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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

The Ballerino and the Biker

Copyright © 2018 by Rebecca James

Cover content is for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted on the cover is a model.

ISBN: 978-1-9861-7758-0

Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Edited by: Jenni Lea at Proof Your Love

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Table of Contents

Chapter One Morgan

Chapter Two Morgan

Chapter Three Zeke

Chapter Four Morgan

Chapter Five Zeke

Chapter Six Morgan

Chapter Seven Zeke

Chapter Eight Morgan

Chapter Nine Morgan

Chapter Ten Morgan

Chapter Eleven Zeke

Chapter Twelve Morgan

Chapter Thirteen Zeke

Chapter Fourteen Morgan

Chapter Fifteen Zeke

Chapter Sixteen Morgan

Chapter Seventeen Zeke

Chapter Eighteen Morgan

Chapter Nineteen Morgan

Chapter Twenty Zeke

Chapter Twenty-one Morgan

Chapter Twenty-two Epilogue Zeke

Special thanks to Jenni Lea at Proof Your Love for editing, and to the talented Reese Dante for the incredible cover.

The Ballerino and the Biker

By Rebecca James



My neck and shoulders hurt, and my hip was making that clicking sound again, but that was standard fare for me. What threatened to undo me was the colossal crack in my emotional armor as I stared at the freshly covered grave of my only brother. Jake and I hadn’t been close, but we were getting there. Now we never would.

Nikki touched my shoulder.

“You ready to go?” she asked, wrapping her arms around my waist and squeezing fiercely. She was family to me. Now the only family I had.

I hugged her briefly in return before shaking my head.

“I know you’ve got to get to work. I need some time alone anyway.” I kissed the top of her head. “Thanks for coming.”

She poked me with a long finger nail hard enough to make me yelp. “Why are you thanking me? You know I wanted to be here.”

I rubbed my chest. “God, you’re a bitch.”

She winked at me, and I watched her trudge toward her car before bending and picking up one of the white roses from the top of the coffin. I walked up hill to where my parents were buried, a chill running down my back as I got close to the elaborate Wentworth headstone. The cold, dark slate and boldly etched lettering ominously reminded me I was the only Wentworth left, completely and utterly alone. No parents, no brother, no distant relatives. Just me, Morgan Alexander Wentworth.

After two years, my parents’ graves still showed the seams of burial. I tossed the rose under their names, memories creeping from the recesses of my mind.

I’d just performed a perfect series of pirouettes to the praise of Arturo, my most difficult-to-please instructor, when an academy administrator had appeared, taking me to his office to break the news that both my parents had been killed in an automobile accident. The next thing I’d known, I’d been hustled onto a flight to the States.

I’d received curious looks from people at the funeral who’d expected me to be devastated, but my parents had been emotionally distant, and I’d become accustomed to being away from them. I’d felt closer to most of my dance instructors.

I’d become an orphan at sixteen, as well as the CEO of a large corporation, and all I’d been able to think was I couldn’t wait to get back to Milan and dance. I’d given little thought to that day since then, but as I stood shifting from one foot to the other on the well-manicured cemetery lawn, it all vividly came back to me.

The funeral had been long, but the burial blessedly short. When the crowd had dispersed, some pausing to pat me on the back or kiss my cheek before heading for their cars, I’d thought to escape to the limousine waiting to take me to my parents’ penthouse. But the president of Wentworth Properties had cornered me before I could.

After a smooth delivery of condolences, Gerald Peters had asked what my plans were.

“I need to go back to Milan,” I’d answered uncertainly. “I have two more years of study there.”

“And Wentworth Properties?” Gerald had asked.

I’d frowned, unsure of what he was getting at. “You can run the company while I’m away, can’t you?”

“Morgan, I know your father had always hoped you’d want to run Wentworth Properties one day, but we both know he didn’t foresee dying before you could be properly groomed for the position. And let’s face it; ballet is your heart and soul. Now, the shareholders have discussed it, and we’d like to buy you out.”

I’d stiffened, mixed feelings warring in my breast. Although well-aware that selling my shares would make everything much easier for me, the company was mine, and I’d known I couldn’t relinquish it so easily.

“I have to think about it,” I’d told Peters, and the frustration and annoyance had been plain on his face.

After leaving the cemetery, I’d had my lawyer call a meeting, at which the board had tried to convince me to take two million dollars and ten percent equity in the company for my fifty-one shares in my family’s twenty-million-dollar business. It had been obvious by the looks on the board members’ faces, most of them old friends of my father’s who had received loyalty shares after helping to get the company started, none had known Harvey Franks, my father’s good friend and attorney, had been appointed my legal guardian. After telling them their offer was inadequate and that I was not ready to let go of my shares at that time, Harvey had drawn up papers giving Peters the title of President and COO, but leaving me in ultimate control of Wentworth Properties. Harvey would sit on the board in my stead while I finished my studies in Milan.

The board members hadn’t looked happy, and many had cast frustrated and annoyed looks at Peters, as though the man had gone back on a promise. I hadn’t cared. I knew Peters would run the company well, and that if he didn’t, Harvey would let me know about it. I would hang on to my legacy until I was better able to make an informed decision, and in the meantime, I was free to return to the dance academy in Milan.

Crazy to think just two and a half years later, I stood in the same graveyard, staring at the same tombstone. This time, real grief and regret consumed me rather than the numb indifference I’d felt that day. My brother had left home when I was still a child. Jake hadn’t known how to get in touch with me until after our parents’ deaths. We’d begun to talk long distance and had agreed when I graduated from the academy and returned to New York City, we’d take the time to really get to know each other.

Well, I was back, but that would never happen.

I’d seen Jake at our parents’ funeral, standing on the far hill with his motorcycle club surrounding him. From a distance, he’d looked so much like Dad, I’d immediately recognized him. Like our father, Jake was tall, broad, and powerfully built. I had the willowy frame of my mother, better suited to the art form I’d fallen in love with.

