Retribution" Lone Riders Series Book Two

 





One

 

 

The wind whistled around Mia’s face and she pulled her scarf further up over her chin. It didn’t do a great deal to shield her from the biting cold, but it helped. A bit.

Sitting down on a bench overlooking an angry North Sea, she clasped her hands together between her knees, staring out at the waves as they whipped high into the darkening sky. The sound they made verged on terrifying, if you closed your eyes and listened. Like a low, deep, tortured moan that reached its crescendo as the water hit the shore with a brutal flourish.

Standing up, she dug her hands into the pockets of her jacket, her eyes still staring straight ahead. There was a part of her that found the sight of that cold, dark sea and those crashing waves inviting – peaceful, even, in a warped, twisted kind of way. But maybe that was the kind of peace she was looking for. The kind she needed.

Closing her eyes she took a long, deep breath, exhaling slowly, scrunching her fists up inside her pockets, her finger nails digging into the palms of her hands. But the pain was nothing. She’d felt worse. She’d let worse be inflicted upon her.

Pulling her right hand out of her pocket she looked down at the fresh bruising on her knuckles. It was harder to make out in the fading light and she drew her hand closer, narrowing her eyes as she stared at the colors that were slowly starting to show themselves – the dark gray, the deep orange; the almost blue-tinged edges that were beginning to form. Who knew bruises could be so beautiful? She’d just never realized…

Balling her hand back into a fist she cocked her head as she watched the nature of those bruises change; how they stretched, the colors merging in a whole different way. It was mesmerizing to watch. Until the loud crashing of another wave on to the deserted beach below shook her out of her almost trance-like state, and she quickly shoved her hand back into her pocket, wincing slightly as her bruised knuckles hit the keys lying in there.

She should be getting back. She had nowhere else to go anyway. Even grabbing this fleeting moment of freedom had been dangerous, so she couldn’t stay here. Not for much longer. She should never have left in the first place.

Turning and walking back over to the bike she stopped for a second, pulling her hand back out of her pocket, letting her fingers run slowly over the cool chrome and black leather. It seemed such an easy option, to climb on to that bike and just ride. To get as far away from here as she could. Such an easy option…

 

***

 

Charlie Hart sat back in his chair, flinging his feet up on to the desk, a heavy sigh racking his whole body.

‘Can I have a word, boss?’

Charlie looked up at the tall, well-built man standing in the doorway, his short, dark-brown hair covered by a red and white bandana, his rough face sporting heavy stubble. ‘What do you want, Lennie?’

‘You seen Mia?’

‘No. She isn’t here,’ Charlie sighed again, sitting up and pushing both hands through his rapidly graying hair. ‘I haven’t seen her all night.’ He stood up, digging his hands into his pockets as he walked over to Lennie. ‘Mia’s a big girl now. She can look after herself. She doesn’t need you checking up on her twenty-four-seven.’ The dried blood on Lennie’s left hand didn’t escape Charlie’s notice. ‘So why don’t you back off for a little while, huh? Give her some space.’

Lennie fixed Charlie with a look the older man had no problem matching.

‘Go home.’ Charlie had handled men like Lennie Rose before. He knew them well; the way they worked. ‘Did you hear me, Lennie? I said, go home.’

‘Yeah. Yeah, I heard you.’

‘Then get out of here. Go on.’

Lennie reluctantly turned and left. Charlie watched him go, stepping out into the corridor, waiting until he heard the roar of Lennie’s bike leaving the compound before he gave the signal – a short, sharp whistle.

Mia emerged from the shadows, two large wooden cupboards affording her the cover she’d needed until Lennie had gone.

‘This still going on?’ Charlie asked, sitting on the edge of the oversized desk that dominated the whole room, his eyes fixed on Mia as she moved closer.

‘What can I do, Charlie? I’ve fought back, tried to understand what’s happening, tried to help him… He wasn’t always this way, and you know that. But after his brother was killed…’

‘You’re making excuses for him?’

‘No.’

‘That’s what it sounds like to me. Dale’s death was completely unrelated to this club. He wasn’t a member of the Lone Riders, didn’t play any part here. I don’t think he even set one foot inside this clubhouse. His death was a mindless, tragic accident that nobody could have predicted. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Lennie’s anger at what happened was totally understandable, given the circumstances. But to keep hold of that anger for as long as he has; to continue to take it out on the people close to him…’

‘I can’t walk away, though. Can I? Because, if I do, if I leave him, he’ll find me.’

