Random & Rare – Prologue + Chapter 1

Random & Rare, book 2 of the Lock & Key MC Romance series – Cat Porter

Prologue 

- Dig -

I’m dead.

I know, trust me. But it doesn’t matter. Well, maybe to you it does. There’s a point to all this, though. There has to be. I’m trying to figure it out myself. I want to shake this off, leave this mire. I do.

But I can’t.

I can still feel her—her smile against my back, her warm breath on my neck, her arms squeezing my middle, her legs at my sides, her whispers in my ear. Those sensations will be forever indented on my soul and imprinted on my heart. Just like the rhythm of my engine, they vibrate together. And that’s the way it should be, because Grace was my once-in-a-lifetime good thing. And I like to believe that’s what might move this redemption of mine along.

Is her unhappiness keeping me here? Oh, it’s there, way deep underneath. I can hear it, pinging inside her soul, tripping through her heartbeat. She hides it well. Can’t hide it from me though, because I caused it.

Promises made, promises broken, promises glued back together. None of it means much now. The time for regrets is over. But they still mean something to her—just like her happiness does, and it should. Unlike me, she’s alive in the living, breathing, bleeding world. The lack of that joy in her life has kept me tethered and burning all these years. I want that back for her. She deserves it.

I took that away, didn’t I?

We men have big dreams. Some of us aim high, too high from time to time.

Grace never let go, always believed. She made me believe in that hungry emotion called love. She held my bounty in her fists. I’m glad I went first. I don’t think I would have made it alone, brotherhood or not. Without her, I would have become an even nastier, more brittle soul than I already was.

I might not be breathing and bleeding anymore, but I’ve felt her pain, her hurt, and her disappointment since it all went down. Then that fucker sent her on an odyssey, sent her spinning out on her own Greek fucking tragedy. That shit had started with me, and he made my old lady finish it. Great fucking legacy I left my wife. That’s not what Grace was made for, yet she has proven that she’s made of sterner stuff. She’s a survivor.

Yeah, yeah, I know. If she hadn’t gotten involved with me, she probably would have moved on and lived a better life, a clean life. She would have gone to some swanky out-of-state college; gotten a fancy job where she wore designer skirts and high heels every day; married some intellectual, white-collar metrosexual asshole who barbecued on the weekends, drank white wine with her while they had great conversations where they dissected current events in the backyard of their McMansion; gone on Caribbean vacations every goddamn year; and had two to four kids and a Lexus hybrid to ferry them around in.

I could have left her to that.

With me?

With me, she got drug deals, strippers, shootings, drunken brawls, nasty, selfish, filthy men, and a whole lot of wondering where the hell I was late at night while saying a prayer or two that I’d come back home to her in one piece. But she also got brutal honesty, the back of my bike on runs through glorious country, fierce love, sweet fucking, friends who would kill for her, die for her; and promises I still burn to keep.

But no, I have no regrets—despite the pain I caused, despite the heartache, bitterness, and scabs I left behind. Fuck no.

My Grace. Yes, she’s someone else’s now, and he’s a good man. And I’m glad, because I left him behind, too. But a patch of her heart will always be woven with mine.

From the first moment I laid eyes on her, I knew I didn’t deserve her, but a part of me needed to try, needed to believe that I was worthy of breathing that air, of claiming the brass ring that could be us. I took my shot and won big. I’m paying my penance for that, if that’s what this is called. But she doesn’t owe a thing to anybody. She came back and created a bright new life over our ashes, and I’m glad because she deserves to soar.

Is there more for me to give her? I honestly wish there were, somehow, instead of being that gash in her soul.

Once, I loved her, really loved her.

And she loved me, and it was so fucking beautiful.

Once.

Is time fluid?

How can that rare beautiful be rendered irrelevant, intangible when I still feel so damn much? Does all that energy, that glory, that significance simply dissolve? Turn to smoke? To nothing?

It can’t. It just can’t.

.

.

 Chapter 1

- Dig -

That took guts.

Running up to a bunch of dope-dealing bikers, begging for help, her eyes wild, long light-brown hair flying. What color eyes were those? Green-brown? Green-gray?