A part of me had hoped Jake would approach that day, but the saner portion had known he wouldn’t. Everyone there had been aware my parents had disowned their oldest son, the “black sheep” of the Wentworth family. And Jake’s biker buddies would have stuck out like sore thumbs among my parents’ elite friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances.

I’d felt like an outsider, not belonging with the guests at the funeral nor with Jake and his club, and intensely jealous of the latter. I’d wanted the brother I’d been denied, but our mother and father had continued to stand between us, even after death.

A warm breeze blew over me, tousling my hair. This was August, not January, and Jake wasn’t standing on the hill watching. He lay yards away, buried beneath six feet of dirt. I retraced my steps to his grave. A huge spray of red and yellow roses—club colors—stood at the head of the freshly turned earth beside the white lilies Nikki had brought and the roses I’d ordered for the coffin. Nikki and I had been the only ones there to say goodbye to my brother.

Anger churned in my gut.

Jake deserved more than two people at his god-damned funeral.

“Where the fuck is your precious club now?” I said aloud to the still summer air before turning to make my way to the car.


I slammed the door of my father’s BMW, nose crinkling with distaste. The car had been sitting in a garage for two years, yet it still smelled of his expensive cigars. I should sell it. I really didn’t need a car in the city where it was easier to walk twelve blocks than to find a parking space. I hated cabs and Ubers, unable to relax in the presence of a driver. Nikki called me ridiculous, but I think it stemmed from the disengaged manner in which my parents had treated their personal driver and how much it had bothered me as a child.

Searching my phone’s music list, I chose Felix Mendelssohn’s score for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and pulled out of the cemetery parking lot.

Nikki and I had been together at the Global School of Ballet for four years before my parents had abruptly transferred me to their Milan academy, stating I’d be better off there. She’d flown to visit me several times over the years, and I was thankful to have her to return to now that I was home again.

The day the Manhattan Ballet Master-in-Chief had called to tell me he’d been following my progress and was inviting me to apprentice with the ballet company, I’d immediately called Nikki. She’d been over the moon for me.

Although from a well-off family, Nikki worked and paid for her own place. As I wasn’t anxious to kick Gerald Peters out of the penthouse I’d been renting to him since my parents’ deaths, both because I didn’t want the confrontation and I didn’t want to live there, I was staying with Nikki until I could move into the dorms at the school.

I turned onto East 6th Street, the trip from the cemetery having passed on autopilot. I pulled the BMW into the underground garage, parked in one of the two spaces reserved for Nikki, and climbed out of the car.

The elevator was broken, and I had to take the stairs. As I climbed, I determinedly left behind the dour feelings of the morning and concentrated on what needed to be done. I would be moving into the residence hall in a little over a week, and having entered the apprenticeship nearly three months late, I barely had time to prepare. As I unlocked Nikki’s apartment door with the spare key she’d given me, I mentally ticked off my to-do list: Wash my mountain of dirty laundry. Shop for sheets and incidentals. Order at least three pairs of tights.

Two steps inside the apartment, I was kicking away my gray slacks while peeling off the black silk shirt I’d chosen that morning. As always, anything but a T-shirt, tights, and a dance belt felt wrong on my body. Walking around in my underwear was the next best thing.

I stretched and scratched my stomach. I knew Nikki wouldn’t be back from the bookstore where she worked until after five. Maybe we could eat dinner together if she didn’t have plans with her boyfriend, but I needed something in my stomach now. I grabbed a dwarf banana from the bowl on the ledge between the small kitchen and living room and ate it while admiring Nikki’s framed posters of Ivan Vasiliev and Roberto Bolle. The lines of the dancers’ bodies in movement never failed to fascinate me, even more so now that I’d realized my own body looked much the same when I danced. Years of intense practice had paid off. I wondered if I could get an hour of practice in before starting on all the things I needed to do.

Someone cleared their throat behind me, and I froze, banana to my lips. Nikki’s boyfriend Paul worked with her. I knew he was at the bookstore now. No one else had a key to this apartment. I swung around and threw the banana as hard as I could directly into the intruder’s face before darting for the door.

“Ow! What the fuck?”

Before I could reach the small foyer, what felt like two tons of steel muscle barreled into me, slamming me against the wall, a vise-like grip holding my wrists above my head. I opened my mouth to yell and fingers clapped over it, the scent of cigarettes sharp in my nose. The man’s heart beating against my own felt strangely intimate in such a terrifying moment. I struggled to raise my knee, but his grip was too tight.

“Calm down,” a low voice growled into my ear.

When the hand over my mouth loosened, I rasped out, “What do you want?”

“I’m taking you with me,” the man said, and I panicked, struggling with everything I had. I was in excellent shape, but the man was a fucking powerhouse, several inches taller and about forty pounds heavier than I was. By the feel of him, those forty pounds were all muscle. What did he want with me? He was going to be mighty pissed if he anticipated a ransom, as there wasn’t a Wentworth left to pay it, although I supposed he could call Peters. Ha, as if that asshole would pay a dime for my life. He’d probably pay the guy to keep me.

“There’s a couple hundred dollars and an ATM card in my wallet. Take it and go,” I blurted when I realized I couldn’t get away.

“I don’t want your money, kid.”

What the fuck did he want, then? I suddenly became aware of a hardening length pressed against my lower back, and my heart went into over-drive. I took a breath to yell again, and the intruder’s hand clapped down hard. This time I managed to get part of his finger between my teeth.

“Fuck!” The thug jerked his hand away, grabbed me by the back of the neck, and shoved me toward the bedroom. “Get dressed and pack a bag. I don’t have time to wrestle with some goody two-shoes ballerina!”

I stalled between him and the bedroom, rubbing my hands over my suddenly cold arms.

“The term is ballerino, at least in Italy. How did you know I’m a dancer?”

