“This is too much, Savage,” Kill whispered. It was too. He had forgotten what it meant to have family around and Savage treating him like a kid brother made him homesick for something that didn’t exist anymore.
Kill’s parents announced they were moving to the States when he was fourteen. Leaving Ireland felt like he was cutting off one of his appendages. He reluctantly agreed to follow them across the pond, but Ireland was a part of him, and he still longed to go back. But now, he had nothing and no one to go back to. His parents returned home to Ireland just after he turned twenty-one, and he foolishly decided to stay in America. He was trying to get into Savage’s MC—Savage Hell and he thought he was too good to go back to his childhood roots. He told his father that he wanted to stay in America and make something of himself, even implying his dad couldn’t hack it in the States. God, he was an asshole. His father convinced Savage to keep an eye on him and his parents headed back to Ireland.
About three months later, he got a call from his Mum that his father had died. He had a heart attack in his sleep, and she found him dead the next morning. He didn’t even go home for the funeral, even though his mother begged him to. Savage offered to lend him the money, but a mix of pride and being a stubborn ass took over and he refused. It was one of his major regrets and now that he was looking back, probably the one thing that shoved him down the wrong path. His life seemed to spiral out of control after his dad passed and one wrong decision led to the next and before he knew it, Kill was sitting behind the wheel of a stolen car, trying to prove he was worth something.
He begged Savage to let him into Savage Hell. Kill showed up to the bar that housed the club almost daily and every time Savage denied him; it drove him further over the line. When the Dragons showed interest in him, he jumped at the chance to be a part of a motorcycle club. He thought he’d show Savage just what he was made of by joining the Dragons and then he’d let him into Savage Hell. He was an idiot—he knew that now. But, at the time, it seemed like such a great plan. It wasn’t and that point hit home when he realized his new club had set him up. They knew he was mixed up with Savage and they used him to send Savage Hell a message. Dante was the president of the Dragons, and he told Kill that if he wanted to be patched in, he needed to steal a car and bring it to the meeting. He wanted to be a part of something so badly he didn’t think through the ramifications and getting caught seemed like a risk worth taking. He didn’t even get half a mile down the road with the car he stole before the cops pulled him over. During his hearing, it came out that he was set up by the Dragons who were cooperating fully with the authorities. The judge decided to make an example out of him and gave Kill a twelve-year sentence, of which he served ten and with good behavior, got out.
About a year ago, he got a letter from his aunt in Ireland, telling him that his Mum had passed from cancer. He didn’t even know she had the disease, and it just about broke his heart that he didn’t get to say goodbye to her. After his sentencing, she wrote him a letter, telling him that she would always love him, but that would be the last he’d ever hear from her, and she was a woman who was true to her word.
“You good, Cillian?” Savage asked.
“Yeah,” he lied. “Just thinking about everything. This is all a lot to take in,” he admitted.
“Give it time, brother. You will have to do a lot of adjusting, but I believe in you, man. You need help, you use that to call me,” Savage ordered, nodding to the cell phone Kill was clutching like it was his lifeline.
“Will do,” Kill agreed. “And, thanks, Savage.”
“Don’t thank me yet, Cillian. You’re bunking with the new baby, and he’ll keep you up all damn night long.” Savage laughed.
“Remember, I’ve been in prison for the last ten years. Rooming with a newborn will be a piece of cake,” Kill said.
“Yeah, we’ll see if you’re humming the same tune tomorrow morning when he wakes you up at four A.M., man,” Savage said. “Welcome to the family, Cillian.” Savage had no idea what those words meant to him, and Cillian swallowed past the lump of emotion in his throat. It felt damn good to have a family again—now he just needed to find his place in the world—his home.
Vivian Ward wasn’tsure how she was going to fit in everything on her to-do list today, but she was determined to make that happen, even if it ended up killing her. The diner was once again short-handed, thanks to a teenage employee who thought it was all right to give all her friends free food. Viv knew her grandmother would have given the girl a second chance to, “Make things right," as she liked to say but that wasn’t her style. Viv was hardcore when it came to giving people second chances, a life lesson she learned when she found her husband in bed with the town whore.
She had been married to Jason for almost three years when she came home early from her restaurant to surprise him. Truth was, she was the one surprised, to find him in bed with another woman. He made excuses and God help her, she was stupid and desperate enough to believe him. Hell, she even forgave him but that was just part of her need to be wanted and loved—well, according to her therapist. They had done the whole therapy thing and a year later, almost to the day, when she found her husband’s secretary on her knees, under his desk giving him a blow job, she was done. Viv walked out of his office and went home to pack up his shit and kicked him the fuck out of her house. Honestly, it was the best decision she had ever made, and she didn’t regret leaving Jason even once. Sure, she was a little lonelier, but she would rather be alone and happy then with a man she couldn’t trust. Gone were the days when she’d sit at home and worry that her beloved husband was making bad decisions. Every time he couldn’t account for his whereabouts, she’d go half-crazy and fly off the handle, only to let his soothing lies calm her. Yeah, she was a class A fool but not anymore. She was done with liars, done with cheaters, and done with men in general. Lesson learned.
