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Chapter 1 – Cheyanne

     Do you think anyone would notice if I left? Does anyone even know I’m here? Would it be rude to ask for the taller people to stand by the walls and the shorter ones in the middle? Maybe I should just get a chair to stand on to find him.

     I shake my head, clearing out my thoughts. I don’t know if I really want to leave, nor do I know if I want to stay. This isn’t what I was expecting when I said I would go out with Benny. Not that I’ve seen him much since he brought me to this party. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Haven’t really been to one before. I’ve seen them from the outside, but never actually went in.

     “Cheyanne? Girl, I haven’t seen you in forever! What are you doing here?”


     I turn at my name and do a double take. I didn’t expect to know someone here, and she’s the last person I thought would ever be here. But I bet she’s thinking the same thing about me. I’m not one for running with this crowd, whatever type it may be. Didn’t see a sign on the way in. But if “an abandoned house filled with bikers, rough people, and girls not covered at all” was a business name, this would be the place.


     “Izzy?” I blink a few times, trying to find the words that are probably expected of me in this party atmosphere. “Oh wow, I didn’t think I would know anyone here. I love your jacket. Are you with the Hounds now?” I read off the name of the club I’ve seen around town on the patch on her left shoulder as I look around to see if I find any other people wearing the same jacket. The Hounds of the Reaper aren’t a group I spend time with, but I’m also not blind and notice them around. Kind of hard not to, even for a person like me that rarely notices things outside of my own interests.


     Her blush makes me smile. Not sure why, but I enjoy it. From the books I’ve read about the hidden language of emotions, a person blushes for only a few reasons. She doesn’t seem embarrassed, so it must be one of the other common reasons.


    “Yeah, I’m sort of seeing one of them.”


     “Blushing could be a sign of emotional connection with another.” Ding, ding, ding! We got a winner.


     I don’t know how many other people pat themselves on the back when they’re able to quote a line from a book they read to help them figure out a situation. But I sure do, and it looks like our Izzy girl is in love.


     “Hey, Lady.”


     My eyebrows rise as Izzy raises her hand and waves. “Lady?”



     Before she can start trying to feel self-conscious, I jump in. No need for that blush to go the other way. I’ve felt that kind of blush before, the embarrassed kind. Didn’t even know what it was when I felt it, but I knew I didn’t like it, and there’s no reason to get someone else to feel it.

     “I love it.” She visibly relaxes, so I chance my luck and continue talking, grabbing at things I’ve heard others say from movies and what just feels right. Might not be a party girl, but I can’t mess this up too much. At least I hope not. “And you look great. There’s this glow about you that I’ve never seen before. You’re rocking this. I need to meet the one who swept you off your feet and totally congratulate him on getting the best girl out there.”


     Happiness floats inside my stomach when I see her tension ease even more at my words. Yesss! Twice that I’m right. I don’t always get these correct. Google says it has something to do with me growing up too fast and not learning social cues since my parents pushed me through school so quickly. I was doing calculus in the third grade and focusing on learning my seventh language, not how to tell when to keep things to myself if I see someone is sad or mad.


     I’ve worked hard to figure out these cues that most people learn when they’re kids.


     “Actually, my guy is over there. Let me introduce you, unless you’re waiting for someone.”


     “Well… I came with Benny, but he went to get drinks. I, ah… I think that way?” I point in the direction I think he went, and Izzy looks behind her before turning back with a smile.


     “New guy?”


     I shrug. He’s just a date and gives me nothing like the glow that Izzy—I mean Lady is working with.


     She gets it, her smile lessening a bit, and says nothing more on the matter.


     I opt to change the subject, just to avoid the inevitable blush of embarrassment myself. “Sure, let’s meet your new boy toy.”


     She laughs hard but turns, and I follow her. “Hardly,” she shouts back over her shoulder as we keep walking single file through the partygoers.


     The group she leads me to should probably intimidate me. Guess it’s a good thing I never figured out social cues.


     “Hey, guys, this is a colleague of mine, Cheyanne. Cheyanne, meet the Hounds. This is Law, Flint, Casper, Mad Max, and my guy, Bulldog.”


     I wave to the group. “Hi, nice to meet you all.” Then I turn to the couple. “Bulldog and Lady? Sounds like a story to me. And I’ve just got to say, whatever voodoo you worked on my girl, keep doing it. It’s good to see her smiling.”


     “I will,” he all but growls, then pulls her down on his lap and starts sucking on her neck. I’m completely ignored as she giggles and turns into him.


     “Have a seat, sweetheart. Take a load off.”


     I smile at the one who spoke, noting the president patch on his vest as I slide onto the couch next to a guy who seems to take up two-thirds of it. “Is this your, um, place?”


     He chuckles a bit as the others smirk. “Nah, just rented it. Rather have people wreck this place than ours, if you know what I mean.”


