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

Highway Don’t Care

Freebirds, Book 2

Her

Snark. Jokes. Attitude.
These were all things I used to disguise the hole in my heart. I’m not a happy person. I don’t live life. I just exist. That is until that beautiful man rides in on his Harley Fat Boy and burns rubber on the way into my heart.

Him

My life’s been no hayride either. Everyone I’ve ever loved in life has died or betrayed me. So I stay back and watch. Unless you’re one of my brothers, you get nothing from me. I don’t participate. I ride. I eat. I sleep. I work. And I repeat. That is until Ember stomps into my life with her bad attitude. She’s all piss and vinegar, and makes me want to share my bike seat for the first time.

Together

They fight like cats and dogs. Don’t see eye to eye on a single thing. They rant, rave, and yell.
They bring out the best in each other. They heal each other’s hearts and souls. They find what they were missing, even the things they never even knew they had.

Everything is perfect. If you didn’t count a gang, one of the biggest in the South, gunning for Ember. That, or the pure evilness that is Gabe’s ex-girlfriend. Gabe will have to put his life on the line to save the one woman he loves, but will it be enough?

One thing is constant in life. It’s about the journey, not about the destination.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
—Dr. Seuss

Ember

Today had been a long day. It was the first day of two-a-day practices for the football team. I treated over fifteen kids for minor injuries that they’d sustained during practice, and one major who suffered a concussion. The player had been suffering from confusion and after a few tests on my part to confirm, he was transported to the local ER. My ass was officially dragging.

I loved being an athletic trainer. Since tearing three ligaments in my knee and being unable to go on my full ride volleyball scholarship to Texas A&M University, I’ve put every waking hour into keeping athletes healthy, or getting back in fighting form.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and my heart soared, but then quickly deflated after I glanced at the screen. Damn. It was Maximillian. My brother. Not that I didn’t love and cherish him, but he just wasn’t the one I wanted to hear from right now.

I wanted to hear from Gabriel. My heart longed to hear his voice, his husky laugh, the annoying tapping that he did incessantly, and, hell, even the sound of his breathing.

Me being me, I’d thrown the bitch fit of all bitch fits and we haven’t spoken to each other in nearly a week. Every time the phone rang, I got my hopes up, only to have them come crashing down again when he wasn’t the one on the phone.

I hit ignore on the screen and shoved the phone back into the front of my shirt. My usual spot for my phone is in between the strap of my sports bra and my chest; I find that it holds in place great, even when I’m running. Since I’m in some sort of athletic type apparel, nearly ninety percent of the time, I had to improvise on where to put things.

Cheyenne thought this was hilarious. She said I looked stupid because the phone was bigger than my boobs, but I took it in stride. I knew I had no boobs to speak of, but my ass more than made up for the lack of boobs. If I could transplant some ass fat into my boobs, I’d be batting a thousand.

Cheyenne was my best friend in the whole world. She was my lesbian lover when ugly guys hit on me during our nights out. She was the cheese to my macaroni. The ketchup to my scrambled eggs. She’s the best friend that picked me up at the airport after a weeklong trip to England with a sign that said, ‘Welcome home, loser’.” She was the perfect best friend; I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Except, maybe, for a night in Thor’s bed. Who wouldn’t?

After rounding the corner, I noticed the flood light, which normally blinded me when turning the corner, was out. A wave of fear ran through me, but I pushed it back. Grow a pair Tremaine, I thought to myself. However, I pulled my phone out, clicked the green phone app on the screen, and went to the keypad just in case.

I continued to walk until I could see my car, when it happened. A scuff of rocks on the sole of a shoe was the only warning I had before someone tackled me to the ground. Hard. My face slammed into the gravel, and I tasted dirt on my tongue.

My whole body smashed into the ground so hard that I was temporarily stunned. The breath left my body in a whoosh. Everything refused to work; I sat there stupidly blinking and trying to catch my breath. My head smacked against the pavement with a sickening thud, and gravel bit into my arms and hands. Feeling seemed to come back all at once and pain exploded everywhere. Everything hurt; my head, neck, arms, hands, pelvis, and knees.

The body that tackled me straddled my back, pushing my face further into the gravel as he leaned down and put his mouth near my ear. His breath smelled like garlic and made me want to throw up. Bile came up my throat, and I clenched my eyes tightly shut.

“You shouldn’t walk alone at night. Someone could really hurt you.” The man said.

The breath stalled in my lungs and all I could get out was a small whimper. The man’s legs and one arm held me tight as he snuck his hand down between us.

“Nothing to say bitch? No matter. I don’t want you to talk anyway.”

I heard his belt buckle clink as he released it, then the rasp of a zipper as it he pulled it down.

Fear exploded in me and I clenched my hands. As I tightened my hand, it reminded me that I still had my phone. A shot of adrenaline coursed through my veins; I was amazed I was able to hang on to it through the struggle.

Doing some quick thinking, I held the button on the side of the phone, and screamed “Gabriel” loudly, and prayed that my auto dial worked. Then I shoved it underneath my thigh, hoping against hope that he didn’t see it.

