The Kings surrounded my car as we drove, five ahead, and five behind, both sets formed into a phalanx pattern like they were ready to face down an enemy charge. Jakob led the way.
I thought we’d stick close to town, near the center of King territory, but as we wound our way out of Kearny and started gaining altitude in Hill Country, I began to wonder where the hell Jakob was taking me.
“Interesting friends you have,” Gran said, turning toward me in her seat.
“They’re not my friends.”
“Accomplices? Comrades? Fellow criminals?”
“I’m not in The Kings.”
“Good. One set of lawbreakers is enough for a family.” She peered through the windshield at Jakob’s wide back. “Though I might be willing to make an exception about letting one more in.”
I sighed. “I told you it isn’t like that.”
“And I’m still calling bullshit.”
“We would kill each other within the first week if we tried to date.”
“Nothing like a little friendly violence to spice things up.”
I choked and almost swerved off the road. “Gran!”
“Do mind the wheel, sweetie,” she said, patting me on the back.
“Why can’t you pester me about getting married and having babies like all the other grandmothers?”
She sent me a devious look, and her lips parted on what I’m sure would be a traumatizing comeback.
I tried to cover her mouth and drive at the same time. “If you say anything else about you and Grandpa, I will turn this car around and let the drug dealers have you.”
Wisely, she changed course. “Did you two mend your lover’s quarrel from yesterday?”
“It wasn’t a lover’s quarrel,” I said. “And yes, we did.”
“How’d he make it up to you?” she asked.
By following me home and kissing me senseless. “He apologized for being a jerk.”
“And did you apologize for being a jerk?”
“Who said I was a jerk?”
She was so quiet that I risked another glance at her. Her right brow was arched, and she was giving me the same look I’d received countless times during my youth, the one that said, “I see right through you, Missy.”
“I apologized,” I said.
“Good. Knowing when to admit that you were wrong is half the battle. You two will be fine.”
I managed to resist the urge to correct her again. There was no “us”, but once Gran got something into her head, there was no persuading her to change her mind. I’d asked Dr. Perez once if that was a symptom of Alzheimer’s, but she said no, it wasn’t. It was a symptom of stubbornness.
An hour into the drive, the first pair of Kings veered off, leaving me with eight guards. Five minutes later, the next set fell behind, and then the next pulled a U-Turn in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, only Jakob was left.
My car’s engine whined as we climbed out of an old river basin. The road had been carved right into the red rock of the hill, obscuring the view until we got to the top.
“Oh, that’s pretty,” Gran said when we reached the summit.
I had to agree with her. Spread out before us was a plateau of low, rolling farmland, dotted with ranches and crop fields. Jakob led us into the very heart of it before making a right hand turn onto an unobtrusive dirt road. Half a mile down it, we passed beneath an arch that read Frihet Ranch, and I realized this wasn’t a road; it was a driveway.
The lane turned left, and as I followed the curve, a house came into view in the distance. It sat a little way down the hill from us, perched close to the edge of a drop-off. Below it, a wide, slow-moving river wound lazily past. It was an idyllic setting, especially with the small herd of longhorns grazing in a nearby pasture.
“Where has your beau brought us?” Gran asked.
“No idea,” I said. This looked too nice to belong to The Kings.
Hill Country was known for its wild, tempestuous storms, and the house was built to accommodate for that. It was large, but instead of being tall, it sprawled along the cliff edge, built in a modern style, with stucco and pale stone cladding its exterior. The rooflines were asymmetrical, set at sharp angles so that rain would sluice off. Large windows looked out at the surrounding views.
Jakob pulled up to the garage and slid his bike in next to two Harleys. I parked, leaving a car length between us, and Gran and I got out. Crickets chirped from the nearby hayfield; birds called from overhead. Someone had planted a willow in a low spot a ways from the house, and even at this distance, I heard the breeze sighing through its bowed branches.
I caught a flash of tawny red in my periphery and turned my head just in time to watch a golden retriever bounding down the front walk toward us. It caught sight of Jakob and started barking maniacally, changing course to barrel straight at him. Jakob crouched down to greet the dog and was nearly knocked off his feet when it hit him at full speed. It then proceeded to jump and whine like a total spaz until Jakob was forced to stand up or risk getting taken to the ground.