It’d been a boring night at a high school keg party on a ranch outside of town. We had just been killing some time, selling bags of weed before we were going to head on to another party in Spearfish anyway. Slapping around some smug high school football pricks who were assaulting a girl would be a good time. That shit didn’t fly any way you sliced it, not for me.

I recognized the girl when I clawed one of the assholes off her. I’d seen her in Pete’s Tavern in town plenty of times. The girl was fearless and in your face, looked you straight in the eyes and smoked you.

This one?

“Thank you. Thank you so much!” She clung to her big sister.

“You keep out of trouble, you hear?” I said. “And get her to do the same.”

Her big eyes shone with relief, brimful of gratitude, full of fucking sincerity.

This girl melted in my mouth.

“Yeah, I know. Thanks again.”

I let out a huff of air, masking it with a chuckle. “I bet you don’t get into much trouble though, do you?” came tumbling from my lips.

Her forehead wrinkled. “Uh, not really, no.”

“Didn’t think so.” I grinned.

I took one last look at her, that grin still plastered on my face. I got on my bike, put Fresh Young Thing out of my head, and dove in between someone else’s legs later that night.

But when I finally woke up the next day, before I even opened my eyelids, the first thing I saw were those shimmering eyes of hers.

Hazel. That was what they called that fucking color.

* * *

“My little sister’s not like me. In fact, she’s not like most girls.”

“You think I haven’t noticed?” I chugged on my longneck. It had been fours years since I first laid eyes on Ruby’s little sister at that keg party. Fours years of keeping my distance.

Pete’s Tavern was crowded tonight. Another cascading ache surged through my skull. I didn’t have my pills with me, so I’d moved to sit at the bar by myself to get a glass of water and another beer, away from the brouhaha at our table. Unfortunately, Ruby had followed me.

“Good. You noticed,” Ruby said. “But also bad.”

“Huh?” I tore my gaze away from her sister serving a pitcher of beer to a cowboy.

Her curvy hips were plastered into faded jeans frayed at the ends, her legs encased in scuffed brown leather cowboy boots, her full, round tits were covered by a stretchy white tank top with Pete’s logo, and the base of her throat displayed a tiny necklace.

“You noticed her, Dig.”

“Yeah, I noticed her. I’m a man. My blood’s pumping, and my dick gets hard on a regular basis. You know how that goes, don’t you?” I set my beer bottle back on the bar top and swiped at the corner of my mouth with the side of my hand. “She’s cute, and she’s got a hot little body that goes real nice with that cute. Heads-up—I don’t think I’m the only one who’s noticed either. But I also know that her kind of cute is way too fresh for me.”

“Fresh, huh? You sure?” Ruby narrowed those same hazel eyes as her little sister’s, but hers were unyielding and sharp. Actually, no. Tonight, Ruby’s pupils were pinned, like almost every night recently. The bitch was speeding—again.

“Oh, I’m sure,” I said. “Why the hell do you think I haven’t been over to your little den of sin to party all this time? Staying out of the line of fire.”

She let out a hoarse laugh. “Oh, ho—fire, huh?”

I made a face. “You know what I mean.”

She crossed her arms and leaned on the bar. “I do, Dig, and I appreciate it—seriously.”

“Aren’t you the protective older sister? Who would have thought? She’s not that young, for Christ’s sake. She must see all sorts of shit at your house. You’re a fucking contradiction, aren’t you?”

“She doesn’t mind. ‘Live and let live’ is our family motto. It’s just that we aren’t the same kind of girls, me and my sister.”

No shit.

“I mean, if that’s what you think, if that’s what you’re hoping for,” Ruby said. “Grace isn’t that.”

My eyes riveted on Ruby. “Grace?”

“Yeah. Her name’s Grace.”

A groan escaped my throat. I’d never asked about her, never inquired. Best to stay away.

Grace. Perfect. A secret wish or hope. Something poetic, elusive.

Fuck me.

I rubbed my mouth with my hand. In another lifetime maybe. The one that had been taken away, the one I’d turned my back on.

I rapped my knuckles on the bar top. “Pete, hit me with a tequila, would you? And one for Ruby here.” I straightened my shoulders and glanced up at the football game on the television overhead.

