Lani Lynn Vale | USA Today Bestselling Author - Your next book boyfriend: A Real Alpha Bad Boy

Another One Bites the Dust

Freebirds, Book 3

Her

I wanted him, but couldn’t find the courage to have him. You know that feeling, the one where you’re too scared to go to sleep, too scared to go out, and too scared to do anything? Ever since my assault, I’ve been functioning, but not living. That was until I met that motorcycle riding man with such a deep gravelly voice that it sent shivers down my spine. He helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life.

Him

She was a cock tease pure and simple. Or so I thought. What I believed to be a game on her part, turned out to be a bone-deep fear of everyday life. We helped each other cope, and slowly our friendship turned into something more.

Them

Circumstances broke the two of us apart just as we decided we wanted to be together. A vengeful woman sets out to ruin Max and anything he holds dear in his life. Payton has gone through so much in her life that enduring one more thing just might break her. Only Max taught Payton a few things. Never hold back. Never hesitate. Do something stupid, and always learn from your mistakes. Together, they can overcome anything.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

No, I’m not on drugs. I’m like this all day, every day. You’re welcome!
—T-shirt

Payton

Normally, the gym was torture for me. I had to go because my insurance required it if I wanted a better rate. Therefore, five out of every seven days I came and forced myself to work out. Then I steamed myself until I felt ten pounds lighter. Today, however, was entirely different. I was enjoying the day immensely. The reason for my enjoyment was the man that was currently in front of me.

I watched as the muscles in his arms flexed and bunched, pulling himself up into an extremely controlled pull up. The mirror where he was doing the pull-ups in front of showed off his well-defined chest and abdomen. Each time he went into another pull up, the muscles of his abdomen would bunch, and the two lines, known as the “V” of the stomach, stood out in stark relief. Each revolution was done with such precise movements, motion, and time, that he almost looked inhuman.

From my perch on the mountain climber machine, I watched as he stopped his pull-ups, readjusted his grip, and started the whole process all over again. This time, instead of his hands close together in the middle, they were wide and gripped at the very edge of the pull up bar. The muscles in his back worked out more this way, and I stared, mesmerized, as was every other woman in the gym today.

I was the only one actually working out though. All the others had their hair down in long sleek sheets down their backs. Their cutesy little workout pants and tops made them stick out like a sore thumb. You could tell they weren’t serious about actually working out. If they were, they wouldn’t have had their hair down, nor would they be decked to the walls with makeup.

I looked like a damn bag lady next to these women.

Dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt that I had cut the sleeves off, I left much to be desired. My hair was in a ponytail, but half of it was falling down into my eyes and sticking to my forehead. Sweat was pouring down my face, chest, and ass. I had a nice sweat stain going underneath my bra that showed half-moons where my boobs sat against the shirt.

I was four feet, eleven and a half inches, of semi-toned muscle. I say semi, because I was really only working out so I could eat what I wanted. I was very serious when it came to food. If I didn’t work out, I would turn into an Oompa Loompa in no time.

Another reason I was here, was that I had to be. If I didn’t work out, things didn’t work right on my body. I worked my ass off to get my body back into somewhat decent physical shape. My body still ached when the weather changed, my tummy was still slightly rounded, and my ass didn’t sit as perky as it used to, but I could get by.

Just over a year and a half ago, I was attacked outside the restaurant that my ex-boyfriend had taken me to. While he was able to get away from the men, I wasn’t so lucky.

Months of rehab, followed by my own strenuous workouts, got me back to being able to walk without a limp. It didn’t do anything for my mind though. I was still just as scared today as I was in that parking lot. Sirens didn’t normally produce a shot of happiness through my veins, but that night it did. I was never so happy to see an ambulance in my life.

Max dropped down from his pull up bar, and walked across the gym in all his shirtless glory. He spotted me instantly and, of course, he couldn’t let an opportunity like this to go to waste. He sauntered up to me with his bulging muscles and cocky personality. The ass knew he looked good, and he made sure to smile at every single woman who was hanging out in the weight section of the gym. I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore him, but he just leaned against the wall and waited me out until I finally caved.

“What do you want, Tremaine?” I panted.