The dog turned to me next. I braced myself for impact.
A sharp whistle cut through the air. “Molly, you get back here now!” a man called.
The dog hesitated for one second, whined at me like she’d be back, and then took off. I turned and watched her bound toward a blond man as large as Jakob. He padded down the walkway in a pair of worn-out jeans and a white t-shirt. His arms were sleeved in faded tattoos, and his feet were bare. Just behind him was a petite red-headed woman wearing a sleeveless dress over a pair of leggings.
The man’s gaze met mine, and a shock of recognition zipped through me. I knew those eyes. I’d watched them ice over a hundred times.
Gran had noticed the resemblance too. “I see looks run in the family,” she said, coming over to my side of the car.
Jesus Christ, these were Jakob’s parents. He hadn’t brought me to a safe house; he’d brought me home.
The man I assumed was Jakob’s father reached him, grinning in an open way that his son hadn’t inherited. “Hey there, stranger.” His voice was deep, and a little rough around the edges, like he’d spent his youth smoking.
Instead of hugging, the two men shook hands. The petite woman, who I was pretty sure was Jakob’s mother, was less formal. As soon as the men broke apart, she grabbed Jakob around the shoulders and pulled him down in a surprising show of strength, hugging him for a solid minute. I heard the soft hint of a feminine voice, but whatever she said to him was carried away by the breeze before it reached my ears.
There was something about meeting a person’s parents that always made me nervous. Usually, I didn’t get too worked up about what people thought of me, but all bets were off when it came to the loved ones of the people I was close to. I nearly sweat right through my shirt the first time I met Nina’s mom.
For the past few days, I’d told myself over and over again that Jakob meant nothing to me. That he was just a man I’d slept with. The butterflies in my stomach exposed that for the lie it was. If I didn’t care about him in at least some small way, the imminent threat of meeting his parents wouldn’t make me feel like I was about to puke.
Jakob and his mother pulled apart.
He turned to me. “Krista, these are my parents, Liam and Jennifer. Dad, Mom, this is Krista and her grandmother, Izzy.”
The four of us exchanged hellos.
Liam gestured toward the house. “Why don’t you come on in and tell us why your girlfriend’s got blood on her jeans.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Jakob said.
His father snorted and turned toward the house. “Sure she’s not.” His voice dripped with sarcasm.
Gran cackled like this was the most fun she’d had in years and slipped her arm through Jakob’s mother’s as they followed Liam, leaving Jakob and me to stare after them with that particular brand of long-suffering look that was reserved for children with embarrassing elders.
Molly chose that moment to jump on me. I nearly fell over backward. “Yes, hi. It’s nice to meet you too.” I shot up a deflecting hand. “No, you may not lick my open mouth.”
“Down, Molly,” Jakob said.
She dropped back to all fours and wove between us, tail shaking so fast that her whole body wiggled.
“You brought me home,” I said.
“It’s the safest place I could think of,” he said.
“Won’t I be putting your parents at risk?”
He turned to me with the scowl-frown I was beginning to think I’d been misinterpreting. He looked pissed off, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t, and that this was just how his facial features registered confusion. “You didn’t see the bikes?”
“I didn’t get a chance to look at them,” I said. I’d been a little preoccupied with the fact that he wanted me to stay with his family.
He jerked his head in their direction. I turned toward the motorcycles. Dead center on each gas tank was an emblem, with a pair of stylized, tattered wings spread wide. In the middle of them sat a grinning skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. I hadn’t grown up in the MC community, but even being new to it, I recognized that design. It was the patch for The Specters, one of the largest and most notorious outlaw motorcycle clubs in the country. They were right up there with the Big Four on the FBI’s watch list.
I slowly turned back to Jakob.
“Your parents are in The Specters?”
He nodded. “My father is a founding member.”
