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TAMMY

“Explain to me why this is a good idea again?” My sister, carrying a box of essentials, sighed as she followed me to my pretty indigo Hellcat Charger. Most of my stuff was already in storage. I’d been hiding out for the last month sleeping on my sister’s couch, but I wasn’t stupid enough to believe he didn’t know exactly where I was. He always knew.

“You know why, Michelle.” I gritted my teeth and inhaled as I set one of my four suitcases in the trunk.

Michelle leaned a hip against the side of the car. “Tam, I know you need to get away, but no one ever said anything about going undercover in a biker club. That’s incredibly dangerous.” Her brown eyes flashed with a fear I was all too familiar with.

I huffed. “You think I don’t know that already?” I pushed a layered lock of my ash blonde hair behind my ear. “I’ve been researching the Hero’s Pride of California for the past year. The President is as crooked as they come. A nasty guy in more ways than I’m willing to share with my baby sister. But the President and Club in Oregon seems straightlaced. I promise. And of course, there’s Clint.” Michelle bit her lip and looked away. I’d been to her house more times than I could count as the result of my soon—to—be ex—husband’s evil ways. “More reason for me to take the job in Oregon. Get the heck out of Dodge.”

Her shoulders slumped. “What am I going to do without you?” Her lip trembled, and her eyes filled with tears. I wrapped my arms around my favorite person in the whole world, knowing I had to leave but wishing I didn’t have to leave her.

“You’re going to finish your nursing program and become a badass in whatever hospital is lucky enough to have you. Then, when you have some vacation built up, you’re going to come and visit wherever the road takes me.”

She nodded against my shoulder and squeezed me tight. “Do you think the Sheriff’s Department up in Oregon will bring you on full time?”

I leaned back and cupped her cheeks. My sister was the grounded type. She needed to know what the future held. Me, I’d had enough of being grounded. I wanted the wind in my hair and the sun at my back. Literally. I was done in California. The Pacific Northwest sounded like the perfect escape.

“Maybe. We’ll have to see. Last I checked, they didn’t need a fourth deputy. Only reason they’re hiring me for this job is because they need someone on the inside.”

“Aren’t you scared of pretending to be one of those club whores?” She swallowed, and her eyes bugged out as though I’d squeezed her too tight.

I laughed out loud and stepped back. “I’m not going to be a whore, Chelle. I’m going undercover as a club member’s old lady.”

Her brow furrowed. “What’s the difference?”

I smiled. “An old lady to a biker is like a man’s personal goddess. They treat their old ladies like queens.”

Her face twisted into a sour expression, and placing a hand on her hip, her inner Valley Girl came flying out. “Puh—leese. Those women wear property vests like dogs wear leashes.”

I rolled my eyes. “You have so much to learn, honey. A cut to a biker is like a coat of armor. A knight waving his colored flag to all their kinsman. A property vest on their old lady shows ownership, true.”

“See!” She pointed at me flippantly.

“However, to a biker and his woman, it’s a sign of honor. She owns him just as much as he owns her. That part of the club I actually find…well, rather sweet.”

Michelle shook her head. “Only you would. You’ve been a motorcycle cop too long and hanging out with that local club too much. Couldn’t you get an undercover job where you’re playing house in Beverly Hills while trying to take down a corporate embezzler or something?”

That had me laughing out loud as I slammed the trunk lid closed. I layered on my own Valley Girl twang. “Boooooorrrrring.”

“Again, only you would think so. I worry about you, Tam.” Her voice was shaking, and the sound gutted me. It had always been Michelle and Tammy against the world. Our parents were both gone, and we had no other family to speak of. Just me and her. At thirty, I didn’t want to start again, but it was necessary. And all signs pointed to this job being exactly what I needed to get on the right path.

I wrapped my arm around her waist. “I know you do, and I appreciate it. I’m going to be careful, and I promise to check in every few days.”

As we walked around my Hellcat side by side, I heard a set of tires screech up behind us. We both spun around as Clint flung himself out of his Dodge Ram and barreled my way. I pushed my sister behind me. “Go! Run. Call the cops!”

She raced around the front of my Hellcat and toward the house.

“Clint, you need to leave. Right now!” I snarled.

“Fuck you, Tammy! You think you can get rid of me?” He held up the divorce papers my lawyer’s office must have finally been able to deliver. The slippery bastard had been escaping their process server for over a month now.

I held up my hands between us. “Clint, it’s over. We are not healthy together.” I tried to reason with him, but his expression darkened.

“You don’t get to say when it’s over, Tammy.” He stepped right up against me and caged me to the door of my car. “I say when we’re over.” He rubbed his nose along my cheek, and I turned my head and tried to push against his chest.

“Clint, back off. Michelle is calling the cops. You do not want to be taken in again.” I tried my damndest to sound solid, but my voice still shook as fear rippled through me.

“Fuck the cops. Fuck you! You will never be free of me. You think you can disappear to your sister’s and hide from me?” He sneered so close to my face I felt spittle hit my cheek.

I couldn’t help the whimper that escaped. “Please,” I whispered. “Just go.”

Before I knew it, his hand was wrapped around my neck, and he squeezed…hard. “I will find you, no matter where you go. And you know why?”

I choked and batted at his arms and tried with all my might to uncurl his fingers from my neck.

“Because you are mine. MINE. Hear that, Tammy? I fucking own you, and I will until the day you take your last breath. Even if I’m the one that takes that breath away from you.” I knew his statement was not a threat. It was a promise.

My vision started to fade in and out, and I lost the ability to move my arms with any strength. My feet, however, were still working just fine. I lifted my Harley—booted foot and slammed it down over his instep.

He yowled in pain, but he let go.

He let go.

Blessed air poured into my oxygen—starved chest, and I kneeled over, sucking in huge breaths.

“You fucking bitch!” he roared.

Just as I stood up to get my footing, he clocked me across the cheekbone. I instantly fell to the ground again. Luckily, my sister lived in a busy area with a lot of foot traffic, and out of nowhere, arms appeared and held Clint back before he could hurt me any more. My sister entered the fray, helping me to my feet while she checked my neck and cheek.

“Oh my God! Oh my God, Tammy.” Tears poured down her cheeks in salty streams.

“I need to go.”

“Wherever you go…I will find you!” My ex roared, now being held back by two men. It wouldn’t matter. The police would take one look at his face, apologize, and let him go.

She nodded. “The police will be here soon.”

I shook my head. “You don’t get it, honey, I need to go now. Before he can figure out where I’m going.”

She licked her lips and nodded shakily. “Go. I’ll deal with the police.”

“Call my sergeant. Tell him what happened. He knows about Clint. He also knows where I’ll be. I can follow up with my statement when I get where I’m going.”

“I’ll miss you.”

I smiled weakly. “I’ll see you later, yeah?” We never said goodbye.

Never.

Goodbye was too final.

Goodbye, my darling girls.

That was the last thing our parents said to us before they walked out the door to go on a date.

I was eighteen and my sister fifteen.

They never came home.

“I’ll see you later. Now go!” Her voice broke, but she firmed her spine and stood tall.

“Fuck you, Tammy. I’ll kill you! Do you hear me, bitch? I’ll fucking kill you!” Clint screeched like a snarling demon as I opened my car door, got in, and set my baby to purring. I shifted and sped away to the sound of police sirens and the raging vocals of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm through my speakers.

I turned up the song “Love Bites” that Lzzy wailed on and sang along. Lzzy sang the God’s honest truth.

Love definitely bites.

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