She had to catch her breath as she stepped out of the small car into the balmy Colorado spring air. She stared, her warm dark eyes wide on the large, rough looking building that seemed to jut out unnaturally from the mountain range that ran on like jagged, snow-capped teeth behind it. It looked rough, and it was rough. She knew that from experience.
Outside, it looked like a nearly abandoned warehouse or old industrial factory, with weathered and grey raw wood boards as siding and most of the windows barred. She forced herself to take another step forward, easing out from behind the shield of the driver’s side door and closing it firmly behind her. Each step closer to the front door was a battle and as she neared the sound of the loud rumbling of raised voices coming from inside reached her, and she nearly turned around and bolted back for her the safety of her car then and there.
She was Elle Watson, and Elle Watson didn’t belong in a place like this. Elle Watson didn’t frequent biker bars, or low brow establishments and she certainly didn’t go to parties at a notorious biker gang’s clubhouse. And yet, there she was, her trembling fingers grasping the rusty metal bar that served as a doorknob on one of the heavy double doors that barred the entrance.
Elle took another deep breath, trying in vain to calm her racing nerves. She’d never been comfortable in social situations, and it didn’t help that she knew she was walking into a pit of Vipers. Literally. She knew one of the bikers whose name really was Viper. Or at least, that’s the nickname that he went by. And then there were the others. Tucker, and Hot Wheels. Sparkplug and Joel. And of course, Honey.
Ridiculous name, she scoffed to herself. You’re stalling, another voice whispered back, the small voice deep inside herself that she kept locked away most of the time. Of course I’m stalling, she hissed back, I don’t belong here.
You could. Those words whispered through her and she let them for the briefest moment before shoving them, and that little voice, back into the corner of her mind. Without waiting to give herself time to have any more second doubts, she yanked the heavy door open and strode in. And immediately froze.
The inside of the clubhouse looked just as rough and weather worn as the outside but instead of wind and snow and icy temperatures, the wear was from booted feet and broken glass and copious amounts of spilled beer that let the uneven wood boards of the floor slightly sticky as she took another tentative step forward. The place was also packed.
She knew it would be. Carla had told her that the celebration of a raising a new president was a wild one, drawing every member of a biker gang out and could last for days on end. It seemed like the Dirty Cruisers weren’t any different.
At the thought of Carla, her best friend and next door neighbor, Elle scanned the loud, hard partying crowd for her familiar dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. The same eyes that had given her the nickname Bluebird when she had first started dating Joel Lasseter, the man of the hour and newly raised president of the Dirty Cruisers himself.
Elle shuddered slightly at the thought, unconsciously. At first, she had disapproved of Carla getting involved with a biker, and a criminal at that. They had first met the year before. Carla had been working at Honey Bud Farms, a marijuana farm just outside of Denver, and had been driving a shipment of the stuff to a dispensary when her truck had been run off the road, and the shipment stolen by none other than Joel and the Dirty Cruisers.
But after everything that had happened with Maurice, Carla’s old boss and owner of the farm, Elle had come to trust him. Marginally. He had saved her best friend from a murdering scumbag, after all.
You’re stalling again, that damn voice was back, egging her on, taunting her and it didn’t help that it was right. Elle stared helplessly around the large crowded room, feeling her heartbeat spike in her chest as anxiety sunk deep. She hated crowds. She hated loud places. Ever since she was a kid, she’d felt a crushing sense of nervousness whenever she was forced to be in one, like now. She never would have come if Carla hadn’t made her promise that she would, and Elle Watson never broke a promise.
As if the thought had conjured her, Elle suddenly saw Carla’s beaming face break through the rowdy crowd and rush towards her. A moment later Carla was giving her a big, squeezing hug.
“I’m so glad you made it!” Carla said, breathless and red cheeked from fighting through the throng of leather clad bikers, “I was worried you weren’t going to come.”
“I wouldn’t want to miss my best friend’s further descent into a life of crime,” Elle said, with a mock serious look, “Besides, I promised.”
Carla rolled her eyes at Elle’s words, focusing her bright blue gaze on her own dark brown. “I’ll have you know that from here on out, I’m going straight.” She leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially, “and so is Joel.”
Elle’s brows raised in surprise, “Really?”
“Yeah, you know I’ve bought out that bastard Maurice and took over the farm?” Carla barely waited for Elle’s nod to continue, “Well, now that I am the new official owner of Honey Bud farms, I offered Joel and the Dirty Cruisers a position as a…silent partner, we’ll say.”
“What does that mean?” Elle asked. She remembered how Joel fronted most of the funds for Carla to buy the farm. She hadn’t seen much of the records and files, but enough to know that the farm turned a tidy profit, and Joel had realized it.
“Well, it’s much more profitable and much less dangerous to sell marijuana legally. He just…” Carla paused, looking around and lowering her voice once more, “Joel’s worried about how the rest of the club will take it. They’re used to a certain lifestyle and going straight isn’t really part of any of their plans. He hopes that once the money starts coming in from this year’s crops it will be enough to quiet any complaints.”
