Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  


Sophie Jordan


  For Lily Dalton and Kerrelyn Sparks, my road trip compatriots



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22


  About the Author

  Also by Sophie Jordan



  About the Publisher

  Chapter 1

  ARE YOU SURE THIS is the place?” I stepped out of Annie’s car into the cold January night. My hand lingered on the passenger door as though I might suddenly pull it wide open again and dive back inside.

  The bar looked more like a dockside warehouse than a building. A stiff wind could blow it over. More motorcycles than cars sat parked in front of the tin-walled structure. The place was crowded. There was no real rhyme or reason to the parking situation. No lines or curbs marked where to park. It was just a massive free-for-all.

  “Yep,” she answered. “This is it. Maisie’s.” She waved to the red neon sign positioned at a crooked angle. Despite the sweet-sounding name, the bar looked about as innocent as . . . well. Not me.

  “You sure there’s not another Maisie’s?” One that didn’t look like it could give you tetanus just by walking through the door.

  “Look.” She motioned to a nearby Lexus parked between a pickup and a rusted Pinto, her breath puffing like fog from her lips. The luxury vehicle was about as out of place in the lot as we were in our skinny jeans and designer coats. She walked a few steps closer to the vehicle, her boot heels crunching over the snow-covered gravel. “It’s Noah’s car.” Noah. Annie’s latest obsession and the reason we were even here.

  Nodding, I buried my hands in my coat pockets and fell into step beside her, trying to pretend that I wasn’t totally out of my element. I was all about a good time, after all. That was my rep. Nothing too wild for me. Not even a biker bar.

  Still, I tried to imagine my two best friends coming here with me. It would never happen. Even if Georgia and Pepper didn’t have boyfriends who kept them occupied, this wasn’t their scene.

  It’s not really yours either.

  True. I wouldn’t find my type here. No one to flirt with. Definitely no one to take back to the dorm. Maybe one of the guys in Noah’s fledgling band would qualify.

  Sighing, I looked over at Annie just as she parted the front of her coat and seized both of her enormous breasts and adjusted them, making sure her cleavage was optimally displayed within the deep V of her too-small sweater. I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel with her, but there wasn’t anyone else to hang out with tonight. Georgia was out with Harris. Pepper and Reece invited me to stay in and watch a movie with them, but that always made me feel a little lonely. Isolated even though I was among friends. They were in love and it was in everything they did. Every word. Every touch. And yes. They were constantly touching each other—my presence the only thing stopping them from getting naked. It was enough to turn my stomach. But hey. Better them than me.

  Love was losing control. And I never lost control. I just made it look like I did—hooking up with different guys every week—but I was always fully cognizant of my actions. In charge every moment along the way.

  Sighing, I tucked a short strand of hair behind my ear. Even Suzanne, my go-to wing-girl of late, had a date tonight. All my friends had—or were close to having—boyfriends. Considering that was the last thing I wanted, I was stuck with the likes of Annie. Not the nicest girl I’d met in my two years at Dartford but she was the only one available. Since I wasn’t the kind of person to stay in and stare at the walls or watch reruns of Glee, that left me here. At a biker bar.

  The moment we stepped inside, I decided I might have miscalculated what I could handle, because as bad as Maisie’s looked on the outside it was way worse inside.

  Apparently the smoking ban was ignored here because the air was thick with the stuff. My virgin lungs seized and I coughed. As wild as I got, I didn’t smoke. Cigarettes or anything else. The worst thing I put in my body was a Taco Bell burrito. My tearing eyes squinted into the haze.

  The average patron was male, over thirty, and sporting a beard and tats that didn’t especially smack of quality. Patches that looked gang related decorated their denim jackets and vests. Not that I could vouch for the authenticity of said patches, but I once watched a special on the History Channel about biker gangs and these looked legit to me.

  “Annie,” I murmured, hovering in the doorway. “Are you sure about this?”

  “What?” She blinked. “This is the kind of place all the great bands get their start.”

  I shook my head, and said in a deceptively casual voice, all the while my eyes scanning the room, “This is the kind of place you get knifed.”

  I always did this. Watched. Assessed. I might appear carefree, but my mind was always working, always weighing and considering. I had to be this way. It’s how I made sure I never ended up in a situation that I couldn’t escape. Like before.

  She rolled her eyes. “I never thought you would be such a wimp. C’mon. Let’s get a table.”

  I wasn’t a wimp, but every move, every decision I made was calculated. I partied at places I knew. Mulvaney’s, Freemont’s, the familiar frat houses. I only fooled around with guys I knew, too. Even if they were strangers, I knew them. Because I knew their type. They were all the same. Easy to read. Easy to control.

  Weaving through tables after Annie, it was clear there weren’t guys like that here. No. These guys looked like they’d just been released from the penitentiary. Burly and tattooed with eyes that followed us like hungry wolves. Nobody controlled them.

  I stared straight ahead as if I didn’t see them. Didn’t feel their stares.

  We took a table near the stage, sliding off our coats and hanging them on the backs of our chairs. Noah and his band were already performing. They weren’t very good, but I didn’t think the bar was set very high here. Just the same, I think Noah and his guys would have been better off performing something other than an old Depeche Mode song. The patrons who did pay attention didn’t look impressed.