Who the hell was playing tonight anyway?

Ruby smirked and shook her head.

“What?” I asked, my focus remaining glued on the screen.

She leaned in closer to me. “Grace has dreams and brains. She’s going to college now, and she’s working to save money to keep herself there. I’m helping her with that. I want her out of this nowhere town, and so does she. She just won’t admit it, though, because she thinks I need her or some shit like that.”

I glanced at Ruby. 

Yeah, smart girl. A fucking good sister, that Grace.

Ruby definitely needed backup. The woman was in over her head most times, yet she seemed to always enjoy the ride. Some chicks were built that way. Grace didn’t seem to be, but you never knew what still waters hid.

“She really doesn’t give you any shit for all the high living you do?” I asked.

“Lately, just a bit. But she doesn’t know about my dancing at the Tingle yet either.”

“Why not? You afraid you gonna disappoint her?”

Ruby’s eyes tightened. “Yeah, maybe.” She shifted her weight against the bar.

“Well, she’s right, you know—about keeping an eye on you. How many times I gotta tell you to slow it down?”

Ruby shrugged and looked away, her hand brushing over her arm. Those track marks and bruises were still evident to me, makeup or no. 

“I’m sober and good to go on the nights I have to work. You got any complaints about me on that score?” she asked, a hand sifting through her long blonde hair.

“No. But you know, using junk cuts you out of the club. It fucks everything up. Everything.”

“I just tried it a couple of times. I’m sticking with the ole favorites, no worries.”

I tilted my head at her. “You know, I think your sister’s got a point. Maybe you should respect that she’s sticking around for your sorry ass.”

“I do.”

“You realize, you’re lucky you got her?”

“Yep, I do,” Ruby replied, her jaw set.

“Don’t fuck that up.”

“I won’t. But I also don’t want someone like you fucking her up—getting in her head or in her pants and messing with her. She isn’t cut out to be a Saturday night toy for a guy like you.”

“Yeah, Rube, ’cause a guy like me is only good for one thing, right?”

Ruby let out a laugh. “You’re having your good time, same as the rest of us, and that’s great. It’s you—right now at least. You and me are realists and make no bones about it. But all that isn’t Grace. And, FYI, it’s never going to be.”

“And what is Grace? What does she need? Some fairy-tale bullshit?”

“No, that’s not her either. She’s a realist at heart—more than me in some ways. But she needs a guy who’ll bring her flowers once in a while, just for the hell of it.”

My gaze fell on Grace once more. She leaned over a table, wiping it down.

Ruby followed my gaze. “She’s not the dozen-roses kind of girl either. Grace is something less flashy, more…sincere, like handpicked flowers.”

A blond guy with a cocky grin splitting his face came up behind Grace and swept his hands over her ass and up around her hips. The blood shot to my head, my skin heated. She flinched, her eyes darting up at him. Then a smile suddenly brightened her face, and her body relaxed in the motherfucker’s long arms.

My scalp prickled. “Like Prince Charming over there, you mean?”

The blond jock laid a kiss on Grace’s mouth and pulled her close, talking in her ear. His hands descended to her ass again.

Fuckwad.

She was smiling, her fingers curled into his University of Missouri T-shirt.

“Hell no,” Ruby said. “That kid’s an asshole. Told her too. Trey Owens. He’s been banging everything in sight all summer. Grace is just next on his hit list. I’ve seen him at the Tingle a lot. He’s a cheap asshole. Daddy’s allowance money must not stretch far enough for all the trips he makes to the titty bar.”

We both stared at them as they laughed and talked, their arms wrapped around each other.

I drained my beer. “You could eat him for breakfast, Rube.”

“I’d love to, believe me. But Grace thinks he’s sweet and really cute, and she wants her shot. I had to back down. She’s got to live and learn. He’s just recycled bullshit, and she might as well sharpen her radar. On the other hand”—she turned and eyed me—“she also doesn’t need an outlaw asshole like you entertaining himself with her. She’s off your radar is what I’m saying.”

Who would have thought that Ruby had a soul?

