Ghost lords of carnage m.., p.1
GHOST (Lords of Carnage MC), page 1
A Lords of Carnage MC Romance
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Sometimes it seems like my entire life has been one long one.
Sometimes you rack up so many of them, you can’t work out where one mistake ends and the next one begins.
That’s how it feels right now, returning to Tanner Springs. The site of most of my biggest mistakes.
Once, it was home.
Then, it was anything but.
And now, I’m back. And I don’t know if it can ever be anything like home again.
* * *
“Oof,” Angel grunts as he drops the last of the boxes onto the old moth-eaten sofa. It’s a big, heavy paper ream box full of books — one of a few I’ve been lugging around from place to place for the last few years. Old college textbooks, mostly. The remnants of a dream I should have given up on by now.
“Is that the last one, I hope?” he says. It’s pretty evident by the look on his face what he hopes my answer is.
“Yeah, that’s it,” I nod, and resist the urge to apologize. Even though he offered to help me move in to my new apartment, I still feel guilty accepting the favor.
I watch my brother pull up the front of his black T-shirt, revealing a snarl of tattoos on his stomach and chest. He wipes the sweat from his face with the fabric, then pulls it back down. “You want something to drink?” I ask him. “I think I can find the box of glasses in the kitchen.”
“You got any beer? I sure could use one.” He raises his arms out in a massive stretch.
“Sorry, no,” I say regretfully. “I haven’t had time to go shopping yet.” One more thing on my mental list of things to do, I remind myself. There’s no food in the house, either, and it’s getting close to supper time. I’ll need to find something for Noah and me to eat.
I heave an exhausted sigh at the thought of trying to make a grocery run with a wound-up and hungry four year-old. Hell. Maybe I’ll just give in and order a pizza, I reason. I can take care of the grocery shopping tomorrow, when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
Speaking of the wound-up four year-old, my son Noah emerges from what will be his new bedroom. His arms are out in a T and he’s making a buzzing noise with his lips as though he’s a prop plane. He “flies” around the room, circling the boxes and crates, then crashes into Angel’s legs as he turns toward the kitchen.
“Hey, easy, buddy,” Angel said, looking slightly annoyed. “Look, go play somewhere else, okay?” Angel shoots me a glance. “He sure is keyed up.”
“He’s been cooped up all day,” I explain, again resisting the urge to apologize. “First in the U-Haul and now in here. He’s bored.”
Noah flies back down the hall toward his room. I know my brother doesn’t have a lot of experience with kids, so he probably doesn’t realize how easily they get antsy. Actually, I’ve been pretty impressed at how little Noah’s been acting out today, given the circumstances. “He’s only four,” I tell Angel. “He doesn’t have great impulse control.”
I wander the few steps into the kitchen and look around for the box labeled “glassware.” Pulling off the tape, I grab one of Noah's plastic glasses with a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine out of the box. I turn to the sink and hold it under the faucet. Water sputters violently when I twist the handle, and I start and take a quick step back. Brownish liquid begins to run out of the tap.
“This apartment hasn’t been used in a while, the landlord said.” Angel comes up behind me and peers at the dubious-looking water. “You probably want to run that for a few minutes.”
As I wait for the water to turn clear, I look around me at the dingy tile floor and dusty, grease-tacky counter tops. This entire place needs a good scrubbing from top to bottom. Still, I have no business complaining. Noah and I are lucky to have a roof over our heads at all, given everything that’s happened in the last few months. It isn’t paradise, but it’s home for now. More importantly, it’s all I can afford.
“Thanks for helping me, Angel,” I murmur. “Moving all these boxes up a flight of stairs wouldn’t have been easy with just me and Noah.” I fill up the glass with now clearish water and hand it to him.
Angel takes the glass and frowns at it. “No worries,” he shrugs, then takes a long drink of water, his Adam’s apple moving as he gulps it down. When he’s finished, he sets the glass on the counter and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “You sure you don’t want to tell me what happened back in the city, to make you come back to Tanner Springs?” he asks, eyeing me curiously.
I take in a deep breath and let it out. “Yeah,” I say. “I’m sure.”
I don’t want to talk about it. Just more mistakes, more bad choices. This one involved taking a job at a place I shouldn’t have, even though my warning bells were going off the second I noticed the boss’s eyes roving over me during the interview. When he tried putting his paws all over me one night after hours, I fought back, and he fired my ass on the spot. Not only that, he stiffed me out of my final paycheck, knowing it would take a lawyer I couldn’t afford to get it back from him. A couple months later, I was late on my rent one too many times, and got evicted. What kind of heartless asshole evicts a single mother with a four year-old child?