Max was a very hot, sexy biker. I say biker as a relative term. He wasn’t bad in any sense; well as long as you didn’t touch his bike, hurt his sister, or mess with his team, he was an all-around great guy. He didn’t do anything illegal. In fact, he was pretty much the exact opposite. He was in the military. An Army Ranger. A sexy Army Ranger with biceps that were the size of my thighs.

Oh gosh, was he sexy. Tall, muscled, beautiful.

Yum.

I’d met Max through Cheyenne. Cheyenne and I had gone to nursing school together, and then we’d gotten a job in the same department following the passing of our nursing boards.

Over the course of school, we’d had many study group sessions at her home; that’s where I’d met Max. Max was a man who worked with Cheyenne’s husband, Sam. He, and four other men, some with wives and some without, lived in what amounted to a compound of sorts on the grounds of Free. This included the duplexes for the families and their motorcycle repair and customization shop.

I’d gotten to know them all well over the course of my school, and now my professional career. However, Max was the one that started my heart to racing, and the blood to course thickly though my veins. He was also the type of man that would set your panties on fire, and he knew it.

“Nothing. You look a little hot there, Alvarez!” He countered.

“I am hot. Isn’t that the point of the gym? These,” I said nodding to the women who still weren’t working out, “Fakers aren’t even here to workout. Hell, I don’t even know why they’re here. No, I take that back. Obviously, it’s to sit here and look pretty, to take up space, and to make all the uglies, like me, feel inferior next to their mile long legs, and tits that could put Dolly Parton to shame.”

Max found me amusing, and burst out laughing; which, in turn, drew all of the ladies’ eyes again. They looked at me with disdain, and then turned their gazes back to their fake workouts. I mean, who the hell works out with only the bar while lifting weights? What’s the freakin’ point?

Muscles burning, I stopped climbing and practically fell off the machine as I tried to step down on my left foot. My ankle gave out, but Max stopped me from toppling to the ground in a boneless heap.

“Maybe you should stop a little earlier next time. You don’t want to overwork yourself.” He said in that annoyingly deep voice.

Of course he would think I’m inept, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I disentangled myself, reluctantly, from his body, and started walking out of the weight area to the locker room. Just as I reached for the door handle, Max’s large hand slammed down above my head and boxed me in.

I turned around slowly, and my breath hitched when I found myself staring at his sternum. What a nice sternum it was, too. Reluctantly, I let my eyes wander up past his dog tags, up his thick neck, past his stubborn jaw, quickly skipping over his kissable lips, and settled on his eyes. They were filled with humor, and my temper came sparking to life.

“Back off, pretty boy.” I snapped.

“Pretty boy? Do you see this scar right here?” He asked running his finger along a scar that circled around his ear. “This scar makes me look manly, not pretty. Get it straight.”

“Whatever. I have plans in an hour, please step aside.” I demanded.

“With who?” He practically purred.

His face was moving closer and closer to mine. Any second now, his lips would touch mine, and I’d be a goner. “A guy from my class, we have a test tomorrow and we’re studying.”

“I’ll help you study.” He said right before his lips met mine.

Fire burst through my lips, burning where his connected with mine. My lips parted with a gasp, and his tongue snuck inside, devouring my mouth. I moaned, and leaned into his body which somehow had mine pinned against the door. If I didn’t get control of myself, I’d allow him to fuck me right here and now; but, for some reason, that wasn’t bothering me at the moment.

Rotating my hips, I ground my belly into his erection. He moaned, and had just put his hands on my hips when a nasty voice interrupted us, practically dousing my euphoria with a pail of icy water.

“You could do way better. She’s short, fat, and ugly. Look at how sweaty she is.” Perky tits said.

Perky tits was one of the women pretending to workout. Particularly, she was the one that was benching the bar, and didn’t have any form while she did so.

“I’m sorry, honey. Some men like real women. Ones that can sweat and not whine about it. Ones that won’t throw a fit when her man’s sweat mingles with her own; allowing their bodies to glide together, adding a bit of messiness to the sex. The messier and nastier, the better, if you ask me.” I said, before taking advantage of Max’s preoccupation with Perky Tits overfilling D cups.