My scary captor let out a huff. “I’m one of the fucking psychic twins.” He pointed at my half-open duffel stuffed with dance gear. “You’re bag’s right there, genius. Now get moving.”

He followed me into Nikki’s bedroom. I tried not to look as terrified as I felt, no mean feat when wearing only a pair of black Calvin Kleins. As I gathered some clothes, I darted glances at the man watching me. Muscles in his arms bunched where he crossed them over his barrel of a chest, multiple tattoos interrupted tan skin, a white bent bar piercing decorated his right brow, and a ball in his tongue that he kept scraping against his teeth. He had blond hair and a close beard, and brilliant blue eyes blazing with animosity. All of which painted a picture of a fierce street thug, albeit a hot one. He looked slightly familiar.

“Who are you, and what do you want with me?” I asked. I wished my voice hadn’t wavered with fear.

“Name’s Zeke, and I want you to get your ass in gear. Now, hurry it up.”


His cell phone vibrated, and he dug into his pocket for it. I took advantage of the moment to dart past him, running for the door. If I could reach the hall, maybe one of the neighbors—

Zeke caught my arm as I reached the edge of the living room. When I almost succeeded in wiggling away, he lunged into what became a full-body slam to the hardwood floor, sending shooting pains into my hip bones. There were going to be bruises if I lived long enough for them to form.

I struggled in Zeke’s grip, his hot breath wafting over the side of my face. His hands tightened around my biceps. “Stop wriggling, you little queer!”

Instinctively, I stilled, but my mind was racing. Was this a bashing? Had he seen me on the street and thought I was an easy target? But how the fuck had he gotten into Nikki’s apartment? And why did he look familiar? Was he a neighbor? As my mind cleared, I registered something that belied his homophobic words. Or maybe they didn’t; perverts didn’t exactly make sense.

I pushed back with my pelvis so my ass cradled the long, thick, undeniably hard length of him. Predictably, he shot away from me. I flipped over, suddenly more angry than scared.

“Seems you enjoy being pressed against the little queer.” I kicked out with my foot, landing squarely on Zeke’s solar plexus, and relished the sound of the air going out of his lungs.

Zeke’s blue eyes watered as he struggled to take a breath, and my gaze raked over him more thoroughly, stopping at a tattoo on his upper arm of a devil’s face with its tongue licking out of a grinning mouth. I recognized it. Zeke was a member of Jake’s motorcycle club.

Before I could speak again, Zeke grabbed me and pulled my face close to his. “Cooperate, princess. I’m here to save your ass.”

This time he easily avoided my foot.

I was furious. Jake’s crew didn’t see fit to attend his funeral, but one of them broke into Nikki’s apartment to scare the fuck out of me?

For what seemed an eternity, we sat staring each other down before Zeke leaned in until our noses touched, pushing my elbows back to the floor. We were chest to chest, and I could feel the heat pouring off him.

Sudden arousal zipped through me as the biker’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I said, cooperate. You’re in a precarious position right now.”

I knew hurting a brother’s family would go against the club’s principles, and, as scary as some of them looked, the Hedonists weren’t unlawful; Jake had assured me of that. So, Zeke’s little attempt at scaring me wasn’t going to work.

Now I knew who he was, I was determined to get back at him. I smiled. “I’d say you’re the one in the precarious position.” I thrust up my hips and ground sleazily against Zeke’s groin. He fell backward and struggled to his feet, chest heaving and eyes flashing. I was sure I saw more than anger there, and it amused me a tough guy like him could be so easily disarmed.

“Tell me why you want me to go with you,” I demanded.

Zeke ran a hand through his blond hair.

“Like I said, I’m trying to help you. The mess your brother got himself into directly affects you.”

I tilted my head to the side. “What mess? Come on, you don’t expect me to let you haul me away on your bike without an explanation.” Encouraged by his scowl, I fluttered my lashes. “Unless this is how you usually pick up a guy. If so, I should tell you, wining and dining tends to be more effective than kidnapping.”

“Cut. It. Out.” Towering over me, the biker looked even more impressive. The blue tank he wore barely covered his rippling physique, and his jeans looked like they were molded to him. I could clearly see the semi he sported through the denim.

“Gonna call me a queer again?” I asked.

Zeke took a deep breath and let it out. “Look, I didn’t mean to say that. Would you just listen to me a minute? When Lips hit that tree, there was a girl on the back of his bike.”

I’d forgotten my brother’s club name was Lips. He hadn’t been fond of it, as I recall. Zeke’s words sank in.

“Wait, what? Someone was with Jake when he died?”

Suddenly cold, I pulled my thighs against my chest and propped my chin on my knees.

Zeke looked away and seemed to deflate a little. “Yeah. Look, we don’t have all day, kid. Pack a bag.”

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my knees for a moment. “I’m not moving until you explain why I need to go with you.”

Zeke made an exasperated sound like I should know the answer to that.

“Spoons didn’t take it so well your brother was with his girl.”

I raised my head. “Spoons?”

“The guy’s got a legit reason for being called that, and you don’t wanna know what that is.”

Of course, that just made me try to come up with why a member of an MC might be called Spoons. I stretched my legs out and crossed them at the ankles, leaning back on my elbows like I had all the time in the world and enjoying the way Zeke tensed all over. I had to admit, I got a perverse pleasure out of annoying him.

“Is it because he melts his drugs in a spoon before shooting up?” I asked.

Zeke gave me a long-suffering look before starting to pace. I tried again.

“Does he spoon out a guy’s intestines if he won’t give him what he wants?”

“Jesus Christ on a Harley! You’ve got a wild imagination, kid. You ain’t gonna stop till you know, are you?” He stopped in front of me and sighed. “It’s because of the way he quietly spoons a guy before sliding his blade into their gut.”

“Oh.” I was kind of disappointed. “That doesn’t sound as scary as the guts thing.”