  Annie clapped loudly—the only person—as they finished one song and slid into the next. Noah winked down at her.

  “Isn’t he great?” she called over to me.

  “Yeah.” I winced as his voice cracked midsong. Even if I could forget that he was singing Depeche Mode in a biker bar, he was dressed in a striped button-down polo and looked like he’d just rolled out of the Gap.

  “So how did he get this gig, anyway?”

  Annie didn’t answer. She clasped her hands together and swayed in her seat. I rolled my eyes and searched for the waitress, hoping she would be making her way to us soon. Mind-numbing alcohol sounded like a good plan.

  Tonight was one of those nights I couldn’t handle being alone. If I had stayed in, I would just be stewing over Mom and our phone call this afternoon. It happened every time we talked. Fortunately those calls were few and far between. She would heap on the guilt, remind me of what a very bad daughter I was. The only thing that made me feel any better was slamming back a few shots and wrapping myself around a cute guy who knew what to do with his lips—and it wasn’t talk.

  “I need a drink,” I announced, re
newing my efforts to spot a waitress.

  As the song ended, I managed to snag the waitress’s attention and place an order. She didn’t even card me. Scanning the room, I was reminded of how I wasn’t going to find a cute guy here. “How long is he on for?”

  She shrugged. “Dunno.”

  Discouraged, I slumped in my seat, perking up when the waitress returned with our pitcher. Fortification was in order if I was going to sit through her mooning over Noah. I poured into a clear plastic cup and quickly gulped down the beer, instantly feeling warmer and more relaxed. As I drank a second cup, I squinted at the stage, checking out Noah’s drummer. Not bad. A little on the skinny side, but he had good hair. He grinned at me and I smiled back, holding up my cup in salute as he did a less than stellar job on the drums.

  I scanned the room surreptitiously throughout the next few songs, nursing my third beer. I’d learned long ago if you made eye contact a guy took it as an invitation. So I didn’t make eye contact unless I was issuing an invitation, and there wouldn’t be any of that tonight. Not here anyway.

  Not even when I spotted him.

  Holy hotness. A little shiver blew through me as I watched him from under my lashes, careful not to ogle. I drank more, as if that would kill the sudden awareness that shot through me. He was one of the youngest guys in the place, but still older than me. Probably early twenties. He greeted several people with nods and waves, a couple of slaps on the back. My gaze slid over him appreciatively as I drank. The alcohol wasn’t helping. I squirmed a little in my chair, everything inside me suddenly humming and alive.

  I couldn’t stop myself. Couldn’t look away. He was too good-looking. In an edgy-can’t-be-tamed kind of way. In other words—not my type. Still. Looking never hurt. As long as he didn’t know I was checking him out.

  Propping my chin in my palm, I lifted my drink and finished off another cup. I was definitely feeling good now. A heady euphoria wrapped around me as I checked him out.

  He wore a leather biker’s jacket, slim-lined and well worn at the seams and elbows. Denim covered his long legs, a chain looping from the front of his jeans around to the back. Biker boots carried him across the bar. Even in all that clothing, he looked built.

  His face was flushed and wind-chapped from the cold. His hair looked deliciously windblown. The kind of artfully wild mess—longer on the top and cropped shorter on the sides—so many guys on campus spent a long time trying to perfect. And yet I doubted he did more than run his hands through his hair when he got out of bed. He looked at home here as he settled on a stool in front of the long stretch of bar.

  The bartender, an older woman with implausible red hair that bordered on purple, leaned across the counter and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. Yeah. A definite regular. Just further confirmation that I should stop staring before he noticed me.

  Annie elbowed me. “Take a picture, why don’t you?”

  I tore my attention away and shrugged. “He’s cute.” I hiccupped. Ugh. Beer always gave me hiccups. An unfortunate side effect.

  Did I say cute? Not cute. Sexy hot.

  “So what are you waiting for?”

  I arched an eyebrow at her.

  “C’mon. It wouldn’t be a Friday night without you hooking up with someone, right?”

  I glared at her. Even if there was some truth to what she was saying. Her lip was curled like she was looking at something gross on the bottom of her shoe. Funny considering she was hardly an example of sexual restraint.

  “I need to use the restroom.” I hesitated, expecting her to stand and join me. I didn’t really want to walk around alone in here, but she didn’t move. Of course not. She wasn’t like Georgia or Pepper, who would insist on sticking together in a place like this. Hell, they would stick close to me in one of our usual hangouts. They were good girls. The best friends I’ve ever had. I was lucky to have them. Stuck with Annie tonight, that was painfully clear.

  I pushed up from the table with a sigh. The room swayed for a bit and I steadied my hands on the table to get my balance. “I’ll be back.”

  Focusing on the neon restroom sign, I tried to walk in a straight line. I mostly achieved this. I think. Ignoring crude catcalls, I made it to the restroom without incident. Two other women stood in front of the mirror applying lipstick.

  One froze as I entered, holding the red tube over her lips. “Oh, honey. I think you’re lost. You shouldn’t be here.”

