by Cynthia Rayne
(Four Horsemen MC #3)
Publication date: February 17th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
(Four Horsemen MC #3)
Publication date: February 17th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rose Weston is in hell.
After being kidnapped and held as a sex slave, she is struggling to come to terms with the trauma. Under the care of her sister, Daisy, Rose is recovering at the Hades Motel& Diner, owned by the Four Horsemen MC. When Rose is threatened by her former captor, she asks Duke for help.
Duke has been to hell and back.
After surviving an abusive childhood, dangerous black ops missions, and a couple stints in prison, Duke is reluctant to give a damn about anyone but himself. Despite his better judgment, he finds himself helping Rose. She touches a place in his cold heart, no other woman has. He reluctantly agrees to teach her self-defense skills. Together, they will make the man who held her captive pay. But he doesn’t count on what a temptation Rose can be. She wants to share his bed, have a sexual relationship on her own terms, but is she ready after the abuse she’s suffered? Or is she damned?
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She’s a hot mess.
Duke watched Rose Weston as she sat, eating dinner with her older sister, Daisy, and his club brother, Cowboy. The girl tried hard to hide it, but he could see the chaos bubbling beneath the surface, even two tables over.
Not that it was any of his fucking business.
Hades, the Four Horsemen’s motel and diner, had quite a crowd tonight. The diner had a fifties feel to it with a black and white checkered floor, red vinyl booths, silver stools, and Texas memorabilia on the walls like an old Route 66 sign and a Texaco star.
Tonight, the place was packed for another one of their brotherhood dinners. Voodoo, a brother who served as the Hades chef and proprietor, barked orders at the prospects.
Prospects, or potential members of the motorcycle club, had to be at the beck and call of all the full-fledged members in order to prove their worth. It was a lot like pledging a fraternity. At the moment, they hustled to take drink orders and deliver food to the brothers’ tables.
Duke did a perimeter sweep of the room, a habit left over from his Special Forces routine. He noted the weapons his brothers carried as well as the exits and entrances, which they always kept clear in case some escape and evasion became necessary, or E&E in military lingo.
He couldn’t help but stare at the train wreck of a girl again.
She did her level best to look normal. Rose laughed and smiled often. She even managed to eat most of the food on her plate. But her eyes! They told an altogether different story. Bleak, shuttered, and chilly, they reminded him of an abandoned home. And she couldn’t quite disguise the pain in their depths.
No one else seemed to notice, not even her sister. Maybe they were relieved she got home safe and didn’t really look too close. Two months ago, Duke had pulled her out of a cage. A fucking cage. Some bat shit crazy lawyer for the Raptors, a rival MC, kept her as a sex slave. Fuck only knows what the pervert did to her.
Cowboy saddled him with protecting Rose, but Duke didn’t consider babysitting or counseling to be part of the job description. So, he kept his distance and watched her like a fucking hawk, in case her former rapist came looking for her. Rose had decided not to move in with Cowboy and Daisy when his brother reclaimed his old house and who could blame her? Pretending to be fine all the fucking time could be exhausting.
Duke had given up on being normal years ago. But still.
He couldn’t help but notice her. Her pain called to him on so many levels and she fascinated the hell out of him, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on exactly why.
While he could appreciate her beauty, he usually went for older women, with loads of sexual experience and very little inhibitions. Rose had long blond hair which fell to the middle of her back and curled around her pretty face. She had wide-spaced warm brown eyes, framed by pale lashes and even paler skin.
She’d been thin as a lamppost when he took her out of the cage, but she’d started to fill out again, her hips and breasts rounding out thanks to Voodoo’s cooking. Not that you could see her new curves. Tonight, she wore an oversized pair of jeans and a long-sleeved Dallas Cowboys shirt she kept tugging at, trying to force the sleeves below her fingertips.
That caught his attention. Something about the gesture bothered him.
