Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

Previous: Liberated Prologue
Next: Chapter Two

Chapter One

Kendra ran to the truck and climbed into the passenger seat. She tucked the shotgun underneath the seat and checked the pistol again to make sure it was loaded.

“Put your seatbelt on,” Flint said. “Things might get rough.”

Kendra quickly obeyed as Flint backed the truck out of the driveway and pulled onto the mountain road.

“Be careful and watch the road,” she warned. “The roads are probably slick as glass and there are a couple of places where the road narrows down to barely one lane.”

“I’ll be as careful as I can be considering the situation,” Flint replied, reaching over to squeeze her leg. “Don’t worry, darling. I’ve been driving on these mountain roads my whole life. My daddy put me behind the wheel of a truck when I was only eight years old.”

“That’s good to know.” Kendra fingered the pistol. “What exactly are we up against here? Any idea how many Liberators are headed this way?”

Flint shook his head. “No idea. Could be five or six or as many as thirteen. With the road conditions being so bad, at least we know they won’t be on their Harleys. And they’re going to have a hard time making it up the mountain road unless they have a four-wheel drive truck. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re waiting to ambush us at the bottom. Sneaky little shits.”

Kendra bit her bottom lip and considered his words. “That’s probably true, but only if they know we’re on our way down. Otherwise, there’s a very real chance we’re going to meet them head on. Who tipped Jesse off anyway?”

“He didn’t have time to tell me. If I had to guess, I would say it was a gal who used to be sweet on Jesse. She hung around our club a lot when she was younger. Leah is with one of the Liberators now, but she’s always had a soft spot for Jesse. If she thought he was in danger, she would let him know.”

“He trusts her?” Kendra frowned. “What if she’s double-crossing him to flush you out of the safe house?”

“I can’t see her doing that. She always held on to hope that Jesse would eventually come around. Hell, I even thought that they might get together a time or two. Either way, I couldn’t stay holed up in the cabin forever so let’s try not to freak out yet. Hopefully we have a good head start on the Liberators. In another twenty minutes, we’ll be off this mountain and back on the main road. I’ll call Jesse when we get to town and arrange for him to pick me up somewhere so you can go on home. Where you’ll be safe.”

Safe.

At the moment, Kendra would give anything to feel safe again. And to know that Flint would be safe as well. How would that ever happen, she wondered? The Liberators had already tried to kill him once, and here they were days later trying for a second time. She knew if she let herself think about it, the panic would begin to overwhelm her. She drew in a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t accustomed to tense, stressful events. In her job as a veterinarian, adrenaline-pumping situations were part of a normal work day.

This was different though. Flint’s life was on the line. Maybe her own life, too.

After a moment’s hesitation, she reached down under the seat and carefully pulled out the shotgun. She propped it up between her knees with the barrel pointing toward the top of the truck.

Flint glanced over at her and then did a double take. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked. “Put that thing away! You already have the pistol.”

“A shotgun can blow a bigger hole,” Kendra answered. “And my aim doesn’t have to be as good with a bigger gun.”

Flint blew out a long breath. “Good point, as long as you know what you’re doing. Just don’t let it go off in the truck. This is a fine vehicle and it doesn’t deserve a hole in the roof.” He frowned and slowed down even more. “This next stretch of road looks tricky.”

He tapped the brakes gently and slowed the truck to navigate around a tight, slippery turn. Kendra held her breath as the truck’s back tires suddenly began sliding on the icy road.

“Damn it!” Flint cursed.

The back tires continued to spin uselessly. The truck slowly began sliding inch by inch toward the edge of the road. Kendra looked out the window at the steep drop off down an embankment on her right.

Why the hell didn’t they put guardrails up?

“Watch out!” she yelled. “We’re right on the edge over here.”

“Come on! Come on!” Flint muttered over the sound of the back tires spinning on ice and going nowhere.

“I’m not kidding, Flint! Stop gassing it for a second. We’re about six inches from going off the road and there’s a steep drop off over here. I can’t take this! I’m getting out of the truck. This is making me too damn nervous.”

The truck stopped sliding for an instant. Kendra opened the truck door and stepped out carefully. She swung the door wide so Flint could see out her side of the truck and down into the deep gully below. “See how close we are to going over the edge?”

Flint frowned and pushed a hand through his black hair. “Alright, you come around and drive. I’ll get out and push from behind.”

“You’re going to push the truck with a gunshot wound in your arm?” Kendra asked with a dubious expression. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Flint winked at her and flashed that wicked grin she found so appealing. “I think I’ve already proven I’m up to any task,” he said. “Now hurry and come around. I’ll push with my right shoulder, not my left. So don’t worry, I’ll be fine. We don’t need to waste time arguing about it.”

Kendra hurried around and climbed into the driver’s seat. Flint moved to the back of the truck. “When I say go, you give it a little gas and I’ll push. If I yell stop, then stop. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Okay, go!” Kendra pressed down on the accelerator while Flint pushed from behind. The tires spun but didn’t catch. ”Stop!” Flint stepped from behind the truck. “Let’s try it again. Give it a little more gas than last time and I’ll push harder.” Flint ducked his head down and leaned his shoulder against the truck again. “Go!” he yelled.

At the same instant Flint yelled for her to gas it, a blue SUV swerved from around the other side of the curve. Kendra could tell from the two men’s facial expressions in the front seat of the SUV that they were as surprised to see her as she was to see them.

The Liberators! Oh shit!

She didn’t doubt it was the rival motorcycle club. 

