Then came the push and shove of the domestic violence kind. When dear old Dad went and hit my mom.

It was during a club cookout in our backyard, to celebrate the Fourth of July. Cade and I were hiding out in the tree house, watching the celebrations in the backyard as we sipped beers he’d stolen from his daddy. It was dark but the yard was lit up by the flames in the 44-gallon drums they used as fire pits.

I don’t know how the fight started. Cade and I were drinking and playing poker when we heard the commotion. To this day, I still remember the spread of goosebumps along my skin when I’d heard my daddy’s booming voice. He’d raised his hand and struck my mom to the ground. A hush had descended across the people gathered on the lawn, but then, all of a sudden, everyone was busy again, moving about and talking as if nothing had happened.

I leapt off the treehouse to get to my mom. She was on her knees, nursing her mouth, while my monster of a father stood over her, cussing at her and calling her names. Even now, sixteen years on, I could still see the look on his face and the meanness in his eyes. In that moment, I no longer loved him. I hated him. So I stood up to him and told him what an asshole he was. But he’d simply shoved me aside and stomped off.

In a second, my fourteen-year-old self decided to get as far away from him and this fucking MC life as soon as she could. She wasn’t ever going to end up like her mom, on her knees nursing a bloodied lip while people barbequed on her lawn and acted like the nothing had happened.

Seeing my daddy shove me, Cade went to say something but I begged him not to. When my daddy drank, he turned into a pit bull and I didn’t want any more trouble. Things had a habit of escalating when my daddy was drunk.

I shook off the memory and took another mouthful of wine. My eyes drifted over to Cade’s bedroom. The shades were open but it was dark.

I lit the cigarette I’d taken from my mom’s packet on the kitchen counter and drew on it, feeling lightheaded because in the real world I had given up cigarettes almost eleven years earlier. But this wasn’t the real world. This was my past. And it was fucking weird being back.

When Cade’s bedroom light flicked on, my heart knotted. He didn’t know I was there. Didn’t know I could see him. Didn’t know I was watching. He paused and leaned down, resting his hands on the back of the desk chair as he thought about something. Then he straightened, and even from this distance I could make out the broad expanse of his back and the heaviness of his shoulders

I took a second drag on my cigarette and tried to pull my eyes away from him. I wasn’t a creeper. But my eyes had a mind of their own. They wanted to watch Cade throw his bike keys onto the dresser and remove his cut. They wanted to drink it in as he placed his wallet and sunglasses next to his keys, and then pulled his black t-shirt over his head to expose a body that was nothing but all man. All man. I swallowed deep. This was wrong—all types of wrong, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t look away.

His jeans were the next to go, and then his boxers, and finally—finally, I looked away. I crushed the half-smoked cigarette against the wooden floorboard of the treehouse. I drank back more wine. A few hours in Destiny and it was already fucking with my head.

The light went on behind the little window next to his room and I heard the faint sound of a shower.

I lay down and stared up at the starry sky, breathing in the night air tinged with the subtleness of soap. It was weird knowing Cade was only meters from me, naked and showering. Two days ago, he was a memory I didn’t visit. Now I was trying not to picture him lathering soap all over his mountain man body.

A few minutes later, the shower switched off and I refused to think about him standing in his bathroom toweling off. I was an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I either held my feelings close to my chest and stayed focused, or I opened the floodgates and let everything tumble out.

And I had no intention of letting anything tumble out while I was in Destiny.

After a while, Cade’s bedroom light switched off, and I heard the squeak of the screen door, and then the rumble of a Harley as it bit into the evening.

Tags: Penny Dee Kings of Mayhem MC Romance