She’d been around the club for the better part of a year now—partying, hanging out—and she was a great lay from what I’d heard. A couple of months ago, after her impressive debut dancing at the Tingle, she’d almost made it onto my cock in the office, but she’d had a thing for Jump, and he’d finally set his sights on her that night. She’d gotten on his cock instead, and they had been hanging together ever since.

“She is not on my radar.”

Ruby smirked. “Right.”

“Did you not hear me just now when I said I made that decision a long time ago? You think I’m stupid?”

“Dig Quillen, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that you are not stupid.”

“Relax your ass. I just like admiring her from afar once in a while. That okay with you?”

She grinned. “Yeah, that’s okay.”

“Good.” I swallowed the shot of tequila Pete had slid in front of me. The liquid burned down my throat.

“You’re not sweet and cute anyway,” she said before downing her own shot. We laughed. “What you are is one sexy motherfucker, and you know it, too.”

“We done with this fascinating conversation now?”

“Oh, yeah.” She pushed back from the bar. “Thanks for the drink.”

“Hey, you ready for this thing with Vig?” I asked.

Ruby was running a little recon for me and Jump with Vig, the VP of the Demon Seeds, a club in northern Montana. For a long while now, we’d been trying to coordinate delivering our meth and weed inventory with the Seeds, but Vig would always change the rules at the last minute. This was pissing me off, really pissing me off. I had people depending on me, and new clients in Wyoming were waiting. The asshole was fucking with my trade. And for what? For the hell of it.

Ruby had snagged his attention last weekend at Tingle, and whip-smart woman that she was, she’d caught my eye, and we’d concocted a silent plan. With a nod from me, she’d given him a memorable lap dance. He’d kept in touch, and she’d showered him with all sorts of attention. 

The result—tomorrow, Ruby and Vig would be headed for a weekend rally up north. Jump would be taking some new girl, Alicia, and they were all going out to the Seeds’ club in Montana so that Jump could get the lay of the land and get the show on the fucking road. Jump could be very diplomatic in a tight squeeze. In a couple of weeks, I’d meet up with them at another rally just outside of Rapid City.

“Yeah, all set.” Ruby smiled and clinked her empty glass with mine.

I hadn’t taken it lightly that Ruby was putting herself out there in the lion’s den for the club. She wasn’t even Jump’s property. Unlike most of the women who hung around the club, Ruby had made it clear from the start that she wasn’t interested in any such ties that bind. All the better—although I could tell that Jump had been ticked about her sharing her wares with Vig for over an hour in a VIP room at the strip club. He hadn’t stayed ticked for long, though, as usual.

Ruby had once again proven that she could see the forest for the trees, and I’d gladly taken her up on her offer to help with Vig. The woman had shown herself to be a quick thinker in several other tight situations that could have gone south. Just last month, she had smoothly stepped in—much to my relief—and played the role of the sexed-up bitch, creating a distraction to the hilt with a guy who’d been lingering on the street in his car, giving me, Jump, and Dready time to reset an alarm system and get out of an auto parts store in the middle of the night without a hitch.

No, Ruby was anything but dumb. She’d come through for us. The only thing that concerned me was her mighty serious love affair with coke and speed and God knew what else.

“I appreciate this,” I said.

Ruby winked at me. “Good to know.” She glanced over at Grace once more and lifted her chin. “And I appreciate this.” She turned and stalked off on those unbelievably long legs of hers in boots, her tight ass peeking out of her cutoff denim shorts. Lucky Jump. Lucky Vig.

I stretched my lower back. Suddenly, this barstool was a pain in my ass. I drained my beer bottle, licked at the last traces of brew on my lips, and swiveled around on my stool. Like they had a will of their own, my eyes searched the cavernous dark interior of this old bar that the town had practically been built around over a hundred years ago.

I couldn’t help myself.

There.

She was leaning over a table, taking an order, her long hair shining like thick waves of satin under the spotlight hanging overhead. She grinned and nodded at the two gray-haired ranchers who were chatting her up. The balding guy in glasses said something, and she suddenly knocked back her head and laughed.

A spark raced up my spine. How sexy could a woman’s throat be?

I looked away as if my eyes had been pricked by a blaze of sunlight.

©️ Cat Porter 2015

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