Abruptly, her companions finished their food and Rose hugged her sister and Cowboy goodbye. After they left, she sat alone at the table. For a moment, she stared at the tabletop, absently moving the salt and pepper packets around in their tiny blue dish. Then she shook her head, as though trying to focus. Finally, she lurched to her feet, grabbed her bag, and headed out the rear of the diner.
Duke forced his attention back to the hand-cut fries on his plate, slathering one with ketchup before bringing it to his mouth. He shot a glance at Shepherd, another of his MC brothers, who currently devoured a bacon cheeseburger. They sat at a table together against the wall.
Voodoo stuffed the burgers with bacon, onion, and cheese and they were tasty, though not his usual fare. Voo nearly always insisted on cooking, mostly because he couldn’t stand to eat inferior food. None of them argued about it. After all, how could they compete with an honest to God chef?
“What the fuck are you starin’ so hard at?” Shep asked.
“None of your business.” Duke was in a decidedly shitty mood, as per usual.
The blond biker grinned. “Haven’t you figured it out by now? Everything is my business, brother.” He tapped his VP patch, like it was the biker equivalent of the ‘S’ on Superman’s chest.
Shepherd could be a real nosy bastard. While he was only in his late twenties, he had the instincts of a blue-haired biddy when it came to digging up dirt. He had absolutely no qualms about crawling through your private life, so Duke rarely offered up much in the way of personal info.
He liked his private life to stay exactly that, private.
“The hellion I’m currently fucking,” he lied. He nodded to the busty bottle blonde he had on tap. Fuck if he could remember her name though. The hellion preened when his eyes rested on her, thrusting out her chest and fluffing her hair. He’d mentally dubbed her Chesty, due to her ample assets. Of course, she’d told him her name their first night together, but he’d been shit-faced and horny as hell after years in prison with only his own slicked up hand for relief.
The night of his welcome home from prison bash, she’d touched his thigh under the table when she whispered her name. He’d nearly cum from that alone. He thought it started with an ‘L’. Linda? Leslie? Who the fuck knows? It was too late to ask now without looking like a dick. Besides, talking wasn’t really their thing. Whatever her name was, she had a kinky streak, he enjoyed exploring, and she didn’t demand much of his time outside of bed. It was casual and fun, so it suited his needs fine.
The VP followed the direction of his gaze and rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ.”
“You got a problem with me getting my dick wet?”
The other man angled his head to the side. “Pussy is a fine distraction, brother, but it ain’t a cure. In fact, it’s been known to cause more problems than it solves.”
“Like you would know? You probably got moth balls in your boxers. When’s the last time you got laid?” None of the brothers had ever seen him with a hellion. Ever.
Shep tucked a bit of a fuck you into his good ol’ boy grin. “No room for anything in there, but my own big, hairy set of balls, brother.”
Rolling his eyes, Duke leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest. “A cure for what, Shepherd? Last time I checked, I ain’t got an affliction.”
The VP snorted. “We both know you’re talkin’ out your ass now.”
“Don’t even try to fix him, Shep. He was a psycho long before he went to prison,” Ryker put in.
Duke glanced at Ryker and his old lady, Elizabeth, who sat at the table next to theirs. The guy never missed an opportunity to run his big fat mouth. Ryker bugged the shit out of him. He reminded Duke of one of those kid’s toys, a Ken doll – all looks and no substance. And his initial critical opinion dove to new lows every second he spent with the asshole.
“Why don’t you go back to your date and shut the fuck up?” Judging by his full plate and the empty shot glasses, Ryker had drunk enough Jack tonight to stun a heavy metal guitarist. On an empty stomach, no less.
“Ryker, let’s just have a nice evening,” Elizabeth said, placing a hand on his arm.
“We will,” he answered, “as soon as I take care of some business.” He leaned forward in his chair, a smirk on his face. “Speaking of girlfriends, you look awful cozy over there with Shep.”
The VP muttered a curse.
Duke raised a brow. ‘What the fuck are you babbling about?”