‘He doesn’t deserve you.’

‘But he’s got me. Whether I like it or not. And he’s still here… For Christ’s sake, Charlie, you made him your V.P.!’

‘I’m keeping him close, Mia, that’s all. Just trying to make sure he channels all of that anger he still has inside of him in the right way.’

‘There’s a right way? You really think that? Charlie, this has gone beyond him grieving now. It’s been years since Dale’s death, and nobody expects Lennie to forget his brother, least of all me. But he’s turned into someone I don’t recognize any more. And I loved him once, I really did. I loved him. But what’s happening now – it has to stop.’

Mia was right, Charlie knew that. It had to stop because, if it didn’t, who knew the danger Mia could really be in. But he also knew he should have done something a lot sooner. He’d sat back and let too much happen for far too long. ‘What do you want me to do, Mia?’

‘Get rid of him! He’s dangerous. If he can do what he’s done to me, what the hell is he capable of with others? We can’t help him, Charlie. We’ve tried. It isn’t working. And I can’t take it any more. I can’t.’

Charlie folded his arms, bowing his head.

Mia narrowed her eyes as she looked at him. ‘You know exactly what he’s capable of, don’t you? And you also know that’s something you can use to this club’s advantage.’

Charlie looked up, his arms still folded, his expression calm. Stoic, even. But the guilt that continued to eat away at him – that was never going to go away. ‘I can’t just banish him, sweetheart.’

Mia couldn’t stop the slightly hysterical laugh from escaping. ‘Under what kind of biker code are we operating now, huh? You know, this chapter was supposed to be one of the safest; one of the most settled, most organized out of all of them. There’s no threat here, not any more. Not like there used to be. None of that underlying tension others have experienced. You have the dream chapter, Charlie. And after everything it’s been through in the past…’ Mia stopped talking, remembering just what this club had been responsible for, in the past; how it had affected her. It had caused the deaths of her parents. Caught in the crossfire of a bitter feud between the Lone Riders Newcastle chapter and a rival MC from London, they’d both been killed outright, dead at the scene. She’d been just days old. But as much as the club had been responsible for the loss of her parents, it had also been responsible for making sure she was looked after. And she’d been lucky in that respect, adopted by another club member and his old lady. Two wonderful people who’d turned out to be the best mum and dad Mia could have asked for, and she’d loved them, so much. They were the only parents she’d ever known, her birth parents having been taken from her before she’d even had a chance to know who they were. But now her adoptive mum and dad were dead, too. Both of them tragically killed within months of each other by something the club couldn’t control – cancer. And with no siblings; no aunts, uncles or cousins to fall back on, the only family Mia had now was the club. It had been her safety for so long, but meeting Lennie Rose had changed that, over time. Marrying him had been the mistake that had made sure that safety she’d once felt had lessened with each day that passed, and she’d just sat back and let it happen. She’d been weak. And now the last remnants of anything resembling a family were slowly slipping from her grasp.

‘I can’t just banish him, Mia,’ Charlie repeated, his voice as calm as his expression.

‘But you were quite happy to see your own daughter banished from Paradise, weren’t you? Quite happy to see her leave somewhere she was happy, leave behind people she loved.’

‘Lexi left Paradise for her own safety. And that’s why I’m sending you over there for yours.’

Mia frowned. ‘You’re banishing me?’

‘It’s not like that,’ Charlie sighed, pushing a hand through his hair again as he stood up, walking over to the filing cabinet in the corner of the room. ‘But you can’t stay here, Mia. And believe me, sweetheart, I really don’t want to send you away, but you have very little choice now. Our options are limited.’ He opened the top drawer, flicking through the papers stacked in there until he found the small manilla envelope he was looking for. ‘Lennie won’t let you go, that’s obvious. The state of mind he’s in now, he isn’t going to just let you walk away.’

Mia leaned back against the table, her head down, an almost defeated tone to her voice. ‘I didn’t do anything wrong, Charlie. I mean, it wasn’t like I even…’ She stopped talking again, closing her eyes for a second or two, aware of Charlie back beside her now.

‘Like you even what, Mia?’ Charlie asked, placing a hand on her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. ‘You didn’t even fuck around behind his back? Like Lexi did with Jesse?’