Turning my nose up at him, I yanked open the door and ran as fast as my sore body would take me. I took the world’s fastest shower, and dressed in jeans and a Hard Rock Café t-shirt. Slipping my feet into flip-flops, I was out the door in under ten minutes.

I came to an abrupt stop when I saw Max and Perky Tits talking in hushed voices. He had his arms crossed over his chest, but he was practically pinning her to the car, and my temper flared. How dare he come on to me, kiss me, grind against me, and then go to her after I left! How could he act as if nothing happened between us? As if I didn’t affect him in the slightest?

Lucky for me, nothing actually happened and I could go back to ignoring him as I’d been doing for the last couple of months. The man really made my temper flare when he was around, and made me very uncomfortable. Ever since my attack, I haven’t been able to get close to a man without my heart rate skyrocketing, and my breathing speeding up. It scared the shit out of me even to be in the same room as some men at times. Going into Free nearly caused me to have a coronary.

Cheyenne promised me that they were all harmless. I was skeptical, though. All I knew about motorcycle clubs was drawn entirely from watching Sons of Anarchy, and reading romance novels about MCs. At first, I wasn’t so sure about Free.

Around town, the word was that they were a motorcycle club. The men of Free did nothing to rebuke the hearsay; I really was under the impression that they were a bunch of bad asses who would cut off your fingers if you did anything to cross them. Hell, even one look from them was intimidating, and they’d done nothing but smile at me when I walked in the garage that first time.

Over time, I’ve gotten a lot better about being around them and not freaking out, but it wasn’t easy. Now, I’m able to have conversations with the men. Max, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. He just annoyed the shit out of me. I constantly saw him with women. Whether the slut puppies were coming to see him at Free or with him when he went out for a drink with Cheyenne and her husband at The Watering Hole. Never have I seen him without a woman when he’s in a social situation.

He saw me coming and stepped away from the woman; I didn’t stop stomping to my car, despite the fact. The man could go stub a toe for all I cared; I wasn’t stopping if it killed me. He’d better watch himself from now on, too; I was so mad I could spew fire.

He waved me down, but I didn’t wave back. Instead, I extended my favorite finger, and peeled out in a cloud of smoke. Bastard. Perky Tits smirked as she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him from behind.

I didn’t want to look in my rear view mirror. I refused to watch that vile woman run her hands all over him. I resisted the urge to look in my rearview mirror for a few seconds at least, but when I did I saw him shove her away with a brutal push, and stalk over to his motorcycle, starting it with a fierce thrust of his leg, and scowling at the woman as he, too, left the parking lot.

* * * * *

Max

Three months later

“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” I roared.

Ember eyed Payton, pursing her lips in concentration. “That would be a no. She’s not. In fact, I think she is very, very serious.”

“She’s gonna fucking kill herself, that’s what she’s going to do.” I growled.

Payton was driving a motherfucking scooter down Fuller Street, the one-way road that ran up alongside Rusty’s Scooter Shop. The wrong way.

When Ember called me, I’d assumed they’d broken down. Not that they were buying something in this God-forsaken place. Gabe sat beside Ember on the bench in front of Rusty’s, silently laughing his ass off.

Gabe was Ember’s husband. They’ve been married just short of a year. My nephew was due any minute now, which explained why Gabe didn’t let her come alone. He’s scared she’ll go into labor and, like all the other women in Ember’s life, have the baby in the middle of a Walmart.

“Listen, she only wants some help choosing one. The sales clerk only looks at her boobs. He has yet to make eye contact with her, and I don’t want her to be screwed. She’s buying one whether you say yes or no. Just help her. Gabe refused to walk into the building. He said his man card would be revoked if he even thought about going in there. Also, don’t tell her I called you, just say you were driving by and saw me.” Ember rambled.

I loved the heck out of my baby sister, but, sometimes, she stuck her nose where it didn’t need to be stuck. Payton and I have been playing this cat and mouse game for a few months now. We’re both interested, but neither one of us will do anything about it. She isn’t ready, and I didn’t want it.

That didn’t mean I was happy that she was going to put her life at risk by riding this piece of shit around as her main mode of transportation. She needed to be in something that would protect her, not this thing that gave absolutely zero protection. She was going to kill herself.