Oof. It felt like he’d just gut-punched me. Suddenly I was less touched that Jakob had brought us here and more terrified. This was why everyone was afraid of him. Not only was he frightening in his own right, but piss Jakob off, and you pissed off Daddy. If Liam was a founding member, he was arguably one of the most dangerous men in the state, if not the country. No one would want to make an enemy out of that man. Not unless they were suicidal.
I looked past Jakob. His parents were leading Gran through the front door. Molly, not wanting to miss out on the excitement, went tearing up the walkway after them. Gran said something to Liam, and he glanced back at Jakob and me with a wily look on his face. He nodded and turned back to Gran. Gran said something else and nudged him in the ribs, and he threw back his head and laughed. His whole face lit up with it. The sight did nothing to stem the fear flowing through my veins.
I turned back to Jakob. I was not going to insult him by insinuating that his parents were a danger to my grandmother, but I had to know that she was safe. “Promise me that Gran will be okay here.”
“She’ll be okay here,” he said.
It would have to do for now. If he was lying, if his parents did anything to hurt my gran, I’d call in a favor or two with friends still in service and reap my revenge on the entire Larson clan, to hell with the consequences.
Deep down, I didn’t think it would come to that. And the fact that I trusted Jakob with my grandmother’s safety scared me more than anything else had today.
Liam Larson crossed his arms over his wide chest and stared at his son. “So after Krista went inside, what did you do?”
The three of us stood in the Larsons’ beautiful Italian style kitchen. Just outside, visible through the massive, sliding glass wall that faced the river, Gran and Jennifer sat on the back patio, sipping lemonade as they chatted. The sun was starting to dip toward the horizon, and the day had taken on a sort of hazy golden glow.
Jakob leaned against the marble counter. “We waited.”
Liam cocked his head sideways and grinned at me. I tried not to squirm.
“My son must really trust you if he stayed put outside,” he said.
“We needed to find out what was going on with Dr. Perez,” I told him. “I had a decent chance of getting that information out of the receptionist.”
“When did you start suspecting the guard with you?” he asked.
He had the same intensity as his son. It made it hard to meet his eyes as I answered him. “When it became clear that the receptionist was wary of him. Annie’s pretty tough. She didn’t even buy my sob story about Jakob, so when I realized she was rattled, I knew something was wrong. And then I noticed he wasn’t wearing a name tag.”
“You have good instincts,” he said. “What happened in the elevator?”
I told him about the fight. “If he’s a Joker, he’s new,” I said when I finished.
“What makes you think that?” Liam asked.
“Unlike the other guards, I didn’t see any visible tattoos on him, and he hasn’t been in a lot of closed space fights. He projected the hell out of his first punch, didn’t guard himself, and let his pain slow him way down. It was why I was able to take him out so fast.”
Liam’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “Why do I have a feeling that you’re being modest?”
“I’m not. I assume you noticed my limp?”
“The guard either didn’t see it or didn’t realize its significance. His opening move was to punch me instead of kicking out at my leg.”
“Ah,” he said, but he was still looking at me like he thought I was holding out on him.
I really wasn’t. Yes, I was faster and better trained than the guard, but if that big son of a bitch had taken me to the ground, I would have been screwed.
“When did you call Jakob?” Liam asked.
“As soon as I got out of the elevator,” I said.
He turned to his son. “And how did you respond?”
“I told everyone to get out the biggest guns they had, and we walked up to the front door open carrying them,” Jakob said.
Liam grinned. “I’m assuming they saw that you were loaded for bear and hightailed it out of there?”
“Good job. Without that show of force, their pride might have gotten the better of them, and they could have tried to turn that nursing home into their Alamo.” It was hard to miss the pride in his tone. “Did you get out of there before the cops showed up?”
Liam turned to me. “Expect a phone call. They’ll probably want to question you about what happened.”
My stomach sank. “Great.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll send a club lawyer with you, and she’ll bury them in bullshit.”
“We’ll?” I asked, looking between the two men. “Wait, are The Kings a subchapter of The Specters?”
Oh, sweet Jesus. “Please tell me The Jokers aren’t a subchapter of another MC.”