“Does he expect trouble?” Elle asked worriedly, and Carla just shrugged, grinning once more.
“Joel’s the president now. His word is law. No one would go against him.”
“If you say so,” Elle said slowly, then looked up at her friend once more, “Are you sure about this Carla? This whole business is what got you into trouble last year. It almost got you killed.”
“I know,” her friend said thoughtfully, pausing for a moment as she looked back over her shoulder at the handsome dark haired, gray eyed man who was laughing and joking in the middle of a circle of his fellow crew, “but it also brought me Joel.” When Carla looked back, Elle could see the raw emotion and love shining from her blue eyes and for a brief moment felt a stab of jealousy before she pushed it viciously away.
“I’m happy for you, Carla. I really am,” Elle said, forcing herself to mean the words, “I just…I worry about you.”
“You worry about everything,” Carla snorted giving her another quick hug, “Now go. Have fun. Enjoy the party.”
“Not likely,” Elle whispered under her breath but it was too late for her friend to hear. Carla was already gone, lost amongst the crowd to reappear a moment later next to Joel’s side. Elle watched them for a moment, as Joel turned, smiling down at Carla with pure tenderness in his silvery gray eyes as he pulled her close. She cleared her throat, looking away, feeling…uncomfortable. That’s it. That’s it all it was. Just uncomfortable. Certainly, it wasn’t jealousy once more raising its ugly head.
With a sigh, she turned in a random direction, hoping to find a quiet corner where she could hide until enough time had passed that she would go, and quiet place that would ease the tightness in her chest. The tightness that only grew as she had to push her way through the rough, heavily drinking bikers.
She nearly cursed out loud when she finally shoved her way into an opening, only to find herself standing in front of the old, worn wooden bar and the last person in the entire world that she wanted to see.
Honey. What the hell kind of nickname was that anyways, especially for someone as tall, and muscular and covered in tattoos as the Dirty Cruiser’s resident bartender was. And handsome. Don’t forget handsome.
Elle shook off the thought, trying to ignore it but that didn’t make it any less true. With his wavy, glossy auburn hair and melting, chocolate brown eyes he had a way of charming everybody. Well, everybody but her. She could see straight through his shameless flirting, and she certainly wasn’t going to fall for his tricks.
It’s a little late for that, isn’t it? She really did growl under her breath, once more ignoring that small, sly voice, and resolutely turned around, hoping to escape without being noticed but it really was too late for that.
“Elle!” His voice, low and rumbling and intimate sounding even in the middle of the crowded party, “Elle, wait!”
She took a deep breath, her name on his lips sounding like, well…honey to her ears. And that just annoyed her even more. With a long suffering sigh, she steeled herself, then turned around. Elle Watson was a lot of things, but cowardly wasn’t one of them. And she wasn’t about to let him think he had the power to chase her away.
Elle was prepared for him, for the unnerving effect he had on her, but even still his warm, dark eyed gaze swept over her with the force of a speeding train leaving a burning tingling in its wake. She had to take two more deep breaths before she could get her legs moving again, but after a long moment she was once more standing in front of the scratched and scarred bar. She ran her hand over the uneven surface, her fingers finding each crack, each gauge in the dark wood.
“What can I get you?”
Elle jumped at the sound of his voice, much too close, and definitely much too familiar, “What?” She said, hating the breathlessness in her voice.
“To drink?” he smiled at her then, that lopsided grin that tugged up one corner of his lush, far too kissable lips and had his dimples winking at her from the edge of his cheeks, “Unless, of course, there’s something…else…that you have in mind?” He leaned even closer as he spoke, his voice dropping an octave as his words melted over her and she just stared at him for a long moment desperately trying to get her thoughts out of the gutter he’d just flung them into and back to the mission at hand. Namely, don’t fall for any more of Honey’s tricks.
“Um, anything is fine,” She saw his grin widen lasciviously and hurried to clarify, “to drink. Anything is fine to drink. No–nothing else.”
“Whatever you want, Elle,” he said with a shrug and a devilish look in his melting gaze, “Your wish is my command.”
She snorted loudly at that before turning away, missing the way his eyes followed her even as he made her cocktail and served the other biker’s that wandered up to the bar for another refill. Elle let her gaze wander around the packed clubhouse, feeling claustrophobia settle around her once more as her pulse raced and her head pounded, the urge to flee filling her. She needed to be someplace quiet, someplace alone, somewhere…that wasn’t in the middle of a group of a rough and tumble hard partying biker gang and definitely far, far away from–
“Are you ready for your Screaming Orgasm?” Honey’s voice, low and sultry, bit into her thoughts, tearing them to shreds as she turned to him with a gasp.
“Excuse me?” Elle said, hearing the prim edge to her own voice but knowing there was no way to stop it. There was also no way to stop the bright red flush she could feel burning across the pale skin of her cheeks. Honey just grinned at her, nodding once at the tumbler full of liquor he set in front of her, but his eyes never once leaving hers and the heat in his gaze only added to her blush.
