Authors: Lauren Devane
This book was previously available as BLOOD SECRETS: FALLEN MOTORCYCLE CLUB.
For Alicia. Everything about you is so bright and shining. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met.
Also by Lauren Devane:
Strike: Storm Runners Motorcycle Club #2
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The characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons or events is coincidental and was not intended by the author.
Table of Contents
The man with the scar pushed the heated metal of his pistol harder against my head and I dropped to my knees, ready for the bright pain that would flash through my skull when he pulled the trigger. Around us, the sand whipped, churned by the wind that raced over the dunes and warmed by the too-hot sun overhead. Sweat dripped down my face and into my eyes, and then my vision blurred.
I was about to die.
I never expected to end the day naked with a gun to my head.
Every gritty brush of sand was agony on my exposed, excruciatingly-sensitive skin. Regret poured through me, because I could have stayed at home instead of agreeing to take my first vacation in years to Mexico. Anywhere would be better than here.
“Go,” my uncle had said, leaning over to chop up the meth, then suck it up his nostril. “Get out of my hair for once.”
The bald bastard was always the one who kept me from going anywhere.
No way was I going to make it home to start college in the fall. All the money I’d squirreled away for years was for nothing.
Should have bought those heels
Tears poured down my face, but I didn’t make a sound as the man behind me babbled. He was definitely high—really high, all dilated pupils and twitching fingers. I was lucky he hadn’t blown out the back of my skull yet.
On my way to pick up a package from a friend of my uncle, I’d been grabbed off the street and thrown into a dark windowed van by a man I’d never seen before.
“Drive,” he hissed in Spanish to another man in the front seat. Then he yanked back my hair and stared into my face, his eyes hot on my skin. “This is the one.”
But I wasn’t the one. I’d never seen him before in my life.
Half an hour later, he was herding me up the stairs of the most beautiful home I’d ever seen. The pale walls glimmered like a mirage in front of the desert and the trees in the courtyard surrounded a fountain that I could hear over the wind. Binding my wrists behind my back, he’d marched me up the stairs and into a room with five men sitting at a table, playing cards and drinking beer from long-necked bottles.
“This is her?” A man in a white suit with one of those cowboy ties that look ridiculous on anyone who doesn’t own a ranch walked over and surveyed me. His eyes took in every inch of my body as I fought to not show fear or the disgust that was threatening to overtake fright. My stomach went sour and I regretted the avocado I’d stripped apart and devoured with my bare hands in the market that morning.
“It is,” the scarred man who’d taken me off the street said.
“You sure she’s not wearing a wire?” asked one of the men at the table, setting down the cards in his hand and licking his thick lips while giving me the same aggressive stare as the other man.
“One way to find out,” said the man in the white suit. He grabbed the front of my dress and yanked, tearing apart the buttons that held the two sides together. They hit the floor and scattered around my feet before the man snapped both straps and stripped the dress from me completely.
“Now the panties,” said the man at the table. The scarred man, who was younger than the others and nervous, too, slid his fingers under the waistband and worked the panties down to my feet, yanking on them until I stepped out. I’d lost my shoes in the struggle. I could feel the scarred man tremble against me, and then he reached out to pinch my nipples—hard. I yelped before I caught myself.
“No wires,” said the older man with a smile. “She’s clean.” He heaved a sigh that made the tie he was wearing bounce on his barrel chest. “Pity we don’t have more time. She’s a pretty thing. But—business first.”
The man who held me was trembling, though I couldn’t tell if it was from excitement or nerves. His breath was hot and sour on my face when he leaned forward to drag my dark, wavy hair back over my shoulders, letting each of the men at the table look their fill.
Courage—notably absent from my life until now—made me meet the eyes of each man. The door opened behind us and a woman walked in carrying a tray with six beer bottles on it. She walked around me as if I didn’t exist, set it on the table and served each man. Each nodded his head with respect before she turned around to leave.
Her eyes went to me then, and widened. Her lips trembled and the hand that wasn’t pressing the tray to her side started to reach out. The scarred man yanked on my hair, forcing my head up, but I saw the woman drop her hand and depart. As the door closed behind her, the man in the white suit said, “Santiago, take her out to the desert and shoot her. Dump her in the usual place.”
Santiago nodded and grabbed my hand, pulling me outside and back into the van. He attached my wrist binds to the handle above the door, patted the gun in his waistband and said, “Don’t fight. I’ll like it, but you won’t like what happens.”
We drove out on a rutted road that cut through the dunes. My mind whirled, staring out at the bleak landscape and I wondered if the desert kissed the ocean. I was a good swimmer, and I thought maybe I’d have a 50 percent shot at survival if he decided to kill me near the water. Half-baked plans of diving into the waves to avoid his bullets rose and fell as we slowly traveled the road and there was nothing but golden sand.