The smile fled from Liam’s face. “They’re a sub to The Bandits.”
I felt the blood drain from my face. Two of the biggest outlaw motorcycle clubs in the country had neighboring subchapters on the brink of open war. This would mean nothing good for Kearny.
“I need to go home and get some stuff if I’m going to stay here,” I said to Jakob.
He pushed off from the counter. “I’ll go with you.”
His father nodded in the direction of the garage. “You should take the mustang. No one will recognize it.”
“Keys still in the same place?” Jakob asked.
Jakob went to get them, and I went to steal Jennifer away from Gran for a minute. It turned out Jakob’s mother had trained as a nurse, and I assumed that was part of why he’d brought us here, knowing Gran would need some special care while we hid out.
The glass slider looked like it weighed a ton, but it whispered open from the slightest touch of my hand. Must be nice to have money. “Jennifer, can I talk to you?”
She looked at Gran.
Gran waved her away. “Go right ahead, Jen. I’ll be fine out here with this view for a few minutes.”
Jennifer smiled and squeezed Gran’s hand as she got up. She had the kind of steady focus and calm demeanor that lent well to the nursing profession, and after seeing her interact with Gran this afternoon, I felt a little less nervous about leaving Gran in the Larsons’ care for an hour or two while we drove back to Kearny.
Jennifer came inside and closed the door behind her. She was younger than Jakob’s father by about a decade, in her late 40s or early 50s. Not a single strand of gray was visible in her wild red hair. Her face was still youthful, like Gran’s, either thanks to genetics or a healthy appreciation for sunscreen. Intelligence shown through her bright green eyes as she met my gaze.
“What’s up?” she asked, the lilt in her voice hinting at her Irish homeland.
“I don’t know how much Jakob told you, but Gran has Alzheimer’s.”
“Yes, he said.”
“Well, with a lot of Alzheimer’s patients, upheaval like this can throw them a bit. She’s had a good week so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised that if after the chaos of today, she goes downhill. You might need to repeat yourself a lot. Or she might get confused or upset as to who you are or why she’s here.”
Jennifer looked past me, to where Liam stood in the kitchen. “Okay,” she said, slowly.
“I just wanted to warn you because right now, I’m her only familiar face, and after I leave, she might immediately start slipping.”
Jennifer frowned. “Didn’t Jakob tell you why I got my nursing degree?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t even know he was bringing us here, let alone that you were a nurse.”
Her frown deepened, and she looked to her husband. “You need to go talk to your son.”
Uh-oh, she went your son on him. I’d just landed Jakob in some shit with his parents somehow.
Behind me, Liam sighed and ambled off into the house.
Jennifer turned back to me. “My mother had Alzheimer’s. She passed away two years ago.”
I blinked at her.
“I got my degree so I could bring her over here and be her full-time caregiver,” Jennifer said. “She lived with us here while Jakob was growing up.”
Heat crept into my cheeks. “He didn’t say anything. Yesterday, when I gave him a run-down on Alzheimer’s symptoms, he just stood there like a stone.”
She put her hands on my shoulders. “I’m sorry. I love that boy more than life itself, but sometimes I just want to shake him until his teeth rattle in his head.”
She gave me a little shake as if demonstrating, and despite myself, I grinned.
“I feel like such an idiot,” I said.
She squeezed my shoulders. “Don’t. He plays his cards close to his chest, even with us. Growing up with parents in an outlaw club can instill a certain healthy level of paranoia in a child. And after his time in the service…” She let go of me and shrugged.
“How long was he in for?”
“Did he go in right out of high school?”
“Has he talked about any of his missions with you?”
She shook her head, sending her red curls flying. “He said he can’t, for legal reasons.”
Another piece of the Jakob puzzle fell into place. In my experience, people who worked highly classified missions were a paranoid, secretive bunch. They kept to their own units, didn’t socialize with other soldiers, and lost touch with anyone they’d been friends with before they went into service. Because what could you say to outsiders? Can’t answer any questions about where you are or what you’re doing. Can’t talk about what you’re training for. It was much easier to stay silent than to lie, and if Jakob had been paranoid before enlisting, God only knew what eight years straight of classified missions would do to the guy.
