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To do to her.

“Get the fuck off me,” she shouted.

Barking sounded in the distance, but she could barely hear it over the jackhammering of her pulse.

“You fucking bitch,” he snarled. Sweat dropped off him, and spittle flew from his furious mouth. “Do you have any idea what you’ve cost me?”

“Get off me! You’re on Handlers’ property. Do you have any idea what they’ll do to y—” He grabbed her throat and squeezed, stealing her words. Her eyes bugged, and her mouth flapped like a fish. A high-pitched whistle was the only sound she made.

She kicked her legs and flailed her arms, desperate to get him off her, but with each passing second, her energy fled, and she grew weaker from lack of air.

“I owe people money,” he shouted. His other hand joined the first, wrapping around her throat. The shift allowed her to suck in the air, but it vanished just as quickly. “People who make your fucking bikers look like kittens.” He shook her. Her head bounced on the ground. Her brain rattled, and her eyes felt like too loose orbs jiggling around in their sockets.

She tried to talk, beg him to release her, but she couldn’t make a sound.

The barking sounded closer, and she almost thought she heard someone shout her name, but there seemed to be so much wind. A hurricane sounded in her ears.

“Lock has my money,” he shouted, still shaking her.

She flopped like a rag doll. His enraged face grew hazy, then gray.

Blackness crept in from all corners of her vision. She flexed her fingers against the dirt, unable to muster the energy for a more vigorous fight.


Jinx? Is that him?

Everything was wavy and gray, melding together. She couldn’t think, tell up from down, or what day it was.

God, she wished that was Jinx’s voice. It’d be so nice to see him before she fell asleep, but she was so tired, and he sounded far away. Maybe this was all a dream. Maybe when she woke up, she’d be lying on an uncomfortable bunk in the prison she’d called home for so many years.

What a lovely fantasy Jinx had been.

A vicious growl split the air as a black and brown cloud streaked across her field of vision.

She blinked as the pressure around her throat disappeared, and the air she’d once thought thick and humid flowed into her lungs like the most precious gift.

“Ray, leave it,” someone ordered as strong arms came around her in the gentlest hold, cradling her to a massive chest.

The sound of flesh hitting flesh would have frightened her if it wasn’t for the immediate feeling of safety these arms provided.

“Save him for me,” someone growled.


“He’s mine.”


Harper blinked. As she gulped in air, her vision cleared, and the most beautiful sight came into view. “Jinx?” she croaked.

He winced. “Yeah, baby, it’s me.”

He was there.

He saved her.

He didn’t hate her.

“I’m so sor—”

“Shh… God, baby, not now. Save your voice until we get you checked out at the hospital.”

“But I—”

“Shh. Baby, please. Your voice is shot… don’t talk.” He kissed her forehead, and her eyes floated closed as a warm sensation traveled over her.

Was it only yesterday they’d fought?

That one night apart might as well have been a lifetime for how awful it felt. God, she’d missed this.

He kissed her head again, her cheek, and her lips a few times. She sighed, content even as her throat and neck throbbed.

“I’m tired,” she rasped.

Damn, her voice really did sound as though someone had taken a meat grinder to her vocal cords.

“Then sleep, baby. You’re safe, and I won’t let you go for a second.”

She blinked a few times as exhaustion became too heavy to ignore. A man sat on the ground, bloodied, with an obvious German Shepherd bite on his arm. Spec stood over him, rattling off orders on his phone. Ray sat beside Curly, teeth bared as though ready to go again.

“Good doggie,” she whispered, then her eyes fluttered closed.

“The fucking best,” Jinx replied. He rocked her gently from side to side, and the calming motion had her near sleep within seconds. “He’s getting a steak dinner tonight.”

“No,” she whispered. “You’re the best. The best for me. I love you.”

She never heard a response because sleep claimed her, but she felt his lips on her forehead once again. Maybe she’d only said the words in her head.

She’d tell him again when she woke.

If she woke.

Maybe he’d only been so sweet to her because he knew the prognosis wouldn’t be good.


HOW LONG DID it take one fucking woman to wake up?

“Sir? Sir, visiting hours are almost over. We’re going to need you to go home soon. I promise we’ll take good care of your fiancée.”

He was a damn cliché, telling the hospital he and Harper were engaged so he could be at her bedside.

This perky little nurse who barely looked a day older than graduation could fuck right off if she thought she had a chance of kicking him out. He stood from the shitty bedside chair to his full six foot six and scowled down at her.

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