Today, she had bigger problems. She was down to just two employees and one of them was a new trainee. She was fucked until she could find another person to hire. Putting an ad in the paper and waiting for the right person to walk through the door took time—time she didn’t have.
She blew into the diner like a tornado and found Tina going over how to refill the napkin holders with the new guy—who’s name she could never remember—and Viv rolled her eyes. “You know Tina,” she said seeming to startle them both, “I’m pretty sure that filling a napkin holder is self-explanatory.” Tina nodded and handed the empty napkin holder and a stack of napkins to the trainee and bounced off into the kitchen. Viv suddenly felt way too old to be keeping company with the teens she usually hired. At twenty-eight, she should feel anything but old. But that was the problem with owning the town’s only diner. Teens seemed to flock to the place in droves and they were also the ones who usually answered her ads for employment. Maybe if she held out this time, she’d find someone who could not only help wait tables but also have some experience behind the grills. Her current cook showed up to work on the days he was sober and those were becoming few and far between. She needed to get her grandmother’s old place back on track and running as smoothly as it had when Gram was alive.
When Viv was seventeen, her Gram dropped the bomb that would forever change Viv’s life—she had cancer and not much time left. Gram had raised Viv since her father took off and her mother died. She was only six years old when the two most important people in her life abandoned her, but Gram stuck around. It took time to realize that her grandmother wasn’t going anywhere and when Gram announced that she had terminal cancer, it hit Viv hard. She promised her Gram that she would take care of her beloved diner but that was easier said than done. Her grandmother fought hard but when Viv was twenty, she passed, leaving her to take care of everything—alone. She had never felt so lonely, not even after divorcing Jason. Her grandmother was her everything. Maybe that was why she was willing to overlook all of Jason’s flaws and accept his marriage proposal. Viv believed that being with someone—anyone—was better than being alone. But boy, was she wrong.
Luckily for her, Gram had taught Viv the ropes at a very young age. She had been helping in the diner her whole life and taking over ownership of the place wasn’t a stretch for her. Her grandmother had thought of everything and arranged for her lawyers to handle the transfer upon her death. Viv showed up to work the day after the funeral and opened the doors for business, much as she always had. It’s what her grandmother wanted, and she honored her wishes. Gram insisted that she get on with her life as quickly as possible and Viv promised to try. Throwing herself back into her work seemed as good a way as any to get on with life.
“Hey, new guy,” she shouted. The trainee turned from trying to shove way too many napkins into the holder and pointed to himself as if to ask, “Me?”. Viv sighed and nodded. “Do you see any other new guys around?” she asked. Sure, she sounded like a class-A bitch, but she didn’t care.
“N-no,” he stuttered.
“You wait tables on your own yet?” she asked but Viv already knew the answer by his blank stare. “All right then,” she said under her breath. “Today you learn to wait tables on your own. It’s sink or swim time, New Guy,” she said.
“Um, my name is Tommy,” he nervously offered.
“Of course, it is,” she whispered to herself. “Okay, Tommy,” she said, turning to hand him an order pad and pencil. “You write everything down. If someone says to hold the onions, write the letter O down next to the order and then cross it out,” she said. Tommy nodded and started jotting down notes as she went over everything and she couldn’t help her smile at remembering the way Gram used to ride her for not using the correct codes for the kitchen.
Viv had taken to abbreviating everything and when her order went back to the cook, he had no freaking idea what the hell to make of it. Gram told her to get it straight or she’d have to deal with the pissed-off kitchen staff. After she was yelled at a few times by the cook, Viv learned quickly to avoid his temper and write the correct fucking codes down on her order pad.
“Get the codes right or deal with the cook,” she barked at Tommy. He nodded and started to write down her orders, word for word, and she sighed again. “This is going to be a long fucking day,” she breathed.
Viv busied herself getting the diner ready to open and didn’t even see the wall of man that she ran into while making her way to the back storeroom. “What the fuck?” Viv growled, taking a step back to get her bearings. The guy's big, tattoo-covered hands quickly reached out to her, helping her to find her balance.
“Who are you and how the fuck did you get in here before we’re open?” Viv asked. She looked him up and down and realized that most of his exposed skin was covered in ink and she had to admit, it was hot. She had always liked bad boys even if she had married a clean-cut accountant the first time around. Her grandmother used to say, “If he rides a motorcycle or has tattoos, my granddaughter will date him.” She wondered what her Gram would think of the sexy man standing in front of her now. His light brown hair was long and wavy, hanging down to his broad shoulders. Honestly, he had better hair than she did, and she was suddenly regretting her decision to go a third day without washing it, opting for a messy bun. He looked like he worked out but not the way the muscle heads at the gym did. This guy looked more naturally fit but his muscles seemed to have muscles. His amused smirk told her he wasn’t buying her tough girl routine either.
“I’m here for breakfast,” he said, and his voice sounded like a warm brandy coating her soul.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” Viv asked.