, and he knew it. He knew he wouldn’t win.
But I guessed that wasn’t what he wanted anyway.
Madoc pulled me back, Nate’s brothers closing in behind him, and I backed up, Tate pulling my arm as I held his eyes.
“Noah?” Tate said, and I heard keys jingle. “Get my first-aid kit out of my trunk, please.”
I spun around, taking her hand and walking her to our cars, Dylan at my other side.
I had damage control to do tomorrow, but we’d get through it. It was good for Dylan to see me make one mistake in her life.
I was pretty perfect otherwise.
“Go to Madoc’s, stay with James,” Tate told her. “Take Noah with you and take my car.”
Dylan shot a look over to Noah and then down at Tate’s keys. “O…okay.”
Her eyes met mine, an unspoken understanding that I did not trust her to stay out of trouble, but that I had no room to talk after what had just happened.
I’d text Noah in a few, make sure he got the message.
But honestly, I did trust him, so I wasn’t worried. I had a feeling he was more grown-up than he let on.
Tate took the first-aid kit from Noah, and Dylan grabbed his wrist, pulling him along. “Come on.”
“Don’t know who you are,” he said, following. “But I’m down.”
“Dylan…” I warned.
“I know!” she shouted as if she knew what I was going to say.
Everyone climbed into their cars, engines roaring to life, and I glanced behind me, the bonfire barely visible through the trees as no one trailed us.
Tate opened my door and shoved me down into the seat, sliding on top and straddling me. The comfort of her body immediately warmed my blood, and I gripped her hips as she set the kit on my console and started digging inside.
Everyone sped off around us, heading out, but we stayed behind as I let her do her thing. I learned a long time ago that I liked when she took care of me.
She dabbed a wipe over the cut under my eye, and everything burned under my skin, but slowly…déjà vu started to seep in.
The sting of the cut on my lip.
The blood in my mouth.
The scent of the leather in my car and her shampoo.
I broke out into a smile, laughing quietly. It had been a while since I felt this.
She cocked an eyebrow, dropping her hands. “Is this fun for you?”
I couldn’t stop grinning. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a fight.”
She shook her head, her blue eyes sparkling in the dark car as she dabbed at my lip. “Over a girl, no less.”
“My girl,” I growled, gripping her tighter and jerking her in.
I snatched her lips up, biting and kissing her as I wrapped my arms around her.
I shouldn’t have come here tonight. No matter what he says, I get to wake up tomorrow being me, and he has to wake up still being him. So I win
And he knows it.
But the anger felt good. It felt young again.
“Please,” she breathed out, “he was never a threat.”
I nibbled her mouth, then her jaw and neck as she dropped her head back, letting me in. “No one talks to you like that,” I whispered. “No one even presumes to talk to my wife like that.” I brought my head back up, looking into her eyes. “He forgot to fear me,” I told her. “And that can’t happen.”
“What do you care what he thinks?” she asked. “All that matters is that I would never want anyone but you.”
I knew that. I trusted her most in the world.
“Sometimes I still worry.” I shrugged, unable to look her in the eye. “That I’m good enough for you.”
She went to medical school. I was a college drop-out.
She was the mother of my children, but I still felt like the bottom was about to drop out at some point. That’s what happened when you had a life you were afraid to lose. It always felt like borrowed time.
Her eyes searched mine, her glistening blue tugging at my heart.
“I think about you all the time.” Her forehead dipped into mine. “I still think about you all the time.”
Wrapping her arms around my neck, she kissed me, moving over my mouth deep and slow. Her hot breath made my skin tingle, trailing down my neck and all the way to my cock.
I grinded up against her.
She breathed out a laugh. “You’re hard already.”
Slipping my hands under her shirt, I palmed her breasts, my thumbs running over her hard nipples as she panted.
“Someone will see,” she said, trying to nudge my hands down. “Jared…”
“I can’t stop,” I teased.
But she was right. I could do this anywhere, but it was stupid to do it outside in Nate Dietrich’s driveway.
Tearing my hands off her, I growled, pushing her over into her seat.
“Get your seatbelt on,” I told her.
I closed my door, started the engine, and jetted off down the road.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Home.” I kicked it into fourth gear.