Mia looked up, her expression almost apologetic. ‘Charlie, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘You didn’t say anything, sweetheart. I did.’

‘It’s what I meant.’ She threw her head back, letting out a long, frustrated sigh that seemed to come from deep within her. ‘How the hell did I let this happen? All I did was try and protect myself…’

Charlie looked at her, this beautiful young woman with the tortured heart and a life he knew he had a duty to protect. She’d been a part of this club since the day she was born. He was responsible for making sure she stayed safe. And he’d failed to do that.

‘You weren’t to know, Mia. That Lennie would turn into the man he’s become. None of us could have known.’

‘So I run and hide, is that it? I mean, how do I know he won’t find me, in Paradise? How do I know someone won’t tell him I’m there, or that he won’t just keep digging until he finds out where I am? I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hiding, Charlie.’

‘I’ll make sure he doesn’t find you.’

‘And how are you gonna do that, huh? You know what he’s capable of, how he can manipulate people…’ Because he’d manipulated her, hadn’t he? To the point where she didn’t know who she was sometimes. He’d suck the life out of her, drain her of any human emotion until she was nothing but an empty shell. And then the fear would return, and the anger. And the sheer, terrifying knowledge that she was powerless to do anything about it. Because if she tried, he’d kill her. He’d threatened as much, and she believed every stomach-turning word.

‘It’s the safest place for you to be right now,’ Charlie said, his voice quiet, almost soothing. ‘Coby and Lexi, they’ll look after you.’

‘I don’t need looking after, Charlie.’

‘I know. I know you don’t.’ He sighed, turning to face her, his expression still stoic as he took in her bruised cheek, the red marks on her neck. And just seeing those caused that guilt to flood through him again.

‘He doesn’t even care that the whole world can see what he’s done.’ Mia’s voice was steady. Monotone. Because, in all honesty, she felt nothing now. She was done here.

‘This should tide you over, for a little while.’ Charlie handed her the envelope. ‘Just until you find your feet. I know it can be difficult, starting again in a strange place. You’ll need time to settle in. But Lexi she… Well, you should talk to her.’

Mia took the envelope, shoving it straight into her pocket. ‘When do I leave?’


Two

 

 

Ben Salter pushed open the door of the clubhouse and walked inside, the smell of alcohol and tobacco assaulting his nostrils the second he stepped over the threshold.

‘Coby around?’ He directed his question at Luca Camilleri, one of the more seasoned Lone Riders, who was leaning back against the bar, a beer in his hand. Ben raised an eyebrow. ‘Bit early for that, isn’t it?’

Luca took a swig from the bottle, his eyes never leaving Ben. ‘He’s in there.’ He jerked his head in the direction of the chapel, ignoring Ben’s comment.

‘Yeah. Thanks for that.’ Ben made his way along the corridor that led to the Lone Riders’ meeting room, looking around him as he walked. It was quite obvious there’d been some kind of party going on, in fact, judging by the state of the place it probably hadn’t long finished. Or it was still in progress. You never could tell sometimes.

Knocking on the door he waited until he heard Coby Walker’s rough Scottish drawl beckon him inside before he entered.

‘Sit down,’ Coby said, without looking up.

Ben took a seat on the club President’s right, unable to hide his surprise at the sight of the Scotsman’s baby son sitting on his knee. Was this really any place to bring a child? Especially one so young. And as far as Ben was aware, Ozzie Walker was only just coming up to his first birthday. But already he looked like a mini member of the club with his black T-shirt sporting the Lone Riders patch, tiny ripped jeans and a black beanie hat covering his mop of dark hair. Cute, but odd in Ben’s eyes. He just didn’t think it was somewhere a kid should be spending a lot of time.

‘Everything sorted?’ Still Coby didn’t look at Ben, his attention focused on a map spread open on the table in front of him.

‘Yeah. It’s all done. The Lone Riders MC now owns the land to the back of this compound. I just need you to sign here, to make it all official.’

Coby finally looked up as Ben slid the sheet of paper towards him.

‘Just there, at the bottom of that page.’

Ben watched as Coby scrawled his signature, before pushing the paper back to him. ‘Anything else?’

‘No. That’s everything.’

‘Good. That’s what I like about you, Ben. You get things done without any additional crap. Makes my life so much easier, having someone around who knows what they’re doing.’