Fetid breath invaded my nostrils, and my stomach revolted once again. “Isn’t that an angel? I’m no angel bitch.”

“P-please don’t h-hurt me. P-please.” I said to him. “I can go back into the gym and get you some money. Or we can get in my car and I can take you to the ATM and get cash out for you. That’s my car right there, in the corner where it says ‘AT parking only.’” I tried to give Gabriel as much information as I could about my whereabouts without being too obvious about it. I hoped that he was on the line and was able to hear me, even though the phone was under my legs.

“Shut up, bitch. Or this will be worse in the long run.” My attacker said.

With that statement, my bravado fled and I started sobbing. My attacker must not have liked criers, because he hit me in the temple with his meaty fist and everything went black.

* * * * *

Gabe

I had the impact wrench in my hand, unfastening some bolts on the exhaust manifold of a ’78 Roadster, when my phone rang. I grabbed the red rag out of my back pocket and wiped my hands before I rescued it from my pocket.

A smile broke out over my face when I saw who was calling.

I hit speaker on my phone and said, “Decided not to be stubborn anymore and talk to me?”

Harsh breathing, the occasional scuffle of rocks, and grunting broke the silence of the line, and my demeanor instantly changed. I dropped my rag, the wrench, and shot up from my crouched position. My heart was pounding so hard I could almost hear it. Jack stood from his stool with a questioning look, but I didn’t stop to explain.

At a jog, I turned and headed into the office from the main garage. Sam and Max were sharing a beer, laughing when I barreled inside. Suddenly, they were alert and ready, knowing something was wrong just by the look on my face.

Holding my finger up to my lips, I held out my hand so everyone could hear what was going on at the other end of the line.

“P-please don’t h-hurt me. P-please.” She said to him. “I can go back in to the gym and get you some money. Or we can get in my car and I can take you to the ATM and get cash out for you. That’s my car right there, in the corner where it says ‘AT parking only.’”

When Max heard Ember’s voice, he bolted from his chair, hit the keyboard with a thump, and started typing away. He pulled up her cell phone position, as Sam was busy on the phone with Kilgore PD giving them the details that Ember had just relayed.

“Shut up, bitch. Or this will be worse in the long run.” A low male voice said.

Ember must have lost the battle with her emotions because gut-wrenching sobs came through the speaker and a sick knot of fear lodged in the pit of my belly. Ember’s attacker started hitting her then, and we could hear each sickening thud.

“Oh yeah, you like that baby?” The attacker asked.

Bile rose in my throat, and I could no longer stay put. I ran out to the truck I’d just purchased, hopped inside, and slammed the door. The sound of tires spinning on the pavement, and the smell of burnt rubber did nothing to my senses. Everything in my being was focused on the phone, and what I was hearing. The phone hooked up through my Bluetooth, and I could hear the sound of grunting, and the sounds of flesh meeting flesh. I prayed that nothing was as bad as I was imagining it, and that she was going to be all right.

I arrived at the college within five minutes, but was still beat there by dozens of police cars. Police cruisers were parked haphazardly in all directions. Getting as close as I could, before parking and getting out, I sprinted towards the group of people outside of the gym.

An officer did his best to stop me, but I was a force of nature. Plowing right through him, I ran up to the figure I saw huddled on the ground in a fetal position.

Ember’s shock of blonde hair was the first thing I saw. The second was the fact that she had no shirt on. A police officer was just taking off his jacket and draping it over her when I dove in on my knees, skidding to a halt next to her head.

There was a commotion further away, but I paid it no mind as I concentrated on Ember. My heart was in my throat, and tears started pricking my eyes. I stifled a moan of despair, and took in the sight before me.

I started to place my hands on her head when she flinched away from me. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she was making heart wrenching whimpering noises.

“Emmie. It’s okay. I’m here now. Can you look at me, baby?” I said quietly to her.

The whimpering stopped and those big hazel eyes snapped open. She looked at me with fear-clouded eyes. One second she was lying in a ball on the pavement, and the next she was throwing herself into my arms. Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me. She buried her face in my neck and started sobbing. Each and every sob broke my heart. Ember was a spitfire; I’ve never seen her look so defeated. Her tears were flowing hotly down my neck and sliding into the gap of my t-shirt.

Something slick trickled over my hands, and it registered in my mind that ember’s entire back was bare and slick all over. I tried to place her down on the ground but she clung to me tightly.

The paramedics rolled up with their gurney and stopped beside the both of us.

“Please let her go, sir, so we can take a look at her.” The young medic said.

Once again, I tried to put her down but she refused and clung even more tightly, wrapping her legs around my waist.

“Ember, honey, these guys would like to take a look at you to make sure you aren’t hurt anywhere. Can you let them check you over?” I whispered to her.

“No.” She moaned. “I’m not too bad. It’s just my back. I think he scratched my back when he ripped my shirt off.” She said into my neck.

The paramedics must have been able to make out what she said; they nodded and bent down to take a closer look at her back. One of the officers turned on a large spotlight that lit the area up; now I could make out that the shirt she had been wearing was laying in tatters around her waist.

My blood was on a slow boil; I just prayed that I would find the strength to not go off and find the fucker that dared to hurt her.