Flint was behind the truck and angled slightly away from them so they hadn’t spotted him yet. And with his head lowered to push, she realized he probably hadn’t seen them either. The ridiculous thought went through her head that maybe they wouldn’t recognize him and would keep on driving. After all, they weren’t expecting Flint to be on the side of the road with a woman in a truck. Their plan was to catch him by surprise at the safe house. They probably were hoping she wouldn’t pay much attention to them in case she could identify their faces later.

She glanced in her side view mirror and realized Flint was wearing the Steel Infidels leather jacket. Oh Lord! There was no way in hell the Liberators wouldn’t notice that. Flint’s head was still down with his shoulder against the corner of the truck.

The bearded men in the SUV stared at her as they drove slowly past. She could make out shadows in the back seat but couldn’t tell how many more men were in there.

Redneck assholes! Obviously they weren’t the type of men to stop and offer help to a damsel in distress stuck on the side of the road. Kendra would have been very pissed off if she wasn’t so scared.

Flint lifted his head to see why she wasn’t following his instructions at the same moment the Liberators drew even with the back of the truck. Kendra watched him glance up and make direct eye contact with the driver of the SUV.

If you need to use the guns, don’t hesitate.

Flint’s words back at the cabin rang in her head. Taking a deep breath, Kendra grabbed her shotgun from the seat and swung open the driver’s side door. She would always remember everything that happened next as if it unfolded in slow motion.

The driver of the SUV instinctively slammed on his brakes hard when he recognized Flint. The SUV fishtailed briefly on the icy road before coming to a stop several feet past them.

“Kendra!” Flint yelled. “Get down!”

Kendra heard the Liberators shouting at each other before all four doors of the SUV flew open and men began piling out. Kendra barely had time to register the reflective glint of a handgun in one of the men’s hands before she fired. Her first shot shattered the back window of the SUV in a loud explosion of breaking glass. Her next shot hit the driver in the leg.

“Goddammit!” he yelled, grabbing his thigh and crumpling to the ground in a heap of agony.

A Liberator who was crouched behind the SUV peeked his head up and fired, taking off her truck’s side mirror that was mere inches away. Kendra screamed and jumped back then unloaded her rifle in the direction of the SUV, hitting tires, windows, and flesh. She wasn’t sure what she was shooting at or whom she was even hitting. Nor did she give a damn.

She hadn’t been kidding when she said the shotgun would make bigger holes. She had also intentionally not mentioned to Flint that her aim had never been great to begin with. It wasn’t like she was a hunter, for God’s sake. The only thing she’d ever shot was soda cans off the top of a metal trash can. Her best course of action was to keep shooting in hopes of disabling the Liberators long enough for her and Flint to escape, even if they had to go into the woods on foot.

“Kendra!”

Flint fired several shots with his pistol then rushed to physically block Kendra’s body with his own before shoving her back into the truck. “Dammit, get down!”

Kendra didn’t argue with him. Instead, she crawled across the floorboard of the truck and opened the glove compartment to grab some more shells. After reloading her gun, she opened the passenger door and slid out the other side. “No!” Flint shouted when he saw what she was doing. “Get back in here! Fuck!”

Before she had a chance to shoot again, a flurry of bullets rained down on the SUV. She watched in shock from behind the truck as one by one, the Liberators fell onto the ground, their forms twisting and jerking as bullet after bullet entered their bodies. The gunfire went on for what seemed like forever until it finally stopped. For a brief second, there wasn’t a sound and nobody moved.

An old pickup roared toward them. In the heat of the gun battle, she hadn’t noticed that Jesse and several other members of the Steel Infidels had arrived. Jesse jumped out of the truck and ran over while Tom Brewer and the rest of the crew rushed to the SUV to finish the job.

“Are you okay?” Jesse yelled. “Anybody hurt?”

“We’re okay,” Flint replied. He scrambled across the truck seat to reach Kendra on the other side and grabbed her in a big hug. “You scared the living shit out of me,” he murmured into her hair. “Please don’t ever do that again. I thought my heart was going to stop when you stepped out of the truck with your gun. Don’t you realize they could have killed you?” He hugged her to him even tighter as if he never wanted to let her go.

Kendra closed her eyes and sank into his warmth. She could feel his heart racing wildly underneath her cheek. Now that it was all over and the adrenaline rush was leaving her body, she didn’t feel so good. She was grateful that Flint was there to hold her up because her legs were beginning to tremble.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked. “Why in God’s name did you do that?”

“Do what?” she muttered against his leather jacket.

“Get out of the damn truck and start shooting. If something had happened to you, I never would have been able to forgive myself. You should have stayed down in the floorboard of the truck where it was safer.”

Kendra leaned back so she could look at him. “They were going to kill you, Flint. We both know that. I didn’t have time to think about it. I knew the moment they spotted you that it was on. They drew their weapons first.”

“I’m not saying it wasn’t justified. I just don’t understand why you put yourself at risk to protect me. I never would have wanted you to do that. Not ever.”

“You’re my guy,” she simply said as if that explained everything.

Flint let out a long sigh and kissed her forehead. “Yes I am.”

“Thank God Jesse and your crew got here when they did,” she said, her voice shaky now. “I’m not sure what would have happened otherwise.”

“From what I saw, you were handling things extremely well all on your own. My money would be on you over the Liberators any day. I bet they about shit in their pants when you unloaded the shotgun into their SUV. Will you be alright here a minute while I go talk to the guys?”

She nodded.

“I want you to stay in the truck. Don’t look over there at the bodies and don’t go over there. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“Good. Let me go talk to Jesse. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Previous: Liberated Prologue
Next: Chapter Two
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