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They stared at each other across the room, chests heaving and eyes shooting sparks.

God, why had she said that? Now that the words were out there, she felt nothing but pain and despair.

“Say it again,” he whispered.

She shook her head. “I think you should go.”

“No.” He rose and then walked toward her.

Turning away to look at anything but him, she said, “Jinx, please. I shouldn’t have said it. I didn’t mean to say it. Please go.” Her voice sounded as though she hung on the edge of desperation, exactly how she felt. “Please.”

He reached her, stopping right in front of her. “Say it again.”

“No.” Harper banged her forehead against his chest. “Go.”

He cupped her face between his hands, forcing her to meet his gaze. “So fucking prickly. Say it.”

“I didn’t mean it.” She reached for the lie as a lifeline. The final straw to grasp and save her heart.

“Now who’s lying? I love you, Harper. So fucking much.”

She closed her eyes as pain lanced her heart. “No.”

He kissed her, soft, slow, and intoxicating. His calloused thumbs brushed her cheeks as his sweet breath mixed with hers. For one second, she let herself sink into it and soak up the comfort and excitement only he could provide in equal measure. She swore she could taste the love on his tongue, but her brain had gone into full-body armor mode, trying to protect her heart. “No,” she whispered, pulling his hands from her face. “I can’t do this, Jinx. You have to go.”

He stepped away, sadness crossing his features. “Running away from me doesn’t make it any less true, but if you need to flee, go ahead. I’ll be right here waiting to say it again when you’re ready to hear it.”

“What if I never am?” she whispered as the cracks in her heart became deep fissures.

“You will be. You got this.” He hauled her in for one more kiss, then released her and walked out the door without a backward glance.

Harper followed as though attached to him by a chain connecting their hearts. When she reached the door, she flattened her palms on it and rested her forehead against the cool wood. The first sob came seconds later, followed by another and another. Before she knew it, her knees gave out, and she sank to the floor, crying harder than ever.

How was it possible for this pain to be worse than when she received a prison sentence?

Jinx said he’d wait, but for how long? How long until he got tired of her issues and moved on to another woman? The thought of him touching someone else made the tears flow harder. She’d die if he abandoned her for someone else.

So why the hell are you shoving him away so hard?

Had she made a mistake? Was this an overreaction? How was she supposed to know? She had no experience with men beyond one life-altering betrayal that had clearly fucked her up for any other man.

What the hell was she going to do? Jinx didn’t want half a commitment anymore. She asked what it mattered if she became his ol’ lady, but in truth, she knew. The girls had explained the significance as far as the club. It was the highest level of commitment, valued even above marriage.

It represented complete trust and devotion.

After tonight, she wasn’t sure she was capable of it.

“You will be. You got this.”

Those were some of her favorite words, but as she sat on the floor sobbing her heart out, she wondered if that was true.

And for the first time, she feared she might not ever have it.


“YOU OKAY, BROTHER?” Curly asked as he sat next to Jinx at the bar.

Jinx grunted and turned his attention from his drink to his president. “Don’t I look okay?”

“You look like day-old shit.” As he spoke, Curly signaled to a hang-around behind the bar to grab him a drink. The new kid wanted to prospect but needed to get to know everyone before someone would sponsor his prospecting.

“Gee, thanks.” He lifted his glass in a toast. “Appreciate the support.”

“You get any sleep last night?” Curly asked, nodding his thanks as the hang-around delivered his drink. The kid was so damn eager he nearly knocked over the glass, sputtering under the president’s attention.

Any other time Jinx would have jumped on the opportunity to bust on the kid, but the heaviness sitting on his chest wouldn’t allow him to joke around.

“It’s two in the afternoon, and I’m on my third drink. So, no, I did not get any sleep last night.”

“You know, when I got out of prison, I spent some time up in Tennessee?” Curly asked.

“Yeah. With Copper and the club up there. It’s what gave you the idea to come down here and open your own chapter, right?” After being framed by a local MC-hating detective, Curly spent thirteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit—the heinous murder of a child.