I wasn’t one to talk though. I rode, and it was the only thing I could do at times to clear my head. Sometimes, it took a whole tank of gas, but at the end of my ride, my head was cleared. If anything could make Payton smile like that, I was going to let her do it without putting up much of a fight.

Payton did a U-turn, and then rode back into the parking lot. She pulled right up to us, nearly to our feet, and was getting off before she even noticed me standing there. Her step faltered and she went down hard onto her ass. I watched her sit there, face lit up in flames before I came to my senses.

Holding my hand out, I jokingly said, “Smooth.”

She poked her pink tongue out, blew a raspberry, and put her hands behind her ears, wiggling them like a three year old.

“How old are you again?” I deadpanned.

Inside, I was laughing my ass off though. She always surprised the hell out of me. She dismissed me with a sniff, and turned to Ember.

“I’m getting this one. I like the sparkly pink, and the salesman said he’d give me a good deal.” Payton said.

Thirty minutes later. Payton was the proud owner of a new 2014 150cc BMS scooter. It was bright fucking pink, and sparkly to boot. The damn handlebars now sported streamers, too. The prick sales man tried to screw her by upping the price by a grand; needless to say it was a good thing I was here.

Outfitted with a pink leather jacket, pink and white Minnie Mouse helmet, and gloves, she was ready to “rocket.”

“Make sure you look both ways. Twice. Don’t pull out in front of anyone. If you see a person in a driveway ready to pull out, assume that they’re going to, because they damn well will. They don’t see people on bikes. Leave at least two car lengths in front of the car in front of you. Be aware. Never get distracted. Hesitation kills. I’ll follow you home.” I informed her with short clipped sentences.

She stood, blinked a few times, and then turned her face away from mine. “Okay.”

I gritted my teeth. She wasn’t sparring with me today. You could tell she didn’t want to do what I told her, but she could see the wisdom in my words. Which wasn’t her usual M.O. She just took a step back, and let everything I said go without one single quip. She didn’t confront anything. Something must be wrong.

Nodding, I walked up to my bike and threw my leg over the side. I started her up with a rumble, and my kitten purred, just as she did when I built her my senior year of high school. I’d put everything I made at my part-time job into my bike. I spent hours working on it every day, for months, until I was satisfied with how it looked and ran.

I flipped Gabe the bird as we exited the parking lot. He was too busy laughing to see it though. The first stoplight we pulled up to reminded me of why I was embarrassed. A badass like myself was supposed to have the cute thing on the back of the bike. Not riding on a silly scooter next to me. A hot damn pink one at that.

The teenagers pointing and laughing in the car next to us were about to have their asses handed to them. I lowered the glasses to the bridge of my nose, and then let loose “the glare.”

Ember, my darling sister, called it the “Big Brother.” She said that it would whip you in to shape in no time fast. I wasn’t sure if that was the case, but I did use it on her a lot when she was a kid. Normally, it shut her up, but there was no telling if she shut up because of the glare, or if she decided to cut me some slack.

The teenagers left in a squeal of tires, and I had to laugh at the horrified expressions they were wearing.

Payton’s husky laugh from beside me jolted me out of my thoughts. “You’re badass. Those kids just ran a red light in front of a cop!”

I glanced back at the retreating car, and, sure enough, a motorcycle cop was trailing behind them with his lights on. At that, I laughed my ass off. Karma was a bitch.

We arrived at Payton’s apartment fifteen minutes later. She parked next to her Mazda and hopped off. I remembered helping her buy the car last week. Payton was going a little crazy in the spending department with her new job. She jumped up and down, squealing excitedly. I just shook my head. This woman was crazy, and all of that craziness turned me on beyond belief. Too bad she didn’t want me back.

“Let’s get you inside, sweet cheeks, I’ve got places to be, and here isn’t one of them.” I said without thinking.

Her face fell, and I felt like a total ass, but she’d made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t ready. I didn’t think I could be around her and not want her; this was all for nothing and I wasn’t into torture. All I had to do was enter a room with her in it, and my dick was ready for her.

I hadn’t had a woman in months; since the day I met her. Being horny made me grumpy. I was in a perpetually bad mood. Even riding didn’t clear my head as it used to. Now, all it did was make me drive by her apartment, and check to make sure everything looked all right.