All I wanted was a few days in the sun, a kind of consolation prize in case I got home and found out Uncle Dale wasn’t keeping his part of the bargain. My chances of enrolling for the fall were tenuous at best if he didn’t give me the money, and agreeing to the trip he was so eager to push on me seemed like the right move. If not for that, I’d have been taking summer classes at Cal Tech and hanging out with my piece-of-crap boyfriend. Maybe this whole being shot in the desert nonsense did have an upside—at least I wouldn’t have to hear Tommy cry about how he didn’t mean to cheat on me and since he was tweaking, it wasn’t really his fault.
Piece of crap
“Beg me, bitch,” screamed the man forcing the black metal pistol against my head. It dug into my temple and I winced at the hard bite of it. “I said beg me.”
I knew if I begged, I’d only have seconds to live. Trouble was, staying silent didn’t seem like the key to a long, happy life full of chubby grandchildren and a house that didn’t have water stains on the walls either. A low rumble in the distance invaded my head and seemed to fill up all the space around the dunes. I dug my nails into my palms and felt Santiago shift, staring at the newcomer.
“Stay on your knees. If you move, I’ll shoot,” the man said, his voice quieter and less confident. I was sure the guy was riding high on whatever he’d taken, but now he was trying to push the haze back. Whoever was coming to us on the big, black Harley, Santiago feared him.
The handcuffs circling my wrists clanked when Santiago used his knee to push me down hard.
. I was already messed up from being slammed in the head and dragged out into the desert. The last thing I needed was sand burns on top of the sunburn I was sure to get in sensitive areas. But with my hands behind me, I didn’t even have the chance to catch myself. And sunburns don’t matter when you’re a corpse.
I tasted sand, gritty in my mouth. There was blood, too. Hot and coppery behind my teeth like a slap in the face.
To add insult to injury, the man above me kicked my butt hard with his boot. I sprawled forward and tried to roll to my back, but he put his foot on my leg. “Don’t move,” he said in a hard voice.
No longer able to see the bike, I listened to its roar as it got closer. The deep purr of the engine overwhelmed all other sounds except my harried breathing. With my head turned to the side, I was getting enough air—but my lungs felt incapable of holding it. Panic swamped me as I wondered whether this newcomer was friend or foe.
“What the fuck are you doing, Santiago?” I darted my eyes toward the biker and watched him slow to a stop. The man killed the engine and stood up, pushing a hand through his short brown hair. “I thought we had a meeting today and you fucking stand me up?”
“No, Flash,” the man with the gun said. I could hear the nerves hot in his voice. Whoever this newcomer was, my kidnapper was definitely nervous—and that made me nervous too. Chills raced through my body that had nothing to do with the pain I was in. If the scariest man I’d ever met—which, given my uncle’s job, is saying something—was terrified of this leather-clad biker, then I sure as sugar was too.
“What do you mean, no? I was at your uncle’s. Where the fuck were you?”
“You—you wanted me at the meeting?” His voice trembled like a little kid who’d just found out he was getting a new bike.
“You’re going to take over when your father retires, so fuck yes I wanted you there. Instead I find you wasting time with this little bit of nothing.”
It was ludicrous, but I took offense to what he said. I wasn’t a bit of nothing. From his angle, I was pretty sure he could see my rear end, at least, which I’d earned with lots of squats.
“I’ll waste her and we can go.” I flinched, turning my head more fully to the sand. Last sights weren’t something I’d thought about before, but mine definitely wasn’t going to be the biker or my executioner.
“What did she do?” The biker’s tone was almost bored.
“She’s a threat to the cartel, Flash.”
what kind of name is that?
—laughed. Really let loose with it. “A threat to the Deleons? Are you fucking kidding me? She’s probably still in school. Jesus, San, she’s just a kid.”
“You obviously have the wrong woman. If you stopped tweaking all the fucking time, you’d know that she was just in the market to buy some shit. She’s probably one of those fucking rich kids on vacation, looking for some beads or baubles.”
“Can’t let her go now, Flash. She saw the villa.” Santiago was scrambling to justify what couldn’t be justified.
Flash sighed. “I’ll talk to Manuel. You know The Fallen don’t go in for this bullshit, San. Where are you from, kid?”
A beat. Silence was a physical thing between us.
“I asked you a question.” This time his voice was steely.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m on vacation at…at Two Palms Resort.”
“See, San, she’s just a fucking scared kid who’s spending time at a resort. Girl, are you going to say shit to anyone?”
“N-No.” I could feel my body wracked with shudders; if I was getting out of this alive, no one had told my nervous system about it yet.
“Get up,” Flash said. I pushed my arms under me and slowly made my way to a standing position. I didn’t want to scare the freak with the gun, but I wasn’t going to disobey my savior either. Once I was standing, I used my trembling fingers to shove the hair away from my face and met the biker’s gaze.
Flash and I stared at each other with the dry desert air swirling around us. I didn’t know then, but my life had just shifted in ways I’d never imagined.