#6 Wounded Hearts
This is the long-awaited sequel to my popular Wounded Hearts series. Many readers have asked about the missing DEA Agent, Maggie Holt, who was captured by sex traffickers.
This is her story:
I love the romantic suspense genre and Navy SEALs (who doesn’t? :)) and wanted to combine the two with another favorite, motorcycle clubs.
The premise of this story is that a woman disappears and her shy, geeky sister seeks help from the only man she thinks will be invested in her case- Reed McLaughlin.
Emma Stone knew the moment she entered the Twisted Sister it was a mistake. The biker bar was as rough on the inside as it was intimidating on the outside. If she weren’t so desperate she would’ve turned around and gone home the moment she saw the long line of bikes parked in front of the dilapidated building.
The noise from cheap speakers pumped way higher than their tweeters could take competed with rowdy laughter, the slap of pool cues striking balls, and the stench of unwashed bodies blending with spilled beer.
Em stood just inside the doorway, blinking like a lost owl. The scene in front of her bemused eyes was like something out of one of those thriller novels her sister enjoyed. She prayed Rose hadn’t ended up like one of those victims.
A burly guy in a leather vest covered in badges bumped into her, almost knocking her out with his breath. Hope he didn’t plan on driving.
“Well, looky here,” he slurred. “Aren’t you in the wrong church, sister?” He stuck his head back and roared, thoroughly amused at his obvious wit. Emma ducked her head and wished herself back home curled up on the sofa with her tortoiseshell cat, Thomas. He slung a beefy arm around her neck and tugged her under his armpit. “Sugar, what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?”
Emma’s heart beat frantically as she pushed ineffectually against his chest. “Let me go. I need to find a man.” The words barely left her lips before she cringed.
He grinned down at her with teeth stained from tobacco and Lord knows what else. “Lucky you, you found one.” His moist lips puckered and his head lowered and Emma did the only thing she could—lifted her knee and caught him square between the legs.
His arms loosened, his face turned an alarming shade of green, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Emma was feeling a little woozy herself. She’d seen it done on TV, but the women there stood over their fallen assailants with satisfied expressions and handcuffs. She had no cuffs and was terrified. What if his friends noticed? They’d probably shoot her on the spot.
A quick glance around showed her no one was paying them any attention. Relieved, she edged around the groaning mound and inched her way through the crowd up to the bar. A busty brunette in a too-short jean skirt and a black t-shirt with the words, I Really Feel Like Going for A Ride, emblazoned across her chest gave Emma the onceover before grabbing a couple of longneck bottles of beer dripping condensation from the counter.
“You’re in the wrong bar, honey,” she muttered, slipping off the high stool. “You better leave—while you can.” She sauntered over to a table in the corner. Emma could just make out a set of masculine jean clad legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. The moment the woman got within range, arms, one covered in a sleeve of tattoos, reached out and tugged her onto his lap. She shrieked, but not in fear as Emma had done. This was more of a hello, baby, proven when she buried her lips against the stranger’s neck.
Embarrassed, Em turned away. It wasn’t that she was a prude, it’s just that there was a time and a place and public displays were neither. In her opinion romantic encounters belonged behind closed doors. Some people—her ex-boyfriend for one—would say it was an antiquated ideal, and maybe they were right. But, there weren’t half as many divorces in the days of courtship as there was now with the modern generation’s loose morals.
It took forever before the bartender noticed her. He made sure everyone was happy then worked his way down, laughing and chatting with the locals. He wiped his hands on a surprisingly white apron tied around a lean waist and leaned an elbow on the counter, arm bunching with impressive muscle. His bald head and a gold hoop dangling from his ear gleamed under the fluorescents. A tattoo of an eagle’s talons peeked out from the arm of his shirt.
“What’ll ya have?” he asked, eyeing her like she was an anomaly. Which she probably was, around here anyway.
“I’m, ah… looking for someone. Reed McLaughlin.” Emma caught the quick glance over her shoulder. She turned, but no one was there. “Do you know him?” she asked, not sure why the name would elicit that suspicious look she was now receiving from the previously friendly bartender.
“Maybe. What do you want him for?” He straightened and crossed his arms over a rock hard chest.
This was such a bad idea.
“I have a proposition,” she whispered.
He cocked his head. The earring flashed, mocking her. “Speak up, missy. This is a bar, and I can’t hear on the best of days.”
Emma twisted her hands, then grabbed deep for some courage. “I said, I have a proposition for Mr. McLaughlin.” The words rang loud and clear into the silence between one song and the next ear-splitting tune.
Someone laughed, and then the catcalls and wolf whistles began. Emma groaned, her face flaming as only a redhead’s could. She looked to the barkeeper for help, but his face was stoic. Despair brought a tear that she wiped viciously away. These people didn’t need to see her misery. No one cared.
She swung around to blindly head for the door, and practically rammed her nose into a man’s chest. Her distraught gaze climbed to an uncompromising jaw, firm, yet supple lips—her heart fluttered—a nose with a slight bump on the side like it had been broken at one time, and eyes that glittered almost black in this lighting.
Her knees gave out, but before she could slide to the ground in an ignominious heap a firm male hand gripped her arm and held her upright.
“My place or yours?” A voice like a cat’s contented purr rumbled in her ear.
So there really was a devil, and he was in Cincinnati.