Zeke looked like he was counting in his head. After a moment, he stuck out a hand to help me up. “Come on, brat. We gotta get outta here before the Steel Pistons figure out Lips had a little brother, and they start looking to retaliate.”

“What?” I gripped his hand and let him pull me to my feet. Underneath the cigarettes, he smelled good. Like spice and…fire. Man, that sounded lame.

“All that Beethoven or whatever you dance to make you deaf or something? Retaliate. That means it’s you Spoons’ll be cozying up to with his blade next.”

When I continued to stare up at him, Zeke’s mouth flattened into a thin line, and he turned and walked into the bedroom. I could hear drawers opening and closing. He returned a moment later with a backpack stuffed full of the clothes I’d dropped earlier plus a few extras.

“Either you’re staying here with a chick, or you like to dress like one.”

“This is my friend Nikki’s place.”

“Thank God.”

I frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with a man dressing like a woman.”

Zeke grunted and tossed the shirt I’d worn to the funeral my way. I stared at it as an odd numbness crawled over me.

“Come on, you gotta do some of the work,” Zeke mumbled as he attempted to help me into it. The soft material settled at my waist, and I took a deep breath, bending to slowly pull my trousers up with Zeke gripping my arm to keep me steady.

“Guess you’ve had a pretty rough day,” he said, and I had to agree. It all seemed to be catching up with me.

Zeke kicked my Italian loafers at me, and I slowly slipped my feet into them. My backpack on his shoulder, Zeke opened the door of my apartment and stuck his head out.

He looked back at me. “Coast is clear, princess. Come on.”

Hesitating, I asked, “If this guy’s really after me, shouldn’t we go to the cops?”

Zeke’s blue eyes met mine. “Hell, no. You think they’d listen? You’re safest with us while we come up with a plan. So, unless you wanna wind up a lampshade in the Pistons’ clubhouse, let’s get a move on.”

“Jesus. So much for my wild imagination.” I grabbed my duffel of dance clothes and followed Zeke out.



Being a back warmer to a hot guy on a Harley should be a sexy experience, but I was too busy clinging to Zeke like a monkey and hoping we wouldn’t crash to fully appreciate it. When I’d refused to get on the bike without a helmet, Zeke had strapped his to my head and gone without. The bike vibrated between my thighs, it’s roar filling my ears and helping me to zone out as I pressed my cheek to Zeke’s broad back and kept my eyes tightly shut.

When the bike came to a stop, I eased my rigid fingers from Zeke’s rock-hard abs and leaned away from him, immediately missing the warmth of his body. The day was mild, but I still felt ice cold.

“Climb off,” Zeke said.

Belatedly, I realized he couldn’t dismount the bike until I did. Blushing, I did so and took a moment to look around the garage to cover my embarrassment. A car was parked in the middle, nose out with the hood propped open and a large toolbox nearby. I counted eight motorcycles lining the far wall.

“Wow, that’s a lot of bikes,” I said lamely.

Zeke gave me a look that said no shit as plainly as though he’d spoken the words, and opened a door to the house. “After you.” He stood back to let me pass with an exaggeratedly grand sweep of his arm before following me in.

Knowing my brother’s club had been family to him didn’t make it any easier for me to walk into that place. What I’d expected, I don’t know—maybe a run-down meeting room or a grungy pool hall with skulls on the wall. Instead, I walked down a short hall and into what looked to be a regular living room, although there were a couple pool tables off to the side and a painting of a half-naked woman on the wall. Zeke caught me staring at it.

“Tony dabbles in oils,” he said in a snooty voice before laughing at his own joke.

I turned away, not really blaming him for being a jerk after I’d given him such a hard time back at Nikki’s apartment. Two black leather couches faced a large-screen TV currently broadcasting a football game. I didn’t follow sports, so I couldn’t say what teams were playing. A hot-as-hell guy with long, dark-blond hair sat on one of the couches, arms resting on the back and jeans riding low on his narrow waist.

He looked me over, a smile spreading across his handsome face. “This’s gotta be Morgan; he looks so much like Jake. Good work bringing him in, Zeke.”

“You make me sound like a felon with an APB out on him,” I said nervously.

Zeke sighed. “Morgan, this is Dante.”

My name on the bikers’ lips sounded weird, but I guess it made sense they all knew it because of Jake, and Zeke had only chosen to call me princess and tiny dancer because he was an ass. I shook Dante’s hand.

“Zeke says I’m in some kind of danger,” I said.

“You definitely are, babe,” Dante said.

“You sure do look like your brother.”

I turned to find a tall Latino man, older than Zeke and Dante, had walked into the room and stood to the side surveying me. “Same pretty mouth.”

“That’s why we called Jake Lips,” Dante told me.

“Jake said it was because he mouthed off,” I said.

They all laughed. “Yeah, he didn’t appreciate the compliment,” the Latino said. He extended a hand to me. “Hung.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name,” he clarified, a twinkle in his dark eyes.

I shook his hand. “Oh. You don’t look Chinese.”

Zeke and Dante broke into guffaws.

“That ain’t why they call him Hung.” Dante nudged me with a booted foot.

As realization dawned, a blush spread up my neck into my cheeks.

Hung winked. “Real name’s Dick.”

“You’re kidding me.”

Hung just grinned.

“Show Morgan to Lips’s room,” Dante said. “Blaze’ll be here soon.”

Blaze. “That’s the club president, right? Jake’s best friend?” I followed Zeke down the hall. We passed the kitchen where a couple of women stood at the stove chatting and laughing with a lithe young man who held a little white dog in his arms.

“Right. He’s real torn up over Lips. He’s the one who sent me to get you.”

“Could you do me a favor and not refer to my brother as Lips? His name was Jake.”

Zeke shrugged. “He was Lips to us. Except Blaze called him J.”

We climbed a set of rickety stairs.

“Oh, yeah. And Jake called Blaze B, right?”

Zeke opened a door at the end of the hall. “Yeah. B and J.”

