I had to look away because those dimples were dragging me back to the past by my hair. Cade was still every inch the handsome guy he’d always been. Only, it seemed the years had given his looks more potency—which seemed a little unfair.

“Am I that predictable?” I asked, trying to shake off the tingling at the base of my spine.

His eyes darkened. “No. You’re definitely not predictable.”

An uneasiness hung between us.

“I thought I’d come and check on you,” he said. “Make sure you’re doing okay.”

“I’m fine.” I looked around the room. “It’s just weird, you know. Being back.”

We had spent our last day together in this room. We’d talked excitedly about college while making love in my bed a ridiculous amount of times. It was the night of the clubhouse party where everything had fallen apart for us.

“If there’s anything you need while you’re here . . . let me know. Like I said to your mom, I’m here for you both.”

I nodded at him, wishing I knew how to form words because this was so fucking awkward. But apparently, I had lost the ability to speak like a grown-up.

“And thanks for what you did for Caveman and Michelle today,” he said. “He’s going to make it because of you.”

“It was nothing.”

“Well, he was lucky you were there.”

“I guess.”

Twelve years of unspoken words hung between us.

“It’s good to see you,” he said.

I didn’t know what to say to that, because I had been prepared to hate him. Or not be affected by him. Or maybe I had simply planned not to care.

No. I always cared.

“I guess I’ll let you get back to it.” He nodded to the McGovern’s bag sitting on my bed.

I forced a smile. “Thanks.”

With little else left to say, he nodded and began to turn away, but stopped. He frowned as he turned back to me.

“You know it was the biggest mistake of my life, right?”

His words took me by surprise and I didn’t know what to say. I looked away because it was unfair of him to bring it up when I was so unprepared. What happened had changed everything. What he did broke my heart and stole our future from us. I felt ambushed by the mention of it, and my feisty little heart decided to tell him so.

But when I looked up again, he was gone.



Much later, Mom took a sleeping pill and I tucked her into the couch in the lounge room because she didn’t want to sleep in her bed without Daddy.

But I was too wired to sleep. Instead, I grabbed another bottle of wine and went outside to the tree house in the backyard.

I sat with my legs dangling over the side and took a big mouthful of wine. It was crazy how much life could change in the course of twenty-four hours. Yesterday this place had seemed like a distant, bad memory, and now here I was, staring up at a night sky just like I had done a thousand times as a kid.

I took another big mouthful of wine and appreciated the warmth spreading through my chest. By the third and fourth mouthfuls, my muscles began to loosen up and I started to relax.

As kids, my brother Bolt and I used to play cards for hours on this very spot. Then Cade had taught us poker, and the three of us had spent hours playing the game using a pouch of old poker chips Cade had stolen from his daddy. Bolt had been a terrible player. He wasn’t one for being able to hide his emotions, whereas, I had a faultless poker face. I was hard to beat. Even Cade couldn’t beat me … and Cade was good at everything.

I looked around. Carved into one of the floorboards was my brother’s name. Bolt. On another, Cade loves Indy. I ran my finger over the crudely carved letters and felt overcome by nostalgia. A lifetime had passed since any of this had meant something to me.

In my teenage years, the tree house had taken on a whole new meaning. It wasn’t the place I came to play with my brother and my best friend. It was the place to escape the grief and arguments that had descended on our family home.

It’s where I hid out. Where I smoked my first joint. Where I made love to Cade under a star-scattered sky.

It was also where I decided to escape the club given the first chance I got. I remembered the moment like it was only yesterday.

I was fourteen and life inside the Parrish home had come to completely suck. My mom and dad fought a lot. Daddy had changed. He’d always been gruff, but his tough exterior had always belied a fun and loving guy who loved his kids dearly. But the fun-loving father I knew left us when I was twelve. He became distant. Moody. Mean. He spent more time on club rides and immersed in club business. By the time I was fourteen, I had ceased to exist, or so it seemed, and our relationship deteriorated.

Tags: Penny Dee Kings of Mayhem MC Romance
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