Janessa: I’ve been in love with Seamus since the day I met him, even though I’d been fourteen at the time. Now that I’m an adult, I’m ready to go claim my man. Maybe I was stupid thinking he’d wait for me, or maybe I just really wanted a fairytale ending. Seeing another woman in his arms hurt like hell, so I ran…straight into trouble.
Irish: I met a girl years ago one who had me spellbound despite her young age. I kept my distance, knowing it was so damn wrong to be attracted to her, but looking in her eyes I could tell she had an old soul. Now she’s back and all grown up, so what did I do? Something stupid. I kissed another woman. When I hear Janessa’s been attacked, it feels like someone has ripped out my heart. Whatever it takes, I’ll make it up to her, and I will get justice for her one way or another.
Copyright ©2019 Harley Wylde
Fuck me! I hadn’t seen Janessa Rodriguez in so damn long. It still blew my mind that she’d walked into the Devils’ clubhouse. I felt like a complete and utter shit for hurting her the way I had, but it was the right thing to do. If her dad even thought I’d looked at his little girl with any kind of interest, I’d be a dead man. Even though I’d kissed the slut sitting on my lap, after Janessa had walked out, I’d dumped the woman on the floor. I was disgusted with myself.
The years had been really fucking good to her. She still had a pretty olive complexion and dark hair that looked so damn soft. She’d sprouted breasts that were more than a handful since the last time I’d seen her, and hips that screamed she was definitely all woman now. All it had taken was one look and I’d been hard as hell, and not for the woman who had been in my lap.
Janessa had been gone a few hours now, and I figured she was back home where she belonged. I closed my eyes, trying to block out the image of her standing in the doorway, all those gorgeous curves. But it was the look of anguish in her eyes that would haunt me forever. I hadn’t been a saint a day in my life. After meeting the Reaper’s daughter, I’d felt like I was in a downward spiral. She’d been just a kid, a teenager, and my reaction to her had sickened me. So I’d started screwing any woman who offered. Now I was wishing I hadn’t done that.
I’d never counted on her showing up here in Devils’ territory. It had been five years, and I knew she was a grown-ass woman now, but I’d figured her daddy would have her locked up somewhere secure. Away from men like me. Hell, he might have even asked a Reaper to marry her just to keep her safe. Did he even know she’d come here? She had to have been looking for me. I just didn’t understand why. Yeah, she’d plagued my thoughts since the day I’d met her, but surely she hadn’t been waiting for me all this time. Had she? I’d known when she turned eighteen because my VP had made sure I was aware. Maybe he’d thought she’d be the one to tame me, or had just hoped for some sort of reaction. I hadn’t made it a secret that I didn’t plan to settle down. Even knowing she was legal, I’d not had the courage to go after her, though, and had kept my distance. Now I was second-guessing that decision.
The clubhouse doors flew open and Scratch came inside. He never showed up on party nights, not since settling down with his wife and kids. The look on his face told me something was seriously wrong, and all my brothers went on alert. But he ignored every last one of them and came to me. I just couldn’t tell if he wanted to hit me, or console me.
“We need to talk,” Scratch said. “Somewhere quiet.”
“Something wrong, VP?” I didn’t think I’d screwed up lately. Well, other than hurting Janessa.
His tone demanded I obey. I followed Scratch to the back of the clubhouse and through the double doors at the end of the hall. I took a seat and Scratch leaned against the opposite wall, staring at me with his arms folded and a fierce look in his eyes.
“Did I do something?” I asked.
“There’s been an accident.”
I sat up straighter. “Clarity? The kids?”
The VP had an awesome wife and kids, and any one of us would lay down our lives for them. But if Clarity were in trouble, I didn’t think Scratch would be standing in front of me.
He shook his head. “My family is fine. This isn’t about me, son. It’s about you.”
“I don’t understand. You know I don’t have any family here, except the Devils. What’s going on?”
Scratch rubbed at his beard, then sat down in his usual seat. “A blue truck was found along the road heading out of town. It had gone off the road and crashed into a tree. The driver isn’t in good shape, but there are signs that something else happened.”
I still didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. I didn’t know anyone with a blue truck. I wished he’d just tell me what the hell was going on. The suspense was going to drive me crazy.
“The truck had a Harley Davidson sticker on the back. And Alabama plates,” he said.
My gut clenched and I gripped the table. The only person I knew who had been in this area with Alabama tags would have been Janessa.
“The Highway Patrol called Cinder, but he didn’t answer, so they tried me next. They thought maybe the driver was related to someone at the club. They found a wallet in a purse. What I want to know is what the fuck Janessa Rodriguez was doing in Devils territory unannounced, and why didn’t someone tell me she was here?”
Oh, God. It suddenly hurt to breathe.
“Janessa,” I said, my voice cracking. “Is she… will she be okay?”
“Someone beat that poor girl half to death, ripped up her clothes…”
I couldn’t help it. I leaned over and threw up.
“She wasn’t sexually assaulted,” Scratch said, “if that’s what you’re thinking. The assholes did piss on her, though. Cut her up, beat her all to hell. They’re hoping to run DNA and figure out who did this to her, but if they aren’t in the system, then it won’t do much good. In the meantime, they haven’t been able to contact her next of kin.”
My heart felt like someone was trying to rip it from my chest. I stood and pulled my keys from my pocket. “I’m going to see her,” I said.
“Son, the only reason I can think of for that little girl to be here at all was to come see you. What the fuck happened? Why was she on a road headed south and not going back home? Or an even better question, why the fuck wasn’t she with you?”
South? I didn’t know. I’d seen how devastated she was when she’d left, and it was my fault. I’d done that to her. I’d thought she’d go home, get on with her life and find some guy her dad would approve of, maybe go off to college or some shit.
“She came here,” I said. “I didn’t talk to her. I was… I was with someone. A club slut. She saw the two of us and she left.”
Scratch cursed and leaned back in his chair. “When Tex wants to remove your balls, I’m not standing in his way. That was a shitty thing to do, Irish, and you damn well know it. That girl was completely hung up on you from the moment she laid eyes on you. Hell, anytime I go see my daughter and grandkids, she still asks about you, even though you never went after her when she turned eighteen.”
I hadn’t known that. Yeah, he’d brought up Janessa from time to time, but I hadn’t known that she’d asked about me, still thought about me. I’d figured when she turned eighteen and I kept my distance that she’d move on. Scratch had only brought her up in passing after that point, almost as if he were feeling me out, but I hadn’t understood why. Until now.
“She’s at the county hospital. You know I have to call the Reapers, right?” he asked.
“Just… give me enough time to see her. Wait twenty minutes before you call. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I need to make things right with her. Is she awake?”
“No. She was unconscious when they found her, and when I got the call, she hadn’t woken yet. You need to prepare yourself. From what I hear, it’s pretty bad.”
I gave a quick nod, then stood up. I stared down at the puke on the floor but Scratch waved me off.
“I’ll have a Prospect clean that up. Go see your woman and hope you don’t have to say goodbye while you’re there,” he said. “And, Irish?”
I met his gaze.
“Despite what you think, that girl is your woman. Don’t fuck it up again.”