(Mojave Desert outside Quartzsite, Arizona)
He nursed his latest beer and watched the girl. She didn’t realize it; nothing in her peculiar past had taught her how beautiful she was. He was still uncomfortably hard from the impulsive dance they’d shared there on the sticky floor of the Riverbottom. Grayson had pulled back reluctantly when he’d felt himself rising but the way she had pressed against him with even more resolve told him all he needed to know.
Then came the shouts and catcalls from his brothers and he’d scoffed, retreating for the moment as she stared at him with a puzzled look in her pretty green eyes. Grayson wanted to tell her why.
No baby, not like that, no dirty ride in a back room for you.
But he just eased onto a chair in the rear of the bar and tried to will his wooden arousal into submission.
“Guess who’s making fucking trouble?” Casper said by way of greeting, sinking down across from him.
Grayson looked at the VP of Defiant Motorcycle Club. He had an important history with this man. Picacho Prison hadn’t been titled the ‘Gladiator School’ for nothing and allies could get you killed or they could save your life; it was a crapshoot. Ever since the betrayal which had cost him his freedom at age nineteen, Grayson regarded friends as a liability. But he saw quality in Casper Weitz, and started to believe that maybe there were still men who honored each other. So when the sky opened up and rained down shit, he stepped up for Casper and wasn’t sorry, even when it cost him a year in The Walls. Solitary. That was the sacrifice which earned him a place here, in Defiant, and he was glad.
Casper lit a smoke and waited patiently for his response.
“Goddamn it,” Grayson sighed, leaning back in the chair. He didn’t have to guess. He blamed himself for not getting wise to Talia a lot sooner. But she’d jumped on him when he was on the outside fewer than twelve hours. Six years of young life was a long time for a man to go without a woman’s body. Grayson had never been too versed in the mysteries of the female mind and so that cold snake was able to fool him. For a while.
Casper’s old lady, Rachel, hurried over, her lovely face anxious. “Cas. Mojaves are outside.” Her manner made it plain the visit wasn’t a usual sociable one.
Mojaves. Mojave Marauders. Grayson’s hand tensed into a fist. Mojaves were friends, mostly, a club out of nearby Parker. But Grayson knew that some friends turned on a dime.
Orion Jackson got to the door first. He was the Defiant President, and a big son of a bitch who never shrunk from charging in first. He didn’t even look behind him to see if any of his boys followed.
Grayson glanced around shrewdly. Besides himself and Casper there was only a shit-faced Brandon, who got unsteadily to his feet when Casper jerked on his arm. He lurched into Grayson’s side as his blurred eyes tried to sort out what the hell was going on.
Grayson’s breath caught when he noticed the girl staring directly at him. The fearful look on her face as she clasped her hands together twisted a part of his soul which hadn’t been right ever since the day she’d stumbled into him, pleading for help. No, he wouldn’t allow her to be terrorized. Whatever the Mojaves wanted wasn’t for her eyes.
“Rachel,” he said hoarsely, jerking his head. Rachel understood and ushered the girl behind the bar.
When he stepped out into the clear desert night the first thing he heard was Orion’s ominous voice instructing someone to go piss twice and fuck himself.
“Make him answer for his own goddamn ass first.” Grayson knew the voice before he saw the man. He was Angelo, VP of the Marauders. He was also the man whose bed Talia had filled since Grayson had thrown her over.
Orion’s arms were crossed and he was all but growling. No one rode up to his place and tossed out orders. This could be bad. Grayson quickly counted eight other Mojaves behind Angelo. Some grinned eerily as the prospect of violence loomed; others shifted uncomfortably, disliking this confrontation with associates.
Angelo noticed him and pointed a fat finger. He was more than halfway drunk. “You,” he snarled. “You think you can dick me out of money and then laugh about it?”
Grayson cursed to himself, recognizing Talia’s hand. Likely she had plied Angelo with mind-numbing garbage and fed him some crazy bullshit.
“Look,” he said, stepping from behind Orion and addressing Angelo, “I don’t know what the hell she told you, but no such thing ever happened. Take a fucking minute to think it through and know that you’re being played.”
Casper stood beside him. “’Lo,” he shook his head at the Mojave VP and spoke with firm sincerity, “since when does the word of some nutty whore come between men?”