My shoulders sag with fatigue just thinking about it all. I’m so tired of looking back at the past and regretting things. I want a fresh start, eyes pointed toward the future. And I’m determined to have that fresh start, too. Even if it has to happen here, in a place that’s full of all sorts of memories both bad and good.
Angel sighs. “Okay. No skin off my nose.” He glances toward an ancient-looking, yellowed phone sitting on a ledge between the kitchen and the living room. “By the way, Jenna, Dad wants you to call him when you get settled in. He left his phone number over there in case you needed it.”
Somehow, I hadn’t noticed the phone at all when we’d been moving boxes and furniture in. “Oh, my gosh, is that a land line?” I say in disbelief. “I haven’t seen one of these things in a house in years.”
“Yeah,” Angel laughs. “I tried it. It even works.” He picks up the receiver and holds it out to me so I can hear the drone of the dial tone. I look closer. Wow. It’s even a rotary pho
I shake my head and laugh. “That’s so weird. I wonder if the last person to live here just forgot to shut it off?” I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, though. My cell phone service is pretty basic, so being able to make some local calls from home without wasting my minutes will be kind of nice.
I pick up the stickie note that’s been stuck next to the phone. On it, in my dad’s unmistakeable handwriting, are the words: “Jenna. Call me as soon as you’re able. Dad.” The phone number for his office is scrawled underneath. I make a mental note to call my dad and thank him for setting me up with a place to live. As much as I hate to be in anybody’s debt, it’s only fair that I express my gratitude.
Though, by rights, I’m not really sure whether I owe the cheap apartment find to him, or to the Lords of Carnage.
And I don’t know which debt would be worse.
The Lords of Carnage is the local motorcycle club in Tanner Springs. It basically runs this town, and what it doesn’t directly run, it controls by influence — through protection deals it has with local businesses, or connections under the table with the local city government.
My father is the mayor of Tanner Springs. Has been for years, in fact. Since I was a little girl. He’s also cozy as hell with the Lords of Carnage. The motorcycle club helped him get elected to the position all those years ago. I’m not sure what kind of a deal my father struck with the MC back then, but he’s reciprocated their support by doing them all manner of favors ever since. The full nature and scope of these favors, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. But I do know he and the MC are tight. Tighter than an outlaw biker club probably should be with the mayor of their town. But then, that’s none of my business.
The relationship between my dad and the club has only gotten tighter in recent years, too. Ever since my brother Gabriel decided to prospect for the Lords when he turned eighteen. Since getting patched in to the club, he’s been known around town by his road name: Angel. In the six years that he’s been in the club, my brother has quickly risen up through their ranks, and now, he’s their vice-president.
All of this means that, between my dad and my brother, there is almost no way for me to stay away from the Lords of Carnage when I’m in Tanner Springs. This tiny two-bedroom apartment where Noah and I will be staying for the foreseeable future is in the top floor of a house right off Main Street. The floor below houses the tattoo parlor that the Lords of Carnage frequents. So, I don’t really know whether the club or my dad got this place for me. But I’m guessing that the landlord, who lives in the house next door and whose name is Charlie, was only too happy to do a solid for the club and the mayor at the same time.
Whether my father or the MC found the place for me, though, I hate like hell to be indebted to either of them. My father’s political ambitions have always taken precedent over his family’s needs, and I’m used to being ignored unless he needs something from me. His favors always come with a price. And as for the club… well, they’ve been a presence in my life almost from the moment I was born. They’re pretty much inescapable. They own this town, and so to some extent, they own practically everyone in it.
I left Tanner Springs in part because I didn’t want them to own me, as well. Unfortunately, my life circumstances are such at the moment that I have little choice but to move back here temporarily and accept the help they’ve offered — if, in fact, they’ve offered it. But as soon as I’m back on my feet, my intention is to get myself and my son the hell away from here.
After this, I don’t want to be in anyone’s debt, ever again.
I open my mouth to tell Angel I’ll call Dad later, when a noise from down the hall interrupts me. With a yell that sounds like a high-pitched war whoop, Noah comes barreling back into the living room, flying over the arm of the ratty couch and doing a somersault onto the cushions.
“Mom mom mom mom mom!” he cries. “I’m hungry!”
I shush him. “Okay, honey. Calm down. We’ll eat soon.”
Noah jumps up from the couch and starts running in circles around Angel. “Moommm!” he yells again, “I’m HUNGRY!”
“Noah, stop it,” I admonish. “Indoor voice.”