“Oh, come on! You’re the one who’s supposed to be a brainiac. It’s a joke.” He widened his eyes. “Get it? You’re all intense, practically eye-fucking him.”
A cold-eyed stare was Duke’s only reply.
“Jesus, learn how to take a joke, brother. Like I give a shit who you fuck.”
“Lay off the booze, Ryker, and eat your damn food,” Shep said tiredly, not so much as sparing either of them a glance.
“Come on, he’s right. You should eat something,” Elizabeth coaxed. “Voodoo outdid himself tonight. These burgers are amazing.”
Ignoring her, Ryker stood up and advanced on Duke.
“Get the fuck away from me, man,” Duke muttered, gripping the edge of the table.
Ken Doll laughed. “And here I thought you got used to men being close. You know, bending over for the soap in the big house. Five years is a long time to go without pussy brother.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll sit down. Now,” Duke warned, in a chilly, quiet voice.
“Why don’t you make me!?”
Duke shot up out of his chair and socked Ryker in the jaw, causing the other man’s head to rock back. Shepherd tried to push himself between them, but Duke nailed Ryker with a blow to the gut. Then, Ryker clipped Shepherd’s jaw before he backhanded Duke, sending him reeling into another table.
“Break it up!” Shepherd ordered. He roared at the prospects, “get your asses over here and run interference!”
They dashed over, but Duke ignored the commotion and circled Ryker, keeping his fists up. Ryker had been itching for an excuse to start some shit with him ever since he got paroled.
“Both of you knock it off!” Captain bellowed, jumping out of his seat and striding over.
Undaunted, Duke grabbed the back of Ryker’s head and slammed the bridge of his nose into a nearby table, causing blood to spatter and drip down to the floor.
“Oh fuck!” Shep growled.
Out of the corner of his eye, Duke saw Elizabeth withdraw the Taser Daisy had encouraged her to buy and launch herself at him with a war cry. Fetch blocked her attack, but quickly fell shuddering to the floor in a haze of electrified pain.
Ryker tackled Duke to the ground and together they rolled over and over, eventually crashing into tables and chairs. A couple of prospects physically pried Ryker off, and held him at bay. Pretty Boy held onto Elizabeth to keep her from pouncing again. The Taser lay harmlessly on the ground at her feet.
Captain arrived on the scene and when Duke got up to have another go at Ryker, the Prez stepped in between them. “What the hell is wrong with both of you?”
Duke jerked a thumb at Ryker. “He called me a fucking fag.”
“No, I said you might like a dick in your ass,” Ryker retorted. “Didn’t say you were gay.”
“Both of you shut the hell up!” Captain shouted. “You’re giving me a fucking headache. If you want to beat the shit out of each other, be my guest, but don’t break club property and don’t do it in front of the old ladies,” he said, gesturing to the women in the room. “Now get the fuck out of my sight and cool off.”
“This doesn’t concern you, old man,” Ryker drawled.
“What did you say to me, boy?” Captain roared, closing the distance between himself and Ryker. They stood inches apart and neither one of them spoke.
Everyone got real quiet. No glassware clinking, or chairs squeaking, not even the scrape of cutlery on plates. No one mouthed off to Captain. Well, no one but Eddie.
“Nothing,” Ryker said, looking away.
“That’s what I thought,” Captain barked. “I don’t want to see either of you the rest of the night or tomorrow either. If I do, I might shoot you both. Meet me at Perdition the morning after, and trust me. There’s going to be hell to pay, boys.”
Duke scowled at Ryker, who smirked at him. Ken Doll whispered something to Elizabeth that Duke couldn’t hear, but he’d bet his boots it was an apology. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, but eventually, her eyes softened. He gingerly kissed her forehead and she dabbed at his bruised and bloody face with a napkin, then she placed her arm around him and escorted Ryker from the restaurant.
Fucking Ryker. He has it too easy.