“Give him time,” Jennifer said. “He’s a good man underneath that tough shell of his.”
“I’ll try,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to tell her. “Sorry, I’m just using him for his body,” was a little too blunt, even for me, and I was beginning to realize it might not even be true anymore.
Twenty minutes later, Jakob and I were back on the road. The mustang we sat in was a classic, with a big, throaty engine, and while it was both powerful and beautiful, I wished that we’d taken my crappy car instead. We might have been recognized in it, but it had A/C, and that was starting to seem like a fair trade-off. In this part of Texas, the temperature usually topped out at ten degrees hotter than the surrounding low-lying towns. Not a cloud dotted the cornflower blue sky today. The pavement radiated heat back up at us even as the sun scorched the hood of the car.
I piled my hair on top of my head in a messy bun and then cranked my window down. Jakob lowered his too. I turned to look at him.
“Would it have killed you to mention that your grandmother had Alzheimer’s yesterday?”
He kept his gaze on the road. “Didn’t see the point.”
“Gee, I don’t know, you could have saved me the breath at least.”
He glanced over, eyes hidden behind his shades. “My grandmother didn’t know who we were the last two years of her life. I didn’t think you’d want the reminder of how bad it’s gonna get with your gran.”
It felt like my heart shuddered to a stop. Yes, it was going to get that bad, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do to stop it. That fact gutted me every time I remembered it.
I watched his profile as he turned back toward the road. “You’re right. That would have been hard to hear three seconds before saying hi to her, but you might have found another way to mention it without getting to that point.”
He shrugged one massive shoulder. “Maybe, or one question could have led to another, and we’d wind up there eventually. Plus, you were already upset with me as it was.”
“I had good reason to be.”
“Not saying you didn’t. Just meant I didn’t want to push my luck.”
I turned away and looked out my window, contemplating his words. Did I like the way he’d handled it? No. Did I understand how someone with Jakob’s history might behave the way he had? Yes. We were already pissed at each other by the time we got to Gran’s. Instead of potentially making me more upset, he’d clammed up instead. In his own way, he’d been trying to spare me some heartache and diffuse the situation at the same time.
I kept my head turned away as I asked my next question. “In the future, can you try to find a way to say something? I’d rather be upset in the moment than be embarrassed after the fact.”
“I’ll try,” he said.
I had just alluded to there being a future between us, and he’d gone right along with it. God, what was I getting myself into?
We passed from pastureland to cornfield. This spring, Texas had seen more rain than usual, and already the swaying sea of stalks were so tall I couldn’t see over them. An echo of Jakob’s voice from earlier ghosted through my mind. “We’re coming in to get you.” From the sound of it, it would have taken an army to stop him.
He’d come for Gran and me, risking open confrontation with The Jokers, and by consequence, The Bandits. Last night, he’d done nothing to dispel the rumors about us. Afterward, he’d followed me home to make sure I was safe, apologized for being a jerk, and then kissed me breathless. And now, when it seemed like a rival gang might be targeting me, he didn’t dump me in some shithole safe house, but brought me home to his parents.
I could have been reading into things, but it was looking more and more like whatever was happening between us wasn’t just some casual thing for Jakob.
Sweat beaded on my forehead. I draped my arm out of the car and splayed my fingers, trying to angle some of the rushing air into the cab with us. I was hot and agitated. My fight with the guard had brought my blood up, and there was nothing like a brush with death to make you want to do something reckless.
I turned back to Jakob. He’d changed out of his leathers before we left, and now he was in a pair of dark jeans and a black t-shirt that hugged his upper body. His Kings jacket was in the backseat. I had no doubt that he would pull it on the second we got out of the car. Good. If anyone tasked with watching me saw it, it might give them pause.
His left hand gripped the top of the steering wheel, bicep corded beneath the ink of his tattoos. His right rested on the gear stick between us, ready to downshift as we approached the next hill. I fantasized about those long, dexterous fingers for a minute or two before lifting my gaze. The sunglasses he wore had a classic shape to them, and with his hair slicked back like this, he looked like he could have been a fairer, bearded brother of James Dean.