“Okay, I’m out,” Angel calls above the din. Clearly, he’s had enough four year-old for one day. “See you later, sis.”
Noah immediately quiets. “Are you leaving, Uncle Angel?”
“Yeah, buddy, I’m taking off.” Angel grabs his leather cut from where it’s hanging on one of the kitchen chairs.
“Can I have a ride on your motorcycle?” Noah asks, his eyes big as saucers.
“Sorry, bud, you’re a little too young yet.” Angel reaches out and ruffles my son’s dark brown hair. “One of these days, though, maybe.”
Angel turns and clomps out of the apartment, his heavy motorcycle boots thumping loudly as he descends to the first floor. A few seconds later, the rumble of Angel’s motorcycle below reaches us. Noah immediately runs to the window and stares in fascination as the bike drives off, his nose pressed hard against the glass.
I watch my son and try to push down the spike of worry that rises up inside me. Noah has always been transfixed by motorcycles. He’s had a near-obsession with the machines almost from his birth. As I stand there contemplating my young son, I hope like hell I’m not making yet another huge mistake by bringing him here to Tanner Springs. I’d hate to look back at this moment as a possible reason he ended up getting mixed up with a damn motorcycle club — like every other member of my family seems to in one way or another.
Including Noah's father.
I shake my head and take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. I just have to hope that love of two-wheeled vehicles isn’t something that’s passed down genetically. Noah has no idea who his father is, and Noah's dad has no idea he has a son.
And I’ve been telling myself for years that everyone is better off that way. If I could manage to keep it a secret, I reasoned, Noah would grow up not knowing that father is an outlaw biker. And the man who knocked me up almost five years ago will never have to know that our brief, meaningless fling produced anything more than an earth-shattering orgasm and a wave of regret the next morning.
Not that I could ever regret having my son. Noah is the only good thing that’s ever come out of one of my multitude of mistakes. Sure, being a single mom has been tough. There have been times when I wasn’t quite sure how I would ever make it through. But even so, I wouldn’t trade being Noah’s mom for anything. My little boy is sweet, sensitive, and the center of my world. Not to mention smart as a whip. Too smart, sometimes. At age four, he’s already reading, and I sometimes wonder how long I have before he knows more than his mama does.
About six months ago, when we were still in Denver, he started to realize that most of his little playmates had a mommy and a daddy. Not long after, he began asking me where his father was, who he was, why he didn’t live with us. Noah is clearly starting to look for male role models to emulate. Which is why I’m not exactly thrilled to see him staring out the window in longing as Angel drives away on his bike. I love my brother, but he isn’t exactly my idea of the man I want Noah to model himself after.
Little does my son know that his own father is a biker, as well. But I can’t imagine that Noah's dad would react with anything other than dismay if I told him that he had procreated. And there’s no way I’m going to saddle my son with a father who’s indifferent to him. It’s better for him to have no father at all than a father like that. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
So, I’ve kept my secrets buried deep inside me. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that Noah will probably grow up not ever knowing his dad. Although recent events, and moving back here to my hometown, might make that a little more complicated.
As I watch my young son stare out the window watching his uncle drive away, I make myself a solemn promise then and there. Even though I’m back in Tanner Springs — site of s
The best thing about being away from Tanner Springs? Coming home.
I roll up to the clubhouse to a raucous welcome from my brothers. I’ve been gone for about three weeks, on some club business for the MC. The club president, Rocco Anthony, sent me out on some business for him as Sergeant at Arms for the Lords of Carnage. I was traveling around to some other chapters to deliver some confidential information in person. I have no issue doing whatever the prez asks me to — hell, just the chance to spend some hours on the open road means I’m always up for a trip — but damn, it feels good to get back to my town and hang out with my club.
My return is timed to correspond with a club meeting that is supposed to happen later this afternoon, which Rock specifically wants me to be at. Apparently some shit’s gone down while I was away. But luckily, there’s still time before church to throw back a few shots and accept the back slaps of the other men as they welcome me home.
Jewel, a sandy-haired, buxom bartender with killer legs, pours a line of shots down the bar for me and my brothers. Gunner, Shifter, and Tank hold theirs up to me, and the four of us pound them back. Then we set them down for Jewel to serve us another round. I shoot the shit with the men for a few minutes, but eventually I find myself scanning the room for my best buddy, Angel. I finally see him back by the pool table, talking to a couple of the other brothers, one hand absently sliding up the skirt of one of the club girls.
Detaching myself from the men, I amble over to where Angel is and slap him on the back. “Hey, fucker,” I say.
by Loveling, Daphne have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes