Proven (Week 1)


Christine Michelle

Copyright © 2018 Christine M. Butler / Christine Michelle

All rights reserved.

Scanning, downloading, uploading, copying, screen capturing and/or any re-distribution of this work, either electronically or otherwise, is prohibited.

Any similarities to persons, organizations, or places written about within these pages is purely coincidental, as this is a work of fiction.

Reader warning:

This work is intended for an adult audience (18 and older) due to strong language, violence, and sexual situations.

Book Description

I followed my heart from San Diego, California to Cedar Falls, West Virginia. Too bad that heart wasn’t worth the trip.

Thankfully, I had my job, new friends - which consisted of an entire motorcycle club I’d fallen into - and my new found responsibility for a family that was torn apart by needless tragedy.

As luck, fate, or whatever crazy force made such things occur would happen, I had followed my heart straight to Cedar Falls. I just didn’t realize I hadn’t met my heart yet.

Once there, I found myself lost in a woman named Gillie-Bean, a boy named Kade, and what was left of the family I’d helped save from the aftermath of a drunk driver.

As the former me - Daniel “Gray” Grayson - became “Surfer” in the Aces High MC, I realized my own heart had been worth the trip. I was brought here for a reason.

For a new family.

For her.


Something was off in a major way as I sat my bag down on the chair next to the front door and glanced around for my girlfriend, Kayla. There were things missing from the room. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what, but I knew there were void spaces where things used to reside. A picture of us from our first date used to sit on the entertainment center. It was gone along with all the movies, music, and video games that used to sit in the open cabinets underneath.

“What in the hell?” I muttered the question to myself since Kayla was still missing in action somewhere in the apartment we’d shared for the past eleven months. Just as I was about to explore I saw her head poke out from around the bedroom doorjamb.

“Oh, good, you’re home!” She squealed, and something clenched tightly in my gut. With Kayla that squeal could mean she’s horny and about to jump my bones – which I wouldn’t be opposed to – or it could mean that she’d done something stupid like open another credit account in both of our names without my permission. Something she seemed more and more inclined to do the longer we were together. Something that warranted me putting a freeze on my credit accounts to keep it from happening again. If only I hadn’t lifted the freeze briefly to get the loan for my bike.

“Kayla, there are things miss…” I didn’t even get the full question out before she slammed into me, expecting me to catch her. Sadly, she seemed to forget – again – that I was coming off a 48 hours shift with EMS. Instead of me catching her and those long legs of hers wrapping around my waist as she’d obviously intended, it turned out to be more a of a full body slam with her slipping down my front. The pout on her lip and furrow in her brow tipped me off to the fact that she wasn’t happy I couldn’t read minds. Before she could say a word I reached out, grabbed her shoulders, and slid her a full arms length back from me. “Just got off shift, Kay, my reaction time isn’t all there. It was a fuckin’ long shift.”

Her pout didn’t dissipate. As was usual with Kayla, other people’s lack of energy didn’t factor into her plans. She had grown up a spoiled rotten princess in a huge house near Old Town in San Diego. Her parents had reason to cut her off financially just before she graduated college, though she’d never bothered filling me in on their reasoning. Not that she shouldn’t be fiscally responsible for herself now that she was an adult, but she still tried to live that life she’d grown up in, and that wasn’t easily done on an EMT’s salary and her phlebotomist job. I still almost chuckled every time I thought about her job. The princess sticking people with needles and pulling their blood from their body had to be a sight. I had yet to see her in action though. Actually, I felt bad for her patients without ever having seen her skill or lack thereof, because she could be a frosty bitch when doing something she disliked.

“I had good news to share,” her pouty tone told me I should probably sit down for this. No telling what Kay thought of as good news these days.

“Well?” I questioned as I scooted my bag off the chair then plopped into it as the bag came to rest at my feet.

Kayla perked up as if my monotone, one-word question was the segue she needed to get into heaven, not to start a conversation. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be something she should smack me with the moment I walked through the door after a very full 48 hours shift.

“My grandma died, and she left me a house and a bunch of money!” She shrieked out excitedly while I frowned at the outburst considering she mentioned the death of a family member in there somewhere.

“Kay, I’m sorry to hear about your grandma,” I started, but she waved off my concern with the swipe of her hand in the air like it meant nothing.

“That’s not the important piece. Did you hear the part about where I inherited a house and tons of money?” She asked again as if I were daft for putting the death of a family member ahead of some inherited fortune.

I sighed and scrubbed my hand down my face. “Okay, that’s… well, that’s news. I guess our lease is up in another month so that’s good timing if you wanted to move into your grandma’s house,” I started wearily.

“I knew it!” She shrieked again, sending my head to throbbing as she bounced around the living room like a little bunny on crack. “I knew you’d be okay with moving, and all the crap that will go with it.”

Uh-oh. Alarm bells started ringing then. “Where is this house, Kay?”

“Um,” she hesitated biting her bottom lip for effect. It was a gesture I’d found sexy when we first started dating. Then, I began to notice how she used it as a tool to manipulate, and not because it was a natural thing for her to do. I sighed again. Whatever she was bound to say next probably was not going to make me happy.

“Well, see, the thing is there’s a teeny, tiny stipulation in her will that states I have to live in the house for one year in order to collect the money.” She started pacing, and before I could ask what was wrong with the house that it would cause this reaction she continued on. “And um, I already found a job there, and have everything set. I even started packing.”

“Kayla, you already found a job where? Where is this house?”

“Cedar Falls, West Virginia.” It was said as a statement that brooked no argument.

“West fucking where, again?” I asked, completely flummoxed that she was laying this on me like she’d had all the time in the world to prep and I should already be up to speed and onboard with what was going down.

“There’s no need to curse at me, Gray!” She threw her hands up, her strawberry blond locks with their chunky curls bounced around her shoulders as she did so. This movement also caused her braless tits to jiggle just so. An outsider would think this all cute, sexy, and done without thought. That outsider looking in would be wrong. These were more of Kay’s go-to moves to distract from whatever shit was flying out of her mouth. The house is in Cedar Falls, West Virginia. I don’t know why the old bat moved there to begin with, but she did, and the only way to get the house is to move there and stay for a year. Then I can sell the house and collect the money too. It’s perfect. Then we can come back here or go wherever we want. I was thinking maybe Los Angeles or something more glamorous than San Diego when we come back.” All of this was said without her taking a breath.

I just sat there, staring at her. “What about my job?”

Again she waved me off with a flip of her neatly manicured fingers. I noted that they looked professionally done again, even after we discussed the fact that we couldn’t really afford frivolous expenses right now after her last run through of the credit cards that maxed them all out. Some of the cards she got were in my name even though I never applied for them, hence the credit freeze I’d had to obtain. I blew out a frustrated breath. I couldn’t afford to renew the lease on this apartment without someone to split the bills with. Kayla had driven off most of my friends with her antics. My partner at work was a female with a husband and three kids. The rest of the guys had cramped quarters for living arrangements, but ones they were all happy with.

Damn it. She had just put me in one hell of a bind. “Kayla, if I go with you, I need to give my work notice. I also need to have employment set up ahead of time so I don’t have too big a lapse in paychecks, especially since I’m paying on my bike and paying off the damage you did to cards I never fuckin’ ordered.”

It was her turn to blow out a frustrated breath now. “Jesus, Gray, you act like I’m putting you out. This is a huge opportunity that I simply can’t turn down. Once the year is up I will be rolling in the dough!” She was squealing excitedly again, forgetting the serious shit I was just bringing up.

“Kayla, come back down to earth with the rest of us mortals, and listen. I need to know when we’re supposed to be moving. We have less than 45 days to re-up the lease here or get the hell out. You’re already packing shit, some of which belongs to me. I need to know what exactly is going on. Sit down, stop the drama, and be real for five fuckin’ minutes.” I swear talking to Kay was like talking to a five year old some days. Only, I would actually expect that five year olds behaved better.

Kayla poked her bottom lip out again, which really did nothing but highlight her almost complete lack of an upper lip. Normally, she had it lined so heavily that you couldn’t tell as much. Right now, she didn’t. She was also pulling it tight while jutting out the bottom, so it disappeared completely. Damn it. Her distraction techniques were working, just not in the way she was hoping they did.

“Okay, I have to be there in 10 days. I’m packing everything and taking it with me. If you need a couple extra days for work, then so be it. I have to be there on the 12th though or else I lose everything.”

“How long have you known about this?”

She looked away, guiltily for a moment, and then back to me again. “Two months,” she stated sweetly as she smiled in a way I used to enjoy seeing.

“Two months?” I questioned on a growl. “You’ve known about this for two months, are scheduled to be there in ten days, and you are just now telling me about it?”

She shrugged her bony shoulders. “I um, wasn’t sure you would want to come with me. I wanted to make sure I had everything set ahead of time just in case.”

“You wanted to make sure you had everything set, FOR YOU!” I reiterated, emphasizing the last two words. “What about me? What if I wanted to go with you? You’ve left me no time. What if I don’t want to go? You’ve already started packing my shit. Is it packed separately or thrown in willy-nilly with your own shit?”

“You don’t want to go?” She questioned looking truly taken aback.

“I didn’t say that, Kay!” I almost yelled out completely losing my shit at this point. “I’m saying you dropped this on me all at the last minute when you’ve known for two fuckin’ months!”

“I was just trying to plan everything so you wouldn’t have much, besides your job to worry about.” She got up and came to me, sitting her ass down on my lap and brushing the tip of her breast across my cheek as she did so. “Baby,” she whined out. “I want us to do this together. I’ll be able to pay off all those credit cards, and even your bike as a thank you and an apology for the whole credit thing.”

Now, that part of her plan had some merit. I definitely would love to have my bike paid for free and clear. Something I would have been able to do if I hadn’t had to tap into my savings to bail her ass out of the credit card fiasco she caused last time. “Ten days, huh?” She nodded her head vigorously and started a little mini bounce session in my lap. “Fuck, dude!” I hissed out.

“You know I hate when you call me dude or bro, Gray.”

“Really, Kay?” I huffed out and gave her a look.

She tossed her hands up in the air as if she was giving up or giving in, two things she never did. “Does this mean you’re coming?”

“It’s not looking like I have much choice in the matter. You’ll be there.” Yes, she was annoying me a bit more lately, but I still loved her. She put up with my shit when I came home with fresh nightmares from my time in the Army. I’d wake up screaming, and she’d rub my head and coo sweet things to me until I drifted back off to sleep. There were things about her that redeemed the spoiled bitch routine she liked to hide behind. There were glimpses of the woman I hoped she’d move further toward, but only time would tell. For now, it looked like I was moving to West-By-God-Virginia and I had to get a handle on that situation in quick fashion.

Ten days later I was staring up at the old white farmhouse with aging gray shutters that looked as thought they may have been blue at some point. The house needed a lot of work. It seemed that Kayla’s grandmother hadn’t enlisted anyone to help her with upkeep in her final years. The money pit that stood before me had me groaning out loud at the site.

Kayla’s nose crinkled up in disgust too. “What the hell?” She shouted. “It did not look like this in the pictures I saw. What’s up with this grass? Why hasn’t it been mowed at all? My God, it’s like three feet tall in spots where there’s actually grass or weeds or whatever that stuff is,” she complained as if she’d be the one tackling the jungle lawn we were faced with.

“Well, I’m guessing once your grandma died two months ago you never bothered to hire anyone to care for the lawn until you could get here to do it.”

Again, her nose crinkled as her head slid back in a shocked movement. “Why on earth would I be responsible for hiring someone to care for the lawn? There are people for that.”

“Kayla, when you’re a homeowner, you are the people that takes care of that shit,” I huffed out in frustration. “If you had told me about all this to begin with I would have pointed out all those finer details you seem to be clueless about.”

“Not this again!” She huffed out as she pulled her small overnight bag out of the truck, leaving everything else behind. “You need to get over the short notice bullshit complaints you have and just start helping out around here. Obviously, this place is going to need a lot of work, and I have other things to take care of.”

I just stared at her back as she moved to the front porch and gingerly stepped up, thinking maybe the weathered boards wouldn’t hold her. It was obvious they were solid, and just in need new stain and sealer. I ignored her and took inventory, making a mental list of all the things we were going to need. The detached one car garage would suffice for my bike, for now, but not for long since I didn’t want the thing collapsing on my baby. It definitely was not large enough to contain my truck, and Kayla had never owned a car since she lost her license in college – yet another thing she failed to mention until she told me I’d need to get her back and forth to work. She told me this on the trip out here when I asked her to take over driving for a while, because I was dog-ass tired and hoping to save on another hotel stay since I figured we’d have a few extra expenses when we got here that we hadn’t factored in. Expenses like the lawn mower we were going to need. Hell, at this point I was tempted to hire someone to take care of the first round of jungle taming, because this was going to take for-fucking-ever with just me doing the work.

Kayla had disappeared inside the house and then come back out, hands on hips and scowl firmly set in her normally pretty face.

“Are you just going to stand there all day, or are you going to start bringing things in?” I noted that she didn’t come out to help unload the truck. Nope. Princess Kayla turned her ass back around and marched right back into the house letting the screen door bang shut behind her which caused it to come off the top hinge and hang awkwardly, clapping back and forth with the momentum. “Oh my God! You need to fix that!” Kayla shouted.

“Why did I come here?” I asked the air around me, as if something in nature would find a way to answer me. It didn’t. I turned back to the truck, grabbed my bag and the box in the back labeled “bathroom supplies” then toted them into the house. I set the box and my bag on the couch to the right of the door after I made my way inside. It was a good thing I didn’t attempt to bring a bigger load, because Kayla hadn’t been waiting to open the door for me. I sighed as I looked around. At least it looked cozy and well tended on the inside, minus all the dust that had collected.

“Ew, all her old lady stuff is still siting around everywhere,” Kayla called out from somewhere deeper in the house. “There’s nasty spoiled food in the fridge,” she was saying when she came back into view. “You’re going to have to take care of that.”

“And what are you taking care of, Kayla? So far, I have to tame the jungle without a fuckin’ weed eater, let alone a lawn mower or a bush hog or whatever it’s gonna take for that job. Then I have to fix the door you just broke, because you couldn’t be bothered to shut it gently, and I have to unpack the truck before I take care of either of those things. Then you want me to deal with the fridge too? What the fuck are you doing while I’m doing all of that?”

She flinched back at my tone. “I’m, um, looking around to see if anything she had in this house is salvageable,” Kayla answered as if taking inventory of the shit her grandmother left behind was priority.

“No!” My tone brooked no argument. “First, you’re going to get your ass out to the truck and help unload it, because you don’t have servants here and I’m not a fuckin’ slave. Then, you’re going to take care of disposing of the rotten food in the fridge while I deal with the door and the lawn. Then, we’re going through the house together and making a priority list of shit that’s going to need tending to so we know what we’re throwing money at first.”

“Throwing money at?”

“You see this house? You don’t get shit taken care of soon it’s going to fall to pieces.”

She glanced around, wrinkled nose and furrowed brow dominating her features again. “We only have to stay here and make it work for a year. I’m not throwing a bunch of unnecessary money at this place. It’s nasty. I don’t plan on staying here.”

“Do you plan on getting any money for it when you try to sell in a year?”

“Of course, the internet said the house is valued at $260,000.”

“Was,” I told her as I made another cursory glance around the place.


“It was valued at $260,000, probably in its prime before it fell into disrepair. You’d be lucky to sell this place for $70,000 now. Her surprised, horrified gasp made me chuckle.

“B-but, the lawyer said…”

“The lawyer was reading off a sheet of paper with information probably plugged in from the same Internet browser search you did. He wasn’t looking at this place in person. Something else that should have been done in the two months you didn’t tell me about this shit going down was we could have made a trip out here to scope it out and see if it was worth the hassle. You still haven’t told me how much money you’re supposed to get once the year is up.”

“Maybe because I want to know you’re with me because you love me, and not because of my money,” she commented back snidely.

“You don’t have any money, Kay, and I’m already with you.” Sometimes I wondered what I ever saw in her. Honestly, there were more times I felt that way now than times I didn’t. I still wasn’t sure what possessed me to follow her here, except there was this feeling in my gut that I needed to. Today, I was wondering what was wrong with my gut instincts. “You don’t even have any savings set aside to do any of the repairs or buy any of the things we’re going to need here.”

“That’s because when you paid the credit cards off you only paid the ones off that were in your name too,” she scoffed.

“Yeah, because I never fuckin’ ordered them and didn’t want that hit on my credit. It also blew through my savings to do it. I didn’t bother to tell her that I had most of my savings locked up in investments that were actually pretty lucrative. I knew if I ever did she’d blow through that too, and I was banking on that money for sending my kids to college one day, and for retirement and whatnot. Those things Kayla definitely wasn’t ready to even think about, and honestly I was beginning to wonder if she ever would be ready.

It was then that Kayla collapsed into the dusty chair, forcing a plume of dust to billow up around her which in turn caused her to sneeze. After the sneeze the tears started. These were not her usually drama tears she used to get her way. They were actually real. “This isn’t what my life was supposed to look like,” she lamented between sobs. “Why did my dad do this to me?”

“Hate to tell you sweetheart, but most kids don’t start out with a trust fund in hand. Just about everyone I’ve ever known has had to work for whatever they have, not have it handed to them.”

“I work!” She shouted.

“Yes, you do, and there’s nothing wrong with your job, how much you make, or the rest of your life. The only thing wrong is in YOUR head where you think you should be living so far beyond your means that you can’t appreciate the things you have that you worked for. It’s never enough for you.”

“I grew up having everything!” She shouted at me, face turning red with her anger. “I had every damn thing I could want with the snap of a finger. It’s not fair that it was all taken from me. Just because there was a scandal with me and my married professor,” she huffed out in between her sobs. I stilled. This was the first I was hearing about why she had been cut off. “I got rid of the kid, and daddy cleaned up the mess I made. He didn’t need to turn me out too. Who cares if he went to school with the professor’s wife? He basically acted like that woman meant more than I did. I was a victim too!”

“You were involved with your married professor? Did you know he was married?”

“Of course I did! I just told you she was a friend of my dad,” she snapped.

“Jesus, Kayla!” I spat out disgusted with her. “If you can’t figure out where you went wrong with that situation there’s no helping you.” I wasn’t touching on the fact that she’d mentioned a kid with complete disregard, and I had a feeling she was talking about her own baby. I may have made a mistake coming here, but I’d already shipped my things, found a job, and I was going to have to stick this out for a little bit until I could find a place of my own. I also had some morals, and didn’t plan to leave Kayla high and dry after agreeing to come with her.

Changing the subject, I started forming a plan. “Let’s forget about all that, and start thinking about how we’re going to get you a driver’s license, a car, and how we’re going to fix the main things in the house that need tended to so it’s livable.”

Kayla glanced up at me between wet lashes and gave me a small smile. “You don’t hate me too?”

“I don’t hate you, Kay,” I informed her. Though, if I were going to be completely honest she had finally killed any of the old feelings I had for her. Now, I only felt obligation. I’d get her set so she could function on her own, and then I would be out of this mess.

Three weeks had gone by since I moved to Cedar Falls with Kayla. Three weeks and she had made zero progress in getting her shit together. Three weeks, and I was about to lose my damn mind with her bullshit, frivolous spending when we had so much shit to do to get her house straightened out, especially since it quickly became obvious that a hot water heater was needed since the other one wasn’t working at all. I was thankful I was able to shower at the station. Kayla bitched about that too, but I made her save for the water heater on her own since I had purchased the lawn mower, weed eater, taken care of the insanely overgrown yard, fixed the screen door, and ended up buying a new refrigerator too.

The bright spot in my life was the fact that I loved my job with Cedar Falls Fire and Rescue. The guys I worked with were amazing, including one everyone referred to as Smoke. We didn’t interact that much since he was on the fire side and I was rescue, but I had admired his bike a few times when I pulled in next to it. He had a sparkling beauty of a Harley Dyna Wide Glide. I’d never seen the wide glides up close and personal before. It was a beast of a bike, and according to the guys and the patched vest Smoke put on at the end of every shift before he rolled out, he belonged to a local motorcycle club. I had a buddy from the Army who went home to his MC family on the Oregon coast, different outfit, but same basic rules far as I could tell. He had attempted to get me to come with, saying they liked welcoming in vets, but I had met Kayla at that point, and I had been infatuated at the time.

I had asked around if there were any of the guys at the station looking for roommates or whatever, but so far there weren’t any bites coming in, so it made me less inclined to get free of Kayla’s shit. Not that I still wasn’t thinking of getting clear of her, because I was. I just wasn’t in a huge rush to do it just yet. That was where my thoughts were stuck when the alarms started going off and our unit was dispatched. I had yet another fail nap down at the station thanks to my roaming thoughts and now some sort of traffic muck-up. Our engine was dispatched with us, which put a little more hustle in my step. If it was something simple we would have gone in alone. My gut was flipping in the way it did whenever something important was about to happen in my life on the way there.

There was a tingle; an inkling of something more, and then there was just the empty pit of anticipation settled deep in my gut waiting to be filled. I had to put the strange feeling out of mind as I gathered up the bags in the back when Steph, my paramedic partner, got us close to the scene. Steph may have been the paramedic on board, but only because I hadn’t been officially certified yet. I had more experience with actual emergency procedures in the field than she did so she treated me as an equal even when she didn’t have to. It also hadn’t taken long for her to assess my skill level and realize she could trust me to do what needed done without fucking it up.

The minute I jumped off the bus – our term for the ambulance – a man who stunk to high heaven of bourbon yanked at my arm. “Shaank crist yoww hew. Arms cut.” He pointed down to where his arm was dripping blood as he slurred his words beyond recognition.

“Were you involved in the accident?” I asked.

He made an attempt to nod his head in confirmation, but overdid it, and ended up tipping forward, nearly taking us both down to the concrete as I took his weight. He didn’t even make an attempt to right himself outside of flailing arms that clocked me in the eye one good time before I finally got him straightened back up. I pointed to the heap of a truck that had careened into the other vehicle. “You driving that one?”

He eyed me suspiciously. “Why yuz wannsta know?”

“I need to know what kind of glass cut you so we know how to treat your arm,” I lied. He again tried to bob his head, but I held him steady. “That one yours?” I asked again.

“Yup,” he said while popping the p along with a bubble of spit. “Peez-s-shit’s mine.”

I flagged down a cop and passed the drunk off to him. This guy said he was driving that truck,” I pointed. “He smells like a distillery.”

“Son of a bitch!” The cop hissed out. I didn’t stick around to see what happened after that. I had a job to do, and it sure as fuck wasn’t to put the drunk who caused the accident first on my triage list. From the looks of the car they were attempting to peel apart I was needed elsewhere. When I got to the other vehicle my partner Stephanie had a female toddler out on the ground, and she was working on her.

“What’s up, Steph?” I called as I moved in closer.

“I got the girl. The mom is still with us, though passed out. They’re trying to cut her free, but you might want to crawl in the back and be ready to stabilize her. Do it from the passenger side. Three DOAs in the car, and it ain’t pretty.” The last couple words were muttered. Considering the fact that she was working on a child I had a sneaking suspicion of what I’d find inside the car.

I had been right, unfortunately. There were two adults up front. The male driver was one of the DOAs. The female passenger was who Steph had referred to as mom since she was a female, possibly late twenties or early thirties. Behind the driver was what appeared to be a kindergarten aged male child. He was also DOA. Judging from the awkward angle of his neck and his unseeing, open eyes, he had probably gone quickly from a spinal injury.

In the third row of seats was a slightly older child, but still less than 10 years old. She was a mess. I got inside the rear of the car, and started work on making sure the woman was stable in case she woke and started freaking out. I had just placed a neck brace on her when it happened. I glanced up; saw her eyes, and where she was looking. She was seeing the dead kid beside me. That was when the screaming started and my heart lurched inside my chest.


“Hey surfer-man, why don’t you follow me out, and I’ll buy you a beer. Think you more than earned it on that last call,” Smoke called out to me as he nodded to my Triumph. I rolled my eyes at the surfer-man reference. They’d all taken to calling me that here at the station since I was from So-Cal, had long, wavy, sun bleached blond hair, and took care of myself enough that I was ripped all over. The fact that I had never actually taken up surfing in all the time I’d lived in Cali was lost on them. I gave a chin tip style nod to Smoke as I threw a leg over my baby, and started her up, feeling the engine warm up to a rolling rumble beneath me. Damn, but I loved my bike. It was the one thing I’d done for myself since getting together with Kayla, and wouldn’t you know it, it was also the thing she bitched about most when she wanted to spend money we didn’t have. She’d talk about how I didn’t need the bike since I had a truck already, and how it was wasteful. She sure did like the few times I put her on the back and took her for a ride though. Damn woman had an orgasm just from the vibrations the first time she went out. Feeling her shutter as she straddled my hips on the bike, tits pressed into my back, was one of the reasons I forgave her bullshit bitching. Kayla may have been super high maintenance, but she put it to good use with her body too, and was up for most things I suggested. The sex was both the balance and her bargaining chip. The bargaining chip part was where it became difficult to deal with.

I tried putting her, and our problems, out of my mind. Instead, I thought about how the woman from tonight’s accident was going to cope with losing her husband and two of her children. My gut was still doing that twisting pit of despair move it pulled whenever something big was coming to my life so I knew the accident wasn’t the sum total of what was happening. I also knew I was going to check on Beth and her daughter tomorrow, so I was going to have to keep the drinking light tonight. At least that was the plan before I saw an out and out street brawl taking place in the parking lot we were rolling into.

As we parked, and both killed our bikes, Smoke grinned over at me. “Looks like the boys are in good form tonight. Should help take your mind off shit!”

We dismounted our bikes and I followed Smoke as we passed the four guys who were rolling around on the asphalt patch in order to get inside a thick, old wooden door. Once inside it almost appeared as though we’d stepped into an old mountain town bar. Stone floor to ceiling pilings were interspersed down the center of the room on two sides making a central walkway that separated different areas of the large, open space. In the far back, stretching the length of the wall was a wooden bar with a mirrored wall behind it; helping to give the illusion that the place was far larger than it first appeared. To my immediate right were dartboards and tables on a raised level, about two feet higher than the rest of the place. To my left were a bunch of couches and chairs thrown together with disregard for matching or usage. It looked like they’d once formed an almost circular gathering spot to make conversation easier, but they were just haphazardly strewn about now. A man sitting in the chair furthest from the door was actually getting a blowjob from a faceless blond. I mean faceless in that way that all I could see was her hair as she was bobbing her head up and down in his lap.

“Well, shit!” I commented as Smoke continued to grin and then he waved me deeper into the room, towards the bar I’d already clocked in back. Between the couch area and the bar were a few pool tables, and there were more than a few people hanging around playing, shooting the shit, and just taking up space.

Smoke ordered us both a couple beers and turned to look at me. He tipped his head toward the blow job action in the back. “Some of the guys have no qualms about the exhibitionism. My best advice, if it bothers you, look the other way.” He snatched his freshly opened bottle off the bar and tipped it in my direction before taking a sip.

I treated my beer likewise and then answered his unasked question. “Not my cup of tea, but doesn’t bother me either.”

He just nodded his head and appeared to people watch for a bit. “Hell of a bike you got outside,” he finally commented.

I nodded in agreement. “She’s my baby. Seems most of the guys here ride Harley, but I saw that Triumph, took her for a spin, and new she was destined to by mine.” I grinned at him.

“Freedom’s freedom, man. Doesn’t matter what label she wears so long as she gets you there,” Smoke informed me.

“So fuckin’ true, dude!”

“There’s that surfer-man,” he laughed out.

“Fuck me!”

“Sure thing, darlin’” a sweet little slip of a woman told me. I hadn’t even noticed her approach, and I have got to say it has to be damn hard to be stealthy when you’re packing as much tits and ass as that woman was for such a tiny little package. Her bottle blond hair had some dark roots peeking out near her scalp, and her makeup was a bit overdone for my liking. Her clothing was definitely too revealing as well making her look cheap. No way in hell would I want my woman parading around in front of all these men looking like that. Hell, a few of them were already salivating in her direction.

She lifted a hand and grabbed hold of the elastic band holding my hair back in a loose ponytail at the nape of neck. “Oh my! Look at all those curls!” The words were spoken in what was supposed to be a breathy-sexy whisper; only she had to do it louder to combat the music pumping through the speaker system. I caught her hand as she went to pull away, snatched the band from her fingers and shook my head no.

“I have a woman, and she would not appreciate someone else touching what was hers.” Actually, I had no clue how Kayla would react. When we first got together she pulled the jealous card a few times when other women checked me out or were blatant enough to hit on me in front of her, but when she realized it only pissed me off for her to behave the way she had she stopped doing it. It also did not matter that I wasn’t planning to stay with Kayla. Until we were officially done, I would remain faithful. That was more for my peace of mind than hers, but my loyalty had always been non-negotiable.

“She’s not here, is she?” The woman asked slyly with a wink as she glanced around for a strange woman who might be with me.

“No, she isn’t. I don’t fuck around on my woman whether I’m capable of getting away with it or not, so back off. There’s plenty of men here watching you right now, so I’m sure you’ll find yourself another source of entertainment with no trouble.”

Her lips poked out in a good imitation of a Kayla pout, that’s to say, fake as hell. Smoke laughed, clapped me on my back and then turned his back to the room. I noted he stayed vigilantly watchful using the mirrored wall in front of him though. I did not turn fully around, not liking the feeling of having my back to any doors. I did angle myself more toward Smoke though; in doing so I closed myself off to others who might attempt to approach me. Then, I took the elastic band in my hand and wound my hair up into a messy man-bun. Smoke grinned, shook his head, and then tipped it back in laughter.

“Yup, surfer-man was a good call by the guys down at the station. You’re rockin’ a fuckin’ man bun, dude!” He teased. I just grinned back, all cocky swagger, because I knew something that made his torment meaningless. The ladies fuckin’ loved the man bun. I might not have been down for cheating, but seeing appreciative glanced thrown my way never hurt the ego.

“You ever considered joining an MC?” Smoke asked as another man, older with piercing turquoise colored eyes, sat down on my other side.

“Had an Army buddy try to convince me to head up the west coast to Oregon to be in his club when we got back state side the last time.”

“You didn’t want that life?” Smoke questioned. While the other man hadn’t said anything I knew from his body language that he was paying close attention.

“Nah, I had hooked with a woman who had me by the dick and was not so inclined to move to the “sticks” as she called it.” I laughed thinking about our recent change in scenery.

“Now you live in the actual sticks, so I assume you’re no longer with her?”

“Still with her,” I laughed. “She inherited a house here and I guess some money to go with it eventually. She has to live in it a year before the money gets freed up.”

“You guys planning on leaving once that’s settled?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “That had been the plan to start, but I’m liking it here. I fuckin’ love everyone at the station. This group is so much more cohesive than the mess I had to deal with back in San Diego. I’d stay for the job alone, no shit.”

Smoke’s grin was back again. “Yeah, we do have a pretty tight unit there. You’re lucky old Randy Cooper retired when he did and opened up your spot.”

“I have no doubts about that.”

“If you’re gonna stick around, you should stop in and hang out a bit at the club. I’ll let you know when we have barbecues, parties, and the like where hang-arounds are welcome. Take advantage of it, and we’ll call it testing the waters to see if this is up your ally or not.”

“Yeah, man, that’d be great. Always good to be around people with like interests.”

“We have a lot of former military here too, so that helps, when shit gets all messed up in here,” he tapped the side of his head and gave me a knowing look. Shit like tonight too,” he added before taking another sip of his beer.

“What went down tonight?” The man sitting on my other side finally spoke up to ask Smoke.

“Accident out on the highway. Nasty business. Fuckin drunk took out a family. Woman and toddler survived, they lost the dad and two other kids that were both under 10.”

“Shit!” The man beside me hissed out. “You there too?” He asked of me.

I nodded as I sipped my beer.

“Gray’s our new EMT. Shit-hot out there in a clinch. He didn’t hesitate, dove right in, got to work, dealt with the hysterical woman after she came to while trapped in their car with eyes on her dead husband and one of her dead kids. Never seen someone keep their shit together under pressure so well in my life.”

“That so?” The man beside me asked, eyeing me a little more closely now. “You a vet?”

“Army Combat Medical Specialist,” I informed him. He nodded.

“You serve in the sandbox?”

“Two tours before I cleared out for good,” I informed him.

“Any particular reason you got out?”

“Wasn’t in it for the career. I got my education, my experience, and was ready to live the good life as a civilian.”

He laughed at that. “You’re tied down to a crazy schedule like Smoke here, I don’t exactly call that the good life, son.”

“It’s all about perspective. I don’t have to pack a bag and be ready to go down range at a moment’s notice anymore. I’m not being sent half way around the world to take lives while trying to save them. Now, I just go do my 24 hours on then rest a few days before I start all over again. It works for me, especially when I have the time to hop on the bike and cruise for a bit.”

“Now, you’re talkin’.” He held out a hand to me, and I turned so that I could address him without looking over my shoulder. “Name’s Ghost. Smoke invited you to come hang out and see if you like the atmosphere, and I’m gonna second that opinion. Bring your woman along too. Lord knows they end up making the fuckin’ decisions when you have an old lady.”

I knew the term old lady from my buddy, and I just smirked. He was right. Kayla had been the reason I turned down the first club that tried to recruit me, after all.

I finished my beer; hung out, shot the shit with Smoke, Ghost, and an old Vietnam Vet named Hopper after a while. I was definitely ready to take them up on the offer to come test the waters a bit more before I gave a solid yay or nay to the club life. I knew I had someone to go check in on in the morning though, so I made my excuses and took off after about an hour.

Kayla was already asleep when I got home, and I didn’t bother waking her. I just grabbed a shower, and climbed into bed, dog-tired as one of the guys down at the station called it. A couple hours later I was reminded of how bad things had been when I first got out of the Army. The last thing I remember of the dream that had woken me was a woman’s bugged out eyes, blood dripping down from her temple, and the ungodly scream she let loose when she looked into the flat dead eyes of her five year old little boy. My heart was hammering, body covered in a cold sweat, and I was gasping for breath as Kayla rolled over and asked if I was okay. I was not all right. I also didn’t feel like sharing this time.


That's it for this week's installment. Come back next Sunday for Week 2 of Proven by Christine Michelle.

If you can't wait that long, you can check out Dancing With Danger (Aces High - Dakotas Book 1) by Christine Michelle. It takes place in the same MC World as Proven.

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