“Enjoying the view?” he drawled. He’d felt me watching him.
“Yes,” I said, unashamed.
He glanced over at me. I stared into his shades for a second and then looked him over, slowly, so that there was no way he would miss my regard.
He turned back to the road. “After the hallway, you’re gonna need to say it.”
Ah, yes, the hallway, when I’d shoved him and then revoked his permission to touch me whenever he wanted. Damn temper.
“I want you to get me off, Jakob.”
Men, I’d learned, loved it when you said their name in any way it might relate to sex. Jakob, it turned out, was no different. His jaw clenched. He shifted his grip on the wheel. The hand resting on the gear stick moved to his crotch, and he adjusted the bulge that was forming there. A thrill shot through me to see I had such an immediate effect on him.
“Unbutton your jeans,” he said.
I hesitated for half a second. I’d figured I’d proposition him and he’d pull over somewhere so we could get freaky in the back seat. Did he want to get me off while driving?
I looked around. There was no one else on the highway with us, and I was feeling wild enough that even if there was, I still would have done what he said. I shifted my hips forward in the seat, unbuttoned my jeans, and then slid the fly down.
He reached over and dipped his fingers into the top band of my underwear. The jeans were tight, and he had to shove his hand down to reach the spot I needed him to. His calluses were rough on my skin. I heard a tear and knew that a seam was in danger of splitting. I didn’t give a single fuck. If not for the very real threat of wrecking the car, I would have climbed on top of him.
He searched out my clit with the same single-minded intensity he always displayed, but instead of stopping there, he pushed right past, curled his hand under, and slid one long, thick finger straight inside me. I was already wet, had been since I’d seen him looming outside Gran’s door, the threat of violence clinging to him. His palm rubbed over my clit with the motion. A jolt of electricity zinged through my core. Before I could catch my breath, he was moving, stroking his hand back and forth, thrusting his finger in and out.
I moaned aloud and let my head fall back against the seat. I could have died today. Gran could have been hurt. If The Jokers had decided to make Magnolia into their Alamo, who knows how many people could have gotten caught in the crossfire? Thanks to Jakob’s quick thinking, we had all escaped, and ever since walking out of that building, I’d been craving this reminder that I was still alive, still free, still capable of feeling joy and lust and need.
“Ride me,” Jakob growled.
I gripped his wrist, arched my back, and did what he said, my hips shifting restlessly until I found the least painful angle for my bad leg.
Yes, there. Right there.
The tightness of my jeans kept his palm plastered to my clit. I moved up and down, breasts jiggling with the motion. He took his eyes off the road, and even through the sunglasses, I could feel him staring. Oh, yes, he was a boob man.
“I wish you could put your mouth on me,” I said, knowing that it would drive him crazy that he couldn’t.
He jerked his focus back to the road and shifted the angle of his finger, hitting a spot inside me that made me gasp on the next thrust. I was so close.
“I would tease your nipples until you begged me for it,” he said. “The second we get into your apartment, I’m fucking you on the floor.”
“What’s wrong with…oh my God, Jakob…my bed?”
He shook his head, jaw clenched so hard that his next words came out through his teeth. “I won’t have the patience to walk that far.”
His words undid me. Pleasure built deep inside, centered around my core, and then exploded outward. I lost the rhythm, but as my hips stilled, he picked up the pace with his hand, dragging the orgasm out until I was so hypersensitive with pleasure that it almost hurt.
“Enough,” I said, panting.
His hand went still inside me. My muscles clenched around him with the lingering strength of my release.
My head spun. Stars danced across my vision. It wasn’t enough. Something about this man stripped away all my layers of humanity and left me exposed as the lustful, greedy creature I was.
Again. More. Harder, she demanded.
He slid his hand out of my jeans and stuck his finger in his mouth, drinking down the taste of me.
“How fast does this car go?” I asked him.
In answer, he dropped the gas pedal to the floor.
Copyright © 2020 by Navessa Allen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.