Duke hesitated at the edge of the room, long enough to draw some unwanted attention. Chesty got to her feet, but he shook his head. He sure as shit didn’t want to talk to her. She had a tight pussy, but not much going on above the shoulders.
He felt like pounding his fists into the walls, but it would only earn him a beat down from Captain. So, he wandered out to the parking lot behind the diner to walk off some of this toxic shit.
At this rate, he’d have to hoof it to China.
After fifteen minutes of pacing back and forth, he stilled when he heard the scrape of the metal door behind him.
“What the hell crawled up your ass tonight?” the VP asked, apparently cutting right to the chase.
Duke turned away, folding his arms over his chest. “Don’t know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about. I’m fine.”
Shepherd didn’t comment, pulled out a smoke and sparked it up in that unnerving, almost supernatural, far-too-patient way of his. He tucked a stray strand of blond hair behind his ear and simply waited for Duke to start talking, like the biker version of Buddha.
“It’s nothing,” Duke insisted.
The VP lifted one brow, clearly not buying his bullshit.
Duke clenched his hands. “I’m not some goddamn cocksucker, for the motherfuckin’ record.” The words exploded from his throat, before he could jam them back down.
Fuck. So much for my private life.
Shepherd leaned against the brick wall, barely beyond the floodlights overhead, and it wreathed his face in shadows. After a long moment, he spoke quietly, “I know you aren’t, brother. He obviously struck a nerve.”
Even though Duke had spent five fucking years in prison, he hadn’t resorted to dick. He’d slapped the snot out of the first lady-boy who’d hit on him and he’d picked a fight with the biggest mother fucker on his cell block, so he didn’t risk being anybody’s bitch either. Then, it was a matter of not being caught alone. Safety in numbers.
“Damn straight. I fucking love pussy. If Ryker thinks—”
Shep made a disgusted noise in his throat, cutting off the tirade. “Since when do you give a flying fuck what Ryker thinks? He got a rise out of you because he’s pissed about Captain. The Prez is making a move on Eddie and he can’t do a damn thing about it. He used you to let off some steam and you made a very convenient punching bag.”
He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. Shep was right, of course. It was one of his most irritating qualities. He had a way of bypassing all of someone’s shit and going straight to the fucking bullseye. “I really do hate that fucker.”
“You don’t say?” Shep deadpanned.
“Kiss my ass.”
“No offense, but you ain’t my type, brother.” He blew a couple of smoke rings.
“You’re so fucking funny.”
“You’ve got no idea, Duke,” the VP drawled, an edge in his voice. “But come on, I ain’t gettin’ any younger here. What set you off tonight? You and Ryker usually bug the fuck out of each other, but you seem pricklier than usual, emphasis on the prick.”
“Nothin’ to tell, brother,” Duke said firmly, ending the conversation. Ryker had unwittingly blundered into dangerous territory and it had gotten the best of Duke. Not about his most recent stint in prison, but his childhood.
But he didn’t share that shit with anyone. Not his mother, not Eddie, certainly not the prison psychiatrist, and not his brothers either. He kept that shit six fucking feet under. Dead and buried where it belonged.
Shepherd puffed a sigh. “Fine. Have it your way. You always do. All I need to know is you got your shit together now?”
“Yeah,” he muttered.
The VP finally stepped back into the light and Duke thought, for a moment, how weary his brother appeared. How worn.
“What about you?” he asked, noting the deep, dark circles beneath his eyes. He obviously hadn’t had a good night’s rest in weeks. “You look like you’ve been on a long bender in Vegas.”
“Thanks, brother.” He laughed, without much humor.
“Anything I can do to help?”
“No, no one can help me. Not with this.”
Duke studied Shep carefully. Something was wrong. Really fucking wrong.
Maybe the role of VP weighed on him? He basically took on all of their problems, settling beefs between the brothers, scrutinizing new members and old ladies. It had to be a fuckin’ thankless job. Bikers weren’t exactly known for their good choices.