The second medic let out a low whistle with his tongue and teeth while examining the wound. The first medic pulled out a bottle and some gauze. They went to work on her back; I tried not to think about the amount of blood I was seeing.

I knew it was bad without even looking at it. With the amount of years I served in the military, I knew that that much blood was only produced by something that was more significant than just a scratch. What I think happened was the POS cut the shirt off her with a knife and didn’t care if he was slicing her skin along with the shirt in the process.

A short time later, the medics got her patched up and took her to the hospital. Again, I tried to let her go, but she was having none of it. Instead, I walked over to the bus, and took a seat on the bench, all the while holding onto her tightly.

Max and Sam were at the police barrier being held back by a rookie cop who refused to let them come to us. I nodded to them, letting them know, without words, that Ember was okay, and that I was going with her; they both nodded back to me. Max wore an expression that could only be described as devastation, as if his heart was being ripped slowly from his chest. He said he loved Ember, but she was beyond knowing it was her brother; they left shortly after to speak more in depth with the police.

We arrived at Free two hours later.

Ember had received a thorough examination, but never once let go of me. She had fifty-seven stitches put into her back. The cut started at the base of her neck, and flowed all the way down, until it met her jeans. It was around a quarter inch deep the whole way down. A scar was inevitable, and would forever be a reminder of what happened.

From what the officer in charge told us, once they received the call, cruisers were dispatched. The first officer that arrived reported seeing a man, but didn’t give chase since he had a victim that needed medical attention. Although the officer arrived in time to prevent rape, she still had bruises from head to toe, as well as contusions and scrapes on her knees, elbows, hands, chest, and face.

I pulled up in front of my room and shut the truck off. Max was standing in front of his place with a blank face, and a beer bottle dangling from his thumb and pointer finger. I nodded at him as I rounded the truck and opened Em’s door. She was knocked out on painkillers, thankfully; otherwise, she would have never let me go to drive us home.

Max stopped in to check on her when he dropped my truck off, and she told him to go home because she was a big girl. No one commented that she had yet to let me go. Max had given her a soft kiss on the forehead and then took off shortly after. He wasn’t doing good, even though he was hiding it well. It was only obvious to us since we’d been in life or death situations more times than we could count, and knew each other very well. He was tied in knots, and if he didn’t get himself straightened out, he would blow. Neither one of us was happy that Ember was beaten and almost raped; that put both of us so close to the edge I wasn’t sure I could keep myself from falling over it.

Ember woke when we made it to the bedroom, and gave me a small smile.

“Can I borrow some clothes?” Ember whispered.

I turned and grabbed some basketball shorts from the top of my dresser, as well as a t-shirt that I’d worn earlier that day. I handed them to her and she laughed.

“I told you I’d get this shirt from you!” She exclaimed jovially.

I smiled at her, kissed her nose, and left the room, giving her some space to get changed. I knew she needed to do this on her own and I left her to it.
.
I couldn’t help but smile when I remembered about the t-shirt.

I was working on my bike in the garage when she came up behind me and ran her hand over my back. She had never willingly touched me before and I was surprised that she had. According to Cheyenne, I made her nervous, and she didn’t like being out of her comfort zone.

“I love this shirt. Can I have it?” Ember asked me.

“Over my dead body.” I replied.

“It looks old anyhow, why does it matter. Please?” She whined, and then rolled her lower lip over and gave me a pleading look.

I rolled my eyes and ignored her. I was serious. This was my favorite shirt, and I’d have to have a really good reason to give it up, and she hasn’t given me a good enough one yet.

“Why do you like it? You can go get one from a mall in Dallas easily.” I explained.

“Because it looks so soft. I love the saying, too, though.” She said.

The navy blue shirt had a star on the left breast and on the back, in white writing, it said, ‘You all can go to hell. I’m going to Texas,’ on it. My mother purchased it, and sent it to me in Afghanistan. I received the shirt, and three days later, I received the news that she’d died. It was as if she’d known she wasn’t going to make it, and sent me some things that would make me think of her.

The shirt was more sentimental than anything else I owned, and I wore it sparingly now that it was looking so used and abused. During my army days, I would wear it under my BDUs, while on missions. It seemed to be my lucky shirt, on top of my favorite. It’s a miracle that it’s lasted so long. Pure luck. I’d been shot twice while wearing it, and neither time was it life threatening.

Ember came out a few minutes later, drowning in my clothes. She was gorgeous though. Her thick blonde hair hung to just above her pert ass, slightly curling at the bottom. Her face was void of makeup, and the scrapes and bruising stood out starkly against her white complexion. The shirt made her look like her chest was non-existent, but I knew there were two perky, beautiful breasts rubbing against the softness of my shirt. The green shorts fell below her knees, enabling me to see the bandages covering her scraped knees. When her eyes met mine, my knees shook. The color of her eyes looked dull, almost like there was little life left in them.

She came to a halt about three feet from me, looking so lost that I opened my arms for her; she didn’t hesitate. She walked right into them, and wrapped her arms around my back, making fists while clenching the back of my shirt.

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