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But she really didn’t have any other choice, not unless she wanted to go back to where she came from and deal with the mess she’d made, the nightmare who was probably waiting for her with a gun in his hand and sporting a concussion thanks to her.

Taking a deep breath and holding her bags a little tighter, Claire started walking toward the motorcycle club that she’d turned her back on more than two years ago.

Mayhem might still be a member in that club and would be until he drew his last breath, but Claire had been the one to leave, to turn her back on her family.

And yes, the club was her family through and through, but how she felt for Big, and knowing she had no future with him had had her leaving that all.

She’d packed some of her shit when the man she loved, Big—fucking cocky, arrogant Big—the man she would have died for, only saw her as a piece of pussy.

That’s all he saw women as, and you knew that and got involved with him despite it .

After being with him for over a year, hoping like hell he’d see her as something more than just a receptacle for his cock, Claire had decided she needed to think about herself.

God damn Big for the scar he’d caused within her, the deep wound that would never heal no matter how far she ran, how much she tried to forget about it all.

A part of her hated Big, wished that she’d been brave enough to just tell him how she felt. But when he was as caveman as they came, spoke in short sentences, and was so hardcore he never seemed like the type of guy to settle down, Claire had just decided she deserved to be happy and knew that she wouldn’t have a future with him.

But the truth was, deep down, she did still love him. Always would. He was her first, the guy who took her virginity on a blanket in the middle of the woods, his Harley just a few feet away, making her come so hard she’d seen lights in front of her vision.

He hadn’t apologized for who or what he was, never sugarcoated the fact he was, essentially, a criminal. He’d given her what she wanted, when she wanted it at the time, and back then, it had been good enough for her.

But as she fell in love with him, things changed. She changed. The way the world looked to her was different, and she wanted to be by Big’s side, to be his old Lady. But it seemed what she wanted and reality weren’t on the same page.

Her thoughts in turmoil, her mind thick with what she was doing, she finally stopped and looked up at the massive gates of the clubhouse. The large gate blocked off the MC from the rest of the world, protected the ones inside, and kept out anyone who wasn’t welcome.

It was safety for the club as much as it was protection for the residents of Desertion. She exhaled when she saw some of the club guys on the other side of the gate but stayed in the shadows as she watched them.

Smoking a cigarette was Dirty, a club member even dirtier and filthier than Big, if that was even possible. Her heart was beating fast and hard, the memories of her leaving two years ago slamming into her mind.

She hadn’t escaped in the middle of the night, hadn’t hidden that she was leaving to start her life over, to try to be happy. She’d told Mayhem, told the club. Big hadn’t stopped her then, and that had told her where he stood concerning her. Big didn’t want her back then, and she knew he probably still wouldn’t want her now.

You don’t want him anymore.

That’s a damn lie.

Yeah, it was a lie, and she hated herself and her lack of strength where Big was concerned.

Her worrying was foolish, because she had a hell of a lot of other problems to keep her concerned.

“Mothafucka, you better not be sucking down all my cigs.”

Even though she couldn’t see him because of the shadows, she recognized Dealer’s voice right away, a Patch in the club. Dealer got his club name because he was the one the guys went to if they wanted some party supplies: coke and weed. He was the club’s dealer, so he’d gotten stuck with the nickname.

“You know the asshole likes to smoke everyone’s shit.” Shorty, the club’s sergeant at arms, was the next to speak, and he was the one standing closest to the light. She could see him clear as day, and that brought back memories of the good times she’d had at the club. These men were her family.

“Didn’t your momma ever tell you to get your own shit,” Shorty said, and Dealer snorted in amusement.

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