“But that’s like five minutes away,” she retorted, slipping her hand between my thighs and her teeth into my lobe.
I breathed out a laugh. Five whole minutes.
I blinked, heat climbing my spine. Yeah, fuck it.
Jerking the wheel, I barreled down Route M, the gravel kicking up and hitting my car as I turned down another small road which was little more than a path and punched the brakes, skidding to a halt.
She jerked forward, and I shot out my hand to stop her. “Baby, I’m sorry…”
But she was already tearing off her seatbelt and pushing out of her seat. She crawled into the back, and I slapped her ass before opening my door and climbing out of the car, opening the back one.
My dick stretched inside my jeans, and I sucked in a breath, pulling my T-shirt over my head.
Seeing her about to do the same, I grabbed her legs and pulled her toward me. I undress you.
She yelped, falling back onto the seat, and I smiled, coming down on top of her and pushing her sweater up.
I covered her breast with my mouth.
God, she turned me on. There was nothing about her that didn’t feel good.
I bit and tugged and kissed her nipple, moving from one to the other. Her back arched as she held me to her. “Don’t stop,” she moaned.
I dug my fingers into her stomach, tickling instead, and she burst out in laughter, curling into a ball as she giggled.
“Stop!” she yelled.
“Don’t stop. Stop,” I repeated. “Make up your mind.”
She growled, but I could see the smile as she came up, kissed me, and unfastened my jeans, pulling them down.
“Don’t stop,” she whispered.
I tore off the rest of her clothes, unable to take my eyes off of her.
It went without being said—she knew I’d never stop. This wouldn’t be the last time we’d get into it, or the last fight I’d have with Nate Dietrich, or the last time either of us wouldn’t be able to wait until we got home.
Thank God. I was a lucky man. I knew who my soulmate was when I was eight.
And as I slipped inside of her, leaning my forehead into hers, and tasting her breath on my lips, I remembered that this was still only the beginning and yet I had so many memories with her already that I could never pick a favorite.
I was no one’s role model, but she loved me. I won.
An hour later, we were on our way home. Tate leaned over the console, holding my arm and resting her head on my shoulder.
“Are you sure you don’t want that ride tonight?” I asked, smelling her hair.
“Tomorrow,” she murmured. “I’m too tired.”
I cruised down Main Street, past our turn off, and pulled into the parking lot of my shop, the whole town dark and looking deserted this late.
Of course, it was after midnight.
I checked the clock on the dash. Way after midnight.
Tate lifted her head.
“I’ve gotta stop at the shop and pick up Noah’s contract,” I told her, kissing her forehead. “Stay here?”
“Yeah.” She nodded, sitting back in her seat. “Hurry.”
She closed her eyes, and I smiled, climbing out of the car. Did she think the night was over? She wasn’t sleeping when we got home, I didn’t care how tired she was. I wasn’t wasting a rare night without the kids in the house.
I slammed the car door, locked it, the ache in my gut making me wince as I walked for the shop door. I’d taken punches worse than that, but I hadn’t taken one in years. That’s all it was. It wasn’t like I was old.
Sticking the key in the lock, I twisted, but it was already unlocked. I pulled the door, but it gave way immediately.
I paused. Really?
Pulling the key out, I yanked the door open and stalked into the shop, seeing the lights off at least. Damn kids. You try to give people a chance, and the first time I fucking trusted a teenager with closing up, he completely left hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment and motorcycles free for the taking.
If Kade didn’t think he could get fired, because his dad was my best friend, he was wrong. I might have Jax do it for me, but it wasn’t impossible.
I jogged up the stairs, swung open my office door, and flipped on the light. Heading around my desk, I sifted through papers and envelopes, finding the keyboard to my computer and Dylan’s report card that I was supposed to talk to her about a few weeks ago.
I shook my head at the mess. I really needed to relocate Pasha here. She could read my mind and organize me. I only let her stay at the office in California, because she loved it there, and I was an idiot.
Dammit. Where are those fucking papers?
Finally, I spotted the packet with the JT Racing watermark all paperclipped together.
I exhaled, snatching it up and folding it longwise.
But then I heard someone speak. “Jared Trent?”
I popped my head up, my heart kicking up speed as I sucked in a breath.
What the fuck?