“Night, brother,” Shep said and then he ambled back inside.
Duke stared at the closed door for a moment and made a mental note to check on him later, maybe offer to take on some extra responsibilities. He bitched about Shep all the time, but he respected him.
Ah hell, he fucking loved the bastard. He was the closest thing Duke had to an actual sibling, not that he’d ever admit it. As he headed for the door, a bottle clattered to the ground on the far side of the parking lot, grabbing his attention.
When he investigated, he found Rose seated on a set of concrete stairs near the loading dock. She had a cigarette in her mouth and tried in vain to get a pink disposable lighter to work. Near her feet, an empty beer bottle rolled back and forth on the uneven pavement.
When she saw him, she swallowed, eyes skittering away. Duke knew from experience she wanted to avoid his ass. He had witnessed one of her most vulnerable moments. She’d been helpless, dressed as a fuck toy. To deal with scary shit, you had to shove it down and not think on it. Hard to do when the man who’d witnessed your degradation stood in front of you.
But, he couldn’t walk away. Not yet.
Duke sat down and plucked the cigarette from her mouth. She gasped in protest as he placed it in his own, but made no move to snatch it away from him. With a grin, he produced his Horsemen Zippo, etched with the club logo, and lit the cigarette with a flourish, then handed it back to her. She offered him the tiniest of smiles, before placing the cigarette between her lips, exactly where his mouth had been moments ago.
And as fucking crazy as it sounded, it pleased him.
“Thanks.” She inhaled deeply and then coughed a bit. Clearly, she wasn’t a smoker. He grabbed a cigar from the inner pocket of his cut, as well as his stainless steel cutter. He preferred Ashton Symmetry cigars, which featured a crown emblem, like the tattoo on his back. They had a spicy scent and an earthy taste he found comforting.
During his stint in the military as a Special Forces sniper, he’d gotten into the habit of smoking. It settled his nerves after he’d taken out a target. He clipped the end of the cigar and toasted the tip of it in the Zippo flame until it began to smolder. Now, all he needed was a scotch and soda.
She staggered to her feet, grabbed her bag, and the empty bottle.
He seized her leg and she flinched. Immediately, he released her and she rubbed the spot as though she’d been burned. “Sit down.”
Her eyes flashed, a bit of spirit showing. It cheered him. He didn’t want to think of her as broken, maybe because he’d been the one to free her. Though he could tell she’d sustained quite a bit of damage. Any fool could see it.
He didn’t say a word, merely waited to be obeyed.
Rose stood there, staring at him and he could see the emotions drift across her pretty face— annoyance, resentment, and then finally resignation.
She plunked back down, though she put a couple feet between their bodies and heaved a disgusted sigh. “What do you want?”
“I want to ask you a couple of questions.” Shep didn’t have the market cornered on being a nosy bastard. He normally hated to get involved, but someone had to.
She smiled. It was the fake one she used on Cowboy and Daisy all the time. “I’m fine.”
“I didn’t ask, but we both know you’re lying.”
Her big brown eyes got impossibly wider.
“I know you aren’t fine. What’s going on?” he said.
“I ain’t lettin’ it go, so you might as well save us both the time and level with me.”
Rose stared straight ahead, as though mesmerized by the asphalt. “It’s nothing, really. I’m coping, that’s all.” She gestured with the cigarette and bottle.
“How did you get the beer?”
“Stole it?” he offered.
“Borrowing means you were going to give it back at some point.” He sighed. “You’re what? Twenty?”
“Nineteen,” she answered.
Fuck. That’s young. Duke would be thirty-nine next January, which made him a fucking old man compared to her. Talk about a knee to the balls.
Wait. Why the fuck do I care how old the girl is?
“You know, the club could help you.”
“With drinking?” she said, brow furrowing.