  That about summed it up. I nodded and the action made me dizzy, so I stopped and closed my eyes in a long blink. Opening my eyes, I admitted, “I might have taken a wrong turn.” A wrong turn that started with getting into Annie’s car tonight.

  The second woman turned to assess me in my skinny jeans and sweater. “If I were you I’d get back in your car and find the nearest TGI Friday’s.” She wagged a finger. “This is no place for you. It gets pretty rowdy as the night wears on.” She glanced at the invisible watch on her wrist. “You got maybe one more hour.”

  “Thanks. I’m not staying much longer.” At least I hoped not. Determined to convince Annie that we really should go, I used the restroom and washed my hands.

  Emerging from the bathroom, I jerked to a stop at the sight of a couple stumbling down the narrow hall. The guy had one hand buried under the woman’s skirt, exposing her thong.

  I blinked several times as if the action would clear my vision. The man hefted her against him, wrapping one of her legs around his waist as they fell into the wall. Her leg jutted out into the narrow hall, blocking me. My God. They were going to have sex right here outside the bathrooms.

  They were flailing around so much, her legs scissoring the air. I couldn’t pass them. Not without risking getting crushed into the wall or impaled by one of her lethal-looking heels. And my reflexes probably weren’t the best right now. Not after four beers. Or was it five?

  I eyed the pair, contemplating my move. And that’s when I noticed him on the other side of the couple. To be accurate, that’s when I noticed him noticing me.

  He didn’t seem aware of the couple between us. He was looking directly at me. His gaze slid over me. There was nothing subtle about it. He surveyed me thoroughly, from head to toe. Like he didn’t quite know what to make of me. And I’m sure he didn’t. I wasn’t typical of Maisie’s clientele. Not in my black knee-high boots, jeans, and purple cashmere sweater. And not with the diamond studs in my ears that Dad bought me because he felt guilty about leaving me alone for Christmas while he took his girlfriend to Barbados. At least he spent New Year’s with me. I ignored the whisper reminding me that he only did that because he broke up with his girlfriend the moment they got back from Barbados.

  The guy’s eyes settled on my face, and I could see they were a warm, deep brown. He looked even hotter up close. And taller than he had from across the room. Just barely over five feet, it didn’t take much for me to feel smaller than everyone else—especially guys—but the top of my head would barely reach Biker Boy’s shoulder.

  And then I squashed that thought because it would never matter. There would never be a moment where I would stand close enough to him to find out firsthand. I wasn’t stupid enough to get tangled up with the likes of him.

  Realizing I was checking him out just as much as he was checking me out, I quickly broke eye contact. Heat crawled over my already overly warm face. Even not looking at him, I could feel his stare. We stood there, the couple making out between us with their distracting groans and pants, and I tried to pretend that this wasn’t awkward. That I wasn’t buzzing and unsteady on my feet and ripe for seduction from a guy who looked like him.

  I took another glance. It was impossible not to look at him again.

  He didn’t quite smile, but there was definitely a glint of humor in his eyes. His gaze flicked back to the couple and then to me again. He was amused. I compressed my lips, determined not to engage with him. I didn’t need to give him the wrong idea about me. Like I might be the kind of girl into hot biker boys.

eeing an opening, I made a break for it. Squeezing past the gyrating couple, I darted forward clumsily on my heeled boots. Biker Boy turned sideways, looking down at me as our bodies came flush with each other. Fortunately the hall was wide enough that we didn’t actually touch. Thank God. A few inches separated us, but that didn’t stop me from noting that, yes, the top of my head barely cleared his shoulder. He was seriously tall. And if I wasn’t already drunk, standing this close to him would make me feel like I was.

  His brown eyes gleamed down at me in the gloom. I kept moving, feigning disinterest—like I did every time I got the vibe that a guy might be more than I could handle.

  If there was even the faintest doubt in my mind that I couldn’t control the guy in question . . . then it wasn’t happening. Period.

  I shuffled along quickly, resisting the urge to look back. He was still watching me. I knew it. The nape of my neck tingled. He was probably wondering what the hell a girl like me was doing in a place like this and how I should get far, far away. Or maybe that was just what I was thinking?

  When I got back to the table, I downed another drink. “How much longer, you think?” I asked after a few minutes.

  Annie huffed out a breath. “I wouldn’t have brought you along if I’d known you were going to be such a nag.”

  “I didn’t know we were coming to a place like this.” I looked around, taking the opportunity to search for Biker Boy. I couldn’t resist. He was back at the bar now, accepting a fresh longneck from the bartender and talking to a burly older guy beside him.

  “A place like this? Listen to you. You’re such a princess, Emerson.”

  I rolled my eyes at her. She was the one wearing body glitter that smelled like peaches. It looked like Tinker Bell had dumped her bag all over her head. I finished my cup and reached for the almost empty pitcher to pour myself another. My head felt comfortably insulated now, fuzzy and warm. Even the band sounded better.

  The drummer winked at me and I grinned back at him. Yeah. He would do.

  Glancing around the room, my gaze went to Biker Boy again. As though he felt my stare, his gaze swung to me. My eyes swung forward again, cheeks burning. Way to act disinterested, Em.