“Your drink. It’s called a Screaming Orgasm,” Honey leaned closer then, “I made it especially for you. Go on,” his expression fell for moment, turning cynical, “I’m sure you haven’t tasted one of those in a long time. About, oh, six months or so, am I right?”
“What are you–Why, you despicable–You are a bastard, Honey,” Elle spluttered as his words washed over her and the blush tinging her cheeks crimson morphed from one of desire to one of mortification. It was made even worse by the fact that he was right. She shoved the glass back towards him, spilling most of the liquid on the bar, and some on him. It wasn’t enough. She should have thrown the damn thing in his face.
He knew damn well the last time she’d had an orgasm, because it had been Honey who had given it to her. It had been one glorious moment, and the biggest mistake of her life. At least she hadn’t slept with him. It hadn’t gone that far. But it had gone far enough. Too far for her own peace of mind, or the peace of her dreams, either.
Ever since that hurried, fumbling moment in the dark, full of adrenaline and waiting to find out if Carla and Joel’s plan to bring down Maurice had worked and she had given in to him, her dreams had been tortured by visions of him. Of them together. And then he had to go and throw it in her face. Well, she didn’t have to stand there and take it.
Elle turned away sharply, starting to storm away but his words stopped her, spoken so softly it was a wonder she heard them at all through the noise of the party but she did. She heard them, and she felt them shudder all the way through her.
“You know, whenever you’re ready, Elle, I’m here. I’ll wait as long as I need to. I’m not going anywhere.”
She didn’t turn back, she didn’t answer him. She couldn’t. Her throat was tight and her chest felt like it was about to burst. She couldn’t breathe. She had to get out of there, now. Elle had almost made it back towards the front door when her friend’s voice reached her.
“Hey, Elle, where are you going?” Carla asked, appearing in front of her.
“I…I have to go, Carla. I’m sorry, I…I just have to go.” With those broken words still hanging in the air and Carla looking at her with confusion shining in hereyes, Elle fled.
Honey watched her, his eyes never leaving the stiff line of her back as she shoved her way towards the exit. He sighed, shaking his head at himself, at his own stupidity. He couldn’t just say Hi, Elle. It’s great to see you again. You look absolutely beautiful tonight. And she had.
With her long natural blond hair falling in waves like silk, contrasting with her dark eyes that stared at him like they could see all the way through him. From the first moment Carla had brought her into the bar, since the first moment he’d met her, he’d been entranced by her eyes. So dark, so mysterious. They saw everything, and at the same time, hid everything. Her thoughts, her emotions. She was so damned hard to read. Well, not tonight. Her anger had been more than apparent.
Honey shook his head again. Why couldn’t he have just said something nice, something simple? But no, he had to go and open his big mouth and push her, tease her, knowing damn well it would only stiffen her back even more. Speaking of stiff, he adjusted himself as surreptitiously as he could behind the bar.
All it took was to be in the same room as her and his body responded, tightening, drawing to attention as memories flooded him. Memories of that one, breathless moment in the pitch black broom closet in the back of the bar. He had known then it would be a mistake, but he’d been desperate for any taste of her, any touch. And he’d gotten more than that.
Every time he closed his eyes he could feel the way she’d ridden his hand, the sound of her panting breath broken and desperate in his ears as she came, her body writhing in the most exquisite agony. It had been so dark in the cramped closet that he hadn’t even gotten to see her, not that they had even taken the time to shed any clothes. He’d just hitched the skirt of her calf length dress up to her waist, feeling her sweet curves in the dark. Feeling her move against him.
And then, as quick as the storm had struck, it was gone. She’d mumbled something, drawing away enough to put her clothes back to rights and then she had fled, leaving him standing there dumbstruck and in more pain than he could ever remember being. The type of pain that no amount of cold showers would cure.
He groaned under his breath as his body rose to attention once more at the bittersweet memories, memories that had haunted his dreams since that night. Because the truth was, it had been a stab in the dark that Elle hadn’t had an orgasm since that day, but he knew for a fact that he hadn’t slept with anyone. Sure, he’d spent plenty of nights, just him, his memories of her, and his fist, but he didn’t count that. No, he hadn’t had any. Not for six long months, the longest dry spell he’d had since he hit puberty, and it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.
There were always club chicks and biker groupies who were more than willing, and in the past, he would have been happy to oblige them. But something had happened that night with Elle and the thought of sex with anyone else just left him feeling…empty. Unsatisfied.
Honey grimaced as he cleaned up the spilled liquor, downing the rest of her untouched drink in one gulp. It was probably the closest he would come to a screaming orgasm until he could untangle this Elle situation. The only problem? He had no clue at all where to begin. She was so different than all the other women he knew. His charm had no effect on her. She was kind, gentle, and sweet, but with an edge to her that turned him on like nothing else. She was…clean, untouched by the gritty underworld that he’d lived in for so long. She was unattainable.
He groaned again, pouring himself another drink as his thoughts ran in circles and he drank it down gratefully when a thought occurred to him. Copious amounts of alcohol. Maybe that would do the trick. Maybe then he would have one night where he didn’t wake up sweating and hard and desperate for the one woman who didn’t want anything to do with him. Elle Watson.