Ben slid the papers back into his briefcase and stood up. ‘Well, that’s what you pay me for. So, if there’s nothing else…’

‘I think we’re done here.’

‘Okay. You know where I am if you need me.’

Coby just nodded, turning his attention back to whatever it was he’d been doing before Ben had turned up.

Closing the chapel door behind him, Ben walked back into the clubhouse, the sound of heavy rock music and loud chatter now filling the previously quiet space.

‘Hey, Ben. Everything okay?’

He swung around to see Lexi Hart standing behind him. All long blonde hair and bright blue eyes she was just stunning to look at, the myriad of tattoos that covered her tanned skin only adding to her unique, hard-edged beauty. But as much as he found her undeniably attractive, even looking at her in a certain way was dangerous around here. She was Coby Walker’s old lady, partner of the President, and that meant total respect, from everybody concerned with this club, including him. He might only be their lawyer, but there were rules even he had to follow. Rules he was more than aware of. Rules he understood only too well.

‘Everything’s fine.’ He smiled. He was allowed to do that, at least. ‘Just finished sorting out the last of the details regarding the land sale. It’s all yours now.’

She returned his smile, sliding up on to a stool at the bar. ‘Good. Coby’ll be pleased. He’s got plans he really wants to crack on with, but I’m sure he’ll talk to you about that soon. Listen, Ben, I know you’re done here now but, have you got a few more minutes to spare? I could do with a quick word, if that’s okay.’

‘Yeah. Sure.’ He pulled himself up on to the stool next to her, stealing another, what he considered to be safe glance in her direction as she turned slightly away from him to say something to Luca, who was still hovering around. Ben liked Lexi. He’d only known her since her arrival back in Paradise about seven months ago, but she was an almost calming influence on the club now. He’d certainly had less crap to clear up since Coby had taken over as President and she’d become Queen of the compound. There’d been no trouble since that run-in with the Cabos and Black Ravens all those months ago. Peace had reigned over the Lone Riders ever since. It had been all charity fund-raising events and helping out in the community, meaning that Coby Walker had been as good as his word when he’d said he was taking this club in a different direction. Okay, so they still had the film studio and the boxing club, but they were both legitimate businesses and gave nobody any trouble. Least of all him. Ben Salter’s world had been a much quieter one of late. And he was kind of getting used to that. It was exactly what he needed – a more peaceful life. ‘What can I do for you, Lexi?’

She turned to face him. ‘There’s somebody coming over here, to Paradise. From the U.K.

‘The Newcastle chapter?’

Lexi nodded, and Ben tried not to drop his gaze as she uncrossed and crossed her long, tanned legs, most of them on show thanks to the short denim skirt she was wearing. ‘A woman called Mia Rose. She’s a friend of mine. Born and brought up within the club, same as me. We’ve known each other since we were kids.’

‘And why’s she coming here?’ Ben asked, narrowing his eyes, a slight hint of wariness creeping into his voice because he could sense this wasn’t just a simple vacation they were talking about.

Lexi looked down, clasping her hands together in her lap. ‘I’ve just spoken to my dad, and…’ She raised her gaze, her eyes meeting Ben’s. ‘He’s sending her over here, for her own safety.’

Ben felt his quiet world slowly start to disintegrate. He should have known it was too good to be true. Sometimes he wondered why he’d ever let himself be talked into becoming involved with this club. The sensible thing would have been to walk away, to never come back to Paradise after he’d finished law school. He’d been trying to make a new start, away from everything that had made him leave in the first place, and Sheriff Bailey had warned him; told him it wasn’t a good idea to return. He’d advised him to ignore the call from Tay Farlow, the club’s then-President. He’d advised him to say no; to stay in L.A., carry on with that new life he’d started living. But Ben had ignored him. The pull had been too strong, curiosity getting the better of him. Tay had called him because he’d heard of Ben’s change of career, and as it would happen, the club were in the process of looking for a new lawyer. Someone who knew what they were doing. Someone who wasn’t unfamiliar with the world they lived in. Ben was the perfect combination. He was also a huge risk. But, so far, it was one that was paying off.

Tay had made Ben an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he’d been keeping the Lone Riders out of as much trouble as he possibly could for almost five years now, which wasn’t always an easy job. But, hey, the money was great. And it needed to be, the shit this club threw at him sometimes. And it would appear more was on the way. The respite had been lovely, while it had lasted, but he should have known it wasn’t going to stay that way forever.