Zeke’s neck turned red. What was running through the biker’s mind might as well have been a neon sign over his head. I decided to give him a break and didn’t comment, sliding past him into the room.

I stopped. I hadn’t anticipated the shock of seeing the place Jake had made all his video calls to me from, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Something wrong, kid?” Zeke asked.

I shook my head and made my feet move farther into the room. A colorful quilt decorated the single bed and beige curtains covered the window. Posters of female models in bikinis, and motorcycles, and female models in bikinis on motorcycles hung on the walls. Sadness poured over me knowing this was where Jake had lived for so many years. Not that it was a bad place, but he should have been at home with us. Not that I’d stayed at home very long. Maybe our parents hadn’t really wanted children.

Zeke set my bags on the chair by the desk and opened the curtains, sending dust motes floating about the room.

“How long do I need to stay here?” I asked, slumping resignedly onto the bed. I badly wanted to dance.

“No clue,” Zeke said. “Blaze can fill you in.”

I couldn’t resist. “Is he a pyromaniac?”

Zeke frowned. “Huh?”

Blaze? Does he like to start fires?”

The look on Zeke’s face was worth having to hold back my laughter. “No. That’s his real name, princess.” He turned and left, shaking his head.

It felt good to smile. I lay for a while staring at one of the bikini models on the wall before rooting through my things for my cell phone and dialing Nikki’s number.

“Hey, Morgs. Where’d you go? Thought you’d be home when I got here. The shop was dead, and Paul covered the rest of my shift.”

I heard water and clanking sounds in the background and figured she must be making dinner.

“I’m with friends of Jake’s.”

The water turned off.

“What? You mean his club?”



“It’s complicated.”

“Tell me.”

I related everything I knew.

“You’re saying this gang is going to be out to get you for something your brother did?”

“Evidently that’s how things work in Thugs-ville,” I said, picking at a string on the quilt.

“You must be upset. You’re being snarky.”

She knew me so well. “I’m fine.”

“I don’t like the sound of this.”

“I’m sure it’s just for a day or two. I’ll call you when I know more.”

A knock on the bedroom door had me saying goodbye. I tossed the phone on the bed and got up to find Dante standing in the hall. He smiled a wide, toothy smile that probably got all the girls’ panties wet, and a few of the boys’, too.

“Dinner’s ready.”

“Oh. Okay.” I followed Dante through the kitchen into a dining room where about twenty big, brawny guys sat with several girls in shorts and tiny T-shirts. Everyone was laughing and talking as they passed steaming plates of food around until they spotted us and went quiet.

A familiar-looking man with jet black hair and blue eyes stood up from where he’d been seated at the head of the table. Was every guy in this club fucking gorgeous?

The man smiled. “Morgan, glad to have you with us. I’m Blaze, president of the Hedonists. Your brother was my best friend.”

Suddenly shy due to all the stares, I stiffened a little and nodded my head at the guy. “Hi.”

Blaze indicated the chair between him and Dante, and I sat down. I felt Zeke’s eyes on me but didn’t look at him.

“Eat, everyone. We’ll have introductions after,” Blaze said, and the group began talking and passing plates again.

I relaxed and filled my dish. Blaze turned to me, face solemn.

“I’m sorry about your brother. I miss him like hell. We all feel the loss. J loved you a lot…I hope you know that.”

I looked away, nose stinging.

Blaze squeezed my shoulder. “J made me promise if something happened to him, I’d find you and make sure you were all right. Considering who Jake had with him on his bike, I thought it’d be better if you stayed with us for a while. I would’ve come to get you myself, but I had to work. Zeke treat you okay?”

I glanced at Zeke.

“Yeah. Fine.”


“You knew about Jake seeing this rival guy’s girl?” I asked Blaze.

“Hell, no. I would’ve done something about it, and he knew that. I’m sure it’s why he kept it a secret. He was playing a deadly game, and he lost.”

“He must have really cared about her,” I said, wondering why Jake hadn’t mentioned the girl to me. I was sure I’d asked him if he was dating anybody more than once.

“I’m sure he did, to do something that crazy.” Blaze chewed a chunk of roasted potato. “Vanessa worked in the business, and so did Jake. I guess that’s how they hooked up.” He sighed. “Unfortunately, the Steel Pistons aren’t gonna take this lying down. Afraid that’s bad news for you, kiddo.” Blaze kept his tone light, but there was a crease between his eyes that showed concern.

“I don’t understand. When it comes right down to it, I hardly knew my brother,” I said. “How can they think this is my fault?”

“It’s all about retribution,” Dante spoke from the other side of me.

Blaze nodded. “J took someone Spoons loved, so Spoons thinks he needs to take someone J loved in return, even though J isn’t here to know it. We’re here. An eye for an eye. Fortunately, he’s not automatically gonna know about you since you haven’t been around. If we’re lucky, he won’t find out, but we couldn’t take that chance. We’ve gotta keep an eye on you until we know.”

“It’s the reason we weren’t at the service,” Dante said, answering the question that had been bothering me. “We had our own wake here at the clubhouse and burned J’s leather in a bonfire. We made sure the Pistons knew about it, and we hoped it would keep ‘em away from the funeral.”

Fear scuttled up the back of my neck. I hadn’t really thought it was that serious. Could this gang really think hurting me would make losing someone any easier? It was fucking crazy.

“Don’t worry, kid,” Hung said. “You’ll be safe with us.”

“I’m not a kid. I’m nineteen.”

Chuckles from around the table had my hackles rising. I pushed away my plate and stood. “Look, I’m fine. Really. I’m staying with a friend.”

“A chick,” Zeke said.

Blaze got to his feet. “We can have someone watch you at your friend’s, but you’d be doing me a favor if you stay a couple weeks until I can see what’s going down. Just for a while, Morgan. Until the heat is off. I want to do this for J.”