     I nod along but really have no idea. No one comes over to my place, so I’m not sure if I would be up for throwing a party or not. It seems like the smart choice. People come into my office and move things around all the time for no reason other than just to fidget. If they do that at a place of work, then who knows what they’d do to a person’s home.


     “You work in CPS with Lady?” he asks as he drinks from his beer.


     “Sort of. More like her people know some people who I work with. We do a few interviews together sometimes. No biggie.” I look around and try to figure it out on my own, but I can’t, so I ask. “So… she interviewed one of you lot, or was it just a happy coincidence how those two lovebirds met?” I nod to the two who can’t keep their hands, or mouths, off each other.


     “More like she put him under investigation,” a guy mumbles as he drinks his beer, but he has a smile, and I see the name Flint on his vest. I note that all of them are wearing vests, but the one next to me on the couch? On him, I notice something else.


     “How long you been out?” I smile wide, sensing that everyone is now looking at me. I’m not taking my eyes off the beast on my left, who finally turns away from the crowd he’s been watching to acknowledge me.


     “What?” he somehow growls and snarls at the same time, so deep that it’s almost unintelligible.


     “The tat on your hand. Four dots around one in the middle. Prison, right? Must have been in a while if you got that inked, and I’m guessing it was while you were in, as the dots look a bit shaky.”


     “You got something to say, sweetheart?” Their prez is no longer a friendly host, speaking in a clipped tone.


     I turn my attention to him as I smile brightly. “My family always said the tats in prison hurt more than the ones done outside. Mostly because they had to go over the spot a few more times than normal, since it was by hand and no tattoo guns were available. But if you got the time, what else is there, right?”


     “You got family in lockup?” This from the Flint guy.


     “Yeah, down at El Dorado.”


     “How much longer they got?”


     “Well, it was just a count of life, but after the last assault against a guard, I think they raised it to two life sentences.”


     “Don’t think that’s how it works,” the beast huffs as he turns back to look at the crowd.


     “It does when you name is Jimmy Travis.”


     The whip around almost has his shoulder-length wavy dark brown hair hitting my eyes.


     I smile. I love when I get stuff right. And I know I got this right.


     “Thought I recognized you. I haven’t seen you in a while. It’s good to see you out. I’m happy for you.” I squeeze his knee and then put my hand on my lap as I lean back on the couch. Everyone’s staring like I have three heads, but I don’t care. It’s a normal look most people give me.


     “You’re related to Jimmy Travis?” The prez eyes me skeptically.


     I nod, but I don’t think he believes me. Probably why he keeps pushing the topic.


     “The guy who went down for treason? But since no one can really say that, they just arrested him for killing his handler who went rogue from the agency and killed three girls after raping them?”


     I’m not surprised he’s familiar with the story. Everyone knows about him. Though I’m mildly surprised that he put so much detail into his little speech. Almost as if he expects me to flinch or something.


     Not me. Not for something regarding the only living family member I have left.


     “Yeah, that’s him. My uncle. And this mega man was one of his inside guards when I came in to see him. Or that’s what I thought. But I’m guessing it was more to keep an eye on things and not necessarily Jimmy, huh?”


     “Hired bulk, baby,” Flint chuckles.


     “Well, he sure has it. I doubt you’re working out as much as you used to, but make sure you don’t go completely cold turkey and then try to start up again. It’s really not good for you. I knew a guy who was a bodybuilder all his life, then got dumped by his boyfriend and went on a food binge for six months. When he went back to the gym, he broke his wrists. Just completely went limp wrist when trying to pick up a dumbbell.”


     The beast just blinks, and I scan the faces of the others. They’re either confused by me or openly laughing. I guess I said something funny. Not sure what, but I know I did something wrong.


     I stare down at my hands and review what I said. It takes time, and all I can come up with is “limp wrist” for a gay guy is funny. I’m not going to ask if that was it. I used to ask, but that got me more odd looks, so I stopped.


      Instead, I just smile and look up, faking it all the way. But only one person is still paying me attention—the beast. I think they called him Mad Max, and since he’s the only one without a name tag on, I’m making this decision without any doubts for once.


     I kind of get lost in his eyes for a bit. He isn’t laughing at me. He’s just staring, and his dark brown eyes, which match the mocha of his hair, seem to swirl a bit. I don’t know if it’s the lights or not, but it’s almost hypnotic and makes my lips dry.


     I clear my throat, more to force myself to focus on something else. This guy is intense. I feel it radiating off him, and I’m like a freaking moth just wanting to get closer to the flame. I’ve reacted to guys before—I’m not a blushing virgin—but this one is different. I know it’s impossible to feel a zap for another, but I swear the couch is connected to hot wires. It’s the only explanation for the zing of electricity I have going on right now, just from feeling so much intensity rolling off him and focused solely on me.


