Hard Rider (Bad Boy Bikers Book 1)(2)

By: Lydia Pax

When they were just eight years old, Mikhail had wanted to play in the poor neighborhood's baseball sandlot. None of the other rich kids ever wanted to get out in the sun. Mikhail nearly got hammered with baseball bats for his inclination.

But Ram had seen something in him, and had told the other kids to let him play—and so Mikhail played. They had been inseparable ever since.

Ram was like that, seeing qualities in people. He was the sort of man other men would follow into battle without a thought. He had picked out almost a quarter of the Wrecking Crew's current patch holders and down-voted more than a dozen prospects who later ended up being junkies, stick-up artists, or worse. Once upon a time he'd trusted his intuition with not a single doubt—but after all that rotten business with Beretta and his sister Madeline, that had changed.

Mikhail trained religiously in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was proud of his body and often went shirtless, as he was now, bigger than Ace and smaller than Ram (as most were). Short, spiky blond hair cropped close to his dome.

The prospect, Nate, trailed behind them with his chest puffed up. He never got to come inside with the brothers—usually left outside to mind the bikes at bars like this. But The Hammerin’ Nail was neutral territory, a place that hadn’t seen a fight between rival gangs in more than thirty years.

If someone started shit, they’d be making history, and not the good kind. They’d be the assholes on the front line into Poland in 1939, they’d be the Black Hand with one too many pistols tossing themselves out into Franz Ferdinand's motorcade.

The Hammerin’ Nail had a bar at its far end, surrounded by a long u-shape of sitting space. It was a small establishment, no more than four hundred square feet in the front where the customers sat and drank, and on a busy night everyone would be crammed together.

Tonight was not busy, but it was not empty, either.

Ram and his brothers settled down in a corner, pushing a couple of tables together and settling them as their own. Across the bar they saw members of the Black Flags—their number one rival—sitting with girls and playing cards. Heavy waves of cigarette and cigar smoke powered through the bar from their table.

Guns. Drugs. Gambling. Protection. The Wrecking Crew ran whatever enterprise it could get its hands on. Established so close to the border, there were plenty of opportunities to make money for enterprising criminal souls. The Black Flags had been pushing in on their territory as of late—spreading out from south of the border. It was a situation with war written all over it.

“Don’t start nothing,” Ram said to Ace and Mikhail. “And that goes double for you.” He pointed at the prospect.

“Sure, Ram. Whatever you say.”

There had been a lot of heat between the Black Flags and the Wrecking Crew in the last year. But they were at The Hammerin' Nail, and that meant no fighting.

Some things were sacred, even to an outlaw like Ram. He wanted war like hell, and he wanted a fight almost as much as he wanted a fuck, but neutral ground was neutral ground.

Ace and Mikhail just traded a smile. It said, “We’ll see.”

The two knew that with Ram around, they usually didn’t have to start anything. If Ram ever turned in a resume—if he ever dropped to such indignities—easily he could write “self-starter” on it as one of his qualities. Fights, brawls, and worse entered Ram’s life on an assembly line of violence and death that stunned even the hardened veteran members of The Wrecking Crew.

It had been getting worse and worse as of late, this violence. He knew it, and he didn't care. It wasn't his fault he was built like a fighting and fucking machine. Men broke and women gushed; that was the kind of response he was designed to create.

He had been riding in the Texas heat all day. It was late May, and that meant in Texas that it was the summer. The temperature scorched over one hundred degrees, the kind of heat that drew lines in the distance and made the horizon look like a watercolor. War might have been in the air, but what Ram wanted right then was a good drink and a good fuck. The rest could work itself out later.

In no time, the Wrecking Crew had rounded up beers and then shots and then beers again. Ram started to unwind. There was a flophouse in the back of the bar that counted still as neutral territory. There were more than a few fine young honeys shaking to the music, giving him and his boys the long eye of admiration and wonder. Especially Ram. He knew their looks—he knew that likely these girls had all been for rides before, but they were all wondering what a ride with a man like him would be like. All of them looking his age or younger.

That should have been a tip-off for him right there, but he was feeling too good to take notice. This was deep in Southeast Texas, a hundred miles outside of Ram’s hometown of Marlowe, and there shouldn’t have been any girls that pretty or that young hanging out in this place.

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