“But I’m starting an apprenticeship with the Manhattan Ballet. I’m supposed to move into student housing at the end of next week.”

“We should know what’s going on by then.”

I shook my head. “I don’t get it. Why do you care? I get it that Jake was like family to you—he told me that. But my brother’s gone, and technically, you don’t know me at all.”

Blaze put a hand on my shoulder. “That’s how it works. Family is family, even by extension.”

Not knowing what to say to that and afraid I might do something embarrassing like burst into frustrated tears, I turned and fled to the room they’d given me.


For a day and a half, I made myself scarce, only coming out of my room to eat and to go to the bathroom. Using my playlist on my phone, I practiced as much as I could, losing myself in movements that almost came naturally to me after years of dance, but there was only so much I could do in the small space.

I met most of the club, but the only one I really talked to regularly was Dante, who made a point of knocking on my door every so often. Sometimes he only plopped onto the bed and watched me practice or sat scrolling through his phone. I became comfortable in his presence and found it amusing he looked more like a romance novel version of a biker than a real one—the kind who would stand shirtless beside his bike, long hair blowing in a hot wind and a menacing look on his chiseled face. It was weird how most of the club were a little too good-looking to be real. Like Blaze. And Zeke, my new shadow. He rarely spoke, but I could always feel his eyes on me.

The clubhouse was on a back street in Clinton Hill, a neighborhood I’d previously never ventured into because it wasn’t considered to be the safest. Even though I’d known my brother was part of an MC, I’d never really imagined the kind of neighborhood that entailed.

There was a warehouse on the lot behind the clubhouse. Jake had told me they made films or something, which might have accounted for everyone’s good looks. I didn’t ask about it. Jake was gone, and I wasn’t going to be there long, so what did it matter?

As far as I could tell, only a few members lived in the clubhouse full-time. The others came and went on their own schedules, sometimes eating together, watching TV, or playing pool. I’d seen more than one sacked out on the couch since I’d gotten there. I’d been given one of the three bedrooms, the other two being occupied by Blaze and Dante. Blaze had a steady girl who more often than not looked like she wanted to rip someone’s head off, and all they seemed to do was fuck, the sound of the bed banging against the wall of Blaze’s bedroom a regular backdrop when she was around.

I kept expecting Gerald Peters to call me, but my phone remained silent except for a daily check-in from Nikki, and I wasn’t sure that was a good thing. I was back in the city for good, so shouldn’t I become a little more involved? I needed to get to Wentworth Properties to see for myself what was going on. Up to that point, I’d been relying on Harvey’s reports on monthly board meetings, but I made a mental note to let both Harvey and Peters know I would be going myself from then on. I’d work it out somehow. Hell, I was the CEO—they could arrange them around my dance schedule, I told myself, even though the thought of demanding such a thing felt weird.

The third morning of my stay, one of the guys walked into the kitchen while I was scrounging in the pantry for something to eat. The club called him Swish, and by the way he moved his hips when he walked, there was no need to ask why. He held a dog in his arms, but it wasn’t the same one I’d seen a few nights ago when I saw him.

“Hey,” Swish said. He crossed the kitchen and disappeared onto the screened-in porch, returning a moment later sans dog. He lit a cigarette and regarded me with dark, black-lined eyes.

“Hi.” I’d chosen an individual box of bran cereal, undoubtedly a reject from a variety pack, and poured it into a bowl.

Swish was lean—almost gaunt—and flamboyant in a way that seemed put-on, like he was throwing his sexuality in everyone’s face. He seemed, to me, an unlikely addition to an MC, particularly one with members like Zeke who threw derogatory words around, although he hadn’t called me a queer again. I didn’t recall Swish being in the picture Jake had sent me of the club, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Hey.” I poured milk over my cereal before carrying it to the small kitchen table.

Swish grabbed a dirty juice glass from the sink and sat down opposite me. He took a drag of his cigarette and blew smoke into the air. “You look a little like Jake.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“Not as friendly as he was, though.”

I met Swish’s dark gaze and saw humor there. “Sorry. I’m just…uncomfortable here.”

Swish flicked ash into the juice glass. “I get it. A queer among bikers is kinda like…I don’t know. A mouse among cats.”

“How’d you know I’m queer?”

Swish shrugged. “Takes one to know one, I guess.”

I smiled. “No one’s chased me around trying to eat me yet.”

“Even Dante?”

I raised a brow. “That would explain him calling me babe.”

“He’s bi.” Swish fiddled with his cigarette as though the subject of Dante distracted him.

“Not to be rude, but you don’t really seem like he rest of the club.” I took a bite of cereal.

“I’m not a member. I guess you’d call me a hanger-on. But that’s a story for another time.” Swish took another drag of his cigarette and leaned back in his chair. I refrained from wrinkling my nose at the copious amount of smoke billowing between us, but only just. I needed to get out of there before I got lung cancer from all the second-hand smoke.

“Sucks what’s going down with you and the Pistons.”

That uncomfortable my life’s in danger feeling that had begun to sink in since the night Zeke had appeared in Nikki’s apartment squeezed at my stomach, and I put down my spoon.

“Oops. Sorry,” Swish said. “I never was good being delicate about things. Maybe you can go back to—where was it? Rome? Until you’re safe.”

“Milan,” I said. “I’m going to apprentice with the Manhattan Ballet. It’s my dream.”

“Well, that sounds pretty impressive. What does it mean, exactly?”

“Basically, it’s a year shadowing the ballet company, attending every rehearsal, learning all the parts and being ready to step into any of them at a moment’s notice. If I’m lucky, at the end of the year I’ll be asked to join the company. After that, I’ll work to be a soloist, and then a principal dancer.”

Swish tucked a strand of light brown hair that had fallen from his bun behind one ear. A silver cross dangled from his earlobe, and I was pretty sure he was wearing lip gloss. His lips were unusually shaped, like gentle ripples on the water. “Guess all that dancing’s where you got that rocking bod.”