“No, with documentation. Ryker is in charge of ordering booze for Perdition and Hades. He accounts for every fucking beer. Trust me. Sooner or later, he will figure it out.” He made a face. “If you had a fake ID, you get your own hooch without anyone bein’ the wiser. I could get one made for you.”
Her eyes rounded. “Um, okay. Thanks.”
Duke watched as the metal door leading inside, swung open and Chesty came trotting out, evidently impatient to be fucked. She lit a smoke, staring at him from across the lot. Thank God she didn’t approach them.
“I’ll get the ID to you tomorrow,” he said to Rose. “But you have to promise me one thing.”
“Drink somethin’ with a bit more kick than beer. Like Jack or Jim. Self-medicating only works if you put your back into it.”
She cocked her head. “You mean you aren’t going to tell my sister?”
“Why would I? Ain’t her business.”
She nodded, standing once more and he jumped to his feet. Before she could walk away, he clutched her sleeve, yanking it up her arm before she could stop him. He needed to check something.
“Hey!” she cried, swatting at him with her other hand.
Ignoring her, he examined her skin. As he’d suspected, she had a series of red lines crisscrossing her pale forearm. She’d been cutting herself.
Most people assumed cutting was a suicidal gesture, but Duke knew better. Cutting had more to do with survival than anything else. Sometimes, focusing on a spot of physical pain instead of the awful emotional kind could be a relief. It was the world’s worst way to cope with excruciating shit. He noted she’d avoided the veins in her arms and the cuts were shallow, so she hadn’t done any serious harm.
“Let me go!” she howled.
He ignored her and instead carefully traced one of the lines. The skin had turned an angry-looking red, and felt hot to the touch. “These are getting infected. If you’re going to keep cutting, you need to take better care of yourself.”
“No,” he muttered, “You don’t need to tell me a comforting lie. I don’t expect you to be okay, or normal, or whatever the fuck they want you to be. I know you’re a mess and you should be a mess after what you’ve been through.”
“How did you know?” she whispered, glancing at her arm. “That I’ve been cutting?”
Across the lot, the hellion cleared her throat, and it echoed off the wall, loudly. Fuck. He hated needy chicks. Duke didn’t bother making eye contact.
“I saw you tugging at your sleeves earlier and made an educated guess,” Duke said sadly. He wished he’d been wrong. He read the question in her eyes. “No, I’m not going to tell your sister, but you have to keep the wounds clean, so you don’t lose your fucking arm. What are you using to slice yourself?”
Rose bit her lower lip. “A paring knife I snagged from the kitchens.”
He reluctantly released her arm. “You need a very sharp blade, one you sanitize between cuts. He withdrew his pocket knife and tossed it to her. “Be careful with the fucking thing, it’s sharp as shit. Don’t accidentally cut your arm off.”
“Why are you helping me?” she asked with wide, wary eyes as she tucked the knife into the pocket of her jeans.
Fuck if I know. “Because I can.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Duke sighed. “Don’t thank me. I’m only doing damage control. And I want you to think about something.”
“You’re free. You got away from him, physically at least. But not mentally. Not yet, anyway.”
Tears welled in her eyes.
“Don’t let him keep you in that cage too much longer or you’ll lose yourself, Rose. Oblivion is a comfort, but it’s an illusion, it ain’t the way out.”
He went to Chesty, who beamed at him, eager for his attention. Duke put his arm around her and led her to a hotel room, he planned on commandeering for a night of oblivion.
Yeah, he’d just given Rose some damn good advice.
Too bad he’d never taken it himself.
Cynthia Rayne is the author of the Amazon best-selling Four Horsemen MC series. Her first erotic book was written when she was thirteen. Of course, the most risqué scene involved kissing, but it was the talk of her middle school!
She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education and writes whenever she can. In her spare time, she enjoys dating, shopping, reading way too many romance novels, and drinking a truly obscene amount of coffee. Find out more about Cynthia Rayne and the Four Horsemen, and signup for the new release newsletter on the website: http://www.cynthiarayne.com/