     “I think I’ll go find my date. Maybe he got us those drinks. Only been twenty minutes now.” I laugh it off, but no one even cracks a smile. Tough crowd.


     I wave as I leave, though no idea why. It’s just my thing, I guess—always a wave goodbye and a friendly hello, no matter who it is.


     The house isn’t very big, but it’s pretty packed. At least it is in the main living space and kitchen. I head to the back, where I know a second door is; I saw one when we drove around this place, looking for a parking spot. We’re out in the middle of nowhere, and the entire yard is one big parking lot outside.


     I turn down a hallway, expecting to find only the door leading outside, but it’s being blocked. The image in front of me has me pulling up short and then grunting as someone stumbles into me. I barely take a step forward from the impact before strong fingers dig deep into my arm and halt my movement a second before they leave my skin.


     I glance back and see the beast. He just glares. I’m assuming he’s mad that I stopped, but in my defense, I had no clue anyone was behind me, especially so close that my sudden lack of walking would affect anyone but me. Yet I still feel an urge to explain.


     “I found Benny.”


     Mad Max tilts his head to me, and his hair falls over one eye. I clench my hands at my sides, forcing myself to remain still and not push the strand behind his ear. Guess my explanation gives nothing away because he looks at me to say more.


     I glance back at what stopped me, and I feel Mad Max’s eyes stop looking at me and follow my lead. “That’s Benny. My date.”


     I’m not whispering, nor am I yelling. I’m not really even sure how I should feel. This probably happens all the time, and maybe for bikers it’s as normal as breathing. I just never thought I would see someone I know having sex. Or whatever they’re trying to do, as Benny is all tongue and mouth on some blonde who’s not that much better off in the coordination department. The kisses look sloppy as hell from here, but their hands are all over each other and seem to be doing just fine.


     “Huh, I didn’t know he knew that move.” I’m more enthralled than anything, almost like I’m in a trance as I watch Benny try to lift the girl up. It doesn’t work. He’s not strong enough, and she isn’t a spring chicken. Not that I’m dissing her, but the girl’s got so much junk in her trunk that someone would need a crane to lift it. Instead they teeter but, despite the laws of physics, don’t fall.


     “You guys together?”


     The deep voice next to me sends shivers through me, and the sex in the air probably explains why I feel the need to squeeze my thighs together.


     I spare Benny another glance before I look at the beast who makes me feel about eighteen times more than what I feel for the one dipping his dick in God only knows who. I just met this one.


     “Not anymore.”


     He grunts and then steps in front of me. I try to look over his shoulder, but the guy is the size of a house. I can’t even attempt to see what’s going on, even if my five-one ass jumps up.


     “Get out,” Mad Max snarls.


     “Wait, what? You can’t kick us out,” Benny says, startled at first till he gets defensive. His voice sounds so weak compared to Mad Max’s.


     “I can and I am. I don’t want to see you anywhere near this place or any Hounds of the Reaper territory.”


     “Oh come on, baby, he’s just a kid. Let me finish him off, and then I’ll come find you, Maxy.” The girl’s voice gives me an instant headache with the high pitchiness of it.


     “That goes for you, too, Shelia. You’re done.”


     “You can’t do that!” she screams, but Mad Max doesn’t even move a muscle. Trust me, I’ve got an amazing view of his back, and I’m watching. His shirt is like a second skin on him, and I see all the well-defined yumminess being covered up by black cotton.


     “It’s already done.”


     I jump as I hear the door slam shut a second before the beast turns back to me. No one else came in, and even though I was blocked from most of it, I felt like I was a part of it.


     “You, um, you didn’t have do that. I mean, for me.”


     He takes a step toward me, and I counter, dancing in a circle as I pivot away from the hallway I was standing in.


     “But thanks. Not many people stand up for me like that,” I confess.


     Another step and I continue to dance backward till I hit a wall. The same one the former lovers were all over, next to the back door.


     “You love him?”


     I blink a few times, trying to understand his words. I know he’s speaking English, but his growl is so deep, it’s almost like he’s speaking a different dialect. I love listening to it, but it takes time for my mind to switch from being turned on by his voice to making sure I understand the words.


     “Um… no?”


     He glares again, which only has my eyes widening.


     “I mean, I didn’t know him long. We might have dated a bit, but there wasn’t a connection. I’m actually not all that upset about finding him like that, which should probably tell you more than you wanted to know.”


     I run my hand through my hair in an attempt to show normalcy, plastering a smile on my face at the end.


     Did he just purr?


     The thought filters through my head a second before “Good” comes out of his mouth. Then he’s on me, and I’m not stopping it.


     I’m actually not doing anything. A beast is kissing me, and all I can think about is if he’s part lion based on the sound that rumbled from his chest after I spoke.

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