I laughed. “Rocking bod? Really? If that was a pick-up line, you definitely need a new one.”

Swish smiled. “I’m not coming on to you, but I wouldn’t object, if that’s what you want.” He winked. “Although I have a feeling we’d both be jockeying for the same position.”

I laughed. “You’re probably right. I’d think you have enough “rocking bods” to look at here with the Hedonists, anyway.”

Swish shrugged. “A little too beefy for my taste. Except for Dante. His body is perfect.”

He continued smoking, and I finished my cereal, wondering about him and Dante but not wanting to ask.

A bark from the back porch reminded me about the dogs. “When I first got here, I saw you with a different dog. How many do you have?”

“Oh, they aren’t mine. I groom them. You know, wash them, clip their fur and nails, and put bows on their heads. Stuff like that.”

“Really? Here?”

Swish shrugged. “Sure. Got everything set up on the back porch. I’ll show you sometime. I make a decent amount of money. Keeps me from totally freeloading here. I’m squirreling away as much as I can, hoping to get my own shop. Maybe sleep in the back.”

“Cool.” I didn’t know what Swish’s story was, but I admired him for using his skills to make it in life. I got up to rinse my bowl in the sink. “You know where Zeke is? If I don’t get to dance in a real studio soon, I’ll go crazy. ”

Swish regarded me through a cloud of cigarette smoke. “Pretty sure he’s in the basement working on the dryer.”

I hadn’t known there was a basement. I must have looked uncertain, because Swish stood.

“I’ll show you.”

I followed him to a door tucked beneath the stairwell, and he flipped on a light. As we descended the steps, I asked, “You called anything but Swish?”

“Not anymore.” He didn’t offer an explanation, and I added it to the list of things to ponder about him.

I looked around. A bare bulb hung from the ceiling, and one window high up on the wall allowed in a small amount natural light. Zeke was on his hands and knees behind the dryer. From that angle, I had a great view of his ass and found myself staring at it before jerking to attention and nudging his leg with my foot.

“I need someone to take me to the dance studio near where Nikki lives,” I said.

Zeke didn’t look up from what he was doing. “I’ll be finished here in an hour.”

“Okay. I’ll get ready.”

The stairs vibrated with someone descending, and Swish looked up. “Ax could probably do it.”

“Ax?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, although with this club the guy could just as well be named after his favorite body spray as his chosen implement for murder.

A man appeared from around the corner. A big man. “I can do what?”

“Morgan needs a ride somewhere.”

Over six and a half feet tall, bald, with tats all over his head and arms the size of my thighs, Ax was fucking scary-looking. My thoughts must have shown on my face, for he grinned and slapped me on the back, almost knocking me into Swish. A little more good-humored force, and we both would’ve wound up on the floor.

“Jake’s little brother. Nice to finally meet you.” Ax’s baritone reverberated through the room. “Where you need to go, kid?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but Zeke interrupted from behind the dryer.

“He hates bein’ called a kid, and I’m taking him. Go get ready, twinkle toes.”

Surprised, I glanced at Ax. “Thanks anyway.” I climbed the stairs, Swish behind me.

He followed me into my room and flopped onto the bed.

“Where do you sleep?” I asked, grabbing my bag and looking through it.

“In Dante’s room.” At my look, he added, “just platonic. He thinks of me as a little brother.” The expression on Swish’s face told me he wasn’t crazy about that. I guessed it would be kind of shitty to sleep a few feet from a Greek god who saw you as a sibling.

I stepped out of the sweats I’d slept in and into a pair of butter-soft jeans. I’d put on my dance garb at the studio. A motorcycle roared to life outside, a sound I was quickly getting used to.

“Hey, do you mind not smoking in here?” I asked when Swish started to light up.

He slid the cigarette back into the pack. “Sure, no problem. If you aren’t a smoker, you’re probably gagging here.”

“Little bit.”

Swish gracefully rose from the bed and crossed to the closet. “There should be a screen in here someplace.” A few minutes later, he had the window open and a breeze wafting in.

“Thanks,” I said after taking what felt like my first deep breath since I’d arrived.

“What did you do in Italy besides dance?” He flopped back onto the bed.

I sat down at the small desk.

“Nothing. I danced all the time. Well, I had other studies, but when I wasn’t doing that, I was dancing.”

“Bang any cute Italian guys?”

I smiled. “No. But I made out with a few.”

His face crinkled. “No sex? Really?”

I rubbed at the calluses on my right foot. “I fooled around a little, but I was there to dance, not fuck. My parents paid a lot of money for me to go to the academy in Milan.”

Swish ran his finger along the inseam of his jeans. “Why not here?”

I shrugged. “Milan’s academy is part of the Global School of Ballet, and my parents wanted me to experience Europe.” Or out of their hair. “Did you know my brother well?”

“No. He was busy a lot, and I spend a lot of time grooming dogs.”

“What was Jake busy doing?”

Swish’s eyes flicked up to mine and back down again. “Working. Dating one chick or another. He was popular with them, though he wasn’t as cute as you, in my opinion. I just always wondered why he didn’t live at home. Lots of the guys in the club come from bad places, but weren’t your folks rich?”

“Rich doesn’t always mean good. Jake and I were estranged for a long time. It was only the last couple of years we started talking.”

“Yeah? How come?”

I didn’t know if he was asking why we were estranged or why we’d only recently started talking. I chose the easier to answer. “Jake didn’t know how to contact me until our parents died a couple years ago. My lawyer gave him my number.”

Swish curled up on the bed like a cat. “I came here with Dante and wound up staying. It’s not a bad place to live.”

I tried to imagine living in the clubhouse. I guessed it wouldn’t be awful. Better than the street.

“Who were the girls here the other night?” I’d been introduced, but all the names had gotten jumbled in my head.