‘What’s she involved in, exactly?’ Ben asked.

‘A violent marriage,’ Lexi replied, not missing a beat, her eyes still fixed on Ben’s. ‘She needs to start again, somewhere new. Somewhere away from the threats and the fear.’

Ben took a deep breath, exhaling long and low. Once more, the twisted way things worked around here was beginning to come into play. It was obvious she couldn’t just walk away from her husband. She was going to need protecting. And that meant she was the one being forced to leave her life behind, because Charlie Hart couldn’t just tell her husband to fuck off out of the club and leave her alone, it didn’t happen that way in this warped world they lived in.

‘She walks away, he kills her,’ Lexi went on. ‘And I know… Well. You know how it works, Ben.’ She finally pulled her eyes away from his, her gaze dropping back down to her clasped hands. ‘There are ways of doing things.’ Her voice was quiet, almost as though she couldn’t quite get her head around the way it all worked herself, despite it being all she knew. ‘My dad – he’ll sort it.’

Ben watched her for a few seconds, noticing the way her whole demeanour changed in an instant as she looked back up at him, her expression turning hard, cold, almost, as her eyes once more met his. She’d pushed herself back into Biker Queen mode now. He’d seen it many a time in Angie Farlow, Lexi’s mum, when she’d been running this compound alongside former club President Tay Farlow. And he was seeing it here, in her daughter – that look that said she may not believe or even fully condone what the men of this club did, but she was running with it anyway. Because it was her duty. And she knew better than to question any of it.

‘What do you need me to do?’ he asked, his tone soft, letting her know he was there to do whatever it was she needed him to do. It was his job, after all.

‘Sort out her divorce. Help her get away from this guy. And it has to be done without anyone over in England knowing where she is.’

‘And what about everybody here? How can you be sure there isn’t someone who’ll let slip she’s in California?’

‘Because they’ve been told, Ben. Simple as that. They’re all aware of what goes on when things like this happen. And of the possible consequences if they don’t follow the rules. It’s our job to keep her safe now. She’s making a new start, that’s all anyone needs to know.’

‘You said you and her grew up together?’

Lexi nodded. ‘Yeah. All us kids born into the club were close.’

‘Did you know this man she married?’

‘Lennie? Sort of. When he joined the Lone Riders we were still just kids. There was a bit of an age difference between him and Mia, and by the time they got together I was over here in Paradise, but, by all accounts he was the perfect husband back then – kind, caring… He was there for her when cancer took both her parents so close together. But after his brother died…’

Ben frowned. ‘His brother?’

‘Dale wasn’t a member of the Lone Riders, and his death wasn’t anything to do with the club, but…’ Lexi sighed, pushing a hand through her hair. ‘It’s a long story… Let’s just say his brother’s death changed him. It turned Lennie into a man nobody recognized any more. That’s when he started to become violent, take all his anger and frustration out on those closest to him, and, in the beginning, Mia didn’t say anything. He was clever. Made sure none of her bruises were visible. But in the end he got sloppy. And Mia couldn’t hide it any more… Look, Ben, you understand how careful we have to be here. If anything about Mia’s whereabouts gets out…’

‘I understand, Lexi.’

‘Lennie Rose is a dangerous man. We just didn’t know how dangerous he could really be. Not until recently.’

Ben raked a hand through his dark hair, sighing quietly.

‘Charlie’s gonna call you this afternoon.’ Lexi slid down from her stool, turning to look over at the chapel door as Coby finally emerged, their baby boy balanced on his hip. ‘He’ll fill you in on everything in more detail.’

‘And when does Mia get here?’ Ben asked, watching Lexi’s expression change from cold to soft the second she took Ozzie from Coby. She could switch it on that quickly.

‘Later today. Shane’s going to fetch her from the airport. After everything he went through he… Well, he kind of understands her situation. He’ll bring her straight here, to the compound.’ She looked at Ben, that softer expression turning only slightly harder. ‘Thanks again, Ben. We’re really grateful for your help on this one.’

Ben smiled. What else could he do? Whether he liked it or not he had no choice in the matter. He was involved now. In what, though, he was going to try not to think about.



Retribution is available to download HERE.

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