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The other woman’s eyes flared, and she sucked in a breath. Those were the only visible indications she’d heard Harper’s confession.

She was going to rub her hands raw at this point. “I just thought you should know now so I don’t waste your time if that’s a deal breaker.”

“Hmm…” Brooke tilted her head. “Five days ago?”

Heart in her throat, she nodded. “Yes.”

“Shit, hon, you must be seriously overwhelmed.”

Brooke had no idea. “Um… yes, it’s a little… daunting. And, look, I completely understand if this is too much for you.”

“Armed robbery, you said?”

Harper swallowed with a wince. “Yes.”

“Did you do it?”

“W-what?” Now her palms were sweaty, making her hands slip and slide on each other.

“Did you do it?” Brooke asked again.

Harper swallowed. “Yes.” She flinched. “Well, kind of. Not by choice.”

A small grin flickered across Brooke’s lips, but it disappeared instantly. “Aah… there’s a story there. A painful one, I bet.”

She nodded. So painful.

“I have a story too, Harper.” She extended her arm toward the farmhouse behind them. “Everyone here does. Some of them would give you nightmares. All the women we serve will have painful stories too.”

They would. And some of their stories would break hearts.

“If you were looking for judgment and disapproval, you came to the wrong place. Someday, I’d love to hear your story, and maybe you’d want to listen to mine. Until that day, know that you are welcome here regardless of your past.” She hummed a small chuckle. “Or maybe because of your past. Now, come on, let’s head into the office and get to the boring part of the interview. Watch your step. The stairs are shit. Curly was supposed to fix them, but something came up last weekend.”

She squeezed Harper’s shoulder, then started for the trailer.

Harper couldn’t move. She stood there, tears in her eyes, blinking at the partially constructed building that would become a beacon of hope for many women.

Brooke hadn’t rejected her. In fact, she acted as though Harper’s past could be an asset—a way to empathize and connect with the women they served.

Exactly why Harper worked so hard for her degree.

Today, that degree was a symbol of her renewed life.

With that thought, she spun around and hurried after Brooke.


“SUP?” JINX STUCK his head into the prez’s office. “You wanted me?” The big man sat behind his desk while his grinning sister sat across from him.

Half sister, actually.

That had been quite a surprise to the prez. A few months ago, Rachel appeared from nowhere, having learned of her relation to Curly after her mother’s death. They had the same scumbag father who hadn’t been a part of Rachel’s life. Rachel’s mother had been nothing more than a passing sweet butt to him.

She fit well with their group and had even started up with Frost, their newest patched member. But she had issues, especially surrounding large men, and at six foot six, Jinx was the largest, so he always tried to be careful not to spook her.

“Yeah,” Curly said. “Need a favor if you’ve got time.”

“Yeah, got all afternoon. I’m not working until tomorrow.”

“Hey, Jinx,” Rachel said with a shy smile.

“Hey, sweetie. How you doing? Frost treating you right?”

Her entire face lit up at the mention of her ol’ man. “He is.”

“Good. You let me know if he gets outta line. He might have patched in, but I’ll still kick his ass for you.”

Rachel laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”

He loved making her laugh. She’d been petrified of him when they met. Earning a laugh always felt like a victory in the mission to make her as comfortable around him as she was with the others.

He winked, then focused on the prez again. “So what do you need? Some cash?”

Rachel snorted, and Curly rolled his eyes. Thanks to his wrongful imprisonment suit, everyone knew Curly had more money than God. “Need some help with the ol’ lady? Date ideas?”

“Got it covered, thanks.”

Jinx cupped a hand around his mouth and stage-whispered, “Sex tips? You are getting close to fifty, man. No shame in needing a blue pill every now and then to keep your woman happy.”

A strangled noise came from Rachel while Curly seared him with a death look. “Worry about your own dick. Mine’s fine.”

“Oooh…” Jinx ducked like he was dodging a punch. “Nice shot. But my dick is primo, my friends. In fact, I call him—”

“I just need you to take this fucking box to Brooke for me.” Curly scowled as he pointed to a box on the edge of his desk. It wasn’t big, about the size of a large shoebox.

“Oh. Well, that’s boring. Sure you don’t want my secret to making the ladies scream my name. Promise you’ll thank me later.”

Rachel burst out laughing. “You are ridiculous,” she said, shaking her head.

He winked, loving the way her cheeks turned pink. Prez’s sister was fun to play with. Frost would probably rip him a new one later for flirting with his woman, but it was harmless. Rachel only had eyes for the chilly bastard and was far too fragile for the likes of Jinx. He liked women itching for a hard fuck and no repeats. Rachel’s past made it so she’d never want a man like him, and he’d never want anything more than friendship from her.