A man, dressed in a black suit and white shirt—the spread collar Brooks Brothers kind that my mom was always trying to buy me for three hundred dollars like I wanted to look like a douche—stood in my doorway, leaning into the frame.
His dark eyes had a smile that the rest of his face didn’t wear.
“Who are you?” I snapped, looking around and out my window that looked down on the rest of the shop. “We’re closed.”
“Door was open.”
“It’s after midnight.” I shot him a look, studying the man. “We’re closed.”
A grin pulled at his lips as he sauntered further into my office and plopped his ass down in the chair on the other side of my desk.
“I’m a night owl.” His eyes met mine again. “I’d like to commission you to build a bike for my wife.”
“I don’t build bikes anymore.” I stuck the contract in my back pocket. “I build engines. And again, we’re closed.”
I started to walk, remembering Tate outside. Did this guy come alone? I didn’t want her left out there without me.
“I want a bike built by you,” he said. “Specifically designed for her. For someone blind.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Your wife is blind?”
He stared at me.
I straightened, taking in a deep breath as I took in the man sitting in my office. He dressed like my stepfather. Like he had a different set of rules than the rest of us and “no” was a four-letter word.
It was late. He’d broken in. Kade didn’t forget to lock the door at all, did he? This guy had been here.
And even though he sat, he wasn’t relaxed. He didn’t look like he ever relaxed.
I folded my arms over my chest. “You want a motorcycle from a man who doesn’t build motorcycles anymore for a person who can’t legally drive one.”
His jaw bulged with a flex, his eyes hardening. “She can,” he stated. “No one tells my woman what she can and can’t do. Except maybe me. Understand?”
I sighed. “Not really.” I shook my head. “But I’m guessing legal and illegal are subjective terms where you come from.”
The corner of his lips lifted in a smile.
Yeah. Nailed that one on the head.
I may not have lived like this guy or grown up with money, but I had some now, and I had plenty of experience dealing with rich pricks who thought their bank accounts were a constant VIP ticket to everything in life.
I didn’t issue “skip the line” passes to anyone.
“You spoke to the shop manager on the phone,” I said, remembering Reese complaining about an entitled prospective client who wouldn’t take no for an answer. “That was you? The persistent one who wanted me to push my schedule to do this project?”
He didn’t answer.
“While I sympathize with your wife’s impairment—I really do—and your desire to give her this,” I said, “I’m not pushing back deadlines I guaranteed other people, no matter how much you offer. This is the real world. You wait your turn like everyone else. If you can’t wait, I can recommend a dozen top designers, much better than me.”
“There’s no one better than you,” he retorted, rising from his chair and buttoning his jacket with a sigh. “So, you, it is.”
Jesus, just leave.
“And I need the bike by her birthday in January,” he instructed.
I picked up the phone on my desk. I’d already wasted enough of my time.
The line rang, the old fart answering almost immediately. “Shelburne Falls Police Department.”
“Barry?” I growled, hearing his gruff voice. “Jared Trent. I have a trespasser on my property—”
The prick in my office pressed the receiver, cutting off my call.
I dropped the phone on my desk, glaring at him as he leaned over, glowering right back.
I clenched my teeth. “The more someone pushes me, the more I push back.”
“I can see that,” he taunted, his eyes trailing over my face and the bruises I could feel forming. “Rough night?” He snickered. “The only blood I wear anymore is other people’s.”
I shook my head again, leaning in until we were nearly head to head. “You must’ve been a handful in high school.” I narrowed my gaze on him. “So was I. I invented this game.”
“I’m better at it,” he fired back. “You have no idea.”
He pushed off my desk and walked for the door, turning just as he reached the frame and pulling out a pack of cigarettes. “But you’re gonna find out.”
Sticking the cigarettes back into his breast pocket, he pulled out a black card and threw it at me, landing it on my desk.
He lit the cigarette, smiled, and left, his footfalls hitting the stairs on his way down.
Asshole. I picked up the phone and hung it up, standing there for a moment.
I didn’t have time for drama. I should just do the bike and get him out of here, but it wouldn’t end there.
And screw him. I wasn’t his servant, and I got the feeling he treated most people like they worked for him. He was owed nothing.
I picked up the card, staring at it.