I grabbed her elbow with my left hand, and walked her up to her door. My brows furrowed as I noticed the door handle, and then six deadbolts that adorned the door above it.

“What the fuck?” I asked aloud when I still drew a blank.

She ignored me, and went to unlock the first lock, and then the bottom two. My brows furrowed again, wondering what the heck was going on.

“Why do you only have three of them locked?” I questioned.

“Why do you care?” She shot back.

“Tell me.” I demanded.

“You can go sit on a cactus. I don’t want to talk to you right now. You make me so mad I can’t see straight.” She growled through gritted teeth.

I looked at her long and hard. “Payton.”

I must have gotten through, because she finally explained. “The way I figure it, if they can pick locks, they’ll just keep locking ones that weren’t locked in the first place. I only ever lock half of them. In addition, I switch them up. I never lock the same pattern two days in a row.”

That was borderline genius, if you didn’t count the little fact that a lock picker wasn’t stupid. You had to know how a lock works first before you can pick it. They can tell, as can I, which one is locked as soon as the picks are inserted. Not that I was going to tell her that. She needed that extra security and peace of mind for something. Not that I understood why. What the heck was going on?

“Why do you have six locks in the first place?” I asked.

She answered, although reluctantly. “When I was attacked, I was too scared to stay at home. My little brother came up with this idea, and my brain was all right with having six locks. I could stay here without being too scared.”

My body froze once I heard her explanation. “Wait a minute. You were attacked? You never said anything about an attack; all you said was that your boyfriend left you.”

“He did.” She said shortly.

“You just said you were attacked, did your boyfriend do it?” I demanded.

“Ex, and no.”

“Payton, you will fucking tell me. I have ways of finding shit out, and one way or another I’ll know what happened. Do you want it to be the easy way, or the hard way?”

She gave me a look that clearly stated I was the dumbest man on the planet if I thought she was going to say anything now. Consequently, I stared back at her until she finally gave in.

She took a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. “My boyfriend and I were walking back to our car after eating at The Watering Hole. You know how parking is downtown. No parking anywhere close that you don’t have to pay for. Two people attacked us from behind. Instead of Rory helping and fighting back, he ran away, leaving me to them. I was beaten, and then they stole my wallet, and keys. My freakin car wasn’t even there, and my wallet had all of three dollars in it. I was broken for a useless set of keys and three damn dollars.”

“You have got to be kidding.” I whispered in a deadly tone.

I was shocked. Never would you have thought that she’d suffered something so horrible. When you see her, you see rainbows and fucking sunshine, and to think that her loser ex-boyfriend just left her to that fate. She was all of five feet tall, if she was lucky, she never would have stood a chance against one man, let alone two. What a piece of shit.

“No. Three broken ribs, internal bleeding, broken left foot, sprained ankles, a broken hip, and a concussion. Scrapes from the concrete covered my entire body where my clothes didn’t protect it. Minor bruises everywhere else.” She said as if it wasn’t a big deal.

I felt like the biggest douche bag on the planet. Here I was thinking of only myself, and she was the victim of a horrific beating; not to mention one hell of a betrayal from the one person she should be able to trust the most. Instead of supporting her, I snarled, bitched, and ignored her every time we came into contact. I thought she was a fucking tease. Never in a million years would I have imagined this was the reason for her hot and cold nature, and her shitty attitude.

“It’s okay, Max. I didn’t want anyone to know anyway. You can go now.” She said as she held the front door open for me to exit.

I did so reluctantly.

“Just tell me two things.” I said gruffly, “What were their names?”

“Jake and Kyle Donner.” She whispered.

The name didn’t ring any bells, but, by tomorrow, I would know everything about them. Right down to when they took a piss. “What about your ex-boyfriend. What’s his name?”

She looked at me puzzled. “Rory Christenson. Why?”

I gave her a smile. It wasn’t a nice smile either. It was a calculated one. Tomorrow, he wouldn’t know what hit him. She looked at me warily, but wisely stayed silent. I’m sure, by now, she figured out why I wanted the names. She knew I wasn’t going to let this go.

“You can go now.” She said shortly.

I smiled a sincere smile this time. Taking her face into my hands, I gave her a soft kiss on the lips. “When you’re ready, I’ll be here waiting for you.”

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