“Only four are regulars. Pammy—she was the tall red-head. She and Foghorn are tight. Angel’s the small blond. Katie’s Blaze’s girl, and then there’s Cupcake. Pink hair. She’s the only one from our MC working in the business.

“Business?” I asked, thinking of the building in the lot behind the clubhouse.

Swish started to answer, but someone knocked at the door.

“Come in,” I called.

Zeke stuck his head around the door. “You ready?”

“Yeah. I’ll be out in a second.”

He closed the door, and I turned to find Swish looking at me.


“Just wondering why Zeke’s so weird around you.”

“He’s not weird around you?”

“He never talks to me.”

“I just thought he was weird, period.” I stood and picked up my bag. “I can’t wait to really dance. I’ve tried in here, but there isn’t much room. Plus, the music’s probably driving you guys crazy.”

Swish stood and shrugged. “I kind of like it. Brings some culture to the place. And Blaze wants you to feel comfortable here. Zeke sleeping outside your door would make anyone feel safe.”

I stilled. “What do you mean, outside my door?”

“He’s been sleeping on the floor in the hall since you got here,” Swish said.

“Why? Where does he normally sleep?” I hadn’t thought about it before.

“He was roommates with Jake. The bed’s a trundle.” Swish pointed beneath the bed.

I stared. “But, why is he out in the hall?”

Swish raised a brow. “You want him in here with you?”

My body went hot all over. I looked away and shrugged. “It just seems unfair, me having his room to myself while he sleeps on the floor.”

“Easier to keep people out that way,” Swish said. “Besides, he’s probably slept in weirder places.”

“You really think that rival club could get into the house?” I asked, nerves tingling.

“If they really wanted to, they could.” Swish glanced at the open window. “I’d make sure that’s closed and locked when you go to bed tonight.”

I didn’t want to think about it. I picked up my cell phone from where it was charging on the nightstand.

“You think it would be okay to have my friend over later?”

Swish paused, hand on the door knob. “Sure. And try to relax. You’ll be safe with Zeke.”

I dialed Nikki’s number.

“How would you like to see a real live motorcycle club?” I asked her when she answered.

“Really? I’m allowed to infiltrate the sacrosanct interior?”

“Evidently. Come around six and eat dinner with us.”

I hung up, a small smile on my face, and went to meet Zeke.



The ballet studio Morgan had directed me to was closed, but the kid had a key. Said it belonged to a friend of the family. As soon as we got in, I checked all the locks and scoped out the place before coming back to Morgan. He’d changed into a skimpy pair of skin-tight shorts and a tight T-shirt and had one toned leg up on the barre, stretching to music only my grandma would listen to but that I was quickly becoming accustomed to.

I studied the kid. A strand of his dark hair kept falling into his big, brown eyes. He had great bone structure, as Cupcake would say. She was always saying things like that, but with Morgan, I could see it. His face looked like it’d been chiseled from stone. His whole body was like that. Everything about the kid was long and lean: his neck, legs, fingers…

The shorts accentuated the tight swell of Morgan’s ass, and my mouth dropped when he demonstrated the impressive ability to lift one leg straight in the air parallel with his body. Watching him made me inexplicably angry. Or something.

What was wrong with me? When I was around the guy, half the time I wanted to beat someone’s face in and the other half I…

I couldn’t finish the thought.

I’d been as bad as my old man, calling Morgan a queer and everything else at his friend’s apartment. I just couldn’t stop myself from saying those things when I was around him. Like I said, I was angry or…something else.

I needed a cigarette, but the prima donna had made it clear I couldn’t smoke in the studio, and I wasn’t about to leave him alone to go outside to light up. I played with my phone, but again and again found my eyes roaming to the strong, sleek lines of Morgan’s body as he did something that made his legs look like egg beaters.

“Fuck this shit.” I headed into the outer room to stare out the window.

My cell phone buzzed, and Blaze’s name appeared on the screen.


“Zeke. Morgan with you?”

“Yeah, we’re at some dance studio in Manhattan, and he’s leaping around like a gazelle on crack.”

“Be extra careful when you leave there.”

“Something wrong?”

A long pause sent my blood pressure soaring. “Blaze?”

“Guess Spoons got wind of Morgan somehow. He and a few of his buddies just paid us a visit.”

My heart stopped for a few beats before picking up again. “Damn. Everybody okay?”

“They broke down the front door and threw a few punches, but yeah. Ax was here, and that deterred them.”

Yeah, the sight of Ax would deter anybody. Our MC usually kept a pretty low profile, but sometimes, when other MC’s got on our backs, having Ax around came in handy. The guy’d been in and out of prison so many times, he pretty much ran the place when he was there. What most people didn’t know was none of Ax’s crimes had been for violence. The rumors he’d killed people for fun had all come from us.

I glanced over my shoulder to make sure I was still alone in the room and that the kid was still safe. I hated to think of what Spoons would do with someone like Morgan. Someone so…

My mind skidded to a halt.

“Wonder how they found out about Morgan.”

“Tony worked it out. Remember we thought there was no obit? Well, the funeral home had one on their website. Short and sweet, but Morgan’s name was there as the only next of kin.”

“Fuck. But they didn’t show up at the funeral. I’m positive about that.”

“Vanessa’s funeral was the same day, same time.” Blaze lowered his voice. “We gotta keep him safe, Zeke. I can’t let J down, but man, Spoons looked crazed. Like he hadn’t slept in a week.”


“The kid can’t go off to live at the school. He’ll be a sitting duck.”

“Ain’t gonna be easy to convince him not to.”

“He can commute, with you or someone else tailing him. Convince him, Zeke. I gotta find some leverage. I’ve got Tony on it, but it’ll take time.”

“What makes you think I can convince him? He likes you better than me.”

“I take it you used your considerable charm to get him here,” Blaze said wryly. “But in spite of that, he relaxes when he’s around you. Seems to trust you. Talk to him. Tony will come up with something soon.”

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